What is the metaphysics of modernity

Subjectivity, metaphysics and modernity

Dieter Henrich interpreted and revived classical German philosophy - and designed a modern theory of subjectivity that is also a metaphysics.

Philosophy has always been expected to help to gain clarity - clarity about what people's lives and thoughts are all about. In the course of time, philosophy has, of course, developed a set of problems and methods that are at best indirectly related to this expectation. Gaining information about the state of human life on the one hand, arguing methodically disciplined on the other hand: The human enterprise philosophy has always drawn its strength from this span and tension.

If the tension deviates from the relationship between vitality and intellectual rigor, then each of the two poles loses its counterweight and corrective. The consequences are evident: On the one hand, popular philosophies are multiplying, which are associated with one another and become a branch of the entertainment industry or intellectual windmaking.

Thought and life movements

On the other hand, whole stretches of academic philosophy are becoming deserted, in which argumentation techniques are only cultivated for their own sake and the questions are forgotten because of which the "love of wisdom" can become a historical medium of human self-understanding.

Dieter Henrich has been running the philosophy business for a long time in the awareness of the implied tension (which he has often described in a similar way). The subtle interpreter and innovator of classical German philosophy by Kant, Fichtes, Schellings, Hölderlin and Hegel is celebrating his ninetieth birthday these days. He has tried again and again to "allow the existential questions that arise in every human life to have their say" (as he once wrote) within the carefully argued philosophy. A theoretical language of its own has been coined in this way, which knows at every point in a text where the train of thought is located.

Review, reflection, anticipation and extension, renewed turning back: it is no coincidence that the type of movement in the "typical Henrichschen" treatises is related to what they seek to understand: the basic forms and dynamics of human self-assurance in modernity - an epoch that appears transcendentally homeless but it is not entirely. The starting point for the deliberations is the most familiar, but also the most opaque human experience, self-awareness. Or more correctly: the "original familiarity" with oneself, which precedes and underlies all express self-confidence.

In the way of self-assurance, consciousness reveals a further and different prerequisite for itself that goes beyond subjectivity. It seeks - ultimately - ground in something that cannot be justified, but is nevertheless not irrational; it seeks support in a supporting "whole" which, however, cannot be completely given in any experience. That is why this theory of subjectivity is at the same time a metaphysics.

The last and the thought

It is true that all philosophizing in such a perspective is only an explication of conscious life. But this in no way means that philosophical thinking does not add anything to life in the search for "ultimate" reasons. In his recently published work (by C. H. Beck), “To be or not”, in which he traces surprising correspondence between Hölderlin and Beckett, Dieter Henrich puts it this way: “The last thing cannot be grasped in thought alone. It is also essentially connected with the thoughts that conceive it. "