Review of Metaphysics 56 (2):452-454 (2002)

The coterie of commentators represented in the present volume include some of the clearest voices for Heidegger’s way of thinking among the second and third generations of American Heidegger scholars. Two of the contributors, who are also the volume’s editors, have just published a new translation of Einführung in die Metaphysik, an event that would appear to be one of the reasons for the project published here. Its thirteen essays are organized under three headings: the question of being, Heidegger and the Greeks, and Politics and Ethics. The first part begins with Thomas Sheehan’s “prolegomenon to a fresh reading of Introduction to Metaphysics ” from the perspective of Heidegger’s later ruminations on Ereignis, “what brings about being,” that is “the opening of a clearing in which entities can appear as this or that”. Professor Sheehan’s discussion is both comprehensive of Heidegger’s major concepts and comprehensible to the beginning student. For specialists, the essay challenges the standing interpretation of one of the recurring topics in Heidegger scholarship, the so-called Kehre in which his way of thinking is said to have been implicated. According to Charles Guignon, Introduction to Metaphysics “undertakes the task of recovering the earliest ways of understanding Being for the purpose of revitalizing our contemporary understanding” of Being. He distinguishes in Heidegger’s thinking an “event ontology” that contrasts with the “ substance ontology” of metaphysics in effect since the classic Greek philosophers. Professor Guignon’s comments focus on Heidegger’s understanding of the early Greek concept of phusis and “how such a notion is illuminating in trying to make sense of things that the substance ontology fails to make intelligible”. He observes that history “provides a prime example of an entity whose Being is that of phusis”. Such an interpretation of phusis is in striking contrast to the standard understanding of phusis as physical nature. Later, in part 2, Susan Schoenbohm continues the discussion of Heidegger’s interpretation of phusis, noting that, according to Heidegger, in its fundamental sense, phusis does not mean nature but rather “the emerging, for the fist time, of something out of no determination at all.” It is “a name for the emerging of the originary difference of determination and no determination”, and, as such, must for certain reasons itself be “determinately ambiguous”. For Heidegger, she observes, phusis and Being are the same. Richard Polt, who is one of the volume’s editors, attempts “to lay the foundation for an adequate interpretation of Heidegger’s ‘Nothing’” in the context of the question brought into philosophical focus and prominence by Lebiniz: Why is there something instead of nothing? He notes that “the closest antecedents of Heidegger’s Nothing are to be found in nineteenth-century thought”, but that there are resonances of the topic as Heidegger treats it to be found in Eastern thought as well. In both traditions, “the question of Nothing forms part of the question of Being”, and that “precisely because Nothing is Being’s other, the question of Nothing is included in the question of Being”. Professor Polt points out the rich history of the notion of Nothing in Heidegger’s way of thinking. “We have found,” he writes, “that Heidegger uses ‘Nothing’ to refer to a wide variety of phenomena, including inauthenticity, uncanniness, death, guilt, meaninglessness, and the withdrawal of Be-ing”. He concludes that Heidegger’s Introduction to Metaphysics does not contain a “‘doctrine’ of Nothing,” but rather should be understood as “a voyage and a provocation, not a treatise”, adding that “Heidegger himself did not always view the text as a success”, which may account for why he chose not to publish it for nearly twenty years after first presenting it in public. Daniel Dahlstrom sees Heidegger’s text as “an introduction to the end of metaphysics and [the] beginning of a new way of thinking.” He suggests that Heidegger is in search of understanding “what it means to say that something is at all”. The author’s focus is on Heidegger’s interpretation of the sense of logos in pre-Socratic philosophy. Professor Dahlstrom examines what he terms the “logical prejudice” in Western philosophy as Heidegger construes it and attempts to show why, for Heidegger, such a way of understanding the relation between thinking and being “is understandable but not inevitable”, but, regrettably, “disables thinking about being”. According to the author, Heidegger discovers among the pre-Socratics an understanding of thinking that is “more rigorous and original than judgmental or propositional thinking”. On Dahlstrom’s assessment, Introduction to Metaphysics is, in fact, an introduction to logic. Part 1 of the Companion concludes with a refreshingly challenging analysis of “a complication in Heidegger’s theory of language and its consequences” for his way of thinking about being as a whole. In his text, Dieter Thomä sets out to “turn the tables and claim that shortcomings in both the early and late thinking of Heidegger can be pointed out by means of the Introduction to Metaphysics … in the respective conceptions of language”. He uses “an approach that takes Heideggerian arguments as incentives for a way of thinking that leads beyond him”. Focusing on the philosophical possibility of the declaration “I am,” that is “indexical being”, Professor Thomä discusses changes in Heidegger’s view of language from Being and Time to the Introduction, which he claims, by the way, “is not to be regarded as one of Heidegger’s strongest texts,” in particular “[i]n terms of systematic cohesion and unity”: “The tone of the book is uneven, changing among bold appeals, philological details, simple mistakes and bold arguments”. Thomä’s discussion of Heidegger’s concept of naming is respectful of and fully conversant with the texts, without, however, being reverential in tone, a feature that unaccountably has characterized so much Heidegger scholarship.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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