Radical Contextuality in Heidegger's Postmetaphysics: The Singularity of Being and the Fourfold

In Günter Figal, Diego D'Angelo, Tobias Keiling & Guang Yang (eds.), Paths in Heidegger's Later Thought. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. pp. 190-211 (2020)
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The chapter argues that radical contextuality, a hallmark theme of “postmodern” thought, is also a key element of Heidegger’s thinking. Aristotelian metaphysics, as the question of being qua being, looks for a universal principle common to every particular instance of “to be.” By contrast, the postmetaphysical approach gradually developed by Heidegger basically addresses being as the irreducible context-sensitivity and singularity of a meaningful situation, understood as a unique focal point of a dynamic and complex meaning-context. The fundamental ontology of Being and Time (1927) articulates the temporally contextual structure of the human being as Dasein, culminating in the concept of the multidimensional singular instant (Augenblick). After the failure of his attempt to articulate the temporally contextual singularity of being in terms of its correlation with Dasein, Heidegger attempts an inverted approach: Contributions to Philosophy (1936–38) considers Dasein as the spatiotemporally situated place of the singular event (Ereignis) of being. The chapter finally suggests an interpretation of the fourfold (Geviert) of sky, earth, gods, and mortals, allusively introduced in the 1949 Bremen lectures, as Heidegger’s most elaborate account of the multidimensional structure that makes possible the contextual singularization of meaningfulness.

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Jussi M. Backman
Tampere University


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