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The Review of Metaphysics

Volume 71, Issue 2, December 2017

Louis Dupré
Pages 343-368

Heidegger’s Interpretation of Poetry and the Transcendent Openness of Being

Heidegger’s commentaries on Hölderlin’s poetry constitute an essential part of his philosophical heritage. They played a decisive role in the move from a self-enclosed theory of Being to a transcendent openness. Nietzsche confirmed Heidegger’s aversion of the philosophical subjectivism that had come to paralyze all of Western philosophy and, related with it, threatened Western culture with collapse. The time before and during World War I confirmed both the consequences of a philosophical subjectivism and the urgent need for an active political attitude. Heidegger’s support of Nietzsche did not outlast the war nor the information that the will to power’s political interpretation was not Nietzsche’s own but his sister’s and had become a secret weapon in the service of the Nazi party. By that time Heidegger studied Hölderlin’s poetry and understood that also his own philosophy of Being had been rigid and one-sided. From Hölderlin’s poetry he learned the indispensability of passive attitudes. Thus far atheism had served as protection of the absoluteness of a self-enclosed Being. Through the poems of Hölderlin Heidegger learned that Being is not a self-supporting absolute but a transcendent openness that might be expressed actively in religion or in a mystical Gelassenheit.