Heidegger and the “Situation” of Ethics

Zeitschrift Für Ethik Und Moralphilosophie 3 (2):241-262 (2020)
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It is often stated that the German twentieth-century philosopher Martin Heidegger never wrote an ethics while undertaking his critique and deconstruction of the Western tradition of metaphysics. It is, therefore, difficult to know what manner of normative ethics, if any, is consistent with his “hermeneutic of Dasein” such as articulated in his Being and Time. However, in his “Letter on Humanism,” Heidegger refers to the tragedies of Sophocles as “preserving the ēthos” more originally, thus better, than does Aristotle’s ethics. Hence, one may examine Sophocles’s tragedies guided by the hermeneutic Heidegger provides, especially through the concepts of authenticity and authentic selfhood. Doing so, it is argued here that Sophocles’s Philoctetes presents one such opportunity for moral understanding in the interplay of authenticity and inauthenticity, in particular through a study of the moral dilemma that Neoptolemus must resolve as he moves from a situation of inauthenticity to a display of authentic resolve.



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