LETTER ON "HUMANISM"


fact that in Being and Time no statement about the relation of essentia and existentia can yet be expressed, since there it is still a question of preparing something precursory. As is obvious from what we have just said, that happens clumsily enough. What still today remains to be said could perhaps become an impetus for guiding the essence of the human being to the point where it thoughtfully attends to that dimension of the truth of being that thoroughly governs it. But even this could take place only to the honor of being and for the benefit of Da-sein, which the human being ek-sistingly sustains; not, however, for the sake of the human being, so that civilization and culture through human doings might be vindicated.

But in order that we today may attain to the dimension of the truth of being in order to ponder it, we should first of all make clear how being concerns the human being and how it claims him. Such an essential experience happens to us when it dawns on us that [161 {GA 9 329}] the human being is in that he ek-sists. Were we now to say this in the language of the tradition, it would run: the ek-sistence of the human being is his substance. That is why in Being and Time the sentence often recurs, "The 'substance' of the human being is existence" (pp. 117, 212, 314). But "substance," thought in terms of the history of being, is already a blanket translation of οὐσία, a word that designates the presence of what is present and at the same time, with puzzling ambiguity, usually means what is present itself. If we think the metaphysical term "substance" in the sense already suggested in accordance with the "phenomenological destruction" carried out in Being and Time (cf. p. 15), then the statement "The 'substance' of the human being is ek-sistence" says nothing else but that the way that the human being in his proper essence becomes present to being is ecstatic inherence in the truth of being. Through this determination of the essence of the human being the humanistic interpretations of the human being as animal rationale, as "person," as spiritual-ensouled-bodily being, are not declared false and thrust aside. Rather, the sole implication is that the highest determinations of the essence of the human being in humanism still do not realize the proper dignity" of the human being. To that extent the thinking in Being and Time is against humanism. But this opposition does not mean that such thinking aligns itself against the humane and advocates the inhuman, that it promotes the inhumane and deprecates the dignity of the human being. Humanism is opposed because it does not set the humanitas of the human being high enough. Of course the essential worth of the human being does


a First edition, 1949: The dignity proper to him, i.e., that has come to be appropriate, appropriated in the event: propriation and event of appropriation.


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Martin Heidegger (GA 9) Pathmarks