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张祥龙:Heidegger and Taoism on Humanism

更新时间:2012-02-08 11:20:27
作者: 张祥龙 (进入专栏)  

  

  For a long time now, all too long, thinking [like a fish] has been stranded on dry land. -- Heidegger

  Fish thrive in water, man thrives in the Way [Tao].-- Chuang Tzu

  This essay will mainly deal with two issues: (1) What distinguishes Heidegger's thinking on the essence of man from all traditional humanistic views? (2) What is the relation between Heidegger's perspective of human nature and the Taoist one? To do this, however, it is necessary to lay bare the distinctive meaning of "Being" for Heidegger and "Tao" for Taoism.

  I. Heidegger's Criticism of Humanism and Metaphysics

  In the "Letter on Humanism"(1946), to answer Jean Beaufret's question "How can we restore meaning to the word 'humanism'?", Heidegger writes: "This question proceeds from your intention to retain 'humanism'. I wonder whether that is necessary."[i] This radical attitude, similar to that of his views, regarding "logic", "ethics", "epistemology", etc., is based on a judgment that "Every humanism is either grounded in a metaphysics or is itself made to be the ground of one".[ii] For him, every humanism, whether Roman, Renaissant, Marxist, Sartrean or Christian, has its philosophical root in Platonic/Aristotelean metaphysics, which is the beginning of the technical interpretation of thinking. All kinds of humanism, no matter how they may have looked different, share one basic view about the most universal essence of man. That is, "Man is considered to be an animal rationale."[iii] Heidegger does not question the correctness of this definition within its conceptual context. Rather, he criticizes it for its being conditioned by metaphysics. Now, therefore, the crucial question becomes "What is metaphysics for Heidegger?", as well as, "Why is defining man as 'rational animal' metaphysical?".

  In one sense, Heidegger's whole career of "thinking" may be seen as a continuous effort to distinguish pure thinking from metaphysics, although in his early writings, this effort appears as "the laying of the foundation of metaphysics".[iv] (In this paper, "metaphysics" is used in accord with the terminology of Heidegger's later works.) For our purpose, to know what metaphysics means for him is the first step to understand his thinking and his attitude towards humanism. In the "Letter", Heidegger writes,

  Metaphysics does indeed represent beings in their Being, and so it thinks the Being of beings. But it does not think the difference of both. Metaphysics does not ask about the truth of Being itself. Nor does it therefore ask in what way the essence of man belongs to the truth of Being.[v]

  This paragraph gives us a useful clue to understand properly Heidegger's saying that "metaphysics persists in the oblivion of Being".[vi] Metaphysics does think Being of beings, and therewith tries to distinguish Being from beings. But it does this only in terms of representing beings in their Being. "Representation", therefore, is for Heidegger the metaphysical way of thinking Being.

  In this representational perspective, the Being (of beings) is a "ground" or "principle" that "brings beings to their actual presencing."[vii]For this reason, "The ground shows itself as presence".[viii] This presence, which makes the presence of beings possible, may be asserted to be universal, unchanging, autonomous, and self-identical; but still, it is something "present-at-hand" (vorhanden) that can be handled by concepts. That means, it can in turn be re-presented as, say, Platonic "Form", Aristotle's and Descartes' "substance", or Hegel's dialectic mediation of the absolute Spirit. Therefore, the presence of Being under this category is not essentially disparate from the presence of beings. Both can be defined, thematically posited, and talked about as either object or subject, without necessarily "undergoing an experience with language". [ix]

  This is also the reason for Heidegger's criticism of humanism. Someone may raise the question: by defining the essence of man as "rational animal", man has been clearly distinguished from other creatures and beings. Heidegger's answer would be: this differentia, the "rational" or "ratio", is correct enough to distinguish man from other beings in, say, anthropology, if our aim is only to "set him off as one living creature among others in contrast to plants, beasts, and God".[x] But it is not primordial enough to let us understand the essence of man, and distinguish man ontologically from others. In other words, what Heidegger opposes most vehemently is "the manner of metaphysics"[xi] as conceptual positing and classification, which does not merely forget the truth of Being, but also forget this forgetfulness by believing that it has achieved a correct definition of man.

  II. Heidegger's Perspective of Being and Man as Dasein

  What, then, is Heidegger's own thinking on Being as such, that is said to be "more rigorous than the conceptual"?[xii] Certainly, it must be non-representational in the sense that the understanding of Being and man's essence cannot depend on any conceptual distinction,(点击此处阅读下一页)


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