, Volume 50, Issue 1, pp 113-133
Date: 29 Dec 2010

Time/History, Self-disclosure and Anticipation: Pannenberg, Heidegger and the Question of Metaphysics

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This essay examines Wolfhart Pannenberg’s defense of metaphysics’ foundational importance for philosophy and theology. Among all the modern philosophers whose claims Pannenberg challenges, Martin Heidegger’s discourse against Western metaphysics receives the major portion of criticism. The first thing one concludes from this criticism is an affirmation of a wide intellectual gap that separates Pannenberg’s thought from Heidegger’s, as if each stands at the very opposite corner of the other’s school of thought. The questions this essay tackles are: is this seemingly irreconcilable difference between Pannenberg and Heidegger fully justifiable? What if there is a reading of Panneberg’s and Heidegger’s view of metaphysics that can reveal deeper similarities between the two thinkers than the first reading of Pannenberg’s criticism of Heidegger allows us to see? It then answers these questions by showing that both thinkers actually share a common emphasis on the concepts of ‘time/history’, ‘self-disclosure’ and ‘anticipation’, and their reliance on these notions reveals that Heidegger’s and Pannenberg’s approaches to the phenomenon of understanding and to metaphysical ontology are not fully contradictory but rather hold noticeable hermeneutical similarities.

I am deeply grateful to Prof. Wolfhart Pannenberg for reading the first draft of this essay and commenting on it when I send it to him on 10 December, 2005 (before he unfortunately entered the hospital and intensive care). Prof. Pannenberg generously wrote to me commenting on it with the following message: Thank you for your letter of December 10 and for your manuscript comparing my own thought to that of Heidegger. On reading through your manuscript I found many very pertinent observations and comparisons. The early Heidegger felt very close to the thought of Wilhelm Dilthey on history and hermeneutics as it is contained in volume 7 of Dilthey’s collective works. My own view on history and hermeneutics is also influenced by this position of Dilthey, and this fact may explain certain parallels with some ideas of Heidegger. Heidegger contributed in “Sein und Zeit” a solution to the main problem of Dilthey’s view, the relativism resulting from the observation that the meaning of history is not accessible before the end of history, neither in the case of individual life history nor in the case of history at large. In the case of individual history Heidegger introduces the notion of anticipation of the end of the life of Dasein functioning as a key to the whole of Dasein and of its meaning. This is the one idea of Heidegger’s that I appropriated to my own thought and transferred to history at large in the light of Jewish apocalyptic expectation and of the event of Jesus’ resurrection. This is the point of closest contact between Heidegger and my own thought. Regarding his critique of metaphysics and his reading of the history of philosophy I remained rather critical. I consider Heidegger’s reading of the early philosophers to be rather arbitrary at many points as compared to the philological interpretation of those texts. In this respect, I was deeply influenced by the book of W. Jaeger on the theology of the Early Greek Thinkers. It shows that the true concept of God was the basic issue in the beginnings of philosophy. The concept of being entered only later, with Parmenides and became determinative for “metaphysics” especially in the Aristotelian tradition, which Heidegger learned from his early days in his Roman Catholic training. Because of this different perspective on the history of philosophy, I came to question the basic importance of the concept of being in the task of metaphysics. This also has obvious consequences for the way of conceiving the relationship between theology and philosophy. Thank you again for your letter and manuscript. With kind regards and all my best wishes for your future work I am
Sincerely yours
Wolfhart Pannenberg