What Is Metaphysics?1


On the path connecting A and B, the wanderer finds a sign that reads: “Weather is changing. Breathe in!” During the attempt to extract the words from their context without any loss of meaning, the straps of the rucksack rip under the weight of the gold the wanderer carries with him. The rucksack lands at point C. The exhausted visionary, who after questionable weather forecasts makes sense of the relief on his shoulders in the perhaps suitable moment of a textual interlacing, is the dream-child of a world free from intoxication. In order to keep to a thought-out path between three points, he invents an eternity. Thus he is fleeing from the stranded guardians of a currency against the principle of loss of man and mouse: in other words than other words, than other words, etc., from now on a possible change of weather is considered a real false book entry, while the law of self-preservation without loss of energy guarantees the smallest common denominator, which marks a quasi insufficient field of fields. More on a slope than already on the plateau! Neither profit nor loss is still really generated, instead, the joys and sorrows of forgetfulness reign.
      Instead of the many other words, the free words of an economy of imponderabilities emerge from nowhere, through which, with a somersault, a bill is rendered, which the wanderer settles without a date and signature. How else could it be: everything that glitters is gold. The question is merely whether this glitter represents a false value only from one’s own narrow viewpoint. The excess of light that is reflected by that everything which could or should be gold, finally leads to the construction of a room completely covered in mirrors: a perfect luster has swallowed the limits, and the wanderer is hit by the reflection of a point which he thought he had left behind long ago, or which, in the craggy landscape, lies both closer and further away than it seems now, against the theorem of contradiction. At the next checkpoint of the entanglement, the path turns into the maze, whereas at the furthest checkpoint it continues straight on. And the shortest connection between near and faraway through A, B, and C constitutes, after all, that speculative break which, across the ravine, transforms everything that glitters into gold. Catch a little breath on our inevitable risk! On this, the wanderer must inhale, because the diagonal path carries on even through detours, around remnants of walls and abandoned barns—and the half-forced respite for breathing during a difficult calculation can only serve as a parable for a tryst that offers protection from a downpour in the sunlight.


At the reversal point of a path that leads off-road from the meta-pause to the breathing pause behind a wall, which, for physical reasons, should be impossible to go behind, the wanderer once again, after a short while, leaves his tryst to breathe out. His question is: how could it rain from a clear sky? Once he steps outside again there is not even the shadow of a cloud anywhere, blue sky all the way to the horizon. Even before the wanderer breathes out and finds an answer on the first signpost, he stands before a second signpost, which reads: “Reversal averted! Breathe out!” Too late, or precisely not too late: where is the link replacing the wanderer’s plan effective, and where is it cut off, to lead him to Rhodes on another path? Jump now! Don’t ask! Follow the instructions! Thus speaks the welcome adversary, whose spade bends on the naked rock of the reflections, so that finally the agreed-upon silence is interrupted.
      The signposts could be, say, traps set by grave robbers who want to lead their competitors astray. The legal limits of the uninitiated still apply to the initiated—until finally that is considered gold which the glitter promises: The guardians of a stable currency won’t tolerate piracy and no book entries without grounding: no rucksack tears by accident! The ideally steady weather and the pitfall logic of dubious transactions guarantee a “measure of all things” that is only made futile by the hope of the lost souls for the shortest connection from A to B: only a fool’s resignation to fate can reduce the claim of those who are hopeful for the last asset in the gold flow.
       Somewhere in between, and that need not be C, is the time for breathing out, for example now: it is not only where the crux of the matter lies that the traces important for the continuation of the noiseless path may end. Where the wanderer actually wants to blur them in order to get rid of his pursuers, he may possibly have to give more than he has, and that applies not just to his breath as his means to self-preservation, but also his gold—in any case, certainly his Wittgensteinian ladder that nobody is supposed to use after him. This disparity leads to the discomfort that makes the weather, regardless of how much it defies the forecasts, only a secondary concern. Because just as the rain could not surprise him during his flight, his clothes—defying all physical laws—are dry when he steps outside again. Faraway barking is audible in the desert. The tryst is for him now merely a minimal globe and an anachronistic document, but no longer a head start or ladder. Already in the pause between meta and breath, the wanderer senses that the signposts stand in a world of half-truths. He must work for the whole truth through the loss or profit of the share that is given to him by the laws of value maintenance between the monadic units. Therefore his perception, his rainy memory, is monadically locked-in, like everything that might hinder him from becoming one with a conspiring exterior world: without having to invent a new excuse that would announce yet again a new detour or reversal, which in turn secretly contains C, etc. One look at the spade-bending ground is sufficient to determine that in the time of breathing out during moody weather, the gold has metamorphosed into lead. The straps of the rucksack have torn, the wealth is gone, and only a rabbit breeder with a black top hat stands alone in the field. The delicate link between false rain, false jollity, a false currency system, and false promises must, in the false as well as the right life, hold the key for a certain disenchantment.

metatem [meta-breath]

While the wanderer is busy on the wide field of breaks with the interpretation of a transformation for which there are no physical reasons, the painful insight grows that this interpretation cannot change the results of the transformation in any way. Once the gold has turned into lead, there seems to be no going back. What has been lost was not won by someone else. The only thing to do is to try to forget the loss as quickly as possible, and to be happy that the journey continues now without the heavy load and without any pursuers. “No A, no B, no C,” the wanderer says to himself. As a sign of his new freedom—pleasure principle instead of loss principle—he now climbs through the thistles with closed eyes. But before he knows it, he encounters a third sign which reads: “Blessing in disguise! Hold your breath.” Who sees through the game? Finally, the expected trap opens up, which no longer betrays a pursuer, because the game is based on the fact that not everything is on the table from the start—with every currency, and in any weather.
But the master of the “voiding void” has, unluckily rather than luckily, recognized the trap and has nonetheless come to feel at home in it, after his anti-platonic leave-taking from historical reality—in which he no longer wants to give advice about this reality to the master of the mirror—has become irrevocable for good reasons. While abandoned dogs howl on the cliffs, and while silent words outweigh lead against gold in the mouth, the heirs try to hearken to the “void” on the other side of the path between A, B, and C so as to get an answer to the omitted question, but they hear: Nothing! Nothing but their own held breath. Nothing but the illusion of movement under black cloth. And then everywhere rabbits, as if by magic! The world of changes is past, and the box of reflections is locked. Now even lead can represent value. Those locked in, however, who lost their way, have already reached the arbitrary goal, and it is unimportant whether the next step is taken with closed or open eyes. Diagonally or straight on. Wordily or silently. With or without a ladder. Leaded gold or gilded lead. Imperceptibly, the border has been crossed between the in and the out of breathing, which keeps the problematic events alive: between the in and out, one’s breath is held, in an ever-shorter moment, which is called, with less and less air available, the “present.” Because the return to one and the same point as the equal sign of a word and language game is the demand that results from the freedom fought for—and not just since the master of the “eternal return.” What then does it mean when the missing shadow of a cloud on a clear sky attracts attention? There is neither talk of happiness nor misery, not even of one in the other, because the breath behind it, which accounts for the system—which in gay science is said to be just a loop—continues until it appears to be independent from the system. The trap shuts, and the signposts pale before the question of whether there is a fault in the system when it rains while the sun shines. The trap opens up again, and everybody knows why he doesn’t know why. The wanderer, however, need not concern himself with that, because a new wind is already blowing, a pure gentle breeze in a glass that captures the voices that just now were all over the place, and orders them.

Halcyon Days, Cologne 2013, p. 277

[1]After the title of the inaugural lecture by Martin Heidegger on July 24, 1929, at the University of Freiburg, which bore the same title (Martin Heidegger, “Wegmarken,” Frankfurt 1978, 103-121). Heidegger’s thesis on the foundation of all metaphysical questions in the “question about the void” (119) is violently extended in the philosopher’s refusal to give advice in the Spiegel interview with Rudolf Augstein (“Nur noch ein Gott kann uns retten,” “Der Spiegel,” May 31, 1976, 193–219. The interview took place on September 23, 1966, in Todtnauburg).
       Heidegger’s silence (which had historic reasons) in the “Spiegel” interview is—in a philosophically and politically incorrect way—put in relation to Wittgenstein’s ahistoric imperative to be silent, articulated in the “Tractatus.” The two contrary positions take turns in the role of the “wanderer,” which Nietzsche took on from his “Zarathustra” onwards (as “the wanderer and his shadow”). On parts of the way, Heidegger wanders (the signpost, the tryst, the ladder, the document, the signs of the void), on other parts, Wittgenstein wanders (the spade, the ladder, the irritation in the open air, the void of the signs), and Nietzsche wanders on all parts, from whose shadow both possibilities of silence cannot find their way. The motif of breath, whether taken from the void of the metaphysical ground or from the chaotic universe of post-metaphysical possibilities, connects the three figures on a path with obstacles, which are camouflaged as signposts to “meta,” “breath,” and “metatem” [meta-breath] as their impurely, fraudulently obtained synthesis without a way out: with existential, economical, and ideational consequences.