What Is Metaphysics? Heidegger’s Evolving Account of Metaphysics (275-296)

Yu Xia

ABSTRACT: In this paper, I deal with Heidegger’s evolving account of metaphysics, since Heidegger’s persistent concern, the question of being, is a basic metaphysical question. To date, most Heidegger scholars have focused only on a particular stage of Heidegger’s philosophy: either his early attempt to deconstruct metaphysics, or his efforts to overcome metaphysics in the 1930s, or his late embrace of ‘releasement’ from metaphysics. However, these limited approaches fail to address Heidegger’s different understandings of metaphysics, which lie at the root of his changing approaches to the question of being. They also fail to explain whether there is any inner connection between the various approaches. Further, given Heidegger’s unremittingly negative attitude towards metaphysics, some scholars have even maintained that Heidegger thought it both possible and desirable to leave metaphysics behind altogether. I address these issues first by arguing that metaphysics for Heidegger has three interconnected meanings: initially it is the representation of the totality of things that are present-at-hand, a view subsequently developed into subjective representational thinking, and finally radicalized into an expression of the will to power. At each stage, Heidegger critiques the metaphysical tradition but never claims that it can be fully eliminated, since it is a mode of Dasein’s being and ultimately possiblized by being itself. For this reason, Heidegger’s own philosophy of being remains inseparable from metaphysics.

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