Placed side by side, Giorgio Agamben's The Open and Martin Heidegger's “Letter on Humanism” might read like two versions of the critical question about the aftermath of humanism. For Agamben, the answer lies in the rendering inoperative of the anthropological machine of humanism and the resulting liberation of the human-animal relation into the figure of nonknowledge. For Heidegger, the questioning pivots on the issue of the human in relation to Da-sein, “being-there,” taken as the site of the event (das Ereignis). This difference becomes decisive because Agamben's critique remains marked by a certain trace of humanism, namely, by the vestige of the central role that “human animality” plays in the understanding of the human. While Agamben cuts and suspends the animal-human passage, Heidegger attempts to move not only beyond the horizon of humanism and anthropocentrism but also beyond the human/animal doublet as the framework for the reflection on the human. For Agamben, at issue is the anthropological machine of humanism, that is, the human, the animal, and their inescapable relation, which needs to be suspended. For Heidegger, by contrast, it is neither the animal nor the human but being; as he announces already in Being and Time, it is the question of being that he intends to explore and not one of humanity. For this reason the “strange” humanism that Heidegger proposes in “Letter on Humanism” is less about thinking the human-animal than about nearness to being.
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Krzysztof Ziarek; After Humanism: Agamben and Heidegger. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 January 2008; 107 (1): 187–209. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-2007-062
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