On the shift of attitude

On the small example from Hölderlin’s Ister.

“The unhomely one is deprived of the homely; deprivations is the way in which the unhomely one possesses the homely, or to put it more precisely, the way in which whatever is homely possesses the unhomely one.”[1] (HIE75)

The reversal, which Heidegger stresses here, is one of the “technical moves” he often makes in his later writings. This reversal often illustrates the difference between his new way of thinking and the “metaphysical” attitude. We will talk about it much more at the end Chapter 1, what is important to point out at this point is that in this move, in the relationship that is talked about, in this case between the human being who is unhomely and the homeliness which has to do with being itself, Heidegger reverses the two sides of relationship, making the one that was assumed to be somehow less important into the one that in truth is more important.

It is important to understand, that Heidegger does not merely flip the top to bottom arbitrarily in whichever way, making the whole system relative and the “order” or “hierarchy” completely irrelevant. Instead, by making the reversal, Heidegger is restoring the proper grounding, the proper balance of weight that has been obscured and misplaced in the metaphysical attitude. Here the weight, the importance and the defining power is shifted from the anthropocentric focus on the unhomely human being, back towards the homely, which in the first place defines the homeliness and the unhomeliness, and so the state and condition of the human being. And so, he corrects himself, that it is not the human being that possesses or owns the homely, instead, it is the homely that possesses, or owns, or defines the human being.

Another point that is crucial in this reversal for understanding later Heidegger and for working out real bodily ways of dealing with the notions of his later though, which is one of the main challenges of this dissertation, is that the step beyond metaphysics does not consist in abandoning metaphysics, leaving it completely behind, creating a whole new language never used before, rather it is a matter of a simple shift of weight and importance, a shift from human being to being itself, from “I” to “it”, from ordering to listening, from grabbing to thanking. As simple as it sounds, it is not simple to think through and to carry out, often this shift changes everything, opens out completely new and unexpected horizons and subtleties of what we can see, do and feel, and it leaves behind the “old” ways. Yet it is simple and seemingly small, or, as Heidegger would say following Hölderlin, “fine”, for it does not require us to jump off the cliff into the abyss, just to shift our weight slightly, and to let the abyss come out on its own.


[1] “Der Unheimiche entbehrt das Heimische, das Entbehren ist die Art, wie der Unheimische das Heimische besitzt, genauer gesagt, die Weise, wie dieses, das Heimische, jenen, den Unheimischen besitzt.”(HID92)

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