Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 60 (4):678-695 (1998)

From the time of his very first courses, Heidegger seeks to thematize the radically finite dynamic for human life. As he considers traditional metaphysics to be incapable of facing this finitude, he engages in a critical examination of its most fundamental presuppositions. This article attempts to elucidate Heidegger's critique by means of twodifferent detours. First I show that the idea of self-realization, which Aristotle understood to be the most perfect movement, is unable to account for the tragic, unstable and internally divided structure of human life. Whereas the idea of self-realization determined the ensuing history of metaphysics — including Hegel — to a considerable extent, I understand Heidegger to develop against the background of this tradition a dynamic principle which allows us to conceive of every human striving as essentially threatene by the very principle that makes it possible. I then turn to Greek tragedy, especially to Oedipus Rex, to clarify this radically finite principle in terms of the essential structure of the tragic as such. The tendency of both human life and philosophy to turn away from this essentially tragic movement can be understood as the 'fall' which is inherent in all efforts of the human being to raise itself above itself. Heidegger's own thinking, on the other hand, can be characterized as a finite attempt to withstand this predominant tendency of western philosophy
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