How Being-Itself Came into Being
Being-itself comes into being through the self-immolation of philosophy and its notions of “being.” Indulge us for a moment as we briefly review how this happened.
As we have said, there is a major difference between the concepts of being seen in philosophy and being-itself. Those concepts are based on the idea that intellect is the essence of being, in fact of transcendent being, or God. Philosophers rather liked this idea because they themselves were intellectual beings; it made them think they had the key to happiness and knowledge.
But the attempt to equate transcendent being with intellect led to highly divided concepts of “being.” This divide comes about through the nature of intellect itself and its capacity for judgment, which is a negative power. If we totalize this negative power and try to make being into pure intellect, like Plato, we wind up with pure negation—and the only way to overcome this negation is to follow Aristotle and try to describe being as a purely active ratio of intellect and matter.
This great divide prevailed in philosophy from the very beginning and could not be overcome even after the attempt to graft philosophy onto Christianity in the Middle Ages. Then a merry prankster came along who decided it was time to dispense with the idea of transcendent being altogether—David Hume. In his view, it was no longer necessary to invoke a Divine Mind in order to explain being or find happiness. Science could stand in for God.
But intellect proved to be no more capable of producing an undivided description of “being” on its own than when it attempted to invoke transcendent being. Hume was a lover of pure intellect, just like Plato, and this love led to the same nothingness in Rationalism that was seen in Idealism. In fact it produced a more disturbing kind of nothingness by depriving philosophy of its luminescence. Take away transcendent being, and philosophy loses its ability to promise happiness.
So Kant tried to smuggle God back into philosophy through the Transcendental Aesthetic. He agreed with Hume about setting aside any direct reference to transcendent being, but he claimed that our value judgments about being reflected the influence of certain “transcendental” qualities like Space and Time. Thus it seemed possible to reconstruct being even after Hume’s violent attack of nothingness.
And then Hegel went a step further and tried to describe a construct of being and nothingness itself. This grand new construct was supposed to bring the whole enterprise of philosophy to close—and in a way it did. It was so complicated that almost no one could understand it. ‘There-being’ was too much of a burden to make anyone happy, and this opened the door to a new form of resistance called Nihilism, which kicked into high gear with the publication of the Origin of the Species.
Darwin produced a masterful narrative in which nature created itself without the help of God. This opened the door to an entirely new kind of philosophy. If God did not create the world in six days, but nature created itself through the long, slow process of natural selection, then it was possible to say that “God is dead.” It was possible to embrace nothingness as a force of resistance to any concept of being.
Philosophy began by claiming to be able to describe being but wound up negating its own concepts of being in the end and embracing nothingness. The long-standing attempt to link intellect to transcendent being was dead. No philosopher would even attempt to revisit this concept today. Nihilism ground up all of those lofty ideas into nothing.
But Nihilism cannot negate being-itself, which has nothing to do with the concepts of “being” seen in philosophy. The ocean waves continue to crash upon the shore and the moon continues to shine in the night sky in spite of the demise of “being.” Their mystical appeal to the human mind cannot be negated because it does not depend upon intellect or its methods of making value judgments.
By negating “being,” the philosophers negated the promise of happiness that made them seem important in the first place. They negated themselves. But being-itself has not been affected in any degree by this heroic act of self-immolation. Philosophy is dead; but this simply means that we are now free to take a second look at being-itself and the question of happiness.