In 1947, Martin Heidegger wrote what is now known as his “Letter on Humanism”. The letter was a response to questions posed to him by the French philosopher Jean Beaufret, though most of these questions arose from issues that Jean Paul Sartre had raised in his famous 1945 lecture, “Existentialism is a Humanism”. Heidegger’s letter is long, rambling, confusing, and difficult, but it is also rich and revealing. These features are related. For it is not much of an exaggeration to say that the letter stands proxy for almost the whole of Heidegger’s later work, extending between 1930 and 1970. At the center of the letter, however, is pointed claim. Heidegger argues that all previous “humanisms”, by which he means all previous attempts at philosophy from Plato to Sartre, have failed to recognize the “proper dignity of human being”. This talk will explore later Heidegger’s project as a whole in the context of this surprising claim. The talk is drawn from a longer, book-length treatment of the topic that I am now preparing.
Post-Kantian European Philosophy Seminar Convenors: Joseph Schear, Manuel Dries, and Mark Wrathall