A Note on Heidegger’s The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics (1929/1930)

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In The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude—a text from a 1929-1930 lecture course at Freiburg—after embarking on a contemporary “preliminary appraisal” of philosophy and metaphysics that sets up “the task of the course and its fundamental orientation” (1), Heidegger proceeds to awaken “a fundamental attunement” as his task, which is indicated by an orientations towards “a concealed fundamental attunement in our contemporary Dasein” (ix). However, before considering this—what kind of relationship exists between “fundamental attunement” and “contemporary Dasein”—Heidegger’s “preliminary appraisal” becomes an important starting point that, in part, “detours towards determining the essence of philosophy” (1). To be sure, though H states that this “preliminary appraisal” is a “detour,” this is a bit misleading. More accurately, he is taking a “pathmark”—a Holzwege—situating the task of the course itself by providing a fundamental orientation grounded in “the essence of philosophy,” in order to trace a route that will become a new path. H understands this “essence” as not just rooted in metaphysics, but also in “the unavoidability of looking metaphysics in the face” (1). The intersectionality of “essence” and “unavoidability” suggests, then, that philosophy and metaphysics share a fundamentality as “philosophy/metaphysics.” In this fundamentality, Heidegger considers the “essence”/“unavoidability” in the “incomparability” of philosophy/metaphysics as “neither science, nor the proclamation of a worldview” (1). But also, this “incomparability” is with art and religion, particularly since any such comparison “does not mean identity” (3), if the essence/unavoidability of philosophy/metaphysics is rooted in identity itself. Up to this point, Heidegger has viewed science, art, and religion as possible ways to avoid philosophy/metaphysics. In offering “one final way out” through “the realm of history”: as “a historical orientation [where] we shall straightaway obtain information about [philosophy as] metaphysics” (3).

This, then, becomes not only significant to understanding the “task” of his Fundamental Concepts, but becomes critical to interpreting the relationship between Fundamental Concepts and Being and Time. When considering what Heidegger argues in Being and Time about destroying the history of ontology, it is interesting that he never explicitly mentions “ontology” in Fundamental Concepts—his focus on metaphysics in his “preliminary remarks” suggests, I would argue, that the “task” of Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics is theoretically positioned as an extension of the destruction of traditional ontology in Being and Time. In other words, the extent to which H defines the unavoidability of metaphysics and the essence of philosophy by merging metaphysics/philosophy in terms of an essence/unavoidability is the byproduct of Heidegger’s (Heideggerian) ontology. To be sure, if Being and Time can be described, by Heidegger, as an analytic of Dasein, Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, subsequently, can be explained as another analytic of Dasein: an analytic devoted Dasein as the intersectionality between world (i.e. everydayness), finitude (i.e. temporality), and solitude (i.e. mood).

Perhaps with Being and Time in mind—that is, the destruction of the history of ontology by constructing an essence/unavoidability of philosophy/metaphysics—Heidegger concludes that “[through] all these attempts to characterize metaphysics by way of detours”—or, again, what can be called pathmarks—“…have we not gained anything in doing so? Yes and no. We have not gained a definition or anything like that” (4). This is because, for H, philosophy must be determined “from out of itself”—this means that, when translating metaphysics by philosophy (and philosophy by metaphysics), there arises the need to “withdrawal” metaphysics, as philosophizing and “human activity into “the obscurity of the essence of man” and, then, the recognition of “homesickness as the fundamental attunement of philosophizing and the question concerning world, finitude, individuation” (5). At this point, Heidegger arrives at “the stage of a preliminary appraisal [and] this appraisal is meant to bring the task of the course closer to us, and at the same time to clarify our overall orientation” (8). This “orientation” is based on metaphysical thinking as comprehensive thinking—similarly argued in Heidegger’s What is Called Thinking? lecture of 1954—as a way of “dealing with the whole and gripping existence through and through” (8). “Metaphysical/comprehensive thinking” as metaphysics/philosophy “is a questioning in which we inquire into beings as a whole, and inquire in such a way that in so doing we ourselves, the questioners, are thereby also included in the question, placed into question (9). What this means, then, for Heidegger, is that there arises, through metaphysical/comprehensive thinking, an ambiguity in philosophy—this ambiguity affects “the truth in philosophy,” to the extent that “the truth of philosophizing is in part rooted in the fate of Dasein” (19). But, more importantly, the presence of ambiguity in “philosophy/philosophizing” requires what Heidegger outlines as the justification of the characterization of comprehensive questioning concerning world, finitude, and individuation as metaphysics—to do this, in Chapter 3 of the “Preliminary Appraisal,” Heidegger proceeds to examine the origin and history of the word “metaphysics,” which takes an interrogative path through Aristotle’s “physis,” Thomas Aquinas’s metaphysics, and Franz Suarez’s modern metaphysics, as contributors to the perpetuation of a traditional concept of metaphysics. Consequently, what metaphysics has become traditionally influence what metaphysics is, since metaphysical/comprehensive thinking and metaphysics/philosophy are “gripped” by a metaphysical questioning—according to Heidegger, “these questions arise in their necessity and possibility from out of a fundamental attunement, and seek to preserve them in their independence and unambiguousness” (57).

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