Chapter 14: Piety before Being and the problem of ethics

Thus far in this essay, the question concerning technology has been resolved into the question concerning values, and the question concerning values—framed as a question of finding an ethical measure—amounts, minimally, to finding that measure in one of three sources: a law-giving God, some immanent principle, or—as Heidegger would have it—in Being itself.  The questions intrinsic to finding the source of an ethical measure in a law-giving God have been approached and left unanswered, and Heidegger’s proposal that it be found in the question of Being has been discussed and rejected.  Now it remains to consider what it might mean to find the source of an ethical measure in some immanent principle, particularly in something like, for instance, well-being, duty, or happiness for the greatest number, etc.  In other words, if—as well be discussed shortly—the questions surrounding a law-giving God are intractable, even as they must necessarily be answered, and if Heidegger’s sourcing of an ethical measure in Being itself is untenable because it denies the very sense of moral agency presupposed in any plausible ethical theory, then how might an immanent source for the measure of values address the question of values at the heart of the question concerning technology?  If the source of a measure of values is neither a law-giving God nor Being, in what way can an immanent source serve as the basis for ethical ideals?  And more to the point, what questions does finding these ideals in their respective sources both raise and purport to answer?  Why find an ethical measure in one source versus another, and in what way does the remaining solution—an immanent source—resolve the issues thus raised?  Finally, how can finding an ethical measure in some immanent source avoid the charges (common to proponents of a law-giving God or of Being itself) that doing so makes “man the measure of all things,” thus entailing “chauvinism”?  Finally, what does grounding an ethical measure even mean; how is the notion to be fleshed out?  The following Chapters answer these questions, particularly the last one (Chapters 15 and 16), but first a few remarks on Heideggerian “piety” and its relationship to theology and traditional Christian thought are in order.  For Heidegger concludes “The Question Concerning Technology” by invoking piety, without circumscribing in any detail what that piety means, much less how it is related to its traditional religious incarnations.  Nevertheless this “piety” amounts to his solution to the problem of technology, so the relationship between Heidegger’s version and “piety” in the traditional religious sense needs to be examined, specifically with respect to how it might provide a “foundation” for ethics, the very issue subtending the question of values in the question concerning technology.

The “piety of thought”

Heidegger closes “The Question Concerning Technology with the following remark: “For questioning is the piety of thought.”[1]  Since the remark closes the essay, Heidegger doesn’t say what “piety” might mean in the context of thinking Being and the essence of technology together, but in a lecture course shortly after “The Question Concerning Technology” was delivered, Heidegger does connect “piety” to thinking in general when he links memory, thanks, and thought together.  In What is Called Thinking?, Heidegger says: “The word “memory” originally means this incessant concentration on contiguity.  In its original telling sense, memory means as much as devotion. This word possesses the special tone of the pious and piety, and designates the devotion of prayer, only because it denotes the all-comprehensive relation of concentration upon the holy and the gracious.”  Now to be sure, in this passage Heidegger does not flesh out what “special tone” refers to here, he does not elaborate on the “holy” and the “gracious,” nor does he endorse belief in a transcendent God, as a being, much less endorse the Judeo-Christian god of the Western tradition.  For in both “Phenomenology and Theology” in 1927 and “The Letter on ‘Humanism’” in 194x, Heidegger explicitly states, first, that to think Being is not to think the essence of God, and second, that thinking Being serves as the only propaedeutic for thinking through such an essence, in so far as this essence belongs to “the essential sphere of divinity”—in other words, thinking Being is a “preparation,” as it were, where Being “has been cleared and is experienced in its truth,” therein the “day of the holy dawns” and the “dimension for the gods can be thought.”[2]  So “prayer,” the “holy” and “piety” are not to be taken in their directly religious specifications, but what then is to be made of their rather obvious—and presumably intended—religious overtones?  Given his attention to language, Heidegger presumably chose these religiously nuanced words for a reason, presumably to appropriate them into the project of thinking Being.  So what authentically religious sense might “piety” have in the context of this project, as opposed to the straightforward sense of worship in the Christian tradition that posits a supernatural God as the highest being and thus the source of all moral measures?  How is “piety” in the Heideggerian context to be understood?

Both “Phenomenology and Theology” and “Letter on ‘Humanism’” offer not just the clue but also the most likely explanation of this use—or minimally, most of the explanation for it.  For in “Phenomenology and Theology” Heidegger specifically addresses the relationship between philosophical concerns, as occupied with the question of Being, with religious concerns, as occupied with the question of Christian faith, and in the “Letter on ‘Humanism’” this question is taken up again, this time with a more direct emphasis on the question of the truth of Being as such, with an oblique reference to how this truth might related to the truth of revelation in faith.  As contributions to how “piety” is to be understood in the Heideggerian context, especially with respect to its obvious religious overtones, each essay is discussed in turn.

In “Phenomenology and Theology” Heidegger distinguishes between philosophy as ontology concerned with Being and theology as science as concerned with the objects of faith, even as he highlights the essential necessity of the former in clarifying the ‘ontological’ aspects of the latter, without also stating that the former requires the latter for its completion, i.e. that faith per se requires philosophy.   Specifically, Heidegger notes: “if faith does not need philosophy, the science of faith as a positive science does.  And here again we must distinguish: the positive science of faith does not need philosophy for the founding and primary disclosure of it positum, Christianness, which founds itself in its own manner.  The positive science of faith only needs philosophy in regard to its scientific character, and even then only in a uniquely restricted, though basic, way.”[3]  With this distinction, then, between a positive science (theology) and faith per se (Christianness), a question naturally arises: “what does ‘Christianness’ mean,” and how does it both relate to theology by becoming a positum (i.e. its object) and require philosophy in so far as this self-founding object becomes subject to a science?[4]

For Heidegger, “Christianness” is the existential rebirth a believer undergoes when “partaking of the event” of the crucifixion of Christ, itself an historical event given to a historical people, the significance of which is revealed in divine revelation, specifically, the revelation that reminds humanity of “its forgetfulness of God.”[5]  In other words, by “‘part-taking’ and ‘having part in’ the event of the crucifixion,” a potential believer “places [his] entire human existence—as a Christian existence, i.e. one bound to the cross—before God”, and in this placement before God the believer  is reborn in such a way that his “existence is reoriented through and through the mercy of God grasped in faith;”[6] In this faith, in “Christianness,” the forgottenness of God falls away because through faith, once Christian, the faithful adopts a “believing-understanding mode of existing”  in which “the history [of Christ is] revealed.”[7]  In other words, in being Christian the faithful assumes “an appropriation of revelation” that leads to a way of life, one transformed into an actual way of being modeled on the historical reality of Christ.  In this respect, then, Christianness is the totality of being a Christian in a manner disclosed by faith, and this ‘totality of being’ can become an object of explicit study in theology.  That it, Christianness per se can become an object of faith.

It is as the object of faith that “Christianness” becomes the positum of theology taken as a science; in theology, Christianness, as it were, becomes an object for a systematic investigation.  But this raises the question: what kind of investigation?  How is it derived?  With respect to how it is derived, Heidegger is quite clear what it doesn’t mean, for he notes that theology, as a systematic science, can never be “deduced from a rationally constructed system of sciences,” nor can it, once developed, justify faith itself, in the sense of grounding the truths revealed in faith and giving them their true meaning.  Instead, of justifying faith, systematic or scientific theology is simply a matter of a “conceptual interpretation” that thematizes faith and that which is disclosed through faith,[8] without proving or rationally demonstrating the articles of faith itself.  In this way, far from providing a foundation for faith, theology can in fact “find sufficient motivation for itself only through faith,” such that it “has meaning and value only if it functions as an ingredient of faith,” an ingredient that draws its meaning from faith instead of giving meaning to it.[9]  In this way, through theology Christianness can become an object of faith in a “science which faith motivates and justifies,” not the other way around, and the sole purpose of this science is “to help cultivate faithfulness itself.”[10]  By offering a conceptual interpretation of Christian existence that cultivates faithfulness, the task of systematic theology—a science with Christianness as its object—is “to grasp the import and specific mode of the Being of the Christian occurrence, and to grasp it as testified to in faith and for faith.”[11]  In short, theology brings to explicit conceptual awareness the experience of taking the articles of faith as the defining motive and thus the authentically determined features of a Christian life.

With Christianness as an object of systematic theology in place, Heidegger goes on to clarify the relationship between theology as the science of the object of faith and philosophy as the ontology of Being.  For as he notes, any science—be it theology or physics or psychology—depends for its formation on a pre-ontological understanding of the Being of the objects delimited in its field of research, a pre-ontological understanding which can and must eventually be explicitly demarcated in a systematic, or conceptually self-aware, way.  In Heidegger’s own words: “Whatever is discloses itself only on the grounds of a preliminary (although not explicitly known) preconceptual understanding if what and how it is,”[12]and in this way “every ontic interpretation operates within the basic context of an ontology, firstly and for the most part hidden.”[13]  The goal of philosophy with respect to this “hidden” ontology is to bring to conceptual clarity the pre-delineating, pre-conceptual understanding of “what” and “how” a being is, so with respect to theology specifically philosophy “ontologically disclose[s] the what (the essence) and the how (the mode of Being) underlying” Christianness, for all theological concepts belonging to Christianness “necessarily contain that understanding of Being “constitutive of human Dasein.”[14]  In other words, for Heidegger, the basic concepts taken up in theology deploy, however tacitly, some pre-ontological understanding of Being.  However they are used by the faithful, these basic concepts carry with them some pre-ontological understanding of what those concepts mean.  The role of philosophy, then, is to clarify this pre-ontological understanding and turn it into an explicit ontology, one ultimately based on the pre-Christian meanings of the concepts deployed by faith (he uses the example of sin and its relationship to guilt).  In short, philosophy clarifies the meaning of Being implicit in all Christian theological concepts, leaving philosophy and theology intimated related in some way.

Heidegger clarifies this intimate relationship later in the essay, where he is at great pains to show both the necessity of philosophy for theology without reducing theology to a branch of philosophy.  Specifically, since philosophy clarifies the pre-Christian meanings of concepts like sin and guilt—concepts that take on a unique meaning in Christian theology—philosophy does not lead faith by a “leash,” as it were, as much as it ‘co-directs’[15] the development of specifically Christian concepts as they are given their unique meaning through and from within faith.[16]  In other words, in the final analysis “ontology functions only as a corrective to the ontic, and in particular pre-Christian, meaning of basic theological concepts;”[17] it does not determine those concepts in their authentic Christian sense.  For theology, concepts like “rebirth” and “sin” are given their full theological meaning only through faith, but through ontology they gain conceptual clarity in their relationship to the pre-Christian concepts from which they draw.  In this way, in so far as theology professes to be the systematic working out of the relationship between Christian and pre-Christian life—and for Heidegger all uniquely Christian concepts require this relationship back to factical, pre-Christian Dasein—philosophy acts as a necessary corrective for use of pre-Christian content in an authentically, faith directed Christian life.[18]  In short, philosophy, as ontology and the question of Being, plays an essential role in clarifying faith, even as faith ultimately only grounds itself and thus doesn’t rely on philosophy for that grounding.

With this essential role for philosophy with respect to theology and faith in mind, Heidegger’s use of the word “piety” for his own thinking takes on important dimensions, dimensions both akin to but diametrically opposed to the way the word is typically used in religion.  In its traditional religious context, “piety” means the ‘quality of being religious or reverent,’ or ‘devotion to a belief that is accepted without question,’ and in the specifically Christian context, being religious and therefore being pious means accepting without questioning the crucifixion of Jesus as the pivotal event in human history—i.e. it means accepting the revelation that God was willing to sacrifice his only son so that humanity might be granted forgiveness from original sin, and therefore gain a path to eternal salvation through God’s grace.  Whatever the variations of this basic doctrine in various Christian denominations, it is important to stress that for Heidegger, Christian faith requires recognizing this divine revelation as an event in human history, and more to the point, it requires accepting this faithfully, without question.  In other words, for Heidegger, Christian faith is the unquestioned recognition that God has revealed himself to humanity by becoming human himself, thus casting himself into time and history, and to be Christian is to take up one’s own having been cast into pre-Christian life and transforming it through this example into a life informed and guided by God’s grace, i.e. by the grace made possible by Christ’s sacrifice.  As such, “piety” in the Christian religious context means transforming pre-Christian factical life (i.e. the kind of everyday life all human beings experience) by being reborn into a factical life informed by God, i.e. being reborn into a life given meaning by faith, the basis of which is not questioned.   For a Christian, then, in Heidegger’s account, piety is faith: to be pious in Christian life is to have unquestioning faith in God where only the meaning of that faith for pre-Christian existence is questioned.   But beneath this question of how faith is realized remains an unquestioned faith in God, his grace, and the role that grace plays in transforming pre-Christian life into one authenticated by Christianness.

Now, as already noted, in so far as theology aims to systematize this relationship between pre-Christian and Christian life, i.e. between the life that was and the life that is after being reborn, philosophy has a role to play, but in this role faith determines the ultimate meaning of the Christian terms; philosophy only co-directs faith to it own conceptual clarity, particularly as these elements are remnants of a pre-Christian understanding of life.  In essence, then, for Christians the meaning of “piety” is literally ‘reverence before God’: piety means faith in God, such that faith takes precedence over any thinking of Being, in so far as that thinking defines philosophy.  This means that for the religiously pious, the question of Being is subservient to the piety of faith, not the other way around, and as such “piety” is “in its innermost core the mortal enemy of the form of existence which is an essential part of philosophy[19] (for to be religiously pious is to place God before Being).  In other words, whatever meaning the ontology of Being might provide to theological concepts in its scientific grounding—co-directional or not—the ultimate meaning of those concepts for believers is derived only from faith in God, not from the understanding of Being as such.  To this extent faith in God for the religious takes precedence over thinking Being for the philosopher.  For the religious, unquestioned “piety” comes before questioning thought; it gives all questioning it Christian meaning (which at its foundation remains unquestioned).  Piety would not be, as Heidegger indicates at the end of “The Question Concerning Technology” the “piety of thought,” one equated with questioning—for “questioning is the piety of thought.”  In this respect, then, as a “mortal enemy” of thinking Being, piety in its religious, pre-Heideggerian context represents not just the neglect or forgetting of Being but also, as it were, the death of Being—or at the very least, as the death of the thinking of Being that Heidegger intends when he uses the “piety” to describe questioning thought.  Because religion places God before Being, “the piety of thought” directed toward Being with which Heidegger closes “The Question Concerning Technology” would be, for the religious, secondary to the piety of faith directed unquestioningly toward God.  As described in “Phenomenology and Theology,” in its traditional sense “piety” would represent the subservience of Being before God; it would represent a priority of overtly religious and theological questioning over the kind of questioning guided by the truth of Being, however necessary that questioning would remain for any theology seeking clarity in its pre-Christian concepts.

“Piety” and the question of ethics

In his later thought, Heidegger reverses this subservience of Being to God.  That is, instead of merely co-directing faith to conceptual clarity with respect to its own use of pre-Christian concepts, thinking Being comes to ground “piety” in the deeper sense of providing a basis—or a grounding—for all religious concepts, including those previous self-grounded in faith.  Specifically, in contrast to its subservient role in “Phenomenology and Theology,” in his later thought thinking Being with respect to the “holy” and the “divine” becomes for Heidegger the basis of religious life and it concepts, one placed within the realm of questioning and thinking the truth of Being.  In effect, then, Heidegger reverses the priority of theology and philosophy as stated in “Phenomenology and Theology” by putting Being before God, in that the questioning that is primarily open to the truth of Being takes precedence over the questioning that exposits divine revelation, Christian or otherwise.  This reversal is no more clear than in his “Letter on ‘Humanism’”, composed in 1946, and it bears directly on the question of the “piety of thought” with which he closes his even later lecture on “The Question Concerning Technology.”

In the “Letter on ‘Humanism,’” Heidegger’s “reversal”[20] of theology over philosophy regarding the question of “piety” is quite clear, for in that essay Heidegger states: “But the holy, which alone is the essential sphere of divinity, which in turn alone affords a dimension for the gods and for God, comes to radiate only when Being itself beforehand and after extensive preparation has been cleared and is experienced in its truth.”[21]  And shortly afterwards he makes this reversal of God and Being even clearer with: “Only from the truth of Being can the essence of the holy he thought.  Only from the essence of the holy is the essence of divinity to be thought.  Only in the light of the essence of divinity can it be thought or said what the word ‘God’ is to signify.”[22]  With this reversal in his later thought, the relationship between piety in the religious sense and piety in the sense of openness to the truth of Being changes from one of “co-direction” into one in which the latter founds the former; instead of playing co-equal roles in the direction of faith, ontology as the truth of Being founds faith, and it founds it because the “boundaries that have been set by thinking as such” are “indeed set by what gives itself to thinking as what is to be thought, by the truth of Being”[23]—to which Heidegger adds: only in this “piety of thought” as respect for the intrinsic boundaries of thinking can a “nearness to Being” be cultivated, one before which any “decision may be made as to whether and how God and the gods withhold their presence and the night remains, whether and how the day of the holy dawns, whether and how in the upsurgence of the holy an epiphany of God and the gods can begin anew.”[24]  In short, Heidegger claims that only through piously questioning Being can a new “revelation” of the gods occur, be that revelation Being itself as a god in some sense or as the Judeo-Christian God.  In either case, the “revelation” of the truth Being first makes possible any revelation that might pertain to God, not—as with the position in “Phenomenology and Theology” the other way around.  In his later thought, Being takes decisive precedence over God as the source of truth, and this new precedence has direct implications on the question raised in the last chapter, namely the “revelation” of the “truth of Being” as an ontological foundation for ethics.

To see this implication, note once again that all revelations of Being, as it were—all disclosures of Being—are the history of Being itself; that is, the manifestation of Being’s essence to Dasein is the fundamental historical event that grounds all other human history.  As this fundamental historical event, it inaugurates all historical epochs, specifically the one to which Dasein currently belongs.  Now, this disclosure of Being is equally a disclosure of the essence of technology,[25]  and bringing in the religious themes just discussed together with terms of Heideggerian ontology discussed before, piety as questioning Being in effect means being open to the truth of a new revelation of Being, one that might manifest from out of an era beset and benighted by the essence of technology as com-posing, one into which Dasein can be “reborn,” as it were—born anew in the light of a new truth of Being.  Thus Heidegger says at one point “Only a god can save us now”—meaning only a new disclosure (“revelation”) of the gods will bring us salvation from modern technology.  The analogy to religious thought, then, is rather strict: in the final analysis, where Christians would put God revealing himself to man in an historical event promising salvation (the crucifixion of Jesus), Heidegger would put Being revealing itself to man in an historical event (das Ereignis, or “the event”), one also offering salvation, thus marking not just a transposition of religious piety toward God for a more authentically piety of thought before Being, but also marking the family resemblance of Heidegger’s own thinking of Being with traditional religious thinking of God (that is, traditional Christian religious thought that thinks).  In his earlier essay on the relationship between thinking Being and systematic theology, Heidegger situated his own thinking with respect to traditional religious thought by giving philosophy a co-directional, albeit an ultimately subservient role to “piety,” as piety is understood in its strictly religious connotations, to wit, as faith in God.  But in his latter thought, Heidegger not only spells out the sense in which religious piety is the mortal enemy of philosophy; he goes on to defend philosophy as the thinking of Being from this mortal enemy by asserting its own ultimate priority.  Piety for Heidegger grounds “piety” in any religious sense, and in his later thought thinking Being and remaining open to its truth comes before any question of God that might ever be asked, and certainly before any revelation from him that might be maintained or hoped for.  In the end, the ‘god that can save us’ from modern technology is Being itself, and Heideggerian “piety” ends up asserting  the same priority over religion that he assigns to all his thinking.  Thinking Being grounds and gives meaning to all other forms of thought; these derivative forms all remain subservient to the questioning and thinking of Being; therefore by extension “piety” for Heidegger is the piety before Being that comes before any piety before God, for to even broach the possibility of thinking God is to rely on thinking of Being first, just as thinking anything does.

But something more than just this direct “parallel”—this transposing—between God and Being can be noted; that is, the family resemblance between religious piety and Heideggerian piety is even stronger than already indicated by the exposition so far.  For as already stressed in this section, for Christians the revelation of God that grounds faith is an historical event, just as for Heidegger, as already stressed,[26] the disclosure of Being that grounds Dasein’s thinking—that grounds all Dasein’s comportment toward beings, technological or otherwise—is an historical event.  Indeed, for Heidegger, the disclosure of Being is the historical event subtending all subsequent ‘historical’ events, as this or that thing that happens.  For both Christian thought and Heidegger, then, thinking God or Being is essentially historical, and though different in its specifics than the historical event ‘God as man’ and his ultimate crucifixion, the coming of Being is as an event is alike in kind for being no less an historical happening—indeed, like the crucifixion for Christians, the “Ereignis” is the historical happening for the ontologically pious: it is a revelation—a disclosure—of Being, one given, not made; one granted, not demanded.  Being’s disclosure, then, is in essence just like an act of grace from God, situated as it is in the “holy” and the “divine” that is inherent to the truth of Being itself.  Like for Christians, the way can be prepared for the coming of salvation, but the salvation itself, as the disclosure of the ‘gods’, can only come at the gods’ behest; it can only be granted, and granted on its own terms.  Humanity, Christian or otherwise, can only wait.  For Christians, this waiting portends the second coming of Christ; for Heideggerians the waiting portends the new disclosure of Being.  But for both the waiting occurs amidst a mundane life that promises to be transformed by taking up the revelation only in its own terms—or to alternatively state the same thing, taking up the revelation’s promise to be born anew.  In any case, the waiting is for an “event,” one that can be prepared for but never evoked, one that promises to decisively transform human existence into something better—eternal life for Christians, a new technological epoch for Heideggerians.  The parallel and family resemblance, however intended, is very nearly exact.

More could be said on how for Heidegger preparedness for the disclosure of Being as salvation depends on “the future ones” who are “so attuned they are determined by the last god,” who “stand in sovereign knowledge as genuine knowledge”[27] and are thus unaccountable to culture, calculation or compulsion, who nevertheless organize the “masses who have become free” so that they (the free masses) can be “transformed[28] into their historical essence as a “people” under a “new sovereignty,” thus becoming open to the new disclosure of Being that will save—or as Heidegger comes to call it, the event of “Beyng” that will save.[29]  The obvious parallels between this kind of quasi-political rumination, the embrace of the Führerprinzip, the romanticization of Hitler (“never mind culture, look at his hands!”),[30] and the continually maintained “inner truth and greatness” of National Socialism will only be mentioned again for development by others at another time.  For present purposes it only needs to be noted that these prophets of Being, such as they are, are no more or less accountable to the everyday human standards of truth and error, right and wrong, good or bad, than are the overtly religious prophets of the Old Testament, dictating as they purport to do a transformation of those very standards by which truth and error, right and wrong, etc. might or might not be judged in the first place.  And herein lies another, yet deeper kinship between Heideggerian piety and overtly religious piety: its self-absorbed, nigh egotistical, and ultimately self-confirming nature, as though it channels a belief the very assertion of which is its own justification, one purportedly beyond all given standards of evidence, reason, argument or proof.  That Heidegger repeatedly situated his own later thought outside the reach of all four hardly needs stating, but what does bear pointing out is that were his invocation to find a measure for an ethics in Being not inadequate on other, more principled grounds (as it is), it would run afoul of the same pragmatic grounds on which founding an ethical measure in God runs afoul, questions like ‘whose God,” ‘which God’, ‘which revelation should be relied on,’ ‘on basis is it known’, etc.—the whole hornets’ nest of wasted time that is the sifting through unverified, and unverifiable, claims to the supernatural antecedence asserted with no evidentiary support whatsoever, assertions that in fact disavow the discourse of evidence and justification altogether, claiming for themselves the intrinsic validity that they do.  Since Heidegger’s thinking of Being so readily endorses not just the political ramifications just mentioned, but also the ones he actually embraced in his lifetime; in other words, since Heidegger explicitly linked the question of Being to the question of technology, and in linking the question of Being to technology also linked both to a political movement whose “inner truth and greatness” represented, for him, a challenge to modernity, perhaps the saving one;  for these reasons both the political and quasi-religious implications of his thought are as unavoidable as they are intolerable.  To the Heideggerian founding of ethics and politics in Being, one can always ask, rightly: which revelation of Being; to whom; when and how; on what grounds are they discerned and sorted as viable, verifiable, and true revelations, etc.?  And so on and so forth.  These kinds of questions must be asked if the revelation of Being is to provide the measure for ethics or politics (or in this particular case, provide norms for the uses of technology), even as because of their nature the questions require “piety” and “faith” as the only possible answer.  Like with the overtly supernatural claims in established religions, the so-called “piety of thought” ultimately leads to an uncensored—and uncensorable!—faith that has as its only persuasion the self-confirming assertions of its own rectitude, one in principle immune to all known canons of rational discourse, evidence, reasons and argument—canons not incidentally effective in both scientific inquiry and everyday life.  In this respect Heidegger’s later thinking of Being as a potential salvation from technology —indeed, for him, as the only salvation—is as unsatisfying on existential grounds as are the claims of the supernatural religions.  In other words, were it not already inadequate on its own terms, denying as it does the very agency and variability required for any ethical foundation, it would be objectionable on the same grounds as religion.  Like with religious thought, why even try to ground an ethical measure in God or Being, when no evidence or argument for the very assertion of the grounding exists, can ever exist, and by admitted stipulation is said to not even need to exist?  What path through justification other than outright conflict can there even be in such thinking, in such grounding of ethics and norms?  Religious thought and the “piety of thought” seem to share both the unavoidable and unanswerable questions that make either undesirable as a grounding for any measure of ethical behavior, be it technological or otherwise, and this inadequacy leaves open only the third alternative for such a grounding—some kind of immanent ‘foundation’, the one to be discussed in general terms next.


[1] QCT 18 (35)

[2] LH, 258

[3] PT 17

[4] PT 9

[5] PT 10

[6] PT 10, emphasis added.

[7] PT 10, emphasis added

[8] PT 11

[9] PT 11, emphasis added.

[10] PT 12

[11] PT 13

[12] PT 17

[13] PT 17, emphasis added.

[14] PT 18

[15] PT 19

[16] PT 19

[17] PT 19

[18] PT 20

[19] PT 20

[20] “Reversal” here is used loosely, for in “Phenomenology and Theology” Heidegger never quite endorses the priority of religious piety as faith over the question of Being as much as he diplomatically carves out an exception to the reach of that philosophical questioning.  In effect, in “Phenomenology and Theology” Heidegger adopts a ‘live and let live’ approach where each form of thinking—that guided by faith and that guided by Being—carves out an ostensibly independent domain, even as he notes that the emphasis of one (faith) is the death of the other (philosophy).  In his later thought he adds: though the emphasis on faith is the death of philosophy, philosophy is the sole ground for a life of faith, thus “reversing” the apparent priority he allowed for theology grounded in faith.  So it’s not so much a reversal as it is a retraction of a compromise previously maintained.

[21] LH 258, emphasis added.

[22] LH 267

[23] LH 267

[24] LH

[25] See above, pp.

[26] See above pp.

[27]Contributions, p. 314

[28] Contributions, p 49

[29] Contributions, p.