Franek Korbanski

Franek Korbanski fra ark books anbefaler en bog til kbh læser, der i 2018 har temaet MANIFEST: ‘What is metaphysics?’ by Martin Heidegger:

There are texts, which, stretching language to its very limits (maybe even venturing beyond them), manage to manifest the seemingly un-manifestable. One such text is Heidegger’s 1929 lecture ‘What is metaphysics?’ It is this unique power of manifestation, which permeates the entire text that allows me to call it a manifesto, even if it is of a peculiar kind.

I do not mean the un-manifestability of the essay’s subject in the metaphorical sense. Were that the case, the idea to call Heidegger’s essay a manifesto would be at least a farfetched one. Instead, I mean it literally, since what Heidegger is after in this short, paradoxical and beautiful text is that which truly defies logic, reason and language: it is Nothing.

Despite the illusive nature of the object of inquiry, the defiance of these three fields does not banish them. They remain Heidegger’s only recourses in trying to spell out the answer to the question the text raises: ‘How is it with the nothing?’ In doing so, their limits, status and capacities become remarkably probed—Heidegger ventures precisely there, where Wittgenstein, commenting on this undertaking, advises not to: ‘Man has the impulse to run up against the limits of language. Think for example of the astonishment that anything exists. This astonishment cannot be expressed in the form of a question, there is also no answer to it.’

Yet, although the text often verges on what common sense would render absurd, there is a strong sense prevailing after this lecture that, after all, something had been said of nothing. That something of Nothing has truly been manifested. Heidegger manages this by discussing the phenomenon of anxiety, one that reveals Nothing to us. Anxiety not understood as an uneasy and unpleasant yet a fairly commonplace sensation, but as rare and peculiar one, characterised by, among others, the disappearance of the basic structures enabling the world to be understood as significant. And as such, by the collapse of language: Not because facing Nothing we suddenly find ourselves at a loss for words, but because that which makes words possible in the first place dissolves.

And yet, words remain all we have at our disposal when we want to talk about what renders them invalid and futile. Heidegger has to hope that the power to manifest that dwells in the language will stand up to the challenge. It seems to me, that this tour de force proves that it does. Although, of course, I may be wrong. Maybe it is Wittgenstein who is right, when he concludes his comment by claiming that: ‘Everything we feel like saying can, a priori, only be nonsense.’ Perhaps, it is all nonsense? An ‘empty’ as Heidegger himself asks at some point, ‘squabble over words?’ Well, ‘What is Metaphysics?’ is either this, or one of the most fascinating exercises in manifestation there is.

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