Although metaphysics has been rejected as a field of philosophical inquiry by the logical positivists, its legitimacy has been strongly reaffirmed by the founders of German existential philosophy, notably Martin Heidegger. For Heidegger the problem of being is still, and more than ever, the central problem of philosophy. In this essay, his inaugural lecture in 1929 at the University of Freiburg, he takes up being in its relationship to nothingness. What it means to be, the to-be-ness of the world, cannot be perceived, he writes, until we have first experienced nothingness, through the metaphysical dread that grips the reflective mind when it confronts the threat of nonbeing existentially. In the end, being and nothingness are found to be integral to each other, rather than opposites. Metaphysics itself begins when we ask ourselves what it means to be and not to be; it is therefore the most basic and serious of disciplines, and the most natural to man.
KeywordsHuman Existence Ambiguous Aversion Metaphysical Question Inaugural Lecture Pure Nature
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