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2.30 Heidegger

When we happen to ask ourselves about the meaning of existence, we are doing nothing but trying to use a research tool, which actually is a precise philosophy, in the hope that perhaps this instrument will help us to orient ourselves in the world; we ask ourselves questions, hoping that they are the most effective questions, the most able to get us to the core of the issues. The philosophy that questions itself on the meaning of existence is called existentialism and its main representative was Heidegger (Meßkirch, Germany, 1889 – Freiburg 1976); naturally he was not the first to ask himself what sense living has, but he was the first who made this question a method of systematic research, an organized philosophy. His thinking starts from a critique of previous philosophies: they have questioned themselves about the world and the I; at first they tried to understand how the world is made and how it works; then they set out to understand the world as a creation or part of the I. Heidegger highlights that things are the opposite: it is not the world that is part of the I, but it is the I that is one of the many objects in the world. A similar reversal had been made by Marx, when he said that it is not the I that makes the world, but the economic world that makes the I, but the thought of Marx had then taken the way of an attempt at economic redemption of the I. Heidegger instead takes the way of accepting all the limitations of the I. Therefore, in Heidegger the I is nothing but an object thrown in the world, among the many other objects that are there; but there is a difference: among all these objects, this I is ourselves who are reflecting on these things. The world is being, but we are being there. This has consequences. For example, even a mouse wonders, in its own way, about the world that surrounds him in order to survive in it, but the fact is that what involves us is not the way of questioning that mice have, but the way of questioning of the I, that we ourselves are; we are not interested in the questioning of other beings. Therefore, when we try to understand the world, we cannot help but include ourselves in this understanding. This makes meaningless any traditional metaphysics trying to talk about the world or the I as if they were objects other than ourselves who are talking. Instead of metaphysics, a particular attention to language becomes essential, especially poetic language, becomes essential, to be understood as an instrument modeled according to the physiognomy of this I, which seeks to understand the being, that is, the world that also includes ourselves.
The moment we include ourselves in the discourse, a fact emerges that reveals itself as the main fact: the world is what it is, we are what we are, we are trying to understand, but we cannot help but keep in mind that this action of understanding may at any moment end existing, that is, at any moment we can die. At this point we must correct this last sentence: dying means not that the work of understanding that we have begun will end, but that it will simply enter into another way of being realized, which we do not know how it will be; speaking of an end would be claiming to be able to establish exactly what will happen with death; instead we have to talk about it referring to what is significant for our point of view, that is the I. What, according to Heidegger, is significant for the I is the reference to the concepts of possibility and impossibility. That is, our human understanding spontaneously means existence as a set of possibilities: some are realized, and they constitute the past, others are aimed to the future; therefore the most suitable, most significant way for us to understand death is not as an end, but as an impossibility. Where is the difference? It consists in the fact that the concept of the end is a concept that we refer to the future, to something that one day will happen; instead the concept of impossibility invests us already in the present; in other words, death is not an end that will seize us in the future, but a condition of impossibility that already conditions our present. Without our realizing it, actually all our thoughts and actions are conditioned by the idea that we are not in this world forever. We exist toward death: this is the meaning of our life. Being toward death, however, does not mean living in depression and propensity to commit suicide; rather it means living an authentic existence, in which the prospect of death is not marginalized, but rather is assumed as an element that gives a particular physiognomy to everything we do. Heidegger is therefore not a pessimist, but one who wishes to show the truth. He also speaks of anguish as a sign of authentic existence, but even in this case anguish does not mean wanting at any moment to kill ourselves, but rather to include the awareness of the destiny of death in all our projects, thoughts, actions. The inauthentic existence is instead that of those who think they can discard the thought of death, believing that they can think of the objects of the world without including themselves among these objects: among them there are the metaphysicians. Heidegger, with his philosophy, has been the culmination of anti-metaphysics. The anti-metaphysics of Vattimo will then start from him.

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