Notes On "Letter On Humanism" In Correspondence With A Christian Humanist

What is a Heideggerian critique of existentialism as a formulation of "Humanism," according to Sartre, by Heidegger?
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When I made God a cherub, you put me in prison. Now, if I make him a grown man, you will do me even worse - Leonardo Da Vinci, when the charge of sodomy became definitively not guilty

And yet they want to comprehend the mind of God, talking about it as though they had already dissected it into parts. Still, they remain unaware of their own bodies, of the realities of their surroundings, and even unaware of their own stupidity. - Leonardo Da Vinci

I was working on some writing, and then a Christian professor friend, who remains a controversial figure within the Christian circles for him, recommended Heidegger’s Letter on Humanism. I took some of today to read the entirety of the text and comment on it. 

In the following, as I continue to grow in friendship with this individual, I followed through with reading and commentary on relevant points within the text by Heidegger.

Someone nuanced and active in the life of the mind. A Christian humanist or a Nietzschean humanist of sorts, where Christian Humanism does not rely on the necessary divinity of Christ as given by either the Immaculate Conception (virgin birth) or the Resurrection after the sacrifice at the Cross.

In some sense, one could count as an outright atheist, from the view of literalist Protestant Christians, with the rejection of the Immaculate Conception and the Resurrection, while adhering to a form of Christian Humanism as one aiming to become and live a life as Christ exemplified symbolically and literarily given in the Gospels.

Henceforth comes the comments with additions for smoother transitions and some other orientations or framing for consideration, please, some amusing and others serious with block quotations as the quotes from the letter by Heidegger:

But whence and how is the essence of the human being determined? Marx demands that "the human being's humanity" be recognized and acknowledged. He finds it in "society." The "social" human is for him the "natural" human. In "society" human "nature," that is, the totality of "natural needs" (food, clothing, reproduction, economic sufficiency), is equably secured. The Christian sees the humanity of man, the humanitas of homo, in contradistinction to Deitas.

Some who are "secular humanists" as truly Marxist humanists or Marxian humanists can be interpreted from this, and likely true. Some have seen African humanist stances as within ancient philosophical stances of African peoples.

In some African philosophical stances, for example, Ubuntu or Unhu, the individual self can only be recognized within the context of the social self. In this, the social self is the foundation stone for the individual self.

A more whole manner of conceiving of the individual, as an extended self and coming to fruition in (healthy) relations in a communal sense. 

One could extend this as a bidirectional relationship of the individual self, the sole organism, and the interpersonal self, so a bidirectional relation of the personal self and the inter-personal self as one dynamic unit while individuated, clearly.

A Marxist dictum as a half-truth, as fully natural and only half of the natural; wherein, the social equates to the natural and the individual equates to the natural, while both in inter-dependency become something more, so "only half of the natural" becomes only true in the asserted independence of either.

By way of contrast, Sartre expresses the basic tenet of existentialism in this way: Existence precedes essence. In this statement he is taking existentia and essentia according to their metaphysical meaning, which from Plato's time on has said that essentia precedes existentia. Sartre reverses this statement. But the reversal of a metaphysical statement remains a metaphysical statement. With it he stays with metaphysics in oblivion of the truth of being.

No statement from him on an inversion of a metaphysical statement, as such, so a metaphysical universalization.

Still unsure, however, in this manner, it may negate the presumed separation between the physical and the metaphysical - move beyond them through a process of inversion - rather than merely moving from one metaphysical statement to another metaphysical statement, reversed or not.

Something analogous to the existence of something is the essence of something, and contrariwise, instead of asking which precedes which, seeing one as the mirror image of the other in a duality of themselves while unified without necessary recourse to temporality to sort the ordering of "essence preceding existence" versus "existence preceding essence," or essentia preceding existentia versus existentia preceding essentia - thus moving past these arguments altogether to a more complete plane. 

The human being is rather "thrown" by being itself into the truth of being...

That's a funny line. Just imagining someone hurtling towards the truth of being unwillingly in clothing labeled Acme Co. Maybe, a "Born to Lose" tattoo with "throwings" in German scrawled beneath it.

"Being" - that is not God and not a cosmic ground. Being is essentially" farther than all beings and is yet nearer to the human being than every being, be it a rock, a beast, a work of art, a machine, be it an angel or God. Being is the nearest. Yet the near remains farthest from the human being. Human beings at first cling always and only to being. But when thinking represents beings as beings it no doubt relates itself to being. In truth, however, it always thinks only of beings as such; precisely not, and never, being as such. The "question of being" always remains a question about beings.

Took him long enough, being seems like a dynamic manner of that which is stipulated statically as "existence" or something stretching infinitely inward and outward. I like his emphasis on being itself as a focus on beings themselves. Being is; questions of being pertain to beings because beings comprise being themselves.

Yet, the distinction seems muddled and the wording unclear in some manner as to that which is in regards to the "be-" of "being," as has been stated before about Heideggerian philosophy altogether.

We usually think of language as corresponding to the essence of the human being represented as animal rationale, that is, as the unity of body-soul-spirit.

The unity of body-soul-spirit seems almost redundant on a number of levels. All seem like one, where the soul and the spirit can collapse into one, and, in some definitions, the body and the soul become one and the same with the former as part of the latter.

His emphasis on language as the "house of being," which is "propriated by being and pervaded by being" would seem friendly to John 1:1 advocates, as in the essence of the human being in language.

Do not tell some branches of Christians that "being," as such, is "not God." If language is a house of being, then the house may be confined to categorical human cognition 'house' while the being is both the farthest and nearest of it, too. 

Human beings belonging to the truth of being, as guardians of it, seems both correct and incorrect. Correct in the propriation of language, of human beings, by being to represent the truth of being.

While truth meaning "actuality" or "the fact of the matter," being will - ahem - be, regardless, whether human beings and language are propriated by being Itself, or not. 

His commentary of Sartre cites the title of "Existentialism Is a Humanism," which means existentialism is not only Humanism or the only Humanism according to Sartre. His correction of Sartre seems valid, nonetheless, on "principally being."

We can, as before, continue on the lines about inversion on metaphysical statements, where some statement A equals some statement B, where this becomes A=B and the reversal becomes B=A, i.e., whether A=B or B=A, a difference in the presentation of the same formulation becomes the same. This means a reverse, not an inverse.

Heidegger points to metaphysical statements as metaphysical in either order. I agree with him. However, if a potentially novel process, as I read him, I will denominate or name an operation "Universal Metaphysical Inversalization," not Objective but "Universal" as in possibly incomplete with room for exceptions.

This process would be an inversion of metaphysical statements in such a manner so as to yield metaphysical reality truly as a 'physical' reality, even statistically so if this can be correlated strongly or principally with some physical reality.

It would not delete the 'magic' or power of the former metaphysical statement, but, rather, 'physicalize' the formally metaphysical, whether absolutely in its totality or probabilistically to the point of asymptotic certainty.

Any prior metaphysical with 'physical' (needs to be redefined and extended) status now, as in the ancients thinking the water was the ground of being (Thales). We know water is two parts Hydrogen and one part Oxygen, where the previously metaphysical becomes the 'physical' in countless cases in recorded history or simply manifest as evidence-less (so neither metaphysical nor physical, but non-existent).

This is not a process of reversing metaphysical statements. It is a formal operation with incompleteness, room for exceptions, while universal in application, as a formal process for 'physicalizing' the metaphysical - to bring 'heaven' to Earth, perhaps another title could be "De-Divinization."

So, the that which is beyond moves to the that which is, absolutely in its totality or probabilistically to the point of asymptotic certainty. In this, the entire concept of being implies a certain process metaphysics as if some undivided base, but, seems, principally, two properties, on the face as one, and then reified into an infinite singular.

Where it's both to exist and existing, or existence and time in existence, for being Itself, this can be divided properly, as things that are the veracious, into existence, as opposed to non-existence, and temporality, as opposed to a-temporality or non-temporality.

An existence can simply be, but cannot be be-ing, as such, because be-ing implies process, dynamics, so a time-sense for the process, for dynamics, of existence itself.

That is, an inescapable fact of "being," as such, as both existence, principally, as the "be-," and temporality, derivatively, as the "-ing," from which human beings, language or the house of being, arise in order to provide something for being to propriate for guardians of Itself, or being.

Insofar as existence and temporality present themselves, we come to the reversal of the known universe or existence as providing the basis for not simply knowledge of hypothetical non-existence and a-temporality, but informed non-existence and a-temporality by simply parsing actual existence and actual temporality, as they are in themselves, to define their antitheses, or to become proper products of Universal Metaphysical Inversalization. 

I would consider this neither philosophical "Being" nor philosophical "Time," but a manner to derive natural philosophical "Existence" and natural philosophical "Temporality" out of previously considered metaphysical "being, Itself."

Those with principles of existence or 'Laws of Nature' as correlates to either, e.g., the Second Law of Thermodynamics for the Arrow of Time, as in actual temporality.

Similarly, the idea of the appropriation by being for human beings and language may be processable through the same operation to come to current scientific metanarratives and narratives inclusive of 'neural correlates of consciousness,' so-called, but empirics, nonetheless.

Thus, the infinitude of being becomes probably a massive finite giving the apparency of infinity to human beings or the guardians of the truth of being, or those with property agency to speak to the truth of existence and temporality. These become more concretized, grounded, everyday formulations of the metaphysical, the far-out philosophical. 

But the holy, which alone is the essential sphere of divinity, which in turn alone affords a dimension for the gods and for God, comes to radiate only when being itself beforehand and after extensive preparation has been cleared and is experienced in its truth.

This is like a long anti-theological theology exposition. It reads as if providing an explanation of the divine or transcendent while negating the common notions of gods or God, where being precedes the gods or God while proposed as a source of the Transcendent and the Immanent.

Homelessness so understood consists in the abandonment of beings by being. Homelessness is the symptom of oblivion of being.

This would be a great political party platform, as well as make as much sense outside of metaphysical context as some party platforms. 

Heidegger repeatedly claims metaphysical status to that which does not necessarily have to embody such a status. In that, the claimed metaphysical can be merely the asserted metaphysical, a category error.

Love this quote on nationalism and internationalism:

Every nationalism is metaphysically an anthropologism, and as such subjectivism. Nationalism is not overcome through mere internationalism; it is rather expanded and elevated thereby into a system. Nationalism is as little brought and raised to humanitas by internationalism as individualism is by an ahistorical collectivism. The latter is the subjectivity of human beings in totality. It completes subjectivity's unconditioned self-assertion, which refuses to yield.

It's beautifully phrased. I would merely simplify the structure to existence and temporality implying a dynamic object or process-object called reality and then agency in reality as the subjectivity within or evolved from the process-object for process-subjects or subjectivity, or agency out of existence and temporality.

I wouldn't agree with the characterization of human nature as a rational animal, though correct on the "animal" part. Both Sartre and Heidegger with the former questioning the foundations of Humanism as meaning something and the latter proclaiming a sense of a metaphysical implied within the terminological meaning and history or in the query of the former seems to miss the sauce of the pasta. 

Human nature can extend infra-rationally/non-rationally (not irrationally), inter-rationally, and super-rationally in regards to its animal nature, or instinctively and emotionally, between itself and others, and in various ideas, respectively, about reality (existence and temporality) or 'being' without recourse to the realm of the Transcendent, as in not subject to the limitations of the material universe. 

Because the brain, as the evolved construct delivering the mind, proceeds in such a manner to have an organ, organized matter through time, producing a 'language of being' with the language constrained by or subject to the restraints of reality, processed through reality, and principally about reality or abstracted in an Imaginarium from the bases of reality, where even the apparent transcendental thinking remains constrained by the universal statistical principles of existence or Laws of Nature which produced a finite organic extension such as the brain in processes of evolutionary selectivity over deep time. 

A cognition constrained by, mentation within, computation about, and thinking abstracted from, reality, Itself, including failures of accurate mapping or coupling of thinking to reality, which happen all the time. 

Following from agency within reality, and with ethics - literally, not metaphorically - defined as actions in the world, ethics seems to follow naturally from it. In that, agency, or beings with awareness, in the universe, by the nature of their existence and their existence through time imply a morality, where the entirety of their nature, their souls in a true sense, manifest their ethics or morality, whether they are aware of such ethics or morality, or not. 

Ethics is an inevitable co-extensive production or byproduct of agency in existence and temporality. 

With temporality meaning successive moments of existence, this couples both agency, existence, and temporality, to the consequentialist stream of ethics because ethics/morality as actions in the world, mentation or (inclusive) action, implies sequences of moments with actions over time in them bound to an agency, as noted, whether cognizant or not of the comprehensive structural embedment of ethics/morality in agency acted out in existence over time. 

Thus, nihilism, as an ideological stance, only makes sense in existence of time and existence, Itself, without agents, as agency implies and derivates ethics/morality by the fact of their being, as operators in existence through time. 

To ask, "Is there ethics?", implies an agency, this negates nihilism in asking the question. Therefore, the question isn't, "Is there an ethic or a morality, or not?" The question is, "What ethic or morality?"

Heidegger seems entirely wrong on this point, as Heidegger points out the incorrect view of Sartre. So, am I claiming Heidegger and Sartre are wrong? Yes, I think thoroughly and demonstrably wrong in both cases, by definition.

Thus, a transcendent or supersensible being either collapses to a mundane or sensible being, a universally metaphysically inversalized ordinary extended physical, or rather natural-informational, being, or both, negating the idea of a 'more clear transcendent' or "supersensible being" in the end implying the "highest being in the sense of the first cause of all things." 

I love the analogy or imagery of Heraclitus at the stove. I suppose this could be made about the ‘warmth’ of many popular users of philosophy. So, he does take some sweet time to explain being (and time) in a philosophical or metaphysical definition, the beings in being, the language or house of being as that which is propriated by being, and then thinking as building on the house of being as the jointure of being or the union of being with the truth of being.

He is tapping into a certain intelligibility criterion. The optically substantive nature of Being is asserted as requiring beings or understanding it through intelligibility somehow. However, quite obviously, existence and essence seem as if one and the same to me.

So, this form of argument makes little sense. I would only buy original truth if taken as the light behind the blackened orb which science pokes holes in to reveal the Real or Reality. I would argue you can take original truth as not a priori and so a proposition or a correspondence basis of truth.

Thinking does not seem to surpass all praxis as thinking is a sort of motion without motion and highly constrained by much praxis. I love his statement of the laws of logic as grounded on the laws of being; however, once more, I would argue this as an apparently precise and inadequate language to the nobleman’s personal task or game.

Where, principles of existence lead to the Laws of Nature, of which we, in fact, have a language, as Galileo Galileo reminded us, with the language of nature written in the language of mathematics, where this taps nicely into the lack of absoluteness of knowledge. 

Is this truly a critique of Humanism? Not really, it’s more a critique of Existentialism, hence a critique of Sartre, while exhibiting the errors of his ways, in turn.

Founder of In-Sight Publishing and Editor-in-Chief of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. He is an Independent Journalist and Researcher. Jacobsen works for science and human rights, especially women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and the advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere. 

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