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I. Introduction I
II. The Meaning of History
III. The Western Tradition
The Forgetting of
Being for the Greeks 34
The Process of
The Consummation of
IV. Parmenides: The
Relation between Being and
Parmenides B 3 58
Parmenides B 6 77
V. Heraclitus: The Logos 87
The Logos 87
Hearing the Logos 99
VI. Authentic Questioning
and the Tradition
The Concept of
VII. The Meaning of
Language for Heidegger
Logos, Logic, and
The House of Being 133
VIII. Conclusion 152
Appendix: A Bibliographical
Chronology of Heidegger's
My own interest in the philosophy of Martin Heidegger began with the study of
Parmenides. For in and among the literature on Parmenides were to be found studies
purporting to be historical, but betraying the marked influence of the radical views on
the history of philosophy in general and the pre-Socratics in particular of a philosopher I
was reading at the time, namely, Heidegger.
It was clear that Heidegger's account of the pre-Socratics, which indeed provides the
historical basis for his fascinating if highly provocative interpretation of the whole of
western philosophy, was not "historical " in the customarily accepted sense of that
word. However, any attempt to understand Heidegger's own views on the meaning of
history immediately opened one up to the central core of the philosopher's thought,
wherein the elucidation of such basic Heideggerian notions as temporality, Dasein,
language, etc., had to find place.
Given this centrality of history in the philosopher's thought, I have begun the study with
a chapter on the meaning of history for Heidegger. Only in this way can the treatment
which the philosopher gives of the primordial pre-Socratic thinkers Parmenides and
Heraclitus be understood. Only in this way can the overall interpretation which
Heidegger gives to western philosophy in general be rendered intelligible.
In the footnotes I have made use of abbreviations for most of Heidegger's works. Most
of these abbreviations have become more or less standard in the citation of Heidegger's
works. A list of these is given following the preface.
The bibliography at the end of the study is a select bibliography of those works which I
found most helpful. I have also added certain critical remarks to the works mentioned.
Finally, appended to the select bibliography there is added a list of books and articles,
particularly those works which I consulted dealing with the pre-Socratics.
For questions of chronology the reader is referred to the Appendix,
where a list of Heidegger's works is given both as to the date of publication and as to the
date of presentation as lectures, talks, etc. The problem of chronological development in
Heidegger's thought becomes more and more complex as more and more works and
lectures from the so-called "middle period" are brought out in published form.
I have tried to keep Greek words and phrases down to a minimum, and have wherever
possible used Roman script, particularly after the words have once been quoted in the
original language. However, in all quotations in which Heidegger or others make use of
the original Greek, or where the Greek cannot in any satisfactory manner be
transliterated, I have preserved the Greek.
I have not always been consistent in translating a particular word in Heidegger's
German. Often I have translated a word in a variety of ways in order to give the peculiar
"flavor" which the word conveys in Heidegger's German.
I wish to thank the Fulbright Commission to the Federal Republic of Germany for its
cooperation and financial assistance during my year in Germany. I also thank Professor
Dr. Werner Brock of the University of Freiburg im Breisgau for his valuable help and
suggestions. I wish to express my thanks to Professor L. E. Lynch of the University of
Toronto for his encouragement and direction in the project. Finally, I must thank Mrs.
V. Hayward for her kindness in typing the manuscript, and my confrere Matthew
Naumes, O. S. B., for his help in checking the proofs.
G. J. S.
EHD Erläuterungen zu Hölderlins Dichtung
EM Einführung in die Metaphysik
Hu "Über den Humanismus"
ID Identität und Differenz
KM Kant und das Problem der Metaphysik
SG Der Satz vom Grund
SZ Sein und Zeit
" Vom Wesen und Begriff der uoiç Aristoteles Physik B I"
PW Platons Lehre von der Wahrheit
US Unterwegs zur Sprache
VA Vortrdge und Aufsätze
WD Was heisst Denken?
WG Vom Wesen des Grundes
WM Was ist Metaphysik?
WP Was ist das—die Philosophie?
WW Vom Wesen der Wahrheit
ZS Zur Seinsfrage
DK Hermann Diels—Walther Kranz. Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker. 9 ed., 3
vols.; Berlin: Weidmann, 1960.
There are several ways in which the thought of Martin Heidegger may be approached. It
may be approached through Kierkegaard.
It may be approached through Heidegger's
own Being and Time (Sein und Zeit), his first major philosophical work. These
approaches to Heidegger generally accentuate what has come to be called the
"existentialist" in Heidegger.
However, the philosopher Heidegger can also be
approached through his more immediate philosophical forbears, Kant, Hegel, or
If Heidegger is approached through Kant, or more particularly through Heidegger's
book on Kant (Kant und das Problem der Metaphysik),
one immediately finds himself
in the difficulty of trying to follow three lines of historical thinking: Kant's own,
Heidegger's version of Kant, and that which in his commentary on Kant is revelatory of
Heidegger's own thought.
A similar difficulty is to be encountered in approaching Heidegger through the thought
The points of similarity are apt to blind one to the essential differences. This
is particularly true regarding the
See, for example, the work by Michael Wyschogrod, Kierkegaard and Heidegger:
The Ontology of Existence (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1954).
Thus the early work by Alphonse de Waelhens, La Philosophie de Martin Heidegger
(Louvain: Nauwelaerts, 1942); as also to a certain extent the work by Thomas
Langan, The Meaning of Heidegger (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1959).
Tracing Heidegger along the tradition of German idealism is the article by Walter
Schulz, "Über den philosophiegeschichtlichen Ort Martin Heideggers,"
Philosophische Rundschau, I (1953-1954), 65-93, 211-232.
KM, which was first published in 1929. In 1962 Heidegger published another work
concerned largely with Kant entitled Die Frage nach dem Ding (Tübingen:
Niemeyer, 1962), taken from lectures given at Freiburg in the winter semester of
Hegel, along with Aristotle, would seem to be the way in which a recent book by
Werner Marx, Heidegger und die Tradition (Stuttgart : Kohlhammer, 1961) attempts
to approach the thought of Heidegger.
notions of history in the two thinkers, and the fundamentally different way in which
history is grounded in Hegel and in Heidegger.
And the attempt to approach Heidegger through his predecessor in the first
philosophical seminar at Freiburg, namely Edmund Husserl, is not without difficulty.
For it might be supposed that because Heidegger speaks of the analyses which he
carries on in Sein und Zeit as phenomeno logical,
that therefore he simply carries on
the philosophical tradition inaugurated by Husserl.
Nevertheless, there remains one way in which to approach Heidegger which is not
encumbered by the more immediate historical problems noted above, and which hence
is an approach which is least likely to prejudice a proper understanding of Heidegger's
own thought. That approach is through Heidegger's commentaries on pre-Socratic
philosophers, particularly on Parmenides and Heraclitus. The pre-Socratics are many
centuries removed from Heidegger. However, in the recalling re-thinking of their
thought one has a sort of historical laboratory in which the philosopher's reactions to the
"origins" of all western thinking can be studied, to which the ultimate "grounds" of
Heidegger's own thought can be compared.
For Heidegger's is a thought which seeks origins, a thought which seeks grounds. It
attempts to think down to the ground, down to the very roots of phenomenology, of
history, of language, and most particularly of being in our western tradition of
philosophy. But as one gets deeper and deeper into Heidegger's attempts to think down
to these original grounds of the truly original, all these grounds in one way or another
seem to lead back to the pre-Socratics.
This fundamental importance of Greek philosophy and particularly
J. G. Gray, "Heidegger's 'Being,'" Journal of Philosophy, XLIX (1952), 415-422, sees
their views as completely opposed.
In SZ, which was first published in Husserl's Jahrbuch für Philosophie und
phänomenologische Forschung, Vol. VIII in 1927, Heidegger speaks of ontology and
phenomenology not as two different disciplines, but as object (ontology) and method
(phenomenology). However, both the way in which they use phenomenology and
those things which are the objects of their phenomenological analysis, are different
for Heidegger and for Husserl. For a good discussion of the question of Heidegger
the "phenomenologist," see Herbert Spiegelberg, The Phenomenological Movement:
A Historical Introduction (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1960), I, 271 ff.
of the pre-Socratics for Heidegger's own thought has been recently attested to by the
philosopher himself. In his book on language he says that his interest in Greek thought
began with his Gymnasium studies in Konstanz, and quoting the German poet Hölderlin
he says, "as you begin, so will you remain."
However, Heidegger's interpretation of the pre-Socratics is important not simply for a
more fundamental understanding of the roots of Heidegger's own thought. It is also
essential if Heidegger's interpretation of the history of western philosophy is to be
appreciated at its root and basis. For although various existing works on Heidegger give
schematic views of the history of being as seen by Heidegger,
a thorough investigation
of the "keys" for this interpretation, namely, the pre-Socratic thinkers, has not been fully
studied. And without these keys Heidegger's account of the history of being or of the
falsified ontological tradition from Plato to Nietzsche can seem only hopelessly
aprioristic and flagrantly arbitrary. And ultimately it is Heidegger's interpretation of
Parmenides and Heraclitus which provides the philosopher with the historical
foundation upon which he is able to base his interpretation of the history of western
Nevertheless, an introduction into Heidegger's thought through his historical
interpretations can become intelligible only in the light of the fundamental and
primordial view of history as historicity (Geschichtlichkeit) which Heidegger had
already established in Sein und Zeit.
For it soon becomes clear that Heidegger's
analyses of different philosophers in the history of being in the West are not, nor does
Heidegger also interprets the Anaximander fragment, and at great length, in Hw, pp.
296-343. However, although Anaximander represents certain conceptual
anticipations of Parmenides and Heraclitus, he does not have the decisive and fateful
significance which the thought of Parmenides, for example, has for the history of
western thought concerning being. In this regard see particularly Hw, p. 318.
SZ, pp. 372 ff.
US, pp. 92-93. In Hölderlin the phrase reads as follows: "Denn/Wie du anfiegnst,
wirst du bleiben." J. C. F. Hölderlin, Sdmtliche Werke (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, I952),
See, for example, Peter Fürstenau, Heidegger: das Gefüge seines Denkens (Frankfurt
am Main: Klostermann, 1958), pp. 101-164; or Langan, Meaning of Heidegger, pp.
69-85, 152-200; or Marx, Heidegger und die Tradition, esp. pp. 131-173.
them to be, examples of historical treatment in the generally accepted sense of that term.
Heidegger sees such a view of history and of historical interpretation as having arrived
to nothing better than historical relativism. And it is with his more original primordial
view of history (Geschichte) based upon the happening (Geschehen) that is Dasein,
the fatefully sent destiny (Geschick) of being that Heidegger attempts to overcome this
pitfall of historical relativism.
Hence any introduction to Heidegger's way of thinking on being through his
interpretation of the pre-Socratics must necessarily involve a consideration of the
central notion that authentic history, and other allied notions such as tradition and
historical repetition, play in his thought. To this task is the following chapter devoted.
One can, indeed, speak of two fundamental sides to Heidegger's thought; namely a
doctrinal side, the phenomenological analyses of Dasein which Heidegger carried on in
Sein und Zeit as the way back into the ground of metaphysics, as the means of
elucidating the age-old question of the meaning of being (Sinn von Sein);
historical disquisitions which the philosopher carries on in his later published works.
Nevertheless, it must be remembered that there is fundamentally only one Heidegger.
This is why an approach to Heidegger's thought can be carried on with such
appropriateness through his historical interpretations of the pre-Socratics. For his
interpretation of the whole of the western philosophical tradition, the interpretation for
which the pre-Socratics provide him with the indispensable key, is connected in an
intimate way with the historical project which Heidegger outlined for himself in Sein
und Zeit, which he refers to as the "destruction of the history of ontology."
As Heidegger says in his work Was heisst Denken?, a thinker requires
I have left the term Dasein untranslated. It is a terminus technicus for Heidegger (see
SZ, p. 7). Translations such as "existence" or "being human" tend to falsify the
philosopher's meaning. I have reserved the word "existence" as the translation for the
German Existenz, although it must be remembered that Existenz is always the
"existence" of Dasein. I have often used "being human" as the translation for
Heidegger's word Menschsein.
SZ, p. 13.
SZ, p. 39. In his later terminology Heidegger would use the word "metaphysics"
rather than "ontology" in such a context.
only one thought, and the difficulty for that thinker is to grasp and express that one
There can be no doubt but that the one thought in the thought of
Heidegger is the thought of being (das Sein).
Heidegger is a thinker whose primary
and sole interest is being.
Hence the phenomenological exegesis of Dasein in Sein
und Zeit, or the exegesis of the "sacred texts" of various philosophers in the western
tradition of philosophy as they go toward or move further away from an authentic grasp
of being, both have the same end and purpose, namely, the elucidation of being itself.
His work Sein und Zeit merely provided the necessary backdrop against which the
question of being (Seinsfrage) could be re-asked, reintroduced into the mainstreams of
WD, p. 20.
I have generally employed the English word " being" to designate Heidegger's das
Sein. However, it must always be borne in mind that the English word is a verbal
substantive, whereas the German preserves the infinitive root. And in Heidegger das
Sein is always to be understood verbally (EM, pp. 42-43; Nie II, p. 459). I have
translated das Seiende as "thing" or "things." To translate the word as "being," with a
small "b" and "Being" (das Sein) with a capital "B" does not bring out sharply
enough the contrast which Heidegger draws between being (das Sein) and things (das
Seiende). The use of the word "entity" in the Macquarrie-Robinson translation of SZ
is acceptable for this work (despite certain adverse philosophical associations), where
the "ontological difference" is not so sharply drawn as in the later works. The
creation of special words, such as "essent" (for das Seiende) seems unnecessary, as in
Manheim's translation of EM. I am aware that in VA Heidegger has devoted an essay
to "Das Ding." However, the modern general word "things" seems to cover this usage
as well, and Heidegger in this essay seems to like the broadness of the English word
"thing" (VA, p. 174). And in a private conversation with Professor Heidegger, July
27, 1962, I had occasion to discuss this translation of das Seiende by the English
word "thing." After my explanation of what I felt was at issue, he approved the
In a seminar with Cassirer in 1929 Heidegger said that it was toward this central
problem of being that the whole of the Dasein analysis undertaken in SZ was
orientated. Quoted in Guido Schneeberger Ergänzungen zu einer Heidegger
Bibliographie (Bern: Suhr, 1960), p. 21. As Casalone remarks, perhaps with a touch
of irony, "... l'essere è l'essere—e Heidegger il suo profeta." Pietro Casalone, "La
filosofia ultima di Heidegger," Rivista Filosofica Neo-Scolastica, L (1958), 117-137.
As Jean Wahl, Vers la Fin de l'Ontologie (Paris: Sedes, 1956), p. 13, notes,
Heidegger is not essentially a philosopher of existence (see also Heidegger's
repudiation of the term in Hu, pp. 17 ff.), except in order to arrive to the idea of
western philosophy, and this in no artificial or arbitrary manner but in the authentic
tradition of German philosophy from Kant and Hegel to Nietzsche and Husserl.
One might ask, however, whether these two sides of Heidegger's thought, the earlier
doctrinal and the latter more historical—although they concern themselves with the
same essential object (Gegenstand), namely, being—still preserve the same basic
methodology, a methodology (Behandlungsart) which in Sein und Zeit was described as
The answer to this question concerning the essential oneness of
methodology in Heidegger's more doctrinal and more historical works lies, I think, in
the word which the philosopher uses to describe the phenomenological analysis of
Dasein, namely, exegesis (Hermeneutik).
In Sein und Zeit Heidegger's methodology consists in a phenomenological analysis and
an exegesis of certain so-called "existentialia," such as Being-unto-death (Sein-zum-
Tode), Being-in-the-world (In-der-Welt sein), anguish (Angst), etc., in order to arrive
to the meaning of being
SZ, p. 38. The difference between Heidegger and Husserl is by no means easy to pin
down. One might say that the important difference between their respective
"phenomenologies" lies in the matter of the Epoché, the phenomenological reduction.
For Husserl this reduction is absolutely essential if the strictly scientific character of a
pure phenomenology is to be preserved. For Heidegger, on the other hand, such a
total reduction would be impossible. How could one possibly "bracket" that in which
he is so intimately involved, namely, existence? Husserl seems to have characterized
the difference between himself and Heidegger in somewhat this fashion; for he writes
in a letter to Roman Ingarden (December 26, 1927), just after the publication of SZ,
lamenting, "Heidegger has not grasped the whole meaning of the phenomenological
reduction." (Quoted in Spiegelberg, The Phenomenological Movement, I, 281.)
However, the matter is not quite so simple. Heidegger "brackets out" the ontic from
his phenomenological analyses of the Existenzialien just as strenuously as Husserl
does the "matter-of-fact" world, the world of Erfahrung, with his phenomenological
reduction. The real difference more probably lies in the Ego-world relationship in
Husserl and Dasein as an In-der-Welt-sein in Heidegger. For Heidegger there is not,
nor can there be, a purely given Ego without a Being-in-the-world. "Die Klärung des
In-der-Welt-seins zeigte, dass nicht zunächst 'ist' und auch nie gegeben ist ein blosses
Subjekt ohne Welt." SZ, p. 116.
SZ, p. 38. Hermeneutics (Hermeneutik) attempts to establish the rules for the
interpretation of texts; in theology, the texts of Sacred Scripture.
through the understanding of one of being's most significant examples,
being that is there in the world, i.e., Dasein. In his later and more historical works,
however, the method seems to be more what might be called historico-linguistic. One
can also notice the difference in styles. The latter style is more cryptic and oracular.
This can be explained in part by the fact that these later works, almost without
exception, were first presented as lectures or talks.
At first it was thought that this historico-linguistic mode of textual exegesis whereby
Heidegger attempts to render and re-think Greek thought and Greek word roots in
equally abstruse word roots in the German language owed its source and origin to
Wilhelm Dilthey's "historico-philological" method.
However, in his recent work on
language Heidegger states that with the word exegesis or hermeneutics (Hermeneutik)
he meant to think phenomenology down to its ground and thus to establish its
fundamental connection with western philosophy. He says that the use of this word
grew out of his study of theology at the University of Freiburg.
It was only later, says
Heidegger, that he found the meaning of Hermeneutik in Dilthey; although in both his
own and in Dilthey's case the source is the same, namely, Schleiermacher.
There is a basic unity to Heidegger's methodology. In the case of his historical exegesis
of various philosophical texts Hermeneutik is the science which treats of the purposes,
ways, and rules for the interpretation of literary works.
And as Hermeneutik is
Heidegger speaks of Dasein in this connection as the "exemplarischen Seienden." SZ,
See "Die Entstehung der Hermeneutik," written in 1900, in Wilhelm Diltheys
Gesammelte Schriften (Leipzig-Berlin: Teubner, 1924), V, 317-338.
It must be remembered that Heidegger studied theology at the University of Freiburg
for four semesters with the intention of becoming a Roman Catholic priest. He states
the importance of this early theological training for his philosophical development
with these words: "Ohne diese theologische Herkunft wäre ich nie auf den Weg des
Denkens gelangt. Herkunft aber bleibt stets Zukunft." US, p. 96.
See Fr. D. E. Schleiermacher, Hermeneutik, ed. H. Kimmerle (Heidelberg: Winter,
US, p. 96.
ployed in Sein und Zeit, it means the attempt to think down to the roots of
phenomenology itself, the attempt to determine the essence of interpretation itself from
out of an exegesis of Dasein,
Fundamentally, then, both the exegesis of the texts of the pre Socratics, for example,
and the exegesis of the existential constitution of Dasein represent an authentic analysis
of Dasein. For only Dasein as a being standing open to being is historical; here is
history authentically made. Hence the ultimate unity between the historical and
doctrinal aspects in Heidegger's thought would seem to lie in the structure of Dasein as
a historical being. The exegesis or Hermeneutik, whether of Dasein himself or of
historical texts revealing Dasein's authentic confrontation with being is of Dasein. For
this is exactly what Dasein is and means, namely his relation to being. The so-called
two "phenomenologies" are really one.
This oneness of the Heideggerian methodology can also be shown in another way. In
the second section of the introduction to Sein und Zeit Heidegger attempts to pursue
phenomenology down to its ground, analyzing the Greek word uivoµvov (the open,
the self-showing) and the ìo¸oç as that which allows something to be seen (lässt etwas
This Sehenlassen, this letting something show itself, is the basic meaning
which phenomenology as original Hermeneutik has for Heidegger in Sein und Zeit. This
is the true exegesis of the Logos (Hermeneutik des ìo¸oç).
The question is whether this fundamental view of the Logos of phenomenology remains
essentially the same in Heidegger's later works. And in the "Logos" lecture of 1951
(distilled from University of Freiburg lectures in 1944)
Heidegger speaks of the
authentic thinking of the Logos as a "Letting-lie-before-all-together" (beisammen-
US, p. 98.
SZ, p. 32. Sehenlassen is an expression generally meaning "to show," "to display."
However, when Heidegger uses an idiomatic expression, it is often better to avoid the
idiomatic meaning and think the expression literally. In normal language usage we
speak the idiomatic expression while the literal meaning of the words remains in the
background. In Heidegger it is generally just the opposite.
SZ, p. 25.
And published in VA in 1954.
Such a Liegenlassen or leaving lie not only lets the thing lie before us as it
lies before us;
as a Vorliegenlassen it is allowed to lie before us so that it may appear
at the same time. It is also an Erscheinen lassen, as Heidegger says in lectures
concerned with the meaning of thinking given in 1951-1952.
The central notion of the Logos as the primordially thought ground for phenomenology
and as the idea of authentic thinking with reference to being remains fundamentally the
same, from first to last, in the thought of Heidegger. It remains something which lies
before us as the self-showing thing that it is. We simply allow it to appear and to be
Besides the charge of a change in methodology
Heidegger is also accused of a basic
"change of position,"
or at least of a "shift of accent."
However, of late the basic
and fundamental unity of the Heidegerrian ontological project has come more and more
to be recognized by students of Heidegger's thought.
And this is, of course, the view
of Heidegger himself. In his letter on humanism ("Über den
VA, p. 211.
VA, p. 215.
WD, p. 123.
Allers sees too great a cleavage between the "phenomenology" of the earlier and later
Heidegger. "It is as one knows, a favorite procedure of Heidegger to take a text, to
interpret, and to comment on it. Linguistic analysis and etymological explanation
have replaced phenomenology." Rudolf Allers, "Heidegger on the Principle of
Sufficient Reason," Journal of Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, XX
Karl Löwith, Heidegger: Denker in dürftiger Zeit (Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann,
Langan, Meaning of Heidegger, p. 236.
As Dondeyne says in his excellent article, there is no "volte-face" in the thought of
Heidegger, only an "approfondissement." Albert Dondeyne, "La différence
ontologique chez M. Heidegger," Revue Philosophique de Louvain, LVI (1958), 280.
Birault centers "... la vivante Unité de la pensée heideggerienne," around the notion
of truth. Henri Birault, "Existence et vérité d'après Heidegger," Revue Métaphysique
et de Morale, LVI (1951), 35. Marx believes that there are but two phases of one
development. Werner Marx, "Heidegger's New Conception of Philosophy: The
Second Phase of 'Existentialism,'" Social Research, XXII (1955), 451-474. Or as
Casalone puts it: "Certo dalle prime alle ultime opere di strada se n'è fatta parecchia,
ma una innegabile solidarietà esiste tra gli scritti del filosofo e veramente non di rado
la opere successive hanno un valore retrospettivo di illuminazione delle opere
precedenti." Casalone, "La filosofia ultima di Heidegger," p. 118.
Humanismus") for example, Heidegger insists that the third and unpublished part of
Sein und Zeit would represent a change of position (Kehre) only to the extent that it
would represent an orientation of time to being.
The thought of Heidegger is a unity, a unity centering around the question of the
meaning of being. This is true from his earliest to his most recent works. To insist upon
this unity of thought may seem strange in dealing with a thinker hardly noted for his
systematic presentation, particularly in his later works, and one who remains an avowed
enemy of system. Nevertheless, this basic unity is experienced in the difficulty which is
to be encountered in any attempt to organize Heidegger's thought in any completely
satisfactory manner. For although the core and center, the unity, of his thought is being,
the analysis of the limbs of this tree of philosophical thought becomes more and more
complex as these limbs of a being-orientated philosophy branch out from the trunk.
Hence the problem of Heideggerian interpretation will always be one of inclusion and
exclusion. His thought is rich, and a short study can hardly take into account all the
many facets of his thinking.
However, although the end and purpose of the study is to introduce the reader to the
thought of Heidegger through the philosopher's interpretations of the pre-Socratics, and
particularly through the primordial thinking of Parmenides and Heraclitus, this should
not be construed simply as an attempt to expound the pre-Socratics themselves or even,
primarily, Heidegger's views concerning them. The pre Socratics are studied in
Heidegger's own thought—and hence will be studied in this manner in this study as
well—for the pertinence which they have in understanding the relations between being
and knowing. For it is in this primordial insight of Parmenides into the authentic
relationship between being and knowing, and also the Logos of Heraclitus, which
provides Heidegger with the key to unlock the door of the history of western
metaphysics as an almost total forgetting of being (Seinsvergessenheit). For in both of
the works in which the greatest amount of space is devoted to the analysis of the
fragments of Par-
Hu, p. 17.
menides and Heraclitus, Heidegger explains that the thought of both of these thinkers is
brought in only in order to elucidate a certain historical problem.
In Was heisst
Denken ? that problem is, of course, thinking; in the Einführung in die Metaphysik it is
the relation between thinking and being. For Heidegger any historical problem must be
treated historically, that is, a dialogue must be carried on with those thinkers in our
tradition of philosophy who dealt with the problem, and particularly with the earlier
thinkers where the problem was first, and oftentimes decisively, broached.
This is one of the reasons why the fragments, particularly the fragments of these two
critical pre-Socratic thinkers, keep coming back again and again in the works of
Heidegger in many different guises and contexts. In Heidegger's view this is because
Parmenides and Heraclitus represent the beginning of western thinking.
beginning of philosophy among the pre-Socratics has to a great extent been lost to us,
covered over with the silt of historical periods and the garbage of false interpretation to
the point that only Heidegger's admittedly drastic interpretations have any chance of
recovering something of the pristine greatness of our philosophic origins. As Heidegger
says in his Einführung in die Metaphysik, in order for us to grasp the message of
thinkers as far removed from us and from our ways of thinking as are the pre-Socratics,
it is necessary to think drastically.
In order to grasp the meaning of a proposition
(Satz) as far removed from us as is, for
In trying to determine what being might mean in Parmenides, Heidegger says that
this is not simply a problem of the historical (historischen) interpretation of an
ancient text; rather it is seeking a translation in terms of sov on the way to the road
(Weges) of another question, namely, "What does thinking mean?" WD, p. 168.
Similarly in EM Heidegger explains that he does not study Parmenides and
Heraclitus for their own sakes, but only in order to elucidate, in a "historical" manner,
a certain problem. EM, pp. 104-105. Such a mode of "problemgeschichtliche
Untersuchung" can be seen in operation in one of Heidegger's earliest works, his
Habilitationschrift, Die Kategorien- und Bedeutungslehre des Duns Scotus
(Tübingen: Mohr, I9I6), esp. p. 228.
WD, p. 45.
Heidegger realizes that he will be accused of giving a totally arbitrary
misinterpretation (willkürliche Umdeutung), the proverbial far-fetched and one-sided
Heideggerian mode of exegesis, of the pre-Socratic texts. EM, p. 134.
example, the celebrated Fragment Three of Parmenides, a leap (Satz) is required.
in Heidegger's view every true questioning involves a leap, and when that which is
questioned is as far back as the very beginning of western thought, then a running leap
is required. This explains the reason for his admittedly drastic re-thinking of ancient
thought. Heidegger insists that this is not done in accordance with the norms or the
demands of some system, but rather in accordance with the very need (Not) of historical
Nevertheless, this leap in the light of Heidegger's notions on tradition
becomes a rather curious leap. For in taking this running leap back into the thought of
Parmenides we actually leap into that which we are already involved in, embedded in,
i.e., our own western tradition of philosophy, of which Parmenides remains one of the
important points of origin.
Heidegger often insists that he does not go back to ancient times or to past thinkers, and
particularly to the original thought of the early Greeks, simply in order to renew these
thinkers in some new and artificial form. Rather, his is a "going back" (Zurück) to that
locale (that of the forgetting of being) where metaphysics obtained and still retains its
Thus, if Heidegger's interpretations of the pre-Socratics are to be criticized, they cannot
be criticized according to the standards and norms of currently accepted historical
interpretation. For one thing, Heidegger's purpose is different. For another thing, the
philosopher has called these very standards and norms into question. Those who
disagree with Heidegger's pre-Socratic interpretations may accept some consolation
from the fact that although it is difficult to prove Heidegger incorrect, given the inherent
difficulty of the fragments of Parmenides and Heraclitus, it is for the same reason
difficult for Heidegger to prove himself correct. However, as will become clear from the
treatment of the meaning of history in Heidegger, the philosopher is quite "historical."
And Heidegger does have the advantage over almost all historians of philosophy in
recent times, with the possible exception of Hegel, in that not only does he present an
overview of the history of philosophy, but also a theory of history to back it up.
"Dieses Sichabsetzen ist ein Satz im Sinne eines Sprunges." ID, p. 24.
EM, p. 134.
ZS, p. 41.
It is the combination of a theory of history and an overall view of the history of
philosophy which gives to Heidegger's incursions into the thought of various thinkers in
the western tradition of philosophy the force and fascination which they command. For
any interpretation of western thought which can lump together all metaphysical thinking
from Plato and Aristotle to Hegel and Nietzsche into one vast school and characterize it
as a progressive but inevitable forgetting of being cannot help but arouse the curiosity if
not the actual interest of historians of philosophy, if only for its consummate boldness.
And the historical keys to this bold reinterpretation of the western tradition of
philosophy lie in large measure in Heidegger's commentaries on Parmenides and
One might in the end object that Heidegger in his various interpretations of philosophers
in the tradition of western philosophy is strongly under the influence of his own
philosophical position. This view implies the presupposition that there is a Heidegger
the "existentialist" and a Heidegger the "historian." Involved is the supposition that in
approaching being (das Sein) in and through the phenomenological analysis of Dasein
that being has somehow become "humaned" (vermenschlicht). Rather, as Heidegger
says, it is the opposite: man has become "housed" (beheimatet) in the locale of being
through this relation to being.
Also involved in such a view is a notion of
interpretation which Heidegger finds totally unacceptable. The "circle of interpretation"
as Heidegger puts it, is not something which Dasein can get out of, but rather something
which he must leap in-to.
One other misunderstanding in the above view is over the meaning of Dasein. Dasein
must not simply be equated with or translated by the word "man." Statements made at
the end of Sein und Zeit, stating that the existential analysis of Dasein was only one
way, the purpose of which was a working out of the question of being;
or in Kant und
das Problem der Metaphysik that the fundamental ontology of Sein und Zeit was not a
metaphysics of Dasein but rather, as Dasein, the necessary happening
SG, p. 157.
SZ, pp. 315-316.
SZ, p. 436. The italics are also in Heidegger's text.
should have made early commentators on Heidegger "the
existentialist" a little more cautious.
The basic unity of Heidegger's philosophy, a philosophy, or better an ontology, centered
around and upon the question of the meaning of being must always be borne in mind.
The phenomenological analyses of Sein und Zeit were a means of reintroducing the
whole question of being back into the current of western philosophy in accordance with
Kant's fourth question, "What is man?"
And the answer which Heidegger gives to that
question is Dasein. This is not man as animal rationale (Aristotle) or even man as
animal metaphysicum (Kant). It is man as Dasein, as a being which can stand open to
being, a being which is this very relation to being. Hence was it possible for Heidegger
to analyze Dasein phenomenologically in order to reveal the being of Dasein, and thus
being itself, as temporal; hence is it possible for Heidegger to analyze various thinkers
in the western tradition of philosophy as their Dasein stood or failed to stand open
authentically to being.
KM, p. 208.
Immanuel Kant, Sämtliche Werke, ed. Vorländer (3rd ed.; Leipzig: Meiner, I920), IV,
27. This fourth question is found in Kant's text on logic. For Heidegger's remarks
thereto, see KM, p. 187.
The Meaning of History for Heidegger
Very often in his later works, after he has finished interpreting a particular philosopher
or philosophical problem in his own inimitable fashion, Heidegger will at the end of the
essay all of a sudden shift into a discussion on history or language or both together. It
may be that Heidegger is aware that there will be those who will accuse him of a most
flagrant abuse of history or of the use of extremely questionable linguistic and
However, before one affixes to Heidegger's interpretation of the history of philosophy in
general or of his interpretation of the pre Socratics in particular the title "unhistorical,"
it would first be well to see exactly what the meaning of history is for Heidegger. Also,
the problem of the philosophy of history, the problem of the relation of ontology to
history, etc., are problems very much in the forefront of present-day philosophical
discussion. Thus to accuse Heidegger of being "unhistorical" would seem to be begging
the question, since it presupposes a definite solution to the problem of the meaning of
history. It is a question that has always been in the background of German philosophy,
at least since the time of Hegel, and a problem which has yet to receive a wholly
It is quite possible that Heidegger's theory of history raises as many problems as it
solves; nevertheless, the originality and the profundity of his treatment are not to be
The reader is referred to the following works and articles for gaining something of a
historical appreciation of the problem of the meaning of history to which Heidegger
is attempting to address himself: R. G. Collingwood, The Idea of History (New York:
Galaxy, 1956); E. L. Fackenheim, Metaphysics and Historicity (Milwaukee:
Marquette University Press, 1961); and William Kluback, Wilhelm Dilthey's
Philosophy of History (New York: Columbia University Press, 1956). There is also
an excellent article by C. O. Schrag, "Phenomenology, Ontology, and History in the
Philosophy of Heidegger," Revue Internationale de Philosophie, XII (1958), 117-
In Heidegger's view Dasein is a historical being, and the historical belongs primarily to
Nonetheless Dasein is only a historical being (geschichtliches) in terms of the
ground of Dasein's being as temporal (Zeitlichkeit).
This grounding of history, or, as
Heidegger prefers to call it, of historicity (Geschichtlichkeit),
in the temporality of
Dasein, as it is established in Sein und Zeit, remains even in the later works the basis for
Heidegger's doctrine of history. As he says, the analysis of the historicity of Dasein
attempts to show that this being (Seiende, here referring to Dasein) is not simply
temporal ("zeitlich") because it stands in history; rather the contrary, this being exists
and can only exist historically because it is in the very ground of its own being
It is not possible here to enter into a prolonged discussion of the way in which
Heidegger established the temporality of Dasein, and hence the ground of Dasein's
historicity. This would involve a detailed analysis of the whole argument of Sein und
Zeit. Dasein is temporal and, therefore, historical because he has "concerns" (Sorge). He
is concerned about being, and he becomes fenced in (umgrenzt) by this care and concern
which he has for being; and this could only be grounded in temporality.
fundamentally temporal and hence basically historical because his is a Being-in-the-
world (In-der-Welt-sein). And history can happen only to a being thus in-the-world.
Dasein is temporal and thus historical because he is a Being-unto-death (Sein-zum-
Tode). This fact of Dasein's authentic being, this final-ity of Dasein's basic temporality
becomes for Heidegger the hidden ground of the historicity of Dasein.
the basic ontological structure of Dasein's temporality death becomes a very important
"phenomenon" in the thought of Heidegger, because it is death that in a sense rounds
out" the being of Dasein, making it a true "stretch" (Erstreckung) between birth and
This stretch of road along which the stretched-out, self-stretching (erstreckten
Sicherstreckens) of Dasein must move is what Heidegger calls the event or happening
(Geschehen) of Dasein. And it is the analysis of this structure
SZ, p. 381.
SZ, p. 396.
However, this "historicity" as Geschichtlichkeit is to be radically distinguished from
the "historicity" of Historizität, just as history in the sense of Geschichte must be
distinguished from history in the sense of Historie.
SZ, p. 376.
SZ, p. 382.
SZ, p. 388.
SZ, p. 386.
SZ, pp. 373-374.
of happening which makes possible an ontological understanding of historicity.
As Heidegger repeats often, only authentic temporality which is at the same time finite
makes authentic historicity possible.
History (Geschichte) can be rooted only in the
temporality that is Dasein's. Only in this way is the science of history as historiography
(Historie or Geschichtswissenschaft) possible;
only in this sense can the science of
history have an object (Gegenstand) to study.
As Heidegger says, only from out of the
phenomenon of temporality is it understandable why Dasein is and can be in the very
ground of his being historical. Furthermore, only in this way can historiography be
developed as something historical (als geschichtliches).
This distinction which Heidegger makes between historiography or the science of
history and authentic history is for him a fundamental one, and he makes it often.
might call it a distinction between merely "factual" and authentically "actual" history.
These are not the philosopher's own terms, but they may be of help in clarifying what
Heidegger implies with this distinction.
Historiography deals with and
SZ, p. 375. The importance of the Sein-zum-Tode analysis for the establishment of
Dasein's basic temporality cannot be overemphasized. See, for example, SZ, pp. 330-
SZ, p. 385.
WD, p. 90. For as Heidegger explains, all sciences (and this includes historiography
as the science of history) are grounded in philosophy. There is generally no
distinction in German between the words Geschichte and Historie. However, for
Heidegger the difference is decisive. I have thus rendered these words as "history"
and "historiography" respectively. This may seem as arbitrary as Heidegger's
distinction. However, since "historiography" in English refers to the writing of
history, it seems proper, thinking in a Heideggerian manner, to preserve the word
"history" for that which gives the historians something to write about.
SZ, pp. 375, 392.
SZ, pp. 234-235.
"Die Bedeutung von 'Geschichte' im Sinne von Geschichtswissenschaft (Historie)
schalten wir vorläufig aus." SZ, p. 378. See also SZ, pp. 20, 375, 381; WP, p. 18; ID,
p. 52; VA, p. 29; WD, p. 90; Hw, pp. 300 ff.
Although there is some justification for describing historiography as dealing
primarily with the factual; for in one text Heidegger speaks of historiography in terms
of the conditional type of certitude which all such sciences of fact must necessarily
have. WD, p. 90.
tries to formulate in a scientific manner the facts that happened in the past. However, in
dealing with those facts it is also dealing with acts as well, since these past facts were
once present, because they were once future-projected acts. They were, and hence they
remain historical (geschichtlich). And although they are treated factually by the
historian, they were once actual. And in Heidegger's view it is these one-time actualities
which constitute the object of historiography for the historian. It is in this sense that he
can say that history predominates in the theory of historiography as the indispensable.
This means that one can never discover true and authentic history, for example, in the
interpretation of the pre-Socratics simply by proceeding along purely historiographical
One can never hope to find out the meaning of Parmenides or
Heraclitus simply by tracing back through the annals of the history of philosophy to find
out what various historians thought Parmenides and Heraclitus meant. As Heidegger
says in his recent study on Nietzsche, the history of philosophy is not a matter for
historiography but for philosophy.
This was a point which Heidegger had made
already in his early work on Duns Scotus, namely, that the history of philosophy was
not like the history of mathematics, since it is the history of philosophy.
history of philosophy, for Heidegger, is always the history of being.
The possibility of factual history or of historiological understanding, the very possibility
of historiography as a science, depends for its basis upon the historicity of Dasein, and
not vice versa.
The possibility of factual historiography necessarily grounds itself in
the actual history of the historical being that is Dasein. Dasein is in a primordial manner
a historical being, and primarily does history belong to Dasein. Nature as such has no
Nature has a history only in that it is related to Dasein.
History is rooted
and grounded in the temporality that is Dasein's, and only on this basis is any sort of
science of history (historiography) at all possible.
VA, p. 64.
WD, p. 57.
Nie I, p. 450.
The Duns Scotus work was Heidegger's Habilitationschrift at the University of
Freiburg in 1916. Die Kategorien- und Bedeutungslehre des Duns Scotus (Tübingen:
Mohr, 1916), p. 3.
Nie II, p. 28.
SZ, p. 332.
WW, p. 16.
SZ, p. 381.
For historiography and history are concerned with two entirely different kinds of "time."
Historiography is concerned with the past (Vergangenheit), that which is no longer
around (nicht mehr vorhanden). Factual history studies the facts. The facts are facta,
deeds or things over and done with. They are no longer around. But in the view of
Heidegger there is also another and a more primordial and original way in which to look
at the past. This is the sense in which the "past" is still somehow around (noch
vorhanden). This is a "past" which still has an effect (Wirkung) upon the present. It is
this "past" which is of primary importance for history as distinguished from
The truly historical is concerned with that which is still around. It is
concerned with the "history" which still makes its presence felt. The truly historical,
says Heidegger, is not so much the past (Vergangenheit) as it is the present
(Gegenwart). The truly historical is not simply the "has been" of the past, that which is
no longer around; rather, it is the "has been" (dagewesene), that which is still somehow
And because it truly has been there, is it yet.
This "softening up" of the hard and fast past of history is an important aspect of
Heidegger's theory of the meaning of history. It is tied up, or to put it more accurately, it
is grounded in Heidegger's doctrine of the three "ecstasies" (Ekstasen) of temporality,
namely the future, the "has been" (Gewesenheit), and the present.
The past of
authentic history is not over and done with, something "long gone" (Vergangene),
something "finished." This is the past only for historiography. The past of authentic
history indeed was, but it is by no means over and done with. It is not done with
because it is not done with us. And because we are the historical beings that we are, we
are not done with it. The past of actual or authentic history is not the past of the "has
been," the past of something or someone that is finished, "all washed up," so to speak.
The past of actual history is a "has been." And it is exactly because it truly has been that
it is still around. Thus is it still effectual in the present; thus is it also worth future
Inasmuch as the being of Dasein, Heidegger says, and only the being of Dasein is
basically and originally historical, that is, inasmuch as his being is open to the ground of
the ecstatic horizon of temporality in its
SZ, p. 378.
SZ, pp. 393 ff.
SZ, p. 329.
"has-been-ness" (Gewesenheit), does the thematization of the past (Vergangenheit)
carried out by historiography have a clear path.
Heidegger wishes to establish the
total dependence of historiography upon history. For the very past that historiography as
a science treats is possible only on the basis of the "has been" of authentic history. Only
that which truly has been, as one might put it, can have worked its way into the present
and thus come under the consideration of the historian. In other words, historiography,
or the working out of the science of history, depends for its possibility upon actual
history. It depends, ultimately, upon the way of being (Seinsart) of the being (Dasein)
that truly has been there (dagewesenem).
The reconstruction of the historical past, which truly was there, and which therefore has
worked itself into the present in its effects, can come under the consideration of the
historian only if it truly was there for Da-sein, that being whose being is to-be-there.
But does this mean that what has not perdured into the present does not belong to
history? Not necessarily. There are for Heidegger three "ecstasies" to temporality. There
are not only the "ecstasies" of past and present, there is also the "ecstasis" of the future.
In other words, that which is not presently known to have been historically there for
Dasein may become so known in the future in accordance with the future possibilities
of Dasein, since it may then be discovered as truly having been. It shall then have
perdured into the future present as something authentically historical.
Thus Heidegger does not rest satisfied merely with getting history into the present.
Heidegger pushes history into the future as well, in accordance with what is for him the
most important of the three ecstasies of temporality, namely, the future.
On this score
SZ, p. 393.
SZ, p. 393.
Hegel had already done this, and it is possibly the way in which he did it that gave
rise to the problem of historicism. As he says in his lectures on the history of
philosophy, "But in reality we are what we are through history: or, more accurately,
as in the history of Thought, what has passed away is only one side, so in the present,
what we have as a permanent possession is essentially bound up with our place in
history." E. S. Haldane (tr.), Hegel's Lectures on the History of Philosophy (London:
Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1892), I, 2.
SZ, p. 329.
is able to exploit the German language in describing the way in which the future
(Zukunft) is made to come to (zukommt) us.
For Dasein's being, as Heidegger takes great pains in showing in Sein und Zeit, is the
being of a "can be" (Seinkönnen).
His is a being that is always ahead of itself
Dasein is a projected being, and a being that is constantly project-ing itself
forward. His is a being which is projected into the future, and a being which comes
from out of that future to him in accordance with the future possibilities of his
existence. Thus is Dasein's being a being that is always ahead of itself. And particularly
is the projective character of Dasein's being, the "can be" of his authentic existence, a
property of Dasein's understanding (Verstehen).
And it is because thinking is
fundamentally projective, according to Heidegger, that philosophy is one of historical
Dasein's truly creative possibilities.
As Heidegger says, understanding means nothing
else but the self projection (Sichentwerfen) into what is at this moment merely a
possibility of the being that is in the world, namely, Dasein.
This might seem to have little or nothing to do with the philosophy of history or the
history of philosophy. However, in fact, it means that since only Dasein's is a being that
"can be," since only Dasein is a self projecting being which projects himself into his
own future possibilities, then only Dasein can truly have a history, because only Dasein
can truly make his history. For since only Dasein is truly temporal, and because the
ecstasies of temporality are not only past, present, but also future, and
SZ, p. 325.
SZ, p. 327.
SZ, pp. 191, 327, 337.
SZ, p. 144.
EM, p. 7.
SZ, p. 387. The projective character of the understanding constitutes the being that is
in-the-world as a "thereness" whose "there" (Da) "can-be." SZ, p. 145. This prompts
Pöggeler to suggest that for Heidegger temporality is not the time of Xpovoç, but
rather that of Kuipoç (see 2 Cor. 12, 2-10). For Heidegger man does not live in time;
rather, he lives timely. Otto Pöggeler, "Sein als Ereignis," Zeitschrift für
Philosophische Forschung, XIII (1959), 604. Compare this "horizontal" view of time
in Heidegger with Hegel's more "vertical" view of the time of the present moment.
"In time there is no past and future, but only the now, and this is, but is not as regards
the past; and this non-being, as future, turns around into Being." Haldane, Hegel's
Lectures, I, 287. See also Hegel's treatment of "the Now" (das Jetzt) in the section on
"sense certainty" in his Phänomenologie des Geistes, ed. J. Hoffmeister (6 ed.;
Hamburg: Meiner, 1952), pp. 83 ff. For Heidegger's remarks thereto, see SZ, pp. 428
since Dasein is a being which exists into the future in accordance with his own future
possibilities and projects, only Dasein can be fully and completely historical.
However, it must not be thought that this temporality which grounds Dasein's peculiar
type of historicity can in any way be identified with ordinary dock time.
contrary, all clock time can be fundamentally based only upon the primordial
temporality which is Dasein's.
And the way in which temporality times itself (zeitigt
sich) is as the "has-beening-presenting future" (gewesende-gegenwärtigende Zukunft),
in which timing (Zeitigung), as Heidegger explains, there is no following of one of the
ecstasies upon another; the future is no "later" than the "has been" (Gewesenheit), and
this no "earlier" than the present.
And the most important of these three "ecstasies" is that of the future. For the historical
character of Dasein becomes possible only on the basis of the temporality which times
itself in the ecstatic-horizontal unity of its moving out of sight (Entrückungen).
the fateful character of Dasein's fundamental historicity constituted, for history only
truly carries weight in the authentic happening of existence because it springs from out
of Dasein's future.
This way of looking at history will naturally seem strange at first; nonetheless, the
application which it finds in Heidegger's interpretation of the pre-Socratics should be
obvious. Parmenides and Heraclitus are not mere relics of a past which is no more; nor
are they merely an interesting curiosity of the present-day historian. The meaning of
Heraclitus and Parmenides is also with reference to and is to be interpreted in
accordance with what were and can be the future possibilities of Dasein. As Heidegger
says in his Einführung in die Metaphysik, history is not simply the past (Vergangene)
which can happen no more; nor is it simply the present day (Heutige), which comes and
goes; history (Geschichte) as happening (Geschehen) is determined from out of the
future, taking over the acting and being acted upon which passes through the present. It
is this present that disappears in true happening.
But whereas history takes authentic happening, and takes it over past
SZ, p. 304.
SZ, pp. 404-405.
SZ, p. 350.
SZ, p. 396.
SZ, p. 386.
EM, pp. 33-34.
and present and into the future in accordance with the future possibilities of Dasein,
historiography, which is merely a form of representational thinking (Vorstellens), is
merely the exploration (Erkundung) of history.
Thus it takes history as an object. And
it is in this way that historiography becomes the permanent destruction of the future and
of the truly historical relationships of the fateful with the future.
But what is this "fateful" (das Geschick) that is here spoken of? By the fateful
Heidegger means that which lies behind the happening (Geschehen) which makes
history (Geschichte). Thus in treating a particular philosophical problem, such as
thinking or the nature of philosophy, in a historical fashion, Heidegger will say that it is
not merely a historiographical problem but a truly historical (geschichtlich) question, in
the sense of being a truly fateful (geschick-liche) question.
How is this "fateful"
related to true and authentic history?
One might state the matter as follows: if history belongs primarily to Dasein, then the
fateful belongs primarily to das Sein. This does not mean that the fateful is itself to be
identified with being.
However, if both being and Dasein are together (and
authentically it can hardly be otherwise), then the fateful, which is primarily being's,
also becomes Dasein's. And it is in this fateful joining of forces that the true history of
Dasein, and therefore of being as well, is grounded.
Heidegger understands the fateful (Geschick) in accordance with the root meaning of
schicken, which means "to order," " to put in order," as one might put a room or a house
in order. The result of this schicken is Schicklichkeit, or Fug (meaning "propriety" or
"propemess"), also taken in the older sense.
The fateful (Geschick) is always to be
taken in this original sense of getting ready, getting in order, disposing of things where
This fateful is not, in the opinion of Heidegger, to be understood
fatalistically. Man always remains free in his essential possibilities.
Hence the past
(Vergangene) with which the historian
VA, p. 63.
Hw, p. 301.
WP, p. 18. As also WD, p. 103.
SG, p. 144. The Geschick des Seins is not to be identified, in the view of Heidegger,
with Sein as it is in Hegel's Geist. SG, pp. 44 ff.
VA, pp. 108-109. Fug would have to be taken in an older sense; as in modem
German it is only used in compounds or in such archaic expressions as " Mit Fug und
SG, p. 108.
VA, p. 158.
deals has no fate (Geschicklose), whereas the has been (Gewesene), which is one of the
three ecstasies of temporality, is truly fateful,
because in an authentic sense it still is,
and hence can be (repeated).
Doctrinally Heidegger ties up the fateful with the existential characteristic of Dasein as
being thrown out (Geworfenheit) into the world as a Being-in-the-world. Heidegger
relates the fateful (Geschick) with the German word schicken, which in its ordinary
usage means "to send." Dasein is sent (geschickt) out into the world, thrown out there
like a castaway (Geworfenheit) to fend for himself as the being of possibility
(Möglichsein) that he is.
But as a being that has been sent (geschickt), he has a
mission to fulfill. He has been sent on a mission for being. His fate has become linked
with that of being, and being's fate with his.
For although the fateful is primarily being's, being only truly comes to be fated with
Dasein's thinking on being. As Heidegger says in his letter "Über den Humanismus,"
being truly is the destiny of thinking. This destiny (Geschick) is in itself historical. And
its history has already come to speech in the sayings of the thinker.
For it is the
thinker who, opening himself up to being, hears the voice of being. It is, indeed, being
that speaks to us—and this is, of course, the primary meaning of the fateful for
Heidegger—being throws light upon itself and lights up the space-time world wherein
things may be allowed to appear.
But since being gives itself ("es gibt ") to Dasein, it
is man that comes to determine the course which being is to have in history. It is Dasein
that comes to determine the fate not only of mankind in this regard, but even of being
itself, since it is Dasein that first brings being along a way that is in the open (Weg des
Entbergens). From this source and from no other, in the view of Heidegger, is the
essence of all history determined.
For it is the "es gibt" of being in the "Only so long as Dasein is, does being give (gibt
which predominates in the fate of being. But nevertheless there is no "es
gibt," there is no being giving itself, sending itself out, unless there is someone to whom
being can speak or give itself over. The fateful only truly occurs with the thinking of
Dasein on being. For only here does being have someone to hear its speaking, only to
Dasein can being give itself over. And it is here, where history
Hw, p. 295. See also SG, p. 40.
SZ, p. 56. See also SZ, p. 385.
Hu, p. 46.
SG, p. 109.
VA, p. 32.
Hu, p. 24.
comes to language in the words of the essential thinker, that the truth of being is
As Heidegger explains, inasmuch as the fate of being in the thinking of historical man
fatefully involves itself and fatefully commits itself does the history of human thought
rest upon the fate of being.
In other words, inasmuch as Dasein leaves himself open
to being, inasmuch as he becomes fatefully engagé in an authentic hearing of the voice
of being, does the history of human thought with reference to being rest upon the fate of
being itself. And, of course, the authentic history of human thought with reference to
being is quite other than the mere historiography of changing opinions and theories of
historians. The true history of thinking is setting the essence of man in order from out of
the destiny of being itself, as Heidegger says elsewhere.
Nevertheless, Heidegger must insist that the fate of being has been, at least in general,
one of the forgetfulness of being. On this score Heidegger notes that since history is
something human and finite it will necessarily involve such a going astray (Irre). In
fact, he argues dialectically, without this factor of error there would be no relation from
one fate (Geschick) to the next, and hence there would be no history.
Error is, then, of
the very essence of history, for authentic history is primarily Dasein's, and Dasein as a
finite being has error in the very constitution of his Da-sein.
This is exactly why it is imperative to return to the thinking of the pre-Socratics. For the
history of western thought as a fate of being in which being has tended to be forgotten
can be understood in its fateful origins only if the leap back to the origins of that
thought is made. For here the first fate-ful steps of thought with reference to being were
Hu, p. 23.
SG, p. 157.
SG, p. 147. As Heidegger says, "Das Sein selbst ist als geschickliches in sich
eschatologisch." Hw, p. 302. This is the natural conclusion to Heidegger's doctrine of
the Geschick des Seins. He further notes that Hegel's Phänomenologie pictured only
one phase of this Eschatologie des Seins. Hw, p. 302. Thus in Hu Heidegger can say
that Hegel's concept of history as the "unfolding of Spirit" is neither right nor wrong;
it is only incomplete. Hu, pp. 23-24.
Hw, p. 311.
Heidegger also speaks of the "realm of history" as itself a going astray. WW, p. 22.
made. As Heidegger says, unless we execute this leap back in order to understand where
the errors were made, we can never hope to come to an understanding of the fate-ful
destiny of being.
Historically, Heidegger finds the notion of the fate of being already stated in Fragment
Eight of Parmenides,
where Heidegger notes that the fateful (µoi`pu, Geschick) is
described as nothing else but being.
He asks himself as to what was fated therein?
Was it the togetherness of knowing and being? Unfortunately, as will be seen, no. Fated
was the twofold (Zwiefalt): namely the presencing of the present.
And with this tragic
flaw in the very beginning of western thought was the destiny of being sealed. The fated
was merely the bringing of this fate-ful twofold (Zwiefalt) to light. But in this fateful
unfolding of the twofold in its being, when it was made over to everyday mortals, it was
the hiding rather than the unfolding of the truth of being which predominated.
SG, p. 108.
Parmenides B 8, 34-41. Throughout the text and citation of the pre-Socratics will be
according to Hermann Diels—Walther Kranz, Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker (9
ed. Berlin: Weidmann, 1960), cited often simply DK, even in the numbering of those
fragments which Heidegger quotes from an earlier edition. In the Freeman translation
the pertinent section of the fragment reads as follows: "To think is the same as the
thought that It is; for you will not find thinking without Being, in (regard to) which
there is an expression. For nothing else either is or shall be except Being, since Fate
(µoi`pu) has tied it down to be a whole and motionless." Kathleen Freeman, Ancilla to
the Pre-Socratic Philosophers (Oxford: Blackwell, 1956), p. 44. And this "fate" of
Parmenides, as well as Heraclitus' Logos, is already pre-thought in Anaximander.
Hw, p. 340.
VA, p. 231.
VA, pp. 251-252. This mysterious phrase will have to await explanation until we
come to Parmenides.
VA, p. 255.
The Western Tradition of Philosophy
THE FORGETTING OF BEING
The history of western metaphysics might be called the story of the great tragedy of
being. It is but a chapter in the history of being, but it has, unfortunately, been a very
For that which has tended to characterize the history of western
metaphysics has been a degeneration from the authentic truth of being (Wahrheit des
a degeneration which Heidegger has characterized as the forgetting of being
(Seinsvergessenheit). This forgetfulness is not, as Heidegger points out, the
absentmindedness of a philosophy professor who has left his umbrella someplace
but cannot remember where. This forgetfulness of being is something that has
affected the fate of being's essence.
Neither does the anxiety which the true thinker
must necessarily feel in the face of this forgetfulness of being have anything to do
with psychiatry or psychoanalysis.
That this forgetfulness of being is something which has occurred historically could
be known from the necessity of the analysis of Dasein which Heidegger found it
necessary to carry on in Sein und Zeit. Why this forgetting of being should have
occurred, the tragic flaws of which were already contained in the thought of the pre-
Socratics—flaws which were carried to their inevitable, but nevertheless unfortunate
conclusions by Plato and Aristotle only to find their conclusion and consum-
Nie II, p. 379.
In WM, p. 18, Heidegger equates Sinn von Sein with Wahrheit des Seins, which
would further indicate the close connection between the doctrinal and the
historical in Heidegger. For the recovery of the authentic truth of being (Wahrheit
des Seins) can be gained from a historical return to pre-Socratic thought, where
the truth of being was first revealed but immediately concealed; or from the
meaning of being (Sinn von Sein) gained through the phenomenological analysis
of Dasein, as was attempted in SZ.
ZS, p. 35.
WM, p. 12.
mation (Vollendung) in the metaphysics of Hegel
this is a matter
which remains to be seen.
But just as Sein und Zeit represented "one way" back to an authentic thinking on being,
so the re-study of the pre-Socratics can also represent a recalling re-thinking (Andenken)
on being. In Parmenides and Heraclitus, according to Heidegger, we find a way of
thinking which remembers to think on being, as contrasted with the thinking which has
tended to forget being. Thus this re-calling return to the way in which the great pre-
Socratic thinkers authentically thought on being is not done in order to revivify these
thinkers in some new and artificial form; rather it constitutes a return to that area where
metaphysics obtained and still retains its origins, even though after the concealed
fashion of the forgetting of being.
Neither does Heidegger return to the ancient
As Heidegger says in VA, p. 76, the consummation of metaphysics begins with
Hegel's metaphysics of absolute knowledge as the will of Spirit. Indeed, this
consummation begins with Descartes (Hw, p. 91), since with Descartes is man
"subject" (Hw, p. 102); in other words, as the beginning of an implicit subjectivism,
the Hegelian conclusion is already contained therein.
It may seem strange to refer to Nietzsche as a metaphysician. In English speaking
countries Nietzsche is generally treated as a literary figure. However, Heidegger
wonders at the view of philosophy which would classify Nietzsche as a
"Lebensphilosoph" or a "Dichterphilosoph." Nie I, pp. 13-14. Heidegger insists that
the denial of Platonism remains Platonism, and hence Nietzsche clearly belongs to
the metaphysical tradition (VA, p. 79) i.e., in Heidegger's sense of metaphysics,
which means that Nietzsche is primarily concerned with the being of things (Sein des
Seienden). VA, p. 124.
Normally the German word Andenken means "to remember" or "to recall." However,
as used with reference to being Heidegger often hyphenates the word (An-denken),
which means that it is to be understood rootwise. Thus I have often translated the
word as "thinking on" (though not necessarily through); or when it is used with
reference to a historical recalling rethinking of being, as among the pre-Socratics,
"re-thinking." The word however, still retains the element of remembering, and it is
used in a way complementary to the forgetting of being. As metaphysics tends to
forget being, so Heidegger's thinking, a recalling re-thinking, attempts to re-member
being. I have often been tempted to render the word with the English word "be-
think," which might be construed as a thinking on being, but which in its Anglo-
Saxon derivation also meant "to remember," or "to recall to mind."
ZS, p. 41.
Greek thinkers or insist that they still have authority or something to say to us simply
because they are old. Heidegger is no mere antiquarian.
Nor is he interested in
promoting some sort of renaissance in pre Socratic thinking. Any such attempt, he
maintains, would be vain and absurd.
Heidegger does not return again and again to the thinking of the pre Socratics simply
because of his insistence that their thought still supports our world, even though through
the general forgetting of being in the West we have lost all awareness of this. Even
more than this, we return to the origins of this our western tradition of philosophy in
order to rebuild anew, to build in an authentically historical manner upon the basis of
In other words, Heidegger's re-study of the pre Socratic origins of
western thinking is meant to be historical in the full Heideggerian sense of that word,
namely, creative for the future possibilities of Dasein.
However, there is yet another reason given by Heidegger for his rethinking of ancient
thought. Philosophy, as the very word indicates, is Greek. And the Greek word indicates
our being grounded in and attached to a historical tradition. Just as we dub our present
age "atomic," so also, Heidegger insists, is our philosophical tradition Greek,
means that if we are to understand any word or principle in the western tradition of
philosophy, we are obliged to carry on a dialogue (Gespräch) with the thinkers of
Grecian times where these words or statements were first spoken and made
And particularly is this the case when we arrive back to
words and statements of such original and decisive importance as those of Parmenides
and Heraclitus. These men were not yet philosophers, but this was exactly because they
were great thinkers.
But with the step into philosophy something original and
authentic was lost; hence the importance for a re-analysis of thinkers whose words and
WM, p. II.
EM, p. 96.
WP, p. 13.
WP, p. 15.
WP, p. 24. This distinction between a thinker and a philosopher is an important one
for Heidegger. For Heidegger, Plato and Aristotle are great philosophers, but not
great thinkers. They lost the perfect harmony with the Logos which was the
possession of the pre-Socratics.
Hw, p. 330.
were made at such a decisive moment in the history of western thought.
What was this first step into philosophy? And what did it involve such that it could so
substantially affect the course of western philosophy ? As Heidegger explains in his
short essay Vom Wesen der Wahrheit, there were three things which are essentially the
same and which all happened at the same "time": namely, the original uncovering of
things within the whole (Seienden im Ganzen), the question concerning things as such
(Seienden als solchem), and the beginning of western history.
It was here that western
It was also here that the forgetting of being occurred. For in the
metaphysical questioning after things as such, being is not asked after. It is already
Indeed, metaphysics talks about being, but it really means things as things.
This was what was involved in the first step into philosophy. For right here from the
very beginning, in Heidegger's view, was the failure of the Greeks in general, and for
that matter of all subsequent metaphysics, to take into account "the not" (das Nicht)
between things (Seiende) and being (Sein).
This represents the failure to note what
Heidegger calls the "ontological difference." This is the beginning of metaphysics. Here
also begins the forgetting of being. As Heidegger says in his Nietzsche volumes,
inasmuch as metaphysics thinks things from within their being, it fails to think being as
being (Sein als Sein).
This note of the "ontological difference" is not something absolutely new in the thought
of Heidegger. It had already been struck, although
WW, p. 16.
As Heidegger says in his recent Nietzsche book, "Metaphysics is the truth of things as
such within the whole." Nie II, p. 257. It must be remembered that in his later works
metaphysics for Heidegger comes to take on a bad connotation. It is the bad
metaphysics of the forgetting of being, as opposed to the good ontology of being
itself. This distinction was not made in SZ, pp. 19 ff., where Heidegger speaks of the
"destruction of the history of ontology" where in his later terminology he would have
used the word metaphysics.
EM, p. 14.
"Sie nennt das Sein und meint das Seiende als das Seiende." WM, p. II.
WG, p. 5.
Nie II, p. 346.
very lightly, in Sein und Zeit with the distinction between the ontological (ontologisch)
and the merely ontic (ontisch)
and the related distinction between authenticity
(Eigentlichkeit) and inauthenticity (Uneigentlichkeit).
The note of the distinction was
struck a little more lightly in Sein und Zeit because the ontological or the authentic
always came from out of the ontic and the inauthentic. Thus Heidegger speaks of a
preontological understanding of being.
He also notes that it is from "the they" (das
Man) that Dasein gains this preontological interpretation of his being.
But in his later works the distinction of the ontological difference becomes hard and
fast. Thus he notes that the philosophers after the great thinkers Parmenides and
Heraclitus cease asking after being itself (Sein selbst); such philosophers as Plato and
Aristotle, on the way to determining the being of things (Sein des Seienden), ground this
being upon the "thingliness" of things (Seiendheit des Seienden).
And this is what
Heidegger means by the forgetting of being; it is the forgetting of the distinction
between being and thing. The inquiry has turned from being to things, even though
philosophers in this tradition of forgetfulness still speak of being. And it is with the
forgetting of this distinction that the fate of being as the forgetting of being begins. This
is, as Heidegger says, the significant and far-reaching event (Ereignis) that is
Nevertheless, not all the blame for being's subsequent misfortune should be put upon
the shoulders of Plato and Aristotle; for as Heidegger says and as will be become clearer
in the following chapters, from the very start, even in the thought of the great pre-
Socratic thinkers, being was destined to be forgotten.
For there is a fundamental note
of ambiguity to be found in the very notion of being as it is to be found among the pre-
Socratics themselves. Being was characterized by the early Greek thinkers, says
Heidegger, as the "presencing
SZ, pp. 12-15.
SZ, pp. 42 ff.
SZ, p. 8.
SZ, p. 130.
WP, pp. 24-25.
Hw, p. 336.
Heidegger makes a distinction between beginning (Beginn) and beginning (Anfang),
which is not made in normal German usage. Parmenides would represent the Anfang;
Plato and Aristotle, the Beginn of western philosophy. As Heidegger puts it
cryptically, "Der Anfang verbirgt sich im Beginn." WD, p. 98.
of the present" (Anwesen des Anwesenden). And the whole of the history of western
metaphysics might be said to be nothing but the destiny of this "twofold" (Zwiefalt).
The fate of being hinged upon the ambiguity of this "twofold" because buried and
unthought in this "twofold" was the failure to make the necessary ontological distinction
between being and thing. Thus is Heidegger able to trace the destiny of being toward a
forgetting of being back even to the thought of the great thinker Parmenides. As he says,
the history of being begins and this, indeed, by necessity with a forgetting of being.
Parmenides' celebrated maxim (B 3) certainly names (nennt) being itself, but it thinks
(denkt) the presencing (Anwesen) not as the presencing from out of its truth.
Heidegger in the authentic truth "relationship" truth belongs to being. Being itself is
being in its truth;
and as such it can be thought only from out of its truth, a truth
which as "unconcealedness" (Unverborgenheit),
as openness, is being's.
And both Parmenides and Heraclitus are of one mind in this regard, namely, truth's
belonging to being and the necessity of thinking being (in accordance with the authentic
Logos) from out of its truth. Heidegger does not agree with the opposition which is
often set up between Parmenides ("All is permanence") and Heraclitus ("All is flux"), a
dramatic presentation of their respective ways of thinking which goes back to Plato.
In Heidegger's view Heraclitus would not be one of the greatest of the great Greek
thinkers were he to say something other
VA, p. 252. Wiplinger also identifies the "twofold" (Zwiefalt) with the ontological
difference (Differenz des Seins). Fridolin Wiplinger, Wahrheit und Geschichtlichkeit
(Freiburg: Alber, 1961), p. 342.
Hw, p. 243.
Hw, p. 245.
Heidegger thinks his origin-al notion of truth from out of the Greek óìq0iu, that is,
u- (" un ") and the Greek stem ìu0- (" being concealed "). See SZ, p. 33. As also VA,
p. 259 and PW, p. 32.
Thus Karl Reinhardt, Parmenides und die Geschichte der griechischen Philosophie
(2 ed.; Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 1959), pp. 208-221, does not in any way
regard Parmenides and Heraclitus as independent of one another. And the importance
which Heidegger attached to this work by Reinhardt must always be borne in mind.
See SZ, p. 223, n. I.
In fact, Anaximander can also be found to say essentially the same
thing as Parmenides and Heraclitus.
But although it is true that behind Parmenides
and Heraclitus there stands Anaximander, and although in Heidegger's view it is the to
Xpev in Anaximander's first fragment that the oldest name wherein thinking brings
the being of things to speech,
nevertheless, it is upon the translation of Parmenides'
sov that the fate of being in the West has hung.
This does not simply mean the way in
which the Latins translated Physis into natura, a translation which in Heidegger's view
destroyed the philosophical force of the Greek word,
but also the way in which
Parmenides' notion of being was "put across" (Übersetzung) in the thought of Plato and
Aristotle that the whole fate of the Occident hung in the balance. Thus even though
certain things which were to come later were pre thought (vorgedacht) in
Anaximander, and even thought Anaximander was the first to think the being of things
(Sein des Seienden), it nonetheless remains true to say that he does not have the decisive
significance for the fate of thinking on being in the West that Parmenides has.
Heidegger's primary interest in all his historical investigations is the fate of being in the
However, one sees that the tragic flaw which was later to manifest itself in an almost
total forgetting of being was already there in germ in the thinking of the great pre-
Socratics. There was the ambiguity of the "twofold," the presencing of the present,
which later turned into simply "the present"; and there was the factor of inevitable
translation, as the attempt was made to put being over into truth, instead of thinking
being from out of its truth as "unconcealedness." The Greeks, as Heidegger says,
experienced this forgetting of being as the fate of concealedness.
Being's misfortune was there in germ from the very beginning. And
EM, p. 74. Heidegger notes that Nietzsche was also a victim of this familiar but
untrue opposition set up between Parmenides and Heraclitus. EM, p. 96. See "Die
Philosophie im tragischen Zeitalter der Griechen" (1872-1875) in Friedrich
Nietzsche, Werke, ed. K. Schlechta (2 ed.; München: Hanser, 1960); see esp. III, 381.
Hw, p. 340.
Hw, p. 334.
Hw, p. 318.
EM, pp. 10-II.
Hw, pp. 334-335.
VA, p. 264.
this fact leads to the next question: first of all, the meaning of being for the Greeks, for
here the tragic flaw of the ambiguous "twofold" would seem to lie; next, how the great
beginning among the pre-Socratics came to be falsified, how it came to work itself out
in the thought of Plato and Aristotle; finally, how the "why" of the dead end, the
consummation of this metaphysical tradition in Hegel and in Nietzsche is to be
BEING FOR THE GREEKS
Heidegger ties up the original meaning of being among the Greeks with what he is
convinced to be its original etymological associations with living.
He insists that the
first and essential name for being among the Greeks was uoiç,
which as related to
uiv, means not merely to grow or increase, but rather to emerge (aufgehen), which
notion for the Greeks included both the aspect of presencing (Anwesen) and that of
And Heidegger insists that even where this basic word in
early western thinking on being does mean growth (Wachstum), it still never meant
increase in the sense of evolution (Entwicklung) or sheer becoming (Werden). It rather
meant a certain "coming out into the open."
And as deriving itself from uiv, then,
Physis meant coming forth and "staying around for awhile."
Heidegger maintains that it is only after Descartes and the rise of the modem physics
that the world becomes something mechanical and dead. He insists upon the
fundamental connection between life and being among the Greeks, attaching strong
importance to the derivation of the word Physis. This deriving Physis from uoµui
(which means "to produce" or"to bring forth"), is at least as old as Aristotle (Meta. D,
4; I0I4b, 16 ff.). And it might be noted that Heidegger has done a study on the notion
of Physis in Aristotle's Physics (see PhA). However, Kirk points out that "No one
denies that uoµui means 'grow'—but this may be a derivative meaning. Rather the
truth is that at the 'primitive' stage of language there is no firm distinction between
'become' and 'be'. The root u- simply implies existence, and the broad general sense
of uoiç, from which all specialized senses are derived, is 'essence' or 'nature,'
connected with this, the way it normally behaves." G. S. Kirk, Heraclitus: The
Cosmic Fragments (Cambridge: University Press, 1954), p. 228.
Nie I, p. 96.
EM, p. 54.
"... Aufgehen in das Offene ..." EHD, p. 55.
"... das aufgehend-verweilende Walten ..." EM, p. 10.
This original Greek notion of being had a certain solidity to it, a certain permanence
(Ständigkeit), and it was this aspect of Physis which later became hardened among the
Greeks into ouoiu.
Nonetheless, this was not some sort of ungenerated permanence,
something which for the Greeks would have been coterminous with nothing. Physis
was, rather, a "being-brought-forth" (Her-vor-bringen), a "bringing-around" in the
highest sense; Physis for the Greeks brought to the fore the unconcealed
(Unverborgenheit) from out of the concealed (Verborgenheit).
However, Physis as an "emerging holding away" (aufgehende Walten) has two sides to
it. As contrasted with becoming (Werden), it is a standing presence (ständige
Anwesenheit), a permanent presence. But as contrasted with appearance (Schein als das
Erscheinen), it has the connotation of a revealing presence (offenbare Anwesenheit).
On this latter score Heidegger, somewhat outrageously, etymologizes that the u- of
uivo0ui is related in an original manner with the u- of uoiç. And thus the Physis
of the Greeks also had the meaning of a "coming forth into the light" (ins Licht
aufgehende), the root sense of Physis in this context meaning to light up, to shine, and
thus to appear.
And in another passage Heidegger states that the two word stems u-
and u- really mean the same thing, namely, being. Being reveals itself to the Greeks
as Physis, but both as the emerging dominance which abides (aufgehend verweilende
Walten) and as the appearing appearance (scheinende Erscheinen).
view there is no opposition between appearance and being for the Greeks.
Another Greek word for being which Heidegger uses in order to help
EM, p. 48.
VA, p. 19.
EM, p. 96.
EM, p. 54. I have yet to find a classics scholar who could go along with this
etymological connection between u- and u-.
EM, pp. 76-77. And to prove his point Heidegger does something which he will often
do when he wants to make a philosophical point: he cites a poet. Hence he notes that
for the Greek poets being "exists" (west) as appearance, EM, p. 77. Appearing is not
something subsequent, something which merely happens to being; being exists as
appearance. This word west (which I have generally translated as "exist" or "to
presence") Heidegger forms from the German word Wesen, which is in normal
German used only as a noun. See note 64 below.
him better to understand the Greek notion of being is the word aupouoiu (aup- and
and this he translates by the German word Anwesen.
characterization of the fundamental meaning of being for the Greeks as Anwesenheit
And the appearance of being as this presencing of the present ("Anwesen
des Anwesenden"), as this presence of the presenting ("Präsenz des Prdsenten ") marks
the beginning of occidental history.
It is this meaning of being which guarantees that
authentic thinking on being can only be a "leap in the dark" (Sprung ins Dunkle).
There are several reasons why this becomes so, one of them being the factor of the
"twofold" and hence the ambiguity contained in this very "presence of the presenting";
however, Heidegger also offers a linguistic reason as to how being (das Sein) could
become just another thing (seiend). According to Heidegger the infinitive is the last
form in the linguistic development of the verb.
But because of its indefinite, one
might almost say its abstract, character it communicates the least of any of the verb's
meanings. And this, Heidegger maintains, is one of the reasons why being has become
one of the emptiest of all words.
WM, p. 17.
Anwesen is another of those rich words in the Heideggerian terminological galaxy,
and one which the philosopher uses to full advantage. The word means "presence," as
in the German expression anwesend sein ("to be present"); hence, I have sometimes
employed the awkward English word "presencing." This word, possibly better than
the noun "presence," helps to preserve the verbal sense which the word has for
Heidegger (see WD, p. 134 and Nie II, p. 462). However, because of its root in
Wesen (which is also to be understood verbally, VA, p. 271; see also note 64 below),
it also preserves the connection with life. And besides this there is the meaning in
German of Anwesen as a piece of property, something solid, connoting roots in the
soil, a piece of land held for generations in the same family, which notion must also
be kept in the back of one's mind in understanding Heidegger's Anwesen. It represents
a certain solid "thereness," a "presencing," a sticking (with roots firmly in the earth)
around for a while.
EM, p. 46.
VA, p. 142.
VA, p. 141.
EM, p. 52.
Kant's remark on the relative conceptual merits of the 100 real and the 100 possible
Thalers may come readily to mind. Immanuel Kant, Kritik der reinen Vernunft, ed. R.
Schmidt (2 ed.; Hamburg: Meiner, 1956), A 599, B 627.
the verbal substantive is the emptiest of all forms expressing the meaning of the verb.
And to the indefiniteness of the already indefinite infinitive is added the further
stabilizing factor, the article (to, das); and thus is the verbal substantive das Sein
formed. And thus also does being become just another thing.
Heidegger warns that
we must beware of the abstraction of being which the substantialization of the infinitive
naturally brings along in its wake. For in this fashion has being become abstract in our
language, becoming a word which does nothing but name the indeterminate.
question becomes whether a sufficiently basic view of language can bring out the true
meaning of this word being, the ground word (Grundwort) of our whole philosophical
Nevertheless, Heidegger does not think that the word being is as empty as some of the
more recent philosophers have made it out to be.
After all, he says, we can tell the
difference between being and non being. Non-being is not. In another equally valid
sense, then, being is a most determinate word, in that what is not being is nothing.
But in spite of this "linguistic devolution" of the word being, something which most
certainly contributed to the general forgetting of being in the West, the Greek view of
being remains fundamentally the western view. And what the Greeks understood by the
word being, namely as a standing there (Da-stehen), a coming to stand (zum Stand
kommen), and a remaining there in place (im Stand bleiben) still remains the way in
which being is designated in the West.
Also implied in this Greek conception of being, Heidegger notes, is the necessity of its
own limit (acpuç). And contained within the "coming to stand" (zum Stand kommen) is
the added notion that being somehow establishes its own boundaries or limits (er-
grenzen). For only in this
EM, p. 53.
EM, p. 56.
For example, the emptiness of the concept of being in Kant's first critique (Kritik der
reinen Vernunft, A 600, B 628). Or in the "Shorter Logic" of Hegel, where the
abstract concept of being is made synonymous with nothing. G. W. F. Hegel,
Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften im Grundrisse (1830) (eds. F.
Nicolin and O. Pöggeler, Hamburg: Meiner, 1956), p. 107, #87. See also Heidegger's
brief commentary on a similar text from the "Longer Logic" of Hegel in WM, pp. 39-
EM, p. 60.
way, says Heidegger, interpreting being in accordance with Dasein's future possibilities,
can it be explained how for Aristotle being could have come to mean svtìc¿iu, i.e.,
"holding-itself-within-certain limits," "das Sich-in-der-Endung (Grenze)-halten
And just as this, the more solid (ständig) aspect of Physis in the
philosophy of Aristotle came to mean óuoiu; so also the other aspect of the Greek
notion of being, the aspect grounded in the Greek root Pha-, namely, being as
appearance, also suffered mutation at the hands of later philosophers. Thus it was
primarily in the philosophy of Plato that the appearing aspect of being was changed
over into something entirely different. For the true meaning of appearance among the
Greeks as that which having a face could thereby let itself be seen (the original meaning
of i` ooç in the view of Heidegger) came to mean the mere appearance or the look
(Aussehen) of the thing.
One might inquire more deeply as to why Heidegger insists upon translating the various
words for being which he finds among the Greeks, such as Physis and Parousia,
the German word Anwesen (presence). Since Heidegger often writes the word
hyphenated, Anwesen, this means that it is to be understood in its root meaning. He
further insists that the word Wesen
is to be understood verbally, not
EM, p. 46.
EM, p. 46.
On this point it might be said that Heidegger's whole discussion on Parousia as
characterizing the Greek notion of being bears strongly upon the interpretation which
he gives of the introduction to Hegel's Phänomenologie in "Hegels Begriff der
Erfahrung" in Hw, pp. 105 ff. In commenting and centering his commentary on
Hegel upon the statement that the Absolute is with us and wills to be with us from the
very start (G. W. F. Hegel, Phänomenologie des Geistes [ed. J. Hoffmeister, 6 ed.,
Hamburg: Meiner, 1952], p. 64) Heidegger ties up the Parusie not with the Absolute
or the viewpoint of absolute knowledge, but rather with the Greek notion of Parousia
as Anwesenheit, i.e., the Parusie which Heidegger has found to characterize the
Greek notion of being. Hw, p. 120.
In normal philosophical German das Wesen means "essence" or "substance,"
generally referring to a substance that is living (e.g., Lebewesen). Heidegger,
however, takes Wesen in a completely verbal sense. VA, p. 271. It is traced back to
the Old German word wesan, which Heidegger interprets as "bleibendes Weilen."
WD, p. 143. In his study on truth Heidegger identifies Wesen with "der Grund der
inneren Möglichkeit." WW, p. 13. But in EM all pretense of the normal meaning of
as a noun meaning essence or substance, its normal meaning in philosophical German.
The word Wesen may very possibly have been chosen by Heidegger to describe the
Greek notion of being because of its connection with living substances; and as was
noted, Heidegger insists upon the connection of the Greek notion of being with that of
life. And the particular form An-wesen may also have been chosen by Heidegger
because of its added association, along with that of "presence," with property, a piece of
land which has been held for generations in the same family. This aspect of solidity was
also one aspect of the Greek notion of being in Heidegger's view. On this score
Heidegger goes back to the etymologies of the Old German to the word wesan, which
meant Währen (i.e., bleiben, remain), the Sanskrit Vasati, which means to dwell, for the
meaning of Anwesen as "bleibendes weilen," the "staying around for awhile" by which
he translates the Greek word for being.
And in translating the Greek word for being
by the German word Anwesen Heidegger claims that the true meaning of the presence
which comes out from the unconcealed, i.e., from out of truth, is preserved.
What, then, in the view of Heidegger is being for the Greeks? It is, in general, the
presence of the present. It is not true to say, says Heidegger, that being for the Greeks is
eternal. Being for the Greeks is rather finite and determined. It has limits. Physis is de-
finite, in the sense that it is delimited and defined even though it is delimited and
defined by itself. In its more solid aspects being is that which breaks forth into
unconcealment and in unconcealment stays around for awhile. It is this aspect of the
original Greek notion of being as Physis which becomes petrified, as will be seen in
greater detail in the next section, in the metaphysics of Aristotle, just as, on the other
hand, it is the appearing aspect of being (the Pha- of the related Phy- of Physis) which
emerges as dominant in the philosophy of Plato, where being becomes Idea.
But although in the very beginning of western thought being was
in the sense of essence or quiddity is set aside. EM, p. 55. See also, more recently,
US, p. 201. Generally, I have translated Wesen as "essence," leaving it to the reader
to remember that the word might as well be translated by existence or existential
WD, p. 143.
WD, p. 144.
de-finite—in Parmenides, for example, it was thought as definitely not nothing
was a definite which encompassed all things. As Heidegger says, "The Greeks name
things as such within the whole as Physis."
And this meant that for the Greeks the
presence of the presencing alone was being.
And it is exactly at this point, where the ambiguity of the "twofold" (the presencing of
the present) first comes to light; it is here that the tragic flaw in western thinking on
being lies, right in the very beginning of philosophy. For it is this ambiguity which gave
an opening to the course which metaphysics has taken in western thought. And it is this
which has governed the destiny of being as a forgetting of being. As Heidegger has said,
metaphysics says that it is interested in being, but it is rather things that it takes, or
rather mis-takes, for being.
This has been the tragedy of occidental thought. And the
most tragic thing about it is that it was inevitable (notwendig).
In the very beginning
of western thought philosophers failed to ask the authentic question concerning being
(Seinsfrage). The question was, indeed, broached by the greatest thinkers among the
great Greeks; however, their answer was always with reference to the presencing of the
present (Anwesen des Anwesenden), and the ambiguity contained in this " twofold," the
tragic flaw contained in this failure to make what Heidegger calls the "ontological
difference" was to haunt western thought concerning the tiny word "is" from
Parmenides' famous maxim to the "is" of Hegel's speculative propositions. Such has
been the total fate of being.
At this point one might make a brief comparison of Heidegger's own notion of being
with the meaning of being which he finds among the Greeks. In a passage in Was ist
Metaphysik? in which Heidegger refers to Hegel's Logic,
saying that being and
nothing indeed belong together; however, they belong together not because both agree
in their character of indeterminateness or immediacy, but rather because being is finite
Parmenides B 2.
EM, p. 12.
WM, p. II.
Hw, p. 243.
ID, p. 72.
G. W. F. Hegel, Sämtliche Werke (2 ed.; Stuttgart: Fronmann, 1936), IV, 84.
(endlich) in its very essence.
This statement occurs in the epilogue to Was ist
Metaphysik?, which dates from 1943. However, it correctly characterizes Heidegger's
view of being from his earliest to his most recent works. Being for Heidegger is finite
And in Heidegger's view being for the Greeks was finite as well.
To be infinite for the
Greeks would have been to be indefinite, which was indeterminate; and undefined
would have been not to be. And even when the Greeks spoke of being as infinite or as
eternal, such infinity and such eternity could only mean "many presences," an eternal
string of present moments. In Heidegger's view being for the Greeks could only be finite
and limited, even though it became finite only because it was limited by itself.
Nevertheless, there is a difference between the way in which time as the transcendental
horizon of being is established in Sein und Zeit, and the way in which Heidegger
discovers the finite character of being among the Greeks. The finite character of being is
derived from, as Heidegger says, and is made clear only in the transcendence of a
Dasein projected out into nothing.
This is the fundamental difference between the
finite character attached to the notion of being which Heidegger finds among the
Greeks, and the way in which the same finiteness of being is doctrinally worked out in
Heidegger's thought. In Heidegger's Sein und Zeit the finite and limited character of
being is derived through the existential analysis of Dasein, which analysis reveals being
as finite, as time-bound (zeitlich).
In his historical studies on the Greeks, however, Heidegger does not
WM, pp. 39-40.
It might be mentioned in this connection that Heidegger, following Franz Dirlmeier,
"Der Satz des Anaximanders von Milet," Rheinisches Museum für Philologie,
LXXXVII (1939), 376-382, does not accept the words to úaipov in Anaximander's
fragment as authentic.
WM, p. 40.
Such was the stated purpose of SZ. SZ, p. 39. Thus in the introduction to WM (added
in 1949) Heidegger notes that time, unlike thought or becoming (Werden) does not
limit being. WM, p. 17. This could mean only that they are somehow coterminous.
This "coterminousness" of time and being was emphasized again and again in a
lecture entitled "Zeit und Sein" which Heidegger delivered in Freiburg, January 31,
1962, in which he often repeated the "Es gibt Sein," "Es gibt Zeit," in the
"coterminousness" of the very special happening or event (Ereignis).
derive the Greek notion of a finite being from out of an analysis of a finite Greek
Dasein. It is true that Dasein finds its way into many of Heidegger's commentaries on
However, the purpose of this introduction is not in order to prove
that being for the Greeks was finite. It is rather the other way around. From the very
beginning the Greeks conceived being (das Sein) as the being of things (Sein des
Seienden), the wrong kind of de-finiteness, because it blurred over the ontological
difference between being and things. In fact, being became just another thing. This
"finiteness" of being falsified not only our notions of being but also of Dasein.
Indeed, the reason for introducing Dasein into his various historical studies of those
ancient philosophers who opened themselves up to being or thought being from out of
its truth is because in Heidegger's view Dasein is already there. For that is exactly what
Dasein means, i.e., his relation, his confrontation with being. Thus in his Einführung in
die Metaphysik Heidegger does not introduce the Greek Dasein in order to prove the
finiteness of being, but rather Dasein is shown in his authentic finiteness as defined
from out of his relation to being.
But being became just another thing. And the two sides of the Greek notion of being,
namely permanence and appearance, came to take separate roads in the historical
process of degeneration leading through Plato and Aristotle. Upon the accentuation of
one or the other of these two aspects of being, and their separation one from the other,
has hung the whole destiny of being in the West.
THE PROCESS OF HISTORICAL BREAKDOWN
According to Heidegger, we must be very careful when we speak of Parmenides and
Heraclitus as pre-Socratics. For example, to speak of Parmenides as a pre-Socratic or as
pre-Platonic can be a value judgment as well as a chronological judgment. For we
account Plato the greatest thinker in the West because his thinking has exercised the
greatest influence upon western thought. However, to speak of Parmenides as not
having gone as far as Plato, and for this reason to be classed as pre-
See for example EM.
Socratic, is about as absurd as saying that Kant is really pre-Hegelian because Hegel
went beyond and further than Kant.
Heidegger does not think of Plato and Aristotle as the authentic fulfillment of pre-
Socratic thinking. Though later and more influential, Plato and Aristotle represent rather
a degeneration and a falsification of a truer and more original and more authentic
tradition. This falsification of the authentic tradition of being can be seen taking place in
the thought of Plato and Aristotle in two ways, corresponding to the two aspects of
being for the Greeks. The germ of this falsification, its possibility, was already
contained in pre-Socratic thinking, as has been seen; and it is in this sense that Plato and
Aristotle do indeed represent the completion and fulfillment of pre-Socratic thought.
For the tragic ambiguity of the "presencing of the present," the "twofold" (Zwiefalt) was
already present in the thinking of the pre-Socratics.
There is, however, another and an even more disastrous falsification which took place
after the great pre-Socratics; and this was with reference to that which grasped being, or
rather that which in a more original sense was one with being. For in the view of
Heidegger truth is no mere adjunct (Zugabe) to being; truth belongs to the very essence
There is, indeed, a reciprocal relation here: the Greek notion of truth is
possible only when it is one with the Greek notion of being as Physis.
authentic Greek notion of being can be thought only from out of its truth.
There was, then, a mutual degeneration which took place here. From out of the original
unity of being and thinking, Physis and Logos, a distinction came to be made between
the two; and this was particularly true in the thought of Plato and Aristotle.
this the perfect harmony which had earlier existed between Physis and Logos became an
ugly dissonance. For as Heidegger says with special reference to Parmenides, in its
origins being for the Greeks was Physis, Logos;
WD, pp. 112-113. This is the charge that Heidegger levels against German idealism
in general; they conceived the Greeks as the "Noch nicht" of the consummation
(Vollendung). See Martin Heidegger, "Hegel und die Griechen," Die Gegenwart der
Griechen im neueren Denken (Tübingen: Mohr, 1960), pp. 56-57.
EM, p. 78.
EM, p. 78.
EM, p. 72.
EM, p. 125.
just as it was in the thinking of Heraclitus.
In the pre-Socratic thinkers Physis and
Logos were intimately united.
The attack upon this original unity between truth and being came from two sides. And
the original notion of truth, delicate and fragile as it was, was totally unable to withstand
such a two-pronged attack. As Heidegger says, the room made for truth as
unconcealedness caved in, and all that could be salvaged from out of the ruins was Idea,
statement, ouoiu, etc.
For after the pre-Socratics the question as to what being may be is no longer "Was ist
das Sein?" but rather, "Was ist das Seiende? (ti to ov)." And ultimately it becomes a
mere questioning after the "thingliness" (Seiendheit) of things (Seienden), which as
ouoiu becomes svcp¸iu in Aristotle and iocu in the philosophy of Plato.
asking the question as to the meaning of being after the fashion of substance, the Logos
is forced to vacate the premises it originally shared with being and comes to mean
theoretical knowledge (saiotqµq 0epqtikq). Aristotle in reality answers the question
as to what being is before he really asks it.
The original and authentic meaning of Logos was collection (Sammlung), the happening
of uncovering, of revelation, of truth. As Heidegger says, originally the Logos was
grounded in this truth and served it, whereas now Logos has come to mean statement
(Aussage) in the sense of correctness or rightness (Richtigkeit), the exact opposite of the
place of truth.
For after this, as Heidegger explains in his study on Plato's allegory of
the cave, when "substance" becomes "idea," truth is no more as unconcealedness the
principal feature of being itself; rather, as subservient to idea, it becomes mere
correctness, henceforward to be the mere marking out (Auszeichnung) of our knowledge
VA, p. 276.
EM, p. 145.
WP, pp. 24-25. As Heidegger says in his commentary on the fragment from
Anaximander, for Aristotle being (as Seiende) becomes Substanz. Hw, p. 324, For
Plato, being comes to have its authentic essence in "whatness" (Was-sein). PW, p. 35.
WP, pp. 25 ff.
EM, p. 142. Heidegger makes the same point with reference to Plato in PW, p. 46.
PW, p. 46.
And with Plato's basically different view of Physis as Idea, the Logos can only come to
be the tailor-made straitjacket of discourse.
In this process truth as unconcealedness completely changes its essence as well, and
comes to mean a mere declaration or statement; and from the various ways in which
things can be declared are the categories (kutq¸opi`v, " to accuse ")
created. And thus it is that metaphysics can become a mere theory of categories. The
Logos has completely parted company with Physis. Statement has come to be the arbiter
over the being of things. And with the transformation from Physis to i` ooç and Logos to
kutq¸opiu the original or primordial (ursprünglich) revelation of the being of things has
been completely set aside in favor of the correct (Richtige).
It is in this sense, as
Heidegger says in his article on Aristotle's concept of Physis, that the Meta-physics of
Aristotle is in a completely essential sense nothing more than his Physics.
rendered subject to the categories in accordance with a falsified Logos of logic, and then
applied to all things.
Nevertheless, this transformation from Physis to Idea or statement finds the inner
ground of its possibility in the change in the very essence of truth as the unconcealed to
truth as the merely correct.
There was a reciprocal process of degeneration which
took place here. The original meaning both of truth and of being were misinterpreted.
And each further misinterpretation of the one only served further to falsify the other,
until logic came to dominate over all and being vanished in a puff of smoke.
Historical Dasein was unable to hang onto the delicate and fragile pre Socratic notion
of truth. It was a house bound to collapse.
However, with this falsification of the true Logos as one with being as
EM, p. 141. For one of Heidegger's clearest accounts of the degeneration of being at
the hands of Plato, see EM, pp. 140 ff.
Someone who "categorized" was one who stood above (kutu) the market place
(ó¸opu) in a seat of judgment and accused, condemned, declared the crime of so and
so to be such and such. For Heidegger, of course, it is impossible to stand over that
which we declare; we are in the market place of being ourselves.
EM, pp. 142-143.
PhA, p. 133. See also KM, pp. 16-17, where Heidegger notes that the traditional
meaning of meta-physics is little more than physics.
EM, p. 145.
Physis, the science of logic was rendered possible, and came into being.
It was Plato
and Aristotle who were the true founders of logic;
and as will be seen in the following
section, it was with the help of logic that western philosophy has so successfully arrived
Of course, any resemblance to the original notions of truth and being in
the pre Socratics and their intimate relation to one another, any inkling of being as the
unconcealed (Sein als Unverborgenheit), is completely lost through the falsified Logos
of logic. For the source of the essence of a thing is in being and in truth, a fact which
logic cannot comprehend.
But even worse than all this, logic has come to determine our view of language,
language which is itself the very dwelling-place of being. All this begins when the being
of things appears as Idea, or becomes simply the object of some science or other.
For when the Logos which anticipates the falsified Logos of logic comes to be the court
of justice (Gerichtshof) over being, we have the beginning of the end of the great
beginning of Greek philosophy.
In Heidegger's view this end of the Anfang and the
beginning of the Beginn of Greek philosophy comes to be in Plato and Aristotle.
as he has noted, in Plato it is Idea which becomes the predominant name for being.
How could this have come about? Heidegger gives a brief sketch of this process of
degeneration. The Idea is the "looked at" (das Gesichtete), that which stands before us
(vor uns steht), that which presences
EM, p. 130.
Thus Heidegger says that when he thinks against logic, it must not be thought that he
is thereby illogical; but simply that he is trying to think back to the authentic Logos
which presented itself in earliest times. Hu, p. 34. Heidegger's interest in this
question of the ultimate origins and ground of logic can be traced all the way back to
his Habilitationschrift on Duns Scotus, where he says, "Es muss eine Logik der
Logik geben." Die Katagorien- und Bedeutungsichre des Duns Scotus (Tübingen:
Mohr, 1916), p. 105.
Hu, p. 33. From Aristotle's logic to Hegel's Logik, says Heidegger, we have
Seiendheit minus Sein. PhA, p. 142.
EM, p. 92.
EM, p. 137.
As has been mentioned above, Heidegger makes a distinction between Anfang and
Beginn which is not made in normal German usage.
that which is a presence (Anwesen), a presencing, i.e., that which in
an original sense is. For as has been noted, ouoiu can mean two things: it can mean the
presence of its presencing; it can also mean the present in "the what" of its outward
These dual aspects of the Greek notion of being have already
been noted as the "permanent" (Phu-) and the "appearing" (Pha-) sides of Physis. But
soon it is Idea which comes to constitute (Ausmacht), as well as "to make out" (in the
sense of "see") the being of things. Plato's theory of ideas simply drives a permanent
wedge between these two aspects of being, that which was in Parmenides and
Heraclitus the peculiar "togetherness" of Physis and Logos, Logos and Physis; such that
Plato's theory of ideas can be said to represent the completion, though a rather
unfortunate completion, to the great beginning of the pre-Socratics.
says in his work on thinking, Plato drove a wedge between things and being, between
things and their being. He put them in different places as well.
And this is why
Heidegger feels justified in speaking of the Meta- (µtu-) as the whole sense of Greek
Indeed, this is true of western philosophy in general. For as Heidegger says
in his recent work on Nietzsche, all western philosophy is Platonism. Further,
metaphysics and Platonism and also Idealism are the same thing.
Thus regarding the meta-physical sense of Greek philosophy Heidegger notes, that
being at rest remained for Greek thought totally other than changeable things.
difference, this character of the
Or that which "pre-sents" itself; or possibly even that which "pre-senses" itself to our
EM, p. 138.
EM, p. 139.
WD, p. 174. Heidegger repeats most of his earlier Plato interpretation in greater
detail in his recent Nietzsche volumes, in connection with Nietzsche's reference to his
own philosophy as an "upside-down Platonism." See Nie I, pp. 180-230.
WD, p. 77.
Nie II, p. 220.
On this point it might be said against Heidegger's interpretation of Greek philosophy
that this is true for Parmenides as well as for Plato. Being for Parmenides was also
unchangeable and immovable (B 8, 3-4), and was to be contrasted with the way of
mortals which falsely mixed the way of being with the impassable way of nothing to
produce the way of seeming (B 8, 50 ff.).
other, which lay between being and things, appears, then, looking from the side of
things in relation to their being, as transcendence, i.e., as meta-physical.
Heidegger say that with Plato's interpretation of being as Idea indeed begins
And from Plato until Nietzsche we are dealing with the history of
This looking to being from the side of things appears as transcendence. Thus the
metaphysical tradition, as distinguished from what might be called the more
authentically "ontological" in our tradition, represents the failure to make what
Heidegger calls the "ontological difference" between being and things. The meta-
physical tradition did make a distinction of sorts. But where Plato made his mistake, in
the view of Heidegger, was in separating being from things and putting them in
different places. Plato and classical metaphysics in general indeed had a "difference";
however, it was not the ontological difference. For it failed to make the fundamental
distinction between being and thing. And it was the failure to make this important
distinction which is responsible for the forgetting of being that in our days has resulted
in the misery of nihilism.
For it is only after Plato that thinking concerning the being of things as that which looks
up to (Aufblicken) the ideas comes to be called philosophy and finally metaphysics.
For Plato's "difference" dis-placed being from things, and then Plato proceeded to
concern himself with the other place, a place which ceased to be being, but became
Heidegger does not find it so strange, however, that Physis should have come to be
characterized by Idea. What he does find strange is that Idea should have come to be the
only and the authoritative interpretation of being. This in his view was the totally
And the key to this drastic and fateful change in the history of western philosophy from
a consideration of the being of things (Sein des Seienden) to a consideration of the
"thingliness" of things (Seiendheit des Seienden) is, at least in the case of Plato, to be
found in the second meaning of being which Heidegger found among the Greeks, the
aspect of being as appearance. Thus can Heidegger point to two different meanings of
appearance (Erscheinen) among the Greeks. There is the more "solid" (the pre-Socratic)
side of appearance as the self-collecting, bringing-
ZS, p. 16.
Nie II, p. 220.
PW, p. 48.
EM, p. 139.
itself-to-stand and so staying in the collectivity; and there was the later notion of
appearance as that which, as already standing there, presents a front, a surface, gives us
something to look at.
In this latter notion of appearance it is the face (Gesicht) which
constitutes the thing.
It is clear that Plato does not understand appearance in its original sense at all. For him
appearance is not emerging power (aufgehende Walten); it is rather the showing up of a
copy (auftauchen des Abbildes). And from this one can easily see how being comes to
be distinguished from uivoµvov, whereas in more authentically original times the
two aspects of Physis, that of permanence and that of appearance, were happily united
and existed in perfect concord.
Heidegger offers what he believes to be an authentic historical verification to prove that
he is on the right track in this regard. For he notes that ever since Idea and Category
have come into their kingdom, philosophers have had a most difficult time trying to
explain the relation between statement (thought as the falsified Logos) and being,
whereas before the radical changes which took place in western thinking with Plato and
Aristotle the problem of explaining the relation between statement and being did not
Logos and Physis were one.
THE CONSUMMATION OF METAPHYSICS
The way in which the history of western metaphysics set itself up in the beginning
among the Greeks has been briefly looked into. However, if one is to appreciate fully
Heidegger's reasons for a re-calling, rethinking of ancient western thought, it is
necessary to see, at least to some extent, the way in which things have turned out for the
history of being as a result of the influential philosophies of Plato and Aristotle. It is
necessary to take a quick glance at the conclusion (Vollendung) to the story of western
metaphysics in the philosophies of Hegel and Nietzsche.
"Erscheinen besagt einmal: das sich sammelnde, in der Gesammtheit Sichzum-Stand-
bringen und so Stehen. Dann aber heisst Erscheinen: als schon Dastehendes eine
Vorderfläche, Oberfläche darbieten, ein Aussehen als Angebot für das Hinsehen."
EM, p. 139.
EM, p. 141.
EM, p. 145.
Nevertheless, in this brief treatment of the two "ends" of the history of philosophy in
Heidegger's thought, it should not be imagined that Heidegger in his overall
interpretation of the history of western philosophy contents himself merely with the
analysis of a few thinkers at the beginning (Parmenides, Heraclitus, Plato) and a few at
the end (Hegel and Nietzsche) of the western tradition of philosophy, and leaves the
matter at that. Heidegger analyzes briefly or at length what he considers key thinkers
throughout the gambit of philosophical history, as these are seen to be coming back to
or going further away from an authentic understanding of being.
Still, showing how the story of western metaphysics came to an end in Hegel and
Nietzsche must remain an important part of any discussion of Heidegger's views on
ancient western philosophy. For only in a proper understanding of the unfortunate, but
necessary, projection of nihilism from out of the thought of the ancient world can one
fully appreciate the importance of the ancient Greek thinkers and their primordial
thinking on being. Or taking the other side of the coin, only by understanding how the
falsification of the authentic Greek Logos after Parmenides and Heraclitus and the
subsequent generation of truth as unconcealedness into mere statement, and the
degeneration of being as an emergent dominance (aufgehende Walten) into mere idea,
can the key be found for the understanding of the nihilism which, with us
Plato and Aristotle are often treated together (e.g., WP, pp. 24 ff., EM, passim, esp.
pp. 130-150); however, they also receive separate and fairly lengthy treatments as
well: Plato's allegory of the cave in PW, and a lengthy and by no means naive
treatment in Nie I, pp. 180-230. Aristotle's notion of Physis is treated in the Il
Pensiero article (PhA), and also in Nie I, pp. 558-606, and II, 403-410. Heidegger's
treatment of the Middle Ages is a little skimpy. He did write his Habilitationschrift
on Duns Scotus, and knows St. Thomas Aquinas through his theological studies;
there are also scattered references to St. Augustine. Descartes receives a lengthy
treatment in Nie I, pp. 129-192 in connection with Protagoras and Nietzsche, and also
briefly in Hw, pp. 101-103. Leibnitz is treated in SG, WG, and Nie II, pp. 436-450.
Berkeley receives a page or two in VA, pp. 236-237. The English philosophers rarely
come into play in Heidegger. Kant is studied in Heidegger's KM, and more recently
in Die Frage nach dem Ding. There are also brief references to, and sections on,
philosophers throughout SZ. In this connection see the name index in Hildegard
Feick, Index zu Heideggers "Sein und Zeit," (Tübingen, Niemeyer, 1961), pp. 105-
106. One thing is certain: Heidegger is not unfamiliar with the history of philosophy.
at least since Plato, has become in Nietzsche the open sore of western philosophy. Only
in finding this key can this nihilism be recognized and overcome.
understanding nihilism in its original thought projective origins can we hope, in
Heidegger's view, to bring about an overcoming (Überwindung) of this falsified
What does Heidegger mean by this nihilism which has characterized western
metaphysics since the time of Plato? And what does it mean to "pvercome" this
nihilism? Concerning the nature of nihilism, Heidegger says in his Einführung in die
Metaphysik that to concern oneself with things (das Seiende) to the total ignoring of
being (Sein): that is nihilism.
This is the sense in which Heidegger can speak of the
whole tradition of western metaphysics as nihilistic. It represents a forgetting of being
in the failure to make the fundamental distinction between being and things, and in
interesting itself in things rather than in being itself. The importance of this the
"ontological difference" between things and being cannot be overestimated in studying
Heidegger. As he says, it is this distinction which sustains history.
This is also what
Heidegger meant when in his commentary on Anaximander's fragment he said that the
whole of the fate of the West hinged upon the translation of the little word sov.
On the other hand, if being is taken after the manner of a thing (seiend), it is thought
back into its essence (Wesen), and being immediately goes up in smoke. Thus it is that
in his short work Zur Seinsfrage Heidegger dramatically writes being crossed out:
This "being" we come upon when we ask after the essence of metaphysics,
Heidegger's most systematic handling of the problem of the overcoming of nihilism
is to be found in ZS, which first appeared in a Festschrift for Ernst Jünger in 1955.
This was written after and complementary to a similar essay, "Über die Linie," which
Jünger had written for a Heidegger Festschrift in 1950, appearing in Anteile: Martin
Heidegger zum 60. Geburtstag (Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, I950), pp. 245-
284. However, there is also material on nihilism and the overcoming of nihilism in
"Überwindung der Metaphysik" in VA and in the two Nietzsche volumes.
EM, p. 155.
EM, p. 156.
Hw, p. 318.
ZS, p. 30.
degger. In this sense is nihilism thought back into its very essence, the fundamental
movement (Grundbewegung), the "inner logic" ("innere Logik") of the history of the
But why ask after the essence of nihilism? Why attempt to think metaphysics back into
its essence? As Heidegger says, we ask after the essence of metaphysics in an attempt to
overcome nihilism (Überwindung des Nihilismus).
And the way "over the line," the
way in which we may succeed in "turning the tables" on nihilism, is to be found in the
fate of transcendence (Geschick des Überstiegs).
By this Heidegger means that in
asking after the essence of metaphysics in order to overcome nihilism we come to a
discovery of the fateful transcendence of being over things.
This is not the sort of
investigation that is carried on by academic philosophy (Schulphilosophie);
rather an investigation into the other than things (das Andere zum Seienden).
therefore, in a transcending of things in favor of their being that a true overcoming of
nihilism is to be achieved.
Nietzsche's Übermensch, says Heidegger, attempted to leap over the being of things
(Sein des Seienden). Unfortunately he never quite made the leap, failing as he did to ask
the authentic question of being (Seinsfrage).
Nietzsche, as has the whole of the
metaphysical tradition, attempted to use the categories of the old metaphysics, culled as
they were from things (Seiendes) and not from being (Sein). And then metaphysics
attempted to apply these categories to being itself (Sein selbst). This was, Heidegger
insists, the actual theme and the real meaning of the lecture which he gave in 1929,
namely, "Was ist Metaphysik?"
All the various sciences ask about things of different
kinds (Seiende), and
Hw, p. 206.
ZS, p. 29.
ZS, p. 33.
ZS, pp. 36-37.
The distinction between Schulphilosophie and Weltphilosophie is clarified in the
introduction to Kant's Logic text. It is, for example, within the confines of
Weltphilosophie that Kant asks his fourth question, "Was ist der Mensch?"
Philosophie als Schulbegriff for Kant includes both a sufficient store of the sciences
of reason and also the systematic connection thereof. Immanuel Kant, Sämtliche
Werke (ed. Vorländer, 3 ed.; Leipzig: Meiner, 1920), IV, 26-27. Kant most probably
has the philosophy of Christian Wolff in mind; Heidegger, very possibly that of
ZS, p. 37.
WD, p. 73.
ZS, pp. 37 ff.
falsely imagine that philosophy simply takes all these things into account and nothing
else. But as Heidegger says in Zur Seinsfrage, it is exactly this nothing, the "nothing"
that is totally other than things, that the lecture "Was ist Metaphysik?" asked after.
is the "nothing" that is totally other than things, and to which the Dasein of man is
attached, which is inquired after.
Thus Heidegger points out, primarily in response to the charge of nihilism which was
leveled against him as a result of his "Was ist Metaphysik?" lecture, that only by having
already overcome nihilism was it possible for him to discuss "nothing" in the 1929
lecture in the way in which he did. Only if he had already overcome nihilism could he
have considered that "nothing" which was in the beginning identical with being.
Heidegger insists, clearly this "nothing" is hardly something negative (nichts Nichtiges).
It is the most positive. It is after all the same as being, the being that is other than
Hence the sort of metaphysical question which Heidegger had carried on in " Was ist
Metaphysik?" indicated to him that he had already overcome nihilism. It also indicated
that he had overcome metaphysics as well, for the essence of metaphysics is nothing
else but nihilism. To draw nothing into the very questioning of the essence of being is to
overcome nihilism, as Heidegger says.
The realization of this essence of nihilism
was, however, already the first step in overcoming it. And the essence of nihilism,
which rests upon and has characterized the whole history of the western tradition of
metaphysics as a forgetting of being, fulfills itself in the end as a will to will.
ZS, p. 38. It is even more clearly stated in Hw that the nothing (Nichts) referred to in
that context is nothing else but being itself (Sein selbst). Hw, p. 104.
ZS, p. 38. In his recent Nietzsche study, Heidegger says that he thinks nothing only
inasmuch as it concerns being. Nie, II, p. 355.
ZS, p. 40. The operative word here is "thinking." From the point of view of the true
Logos, authentic thinking, as can be seen in the authentic thinking of the pre-
Socratics, being and that nothing—i.e., the nothing that is entirely other than
things—are the same.
ZS, p. 38.
EM, p. 155.
ZS, p. 41. As he says in WD, "The being of things appears in contemporary
metaphysics as well." WD, p. 36.
expression in modern science, where domination for the sake of domination is the order
of the day.
However, simply because with Nietzsche's philosophy metaphysics is "all washed up"
(vollendet), this does not mean that thinking itself is at an end. Thinking is in transition
(Übergang) to a new beginning.
This is the essence of metaphysics as the fate of
transcendence. For if, as Heidegger says in his work Zur Seinsfrage, "nothing" (das
Nichts) predominates in nihilism; and if the essence of nothing belongs to being (Sein),
in the sense seen above; then being itself is the fate of transcendence (Überstiege), and
the essence of metaphysics shows itself as the basic location (Wesensort) of nihilism.
This is what Heidegger means when he says that "turning the tables" (Überwindung) on
nihilism is based upon a "turning out" (Verwindung, getting rid) of metaphysics. For the
whole of the metaphysical tradition has been falsified from the very beginning, and the
only way to overcome it is to come to an understanding of what it is, as thought back
into its very essence, and in this way to get it out of one's system. This is what
Heidegger meant by the "destruction of the history of ontology" which was to be carried
on in the second part of Sein und Zeit.
That which had its beginnings among the
Greeks came to its logical conclusion in the nihilism of our own day. And to overcome
this blight upon the tradition of western thinking on being, in the view of Heidegger, we
must go back, dig back into our traditions in order to understand how it came to be—
thus, again, the importance which the pre-Socratics have for Heidegger.
One is inclined to ask whether it was all so inevitable. Does the whole history of
metaphysics as inaugurated by Aristotle and Plato end by necessity (and Heidegger did
use the word "notwendig" in this connection) in Hegel and Nietzsche? Does this not rule
out freedom in history? The question as to the extent to which thinkers or philosophers
It will be impossible to go into this aspect of Heidegger's thought in any detail.
Suffice it to say that for him the modem technological science (Technik) has its roots
in the general forgetting of being, which falsified the authentic Greek notion of
tc¿vq. This is, however, only the historical basis upon which Heidegger criticizes
VA, p. 83.
ZS, p. 33.
SZ, p. 39. In his later terminology read "metaphysics" in place of "ontology."
in the history of the philosophical past decide the course of the history of philosophy
and the extent to which it is rather decided for them by the way in which (through
thinking on being) being sends itself out (Geschick des Seins) is a question which has
already been discussed in the preliminary section on history.
Heidegger broaches the problem again in his brief but valuable work Was ist das—die
Philosophie?, where he discusses the Aristotelian definition of philosophy. He insists
that Aristotle's definition of philosophy must not be transferred back to Parmenides and
Heraclitus. And yet he admits that the Aristotelian definition is a "free consequence"
(freie Folge) of the early thinking of the pre-Socratics, and even its conclusion
(Abschluss). Nonetheless, Heidegger does insist that there is not involved here the
necessity of a dialectical process.
As an obvious reference to Hegel, it might be interesting to compare briefly the
respective views of Heidegger and Hegel on the history of philosophy. As for
Heidegger's appreciation of the work of Hegel there can be no question. He refers to
him as the only thinker in the West who really thoughtfully experienced the history of
Similarly he speaks of him as the first truly philosophical historian of
Unfortunately, however, in Heidegger's view Hegel understood all the
fundamental words of Greek philosophy abstractedly.
Hegel was also guilty of
reading the pre-Socratics through the eyes of Plato.
In the end their respective views on the history of philosophy are fundamentally
Hegel's Phänomenologie represents a restaged account of how man came
to Spirit. History for Hegel, then, is
WP, p. 29.
Hw, p. 298.
Nie I, p. 450.
"Hegel und die Griechen," p. 52. This is not a wholly unjust appraisal of Hegel. For
Hegel the earliest philosophies are the poorest and the most abstract. As he says,
"From this it follows—since the progress of development is equivalent to further
determination, and this means further immersion in and a fuller grasp of the Idea
itself—that the latest, most modern and newest philosophy is the most developed,
richest and deepest." E. S. Haldane (tr.), Hegel's Lectures on the History of
Philosophy (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1892), I, 41.
Nie I, p. 464.
In fact, their respective views are exactly the opposite. See the article by J. G. Gray,
"Heidegger's 'Being.'" Journal of Philosophy, XLIX (1952), 415-422.
the knowing, self-mediating (sich vermittelnde) becoming of Spirit as emptied into time.
It is the presentation of the slow, staged, process, Galerie von Bildern, showing how
man came to Spirit, with the Absolute already present at each and every stage of the
In fact, history's task in the view of Hegel is to show this process
(Bewegung) toward Spirit from the upper standpoint of absolute knowledge.
view of the history of thought thereby becomes a progressively higher mediation of
lower positions in the movement toward the Absolute.
Heidegger accuses Hegel of thinking of the being of things in terms of the speculatively
Thus does history become a dialectical process.
however, that Dasein always remains free in his essential possibilities.
As he notes in
his Einführung, philosophers are creators who bring about historical change. However,
this cannot be predicted in advance.
Heidegger, then, far from having previous stages of thought superseded by more
profound and adequate ideas, sees the process of history as exactly the reverse. There is
not some sort of progressive, fuller understanding of being, but rather a progressive, or
better a regressive, forgetting of being. One might say that Hegel's view is filled with
the optimism of the nineteenth century; Heidegger's with the pessimism of the
twentieth. Hegel's is an all-comprehensive system in which all systems are contained
and mediated in a dialectical process. And for Hegel the final stage of absolute
knowledge (which is embodied in his own thought) is the greatest.
For Heidegger, on
the other hand, man-
See Hegel, Phänomenologie, p. 563.
Ibid., p. 559. Or as Hegel says in his lecture on the history of philosophy, "The first
result which follows from what has been said, is that the whole of the history of
Philosophy is a progression impelled by an inherent necessity, and one which is
implicitly rational and a priori determined through its Idea; and this the history of
Philosophy has to exemplify." Haldane, Hegel's Lectures, I, 36.
ID, p. 41. Geist, as Heidegger sees it, becomes identified with the Geschick des Seins.
SG, pp. 144 ff.
ID, p. 39.
VA, p. 158.
EM, p. 9.
And as Heidegger has said, Hegel's concept of history as the "unfolding of Spirit" in
time is neither right nor wrong; it is only incomplete. Hu, pp. 23-24. According to
Heidegger, Hegel's Phänomenologie pictures only one phase of the vast Eschatologie
des Seins. Hw, p. 302.
kind has not gained but lost. Greatness is not here and now at the end, as the end
product of a long process, the dialectical evolution of progress. Greatness was in the
and is still contained there for us to search it out; that is, if we will but
abandon the metaphysics which has degenerated into a destructive nihilism, and re-turn
to the greatness of an authentic re-beginning, a re-building which can then be projected
forward in an authentic manner for the future possibilities of Dasein.
EM, p. 12. Heidegger is not wholly original in viewing ancient philosophy in this
way. Nietzsche had already in "Die Geburt der Tragödie" (Werke, I, 10-134),
published in 1871, begun to look upon Plato as introducing a new type of thinking, a
more superficial type of thinking, into Greek philosophy. And this implicit critique of
Plato and the extolling of pre-Socratic thinking becomes even more prominent in
"Die Philosophie im tragischen Zeitalter der Griechen" (Werke, III, 349-413), written
between 1872 and 1875. He says, for example, "Mit Plato beginnt etwas ganz Neues;
oder, wie mit gleichem Recht gesagt werden kann, seit Plato fehlt den Philosophen
etwas Wesentliches im Vergleich mit jener Genialen-Republik von Thales bis
Sokrates." Werke, III, 358. Nietzsche takes a primarily literary view of the matter,
however, and laments the loss of "myth" which comes with "Sokratismus."
Heidegger is, indeed, aware of this source (Hw, pp. 296, 330); nevertheless, he
retains his originality in the fact that this "greatness of the pre-Socratic beginning" is
given a primarily ontological significance, a significance for the whole history of
being in the West.
Parmenides: The Relation Between
Being and Thinking
PARMENIDES B 3
In attempting to understand Parmenides as Heidegger does, namely, as offering the
key to the history of western thought as the forgetting of being, one finds that it is
primarily the relation, and later the dissociation, of being (i` vui) and thinking
(voi`v), which proves to be the most decisive factor for the western tradition of
philosophy. Hence, as with Heidegger, most of the discussion here will revolve
around Heidegger's interpretation of Fragment Three, and those fragments of
Parmenides, particularly Fragment Six, which Heidegger introduces in order better
to elucidate the meaning of B 3.
Heidegger's interest in Parmenides extends from his earliest, right up to his most
He mentions Parmenides in a wide variety of contexts and in
connection with many different "historical" problems. But in all his treatments, in all
the various contexts in which Parmenides is made to appear, there lies behind that
However, it is primarily in the works of the middle and later periods that the
greater time and space is devoted to the study of the pre-Socratics. The longest
and most sustained commentaries on the thought of Parmenides' fragments are to
be found in EM and WD. EM is the earlier, representing the publication in 1953
of a series of lectures given at the University of Freiburg in the summer semester
of I935. I have used this as the backbone of the section on Parmenides,
supplementing it with the later material afforded by the talk "Aletheia" (1943) and
the "Logos" article (1944, 1951), both published in VA in 1954. WD, a series of
winter and summer semester lectures given at Freiburg in 1951-1952, was
published in 1954. Longer treatments of Parmenides are also to be found in
"Moira" (1952), a piece published in VA; and in "Der Satz der Identität" in ID.
However, there are many other places in the works of Heidegger where he
mentions and returns to a re-understanding of the significance of Parmenides for
reason which is fundamental. Heidegger firmly holds that Parmenides' famous maxim
(B 3), in which the authentic relation between being and thinking was decisively
presented, is the basic theme for the whole collective history of western European
In fact, one might look upon, or more properly listen to, this theme as a sort of pedal
point over which the whole of western philosophy has improvised its variations. For this
original pedal point sets the key for the intellectual variations of western thinking. All
philosophy after Parmenides had to be played in this key. However, this decisive pre
Socratic thinker is also the "key" to western philosophy in another sense. He also
represents the key which not only opens the door to the understanding of the whole
western tradition of philosophy, but also opens a door behind which the future
possibilities of Dasein may be revealed.
However, in an ironic way Parmenides' famous maxim became the leading principle
(Leitsatz) for the western philosophical tradition only because it was unable to hold onto
the original truth which it had primordially grasped.
For in Heidegger's opinion Parmenides has been constantly and consistently
misunderstood and flagrantly misinterpreted. For example, in the case of B 3, being has
often been taken to mean object; thinking, subject. And since this indicates an object-
subject relationship, historians of philosophy have been wont to find in Parmenides a
sort of primitive theory of knowledge (Erkenntnistheorie).
In Heidegger's view all
such subjectivistic interpretations of the pre-Socratics are out of the question.
Heidegger quotes Parmenides' Fragment Three as follows: to ¸op uuto voi`v sotiv t
kui i` vui,
making note of the standard translation to be found in Diels—Kranz,
"Dasselbe aber ist das Denken und das
WD, p. 148. Compare with this Nietzsche's statement, "In der Philosophie des
Parmenides präludiert das Thema der Ontologie." Friedrich Nietzsche, Werke (ed. K.
Schlechta (2 ed.; München: Hanser, 1960), III, 389.
EM, p. III.
EM, p. 103.
Hw, p. 98.
Parmenides B 3. Heidegger refers to this fragment as number five, rather than three,
following an earlier edition of DK.
This translation, stating that being and thinking are the same, is, in the view of
Heidegger, totally "un-Greek" (Ungriechische), and has
DK, I, 231. Heidegger's accenting of the text follows that of DK as well. It might,
however, be pointed out that there are other readings of the text, besides the "idealist"
one. For example, a second reading is suggested by Zeller, who reads sotiv
(impersonal use of iµi with the infinitive, meaning "it is possible") instead of sotiv.
As he says, "That does not mean however, 'Thinking and Being are the same,' the
context shows that sotiv is to be read, and the translation should stand thus: 'For the
same thing can be thought and can be,' only that which can be, can be thought." E.
Zeller, A History of Greek Philosophy, tr. S. F. Alleyne (London: Longmans, Green,
1881), p. 584, n. I. Also following this reading of the text is Burnet, who points to the
original dative meaning of the infinitive in support of Zeller's view. "No rendering is
admissible which makes voi`v the subject of the sentence; for the bare infinitive is
never so used ... The original dative meaning of the infinitive at once explains the
usage (voi`v sotiv, 'is for thinking:' 'can be thought,' sotiv i` vui, 'is for being,' 'can
be.')." John Burnet, Early Greek Philosophy (New York: Meridian, 1957), p. 173, n.
2. Against the view that the infinitive is never used as the bare subject of a sentence,
see W. J. Verdenius, Parmenides: Some Comments on His Poem, tr. A. Fontein
(Groningen: Welters, 1942), pp. 34-35; and p. 35, n. 3 for examples of such a usage.
Following the reading of Zeller and Burnet, however, are Kathleen Freeman, Ancilla
to the Pre-Socratic Philosophers (Oxford: Blackwell, 1946), p. 147, n. I; G. S. Kirk
and J. E. Raven, The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of
Texts (Cambridge: University Press, 1957), p. 269, n.; as also Joseph Owens, A
History of Ancient Western Philosophy (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1959),
p. 61, n. 9. Heidegger may be inclining toward this reading, or at least taking it into
account; for in his recent lecture "Zeit und Sein" given in Freiburg January 31, 1962
he spoke of Parmenides' sotiv as "es vermag." However, this may mean nothing
more than being making thinking possible, and thinking making being possible. Nie
I, p. 528.
A third way of reading the text is suggested by W. A. Heidel, "On Certain Fragments
of the Pre-Socratics; Critical Notes and Elucidations," Proceedings of the American
Academy of Arts and Sciences, XLVIII (1912-1913), 681-734, who claims that there
is here a clear case of "brachylogy," i.e., excessively condensed expression.
Therefore, one must supply Noein again before Einai, obtaining the translation, "For
it is one and the same thing to think and to think that it is." Ibid., p. 720. And Heidel
insists, against Burnet, that the substantive use of the infinitive (with or without the
article) is common both before and after Parmenides, and especially in poetry.
These are the basic ways in which the text of B 3 is read. The interpretations and
translations differ widely from author to author. Von Fritz follows Heidel's reading of
the text and sees Parmenides' maxim as meaning that there is thought with thought.
Kurt Von Fritz, "Nous Noein and their Derivatives in Pre-Socratic Philo-
fostered an interpretation of Parmenides which made him out to be a forerunner of
This misinterpretation, as un-Greek as the falsification of the
Heraclitean Logos, understands thinking as the activity of the subject; being, as the
object of that thinking. And since being and thinking are declared the same, then
Parmenides is believed to be the first subjectivist.
Heidegger insists that we must not interpret ancient thinkers in categories which have
come to have a determinate meaning only later on in the history of thought. Hence to
interpret Parmenides, or any other ancient thinker for that matter, in such categories as
idealist or realist, objectivist or subjectivist is quite unfair. Every such category (Titel)
must be left aside in interpreting the Greeks.
The anachronism lies in the fact that in
reading back into Parmenides terms or meanings from later philosophies we forget that
it is with Parmenides that history really begins.
Indeed, we have a natural tendency to
read back into Parmenides things which he may have given rise to, because that is
sophy ..." Classical Philology, XLI (1946), 12-34. Verdenius puts the fragments into
a particular logical order (B 2, 3, 6), and takes the ¸up of B 6 (not that of B 3) as the
conclusion to the syllogistic reasoning. Since B 3 is a sort of premise in the line of
argument, it means that knowing is included in being (Verdenius, Parmenides:
Comments, p. 40), although he insists that this does not mean that reality is a rational
being. This latter position seems to be held by Phillips, who interprets B 3 as
meaning that being thinks, since thinking and being are the same. As he says, "If
everything, that is, thinks, and the only thing that is is, in fact, the One Being, then
that Being can think of nothing but itself, so that it will indeed be both subject and
object in experience." E. D. Phillips, "Parmenides on Thought and Being,"
Philosophical Review, LXIV (1955), 558.
One of the best overall accounts of Parmenides' thought seems to me to be Leonard
Woodbury, "Parmenides on Names," Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, LXIII
(1958), 152, who suggests "Thinking must take the form 'it-is,' because the real word
is 'expressed' in 'that-which-is,' and consequently in the thought, 'it-is.'" However, it
must be said that classical scholars by no means agree as to the meaning of
Parmenides' Fragment Three.
EM, p. 77.
EM, p. 84.
EM, p. 105. See also Heidegger's "Hegel und die Griechen," Die Gegenwart der
Griechen im neueren Denken (Tübingen: Mohr, 1960), p. 45.
EM, p. 104.
the way in which things actually did turn out. History really began with Parmenides.
But to read the present back into the past simply because the past, in this case the
leading principle (Leitsatz) of Parmenides, was unable to hold the original truth which it
had grasped does not in any way enable us to appreciate the truth which was and is still
held therein, but which was unfortunately lost in the general forgetting of being in the
Parmenides' famous maxim was indeed incisive in that it went right to the core of things
and expressed this central core of truth for all time in a single maxim. But besides being
incisive his statement was also de-cisive (Ent-scheidung). For it also represents a
separation (Scheidung) of being, truth (as "unconcealedness"), appearance, and non-
being. And the exact point where this original separation took place historically was in
Fragment Two of Parmenides.
For it is here that the oldest record of the opening of
the following three paths can be found: (a) where being was brought to stand (zum
Stand bringen), (b) where being must be sustained in appearance and against
appearance, and (c) where appearance and being must be saved from the abyss of non-
Heidegger notes, with reference to the first of the three paths, that Parmenides'
way of being is also a way of truth. The second road, that of non-being, is inaccessible
(unzugänglich); nonetheless, it must be considered (bedacht) before it is rejected. The
third road, that of appearance (ooçu), is accessible, but it should be avoided (umgehbar).
On this latter road mortals confuse being and appearance.
But in any case man must
know all three paths, that is, if he is to have superior knowledge.
One begins to see how Heidegger is able to extract the two aspects of the Greek notion
of being as Physis from out of Parmenides, and more particularly from out of B 2. For
Parmenides, in Heidegger's view, appearance has a definite status in being. Being, as
has been noted, even
EM, p. 84. Heidegger quotes it as B 4. See note 6 above. The pertinent passage in
Freeman reads, "... the one that IT IS, and it is not possible for IT NOT TO BE, is the
way of credibility, for it follows Truth; the other, that IT IS NOT, and that IT is
bound NOT TO BE: this I tell you is a path that cannot be explored; for you could
neither recognize that which IS NOT, nor express it." Freeman, Ancilla, p. 42.
EM, p. 84.
EM, pp. 85-86.
reveals itself in appearance and against appearance.
There is no opposition between
being and appearance according to Heidegger's interpretation of Parmenides or the pre-
Socratics in general.
Nevertheless, this was possible, Heidegger insists, only because Logos and Physis truly
remained together at this time. But although together both in the thought of Heraclitus
and Parmenides, both of these thinkers give rise to an inevitable separation between
Logos and Physis.
And to see exactly how Physis and Logos came apart one must
turn to Parmenides B 3.
As is clear, to repeat the point, Heidegger does not treat Parmenides in and for himself.
Hence it should not be imagined that Heidegger treats Parmenides as does the classics
scholar or the historian of philosophy. For Heidegger, Parmenides and Heraclitus are
studied in order to elucidate what is for Heidegger a certain historico-philosophical
And in the case of Parmenides it is in order to see how Physis and Logos,
which were originally united, came to be separated.
In order to understand the meaning of B 3 in relation to this question of the relation of
thinking and being we must, in the opinion of Heidegger, attempt to grasp the meaning
of the words which are involved in it. First of all there is the to uuto and the t ... kui;
secondly, the meaning of voi`v; and finally, the meaning of i` vui. Heidegger's analysis
of the verbal components begins with the word "being" (Einai). Something of
Heidegger's view of the meaning of the Greek notion of being as Physis has already
been seen in the previous chapter. In brief, the Greek word for being derives from the
Greek root, ue, which means to grow, to spring up, to emerge. It means, therefore, a
certain coming to stand (zum Stand kommen), along with a certain quality of endurance
(im Stand bleiben). And contained in these notions, according to Heidegger, is that
being for the Greeks has an end or limit. Being for the Greeks is finite. Being means
The next word which Heidegger analyzes is that of Noein. He insists
EM, p. 86. However, since it is the mortals that mix Sein and Schein (EM, p. 85),
then it would seem that Heidegger opts for the way of mortals (who mix the form of
non-being with that of being; see Owens, History of Ancient Western Philosophy, pp.
67-68) rather than for that of being and truth.
EM, p. 20.
EM, pp. 104-105.
EM, p. 46.
that the word does not mean "thinking" in any highly technical or logical sense that it
may have today. Rather the word means "to grasp " (vernehmen). It means to "take in"
(hin-nehmen), as one might "take in" a concert; not simply in the sense "to go to," but
rather in the sense of letting something (e.g., the music) come to one (auf einen
Heidegger compares the authentic grasping of Noein to the
hearing of a witness for evidence.
He also makes use of a military metaphor. He
compares the grasping of vernehmen to an army which receives (empfangen) or "takes
on " (ver-nehmen) the enemy in an attempt to "stop" him. It takes the enemy on in such
a way as to bring him to a halt (zum Stehen bringen).
It is, as Heidegger says, this
"taking on" of the appearing in order to bring it to a halt that the Noein of Parmenides'
proposition says is the same as being.
But how are thinking and being the same for Parmenides? To give a provisional answer
here one must remember the way in which Heidegger has described being for the
Greeks. Physis, he said, is the e-merging (Ent-stehen) from out of the hidden and from
out of this first bringing itself to stand. The relation between Physis and Noein is found
to be the " stand " to which authentic thinking brings that which has been brought to
stand from out of hiding by itself, namely, Physis.
One advantage which his translation of Noein as vernehmen serves to
EM, p. 105. As, for example, in the German expression, "Ich vernehme eine
Stimme." Almost like the English word "catch" in the expression, "I didn't catch what
you said," the German word Hin-nehmen is a little more difficult to pin down.
Something arrives about where I am, and I accept it. I take it in. Annehmen, which
Heidegger also uses to describe the Greek word Noein, generally implies a more
Compare this with Kant's metaphor of reason as a judge who forces witnesses (i.e.,
nature) to give answers to questions which he himself has formulated. Kritik der
reinen Vernunft, B xiii.
"Wenn Truppen eine Aufnahmestellung beziehen, dann wollen sie den auf sie
ankommenden Gegner empfangen und zwar so empfangen, dass sie ihn wenigstens
zum Stehen bringen." EM, p. 105. A similar military metaphor was used by Aristotle
(Post, An. II, 19; I00a 6-17), where Aristotle speaks of the way in which a universal
is formed. One man from the retreating army makes a stand, and others soon rally
around him. Nevertheless, the similarity of metaphors should not lead one to think
that authentic Parmenidean Noein has anything to do with the formation of Aristotle's
EM, pp. 105-106.
indicate is the way in which after Plato, so Heidegger says, Noein and vou`ç take on an
essential relation to Idea. For it is in the direction given by Plato that the essence of
grasping (Vernehmung) as Noein becomes in consequence the essence of the thing that
does the grasping ("Vernunft," reason), with all its tragic consequences for the history of
In order to make a little clearer the way in which being and thinking come together in an
authentic manner, Heidegger compares thinking with swimming. In an obvious
reference to Hegel's legendary Scholasticus, who wanted to learn to swim before
venturing into the water,
Heidegger says that we learn to think by jumping in.
admits that there is little question but that Vernehmen with its faculty of Vernunft is the
fundamental characteristic of our age. Nonetheless, he insists that if we are really to
understand this latter-day notion of grasping (vernehmen) we must first understand
Noein in its original sense, and in its relation to that "element" into which we jump
when we begin to think, namely, being. This authentic grasping is a representation, a
"setting before" (Vor-stellen) in a simple, broad, and at the same time essential sense in
that we allow the present to lie and stay before us as it lies and stays. And that which
this "taking-before-one-grasping" grasps, that which is allowed to lie or stand before us
as it lies or stands before us is, as Heidegger says, things in their being.
At this point, however, the reader should be cautioned not to read some sort of
Husserlian intentionality into Heidegger's interpretation of
PW, p. 35. Most commentators would agree with Heidegger that the meaning of
Noein is not in Parmenides as in Plato, where Nous is opposed to sense perception.
Thus for Jaeger it means "... 'to become aware' of an object and identify it as the thing
that it is." Werner Jaeger, The Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1947), p. 103. Nor, as Verdenius (Parmenides: Comments, p. 10),
does Noein mean thinking in the technical sense the word has attained today.
Parmenides, he thinks, uses the word in the broad sense of knowing in general, a
knowing which includes sense perception. Von Fritz (" Nous Noein ") suggests that
there may be at least something of a technical sense to the word, in that this
"knowing" seems to be contrasted with the "knownothings," the "two-headed ones"
(oikpuvoi of B 6, 5).
G. W. F. Hegel, Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften im Grundrisse
(1830), eds. F. Nicolin and O. Pöggeler (Hamburg: Meiner, 1959, 6 ed.), p. 43, #I0.
VA, p. 139.
VA, p. 140.
the Parmenidean Noein, or for that matter into Heidegger's own notion of authentic
thinking. For Parmenides intentionality was simply not required; being and thinking
were united. There was, as will be seen in turning now to the connective words of B 3, a
fundamental "belonging together" of knowing and being in Parmenides. Furthermore,
from Heidegger's point of view, any sort of Husserlian intentionality would ultimately
involve some sort of Epoché, a bracketing of the existential, matter-of-fact world.
And such a bracketing in Heidegger's view could only do violence to reality. It would
not, as did the primordial "grasping" of Parmenides in its co-relation to being, let what
is, be. It would not allow that which lies before us to stand and lie before us as it is.
Coming to the connective words of the fragment, Heidegger asks what Parmenides
means by the to uuto. How are being and thinking one? Heidegger insists first of all
that this can only have reference to an original and primordial oneness (ursprünglich
Einige) which existed in the beginning between Noein and Einai. This is not the oneness
of empty indifference (leere Einerleikeit), nor was it a mere equi-valence (blosse
Gleich-gültigkeit). Rather, it was the oneness of a unity of opposites. It is Parmenides'
notion of oneness (sv); i.e., the oneness is the belonging-together of opposites.
It would seem that this togetherness can be looked at from the two "sides" of the
belonging-together, namely, from the side of thinking and from the side of being. Thus
commenting on B 3 in his recently published study on Nietzsche, Heidegger says that
this to uuto means that they belong together essentially. A thing is not a thing present
"So übe ich phänomenologische sao¿q, die mir also hinfort eo ipso zu sein und So-
sein und allen Seinsmodalitäten von räumlich-zeitlichem Dasein von 'Realem'
verschliesst." Edmund Husserl, Gesammelte Werke (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1950-),
III/I, 68. Or as Husserl says on the preceding page 67, he does not "take in"
(hinnehme) the pre-given world. This Hin-nehmen, it may be recalled, was exactly
the way in which Heidegger describes the authentic Noein in the thinking of
Parmenides. Not that this proves that there is no "bracketing" in Heidegger, but it
certainly indicates that the bracketing is of a different sort, or that something slightly
different is bracketed.
EM, p. 106. I find it difficult to see how the oneness to which Heidegger here refers
could be the same as the "oneness" which is one of the chief characteristics of being
for Parmenides. See B 8, 5-6.
without grasping (Vernehmung). However, on the other hand this grasping is not able to
grasp where there are not things, i.e., where being does not have the possibility to come
out into the open.
This belonging-together may perhaps best be understood from the side of being, as
Heidegger says in the Einführung. For being means to stand in the light, to appear, and
hence to come out of hiding (literally, to step into unconcealment); then where such a
thing happens, that is, where being dominates, grasping (Vernehmung), as the receptive
bringing-to-stand of that which is self-showing and self-standing, dominates and
happens right along with this being that dominates.
This is what Heidegger means by
the belonging-together, the basic unity of the "opposites" of thinking and being which
he finds in Parmenides' Fragment Three.
Another way in which Heidegger attempts to explain this "oneness" of thinking and
being as he reads it out of Parmenides' fragments is shown in Heidegger's commentary
on B 8, 34 ff. in his essay "Moira." As he says, there is first of all a oneness of things
(Seienden) which in Parmenides is called being (Sein). But since thinking is as much a
"something" (Seiendes) as any other thing, then thinking is also the same as being
(Sein), because it participates in this same oneness, the original and authentic oneness of
Heidegger quotes the B 8, 34 of Parmenides, tuutov o'soti voi`v t kui oúvkv soti
and interprets the phrase as meaning that grasping (Vernehmung) happens for
the sake of being. For in Heidegger's view both this fragment and B 3 as well assert that
to Physis, indeed, belongs grasping; to the dominance of being is there also the
necessary co-dominance of grasping. In these two fundamental versions of Parmenides'
grasping of the meaning of being, there is also contained a basic insight into the Greek
notion of Physis; namely, to it belongs grasp-
Nie I, p. 528.
EM, p. 106.
VA, p. 232. Similarly in Nie I, p. 528. This way of treating Parmenides by including
thinking in being was also done by Hegel. See E. S. Haldane, Hegel's Lectures on the
History of Philosophy (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1892), I, 254.
Freeman translates the passage as follows: "To think is the same as the thought that It
Is; for you will not find thinking without Being, in (regard to) which there is an
expression." Freeman, Ancilla, p. 44.
ing (Vernehmung). For as has been seen with the second meaning which Heidegger
found as characteristic of the Greek notion of being, namely, its aspect of appearance,
where being dominates and appears, with that appearance grasping (Vernehmung) must
of necessity happen right along with it.
At this point in his analysis Heidegger asks what for him can only be a leading question.
He asks, but where is man in all this? Clearly for man to take part in this belonging-
together of thinking and being man must first of all belong to being.
Nevertheless, Heidegger feels it necessary to caution us not to read into Parmenides
some present-day notion of man. We must, rather, carefully follow the proposition itself
to see how the essence of man is determined in accordance with the essence of being.
Hence the asking of this question concerning the essence of man is not some sort of
It is rather, as Heidegger says, a historicometa-physical
question, i.e., it has to do with the very essence of history.
Thus instead of attempting
to determine the meaning of Noein, which is the authentic thinking-grasping of being in
Parmenides, from out of some later or contemporary concept of man, it must be
recognized that we can successfully hope to learn what man's being is only from the
essential connection (Wesenszugehörigkeit) of being (Einai) and "taking in" (Noein).
Hence although one does not find the Heideggerian notion of being human
(Menschsein) in the analysis of the Parmenidean Noein, one does find that the very
being of man is profoundly influenced by this fundamental "togetherness" of being and
However, if we wish to know exactly where there is this grasping and being together;
that is, if we wish to understand more fully the meaning of B 3, it is necessary to bring
in yet another of the fragments of Parmenides, namely, B 6. He quotes the fragment ¿pq
to ìc¸iv t voi`v
EM, p. 106.
A caution may be in order. In Germany anthropology is not, as with us, a part of
sociology, which attempts to study man and the society which he forms in its origins.
It is, rather, a part of philosophy, which has man as its object of philosophical study.
EM, p. 107. Which, as has been seen, is primarily Dasein's.
EM, p. 107.
t' sov sµµvui,
translating it as follows: both are needful (Not), ìc¸iv so much as
grasping, that is, the thing (seiend) in its being (Sein).
Heidegger insists that at this point in the history of western thought Noein does not yet
mean thinking (Denken). It does not even mean "perceiving" or grasping (Vernehmen),
if we take that word in the sense in which it is normally understood in biology,
psychology, or the theory of knowledge. It most certainly does not refer to some faculty
(Vermögen) belonging to man as already defined, since, as has been seen, it is in the
happening of this grasping that man first comes to be defined. It is with this happening
of a thinking-grasping that man first steps into history, i.e., in a literal sense comes into
The grasping here referred to could not possibly be some faculty belonging to
man as already defined, for the simple reason that this grasping is the happening
(Geschehen) that is being; it is the "wherein" (worin) in which man literally comes to
be; it is that whereby man comes to be the historical "custodian of being" (Verwahrer
Thus Heidegger sees the famous maxim of Parmenides as decisive as much for the
western determination of the essence of man as for what it lets us know about the
belonging-together of thinking and being.
For as Heidegger notes, it is in the "going
together" of being and being human that their "parting company" (Auseinandertreten)
really comes to light. And it was only because this parting of company actually took
place that it was later possible to conceptualize man as a ¸q`ov ìo¸ov s¿ov. Only when
man had become known as a "something" (als so Seienden) was it possible to define
him in terms of animal rationale. However, to read such a later Aristotelian notion of
the essence of man into the thought of Parmenides would be as anachronistic as reading
some modern-day concept of man into the Parmenidean fragments.
Hence, in order to discover the true meaning of man, the way in
DK, I, p. 232.
Heidegger has a longer commentary upon this fragment in WD, which is studied in
the following section. Here we attempt only to follow Heidegger's argument as B 6 is
incorporated into his study on Parmenides B 3 in EM.
EM, p. 108.
A similar note is struck in Hu, where Heidegger speaks of Dasein as the "Hirt des
Seins," Hu, p. 29.
EM, p. 108.
which the essence of man came to be defined from out of the essence of being in the
axiom of Parmenides, something of the meaning of the Greek Dasein must be looked
For we begin to learn what man is only when we analyze that point where man
steps into the ring of being for a "set-to" (Auseinandersetzung) with things (Seienden);
for only then does man project something new, only then does he poetize in a
primordial fashion (ursprünglich dichtet).
Heidegger claims that in Parmenides' Fragment Three the essence of man is defined,
and thus authentically defined, from out of the essence of being itself. One might
naturally ask what grounds Heidegger could possibly have for saying this, for man or
Dasein is nowhere specifically mentioned in the fragment. Heidegger holds, however,
that the essence of man is defined from out of the essence of being in this fragment on
the basis of the fact that it is man who speaks the maxim.
Hence given the historically
crucial character of the fragment, the crucial definition of man was and could only have
been accomplished in this fragment.
Man could only speak this maxim as having
already defined himself from out of things in general, i.e., by asking in a fundamental
and essential manner concerning their being.
However, since this first took place among the Greeks, since it was the Greek Dasein
which first stepped into history, we must in Heidegger's view attempt to understand this
historical awakening, the first halting step made by western man into history.
In order thus to understand this Greek Dasein Heidegger introduces a long and
extremely involved translation and commentary on a chorus from Sophocles' Antigone.
According to Heidegger, any such analysis cannot help but elucidate the meaning of
Parmenides' maxim in this regard. And many reasons could be adduced for this fact. For
Heidegger speaks not only of a Greek Dasein, but also of a Dasein of the western
world, as well as a European Dasein (WP, p. 18); he also speaks of a German Dasein,
and he characterizes Oedipus as the symbol of the Greek Dasein. EM, p. 81. Dasein
might be said to be "analogous" in the sense that whenever and wherever man opens
himself up to being, there Dasein occurs.
EM, p. 110. Concerning the nature of this "original poetizing" see Chapter 7, pp. 133-
143 ("The House of Being"). Suffice it here to say that this original poetizing is the
same as the original authentic thinking on being.
EM, p. III.
EM, p. 112.
Parmenides chose to express his philosophical ideas in poetical form, and his poem
must have had a lasting influence upon Greek poetry in general; and these influences
must surely be preserved in the relics of Greek poetry which we possess.
more important and even more Heideggerian reason for searching into a Greek poet in
order to elucidate the inner meaning of a Greek philosopher is to be found in what
Heidegger refers to as the original and essential connection between poetic and
Suffice it here to say that this utilization of a poet in order to
help explicate the meaning of a philosopher, not necessarily from the same period of
history, is perfectly normal Heideggerian procedure, and hence must not be supposed
peculiar only to his treatment of the thinker Parmenides.
To reproduce here Heidegger's long and complicated analysis of Sophocles' Antigone
would serve little purpose. More helpful would be the conclusions which it adduces for
a better understanding of the Greek Dasein and hence of Parmenides' Fragment Three.
Heidegger finds the essence of the Greek Dasein revealed in the very first lines of the
section of the Antigone which he quotes,
namely in the oivotpov.
He renders the
word into German as
EM, p. 110.
EM, p. 126. Again the reader is referred to "The House of Being" in Chapter 7.
For example, Heidegger introduces a passage from Homer in order to help explain
the meaning of the fragment of Anaximander (Hw, p. 318). Or in SG he introduces
the more or less contemporary poet Angelus Silesius (1624-1677) in order to help
elucidate the meaning of Leibnitz (1646-1716), SG, pp. 68 ff. Heidegger will,
however, also work it the other way. For example, he uses Parmenides' "well
rounded sphere" (B 8, 43) in order to explain the German poet Rilke. Hw, p. 278.
See F. Storr, Sophocles (London: Heinemann, 1912), I, 340 ff., with a translation on
p. 341. Storr translates the passage in question: "Many wonders there be, but naught
more wondrous than man." It is interesting to note that Heidegger's favorite poet,
Hölderlin, twice translated this particular passage from Sophocles' Antigone. He did a
complete translation of the tragedy (J. C. F. Hölderlin, Sämtliche Werke [Stuttgart:
Kohlhammer, 1952], V, 203-272), and also a separate translation of this particular
chorus (Ibid., p. 42). However, it should be mentioned that Heidegger's translation is
no mere copy of Hölderlin's.
This is a many-faceted word even in the Greek, the sort of word in German or Greek
which Heidegger loves to exploit. It can mean: strange, terrible, dangerous, powerful,
skillful, wondrous, etc. Hence it is a word which Heidegger finds richly apt for word
As the authentically Greek definition of man this means that man
is the most strange, the most uncanny, the most ill at ease.
To say that man is Un-
heimlich means that he is cast out of the homely, the familiar, the secure.
There is another section of the chorus, somewhat toward the end of the passage which
he quotes, which Heidegger also finds revelatory of the Greek Dasein. The two words in
this brief passage which Heidegger works over are Dike (oikq), which Heidegger
translates by the German word Fug, and Techne (tc¿vq). The former, Heidegger insists,
must not be translated by the word justice, as taken in some ethical or moral sense.
For in this way the original metaphysical sense of the word is entirely lost. It rather
means the overpowering (das Über-wältigende).
And the word Techne, on the other
hand, means the violent (das Gewaltätige), referring to the violence of knowledge. For
through knowledge this Techne forces the hidden being out into the open, so that it is
made to appear.
And what, or rather who is it that
EM, p. 114. This Unheimlichkeit (Un-zuhause) is another of the rich Heideggerian
terms used in the phenomenological analysis of Dasein in SZ. It is connected with
several of the existentialia; e.g., guilt (SZ, p. 280), Being-in-the-world (SZ, pp. 192,
289); Being-unto-death ("... die Flucht aus der Unheimlichkeit das heisst jetzt vor
dem eigensten Sein zum Tode." SZ, p. 252); anxiety (" Die Angst ängstet sich um das
nackte Dasein als in die Unheimlichkeit geworfenes." SZ, p. 343). See also SZ, p.
287. Heidegger's use of the term with reference to the pre-Socratics may also be in
conscious opposition to the Heimlichkeit or the Heimatlichkeit which Hegel found in
the culture of the Greeks. As Hegel says, "Philosophy is being at home with self, just
like the homeliness of the Greek; it is man's being at home in his mind, at home with
himself." Haldane, Hegel's Lectures, I, 152. See also Ibid., pp. 149 ff.
EM, p. 116.
The German word Fug is most difficult to translate, partially because in normal
German it is used only in compounds. If one remembers that German normally
translates the "out of joint" of Shakespeare's "the time is out of joint" (Hamlet, act I,
sc. 5) by the German word Unfug, it may help. The meaning of the word is something
like proper order, fitness, propriety. Erik Wolf, "Dike bei Anaximander und
Parmenides," Lexis, II (1949), 18, who is a professor at Freiburg, indicates the
ambiguity of Heidegger's translation of Dike by the German word Fug; for he says
that Heidegger's translation fails to say what "Fug fügt."
EM, pp. 115-116.
For a further discussion of the meaning of this word Techne, particularly in the
saying of Anaximander, see Hw, pp. 326-328; and Wolf, "Dike bei Anaximander
makes being come out into the open through the violence of knowing, but Dasein?
Thus the interrelation between Dike and Techne is the strange, the uncanny being that is
Dasein. He is the being that lies caught in the conflict between the two; between the
overpowering being on the one hand, and the violence of knowledge on the other. As
Heidegger says, the being-there (Da-sein) of historical man means to be posited as the
breach against which the overpowering of being breaks in order that this breach should
shatter itself against being.
Relating all this to his analysis of Parmenides B 3, Heidegger says that between the
Dike and the Techne of Sophocles' chorus is the happening of strangeness, the
happening of wonder. And the belonging-together of Noein and Einai of B 3 is nothing
else but this reciprocal relation (Wechselbezug) between Dike and Techne in the
Antigone, with the strangeness of Dasein in the middle.
Heidegger's reasoning here seems to be something like this: since there is this mutual
relation between the violence of knowledge (Techne) and the overpowering order of
being (Dike), and since this mutual relation is itself strangeness (or better, since this
strangeness is born from out of the confrontation); and if Heidegger's assumption as to
the intimate and initial connection between poetic and philosophical
und Parmenides," p. 17. It should be said that Heidegger's interpretations of Dike and
Techne are far from the generally accepted renderings of these words. However, at
least until Plato the word also meant knowing in the broad sense that included both
theoretical and practical knowledge. VA, p. 20. Among the Greeks it meant the
divine and human destiny brought to light. As contrasted with Physis, however, it is
neither art (Kunst) nor is it technology (Technik); it was rather the ability to plan and
direct one's activity freely toward the mastery of institutions. EM, p. 13.
And in Heidegger's view the modern Techne of our technological age represents a
total falsification of this original concept. Science becomes mere investigation
(Forschung). Hw, p. 80. Heidegger's criticism of the modern technology is strong. He
characterizes its thinking as little more than calculation. It is traced historically back
to Plato and Aristotle and finds its perfect embodiment in what is for Heidegger the
ultimate principle of the technological age, namely the "will to power" of Nietzsche.
See Heidegger's various commentaries on Nietzsche, Hw, pp. 193 ff.; also, Nie I, pp.
96 ff., 192 ff.
EM, p. 124.
discourse is correct; then one should expect that the reciprocal bond, the belonging-
together of Noein and Einai, is nothing other than this same relation between Dike and
Techne. And at the heart of both of these reciprocal relations, since they really refer to
the same thing, is the strangeness, the uncanniness which characterizes the Greek
Dasein as authentically and originally stepping into history for the first time. And if all
this is true, then Heidegger feels himself safe in saying that it is in Parmenides B 3 that
for the first time the essence of being human (Menschsein) came to be defined and
delineated as the very strangeness caught in the mutual relation of the violence of
knowledge and the overpowering character of being. Thus was the essence of man
primordially defined from out of the essence of being.
In order to grasp fully exactly where this strangeness or this wonder actually takes
place, one must in Heidegger's view understand "grasping" (Vernehmen) as an attitude
which takes the thing into proper account, which takes being into careful consideration.
For one must appreciate the bearing which Parmenides B 6, the fragment in which the
authentic Logos is connected with Noein, has on the meaning of B 3.
For the reason
why man is here connected with the strange and the wondrous of Sophocles' chorus, and
also as the center of the mutual relation between Noein and Einai is because it is man
who does the gathering in this process of Logos (ìc¸iv, Latin legere, German legen).
This is, says Heidegger, why in Parmenides B 6 the Legein comes to be mentioned
before Noein; it is from the Legein that the Noein takes its essence as a gathering
grasping (versammelndes Vernehmen).
And it is exactly here for Heidegger that the essence of man was first determined among
the Greeks. This essence of man is determined in and from out of a confrontation with
things as such within the whole (Seienden als solchem im Ganzen).
In fact, man as
this "gathering-taking in" shows himself in this process of "Logos-izing" as exactly
EM, p. 129.
Parmenides B 6 is studied in the following section. The deeper development of the
pre-Socratic concept of Logos must wait until the chapter on Heraclitus.
The notion of Seiende im Ganzen in Heidegger is by no means an easy one. In WG
and in Nie I, p. 471 it is equated with Heidegger's concept of world, which is possibly
even more complex. One might say that it means "every-thing." However,
tion to things as such within the whole. It is first and foremost to man that being first
opens itself up.
Nevertheless, although it is true that in Parmenides' maxim the determination of the
essence of man first takes place, the end product regarding the connection
(Zusammenhang) between being and Dasein ends up with the parting of company
between authentic Logos and Physis the Greek expression: úv0peaoç=çq` ov ìo¸ov s¿ov
(man is a reason-possessing animal). However, with this the original and authentic
meaning of Logos has been totally lost: or else such a definition of man would never
have been made. For in this statement it is no longer being that defines the nature of
being human; it is the Logos. This is not, of course, the
Seiende im Ganzen (as world) is not a Kantian totality. For Kant "... das Wort Welt,
im transzendentalen Verstande, die absolute Totalität des Inbegriffes existierender
Dinge bedeutet ..." (Kritik der reinen Vernunft, A 420, B 447). For Kant the concept
of world is an idea of pure reason, since it could never be an object of any possible
experience. Heidegger strictly repudiates any such notion of world in WM. "Am
Ende besteht ein wesenhafter Unterschied zwischen dem Erfassen des Ganzen des
Seienden an sich und dem Sichbefinden inmitten des Seienden im Ganzen." WM, p.
30. The former, an abstract concept of world as the totality of things in general is
quite impossible. Indeed, there is such an "Idee" concerning das Ganze des Seienden,
but this idea has no existential import whatsoever. The latter notion of world as a
being among things within the whole (basically Heidegger's notion of Being-in-the
world, SZ, pp. 52 ff.) is not only possible but normal. WM, p. 31. In EM, as we have
seen, this being within the whole (Seiende im Ganzen as world) is that from out of
which Dasein de-fines himself. In WW this Seiende im Ganzen is revealed as Physis,
Natur, and it is in the authentic questioning of this on the part of Dasein that we have
the beginning of western history, and the authentic de-finition of men. WW, p. 16.
Hence, the world, at least in Heidegger's earlier works, makes possible Dasein's
transcendence. As he says in WG, man's transcendence takes place within this
wholeness (Ganzheit). WG, pp. 19-23. "Welt meint eher ein Wie des Seins des
Seienden als dieses selbst. Dieses Wie bestimmt das Seiende im Ganzen." WG, P. 24.
The most recent concept of world in Heidegger is even more difficult to understand
and to relate to his earlier ideas on the subject. This is the world as the "foursome"
(Geviert): "Wir nennen das im Dingen der Dinge verweilte einige Geviert von
Himmel und Erde, Sterblichen und Göttlichen: die Welt." US, p. 22. This latter
notion of world does not seem to have been wholly worked out in Heidegger's
EM, p. 130.
original and authentic Logos in its total dependence upon being; it is rather the Logos
that has come to mean simply reason.
For Heidegger the disclosure in the beginning of the authentic relation between being
and thinking, as it has reference to being human, might best be formulated in a Greek
manner in this way: uoiç = ìo¸oç úv0peaov s¿ev (being is the Logos which possesses
man). This in Heidegger's opinion more truly expresses the way in which man was
originally defined and authentically defines himself from out of his relation to things
within the whole. But with a Logos that has become externalized into a mere faculty of
understanding or of reason, any such statement of the original but authentic opening up
of being to man can only sound absurd.
This is largely because we have totally ceased
to think in terms of an authentic notion of thinking which opens up the thing (seiend),
but which does so in a "collecting-taking-in-to-account" manner such that it puts the
thing back into its being (Sein).
Thus when the Logos becomes simply reason, and that which it collects becomes Idea,
both being and the being of man suffer irreparable damage. For man is then no longer
defined, nor is he able to define himself, from out of his relation to Physis; reason,
which is a mere faculty of a falsified concept of man, comes to define man. Being is no
longer the overwhelming, emerging dominance, but becomes totally subservient to Idea.
This process has been seen in greater detail in the previous chapter. Here the beginnings
of this process become more clear.
There comes a parting of the ways (Auseinandertreten) between Logos and Physis, and
this occurs already in Parmenides. Nevertheless, there was not in Parmenides anything
like the complete walking out (Heraustreten) on being. This did not occur until Physis
had become completely veiled and totally misinterpreted in accordance with the
lordship of reason (Herrschaft des Denkens als ratio); in which case not only was being
but also the Dasein of man became mutilated beyond any possible recognition, or at
least beyond anything but an origin-al, rethinking re-cognition.
An indication of this mutilation, this time from the side of being, is to be found in the
fact that being for Parmenides, according to Heidegger,
EM, p. 134.
EM, p. 136.
was not eternal. Being became eternal only when with Aristotle Ousia became the
permanent presence (ständige Anwesenheit) or when it became an eternal idea in the
philosophy of Plato. For only after this are such distinctions as the following to be
found: between being and becoming (Werden), between being and appearance (Schein),
between being and the ought (Sollen). For very soon becoming and appearance and the
ought come to be defined from out of the perspective of thought, just as was being.
But with Parmenides being and thinking still belonged to each other.
together. And because of this basic belonging-together do we have a true interlacing, a
true involvement (Verflechtung) of man and being.
This is the important significance
of Parmenides B 3 for Heidegger. As he puts it cryptically, the grasping of things
belongs to being because it is determined and exacted by being.
And being human is
necessarily involved in this process because as soon as we say being human, we mean
exactly this knowing-grasping-relation to being. When we ask, as did the ancient
Greeks, after the relation between things and man, the very mention of the word man
expresses the relation to being.
This is the important significance of Parmenides'
Fragment Three for the western philosophical tradition.
PARMENIDES B 6
Much of what may have remained obscure in Heidegger's treatment of Parmenides'
Fragment Three as it was outlined principally in his Einführung in die Metaphysik may
be made somewhat clearer in the analysis of Parmenides B 6 which Heidegger
undertakes in the later work Was heisst Denken?
EM, pp. 147-148. Becoming becomes impermanence (Nichtbleiben), and appearance
becomes illusion and the incorrect (Unrichtige) even the actually fallacious
(Falschheit). EM, p. 149.
ID, p. 18. See also ID, p. 21.
ID, p. 23.
"Zum Sein gehört, weil von ihm gefordert und bestimmt, das Vernehmen des
Seienden." Hw, p. 83.
WD, p. 74.
As was mentioned, EM was published from out of lectures given in 1935; WD, on
the other hand, from lectures delivered in 1951-1952.
Heidegger's treatment of B 6, just as was his analysis of B 3, is in connection with what
is for him a specific historical problem. And here it is the historical problem of the
meaning of the Logos and authentic thinking.
The fragment is quoted as follows: ¿pq to ìc¸iv t voi`v t' sov sµµvui. Heidegger
also makes note of the standard translation of the fragment in Diels-Kranz, "It is
necessary to say and to think, that being is."
The fragment, he notes, can be made to
say two things: first of all, that there is not nothing; secondly, to the basic characteristic
of things belongs the "es ist" (i.e., being).
Heidegger's methodology in exegesis is the same here as it was in the treatment of B 3.
He analyzes the various words involved in the fragment for their deeper meaning and
significance. There is (a) the ¿pq (nötig), (b) to ìc¸iv t voi`v (das Sagen so Denken
auch), (c) sov (Seiendes), and (d) sµµvui (Sein).
However, before he proceeds to his word-by-word analysis, Heidegger feels it necessary
to point out, first of all, that the proposition comes forth from a thinker. Secondly, he
feels it necessary to note that the proposition is "parataktisch."
This fact would in
Heidegger's view serve to justify the type of individual word-by-word analysis which he
here employs, and which he also employed with B 3. Finally, he says, it should also be
noted that the fragment represents a command.
Heidegger begins his analysis with the word ¿pq, a word which comes from ¿pue (to be
fated, to be necessary), both of which words Heidegger sees as related etymologically
with ¿ip (hand). From this etymological connection he concludes that the word means
"to have at hand," "to use," "to need."
However, in the fragment the word is used
impersonally, such as with the impersonal verb es regnet (it is raining). Hence, the
WD, p. 105.
"Nötig ist zu sagen und zu denken, dass das Seiende ist." WD, p. 105. In the most
recent edition of DK the translation reads as follows, "Nötig ist zu sagen und zu
denken, dass nur das Seiende ist." DK, I, p. 232.
WD, p. 106.
WD, p. III.
This means that there is a placing of related words in a series one next to the other
without the use of connective words: e.g., veni, vidi, vici.
WD, p. 114.
word in the fragment must mean es braucht (it is needed).
The fact that the first word
of the proposition is an impersonal form of the verb, however, indicates that the
proposition itself is to be taken impersonally,
its meaning somewhere in the
neighborhood of "es gibt." A good translation, Heidegger suggests, might be "es ist
nötig," if this is understood not as a mere requirement (Bedürfnis),
but rather as a
need in the sense of a blind coercive "must."
Thus in this word there is an order or a
command which is given. It is an impersonal order, but no less a necessary one.
Concerning the next words which he chooses to analyze, Heidegger permits us to
translate ìc¸iv (Sagen) and voi`v (Denken) in accordance with their dictionary
meanings of saying and thinking. In fact, he says, it is in the Parmenidean fragments
that the true meaning of thinking comes to be expressed for the first time in the history
of western thought.
The word Legein is, in Heidegger's view, essentially the same word as the Latin legere
and the German word legen.
The original meaning of Legein does not come out of the
later meaning of "saying"; rather, Legein as "saying" arises from out of the more
original Legein as legen. For saying and thinking are declared to be the same in
Parmenides B 6.
However, Heidegger insists, this was so only because "saying" was
already for the Greeks legen.
"Es braucht viel Zeit," in German means, "It takes (requires, needs) a great deal of
WD, p. 115.
In a probable reference to Kant. See the introduction to the Kritik der reinen
Vernunft, B 21.
Heidegger speaks of it as "... ein Müssen im Sinne eines blinden Zwanges." WD, p.
WD, p. 119.
WD, p. 120.
WD, p. 121. As in such German compounds as vorlegen ("to lay a proposition before
someone "), darlegen ("to lay open a plan "), überlegen (" to think something over ").
VA, p. 242.
WD, p. 122. In this context Heidegger refers to his "Logos" article in VA, pp. 207-
229. However, since this deals primarily with the Logos of Heraclitus, it is left until
the next chapter.
Looking even more deeply into the original meaning of Legein, Heidegger explains that
when we lay something down, or "lay in" (e.g., supplies, hinlegen), or set something
before us (vorlegen; e.g., lay a proposition before someone), we bring it to lie (Liegen).
It is then something put before us, something presenting itself (Vorliegendes), as, for
example, the sea or the mountains. But "to lie" (Liegen) is in Greek ki`o0ui, and
something lying before us (Vorliegende) is in the same language uaokiµvov, i.e.,
subiectum (subject). It is something lying before us, a city, a house, etc. It is a 0coiç,
something set (Gesetzte). Legen, then, is the "lie" (Lage, the position), in which
something (e.g., one's golf ball) lies (liegt).
This original Legen as a letting lie before tells us a great deal about the Legein of the
authentic Greek Logos. For if we say anything about something, we let it lie before us
as such and such, and that means that we allow it to appear to us at the same time. This
bringing into prominence (Vorschein, pro-eminere) and letting it lie before us is the
essence of the Greek Legein and hence of the Logos.
In this passage and elsewhere in Heidegger's discussion of the meaning of the word
Logos the philosopher uses the word lassen in connection with the Vorliegen which he
finds to characterize the essence of the Greek Logos. The word vorliegenlassen
normally has the meaning of "leave lying." However, it must be remembered that
although lassen does mean "to let, allow, or leave," it can also have a more active
meaning as well, such as "to make, cause, or have done." Both of these somewhat
contradictory notions of lassen must somehow be preserved in rendering Heidegger's
The word may mean some-
WD, p. 122. This going back and forth between Greek and German (and even Latin)
is a normal Heideggerian linguistic procedure. Greek and German are the most
powerful and spiritual of languages (EM, p. 43), and they are also related
philosophically (EM, p. 54).
WD, p. 123. The English expression, "Let me put it this way" may be of some
assistance in understanding Heidegger's rendering of Legein by the German legen;
except that in "putting it" in this manner, one must try to prescind from all such later
ideas as "saying," even though the English expression helps to show how such a
meaning could evolve linguistically.
See R. B. Farrell, Dictionary of German Synonyms (Cambridge: University Press,
1955), pp. 192 ff., esp. pp. 205-210.
thing like this: We make something to lie authentically before us by leaving it lie where
it is. For the important thing which Heidegger wishes to convey by his rendering of this
root word for the Greek Logos is its close connection with being. The authentic Logos
does not abstract from being, nor is it so abstracted. It is not, as later, given a status
independent of being. It is, rather, totally and authentically "in tune" with the wave
frequency of being, not because it represents some purely passive receptivity, but
because it truly lets what is, be as it is.
Next Heidegger turns to the meaning of Noein, which, as in the Einführung, he had
translated as grasping (vernehmen). He explains that Parmenides' Noein means a certain
"taking in" (aufnehmen), as a father might take his son into the business. It is no mere
passive receptivity (Rezeptivität); it is something active.
It is, as Heidegger says, to
pay careful attention to something, to "be-wary" of it (In-die-Acht-nehmen). Authentic
Noein becomes a-ware (ver-nimmt) beforehand of that which it be-wares of (in die Acht
This wariness (Acht) is the watch (Wacht) which takes that which lies before
it in truth.
The authentic Greek way of thinking lets that which lies before us come to us simply as
it is. Authentic Greek knowing is always careful lest it damage the thing in the process
of knowing it. This is, as Heidegger insists, no mere passivity; and on this score he
compares the Greek view of knowing with that of Kant.
It is rather an active "taking
in," but at the same time a "taking in" which is careful to preserve that which it takes in
as it is. One can see immediately why the knowing of the poet is for Heidegger
something approaching the ideal of true thinking. The poet does not mutilate that which
he takes to himself, for example, in accordance with some idea or system. The poet
accepts things in and for themselves, and is careful to preserve them in this form, in
their form. The Greek Noein, according to Heidegger, had this same respectful attitude
Taking the Legein and the Noein of Parmenides B 6 together Heidegger finds that they
contain this message: We must allow that which lies before us to lie before us by being
careful to leave it be as it is. As Heidegger says, putting the two notions together, when
we allow the
WD, p. 124. Heidegger here emphasizes the active side of lassen.
WD, p. 125.
WD, p. 172.
WD, p. 124.
sea to lie before us as it lies, then we are in Legein already near by (bereits dabei); we
are right there to hold that which so lies before us in careful and attentive consideration.
Thus it becomes clear for Heidegger why Noein as a " being wary," a taking care not to
damage that which we "take in," must be determined in and through the meaning of
Legein. And this serves to justify the methodology of treating the notion of Logos
which Heidegger finds buried in Parmenides and Heraclitus as the most fundamental
notion in Heidegger's re-thinking of the Greeks' thinking on being. This notion of the
Logos is important not only in order to appreciate the true relation between Logos and
Physis in the thought of the pre Socratics. It is also important if we are to appreciate
the way in which this unity of opposites which was held together in Parmenides and
Heraclitus came apart thereafter, and how the falsified Logos of logic came to set up
court over being. It is also important, as may be clear, for the insight it gives into
Heidegger's own thought.
Heidegger is convinced that no greater mistake could possibly be made than to view the
Greek Noein in terms of conceptualization (Begreifen).
Both concept (Begriff) and
system are equally foreign to any Greek way of thinking.
Thus having determined the meaning of the first words in Parmenides B 6, and most
particularly the meaning of the Legein-Noein framework (Gefüge),
turns to the last two words: (c) sov, and (d) sµµvui. For the context or framework to
which Legein and Noein belong is that to which they are related, i.e., to Eon (things).
But when we carefully listen to the maxim itself, cautions Heidegger, we hear that
Legein and Noein relate themselves to Emmenai (being) as well as to Eon. The question
then becomes: How does the care-ful leaving be of Noein and Legein relate itself to
things (Seiendes, Eon)? How does this Noein relate itself to being (Sein, Emmenai)?
Do these two words (Eon and Emmenai) possibly mean the same thing?
WD, p. 125.
WD, p. 128.
WD, p. 129.
Both belong within the same framework (Gefüge). WD, p. 173.
WD, p. 130.
WD, p. 131. Emmenai is simply the epic Greek form of Einai, i.e., the infinitive "to
Heidegger notes that as a participle "Seiendes" (Eon) is able to have the meaning both
of a noun and a verb. Thus, just as "Blühendes" (blooming) means both ein Blühendes
(a blooming thing) and blühen (to bloom), so also does Seiendes mean both a being
(Seiendes, a thing) and "to-be" (Sein, being).
However, Heidegger insists that the
participle Eon is not just one participle among countless others. Rather it is that
participle in which all the other possible ones are collected and contained.
There is a
fundamentally twofold character (Zwiefalt) to the participle Eon. And on this score it is
completely peculiar among all participles; for according to this participle a thing exists
(west) in being, and being exists as the being of something (Seienden).
distinction between noun and verb did not, however, first come out of grammar, nor did
it first appear in logic. It came with Plato. The Latin word participium is a translation of
the Greek µtc¿iv, which as "taking part" (Teilhaben, participation) becomes one of
the key words in Plato's thought. However, since being was idea for Plato, he
characterized the relation of every thing to its idea as µc0çiç (participation). Heidegger
agrees that Plato's interpretation of things as participating in being had a grammatical
basis right within the participle itself.
Nevertheless, it had the unfortunate result in
the later grammars of making that which lay before us and which we care-fully take in,
namely, the Eon and the Emmenai in the Eon (i.e., Sein des Seienden, the being of
things), become paramount to the almost total neglect of being itself.
It must be remembered, says Heidegger, that we do not really put across (übersetzen)
the real significance of Eon and Emmenai merely by the translation (Übersetzung) into
the German (Seiendes, Sein) or into the Latin (ens, esse). In order to make a proper
rendering of the words we must bring over all the other words of the maxim
(herüberzubringen) as well.
In an attempt to make an adequate rendering of these words so crucial for the history of
the West, Heidegger resets the problem. When we say being, he says, we really mean
the being of things; when we say things we mean things with reference to their being.
We constantly speak from out of this "twofold" (Zwiefalt).
WD, p. 135.
WD, pp. 137-138, 140.
WD, p. 174.
WD, pp. 133-134.
WD, pp. 134, 174.
WD, p. 134.
gave an interpretation of this twofold which was absolutely crucial for western
metaphysics. He put each one of the "twofold" in a different place, and then proceeded
to concern himself with the "other place."
In other words, in the later tradition which we have come to call metaphysics, the
participle Eon, which could grammatically have either the noun or the verbal meaning,
was torn apart in the thought of Plato and placed in two entirely separate and distinct
places. This was an "ontological difference" of sorts, but of the wrong sort, in
Heidegger's view. For in the more original and authentic Greek tradition there was the
oneness of Legein and Noein, the authentic Greek thinking, which was the
"commodious" context (Gefüge) of a careful taking-in of that which lay before. And
what was it that the "commodious" Legein and Noein accommodated itself (sich fügt) to
but the Eon Emmenai?
For Noein as together in the same frame with Legein means to be wary, to pay care-
ful and close attention to Eon Emmenai. But this latter is not the twofold participial Eon
(noun and verb) of Plato and later metaphysics. The Eon Emmenai, as should be clear
from B 3, is in Parmenides not a twofold, but a "one-fold." For what else could
authentic Greek thinking have reference to except being, and being for Parmenides was
Einai (das Sein). Hence, the Eon Emmenai of Parmenides B 6 is the same as the Einai
of B 3. And as has been seen from the analysis of B 3, the meaning is that knowing,
authentic thinking must belong together with being.
Nevertheless, this original view of Parmenides on authentic knowing in its intimate
relation to being was not to prevail in the West. As Heidegger explains, the word Eon
means "the presencing" (Anwesende), but Emmenai, Einai means "to presence "
From the beginning the Greeks understood being as the presence of the
presencing (Anwesen des Anwesenden), or perhaps better, the "to presence" of the
presencing. And immediately in this "twofold" one begins to sense the possibility of
error. For although, as Heidegger says, one finds much discussion about essences and
about the essence of the presence (Wesen des Anwesens), there is relatively little
mention of that "to presence" itself. Heidegger, it must be recalled, insists that the
"wesen " of Anwesen
WD, pp. 174-175.
WD, p. 139.
WD, p. 146.
WD, p. 143.
must be understood verbally, and not as a noun. For the Greeks the word connoted
perduring and duration. The word was a Zeit-wort (a time-word, a verb).
And yet Parmenides has said that being and thinking are the same. How could they
possibly be the same? Being as the "to presence" of the presencing (Anwesen des
Anwesenden) is hardly the same as "taking-into-care-ful-account" (In-die-Acht-nehmen).
And yet Parmenides says that they are both the same. How? asks Heidegger. They
belong together, says Parmenides, as to uuto. These words do not mean that they are
identical (das Gleich), which, according to Heidegger, would rather be óµoiov in Greek.
It rather means a certain belonging-together (Zusammengehörigkeit).
explains the matter cryptically, thinking first becomes thinking when it thinks on (an-
This belonging-together, as Heidegger sees it explained in B 6, is such that being names
that which thinking, i.e., the Legein-Noein framework, means in its essence.
why does thinking belong to being? First of all, because thinking only really becomes
thinking when it thinks on being. Secondly, because thinking belongs together as
thinking with being, and thereby belongs to being itself.
This has been seen in the
previous section in connection with Heidegger's consideration of the type of oneness to
be found in Parmenides. Thinking could only belong to being, or else it would not be.
As he says, the grasping of things in their being must also belong to being.
Clearly, this "belonging" (Zugehörigkeit) does not occur in the locale of the perceivable.
It can occur, Heidegger says, only in the area of the non-sensible (Nichtsinnlichen).
There is here an ontological belonging together, in which and to which Dasein as the
ontological relation to being that he is can involve himself through his authentically
thinking on being.
WD, p. 143. See Chapter 3, notes 51 and 64.
WD, p. 147.
WD, p. 149. One might say, when it remembers to think on being, i.e., it "be-thinks"
WD, p. 146.
WD, pp. 146-149. Also Nie I, p. 528.
Hw, p. 83.
VA, p. 238.
In the beginning Parmenides grasped the meaning of thinking, of authentic knowing and
grasping, within the framework of Legein and Noein, and this thinking was together
with being in oneness. It became thinking by authentically thinking on, by remembering
to think on being, in contrast to the later thinking of a falsified Logos of metaphysics
which tended to forget being. It was in oneness with being because it was an authentic
way of being. That being upon which it thought was the "to presence" of the presencing
(Anwesen des Anwesenden). Parmenides grasped this being in its presence, and also in
its oneness. As Heidegger says, the twofold (Zwiefalt) character of being as such, and
much less the unfolding (Entfaltung) of this twofold character of being, remained
unthought by Parmenides.
Later thinkers, however, saw in this twofold character of the participle being a way of
understanding things in their being. From this way of thinking came participation in the
philosophy of Plato. Aristotle and others simply concentrated upon the nature of
thinghood or of things in general. But from here on the relationship of togetherness
between thinking and being could only be disrupted. For the contextual framework of
authentic thinking has ceased to relate itself to the "to presence" (Anwesen) of the
presencing, and concentrated instead upon the presencing (Anwesende), the present.
Eventually this thinking came to be a mere picturing of the presencing, and thinking
was made to stand off from being. It could no longer be one with being, a being which
could only cease to be the "to presence" of the presencing, and could only become the
mere presencing, the present.
VA, p. 245. This came with Plato and Aristotle. The "unchought" (Ungedachte) is an
important dimension in Heidegger's historical studies. (See ID, p. 44). He will often
say that he is interested in a particular thinker's thought not primarily for what is said,
or even for what the thinker has left unsaid, but rather that which remains unthought
in the thinker's thought.
Heraclitus : The Logos
Possibly no question in the history of ancient western thought is more widely
discussed by classical scholars or more widely disputed than the meaning of the
Logos in the fragments of Heraclitus.
And possibly no concept is more
fundamental to an understanding of Heraclitus. And certainly no concept could be
more basic than the meaning of the Logos for understanding Heidegger's
interpretation of the pre Socratics.
It was the togetherness of Logos and Physis which in Heidegger's view made the
thought of the pre-Socratics truly great. And it was the gradual parting company of
this togetherness which accounts in large measure for the beginning of metaphysics
in the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, and hence also of the forgetting of being
which has unfortunately characterized the history of western thought on being since
Heidegger's most lengthy treatments of the meaning of the Logos in Heraclitus are
to be found in the essay "Logos," published in Vorträge und Aufsätze, and in his
Einführung in die Metaphysik. It must be remembered, however, that the Logos
finds its way into any discussion concerning speech or language, being for the
Greeks, logic, or the pre Socratics. And these topics tend to crop up very often in
It must first of all be borne in mind that for Heidegger—and this is true throughout
his works—there are two, and very much opposed, senses to the word Logos. There
is the true Logos, the rightly under-
Reinhardt has put the problem of the Heraclitean Logos in a nutshell when he
says, "... der sagt auch nichts und verbirgt auch nichts, sondern er deutet an." Karl
Reinhardt, Parmenides und die Geschichte der griechischen Philosophie (2 ed.;
Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 1959), p. 63. The Heraclitean fragments give
hints concerning the meaning of Logos for Heraclitus, but little more.
and there is the Logos which has been falsified to mean reason, concept,
judgment, etc. This distinction between the true Heraclitean or pre-Socratic Logos so
intimately connected with Physis, and the Logos made over into an over-bearing logic is
fundamental to an understanding of Heidegger's treatment of the concept, or rather the
reality of Logos. This distinction between the true and the false Logos is to be found
commencing with Sein und Zeit.
And as one proceeds through the works of Heidegger,
the treatment of the true Logos, and the history of how the falsified Logos came to set
itself up, increase both in space and in depth of treatment.
The Logos of Heraclitus is essentially the same as the Logos in Legein that Heidegger
discovered in Parmenides B 6. Heidegger refuses to see any opposition between the
thought of Parmenides and that of Heraclitus.
In his view both Parmenides and
Heraclitus say essentially the same thing regarding the essential meaning of the Logos
in its fundamental and necessary connection with being.
In order to understand properly the original meaning of the Greek Logos we must,
according to Heidegger, appreciate the fact that the word comes from the root Legein,
which like the Latin word legere, or the German word lesen in such expressions as
Ährenleser (one who gathers in the grain) or Weinleser (one who picks or gathers in the
grapes), has the meaning of gather or collect (sammeln). The gleaner (Ährenleser) picks
or gathers or collects the grains that have dropped or
See, for example, PhA, p. 271.
SZ, pp. 32-34. In this context Heidegger is concerned primarily with the meaning of
the original Logos of phenomenology; or with the Logos of "Logik" which must
somehow be rooted in the existential analysis of Dasein. SZ, p. 160. See also SZ, pp.
165-166, where the Logos is connected with the original meaning of language for the
As also does Reinhardt, Parmenides, pp. 308 ff. There is no question for Reinhardt
but that there is a relation of dependence between Heraclitus and Parmenides; the
problem is to determine in which direction the relation of dependence lies. Heidegger
insists only that both say essentially the same thing; hence, they must hold the same
doctrine regarding the Logos. EM, p. 74. G. S. Kirk suggests a connection between
the homogeneous being of Parmenides and the oneness of the Logos of Heraclitus.
Kirk, Heraclitus: The Cosmic Fragments (Cambridge: University Press, I954), p. 69.
been lost from the bundles. The wine gatherer (Weinleser) picks the grapes from the
vines and brings them together for the purpose of making the wine. Another word in
this connection and also in common use in the Black Forest is Holz-lesen (wood-
gathering). People go out into the woods to pick up the branches and twigs blown down
from the trees by the wind. Logos means nothing else but this gathering or collecting
And just as the German word Sammlung means both the collecting
(Sammeln) and the collected (Gesammeltheit), so also does Logos mean the collecting
collected (sammelnde Gesammeltheit).
Heidegger realizes that it may be urged against his preliminary linguistic interpretation
of the Heraclitean Logos that in both Fragments 50 and 73 that the Logos seems to be
connected with speech or discourse, i.e., that which is for Heidegger a later and a
But the fact that in B 50 we are cautioned to listen not to words but
to the Logos is an indication to Heidegger that the meaning of Logos as word or
discourse is not the more primitive and original meaning of Logos which Heraclitus has
And secondly, Heidegger points out that Heraclitus often uses the word
óçuvtoi (those who do not grasp) to refer to those who do not bring together (collect)
as they should.
And, of course, that which they fail to bring together is the Logos, that
which, as is clear to Heidegger from the meaning of Fragments One and Two, is the
For there are three things which the analysis of B I and B 2 of Heraclitus' fragments
indicates to Heidegger: namely, (a) permanence is a characteristic of the Logos; (b) the
Logos exists as the together in things; it is the togetherness of things, the collecting; and
finally, (c) all that happens comes to be in accord with this permanent togetherness
EM, p. 98.
EM, p. 95.
EM, p. 98.
See SZ, p. 32.
Heraclitus' fragment B 50, to which Heidegger here refers and to which he will return
later, reads in translation as follows: "When you have listened, not to me but to the
Law (Logos), it is wise to agree that all things are one." Kathleen Freeman, Ancilla to
the Pre-Socratic Philosophers (Oxford: Blackwell, 1956), p. 28.
Heraclitus B 34.
(ständigen Zusammen), this "standing together."
The Logos of Heraclitus, says
Heidegger, is itself the collection of things.
Nevertheless, this Logos is not to be understood as some sort of logical genus,
collecting all things within itself in a purely logical fashion. The meaning of Logos as a
true gathering-collecting can become clear only in the light of the meaning which being
as Physis had for the Greeks. And as has been seen, being for the Greeks had two
meanings, or rather two sides. It was the coming forth (aufgehende) and the
predominating (Walten). As contrasted with becoming, being for the Greeks was
permanent presence (ständige Anwesenheit); and as contrasted with appearance, being
was the revealing presence (offenbare Anwesenheit).
These two aspects of the
meaning of being for the Greeks must always be kept in mind, not only in order to
understand the way in which being and Logos came to take different paths but also in
order to understand the original meaning of the Logos as the collecting-collected, the
For just as being had these two aspects, so also did the original notion of Logos,
because of its intimate union with being. One of these original aspects of Logos as
Legein means to make open or to reveal that which is hidden or covered over. This
aspect of Logos allows being to show itself off in its own presence.
This is the
appearing side of Physis, which is authentically collected in and by the Logos. It is this
aspect of being gathered in and through the Logos which the Greeks experienced from
out of the truth as óìq0iu, i.e., from out of the opening up of the hiding place.
The other aspect of Logos as Legein is, in the view of Heidegger, that
EM, p. 98.
EM, p. 99.
EM, p. 96.
PhA, p. 271.
Hw, p. 325. Similar connections between the authentic Logos and the original notion
of truth among the Greeks are made in SZ, pp. 219-220; VA, p. 247; VA, p. 220.
Boeder, who follows Heidegger fairly closely, agrees that the original Greek notion
of truth means "unverborgen sein" (Heribert Boeder, "Der frühgriechische
Wortgebrauch von Logos und Aletheia," Archiv für Begriffsgeschichte [Bonn:
Bouvier, 1959], IV, 92), and also agrees with this connection of the authentic Logos
with the Greek notion of truth. Ibid., p. 97. Minar is a little less enthusiastic with this
view: "The ìo¸oç doubtless does carry to some extent the implication of 'truth,' but
since the use of the word specifically as equal to 'truth' is late, if indeed it occurs at
all ... it may be well to look for more specific implications." E. L. Minar, "The Logos
of Heraclitus," Classical Philology, XXXIV (1939), 331.
of permanence. The Logos is the permanent, as well as the appearing collection. It is in
itself the collection of things (Seienden), that is, at least for the Greeks, being (Sein)
And thus from these two dovetailing aspects of Physis and the authentic Logos,
Heidegger can conclude that in Heraclitus B I the kuto tov ìo¸ov is exactly the same as
the kuto uoiv. In other words, for Heraclitus, Logos and Physis refer to the same
And from these first two fragments of Heraclitus
concerning the meaning of the
Logos Heidegger can also conclude that speaking and hearing are right (rechtes) only
when they are in themselves already directed (gerichtet) toward being and toward the
And regarding those who do not hear the Logos,
these as the ones who are unable to bring their Dasein to stand in and among the being
of things. And those who are truly able to bring their Dasein to stand in and among the
being of things are those who have truly mastered the word (Wort), namely, the thinkers
and the poets. This point must be returned to later. Suffice it here to say that the thinkers
and the poets truly grasp the message that is the Logos. They truly bring their Dasein to
stand in the being of things by their authentic encounter with it. Because being as Logos
is in a truly original sense a collection, and hence because rank (Rang) and mastery
(Herrschaft) belong of necessity to being,
only those such as the poets and the
thinkers, who encounter being in its manifold collectedness, know how to master
(beherrschen), to become conversant with, to listen to and speak of this Logos.
One might wish to know more precisely exactly who it is, and possibly more in accord
with the fragments of Heraclitus, that truly grasps the Logos. One may also wish a more
exact determination of exactly what it is that those who grasp this Logos come to know.
And for the answer to these questions one must turn to Heidegger's lengthy account of
Heraclitus B 50. In the Freeman translation B 50 reads: "When you have listened, not to
me but to the Law (Logos), it is wise
EM, p. 100.
Heraclitus B I, B 2. See Freeman, Ancilla, pp. 24-25.
EM, p. 101.
Heraclitus B 19: "Men who do not know how to listen or how to speak." Freeman,
Ancilla, p. 26.
EM, p. 101.
to agree that all things are one."
Heidegger admits that Heraclitus is indeed
considering hearing and speaking. However, this is speaking in a wholly original sense.
Heraclitus says what the Logos speaks, namely sv auvtu, Eins ist alles,
the One is
The key to this puzzling statement uttered by Heraclitus must lie, in Heidegger's
opinion, in the meaning of the word Logos. This word, he notes, has been rendered in a
wide variety of fashions from ancient times right down to the present. It has been
translated as reason,
the logical, etc. However,
Freeman, Ancilla, p. 28. Heidegger quotes Bruno Snell, "Die Sprache Heraklits,"
Hermes, VI (1926), 353-381, and can be seen to agree with Snell on several points of
VA, p. 207.
Minar agrees that Logos can hardly mean reason in Heraclitus, or in any of the pre-
Socratics for that matter. Minar, "The Logos of Heraclitus," p. 328. As also John
Burnet, Early Greek Philosophy (New York: Meridian, 1957), p. 133, n. I.
At one point Heidegger claims that Christianity was responsible for the
misinterpretation given the Heraclitean Logos, since that Logos was thought to be a
prefiguration of the Logos of St. John's gospel. EM, p. 97. In his commentary on EM
at this point Wahl remarks dryly: "En réalité, cela a été dit assez rarement, et ce n'est
pas cela qui fait que la théorie d'Heraclite a été difficile à étudier." Jean Wahl, Vers la
Fin de l'Ontologie (Paris: Sedes, 1956), p. 136. It is unfortunately true that the
prologue to St. John's gospel has sometimes been interpreted after a Greek
philosophical, rather than after a Hebrew theological manner (see A. Jones, "The
Word is a Seed," The Bridge (New York: Pantheon, 1956), II, 13-34; however, this
resulted more in a falsification of St. John's gospel rather than a falsification of
Heraclitus' Logos. For it was generally the Stoic rather than the Heraclitean Logos
which exerted such a strong influence upon the minds of some of the early Christian
thinkers. See also M. E. Boismard, St. John's Prologue (Westminster: Newman,
1957), esp. pp. 82 ff.; and G. L. Prestige, God in Patristic Thought (London: S. P. C.
K., 1956), Chapter 6, esp. pp. 123-125 ff.
As Owens points out, "The use of the term in the sense of a cosmic principle cannot
be found previous to the Stoics. Plato and Aristotle show no awareness of any such
cosmic meaning of ìo¸oç in Heraclitus." Joseph Owens, "The Interpretation of the
Heraclitean fragments," An Etienne Gilson Tribute, ed. C. O'Neill (Milwaukee:
Marquette University Press, 1959), p. 156. See also Kirk, Heraclitus, p. 63, and
Minar, "The Logos of Heraclitus," p. 325. Gigon also notes that a cosmic meaning
before the Stoics is unknown. Olof Gigon, Untersuchungen zu Heraklit (Leipzig:
Dieterich, 1935), p. 4.
In Aristotle, according to Heidegger.
insists that if Logos truly derives from Legein, then Logos must mean saying and
speaking. This Heidegger does not deny, and as will become clear in his treatment on
language, it is exactly the Logos which he uses to ground his view of authentic language
in its original and authentic connection with being. The point which Heidegger wishes
to make here is that although it is true that Logos as Legein does have reference to
language, it is speech (as primordial Sagen) which derives from the Logos, and not the
Logos from speech.
As he says, it is quite true that Sagen is Legein, but that does not
mean that Legein is merely Sagen.
Hence in order to understand the original and authentic meaning of Logos, as well as its
derived meaning in language, and ultimately its decline into logic, it is necessary to go
back beyond Logos as speaking to Legein as legere, as lesen, taking lesen, of course, in
the sense seen above, namely as collecting (sammeln). This is lesen as in Auslese,
picking and selecting (verlesen) the best grapes, and col-lecting them together in order
to make the best wine (Auslese).
This is for Heidegger the original meaning of Logos
as Legein. As he says, Legein means authentically the collecting laying down of itself
and other things.
Nevertheless, Heidegger also wants to know how Legein as legen could have come to
mean saying and speaking. As such legen means to bring to lie (zum Liegen bringen),
and therefore suggests lesen in the sense of bringing together into consideration
(zusammen-ins-Vorliegen-bringen). Legen, then, is already lesen. It means to bring to
lie; and it also means to let lie (Liegen lassen).
At this point in the exposition in order
Namely, in asserting the more original meaning of Logos as Legein, meaning
collection. See, for example, Kirk, Heraclitus, p. 38; Minar, "The Logos of
Heraclitus," pp. 325 ff.; Boeder, op. cit., pp. 82 ff. Compare the English expression,
"I gather that you don't agree."
VA, p. 213.
Boeder, op. cit., pp. 82 ff., also accepts this meaning of Legein as "collecting"
(sammeln). Kirk says, "Not the root ì¸- basically implies 'picking out' or 'choosing;'
from this comes the sense 'reckoning,' and so 'measure' and 'proportion.'" Kirk,
Heraclitus, p. 38.
VA, p. 208.
VA, p. 210. Possibly the English language may again be of some assistance in
explicating Heidegger on this point. Before speaking we often say, "Give me a few
moments to collect my thoughts." Of course, for Heidegger we do not collect
thoughts, when we legen in the sense of lesen; we collect, we gather in, being.
clarify his meaning Heidegger resorts to a word in the local dialect (Allemannisch),
which he sees as having the same root as Legein, and hence may be of some help in
trying to understand this Legein as legen. He notes that "Legi" is a sort of dam which
one brings to lie (vor-liegt) in the bed of a river or a small canal in order to collect or
gather the water behind it for purposes of power or irrigation.
It is in this sense,
Heidegger explains, that Legein is legen. It is in itself the collected lettinglie-before of
But how, Heidegger asks again, could legen, this letting-lie-before-all together
(beisammen-vor-liegen-Lassen) have come to mean saying and speaking? In saying and
speaking, Heidegger notes, that which lies in unconcealment (i.e., in truth) is made to
exist; it is made to present itself (anwest), to presence itself.
And thus it is that legen
(Legein) as Sagen gets its start. Possibly an English expression may assist here in
putting across Heidegger's meaning. The laying or putting (legen), which Heidegger
here refers to (as, for example, in the German expression Antrag vorlegen, "laying or
putting a proposition to someone") in its connection with saying or speaking, might be
seen in the English expression, "Let me put it this way." This "putting" is both a "laying
before," but it is also a "saying."
Thus then does legen (Legein) as Sagen get its start. The uncovering of the covered
over, the bringing of this hidden out of hiding, is the presence of the present itself. It is
the being of things.
Logos and Physis are, of course, the same.
One sees in all this the intimate connection which Heidegger sees between being, truth,
and the Logos. Further, one sees how this original Logos as the bringing together of that
which is allowed to lay before can give rise to speech. For in this process of collecting
the covered over, the hidden away is brought to presence. This presence, this permanent
collective presence (the permanent side of Physis) is made to reveal itself (the appearing
side of Physis). And this presence of the present, this collecting collectedness is itself
the being of things. In and through the
VA, p. 211.
"Legen ist: in sich gesammeltes vorliegen-Lassen des beisammen-Anwesenden." VA,
VA, p. 212.
VA, p. 212.
Logos is it brought together to be brought to speech. It is this saying (Sagen),
understood as the authentic laying out (legen) of the gathering of the harvest (Lese) of
being, so to speak, which manifests itself in the authentic speech concerning the being
of things, that speech which has truly brought the presence of the present to be.
Already one can see the basis for the extremely close connection which Heidegger sees
between language and being in such origin-al (ursprünglichen) thinkers as Parmenides
and Heraclitus. For both of these two pre-Socratic thinkers language and being are
brought together in and through the Logos, which as the authentic collecting of the
gathering gathers the collection together in and through itself.
Nevertheless, to gain the full depth of meaning contained in the Logos one must
continue along with Heidegger the analysis of Heraclitus B 50. In this fragment the
philosopher commands us that we should listen not to him but to the Logos. What,
Heidegger asks, is this "listening"? This hearing (Hören), as he explains in a series of
typical word plays, is first of all a collected (one might say a re-collected) harkening
(Horchen), a close paying of attention; for in this being attentive (Horchsamen) the
sense of hearing (Gehör), listening itself truly exists (west); it truly comes to be. We
truly hear (Hören) when we are "all ears" (ganz Ohr).
"Being all ears" is not, of course, to be taken in a purely physiological sense. We will
never hear so long as we hear with our ears, Heidegger says. This "hearing" is rather in
the area of the non-sensible. It is the non-sensible grasping (nicht-sinnlichen
Vernehmens) that is true thinking.
Mortals hear (hören) many things, but they truly
belong (zugehören) only to that which they have ceased to listen to (zugehören) merely
on a physiological level.
We have truly heard (gehört) only when we truly
"Das Hören ist erstlich das gesammelte Horchen. Im Horchsamen west das Gehör.
Wir hören, wenn wir ganz Ohr sind." VA, p. 214. Kirk, Heraclitus, p. 67, would be
willing to concede that the "hearing" of Heraclitus B 50 might possibly mean
something like "obey" (in German, Horchen).
SG, pp. 86-87.
Heidegger especially likes this play on the words hören and gehören (see for
example, Hu, p. 7; US, p. 255; ID, p. 22), which mean "to hear" and "to belong"
respectively. He very often makes a play on the two words zuhören and zugehören,
which mean "to listen to" and "to belong to," and which often have the same forms.
belong (gehören) to that which is spoken. In other words, when we are "all ears," when
our collecting, our intellectual aural gathering has gone into a state of pure
attentiveness, then do we not simply listen as from afar. Those who truly hear the
Logos, in a Heraclitean play on words, agree (oµoìo¸i`v). And it is in this ìc¸iv as
oµoìo¸i`v that authentic hearing exists and is to be found.
This "agreeing" does not
imply a simple correspondence, a mere agreement, a nodding of the head. Any truly
authentic hearing listens not to Heraclitus but to the Logos, and it is when this happens
that we have a true "agreement." The true hearing (Hören) truly belongs (gehört) to the
Continuing in his explication of the meaning of Heraclitus' Fragment 50, Heidegger
asks why it is that one should harken unto the Logos. It is, as Heraclitus says, but wise
(ooov). It is the wise thing to do. The "wise man,"
as Heidegger explains, is the one
who can hold himself to the assigned task in which and for which he is able to destine
And it is when this occurs, when man truly becomes wise, when he truly comes to
agree, but more than agree,
when he truly comes to
VA, p. 215.
VA, p. 219.
Heidegger translates ooov by the German word weise. Der Weise is a difficult
word to render adequately in English. Perhaps it is best translated by the two words
"wise man," as it is also used in German to describe the "Three Wise Men"; and this
image may help in elucidating Heidegger's meaning here. For he says, "So bedeutet
denn ooov dasjenige, was sich an das Zugewiesene halten, in es sich schicken, für
es sich schicken, (auf den Weg machen), kann." VA, p. 217. In WP Heidegger
identifies the iìiv of Heraclitus B 35, the lover of wisdom, with the oµoìo¸i`v of
Heraclitus B 50; and he notes that the ooov (B 50), the wise things which the óvqp
iìooooç (B 35) truly loves is the truth that "Alles Seiende ist im Sein. Schärfer
gesagt: das Sein ist das Seiende." WP, pp. 21-22.
Heidegger uses the word geschickt, a word rich in meanings, in its many senses
oftentimes simultaneously. Geschickt as the past participle of schicken (to send)
means "someone or something sent." Heidegger employs the word in this sense to
mean the "mission" that one has for being. However, Geschick, a related word, means
"fate" or "destiny," as we have seen. Hence, when a person is geschickt, he is sent
forth on a mission for being, and through this is his destiny (and also being's) fixed.
Then, of course, does history (Geschichte), another allied word in Heidegger's view,
Kirk would agree that just as Logos means more than "word" in Heraclitus, so also
does Homologein mean more than simply "agree." "It means 'be similar to,
belong to that with which he has come to be in tune; then, indeed, do things really
happen, for then does history truly begin. In his authentic hearing of the Logos, and in
order for this to be, in his truly becoming attuned to, in his belonging to the togetherness
of the Logos (oµoìo¸i`v), does ìc¸iv truly come into its own. Then does Legein truly
destine itself in its destiny (Geschick). For it has committed itself to be sent (geschickt)
on a prophetic mission (Geschickt) for being. Then does history (Geschichte) truly
And what is this fateful happening that happens with the oµoìo¸i`v. As Heraclitus says,
with Heidegger translating, the fateful happens insofar as the One is everything.
what is this sv auvtu? The "One is all" simply states, says Heidegger, the way in which
the Logos exists (west). The One (Eins) of the conclusion of the fragment "ones" (eint)
in that it collects. And what does the collection collect, Heidegger asks? It allows the
together to lie before. And that which it allows to lie before is nothing else but the
As Heidegger puts the matter succinctly:
Tv auvtu sagt, was der Ao¸oç ist. Ao¸oç sagt, wie Tv auvtu west. Beide sind das
The "One is all" tells us what the Logos is. The Logos tells us how the "One is all"
exists, namely in a collected manner. This is what Heidegger means when he says that
both are the same. This is the unity between being (as Physis) and Logos which
Heidegger finds among the pre-Socratic thinkers. And it is again for this reason that he
can hold that Parmenides and Heraclitus are both saying essentially the same thing.
in tune with, the Logos;' it means not opposing the Logos by refusing to recognize it;
it means 'assimilation' of the common formula of things after 'hearing' or 'listening to'
it." Kirk, Heraclitus, p. 68.
VA, pp. 217-218.
VA, p. 218.
VA, pp. 219-220. In EM Heidegger comments upon the tendency to sum up
Heraclitus' thought in the words auvtu pi` (Arist., De Coelo III, 298 b 30). He says
that even if these words do stem from Heraclitus, they do not imply a doctrine of
eternal flux, but rather that being is the collection of turning against unrest
(gegenwendigen Unruhe). EM, p. 102. That this characterization of Heraclitus'
thought as a flux doctrine does not originate from Heraclitus himself, see Reinhardt,
Parmenides, pp. 106-107, 107 n.
VA, p. 221.
Parmenides maintained this same unity between Logos and Physis, between authentic
thinking and being.
However, the Logos is the fateful (Geschickliches) also in another sense. For when this
Homologein happens (geschieht), the fateful (Geschickliches) also occurs. However, in
this occurrence, in this truly important event (Ereignis),
the dual aspect of the Logos
as fateful comes to light. For like truth the Logos involves both a revealing (Entbergen)
and a concealing (Verbergen). This covered over or hidden aspect of truth and of the
Logos is necessary in order that the uncovering, the coming out of hiding, may also take
And here, of course, the tragic element in the history of human thought concerning
being, and particularly the metaphysics which has been characterized as a general
forgetting of being, again comes to the fore. In not fully and completely harkening to
the Logos, in not completely allowing the Homologein to take place, the destiny of
being is forever compromised. In such a case being's "presencing" (An-wesen), being's
making its presence felt, as having come forth into unconcealment and there persisting,
is not fully collected and allowed to lie before. The Logos in such a case has lost its
moorings with being and can only drift about aimlessly, totally lost at sea, until it
becomes a derelict thrown up on an island called Reason.
The true Logos, on the other hand, the Logos which truly listens, which is truly attuned
to being, and which therefore comes to agree, but more than merely agree, which comes
to belong (gehören) to that which it hears (hört), is that which authentically collects all
the presenting into the presence and allows it to lie before. In such a case the Logos
becomes that wherein the presence of the presencing (Anwesen des Anwesenden),
namely, being, truly happens (ereignet). And thus it is that we can say that in the great
happening that was already in the beginning of western thought, the being of things
(Sein des Seienden) was the only thing thought to be worthy of thought. And if one truly
thinks historically, says Heidegger, one will realize that this was truly the
The German word Ereignis is reserved for the truly important events in a man's life;
such as a marriage, a birth, a christening, a death. It is a time when something really
important, something truly significant, happens.
VA, pp. 220-221.
beginning of the West, and the primordial, but all too often hidden and forgotten, source
of its destiny.
HEARING THE LOGOS
As becomes increasingly clear in the later works of Heidegger, "hearing" comes to take
on a fundamental role. One sees this already in the treatment which Heidegger gives to
the Logos fragments of Heraclitus, particularly to Fragment 50. However, one also sees
it in an indirect manner in the treatment which the philosopher gives to what might be
called the predominantly "sight" philosophy of Plato. By this it should not be
understood, of course, that Heidegger completely repudiates a "seeing" in favor of a
"hearing" type of thinking.
It is largely a question of emphasis. The emphasis,
however, seems to be very much away from what one might call the "seeing" or the
"intuiting" aspect of thinking, and much more in the direction of the "hearing" aspect,
particularly as regards the way in which one is authentically to grasp being.
There are several reasons for this. One of the reasons, it would seem, is to be tied up
with the very nature of seeing. Clearly physiological seeing is not here referred to, any
more than physiological hearing. Rather a metaphysical, or better, the metaphysics of
seeing is meant. It is this metaphysics of intellectual seeing which Heidegger finds
concretized in the metaphysics of Plato,
and hence also in the whole
VA, p. 227.
"... das Denken ein Hören und ein Sehen ist." SG, p. 86. And this would be fairly
recent also, representing lectures given at Freiburg in 1955-1956.
This should not be taken as something hard and fast. For already in SZ understanding
is taken in the sense of hearing. SZ, p. 163. Or again, "Das Dasein hört, weil es
versteht." SZ, p. 163. However, in the context of SZ hearing and speaking are
primarily related to the forms of intercommunication (Rede), rather than directly with
being or with the ultimate origins of language.
The whole of PW traces this development of being into idea in Plato, and the
development of what might be called the "sight" metaphysics. See particularly PW,
pp. 34-35, also EM, p. 140. Although already in SZ Heidegger had said, "Die
Tradition der Philosophie ist aber von Anfang an primär am'Sehen' als Zugangsart zu
Seiendem und zu Sein orientiert." SZ, p. 147. Philosophy's approach not only to
things but even toward being has been primarily a "seeing" approach. See also SZ,
metaphysical tradition since the time of Plato. This intellectual "seeing" involves two
elements: it implies that there is one that sees; it implies that there is something that is
seen. And the metaphysics of seeing thereby gains the position of the subject and the
object. It sets up that which is for Heidegger the insupportable dichotomy that is the
theory of knowledge or epistemology, or, if one wishes to call the spade a spade in
Heideggerian terminology, metaphysics. Metaphysics for Heidegger is simply
subjectivism in that it represents the reduction of being to the object side of a merely
subjective subject-object distinction. It is Descartes, for Heidegger, who represents the
beginning of the end of this metaphysical tradition in the West,
subjectivism in which man becomes a mere subject was first made explicit by
However, this subjectivism is true of the metaphysical tradition as a whole
from Plato on. Metaphysics for Heidegger is simply the ontology of knowledge
("Ontologie der Erkenntnis"),
and as such represents nothing more than subjectivism.
In his recent Nietzsche volumes the philosopher states that western philosophy is simply
Platonism: and metaphysics, idealism, and Platonism all mean the same thing.
Metaphysics is created from this separation of Logos from Physis, which results in the
Logos becoming not a collecting, but rather a mere collector. This is Logos as reason, as
ratio. And here the Logos, a falsified Logos, is given a status not only independent of
being, but even completely over being. Being is no longer thought of in terms of itself,
i.e., in terms of an authentic Logos intimately one with being. The Logos is no longer
something belonging to being. The Logos is no longer just another name for being, as
Heraclitus thought them, one right next to the other;
the Logos becomes a property, a
mere faculty of man.
Hw, p. 91.
Hw, p. 102.
VA, p. 234. In his Nietzsche book Heidegger refers in a derogatory manner to the
whole area of the theory of knowledge as a playground (Tummelplatz). Nie I, p. 496.
Compare this with the battleground (Kampfplatz) of endless controversies which
Kant saw in metaphysics. Kritik der reinen Vernunft, A viii.
Nie II, p. 220.
SG, p. 182; VA, p. 270.
This failure in the Logos produces a corresponding mutation in that which is "seen,"
namely being: Physis in the philosophy of Plato becomes merely idea; in Aristotle,
object. And such is the beginning of metaphysics. Thus is the subject-object dichotomy
of the falsified Logos set up.
It becomes clear, then, why Heidegger has come to favor expressions of hearing over
those of seeing, sound over those of sight. In the case of seeing there is of necessity a
subject differentiated off from that which is seen, namely, the object. In seeing one
stands back and takes a look. One stands off from that which is looked at. In hearing, on
the other hand, the sound is all around. One is in a vibrant field of sound.
And this is
why we hear, rather than see, being. Being vibrates. And one must listen; one must be in
tune with the vibrations of being, if one is to catch its message, if one is to hear being's
This was already noted in Heidegger's treatment of the Homologein
of Heraclitus B 50. It is not merely a question of hearing, but of being attuned to the
And if one truly listens to the Logos, one shall be tuned in on being's wave
frequency. One shall, as the current expression has it, "be with it."
This fact may at least in part explain the importance of the spoken delivery for
Heidegger. Thus, for example, in the series of lectures which he gave concerning "Der
Satz vom Grund," Heidegger sounds out the meaning of Leibnitz' celebrated principle
"nothing is without reason" (Nihil est sine ratione) in a variety of intonations and
languages, constantly trying to hear the expression of different keys and tonalities.
forces the listener to hear the expression over and over again, until by sheer force of
repetition he is forced to hear it aright, and grasp the meaning reinforced therein.
We set being in vibration when we question authentically, WD, p. 79.
WP, p. 42.
In WD Heidegger gives the example of one who hears (hört) but does not understand,
because he does not belong (gehört) to that particular language. He notes that in the
case of a language which we do not understand, we hear but we do not understand.
However, he also insists that we do not merely hear sounds that we do not
understand; we hear un-understood words. WD, p. 89.
SG, p. 75.
In a recording made of his "Der Satz der Identität "
Heidegger finds at least one thing
commendable in the new technology; namely, that the technique of recording permits
the use of something primary and original (Ursprüngliches) which in the printing of
books must remain closed off, namely the authentic power of productive thinking
grasped in the spoken word, in the immediate sound of rhythm and speech.
However, in any sounding, in any hearing there must not only be the vibration, the
undulating frequency; there must also be someone to "catch" (vernehmen) this vibration,
there must be someone to attune himself to the waves of being at their proper wave
length. There must be a hearer. And it is this phenomenon of hearing which will, I
think, better than anything else explain the significance of the oft-quoted "Only as long
as Dasein is, is being given."
There is the recognition of the vibration of being only
when there is sound, and there is sound only when there is a Dasein, attuned to being by
his-authentic questioning of being, ready to hear that sound.
It might be urged against this interpretation of the importance of the acoustical over the
visual as a distinctive character of Heideggerian thinking (Denken) that in the passage in
the "Humanismusbrief" in which Heidegger gives his authentic interpretation of the
"Only so long as Dasein is, is being given," he also speaks of the Lichtung des Seins. At
least at first sight, this would seem to indicate the character of light, of
"Der Satz der Identität" was first given as a speech in the Stadthalle of Freiburg in
honor of the fifth centenary of the university, June 27, 1957. It was later published in
ID, and both the book and the recording come from Neske, Pfullingen. The statement
concerning the value of the spoken word appears on the record holder.
"Nur solange Dasein ist, gibt es das Sein." Hu, p. 24. First said in SZ, p. 212,
Heidegger explains its meaning at greater length here. "Das bedeutet : nur solange die
Lichtung des Seins sich ereignet, übereignet sich Sein dem Menschen." Hu, p. 24.
Only where the clearing of being occurs is being given over, transferred over
(übereignet), as one might transfer money from one account over into another, to
man. However, the word übereignet could also mean "to be over," in the sense of "to
be above." Being is over or above man. The word is not ordinary German.
Vycinas uses a somewhat different metaphor to express essentially the same idea:
"Without the sun, the moon is not the moon, in the sense that it cannot be
illuminated, and without the illuminated, and thus revealed, moon, the sun is not
revealed in the night." Vincent Vycinas, Earth and Gods: An Introduction to the
Philosophy of Martin Heidegger (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1961), p. 70.
lighting, of seeing, rather than that of hearing. However, upon closer examination of the
word image invoked by Lichtung, it becomes clear that the meaning which Heidegger
wishes to convey is exactly the same as that of hearing.
A Lichtung grows out of the method of lumbering in the Black Forest. A section that
has been logged off is cleared, and the Lichtung is this clearing. As one comes out of the
dark forest into this clearing, which Heidegger calls the "clearing of being" (Lichtung
des Seins), one comes out of the darkness of the overhanging trees and branches and
becomes enveloped, bathed, in light. This is the clearing of being.
One can see how the word picture that is here conveyed is similar in character to the
authentic hearing of the Logos, in which one is made to more than agree; one is in the
process of authentic question literally taken up into the sound of the vibrant being. In
the clearing of being which one enters, as in the hearing which one also enters into, by
becoming "with it": in both cases one goes out into a field of either light or sound and
becomes enveloped therein.
One does not, as in the case of the sight metaphysics, stand off in a critical manner from
that which is grasped. One enters into this field of illuminating light and overpowering
sound. One "takes it all in." This is the proper action of the true Logos which collects,
which gathers, which "takes it all in." This Logos, this truly authentic thinking, does not
"take it all in" in an overly critical fashion by destroying that which it takes in or
mutilating that which it accepts or receives in accordance with some system. When
picking grapes, for example, one collects them in such a way so as not to damage them.
There is a respectful, an attentive attitude taken toward the thing, toward being. One lets
it be the way it is. It is allowed to come to us. As Heidegger says in his translation of the
Logos of Legein, we allow being to lie before us as collected, as gathered, as a
This is the ultimate meaning and significance which the pre-Socratic thinkers have for
Heidegger, as against the admittedly great metaphysicians Plato and Aristotle. In the
pre-Socratics there was this togetherness of Physis and Logos, which for Heidegger
means that there
VA, p. 226; WD, p. 123.
was an authentic hearing of the true Logos, i.e., the Logos in its intimate connection
with being. These thinkers truly heard the voice of being, as all authentic thinking hears
(hört) the voice of being, because authentic thinking is of being, belonging (gehörend)
Their thinking was authentically and primordially attuned to the wave
frequency of being. And as Heidegger said in Vom Wesen der Wahrheit, it is those who
are the true hearers who decide in a decisive manner the place (Standort) of man in
Of course, it must not be thought that pre-Socratic thought represents the only big event
(Ereignis) in the history of western thought. Heidegger does not simply condemn the
whole history of western philosophy out of hand, even though it is to be characterized
by a general forgetting of being. Various thinkers at various times during the history of
western metaphysics have either come closer to or moved further away from a true
understanding of being. And each one of these represents an Ereignis, an important
event in the fateful history of being. Hence Heidegger can speak of the forgetting of the
ontological distinction between being and things as one of the most far-reaching events
of all western history. For it is this event which has stamped the destiny of being as one
of the forgetting of being.
To the philosophers who participate in this unfortunate forgetting of being Heidegger
would apply the epithet of Heraclitus B I. They hear the Logos, but they do not grasp it:
they do not receive it in a receptive, in an authentically gathering manner. They have
indeed to do with being, since they are related to things. And things, as Heidegger often
repeats, are in being.
Nevertheless, the Logos remains strange to them in that they
have turned away from being (Sein), and think that things are only things (Seiendes) and
Still it would, in Heidegger's view, be incorrect to say that all philosophers after the pre-
Socratics were off on the wrong track. They simply failed to ask the right question,
namely, what thinking is, from the
Hu, p. 7.
WW, p. 24.
Hw, p. 336.
Hw, pp. 41, 257.
EM, p. 100.
right standpoint, namely, from the standpoint of the authentic Logos, i.e., from the
standpoint of being.
They failed to listen to the Logos in such a fashion that its
intimate connection with being was revealed to them. And the far-reaching event
(Ereignis) which this failure occasioned is what is meant by metaphysics, subjectivism,
the forgetting of being.
WD, p. 129. As the context shows, Heidegger is thinking primarily of Kant.
Authentic Questioning and the
EK-SISTENZ AND AUTHENTIC QUESTIONING
Existence (Existenz) is a fundamental word in Heidegger's Sein und Zeit. The word does
not, however, refer just to any existent thing. Existence for Heidegger always means the
existence of Dasein, which, as one soon discovers, is a yet more specialized kind of
Thus very often in order to emphasize what is for him the root
meaning of the word existence, Heidegger will write the word as Ek sistenz, indicating
thereby its root meaning in the Greek word sk-otuoiç (literally, standing out from). The
word existence as thus understood refers to Dasein's ability to stand out over and above
things. Da-sein, being-there, is also "ecstatic" in accordance with the three ecstasies
(Ekstasen) of temporality, which, as has been seen, constitute the ground and basis of
What does this ecstatic character of Dasein's existence mean, more specifically? What
does it mean to say that the essence of Dasein lies in his existence?
What is the
function of the "ecstatic" in Dasein's existential constitution?
The Ek-sistenz of Dasein means that Dasein, and only Dasein, since existence belongs
only to him, is openness to being.
To say that the essence of Dasein lies in his
existence means that this is the way in which in his essence he exists (or "presences"
himself) toward being: Ek-stasis is Dasein's ecstatic standing into (Innestehen) the truth
It is Dasein as related to being. SZ, p. 12.
SZ, p. 42. For a recent explanation of this usage in SZ, see Nie II, p. 475.
WM, pp. 14-15.
"... die Weise, wie der Mensch in seinem eigenen Wesen zu Sein anwest, ist das
ekstatische Innestehen in der Wahrheit des Seins." Hu, p. 19. The word "anwest" in
the above passage refers to the peculiar way in which Dasein exists, i.e., "presences"
himself toward being, namely by way of Ek-stasis, standing out into the truth of
standing (Stasis) of this ecstatic existence rests upon this standing into (Innestehen) the
"out" (Aus, Ek-) and the "Da" of truth as the unconcealed, as that in which being exists.
And existence is man's standing out into the truth of being, Dasein (as thus technically
understood by Heidegger) becomes the locale (Ortschaft) for this revelation of the truth
Dasein's being is to be (sein) there (Da) with reference to being. It is this
"Sein" of the Da that is the fundamental characteristic of Ek sistenz, which is, as
Heidegger calls it, simply the ecstatic standing into the truth of being.
The Ek-sistenz of Dasein means—and this image has been seen in the previous
section—Dasein's standing (Stehen) in the clearing of being (Lichtung des Seins).
kind of being which Dasein has is the kind of being which stands in the clearing of
being. Dasein exists in being; he "presences" (anwest) himself, he locates himself as the
Da which is there with reference to Sein. For when he truly stands out into the truth of
being, out into the clearing of being, he is literally surrounded by the unhidden light of
being. This is Dasein's historical place, his destined place, to stand out in the clearing of
being recognizing in the truth of being his relation to being. This is his historical place,
because it is here that history is truly made.
And what is this truth of being? It is, as Heidegger says, the ground in which
metaphysics as the root of the tree of philosophy is kept and from which it is nourished.
The truth of being, then, is the ground of metaphysics; and even when metaphysics
does not concentrate upon its ground, it never successfully evades it. Its roots are there
in being. Even in error Dasein never totally escapes the ground of metaphysics, namely,
being itself (das Sein selbst). Metaphysics is not and cannot simply be done away with.
This is not merely because it is some sort of natural disposition (Naturanlage),
because man is an animal rationale and
A reference to Kant's first critique, B 22.
WM, p. 15.
WM, p. 14.
Hu, p. 15. As also, Hu, p. 31.
"Das Stehen in der Lichtung des Seins nenne ich die Ek-sistenz des Menschen." Hu,
WM, p. 7. Compare Descartes: E. S. Haldane and G. R. T. Ross (trs.), The
Philosophical Works of Descartes (New York: Dover, 1955), I, 211.
hence an animal metaphysicum.
Man is in his historical being the thing (Seiende, here
referring to Dasein) whose being (Sein) as Ek-sistenz stands therein, lives right next
door to being. Man is being's neighbor (Nachbar).
In fact, Heidegger insists, without
this disclosure (Eröffnung) of being we cannot truly be men.
Only in this way is man
historically real (wirklich). And only if man stands (steht) in his being-there (da-sein)
can he ever come to understand (versteht) being.
This Ek-sistenz must, then, be radically distinguished from all manner of existentia,
since it is an ecstatic living in the very neighborhood of being. It is a watchfulness
(Wächterschaft), a concern (Sorge) which is had toward being.
From this it can be
seen why being for Heidegger is to be discovered and analyzed from out of this
relationship, which is an ontological relationship, between the ontological being that is
Dasein and being itself. Man is the neighbor of being. However, being is still over man.
Man is only, as Heidegger says, the keeper (Verwahrer) of being.
Man is but the
shepherd (Hirt) of being.
Nevertheless, since it is only Dasein that can go out beyond
the mere things to a consideration of being itself, the meaning of Dasein is meta-
physical. The Existenz of Dasein is an ontological existence. Thus in one place
Heidegger can speak of Dasein as nothing else but his essential relation (Bezug) to
For this going out beyond mere things, which is what is meant by metaphysics,
happens only in the case of one being, namely, in the case of Dasein.
This is what Heidegger means, basically, when he says that nature has
WM, p. 9.
Hu, p. 29.
"'Das Dasein im Menschen' ist das Wesen, das dem Sein selbst gehört, in welches
Wesen jedoch der Mensch gehört, so zwar, dass er dieses Sein zu sein hat. Das Da-
sein geht den Menschen an." Nie II, p. 358. The word Dasein applies to man, but
specifically to man considered in his relation to being. This text may also serve to
justify the use of the personal pronoun "he" in referring to Dasein. Many
commentators use the impersonal "It."
EM, p. 64.
Hu, p. 29.
EM, p. 108.
Hu, p. 29.
"Das Dasein ist es selbst aus seinem wesenhaften Bezug zum Sein überhaupt." EM, p.
22. Similarly Nie II, p. 358. Heidegger also makes the point in his second Nietzsche
volume that man's relation to things is possible only on the supposition of his prior
relationship to being, and not merely to the being of things. Nie II, p. 206.
WM, p. 41.
no history, that only ecstatic man (Dasein) is truly historical.
Only Dasein can go out
over and above things on the basis of the ecstatic character of his temporality and the
projective character of his understanding to ask after being itself. Only Dasein can
escape the here and now of things; and it is this which establishes man in his true
ontological locale, out there related to being. It is this which establishes Dasein as the
historical being that he is. It is also in this sense that Heidegger can say that our
understanding of being is that in which the essential possibility (Wesensmöglichkeit) of
our existence is grounded.
With the disclosure of being in and through Dasein and in
accordance with the projective character of his understanding, Dasein is able to project
himself onto a plane of history in which past, present, and future coalesce or collapse
into the ecstasies (Ekstasen), not of mere chronological time in which moment follows
moment, but of temporality.
It is this happening which is truly epoch-making, in the
full historical sense which Heidegger attaches to that word, since it is here that history
And when does this historical event happen? When is there this "going out beyond," this
transcending of the things that are?
WW, p. 16.
EM, p. 63.
"Die chronologischen Abstande und die kausalen Aufreihungen gehören zur Historie,
sind aber nicht die Geschichte." Hu, p. 311.
The reader should, however, be warned that "transcendence" or the "transcendental"
has a special meaning in the philosophy of Heidegger. It must not be understood in
the sense of classical metaphysics, that that which simply "transcends" goes out
beyond things to a discussion of being as such. This for Heidegger is, indeed, meta-
physics; however, it is essentially little more than physics, because classical
metaphysics in Heidegger's view takes its categories from things and then imagines
that these categories can be applied to being itself.
However, neither is Heidegger's notion of the "transcendental" to be understood in
terms either of the transcendent or the transcendental of which Kant speaks. There is
something of a confusion on this point in Kant's first critique. However, if we take
Kant to mean that the "transcendental" refers to the apriori "forms" of human
knowledge which make experience and hence knowledge possible (i.e., the forms of
sensible intuition, space and time, the categories, the transcendental unity of
apperception), and if we take the "transcendent" to mean that which is beyond the
possibility of experience (i.e., the Ding an sich), then Heidegger's "transcendence" is
neither of these.
Dasein truly constituted as Da-sein? The historical event of epoch-making importance
which happens in Dasein's standing out in the enclosure for the disclosure of being
happens, as Heidegger explains, in authentic questioning. The basic attitude of
questioning is itself historical, in that it is the happening (Geschehen) which opens up
human Dasein to his essential relations with being as a whole.
The phenomenon of questioning and the analysis which Heidegger gives to it in Sein
und Zeit, and also in his later works, is of the utmost importance in helping to
understand Heidegger's thought. In fact, if one were to describe Aristotle's metaphysics
as characterized most explicitly in his doctrine of the four causes, then one would have
to characterize Heidegger's ontology as founded upon the phenomenon of authentic
questioning. For on the basis of this questioning in Heidegger is grounded not only the
true hearing of being, which is forced to give answer to our questions, but also the
speaking of language. And since all questioning is a happening of Dasein, one might
say that history finds its basis in such authentic questioning as well; for this is, for
A similar sort of distinction appears in the philosophy of Husserl. Here the
"transcendental" refers to that which has been rendered subjectable to
phenomenological analysis because of the phenomenological reduction (the Epoché),
which "brackets out" the "transcendent" matter-of-fact world.
Heidegger on the meaning of "transcendence" must be understood, I think, in
opposition to Husserl on this point. For Husserl it is probably not incorrect to say that
the world is the ultimate transcendental horizon of our knowledge; for Heidegger, on
the other hand, the transcendental horizon of being is temporality. And since being is
the transcendent pure and simple (" Sein ist transcendens schlechthin." SZ, p. 38),
and since the transcendental horizon against which being can only be understood by
Dasein is that of temporality, this means that the transcendence of Dasein is a
"relating" to that which Dasein is already involved in, namely, being. Transcendence
on the part of Dasein in Heidegger's thought is a rather curious sort of "transcendent
leap," since it involves a leap into that which we are already involved in as being-in-
the-world, namely, into being. As he says, given the fact that the being of Dasein
grounds itself in temporality, then this temporality must make possible this Being-in-
the-world of Dasein as well as his transcendence. SZ, p. 364. Temporality as the
transcendental horizon of being means that all transcendence on the part of Dasein as
the Being-in-the-world that he is, can only take place within this temporal horizon.
EM, p. 34.
when history begins, that is, when Dasein stands out from things and asks concerning
Or to put the matter even more fundamentally, and this in the sense of the
it is the question after the meaning of being ("die Frage nach
dem Sinn von Sein"),
which question was first asked after as a question (als Frage)
for the first time in the history of philosophy by Heidegger himself,
and asked after in
and through the existential analytic of the questioner (Dasein) toward which the whole
of Heidegger's philosophy might be said to be directed.
Questioning and the ontological analysis of questioning, then, occupy a most significant
place in Heidegger's way of doing ontology. It is no accident that many of Heidegger's
works are given interrogatory titles. It is also no accident that many of the works begin
or end with questions, or attempt to deal with certain long-standing historico-
One might even look upon each and every one of
Heidegger's many studies on the many different philosophers which he takes up as but
questions asked and answers elicited from the particular philosopher in question. At the
basis of Heidegger's concept of historical dialogue (Gespräch), which will be discussed
briefly in the following section, is the ontological structure of questioning. And it is
most certainly no accident that in the very first pages of Sein und Zeit Heidegger gives a
phenomenological analysis of the ontological structure of questioning, particularly with
reference to the question, namely the question after the meaning of being.
SZ, p. 13. Heidegger explains the use of this word Fundamentalontologie in his
recent Nietzsche work, relating it to the important and fundamental distinction
between being and things, which is, he points out, the ground of the possibility of
ontology, and even the unknown and generally unasked-after ground of all
metaphysics. Nie II, pp. 209-210.
SZ, p. I.
EM, p. 64.
The 1929 lecture WM ends with the celebrated question of Leibnitz, "Why is there
something, and not, rather, nothing?" WM, p. 42. EM starts off with the same
question. SG is the question concerning the meaning of Leibnitz' principle, "Nihil est
sine ratione." WP describes the question of the meaning of philosophy as the
question of western European philosophy. WP, p. 18. WD speaks of thinking as
Logos as the historical question in the destiny of western thought. WD, p. 103.
Every questioning (Fragen), Heidegger says, is a search (Suchen), but it is a vectorial
search. Hence it is a research (Untersuchen). It asks after something. It asks after the
asked, the questioned (Gefragtes). In the case of the question of being (Seinsfrage) it is
the being of things that is asked after. And this being of things (Sein des Seienden) that
is asked after is not simply another thing (ein Seiendes) ; it is the being of things.
But what is it that is elicited (Erfragte) in such a mode of questioning? What is
ascertained? What do we attempt to elicit, as a teacher might attempt to elicit an answer
from a pupil, when we ask after the being of things? That which we ask after
(Gefragtes), Heidegger says, is being itself. But that which we attempt to draw out, to
elicit (Erfragte) by means of our questioning is the meaning of being (Sinn von Sein).
This is the purpose of our asking the question in the first place. There remains,
nevertheless, one extremely important element in this ontological structure of
questioning. For every authentic questioning there must also be someone that is asked
(Befragtes). When we do not know the answer to a question ourselves, we say, "Wait a
moment while I ask (befrage) someone." And the "what," or rather the "whom," that
must be asked in the question of being is and can only be Dasein. For who else could
give answer to the question concerning the meaning of being except that being (Sein)
who is actually there (Da) in that process of questioning? The only one that can give
answer to such a question after the meaning of being is the being for whom such a
question is a mode of its very being (Seinsmodus). And the thing par excellence
(exemplarische Seiende) which asks such a question could only be Dasein.
Heidegger says, the asking of this question, as the mode of being of that thing which is
itself essentially determined from this questioning, is that which is
SZ, pp. 5-7. Heidegger also treats of the Befragte and the Gefragte in connection with
Leibnitz' "Why is there something rather than nothing?" EM, p. 17. And in the recent
Nietzsche volumes he analyzes the elements of the gefragt, erfragt, and the befragt
from out of the inauthentic questioning after being in the question that metaphysics
poses, namely, "What are things (das Seiende)?" Nie II, pp. 344-345. Curiously,
however, he says that the reason that being is not thought in metaphysics is because,
"Das Sein ist als solches nicht das Befragte." Nie II, p. 346; whereas in SZ the
Befragte should be das Sein (being), although in any Dasein-measured
phenomenological analysis of the being-questioning it is the questioner himself,
namely Dasein. SZ, p. 8.
asked after in it, namely, being. And this thing, which we ourselves are; the thing which
has the possibility of asking this question, we term technically Dasein.
The importance of ontological questioning as the manifestation of man's ecstatic
existence, and therefore as the basis for true history, is present throughout Heidegger's
works. Thus in his Vom Wesen der Wahrheit Heidegger says that it is when he first asks
what things are does the Ek-sistenz of historical Dasein truly begin.
This is the
happening (Geschehen) that constitutes history (Geschichte), when Dasein stands out
into the openness of being and asks concerning the meaning of the being of things. The
basic attitude of questioning is itself, then, historical in that it is the happening which
opens up human Dasein to his essential relations to being as a whole.
essence of man must be understood from within the ontological structure of this the
question of being (Seinsfrage).
As Heidegger says, the question as to how it stands
with being (wie es mit dem Sein steht) reveals itself as it stands with our Dasein in
For this questioning as to the essence of man is historical in an
original sense, because history is here created. And the reason why this is so is again
because only in the question after being can the question of the meaning of man be
authentically posed. Only where being is revealed in questioning, says Heidegger, does
history happen (geschieht Geschichte), and only there does the being of man as Dasein
As Heidegger notes, this fundamental question as to the meaning of being has
more and more proved to be the ground of our historical Dasein as well.
The reason why Dasein, or the essence of man, becomes defined from out of his relation
to being is because of Dasein's necessary involvement with being in and through the
authentic questioning concerning being. For only he can be the questioner. Hence only
here can history happen, both because being is authentically asked after and also
because the determination of Dasein as the asker after being occurs at the same time,
happening right along with it.
Nevertheless, there is something else which happens when Dasein stands out into the
clearing of being and asks authentically concerning
SZ, p. 7.
WW, p. 15.
EM, p. 34.
EM, p. 156.
EM, p. 154.
EM, p. 109.
EM, p. 71.
being. For when this question is posed in the truth of being, Dasein stands in a tradition
(Überlieferung) as well.
And it is the concept of tradition—or, as Heidegger calls it,
historical tradition (geschichtliche Überlieferung)
—and other allied notions such as
dialogue (Gesprdch), "play-back" (Wiederholung), "back-tracking" (Schritt zurück),
period of incubation (Incubationszeit), etc., all flowing ultimately from Heidegger's
doctrine of temporality and historicity, which will give an even deeper insight into the
meaning of Dasein as an ecstatic, questioning, historical being.
THE CONCEPT OF HISTORICAL TRADITION
It is in his authentic questioning after being that Dasein truly comes to Ek-sist. It is
when he stands out into the brilliant light of the clearing of being that Dasein's own
being as an authentically historical and questioning being comes to light. However,
when Dasein stands out into his own history in such an ecstatic fashion, he cannot help
but stand out into a historical tradition.
What is this historical tradition? In Heidegger's thought the notion of tradition
(Überlieferung) is sometimes coupled with the destruction of the history of
In this destruction, as he explains, we set aside all merely historical
assertions concerning the history of philosophy and concern ourselves solely with that
in our philosophical tradition which speaks of the being of things (Sein des Seienden).
One sees that the history of philosophy for Heidegger always means the history of
being, the history of the fate of being.
The word tradition in the thought of Heidegger thus has something of the same
ambiguity which certain other key concepts of his have. There is a "good" tradition, and
this he attempts to ferret out and preserve; and there is, of course, the "bad" tradition
which has been characterized by a general forgetting of being, and this he must attempt
to destroy. As he says, we cannot always leave our tradition wholly as it is, since that
which is in this tradition can be both well and ill grasped.
Sometimes a restoration of
the more original in our tradition is neces-
EM, p. 18.
SG, p. 178.
SZ, #6, pp. 19-27.
WP, p. 34.
SZ, p. 221.
sary. In any case, however, such a destruction of a falsified tradition should never be
understood as something purely negative, whose sole purpose is destruction. The
destruction which Heidegger has in mind is positive in that, as he says, we attempt to
think our philosophical tradition in terms of the positive possibilities of Dasein.
indeed, a destruction; but it is done for the purpose of an authentic and original
reconstruction. This is the meaning which Heidegger insists must be given to his notion
of the destruction of the history of metaphysics. It is neither a break with nor a denial of
history or of our historical tradition. It is rather the adoption and the transformation of
the traditional itself,
first of all, in terms of its origins; secondly, in terms of the future
possibilities of Dasein.
In his work Der Satz vom Grund Heidegger gives an example of where he finds a
destruction necessary in order to bring about a proper reconstruction of the historical
truth of the matter. He notes that Logos was translated in our historical tradition by the
Latin word ratio. He asks whether this should be taken as the truly traditional. Should
we not, he asks rhetorically, in attempting to understand the original meaning of the
phrase in Leibnitz in which this word occurs ("Nihil est sine ratione") return to the
original Logos of the Greeks and its original meaning of saying (Sagen)?
But what is this tradition itself? What is its significance, that we should even be
concerned with it? For Heidegger our tradition is western,
philosophical. And in calling our tradition philosophical, for example, the very use of
the Greek word indicates our being grounded in a historical tradition, namely, in a
historical tradition that is Greek. The Greek word names in a historical manner our
philosophical tradition; such that if we would dub our present age atomic, we must also
call our philosophical tradition Greek.
In saying that our tradition is historically grounded Heidegger is
SZ, p. 22.
WP, p. 33.
SG, p. 178.
In WP Heidegger denies that philosophy is western and European; philosophy, he
says, is Greek. WP, p. 13.
WP, p. 14.
implicitly grounding tradition upon his notion of historicity and also, therefore, upon the
three ecstasies of temporality which ground historicity, and which collapse into an a-
temporal future. As historical, tradition is, like history, a-temporal (unzeitgemäss).
Because of the forward projecting character of Dasein's thinking, and also because his
thinking is or at least can be with reference to the being of things, rather than merely
with reference to things, authentic historical tradition also takes on the character of the
timeless. Philosophy in Heidegger's view is a knowledge which is not only not
measured by time, it is rather the measure of time itself.
One might question in all this whether Heidegger's theory of history truly succeeds in
escaping the problem of historical relativism. There is no question but that Heidegger is
very much aware of the problem, and that it is not only a charge which he wishes to
avoid but a philosophical problem which he would like to solve. It is to this effect, for
example, that the philosopher makes the distinction between history (Geschichte) and
historiography (Historie) with such frequency and with such insistence. There can be no
question in Heidegger's thought of philosophical truth being dependent upon
historiographical truth. As he says, all sciences—and this includes historiography as the
science of history (Geschichtswissenschaft)—are grounded in philosophy, and not vice
Philosophical truth and ontology may be said to be dependent upon history, in the
fundamental sense of historicity. But the question remains, does this compromise the
truth of ontology? In Heidegger's view, of course, it does not. We never arrive to
philosophical truth merely by collecting and collating the data of various historical
definitions, for example, and thereby arrive to some kind of common denominator of
This may, indeed, be the "truth" of historiography; it is not the truth of authentic
history. True history only happens with and belongs to Dasein. Dasein depends upon
history only to the extent that he stands in a historical tradition.
historical tradition is already authentic, because it is Da-sein that stands therein. The
important thing remains as to how he stands in this his-
EM, p. 6.
WD, p. 90.
WP, pp. 29-30.
EM, p. 18.
torical tradition. Dasein stands there as a being that can stand out of that tradition and
into the truth of being. He stands in a tradition as an ecstatic being that can stand out
authentically into the truth of the clearing of being. This "can" is important. It is, first of
all, the difference between authenticity and inauthenticity. But even more than this, if
authentic, it is also authentically historical, in the full Heideggerian sense of that word.
For in standing out authentically into the truth of being, Dasein is "timeless" (according
to the chronological understanding of time) in his temporality and historicity. As
Heidegger says, Dasein is a being not measured by time, because time stands under his
For the temporality (which grounds Heidegger's doctrine of historicity) is
not the ordinary time which is measured off, moment by moment, by the clock. Dasein's
temporality is more fundamental than this time, because it grounds it. The three
ecstasies (Ekstasen) of temporality represent the collapse of past, present, and future
into this fundamental unity of temporality which, when Dasein stands open to being,
when Dasein truly asks concerning the being of things, when he truly does what Da-
sein is, namely, relate himself to being, makes Dasein become that which he can be,
namely the timeless relation to being itself.
This collapse of the three ecstasies into a unitary temporality becomes a-temporal for
another reason. This reason is based upon the projective character of Dasein's
understanding. For when Dasein authentically and historically "opens himself up" to
being, there occurs a telescoping of the three ecstasies of Dasein's temporality in a
projecting understanding of being which looks toward the future.
Philosophy as Dasein's ontologically opening himself out to the revelation of being is,
as Heidegger says, historical only to the extent that every work of the spirit (Geist) is
historical; namely, in the sense that it realizes itself in time.
It is, then, in this sense
that the has been (Gewesenheit) of authentic history can act as the basis for the has been
EM, p. 6.
EM, p. 33. Schrag in his article on Heidegger suggests that this is the way in which
the philosopher overcomes historicism: "The point which needs to be underscored
here is that Heidegger has sought to overcome historical relativism through an
analysis and description of the historical itself, rather than through an appeal to
(Vergangenheit) which scientific historiography deals with. It can never, however, work
the other way.
From this digression of the way in which Heidegger attempts to escape the pitfalls of
historicism, one can also see how the philosopher's doctrine of history and temporality
grounds his notion of tradition. It may also be clearer how it is possible for him to
include all thinkers— all thinkers think on being in some way or other, since all are in
relation to being—in one big bundle, so to speak. Inasmuch as each philosopher
questions after being, each one stands into the tradition of philosophy. As Heidegger
says, we think in and with reference to a tradition. Whatever and however we may
attempt to think we think within the "freewheel" (Spielraum) of tradition.
One might compare Heidegger's notion of tradition with Parmenides' "well-rounded
For no matter where we enter in or take it up, we always come back to the
same point, namely, being. The only difference is that for Heidegger the "well-rounded
sphere" of the western tradition of philosophy rolls forward in accordance with the
future possibilities of Dasein. And of course with the history of being as more and more
a forgetting of being, the "well-rounded sphere" of the western philosophical tradition
has tended to roll downhill.
Still for Heidegger philosophical tradition is the present. It is thus that
cosmological categories and structures which could overcome relativism only at the
expense of a reduction of the historical to the natural. The historical Dasein, for
Heidegger, is understood through history rather than through nature." C. O. Schrag,
"Phenomenology, Ontology, and History in the Philosophy of Heidegger," Revue
Internationale de Philosophie, XII (1958), p. 130. Guenther (Anders) Stem, "On the
pseudo-concreteness of Heidegger's philosophy," Journal of Philosophy and
Phenomenological Research, VIII (1947-1948) 359, argues on the contrary that
inasmuch as Heidegger refuses to take nature into account in his account of history,
he has no adequate notion of history. Both views are a little one-sided. Heidegger
says that history does belong primarily to Dasein; however, in a secondary sense the
Umwelt-natur (the world of nature around us) is also historical, since it provides the
historical soil ("geschichtlicher Boden") in which Dasein's own history can grow. SZ,
ID, p. 34. In EM Heidegger speaks of being and thinking as the whole of our western
philosophical tradition. EM, p. 156.
Parmenides B 8, 43.
we are able to enter into a dialogue with principles or original notions contained within
that tradition. As Heidegger says, by itself this tradition of former thinkers and their
thoughts concerning being is no mere chaotic mixture of remote philosophical insights.
Rather, the tradition is the present (Gegenwart).
It is from such a notion of tradition
that Heidegger can speak of Plato as being historically "present."
It is the reality of
tradition which makes it possible for Plato and Aristotle to speak in our current
everyday language. It is only through the fact of our historical tradition that we are able
to think about Parmenides and Heraclitus in terms of our own ways of thinking
(Vorstellen). Tradition, for Heidegger, is able to speak; it has a voice of its own.
Tradition can thus be made to speak; it can be forced to give up its hidden secrets.
Tradition can speak through a particular philosopher, as, for example, the whole 2000-
year tradition of western metaphysics speaks through Nietzsche.
The tradition of the history of metaphysics is in Heidegger's view one long, unbroken
For after all it represents and encompasses the totality of Dasein's historical
opening or failing to open himself up to being. Hence the importance of Heidegger's
concept of tradition in understanding his historical disquisitions on any and every
thinker who forms a part of the western tradition of philosophy. For no matter how
disparate the thinkers and their various philosophies, they are all related to and guided
by being. And in their thinking they are either coming back to or going further away
from a true understanding of being.
It might be objected that such a unitary concept of tradition would be refuted by the fact
that philosophers have not always been in historical contact with one another, nor have
they always known the works of their philosophical predecessors. Heidegger's point is
exactly that: although they have not always been in contact with each other, they have
been in contact with and guided by being, and this even in the forgetting of being. As he
says, a thinker does not depend (abhängt) upon another thinker, rather he depends upon,
he ap-pends (anhängt), being. This is true philosophical influence (Einfliessen).
Through the way in
SG, p. 83.
PW, p. 50.
WD, p. 71.
Hw, p. 221.
WD, p. 39.
which being sends itself out (Geschick des Seins) being always controls (durchwaltet)
tradition, and hence it can always be found within that tradition.
This is the guidance
which being itself has always given to thinkers. As Heidegger says, tradition always
comes forth from out of the hiddenness of the fateful (Verborgenen des Geschickes) just
as different rivulets spring forth from a spring to nourish a river which is everywhere
and yet nowhere.
We are wont to think of the traditional, says Heidegger, in terms of that which we have
authentically behind us. However, tradition (Überlieferung) still comes to us, since we
are handed over (ausgeliefert) to it and fated (geschickt), or sent into it.
something which we are "stuck with." It is not simply "the behind us," the past
(Vergangene), that which is over and done with. It is still with us. It "presences" itself to
us in its effects. It comes to us in the recorded words of the philosophers from out of our
philosophical tradition. It comes to us from out of our future as well. It is a fully
historical tradition. And as historical it manifests all three of the ecstasies of
temporality, and it further manifests Dasein's own ecstatic ability to stand out into his
own future historical possibilities in and through his relation to being.
This projective character of Dasein's thinking with reference to his own historical
tradition, even while he stands within this historical tradition, helps to explain
Heidegger's return to pre-Socratic thought, which is for him but the return to the origins
of our philosophical tradition. This was why the overcoming (Überwindung) of the
nihilism of the western metaphysical tradition was undertaken. This over-coming is, as
Heidegger explains, a giving-over (Über-lieferung) of metaphysics into its truth.
a return to the truly traditional in an attempt to show that which in our tradition was
being-directed and Logos-orientated, in contrast with that which has in general come to
characterize our western tradition of philosophy, namely, the forgetting of being.
Thus does Heidegger return to the thought of Parmenides and Hera-
ID, p. 47. See also SG, p. 147 to note how this "be-sending" (Beschickung) of being
relates itself to man.
SG, p. 154.
WD, p. 71.
VA, p. 79.
clitus; not simply because their thought still supports our world, but also because in
understanding them we understand where thinking with reference to being—for this is
how one comes to stand authentically in his philosophical tradition—somehow went off
the track; we must also return to the pre-Socratics, says Heidegger, if we are to build
This return to tradition is no mere restoration or uncreative
Heidegger is not striving to promote some sort of Renaissance of pre-
Socratic thinking, even if this would be possible.
He studies Parmenides and
Heraclitus in an attempt to regain our authentic origins, such that our own thinking may
be projected in an authentically historical manner into the future. As he says, only after
we have re-turned to what has already been thought in our western tradition can we
ourselves turn to fruitful thinking.
Thus, for example, does the philosopher explain
his interpretation of truth after the fashion of the Greeks as most certainly not a shaking
off (Abschütteln) of tradition, but rather as an appropriation (Aneignung) of that
tradition in its origins.
Indeed, the study of this tradition is not always easy. Quite often that which tradition
gives over ("übergibt") to us is so little approachable as to be completely concealed.
It is when this occurs, when the original possibilities of a particular historical thinker are
hidden from view, that Heidegger feels it necessary to apply what he calls the "re-
dredging" (Wiederholung) of tradition.
This word is closely allied with the concept of tradition in the thought of Heidegger.
Literally the word means a repetition or a reiteration or a replay. In Heidegger's thought,
however, the word takes on a more
EM, p. 96.
EM, p. 96.
VA, p. 47.
ID, p. 34.
SZ, p. 220.
SZ, p. 21.
KM, p. 185. "Die Wiederholung kennzeichnen wir als den Modus der sich
überliefernden Entschlossenheit, durch dem das Dasein ausdrücklich als Schicksal
existiert." SZ, p. 386. This is how, Heidegger insists, the fundamental ontological
principles of metaphysics in SZ are to be understood, namely as a Wiederholung.
KM, p. 216.
vigorous connotation. Hence a Wiederholung is more a dredging up of the hidden but
yet original meanings of a particular thinker or philosophical saying. It is no mere
parrotlike repeating of that which everyone else has repeated. Rather it is retrieving
(Holen), a bringing in, a gathering together of that which is hidden among the ancients.
In an authentic repetition one dredges tradition as one might dredge a river in order to
widen the channel of its possibilities for future navigation, in order also to get to the
bottom of it. Thus an authentic repetition attempts to get to the bottom of its tradition in
order to make deeper and better founded the future possibilities of Dasein.
It is, then, a creative repetition that Heidegger has in mind when he speaks of a
Wiederholung; for it is done in accordance with the creative possibilities of a futuristic
Dasein. This is what Heidegger means when he says that we must win back our roots in
history. He does not mean by this repetition the repeating of a historically fundamental
happening (Grundgeschehnis) of an authentic beginning as something past; rather, he
wishes a beginning originally rebegun.
Similarly, Heidegger insists, is his concept of "overcoming" (Überwindung) to be
understood. It is also a return to origins (ursprünglich überwinden).
Again, this is not
done simply for the purpose of repeating what the thinkers in this tradition have said, or
repeating what has been traditionally said concerning them. Heidegger says that he
agrees entirely with Hegel on this point; we must attempt to grasp and regain the vigor
(Kraft) of the early thinkers. He differs with Hegel in that he feels that we do not seek
this vigor in the already thought (schon Gedachten), but rather in the "unthought"
(Ungedachten) from which the thought (Gedachte) first received elbow-room
Thinking upon the unthought in the thought of the early thinkers is
done not only in order to regain this unthought; it is done also in order to gain a place
for that which has yet to be thought. What has been thought prepares the way for what
has not, but will one day be made to come forth in superabundance (Überfluss). In this
way is the emancipation
US, p. 131.
"... der Anfang ursprünglicher wiederangefangen ..." EM, pp. 29-30.
EM, p. 89. The same point is made with reference to Kant in KM, p. 185.
ID, p. 44.
(Freilassung) of traditional thought achieved.
And it is achieved for the future as
well. This is the purpose of the repetition of the ancient philosophical thought upon
which our tradition is grounded; namely, for the future area of the unthought in
accordance with the future possibilities of Dasein. And, of course, the basis for the
possibility of this is the authentic historicity of Dasein.
Relating this with his notion of tradition Heidegger says that repetition is the expression
of tradition in that it goes back into the possibilities of the Dasein that has been.
since it is Dasein that stands here and now doing this repetition, it is he that is further
projected and projects himself forward in terms of his own future possibilities.
Nevertheless, Heidegger cautions, one must not imagine that Dasein is historical from
the fact or from his ability to make this repetition. Rather, it is because he is temporally
historical (zeitliches geschichtlich) that he can grasp himself repeating in his own
history. There is no question of historiography here, only of history.
The notions of
tradition and the repetition of tradition in Heidegger's thought are always based upon his
concept of historicity, not vice versa.
Another concept very closely allied with that of repetition or "play back" is that of
"back-tracking" (Schritt zurück). On this point Heidegger again makes a comparison
between Hegel and himself. He says that when Hegel engages in a discussion with the
philosophical tradition, he performs a mediation (Aufhebung). However, when
Heidegger back-tracks into the western philosophical tradition, he claims that he is
rather going over an area that has been skipped over (übersprungenen Bereich).
refers, he says, to a movement of thought which takes us out of that which has thus far
been thought in philosophy as we plunge into it. In this back-tracking we move from out
of metaphysics and into the very essence of metaphysics.
The back-tracking is not
simply a going back in history to the earliest thinkers in western philosophy, since the
exact "where unto" (Wohin) of the back-tracking becomes evident only when we have
completed the trek back.
It is rather a
ID, p. 44. It is in this way that the "destruction" of traditional metaphysics achieves
its desired end.
SZ, p. 395.
SZ, p. 385.
SZ, p. 386.
ID, p. 45.
ID, pp. 46-47.
ID, p. 48.
vigorous step back into our philosophical tradition, uncovering those areas which have
been skipped over. And it is done for the purpose of the further, future, fruitful thinking
Also related to the dredging out of the river of tradition which is accomplished through
repetition is Heidegger's notion of gestation or period of incubation (Incubationszeit).
This is primarily tied up with the work Der Satz vom Grund, in which Heidegger many
times remarks how long the period of incubation that was required for the long-held, but
never explicated, principle "Nihil est sine ratione" to come to expression in Leibnitz.
It took 2000 years, says Heidegger, for the proposition to awaken from its long slumber.
He implies that the truth of the proposition was there all along, but that it became a
proposition (Satz) only when the leap (Satz) to speech was made by Leibnitz. As to why
the proposition should have remained asleep so long, Heidegger leaves the question
However, one might conclude from the fact of periods of gestation for certain
philosophical problems and principles, that also in the case of the pre-Socratics that it
might require several thousand years (and, of course, Heidegger) to bring to light the
authentic original thought of Parmenides and Heraclitus for the fruitful, future thinking
There is one other important concept which is also connected with Heidegger's notion of
tradition, and hence which is of importance for understanding his doctrine of tradition,
and that is the concept of historical dialogue (Gespräch). As Heidegger has said, we are
able to carry on a dialogue with our tradition. We can also dialogue with a principle
held firmly within that tradition.
And furthermore, we can
SG, p. 14.
SG, p. 15. See also SG, pp. 114, 192. Similarly does Heidegger speak of the famous
principle of identity as requiring 2000 years to come to language. ID, p. 34.
Although he does suggest an answer, and a typically Heideggerian answer it is.
"Wenn nämlich der Satz vom Grund ein Satz vom Sein ist, dann hängt die Incubation
des Satzes vom Grund damit zusammen, dass das, was der Satz in Wahrheit sagt, das
Sein, eigentlich noch schläft." SG, p. 97.
SG, p. 83. See also note 55 above. In one of his Hölderlin commentaries Heidegger
goes so far as to say that man is himself a dialogue (Gesprdch). EHD, p. 36. And
given the nature of authentic questioning as necessarily related to being, to speak of
Dasein as the actual dialogue itself would not be un-Heideggerian.
carry on a conversation with a particular thinker within this vast philosophical tradition.
For example, concerning the meaning of philosophy, as has been noted, we can truly
ask this question only if we ask it of the Greeks. And in asking it of them, Heidegger
says, we are forced to engage ourselves in a conversation (Gespräch) with the ancient
Greek thinkers themselves.
This does not mean merely a cataloguing or describing or
a setting down of their opinions. What they say, and that wherefrom they speak, are two
entirely different things. And we must engage them in conversation on the score of that
wherefrom they speak.
For in thus engaging philosophers in conversation we force
them to give up their insights, that which is the unthought behind their thought, that
which is in relation to being.
Heidegger's interest in any philosopher or thinker in the
long tradition of western philosophy is not so much what that philosopher says as what
he means with reference to being. It is not how the philosopher speaks that interests
Heidegger, but rather what he "be-speaks."
Nevertheless, this sort of dialogue carried on with those ancient Greek thinkers,
particularly Parmenides and Heraclitus, who are at the same time poets, does not imply
an attempt at a modern revival of the ancients for their own sakes. Much less does such
a dialoguing represent a mere historiological curiosity indulged in for its own sake;
rather, this dialoguing is the only way we can explain in its origin and in a historical
manner the unique characteristics of the modern world.
For example, Heidegger speaks of carrying on a thoughtful conversation (denkendes
Gespräch) with Hegel, ID, p. 41, or with Leibnitz, SG, p. 43. See also the preface to
the second edition (1950) of his Kant commentary. KM, pp. 7-8.
WP, p. 15. And most particularly must we engage Heraclitus in conversation on this
point of the meaning of the word Philosophia, since he was most probably the first to
use the word; that is, if Heraclitus B 35 is genuine. WP, pp. 20 ff.
WP, p. 31.
Compare this with Kant's forcing not other thinkers to give up the "unthought" in
their thought, but rather forcing nature to give up the answers that are posed to it. "...
und die Natur nötigen müsse auf ihre [Reason's] Fragen zu antworten ..." Kritik der
reinen Vernunft, B xiii. This is a significant difference between Kant and Heidegger:
Kant asks questions of nature; Heidegger, only of Dasein.
VA, p. 47.
There are two other concepts closely tied up with dialoguing. One is that of
interpretation. For in carrying on a dialogue with thinkers as far removed from us as are
the pre-Socratics, and since we must do this through their often fragmentary and always
difficult texts, we are forced to make an exegesis (Hermeneutik) of these texts. We are
constantly forced into a dialogue, Heidegger says, into the area of interpretation
(Auslegung) as to what they are saying to us from out of our tradition. Such
interpretations (Interpretationen) of texts truly remain, in Heidegger's view, in the area
of conversation (Konversation), since every conversation is a type of dialogue
Nevertheless, in carrying on a textually interpretative dialogue with
thinkers as far removed from us and from our ways of thinking as are, for example, the
pre-Socratics, in order to get back to their true meaning, an authentic interpretation must
point out that which no longer stands in the words, but which is nevertheless said in the
words. In such a case the interpretation must necessarily use force and violence in order
to wrest the meaning from the words of the thinker.
The other concept attached to dialoguing, and closely tied up with interpretation as well,
is the notion of translation (Übersetzung). For as Heidegger says, every translation is
itself already an interpretation.
Translation, for Heidegger, does not refer simply to
our attempts to translate these ancient thinkers into our present-day languages.
Translation also refers to the way in which tradition itself has translated, or handed
over, whether falsely or authentically, the concepts of the ancient thinkers. The way in
which the translation of the authentic Greek Logos into the Latin ratio served to falsify
the original and authentic western tradition of this word has already been noted. A
translation (Übersetzung) becomes a tradition, Heidegger says, when the speaking
(Sprechen) of the fundamental word from a particular historical language is put over
(übersetzt) into another language. And in this process a tradition can, if it becomes
solidified, also become a burden and a hindrance; hence the forceful interpretation that
is sometimes required in order to get back to the true meaning originally meant by the
thinker. However, tradition (Überlieferung) can also, as the name indicates, be a
WD, p. 110.
EM, p. 124.
WD, p. 107.
delivering (Liefern), in the sense of a freeing.
And this a true re-translation can
accomplish; that is, when it is not merely a literal translation,
but rather a thoughtful
translation (denkende Übersetzung).
Such a translation can liberate that which, though
authentically traditional, has been held in captivity for centuries.
The importance of translation and the fact that it is already an interpretation, and thus
has a profound influence upon the whole of philosophical tradition, is most strongly
emphasized by Heidegger. He notes, for example, that the very fate of the West, the
whole destiny of the Occident (Abend-landes), hinges upon the translation
(Übersetzung) of the word sov. The way in which this word was put across
(Übersetzung) determined in advance that which in sov came to speech.
As has been
noted, this trans-lation does not refer primarily to the way in which the Greek Physis
was translated into the Latin nature, but rather the way in which the original Greek
understanding of being was translated into the thought of Plato and Aristotle and hence
into the metaphysical tradition of western thought.
This is the absolutely critical thing that translation represents in the thinking of
Heidegger. For in trans-lation we grasp or else we fail to grasp the experience
(Erfahrung) of another thinker; and we either transfer this experience or else we fail to
put it across (Über-setzen), not simply into another language, but into another way of
Having seen something of Heidegger's notions of history and tradition and the way in
which he actually interprets the pre-Socratics, one might liken the philosopher to an
interpretative artist. He is like a musician who transposes the music written by the pre-
Socratics into a new and different key. The music is still the same. But both because of
the new key in which it is played, and also because of the par-
SG, p. 71. See also WP, p. 15.
And for Heidegger a literal translation is no translation. WD, p. 138. As he says, a
translation which merely carries a Greek word over in the wheelbarrow to our
language is no translation. Such a translation does not wish to recover (ersetzen) or
restore the true meaning of the word, rather it succeeds only in losing it in the
transposition (Versetzung). PhA, p. 136.
VA, p. 239.
Hw, p. 318.
Hw, p. 13.
ticular interpretation given it in the playing—Heidegger plays the "unthought"; he
thinks the music which has not been written—the music of Parmenides and Heraclitus is
made into a key for the door of the future, behind which the future possibilities of
Dasein may be revealed. This is not the final key. Parmenides can be played and
transposed into yet other keys, providing yet other keys to open up yet other doors to the
future-tending Dasein. Heidegger does not claim that his interpretation of Parmenides,
for example, is the final one;
just as no pianist will ever say that his interpretation of a
Beethoven sonata is the final one, even for him. The interpretative artist will always
find something new in the music which the pre-Socratics speak through, each one
opening up yet new futures for Dasein.
Hw, p. 256.
The Meaning of Language for
LOGOS, LOGIC, AND LANGUAGE
There is no question in Heidegger's mind but that western philosophy has tended to
be logical. However, it has done so without ever really raising the question as to
what the Logos of this logic really consists of.
This was one of the themes of the
early and very much misunderstood lecture "Was ist Metaphysik?" It is there that
Heidegger made his famous statement about logic; that the idea of logic dissolves
itself in a whirlpool of a much more fundamental and original questioning.
answer to the objections raised by critics, Heidegger insisted that to attempt to think
fundamentally with reference to the Logos of the early Greek thinkers, and on the
basis of this to criticize the falsified Logos that has arisen since then, should not be
interpreted as thinking a logically, but as thinking origin-ally.
Heidegger indeed recognizes that logic represents the science of the Logos. And he
also recognizes that it was no accident that the theory of thought (Lehre vom
Denken) should have become logic. What is most curious in Heidegger's view,
however, is that this logic should have come to determine what thinking is. That this
logic should have come to exert its domination over the authentic Logos: this is for
Heidegger something questionable and well worthy of questioning (etwas
Logic arose in Platonic and Aristotelian circles, and hence in
Heidegger's view it is the invention of school teachers (Schullehrer) rather than of
All these adverse criticisms of logic or what for Heidegger is the falsified Logos are
familiar enough already. The purpose of them is not, however, to overthrow logic,
as if this would be possible, but rather to
Hw, p. 342.
WM, p. 37.
EM, pp. 91-92.
EM, p. 92.
think back to the historical and doctrinal basis of logic itself, back beyond the Logos of
reason or of judgment, to the Logos of Parmenides and Heraclitus. And in this thinking
back, in thus reconsidering, in "bethinking" the togetherness of the Logos with being in
the primordial thought of the pre-Socratics, Heidegger hopes also to reveal this Greek
Logos for what it truly was, namely, the fundamental basis of the Greek notion of
language, and hence also the key to understanding language in its essential meaning,
i.e., in its intimate relation to being, as being but another word for being itself.
The Greeks, says Heidegger, had no word for language. They did not need one. They
had the Logos.
To the Greeks, as the philosopher says, the essence of language was
revealed as Logos.
But although this true essence of language as Logos was grasped, even lived by the
Greeks, Heidegger does not think it possible ever fully to recapture or get back to this
original concept of language. Nevertheless, to understand language in its origins and
essence the attempt must be made. The reason why this early and fundamental essence
of language will never be fully recovered, Heidegger intimates, is that it was never
really appreciated by the Greeks themselves, even by Heraclitus.
This is a rather
surprising assertion on Heidegger's part, especially considering the time and effort he
has gone to explain and extol the greatness of the Heraclitean Logos. What does he
Heidegger states that the Greeks lived with the true essence of language, this true Logos
which was for the Greeks the name of speaking (Sprechen) and of saying (Sagen). The
Logos was the Greek name for language (Sprache). Language as Logos was for the
Greeks the collecting letting-lie-before-of-the-present-in-its-presence.
although the Greeks lived with this essence of language, they did not think on it. This,
of course, would serve to explain why the Greeks had no word for language. Not even
Heraclitus really thought on it. It was, after all, as Heraclitus had said in B 2, common
and current (çuvoç ¸op o koivoç). It
SZ, p. 165.
WP, p. 44. Heidegger is himself often accused of doing exactly this.
VA, p. 228.
"... versammelndes vor-liegen-Lassen des Anwesenden in seinem Anwesen." VA, p.
was so much taken for granted by the Greeks that it was scarcely thought about, even by
such a great thinker as Heraclitus. For if the Greeks had truly thought about it, they
would have thought the essence of language from right out of the essence of being. For
the Logos is nothing else but the name for the being of things (Sein des Seienden).
Unfortunately they did not, and to this is to be attributed, at least in part, the eventual
separation of the Logos from being, and the inevitable domination of logic over true
Logos-orientated, being-orientated thinking.
Thus as Heidegger says, once in the very beginning of western thinking did the essence
of language flash forth into the light of being. Once did Heraclitus think the Logos as
the word giving direction (Leitwort), thinking in this word the being of things.
Unfortunately, however, Heraclitus was a sort of flash in the pan, and the brilliance of
his primary insight was to be lost, presumably, until the time of Heidegger. And the
philosopher makes essentially the same point in his book Was heisst Denken? The
Greeks had a true and authentic notion of language; however, it remained concealed
even from them. This is the case partly because the very essence of language, as a thing
(seiend), tends both to reveal and to conceal at the same time.
Thus although Heraclitus thought in terms of the authentic Logos, there was in him the
same sort of tragic flaw which was found to exist in the thinking of Parmenides
concerning the relation between knowing and being. For although Heraclitus thought in
terms of the true and authentic Logos, the Logos which is the word both for language
and for being,
that which after him came to be thought was the being of things rather
than the being of things. And the Logos of logic, in Heidegger's view, thinks only this
being of things.
The falsified Logos of metaphysics indeed thinks about the being of
things. The metaphysician could hardly do otherwise. He is related to things and things
are in being. Further, in order to be related to things he must be related to being.
However, the metaphysician fails to deal thematically with being.
Nevertheless, with the Logos of the Greeks—and Heidegger insists
VA, p. 229.
WD, p. 123.
US, pp. 185, 237.
ID, p. 68.
VA, p. 228.
that only the Greek language is Logos
—we have the essential origin of the
development of language.
In the Einführung in die Metaphysik Heidegger gives a brief outline of how the essence
of language came to be determined from out of being, and also how the way came to be
prepared for logic. In the beginning this happens: the Logos is as the revealing
collection, being as proper order (Fug) in the sense of Physis; this is unto the necessity
of the essence of historical man.
Thus did the Logos determine the essence of
language. The Logos of being, in its intimate connection with being, buttonholed
(Ansprechen, Legein) the thing as thing, whereupon the thing became buttonholed
The authentic saying (Sage) of the Logos was that
which allowed the showing off of the thing to appear in its "is-ness" (es-ist).
Thus it is
easy to see how Logos could come to mean merely talk (Rede).
For when the word
becomes a mere sign, then language becomes a veiling (Verdeckung) rather than an
unveiling (Eröffnung) of being.
And as soon as the word becomes a mere sign, the
way is prepared for logic and the manipulation of terms as signs. The true essence of
language as the collecting of the collected of being is come upon, language as everyday
talk (alltäglich Rede) comes to its truth, only when speaking and hearing are related to
the Logos as the collected, in the sense of being.
One sees in all this the importance which the proper hearing of the Logos, and most
particularly the Logos as it was first grasped in an original manner by Heraclitus, has
for Heidegger. The proper hearing of this Logos is important not only for the
understanding of how logic
WP, p. 20. In EM German was also classed with the superior languages. EM, p. 43.
However, this was because of their similarity in expressing being. EM, p. 54.
ID, p. 67. Already in his work on Duns Scotus (1916) Heidegger had made the
remark that the question as to how language came to be is no question for mere logic.
Die Katagorien- und Bedeutungslehre des Duns Scotus (Tübingen: Mohr, 1916), p.
EM, p. 30.
WG, p. 13.
US, p. 237.
EM, pp. 130-131.
EM, p. 132.
EM, p. 132.
as the falsified Logos got its start; it is also important if we are ever to appreciate the
primordial meaning of language. And this authentic sense of language as Logos was
first had, though not fully realized, by the Greeks. It was lived by them; it was taken for
granted. It was never fully thought about. One indication that the Greeks truly lived
with language as the authentic Logos is seen in the close connection between speaking
and hearing which the Greeks always preserved in their notion of language. The Greeks,
Heidegger insists, never forgot the audible (evq), the spoken character
(Lautcharakter) of language. And this was true even when their language came to be
written down. Even written, the Greek tongue was the spoken concretized
(Gesprochenes zum Stehen), the spoken brought to stand.
In his attempts to think back to the essence, down into the ground, of language one can
see the importance which the notion of language as original Logos and of Logos as
original language plays in Heidegger's thought. And from this one can also grasp
something of the importance which the pre-Socratic notion of Logos which Heidegger
ferrets out of Parmenides and Heraclitus has not only for his interpretation of the whole
history of the western tradition of philosophy but also for his own original thought on
the primordial union of being and language.
THE HOUSE OF BEING
Because of the essentially different type of temporality which, coalescing into a unity,
collapses into the future, the temporality which acts as the basis for authentic history
must be fundamentally distinguished from the scientific historiography of the historian.
And there is an equally fundamental difference, in Heidegger's view, between language
as being-related speech and the language of ordinary everyday speech. The latter, for
one thing, takes only the ordinary meanings of words, meanings which generally tend to
conceal rather than reveal being.
To speak (sprechen) a language, Heidegger insists,
is quite other than merely making use (benützen) of a language. And common everyday
EM, p. 49.
WP, p. 20.
speech only makes use of language. This is what makes ordinary, everyday language
Thinkers and poets, on the other hand, do not simply use words; they say (sagen) words.
Hence in studying thinkers we must pay careful attention to the way in which words are
said (Sagen des Wortes) rather than simply to the way in which words are used.
this it can be seen why Heidegger has long used the word Sprache to express what he
means by language with greater and greater reluctance, and has increasingly tended to
use the word Sage, as referring to a more origin-al and Logos-orientated notion of
language. For saying (Sagen), as he notes, means both the said (Gesagtes) and also the
saying of it (zu Sagende).
As was the case with Heidegger's theory of history, so here with language; there is a
more original notion of language behind, and grounding, the language of everyday
speech. And there is also a more original notion of language which grounds the so-
called science of language, namely, philology (Philologie), just as a more original
notion of history lay behind historiography. And this more primordial notion of
language predominates as absolutely indispensable in the theory of philology.
just as one can never hope to arrive back to the meaning of ancient philosophers by
following merely historical paths, so also is it impossible to grasp the meaning of being
contained in their more original language simply by checking out word meanings in a
dictionary. Such a study of the history of language (Sprachgeschichte) is indeed one of
the departments of philology; however, for Heidegger such an investigation is
historiographical, not primordially historical.
Such methods of research do not, in Heidegger's view, get to the root of the matter.
Authentic language in the original sense of "saying" (Sagen) is, indeed, at the root of
this science of the history of language,
WD, pp. 87-88.
US, p. 145. At this point it might be said that the German word Sage can mean
anything from myth or legend to rumor ("Es geht die Sage um ..."—people say). The
simple verb sagen means "to say." Heidegger uses the word Sage to express
something primordial and original, which, like myth, however, can fade back into the
VA, p. 64.
WD, p. 90.
but it does not necessarily follow from this that by tracing words back to their origins or
in analyzing them in a historico-linguistic fashion we can ever come to a grasp of their
truly original meaning. Philosophy, in Heidegger's opinion, can hardly be said to depend
upon the mere explanation of words.
Indeed, the philosopher can and must make use
of such historiological research, since only in this manner is the history of language
accessible. Still, the philosophical and the merely historiological are to be
fundamentally distinguished one from the other.
For just as historiography is grounded in the more original history, so also in the case of
language; what the science of language asserts must first be given to it in an
authentically historical way (geschichtlich); that which the science of language studies
must first be given to it pre scientifically. Here and only here, where history is already
given, can its given become an object for historiography, wherein the given always
remains there as that which it is. It is from this source that we are able to take words as
Heidegger is saying that the philosopher can use language to philosophical advantage
only when he understands the essence of language from its truly historical vantage
point, i.e., in its original connection with being. Only if language is illuminated in its
relation to being does it come to have true philosophico-historical value. Mere
etymological back-tracking through words and word roots, the sort of investigation
carried on by the sciences of the history of language—this is not historical enough. This
is history merely in the sense of historiography. And this historiographical approach to
language can be based only upon something more original, something which has been
given pre-scientifically, namely, authentic historical language. The most that the
etymologizing of the philologist can accomplish toward showing the philosopher that
which is hidden behind the words of ancient thinkers is to act as a hint or indication
The science of the history of language can give us direction. It cannot,
however, furnish us with the final word on the subject.
WD, p. 90.
WD, p. 156. Also WD, p. 154.
WD, p. 91.
VA, p. 172.
As Heidegger says, language in its original sense is historical, and this whether man
with his present-day notion of the historiological recognizes it or not.
And it is this
authentically original historical language which the philosopher must ferret out of the
words of a particular thinker if he wishes to know exactly what has come to language in
the thought of that thinker.
As something of such grave importance, as something so fundamentally original,
language is an event (Ereignis), a very important event. When language begins to speak,
it is itself historical. It is an Ereignis in the sense that it opens man's eyes up (Er-äugen)
to the possibilities of language.
And hence it also opens man's eyes up to the
possibilities of the fateful thinking on being. As Heidegger puts it, the important event
here taking place with language is the coordination of our being with language, which is
nothing else but man and being joining forces.
Thus inasmuch as man and being are
here joined together, since it is here that the authentic thinking which fatefully thinks on
being comes to language, language (as Logos), as the primordial, historical place in
which man and being are thus joined, becomes an event of outstanding historical
Thus the close connection which Heidegger sees between language and history. In fact,
as one gets deeper and deeper into Heidegger's
US, p. 264.
Heidegger likes this way of expressing the way in which a true thinker thinks —his
thought "comes to language." Since the Logos is the word both for language and for
being, that which comes to language also "comes to being." Or perhaps better put:
being comes to language in a thoughtful (Logos-orientated) thinking on being.
US, p. 264. Heidegger likes this play on the word Ereignis (which normally means an
important event or happening) and Er-äugen, a word in the local dialect which
combines the prefix er with äugen (or äugeln, which means "to ogle"; compare
Augen). Lovers, for example, are wont to "make eyes at each other" (Lieb äugen).
However, eräugen as it is used in the Allemannisch-Schwäbisch dialect can mean to
see something not seen by others, to pick something out of a field of vision that
others have missed. Heidegger uses this same word play extensively in ID, where he
says, "Das Wort Ereignis ist der gewachsenen Sprache entnommen. Er-eignen heisst
ursprünglich; er-äugen, d.h. erblicken, im Blicken zu sich rufen, an-eignen." ID, pp.
28-29. See also US, p. 260.
ID, pp. 30-31.
thought on language, one finds that it is actually language, taken of course in its original
sense, which actually makes it possible for Dasein to exist historically.
The instrument of belonging among things within the whole happens as history. But that
history should be possible is language given to man. Language is man's possession.
Man owns language. And since language sets up the belonging-together of man to
reality as a whole, it is with language that history happens. In fact, Heidegger suggests
that it is in order that history might be rendered possible that language is given to man.
Hence language is far from being a mere tool (Werkzeug).
It is not simply the medium
of expression (Ausdrucksmittel).
Neither is language a mere field of expression or a
medium of expression, or both of these together. This may be ordinary language, the
language which merely uses words. Poets and thinkers, however, do not use language
after the fashion of ordinary language usage; they speak the language which speaks
through man. Thinking, and in another sense poetizing (Dichten), say (sagen) words.
It is this original reality of language which affords historical man the possibility of
standing in the openness of reality, which makes him able to ek-sist historically as the
ecstatic being that he is. For, as Heidegger says, only where there is language is there
world; and only where world holds sway (waltet) is there history. It is language,
Heidegger says in another place, which makes it possible for man to exist historically.
And the medium for this possibility, the medium for this possible joining of forces
between language and history which produces an important historical event, is grounded
upon the fundamentally existential constitution of Dasein as a Being-in-the-world.
EHD, p. 34.
WD, p. 99.
ZS, p. 15.
WD, p. 87. In his recent work on language Heidegger says that language is
essentially neither expression nor manifestation, in the sense that man expresses or
man manifests a language. It is language that speaks. US, p. 19.
EHD, p. 35.
SZ, p. 165. However, it must be recalled that the way of grounding language pursued
here in SZ is always understood and analyzed from the side of Dasein; in his later
works, of course, the emphasis in treating language has moved completely to the side
Hence language must have the same fundamental ecstatic unity of temporality which
Like history, past, present, and future coalesce into a unity and collapse
into the future in accordance with Dasein's projective abilities. This would, of course,
explain why it is not necessary for Heidegger to trace words back into their philological
origins as does the philologist. Language is a possession of man. It is right there at the
disposal of Dasein. It is something that Dasein has.
He owns it like a piece of
property (Gut). It has been bequeathed to him. This is why every language speaks
historically. Language is Dasein's and Dasein is a fundamentally historical being. This
does not mean that language is historical because Dasein in his historical being speaks
language. Original language speaks through Dasein, and only thus does language
become historical. Thus in a sense language is something "pre-historical," in that it
makes history itself possible. Only if language is given to man, only if man comes to
have a language as his possession, can he open himself out to being in and through the
Logos, and in allowing language thus to speak through him create history.
However, since language is something which speaks through men, since it is something
which has been bequeathed to man, this means that language is not primarily man's.
This is true. In a phrase appearing often in Heidegger's later writings, "It is language
that speaks, not man."
Speaking (Sprechen) belongs primarily to language (Sprache),
not to man. Speaking belongs to man, says Heidegger, only to the extent that he
belongs, i.e., conforms himself, to language. Speaking belongs to man insofar as he
belongs to its clientele.
Speaking belongs to man only because language is his
heirloom, and because in conforming himself to language's speaking, he is able to
establish a historical belonging in the clearing of being (Lichtung des Seins).
words, inasmuch as Dasein stands out into the clearing of being and conforms himself
to the language of being which there speaks to him does he himself come to speak in
terms of his historical reality in language.
SZ, p. 349.
"Dasein hat Sprache." SZ, p. 165.
"Die Sprache spricht, nicht der Mensch." SG, p. 161. The phrase appears over and
over again in US.
VA, p. 190.
SG, p. 161.
But if language does not belong primarily to man, then to whom or to what does it
belong? Language is being's, says Heidegger. It is the house of being (Haus des Seins).
Language belongs primarily to being. And only insofar as man comes to take up
residence in this house of being does he come to hear the speaking of language. Only
thus can he himself come to speak. That which makes possible the speech of man is the
speaking of being; and that which allows this speaking to take place is being itself,
whose house language is.
In one of his most recent works Heidegger notes that he has always been concerned
with the problem of language. In his thought this naturally tends to take the form of how
to express being, or better how being expresses itself in language. But he explains that
as early as 1934 he was seeking the essence of language from out of the original Greek
He insists that he was also concerned with the problem of language in his
lectures and talks on the German poet Hölderlin, which date from about the same
However, since language is so intimately connected with being and being with
language, it is understandable that the fate of language should have followed the fate of
being. For we have become "misrelated" not only to being but also to language. This
does not imply, however, that language is, man's to misrelate to being. As Heidegger
says, Dasein's "misrelation" (Missverhältnis) to authentic language is caused by his
destroyed relation (zerstörte Bezug) to being.
Man, of course, acts as though he were
the master of language, whereas in actual fact it is language that remains the mistress
Hence, Heidegger can deny that he merely plays with words. Rather, he
says, language plays with us.
It is true that language has been given to man, but language in its more original sense of
"saying" (Sagen) is not primarily man's but being's. Language, as the philosopher says,
is the temple (Bezirk), i.e.,
In a course entitled "Logik" given in the summer semester of 1934 at Freiburg. But
one can note this interest in the origins of language already in the third major section
of his Habilitationsschrift on Duns Scotus, Duns Scotus, pp. 124 ff.
US, pp. 93 ff.
EM, pp. 38-39.
VA, p. 146.
WD, p. 83.
the home of being.
Language belongs primarily to being. It is language that speaks, as
Heidegger says over and over again.
Man speaks only inasmuch as he hears (hört), to
the extent that he has heard (gehört) the command of the silent, i.e., the voice of being
which is language. Man speaks only to the extent that he belongs to (gehört),
coordinates himself with language. This coordination is hearing (Hören). And this
becomes a successful coordination insofar as it truly belongs to this silent language of
As Heidegger says,
Language speaks in that as a pointing which extends to all areas of the presencing, it
allows every presenting thing to appear and to shine before us. We hear in terms of
authentic language to the extent that we "let it have its say."
One sees again the fundamental importance of hearing, and of the authentic hearing that
is a recognized belonging to that which is heard. Hence it is that Heidegger can say that
speaking is itself a hearing. It is a necessary hearing in terms of the language that we
come to speak. Thus although language is projective, hearing must be prior. We don't
speak a language, as Heidegger has said, we speak from out of (aus) it.
This is why
Heidegger can say that it is primarily language that speaks. We
Hw, p. 286. However, although for Heidegger language is the house of being, he
recognizes that not everyone lives in the same house. Orientals (and presumably
other non-Indo-European peoples) live in a different house. And Heidegger further
notes that conversation between such different houses is nearly impossible. US, p. 90.
"Die Sprache spricht." US, p. 12, etc.
US, p. 33. Thus according to Heidegger's original thinking about the essence of
language it would be well to bear in mind all that he has said about the Homologein
in his exegesis of Heraclitus B 50, namely, that authentic hearing is more than a mere
hearing, it is also a belonging.
"... das wir uns ihre Sage sagen lassen." US, p. 255. Sagen lassen is a German
idiomatic expression meaning "to send word." However, often it is better to ignore
the idioms in Heidegger and render the words literally. The pointing (Zeige) which
Heidegger here refers to as constitutive of language as Sage, is not based upon signs
(Zeichen) or some theory of language as signs. Rather the contrary, the more original
pointing of language grounds all possible signs and signing. US, p. 254.
US, p. 254. The hearing and speaking connection in SZ, p. 163 has more to do with
the intercommunication between Mitdasein's.
merely listen to this speaking and attempt to conform our own speaking with it.
Heidegger says in his brief work on the Allemanisch poet Johann Peter Hebel (1760-
1826), man speaks only what he hears in language. And this language is his mother
tongue (Muttersprache). Hence can Heidegger say that authentically it is language that
speaks, not man. Man speaks only inasmuch as he con-forms (ent-spricht) to language.
Yet language is something given to man. It is given to man as a possession, a piece of
property on which stands the symbol of man's possession, namely the house of being
(Haus des Seins). In this house being finds a place to stay. But man also becomes "be-
housed" in this house. As Heidegger says, it is proper to think of the essence of
language from out of its coordination to being and, indeed, as this coordination, namely
also as the "be-housing" (Behausung) of man.
For only from out of this dwelling
(Wohnen) can Dasein be said to have language, namely, as a being housed while
maintaining the ecstatic (Ekstatische) in this housing. The ecstatic character of the
human Dasein becomes preserved in this be-housing in the house of being, as man
stands out into the clearing of being (Lichtung des Seins) wherein this house might be
said to stand.
Hence can Heidegger say that language is at the same time the house of
being and also the "be-housing" of the essence of man.
For in this house does man
find his authentic dwelling-place as the historical being that he is in his possible
opening himself out to being.
Today, in Heidegger's opinion, language has become a mere "information medium."
And this is proved, he believes, by the present-day construction of so-called thinking
machines and even translating machines.
With such a view of language any notion of
authentic language as an illuminating-revealing (meeting of the) arrival (Ankunft)
US, p. 254.
"Eigentlich spricht die Sprache, nicht der Mensch. Der Mensch spricht erst, insofern
er jeweils der Sprache ent-spricht." Heidegger, Hebel—der Hausfreund (2 ed.,
Pfullingen: Neske, 1958), p. 34.
Hu, p. 21.
Hu, p. 13.
Hu, p. 45; as also Hu, pp. 5, 21-22.
Heidegger, Hebel, p. 35.
of being, any true encounter with being is simply obviated.
The notion of language as
that which makes things as things to come out or to be brought out into the open
becomes totally hidden from view.
With such a view of language any notion of
authentic language as that which allows truth as unconcealment to come into presence is
Language, which is supposed to reveal the thing in its being,
ends up by concealing things instead. For without the power of language, which power
is afforded only by language's intimate connection with being, all things (Seiende) are
simply closed off to us.
And not only are the things in their being thoroughly hidden
from us, but language itself is turned into a set of signs and symbols to be manipulated
by powerful and complex machines. It is no wonder, in such a situation, that what
should come to light in language, and what does come to light in authentic language,
namely, the being of things,
becomes totally lost to man.
And in Heidegger's opinion this is an extremely curious state of affairs. For without
being (das Sein) there would be no language at all.
For being is beyond mere words
and their meanings, beyond in the sense that it grounds them. There is, Heidegger
insists, a unique relationship existing between the word and that to which the word
refers in the case of the word being, and in the case of other words and that to which
The relationship between authentic language as Logos and being is much
closer than the relation between the word and that to which the word refers. However,
the latter must always be understood as based upon the former. Things must be
understood in their being, and so also their language; which means that language, when
it is used authentically, must always treat things in relation to being.
In speech, as Heidegger says, things and the being of things are preserved. For all
beings (Wesen) after their own fashion as things are in
Hu, p. 16.
Hw, pp. 61-62.
VA, p. 212.
EM, p. 63.
Hu, p. 45; Hw, p. 306.
EM, p. 62.
EM, p. 67.
this temple (Bezirk) of language, i.e., being.
Thus the extremely "realistic" view
which Heidegger can take of language:
If we go to a stream or if we go through a forest, we go through the word "stream"; we
go through the word "forest" and this even if we fail to pronounce these words or recall
their linguistic reality.
Such an extremely "realistic" view of language may at first sight seem more "mystical"
than realistic. However, what Heidegger says here follows quite naturally upon what he
has already established as the basis of language, namely, being, and the close
connection which he sees between language and being as primordially understood. The
Logos (the "word" in the above quote) expresses both language and being. Authentic
language is, after all, the house of being. And if man takes up residence in this house
and walks about therein, he cannot help but bump into the things, i.e., into the "words"
which language (being) speaks in this house.
In all this allowing of being to speak to us by our hearing and belonging to the authentic
Logos of language, in all this passive listening to language speaking, in all man's "be-
housing" in this house of being, any active element on man's side in the reality of
language would seem to be entirely left out. However, this is not completely true. Man
does speak. True, he speaks only inasmuch as he hears language speak. But language is
the possession of Dasein. The truth of being comes to language, and thinking arrives,
comes to its own in this language.
Man's role in speaking is an active one in that he
thinks. Thinking in its saying (Sagen) brings the un-spoken word of being to language.
Again, this does not mean that man speaks simply because he thinks. For Heidegger it
is the other way around; only inasmuch as man speaks, from out of the language that
man hears, does man think.
The thinking which is possible on the basis of language,
as Heidegger says, builds an annex, another wing, onto the house of being.
Hw, p. 286.
Hw, p. 286.
Hu, p. 30.
Hu, p. 45.
WD, p. 51.
Hu, p. 42.
THINKING, POETIZING, AND LANGUAGE
Heidegger makes note of the close connection between thinking and language in
Parmenides when he says that the language of Parmenides is the language of a thinking;
in fact, Parmenides and his language is this thinking.
Thinking and language have a
great deal to do with one another. Authentically both belong to being. But such thinking
and language become the important events of history only when Dasein in his authentic
thinking on being conforms himself to the language that being speaks; for in thus
attuning himself to the vibrations of being given to him in language does he himself
come to think on being.
Language as Logos, however, is ontologically prior to thinking. We speak, we think
from out of language. Hence the truth (as the unconcealedness) of being is not simply
there at hand, it must be worked for. It must be worked by the thinker and by the poet,
just as a mine is worked by the miners.
This original working of the mine of language
by an authentic thinking on being is what Heidegger means by poetizing (Dichtung).
This original thinking is poetry in its original sense (Urdichtung).
Again Heidegger is throwing us out of all normal contexts of meaning with the word
just as he did in the case of history and language For in his view we are here
dealing with something more original when we treat of the original poetizing-thinking
of the thinker and the poet. The reason for the great difference is that thinking is the
poetizing (Dichten) of the truth of being.
WD, p. 114. Heidegger makes the same point in speaking about Hegel : Hegel.
Heidegger says, says (sagt) the language of his thinking. Hw, p. 117.
EM, p. 146.
Hw, p. 303.
Normally the German word Dichtung means simply poetry. However, since
Heidegger distinguishes between Poesie and Dichtung, which normally mean the
same thing, I have chosen the word "poetizing" to describe what is for Heidegger the
more original notion of "poetry" (Dichtung).
Hw, p. 343. As Heidegger says in the short work ED, "Thoughtful poetizing is in
truth the topology of Beinge." ED, p. 23. The word "topology" should, of course, be
thought down to its Greek root words, with the "Logos" part understood in
What is the meaning of this original poetizing (Urdichtung) in its relation to the
language and the thinking of the authentic Logos? As Heidegger says in speaking of the
thought of Parmenides and Heraclitus, their thinking is poetical (dichterisch), which
means that it is philosophical rather than scientific (wissenschaftlich).
Philosophy originates neither out of nor through science ... Philosophy stands in an
entirely realm and rank of spiritual Dasein. Philosophy and its way of thinking lies in
the same order as poetizing.
Heidegger is saying that authentic philosophical thinking, since it has an entirely
different rank and operates in an entirely different realm from the scientific, has more to
do with the poetic than with the scientific. One might simply interpret this as meaning
that philosophy, long connected with and even made subservient to the scientific, can
best be restored to its proper ontological position by an emphasis upon the poetical. This
is, of course, a tempting interpretation. It is not without a certain foundation, given the
philosopher's extremely sharp critique of the modern technology, whose thinking he has
characterized by little more than calculation. But such an interpretation would fail to
jibe with the more original meaning which primordial poetizing has for Heidegger. As
he says, thinking as poetizing (Dichten) is not merely a type of poetry (Poesie), a
making of verses. It is a thinking on being, and is thus a poetizing in a much more
Language is, indeed, poetizing in an essential sense. However, Heidegger insists that
language is not, therefore, poetizing (Dichtung) because it is some sort of more original,
but still ordinary poetry (Urpoesie). Rather, poetry (Poesie) happens in language
because it preserves the original essence of true poetizing (Dichtung).
true poetizing is Logos-orientated, authentic thinking on being. It is this original
Heidegger's sense. In the translation I used an old form of the English word for
"being" to correspond to the older spelling of "Sein" as "Seyn" which Heidegger here
EM, p. 110.
EM, p. 20.
Hw, p. 303.
Hw, p. 61.
poetizing (Urdichtung), this essential connection between a thinking poetizing on
being, that Heidegger finds, for example, in the thoughtful poetizing (denkend-dichtend)
And it is this that Heidegger is referring to when in connection with
his exegesis of the "sacred texts" of Parmenides he insists that we must always bear in
mind the original and essential connection (ursprünglichen Wesenszusammenhang) of
poetizing and thinking saying (Sagen).
This is what Heidegger means when he says
that original poetizing and authentic thinking live in the same neighborhood.
can be only the neighborhood of being, a neighborhood in which poetizing and thinking,
both taken in their primordial sense, come near to each other, precipitating a truly
important, historical event (Ereignis).
What is it that makes thinking and poetizing join forces together to make such an event?
This occurs, according to Heidegger, because saying (Sagen) is the basic element
(Element) both for poetizing and for thinking.
Thus can Heidegger make use of the
Antigone of Sophocles in order to elucidate the meaning of Parmenides,
Silesius to illuminate a phrase from Leibnitz,
or Homer to elucidate Anaximander.
The element both for poet and thinker is, at least authentically, the same, namely,
This original type of poetizing is truly origin-al and hence an important event because it
represents the saying (Sage) of the truth (Unverborgenheit) of things. It represents a
truly important historical event because it is the true hearers of being, namely, the poets
and the thinkers, who fundamentally decide the place of man in history. No event could
be more pertinent historically, in Heidegger's view. And it is precisely because this
original poetizing is the Logos of language that Heidegger can say, "Language is itself
poetizing in an essential sense."
EM, p. 73.
EM, p. 126.
US, p. 184. See also US, pp. 201-202.
US, p. 196.
US, p. 189.
EM, pp. 112 ff.
SG, pp. 68 ff.
Hw, p. 318.
"Die Sprache selbst ist Dichtung im wesentlichen Sinne." Hw, p. 61.
The essence of language itself must be understood from out of the essence of this
original poetizing. For poetizing does not take language as some sort of handy raw
material (vorhandenen Werkstoff), since this original poetizing is that which actually
makes language (Sprache) possible in the first place, and thus ordinary poetry as well.
Poetizing is the original language (Ursprache) of a historical people.
poetizing is an epoch-making event because in this original poetizing the truth of things
in their being is revealed. It is the thinkers and the poets in their original poetizing who
are best able to bring this important historical event about, because they are the ones
who are best able to bring their Dasein to stand in and among the being of things.
what does man do when he poetizes in an original manner (ursprünglich dichtet) except
go into a struggle, a "set-to" (Auseinandersetzung) with things in which he tries to bring
them to their being? Thus when man poetizes in this original manner, he pro-jects
Thus is the event which he inaugurates with this original poetizing an
original and a historical one.
Language, in Heidegger's view, can be understood only from out of this original
poetizing. In this sense he speaks of poetizing as the primordial language (Ursprache).
The essence of poetizing, he says, is the foundation, the endowment of truth (Stiftung
It is language inasmuch as it is grounded authentically in the Logos
which endows truth. And as such this primordial language of being is an original
poetizing (Urdichtung) with which a people poetizes (dichtet) over being.
original language (Ursprache) and primordial poetizing (Urdichtung) refer to the same
thing, i.e., to man's attuning himself to the Logos, the collecting of the collected of
being, the revelation of the truth of being. In fact, it is this primordial poetizing which
"sets truth up in business." For it is this original poetizing of original language which
opens things up and brings them out into the open.
EHD, p. 40.
EM, p. 101.
EM, p. 110. Stiftung would be the word in German used for the endowing of a
university, the foundation of a monastery, etc.
Hw, p. 62.
EM, p. 131.
Hw, p. 60.
is this coming out into the open, except the openness, the unconcealedness of being, i.e.,
truth? It is, as Heidegger says, this authentic poetizing which is the endowed naming of
being and of the essences of all things.
There are two aspects of original language or poetizing which, I think, Heidegger is
trying to preserve here. First of all, he insists that it is primarily language, as the
language of being, which speaks. Yet language as the house of being is given to man to
live in, to "be-house"; and when poets and thinkers or the ideal combination of the
"poetizing thinker" (e.g., Parmenides) or the "thinking poetizer" (e.g., Hölderlin) take up
residence in this house, they build additions onto the house of being that is language.
Both the poet as well as the thinker, says Heidegger, are in the service of language (im
Dienst der Sprache).
This original language, since it is primarily being's, remains
something greater, something more origin-al than either the poet or the thinker. They
indeed add annexes onto the house of being, but they did not build the whole house in
the first instance. The house was given over to them as a possession, such that they
might be-house themselves therein.
However, although both poet and thinker live in the same neighborhood,
both the poet and the thinker share this house of being, taking care of it and watching
over it and building onto it, this does not mean that poetry and thinking are exactly the
same. Thus although the fundamental type of poetizing carried on by true poets and
thinkers is the supporting ground of Dasein's history,
poetry and thinking are not
exactly identical. As Heidegger intimates in his Was ist Metaphysik ?, the poet and the
thinker are on separate mountaintops, speaking across the abyss.
As Heidegger says,
the thinker thinks on being; but the poet names the holy.
The poet is the mediator be-
EHD, p. 40.
WP, p. 45.
US, p. 200.
EHD, p. 39; as also EHD, p. 101.
WM, p. 51; See also WP, p. 45 for the same image.
WM, p. 51. Thomas Langan, The Meaning of Heidegger (London: Routledge and
Kegan Paul, 1959), pp. 115 ff., suggests that being and the holy are for Heidegger but
two correlative aspects of the same essential reality. In the light of Heidegger's
doctrine on the Geviert (the "foursome": "Wir nennen das im Dingen der Dinge
tween the divine and the human, and he speaks of this "In-between" (Zwischen).
poet shows the openness (Offene) of this "In-between" between the divine and the
Thus as Heidegger says in commenting on some poetry by Hölderlin: that which is said
in thinking and that which is said in poetry are by no means the same, even though the
one or the other can in different ways say the same thing. This "saying the same thing"
would happen, Heidegger reasons dialectically, only if there were a yawning chasm
between poetry and thinking. Hölderlin also knew that poetry was something high and
thinking something deep.
Or as the philosopher puts the matter in his recent
Nietzsche volumes, all truly philosophical thinking, no matter how strict or how prosaic
it may be, is poetizing, though not necessarily poetry. On the other hand, a piece of
poetry, and Heidegger gives the example of Hölderlin's Hymns, can be thoughtful
(denkerisch) in the highest degree and yet not be philosophy.
One is forced to leave Heidegger at this point in his attempts to think down to the
ground of language. Within the Heideggerian horizon of philosophy his thought can go
no further. Language in its ontological roots is Logos, original creative poetizing,
"myth" (Sage). However, to refer to this original notion of language by the English
word "myth" should not be interpreted as meaning that original language is "fictitious."
Indeed, Heidegger speaks of this original groundspring (Quellgrund) of poetizing as
Mythos (i.e., die Sage).
And he finds a justification for this already in the thought of
However, by the
verweilte einige Geviert von Himmel und Erde, Sterblichen und Göttlichen: die
Welt." US, p. 22), it might seem as though "the divine" (Göttlichen) as a part of "the
world," which is in being, and which the poet names, is included within the thinking
grasp of being. This would, of course, put the "divine" within "being." However, the
concept of the "foursome" in Heidegger remains obscure.
EHD, p. 43.
EHD, p. 140.
VA, p. 138.
Nie I, p. 329.
VA, p. 137.
In WD, p. 7, Heidegger claims that in Parmenides B 8 Mythos (as "sagende Wort,"
WD, p. 6) has the same meaning as Logos. Possibly the identification which
Heidegger here makes between the two Parmenidean notions of Mythos and Logos
choice of this word he wishes to indicate that original language is the reality of the
Logos in its intimate relation with being; in fact, as nothing but another name for being.
This is certainly not the language of everyday speech, nor is it the language which the
philologist digs out of the past. It is beyond the recorded past of recorded historiography
and is even, in a sense, beyond history itself, in that it is this original language which
makes history possible.
Thus this original language in its apparent slipping back into the "mythical" is really
slipping back into the primordial. It would seem to go back even beyond the Logos as it
came to be recorded in the thought of the pre-Socratics. For language, this primordial
poetizing thinking-on-being, was already there for Parmenides and Heraclitus to take
up their dwelling, in this house of being. The more original lan
comes from Parmenides B 8, 8 where the thinker speaks of non-being as
inexpressible and unthinkable. The expressible (Mythos) would then be identical with
the thinkable (Logos).
Besides the immediate failure to point out where this Mythos is mentioned in
Parmenides B 8, one might also, in general, accuse Heidegger of circularity of
argument. He explains the pre-Socratics, and for that matter the whole of history of
western philosophy, in terms of an original notion of language as Logos, which
original notion of Logos Heidegger has found in the pre-Socratics. However, those
who have studied Heidegger's thought know that circularity of argument is rather an
indication of Dasein-oriented thinking. Thus in the section on "understanding" in SZ
Heidegger says that the compass (Zirkel) of understanding is no circle (Kreis), but
rather the expression of an existential Vor-struktur of Dasein. SZ, p. 153. Similarly,
because Dasein is a Being-in-the-world the circular structure of his understanding,
particularly as it is utilized in interpretation, is a phenomenon of Dasein's existential
constitution (SZ, p. 153); it is simply the sort of being (Seinsart) that Dasein is. SZ,
p. 315. For man, in Heidegger's view, is no worldless ego (weltlosen Ich); Dasein's
being is itself circular (zirkelhaft). For in order to understand that being we must
ourselves leap into the circle. SZ, pp. 315-316. Similarly, dealing with the way in
which we must understand the work of art from out of art, and art from out of the
works of art, Heidegger says that it is only to a logic-orientated reason that this will
seem circular. Hw, p. 8. Similarly in the case of trying to understand language by
making use of language, Heidegger says that there is an unavoidable
(unvermeidlichen), but yet quite meaningful, circle (sinnvollen Zirkel) given the fact
that we can use only language (Sprache) in speaking (Sprechen) about language. US,
p. 243. Such a dialogue (Gespräch) remains an absolutely necessary circle of
interpretation (hermeneutischen Zirkel). US, p. 150.
guage which might be said to speak in and through Parmenides and Heraclitus is the
language of Homer. As Heidegger says, great poetry, through which a people enters
upon its history, initiates the formation of its language. The Greeks created and
experienced this original poetizing through Homer. Language was open to their Dasein
as a burst (Aufbruch) into being, as an opening formulation of things.
It was, then,
Homer's experiencing and expressing of this original poetizing, the primordial
poetizing-thinking-on-being, which set the stage for subsequent Greek thinking on
This does not mean, however, that even Homer is this original poetizing. For since
Homer only experienced and expressed this original poetizing, that would imply that it
stretches back even before him. Thus although the pre-Socratics such as Parmenides and
Heraclitus truly experience this original "mythology" through Homer's poetry, there
remains something yet more original than this. Heidegger suggests what it would have
to be; namely, the original poetizing is a "mythologizing" (Sage) of the unconcealedness
the truth of things, i.e., being. "Myth" as this original language of Logos in
its intimate connection with being is of being. The two belong together.
authentic sense this original creative language is being. For the essence of language is
nothing else but being itself.
And that is what there was in the beginning, even prior to Homer's experiencing and
expression of this original, mythologizing-poetizing; namely, the one, primordial,
poetizing-thinking-on-being, i.e., the house of being, language (Logos), being. In the
oft-quoted words of the German poet Hölderlin:
... dichterisch, wohnet der Mensch auf dieser Erde.
EM, p. 131.
Hw, p. 61.
In a further postscript to the recent reprint of "Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes" (Hw,
pp. 7-68), Stuttgart, Reclam, 1960, p. 100, Heidegger speaks of the
"Zusammengehörigkeit von Sein und Sage." A similar "belonging-together" between
being and thinking was analyzed from out of Parmenides B 3, it may be recalled.
Hw, p. 292.
"... poetically does man inhabit the earth." Hölderlin, Werke, II, p. 372.
In this study my prime intent has not been one of criticism. I have attempted to
introduce the reader to the rich thought of a major twentieth-century thinker through his
interpretations of the pre Socratics. Nevertheless, I certainly do not wish to imply that
Heidegger's philosophical positions are not open to criticism. Nor do I wish to imply
that his overall view of the history of metaphysics as a forgetting of being, for which his
pre-Socratic interpretations provide the indispensable key, cannot in any way be
It seems clear that Heidegger's incursions into the history of philosophy are not, nor are
they intended to be, historical in the commonly accepted sense of that word. However, it
also seems to me clear that they are fully and completely historical and authentically
"linguistic" in the sense in which history and language are understood and interpreted
by Heidegger. Thus in the end it proves most difficult to "refute" Heidegger's
interpretations of Parmenides and Heraclitus. This is true not only because of the
inherent difficulty of the texts of Parmenides and the fragments of Heraclitus. It is also
true because of the very current difficulties involved in determining the very meaning of
history and language, upon which Heidegger's mode of textual exegesis or Hermeneutik
Indeed, in the very presentation which I have attempted to make of Heidegger's thought
certain criticisms are implicit. As Heidegger would say, every "trans-lation," every
carry-over from one thinking into another, necessarily involves interpretation. And
interpretation, since it involves an understanding (Verstehen) which is in its very nature
projective, itself becomes projective. This means that in accordance with the third and
most important of the three ecstasies of temporality, historical truth is made to come to
us from out of our own future, a future which we, through our interpretative
understanding, have ourselves projected into the future. This is what interpretation in
terms of the future possibilities of Dasein means. This is how Heidegger interprets
the pre-Socratics, and for that matter any other philosopher in the western tradition of
philosophy. This is also very probably the way in which I have interpreted the
It becomes clear that if one wishes to make criticisms of Heidegger's historical
presentations, one must return to the philosopher's notions of history and temporality.
And fundamentally any criticism of the structures of the Heideggerian ontology must
return to the basic "phenomenon" which the philosopher uses to establish the
temporality of Dasein, and therefore of being, namely, death. It is the ontological
structure of Dasein as a Being-unto-death (Sein-zum-Tode) which sets up Dasein's being
as a horizontally temporal "stretch." Hence it is fundamentally this structure of Dasein's
being which establishes the transcendental horizon of temporality.
However, if this analysis of death is accepted, i.e., if Heidegger's distinction between
death considered ontologically as a structure of Existenz and death considered as a
purely "ontic" fact is granted; and if the temporality of Dasein is indeed the proper
measure for the temporality of being itself (Sein selbst); then Heidegger's thought,
considered both doctrinally and historically, follows quite naturally.
Still I am convinced that at least one methodological criticism may be leveled against
the philosopher's mode of historical and linguistic exegesis. Heidegger's exegesis is
primarily a proposition (or even merely a word) analysis of the particular philosopher he
treats. Thus Heidegger will take a sentence or a short, pithy phrase as exemplifying that
particular philosopher's relation to being in the history of the destiny of being. Then he
can proceed with his word-by-word destruction, i.e., original repetition of the phrase in
order to arrive at its inner significance for the history of being, in order to discover what
was left "unsaid," even what was left "unthought" in what the philosopher said or
thought. For Heidegger, Leibnitz is simply "Nihil est sine ratione"; Parmenides is
summed up by his Fragment Three, etc.
This mode of proposition analysis, which attempts to grow the whole tree of the
philosopher's thought in its place in the field of western metaphysics from the kernel of
one of his philosophical statements, can be one-sided. It is a question, for example,
whether the whole of the thinking of the Middle Ages can be summed up in, or even
ally characterized by, the expression, "Adaequatio rei et intellectus." Or again, why
should not "Praedicatum inest subjecto" be taken as the characteristic proposition of
Leibnitz? Again, it may be true to say that the doctrine of the schematism is the core of
Kant's first critique; however, can any overall interpretation of Kant fail to take into
account the critiques of practical reason and of judgment?
Heidegger would, of course, answer that he is interested only in showing how a
particular philosopher fits into the western tradition of philosophy concerning being; or
how, according to a word-by-word historico-linguistic analysis of one of that
philosopher's central propositions, that particular philosopher helps or fails to elucidate
being. This defense might seem to leave Heidegger open to the charge of arbitrariness
or apriorism. The case is not, however, open and shut. Heidegger claims that he does
not, like Hegel, interpret the whole of the history of philosophy in accordance with
some system. It is true that the insights contained in Sein und Zeit made necessary this
re-view (Wiederholung) of the past in order to provide a preview (Überwindung) of the
coming attractions for the future possibilities of Dasein. Nevertheless, there was the
historical fact of this nihilism. There must be, in Heidegger's view, a ground or basis in
the very history of western metaphysics for this nihilism, the subjectivism which made
necessary the analysis of Sein und Zeit. And Heidegger finds this beginning of
Nietzsche in Plato, and even, as has been noted, in that which was left unthought and
unsaid in Parmenides and Heraclitus. And it is the historical fact of nihilism and the fact
of metaphysics' almost total forgetting of being which rendered necessary Heidegger's
incursions back into the remembering of, the authentic re-thinking on, being (Andenken
des Seins) which the phenomenological ontology of Sein und Zeit represents.
This way of arguing will seem circular. Heidegger's first major work, Sein und Zeit,
necessitates a reassessment of the history of metaphysics, and that same history of
western metaphysics, characterized by a fundamental nihilism, a forgetting of being,
makes necessary the analysis carried on in Sein und Zeit. Heidegger argues, however,
that Dasein is not a wordless ego, but a being that is in the world (In-der-Welt-sein) for
whom circularity of thinking, as finite thinking, is simply the way Dasein exists
I have discussed this question of circularity in Heidegger's thought in a note at the end
of the chapter on language. For the philosopher justifies his interpretation of the pre-
Socratics on the basis of his notion of origin-al language; and yet he grounds this notion
of aprimordial language in the pre-Socratics. Heidegger makes no attempt to apologize
for such circular thinking. For him it belongs to interpretation, which is in its very
nature circular. Only an abstract system and absolute idealism, he says, only the
idealism of an imagined worldless ego need worry about circularity of thought.
And clearly Heidegger's philosophy is no abstract system. Yet this does not mean that
his thought is unsystematic, capricious, a piece of pure intellectual poetry. There is a
radical unity to his thought, a thought which centers itself, which "zeros itself in upon,"
being. As Heidegger has said, a great thinker has only one thought. And his success as a
thinker depends upon his ability to elucidate that one thought. There can be no question
but that Heidegger's one thought is being. Now whether he fully elucidates what being
is, or even what he himself means by being, may remain questions. However, from his
earliest to his most recent works there can be no question as to what that one thought-
worthy thought in the thinking of Heidegger is.
Thus those who would divide Heidegger's thought into two or three different periods,
depending upon where or according to whatever criterion they choose to draw the lines,
are missing the point. Certainly there is development in his thought. There is
development in any philosopher's thought. For example, the distinction which
Heidegger makes between metaphysics and ontology does not become fully explicated
until his later works. However, it is implicitly there right from Sein und Zeit on.
Similarly, in Sein und Zeit Heidegger speaks of the Lichtung, the clearing, in terms of
the "Da " of Dasein, as the place where being comes to light; whereas in his later works
he speaks almost exclusively of the clearing of being (Lichtung des Seins), that it is
being which lights things up. There is, of course, a difference; but the philosopher
would say that it is primarily one of viewpoint. For there is only this clearing of being
where there is a Dasein, and there is only this "Da" of Dasein where there is a grasping
of being (Seinsverständnis).
Development in Heidegger's thought must always, I think, be seen
in the light of a fuller and fuller realization of what he had done in Sein und Zeit. And
seen in this light, all that he has written and said since that time becomes but an
explicitation of principles and ideas already implicitly contained in germ in his first
As was noted earlier, Heidegger does have one advantage over other historians of
philosophy who have worked over the fragments of the pre-Socratics and the texts of
other philosophers. There is a theory of both history and language behind his historical
exegeses. To dismiss Heidegger's incursions into the history of philosophy as
"unhistorical" is, in a sense, correct. However, it must be borne in mind that Heidegger
has already called into question the theory of history on the basis of which he is charged
with being "unhistorical." In his view the former concept of history ended only in
historicism. Ontological truth became subject to a particular historical time or period or
even to the whims of the historian interpreting those times and periods. This, in
Heidegger's view, was the fruit of historiography (Historie). And it was with his more
primordial notion of history (Geschichte) and its basis in the three unified ecstasies of
temporality that Heidegger hoped to overcome the problem of historical relativism, a
problem which had been troubling German philosophers at least since the time of
Heidegger attempted to show that it was the Da of Dasein as the relating to being which
makes history, rather than history constituting the Da of Dasein. It is being and that
which relates itself to being, namely, Dasein, which grounds the historical event.
This solution would serve to explain at least one problem which had always troubled
historicism: namely, how philosophers somehow exhibited influences from their
predecessors, or how philosophy somehow exhibited a certain development even in
cases where there seemed to be no points of actual historical or textual contact.
Heidegger's suggestion is that although thinkers are not always in contact with one
another, they are in contact with being.
As one gets deeper and deeper into Heidegger's way of thinking there may arise the
temptation to reduce the philosopher's thought to a series of apparently trivial
Selbstverständlichkeiten. In Sein und Zeit, for example, Heidegger says that das Sein
can only be approached through Dasein. This might be interpreted as meaning simply
that only a meta
physician can do metaphysics, and that metaphysician in every age is what we mean by
the word Dasein. It may also seem obvious and hardly worth saying that Dasein can
relate himself to things only because of a prior relation to being.
Concerning his view on history, it might seem a truism to say that it is only because
events happen that the historian can write about those events. It may seem entirely
obvious to say that only because there has been an actual, can there be a factual history.
There would certainly seem to be truisms in Heidegger's theory of language. It would
certainly seem trivial to say that it is primarily the poets and the philosophers who in
their original and thoughtful use of words and phrases add annexes onto the house of
being that is language. It may seem equally trivial to say that one can come to possess
and speak a language, a mother tongue, only because one has heard that language at
one's mother's knee.
However, although these ideas may be philosophical truisms, it also remains true that no
other philosopher has expressed them with such originality or shown their fundamental
philosophical importance or given them a truly philosophical basis and significance as
has the philosopher Heidegger.
Certainly Heidegger owes a great deal to his philosophical ancestors. No philosopher is
absolutely original. One cannot escape totally from one's own philosophical tradition,
something which Heidegger hardly denies. The philosopher Heidegger remains a
philosopher in the German philosophical tradition, a tradition stretching from Kant and
Schelling to Nietzsche, Hegel, and Kierkegaard to Husserl. Heidegger's greatness and
originality will, however, remain, if only because of his re-introduction of the question
of being back into the tradition of western philosophy in a new and startling form.
Anaximander, 3 n, 33, 41 n, 51, 146
Andenken (recalling re-thinking), 28 n, 85-86, 154
Antigone (Sophocles), 70 -71, 73, 146
Anwesen (“presenting”), 31 -32, 34 -35, 36 n, 38, 40, 47, 63, 84, 98
appearance, 34 -35, 38, 47 -49, 62 -63
Aristotle, 13, 14, 27, 31, 33, 34, 38, 42 -49, 54, 69, 77, 86, 87, 103, 119, 127
backtracking (Schritt zurück), 123 -124
being (das Sein), 5 n, 30 -31, 36 -37, 44, 52-53, 62, 82 -86, 113, 142, 155 ; for
Heidegger: 41 -42, 155 ; for the Greeks: 31-33, 34 -42 (see also fateful,
forgetting of being, ontological difference)
category (Aristotle), 45 n, 49
circularity, 150 n, 154 -155
clearing of being (Lichtung des Seins), 102-103, 107, 138, 141, 155
Dasein, 4 n, 8, 13 -14, 16 -22, 23, 24 -25, 41-42, 70 -77, 85, 91, 102, 106 -109,
112-114, 116 -117, 122, 123, 138, 141, 143, 148, 153 -157
dialogue (Gespräch), 29, 111, 124 -126
Diels-Kranz, 59, 78
Duns Scotus, 18
ecstasies (Ekstasen), 19 -22, 24, 106 -107, 113, 117, 137 -138, 141, 152
Einai (see Physis, being, Anwesen)
epistemology (theory of knowledge), 59, 100
error (Irre), 25
event (Ereignis), 31, 41 n, 98 n, 104 -105, 136 n, 146
existence, 106 -108 (see also ecstasies)
“existentialist, ” 13 -14
fateful (Geschick), 23 -26, 33, 54 -55, 96 n97, 120
forgetting of being (Seinsvergessenheit), 10, 27 -34, 48, 51, 53, 58
hearing (the Logos), 91, 95 -98, 99 ff., 140
Hebel, Johann Peter, 141
Hegel, 1-2, 6, 12, 13, 15, 28, 34, 38 n, 40, 43, 49, 55 -57, 65, 122, 123, 154, 157
Heidegger: Einführung in die Metaphysik, 11, 22, 42, 51, 56, 67, 77, 87, 132;
Kant und das Problem der Metaphysik, 1, 13 ; Nietzsche, 30, 47, 66, 100, 149;
Der Satz vom Grund, 101, 115, 124; “Der Satz der Identität, ” 102 ; Sein und
Zeit, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 13, 14, 16, 21, 27, 28, 31, 41, 54, 88, 106, 110, 111,
154, 155, 156 ; Über den Humanismus, 9, 24, 102 ; Vom Wesen der Wahrheit,
30, 104, 113 ; Vorträge und Aufsätze, 87 ; Wai heisst Denken? 4, 11, 77, 131 ;
Was ist Metaphysik? 40 -41, 52-53, 129, 148 ; Was ist das-die Philosophie? 55 ;
Zur Seinsfrage, 51, 53 -54
Heraclitus, 3, 10, 11, 12, 13, 18, 22, 27, 29, 31, 32, 33, 55, 63, 82, 87 ff., 119,
121, 124, 125, 128, 130, 131, 133, 150, 151, 152
hermeneutics (exegesis), 5 -8, 126, 152 (see also phenomenology)
historicism, 15, 20 n, 116 -118, 156
historiography (Historie), 17 n-23, 116, 134-135
history (Geschichte), 3 -4, 11 n, 12, 15 -23, 25-26, 55 -57, 96 n-97, 109 -110,
116 117, 123, 136 -138, 156 -157 (see also tradition, dialogue, backtracking)
Hölderlin, 3, 71 n, 139, 148, 149, 151
Husserl, 2 n, 6 n, 65, 66 n, 157
idea (Plato), 44, 46 -48, 77
incubation (Incubationszeit), 124
Kant, 1, 6, 14, 43, 81, 154, 157
Kierkegaard, 1, 157
language, 46, 87, 93 -95, 130 ff., 157 (see also Logos)
Legein (see Logos)
Leibnitz, 101, 115, 124, 146, 153 -154
logic, 45 -46 n, 82, 90, 129
Logos, 8 -9, 32, 43, 49, 50, 63, 74 -76, 78, 79-82, 84, 87 ff., 115, 126, 129 ff.
man, 13 -14, 69 -70, 75 -76
metaphysics (western), 12, 27 -28, 30, 40, 45, 47, 51 -53, 99, 100, 108, 154 (see
also forgetting of being)
myth (Sage), 149 -151 (see also language, poetizing)
Nietzsche, 3, 6, 13, 18, 28, 34, 48, 49 -54, 57 n, 66, 119, 154, 157
nihilism, 46, 48, 50 -54 (see also metaphysics)
Noein (authentic thinking), 58, 63 -65, 67-68, 74 -76, 81 -82, 84, 85 -86 (see also
nothing, 37, 40, 53 -54
ontological difference, 30 -31, 40, 42, 48, 51
Ousia (Aristotle), 35, 44, 47, 77
overcoming of nihilism (Überwindung), 51-54, 120, 122 -123, 154
Parmenides, 3, 10, 11, 12, 18, 22, 26, 27, 29, 31, 32, 33, 55, 58 ff., 88, 95, 97, 119,
121, 124, 125, 128, 130, 131, 133, 146, 148, 149 n-150, 151, 152, 153
Parousia, 36, 38 (see also Anwesen, presencing)
participation (Plato), 83, 86
phenomenology, 2, 4, 6 n, 7 -9, 65 -66 n
philology, 134 -135
Physis, 33, 34 -35, 38 -39, 43, 49, 63, 64, 67, 75 -76, 87, 88, 90 -91, 97 -98 (see
also being for the Greeks)
Plato, 3, 13, 27, 31, 32, 33, 34, 39, 42 -49, 54, 55, 65, 77, 83 -84, 86, 87, 99, 100,
101, 103, 119, 127, 154
poetizing (Dichten), 134, 137, 144 ff.
poetry, 71, 91, 144 -145
pre-Socratics, 2 -4, 10 -12, 15, 18, 22, 25, 27, 28, 29, 31, 33, 34, 42, 43, 55, 82, 97,
103, 121, 150 -151 (see also Anaximander, Heraclitus, Parmenides)
questioning (authentic, 12, 14, 106 ff., esp. 111 ff., of being (Seinsfrage), 40, 52
repetition (Wiederholung), 121 -122
Sophocles, 70 -74, 146
Silesius, Angelus, 146
strangeness (Unheimlichkeit), 72 n
technology (Technik), 54 n, 71 -73 n, 102, 145
temporality (Zeitlichkeit), 16 -17, 19 -22, 41, 109 (see also ecstasies)
things (das Seiende), 5 n, 30 -31, 36, 44, 47-48, 51, 66 -67, 82 -86, 104 (see also
thinking (Denken), 143 -151 (see also Noein [Parmenides], Logos [Heraclitus],
time (see temporality)
tradition (Überlieferung), 114 -121, 126 127
transcendence, 41, 48, 52, 109 n-110
translation (Obersetzung), 33, 83, 126 128, 152
truth (Aletheia, Unverborgenheit), 32 n, 33, 35. 45 -46, 67, 90
twofold (Zwiefalt), 26, 32 -34, 40, 43, 83 86
unthought (Ungedachte), 86 n, 122, 125, 153
Wesen (“essence”), 38 -39 n, 51, 84
word, 91, 143
world, 74 -75 n
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