Before the modern era, religion played the most important role in the contemplative life of European peoples. However, the development of artisanship and trade, the appearance of the first towns, the advancement of science and techniques, the appearance of the bourgeois intelligentsia and “The Gutenberg Galaxy”, as well as the development of schools and universities and civil political movements – all that created new sources of thinking. Along with the philosophical mind, the scientific mind started to have an increasingly important role in man’s thinking, throwing off the religious schackles. A new way of life and a new position of man in the world gave rise to a new art, which sought to create its own autonomous thinking. The thinking life in Europe became multi-faceted and multi-layered. It was now based on the capitalist division of labour, which separated manual from intellectual labour and institutionalised spheres of thought wherein people became alienated from their creative powers. At the same time, the dynamics of the thinking life were conditioned by scientific discoveries, conquests of new territories, technical inventions, industrial development, increased literacy of the general population, the introduction of a non-working time, which increased the number of readers and gave rise to the theater, opera houses, galleries and other cultural institutions.
The modern age saw a struggle between different world views, whereas the bearers of religious, scientific, philosophical and artistic thought sought to turn their respective fields into the sum total of all wisdom and the pillar of the thinking life. At the same time, under the influence of political pluralism, there appeared various schools of thought, each of them seeking to make its view the basis of all thought. Rather than being founded on the mind, this tendency to establish a domination of one world view over all others is the consequence of a struggle for power between political and economic centers, which instrumentalised the mind. This is what the idea of fundamentalism is based on. It does not strive for truth, which can be found only by opposing different views, but for the establishment of a centre of power with an indisputable monopoly on the „truth”.
Heidegger’s fundamental ontology is developed in a world divided into spheres that are alienated from and dominant over man. Without that division, a demand for fundamentalism would be meaningless. Fundamental ontology is a synthesized essence of separate areas of suprastructure, where the powers alienated from man are institutionalized, becoming the means by which the ruling order oppresses man and destroys nature. Heidegger does not seek to reconcile the divided world and give man back his powers, those taken from him in the form of alienated spheres of the capitalist suprastructure. He does not seek to abolish the sphere of philosophy by people becoming reasonable beings; to abolish the sphere of art by people becoming artistic beings; to abolish the sphere of technique by turning the conquered forces of nature into the means for satisfying genuine human needs and increasing the likelihood of human survival; to abolish class society by abolishing private ownership over the means of production and the repressive institutions of bourgeois society and by man becoming the agent of social life and the master of his destiny.
Fundamental ontology has an integrative character. It is based on an integrative ontological point, which is the source of thought and is indisputable. If fundamental ontology is the source of overall thinking, then it is not possible to pose an autonomous ontological question about its essence, which means to establish an autonomous critical standpoint, from which it may be brought into question. A discussion of the nature of fundamental ontology is possible as its self-reflexion.
The self-reflexion of fundamental ontology is based on all principal standpoints of thought being contained in it, and through it they obtain their ontological legitimacy. Self-reflexion of the ontological as ontological is possible only via fundamental ontology. In other words, the very nature of the ontological is conditioned by the nature of fundamentalism as a totalizing way of thinking. Every ontological approach that does not correspond to the totalizing intention of fundamental ontology is eliminated. The ontical excludes the struggle of opposites and thus the historical development of society, whereas ontology excludes the confrontation of opposites as a way of finding the truth. Fundamental ontology is opposed to the dialectic of history and the dialectical mind.
For an ontology to justify itself, it should be capable of posing the question of the truthfulness of fundamental ontology. Fundamental ontology is legitimate only as ontology, which means that the self-reflexion of fundamental ontology is possible only through the ontological. Since fundamentalism, as a synthetic-totalizing principle questions the essence of the ontological, fundamental ontology does not have the legitimacy of the ontological. In fundamental ontology, ontology has lost its ontological essence.
Fundamentalism as a principle of thought is opposed to the emancipatory nature of the ontological. It deprives ontology of the visionary. Since the ontological is self-conscious of the ontical, by abolishing the openness of the ontological towards the future, the ontical is deprived of an emancipatory self-consciousness. What should be affirmed instead of the principle of fundamentalism is the principle of ontological openness, which then enables the thought to soar into the future. This is the basic presupposition for the life-creating potential of the ontical to acquire a visionary self-consciousness.
Fundamental ontology is not a thought opening the horizons of new worlds; it is rather a strengthening of the foundations of the existing world. The fact that it is a “path” (Heidegger) does not mean searching for or opening new ontological standpoints, but rather projecting the given fundamental ontological point into the future.
Bearing in mind that the contemporary world is based on a totalitarian destruction, we can conclude that fundamental ontology draws thinking into the sphere of a totalizing anti-existential mindlessness. With capitalism becoming a totalitarian destructive order, the question of the truthfulness of fundamental ontology as a concrete historical question is possible only from an existental and, in that context, a libertarian standpoint.
Heidegger developed a new philosophy which should indicate the essence of human existence. Philosophy is abolished by philosophy. This contradicts Heidegger’s demand that all forms of mediation between man and his existence be abolished. Rather than by replacing all other philosophies with his so that his philosophy becomes the only mode of mediation between man and his existence, Heidegger seeks to abolish philosophy altogether as a mediator between man and his existence. His fundamental ontology does not strive to develop a philosophy, but rather represents the end of philosophy and the birth of the poetic. It does not only carry the seed of a new thought, but also of a new relation of man to his existence.
The essence of Heidegger’s novum is that man’s relation to being is not grounded in the thinking of being, but on its experience. Hence the self-reflexion of Heidegger’s philosophy is not possible through philosophy as wisdom alienated from man, which as such is the criterion for determening its own truthfullness, but rather through a way of life based on immediate experience of a tragic existence and thus on co-existence with Being.
If the basis of its self-reflexion is not thinking but rather the experience of a tragic existence, why then fundamental ontology? Is it a source of wisdom needed for man to understand the nature of his tragic existence and the nihilism into which he is thrown so that new social conditions can be created enabling him to re-experience his tragic existence and return to Being, or is it but a means for eliminating the mind as a mediator between man and his existence?
Heidegger called into question philosophy as a mediator between man and his existence, and this is one of the most significant emancipatory possibilities of his thought. His analysis of the history of philosophy indicates that Post-Socratic philosophy, which mediates between man and his existence by reducing them to the objects of analysis, resulted in the “obliviation of Being”, and this led man to nihilism. Hence we should go back to Pre-Socratic Helada, where man was in unity with Being and where philosophy was a self-reflexion of Being. If this Heideggerian appeal is viewed in light of the fact that capitalism increasingly threatens the survival of life and in the context of a demand to eliminate all forms of mediation between man and world, which was insisted upon by Marx and Nietzsche, he can have not only an emancipatory, but also an existential significance.
Heidegger’s philosophy has a critical undertone and thereby offers the possibility of being present and alive in a world that, inspite of falling deeper and deeper into existential hopelessness, does not seek to overcome capitalism and create a new world. It offers the possibility of being critical without crossing the „red line“ dividing a „politically correct“ thought from a thought that seeks to confront capitalism and step out into the future, where the emancipatory potential of a civil society might be realised. Heidegger’s philosophy is a critique of the capitalist reality that does not bring capitalism into question. It is an anti-visionary critique of capitalism.
Heidegger’s philosophy does not see itself as a concrete historical thought that is conditioned and thus qualified by the nature of the time in which it was developed. Heidegger determines the idea of “fundamental ontology” as the starting point for the self-reflexion of his philosophy. Heidegger’s undestanding of man and his existence, in effect, comes from philosophy as a separate area of the capitalist spiritual sphere. His thought is based on and framed by a capitalistically divided world. Although Heidegger sought to create an impression that his fundamental ontology has a supra-historical character, his philosophy belongs to the capitalist spiritual supra-structure alienated from man. With his philosophical rethoric, Heidegger built a labyrinth for the mind, which is but an addition to the capitalist ideological sphere.
Heidegger gave to philosophy an inadequate social and historical dimension. Ancient Greek philosophers did not determine the nature of the governing thought; it was the governing order that, indirectly and directly, conditioned man’s thinking and the nature of philosophy. The same goes for the modern age. The nature of the governing thought is not conditioned by philosophy, but by capitalism as a destructive totalitarian order. The capitalist ratio, which rules bourgeois philosophy, is but a rational manifestation of destructive capitalist mindlessness. It corresponds with philosophy as a mystificatory skill that sterilizes the life-creating power of the mind and thus confronts visionary consciousness and changing practice. Traditional philosophy fits into this by turning concrete existential issues into abstract theoretical questions.
As with other “great philosophies”, Heidegger’s faces the issue of its logical consistency. Heidegger created specific terms that he sought to “fill up” with notions having a hierarchical order. To create the illusion that this pyramid of notions is non-contradictory, Heidegger had to resort to verbal juggling. As he developed his philosophy, he elaborated and changed the content of the notions with which he set out toward Olympus. On that increasingly strenuous and uncertain trek, the notions behaved as a flock of sheep that the shepherd cannot keep together. Some sheep fell off a cliff, some got lost, and the shepherd had to eat some of them in order to keep moving on. Ultimately, it turned out that the path Heidegger took led not to Olympus but to Auschwitz.
Translated from Serbian by Vesna Todorović (Petrović)
English translation supervisor Mick Collins