Heidegger, Humanism and Ethics: An Introduction to the Letter on Humanism [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 27 (2):377-378 (1973)
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After Being and Time itself, A Letter on Humanism is perhaps Heidegger’s most important work. It is a comparatively clear statement of the "later Heidegger" which focuses on the possibility of a "humanism" and the meaning of "ethics" for the thinking-committed-to-being. It is also Heidegger’s own retrieval of Being and Time twenty years later, giving a decisive self-interpretation of the main lines of this so-called "early work." Cousineau aims at providing the reader with a "handy, scholarly tool" for interpreting the Letter. He does this in three ways. 1) He provides a running commentary on selected but important passages from the Letter, with a generous use of the original German followed by a translation or paraphrase. 2) He takes a great deal of pain with Heidegger’s German and does not hesitate to call the only currently available translation of the Letter in English "deplorable", a judgment this translation frequently merits. 3) Finally, he presents us with an extensive annotated bibliography of works in seven languages which has the unusual feature of being coded by the letters A, B, and C which he defines as follows: anti-humanism, i.e., the interpretation of the relation between Being and Dasein advanced by the author sees Heidegger as devaluing man’s essence; metahumanism, the relationship is seen as unrealistic and mythical, and man’s essence is absent; authentic humanism, the interpretor [[sic]] sees in Heidegger’s view a representation of man’s true possibility for being human. Cousineau wisely reserves a category "D" for those whose position does not accommodate itself to these classifications. There are 95 entries in this bibliography which ranges over most of the important literature.—J.D.C.



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