all values and all types of beings. Thinking does not overcome metaphysics by climbing still higher, surmounting it, transcending it somehow or other; thinking overcomes metaphysics by climbing back down into the nearness of the nearest. tThe descent, particularly where human beings have strayed into subjectivicy, is more arduous and more dangerous than the ascent. The descent leads to the poverty of the ek-sistence of homo humanus.] In ek-sistence [183 {GA 9 352}] the region of homo animalis, of metaphysics, is abandoned. The dominance of that region is the mediate and deeply rooted basis for the blindness and arbitrariness of what is called "biologism," but also of what is known under the heading "pragmatism." To think the truth of being at the same time means to think the humanity of homo humanus. What counts is humanitas in the service of the truth of being, but without humanism in the metaphysical sense.

But if humanitas must be viewed as so essential to the thinking of being, must not "ontology" therefore be supplemented by "ethics"? Is not that effort entirely essential which you express in the sentence, "Ce que je cherche a faire, depuis longtemps deja, c'est peciser le rapport de l'ontologie avec une ethique possible" ["What I have been trying to do for a long time now is to determine precisely the relation of ontology to a possible ethics"]?

Soon after Being and Time appeared a young friend asked me, "When are you going to write an ethics?" Where the essence of the human being is thought so essentially, i.e., solely from the question concerning the truth of being, and yet without elevating the human being to the center of beings, a longing necessarily awakens for a peremptory directive and for rules that say how the human being, experienced from ek-sistence toward being, ought to live in a fitting manner. The desire for an ethics presses ever more ardently for fulfillment as the obvious no less than the hidden perplexity of human beings soars to immeasurable heights. The greatest care must be fostered upon the ethical bond at a time when technological human beings, delivered over to mass society, can attain reliable constancy only by gathering and ordering all their plans and activities in a way that corresponds to technology.

Who can disregard our predicament? Should we not safeguard and secure the existing bonds even if they hold human beings together ever so tenuously and merely for the present? Certainly. But does this need ever release thought from the task of thinking what still remains principally [184 {GA 9 353}] to be thought and, as being, prior to all beings, is their guarantor and their truth? Even further, can thinking refuse to think being after the latter has lain hidden so long in oblivion but at the same time has made itself known in the present moment of world history by the uprooting of all beings?


Martin Heidegger (GA 9) Letter on Humanism - Pathmarks