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The Relation

Werner Hamacher
Roland Vgs
CR: The New Centennial Review, Volume 8, Number 3, Winter 2008,
pp. 29-69 (Article)
Published by Michigan State University Press
DOI: 10.1353/ncr.0.0049
For additional information about this article
Access Provided by University of Nebraska - Lincoln at 11/24/12 8:06AM GMT
The Relation
We r n e r Ha ma c h e r
Goethe Universitt, Frankfurt am Main
Translated by Roland Vgs
What relation?
Te one that allows to ask which relation is being talked aboutin what
sense and if it is a relation at all. Terefore, the one that allows to ques-
tion and to speak. Clearly, the question What relation? is not asked
primarily because we are speaking of a relation that is still unknown and
is therefore astonishing, but because there is something being spoken at
all, something addressed and addressing, touching and entering into a
Does this mean that the question concerning the relation is, in truth,
no question at all but an answer? And, then, does this mean that the
answer is not an answer to a question but an answer to something that
[Tis excerpt from a longer text, entitled Das Verhltnis in German, is, in some passages, among other things a response
to Rodolphe Gaschs essays On the Nonadequate Trait (Of Minimal Tings, Stanford 1999) and Te Eclipse of Diference
(Inventions of Diference, Harvard 1994).]
CR: The New Centennial Review, Vol. 8, No. 3, 2009, pp. 2969, issn 1532-687x.
2009 Michigan State University Board of Trustees. All rights reserved.
The Re l a t i on 30
we cannot call either a question or an answer, yet something that speaks
with and accompanies every question and every answer?
Speaks with and remains silent with and, who knows, maybe even
remains mute or becomes muted in every question and answer. In any
case, the diffculty of the relation that we are speaking about lies in that
we must already speak from it when we speak about it. We can call what
we call a relation only because another relation already precedes it
that remains unnamed.
We may also say that this other relation always accompanies the name
or the notion of the relation whenever we use it and allow the syn-
tax of our statements, (of our relations [Verhltnisse] and behaviors
[Verhalten] with each other) to be determined by this name or notion.
Regardless of whether this other relation precedes or accompanies its
naming, evidently there must be a particular relation between the lin-
guistic expression relation and the relation that makes this expression
possible in the frst place. But the relation between the one and the other
relation, whether that of a before or a with, cannot be defned by the
concept that we form of it, since the latter is frst rendered possible by
the other relation.
Terefore, we will have to assume, frst, that there is a relation beyond
the one that we designate with that name. Furthermore, we will also
have to assume that this further relation allows the so-called relation
in the frst place. And, third, we must assume that this relation beyond
the named and nameable relations, on its part, does not speak in that it
allows speech, and rather holds itself back with speech, withholds speech
and only this way, withholding it, preserves it as speech.
Te other, the further relation of which and from which we are speaking
would not be then a simple relation (Relation), nor a relation of relations
(Relation von Relationen). It would be a relation (Verhltnis) that we could
We r ne r Hama c h e r 31
describe as abstention (Enthaltung) or, as the German language makes it
possible, Verhaltung as retention.
Tus, we can speak only as long as something other withholds itself with
speech, does not speak and, not-speaking, holds a not against speech.
Te way an other can speak only
if I
or I
remain or fall silent or mute. In every word of every sentence, in every
syllable, every sound, every letter, the not of language must ofer to it
this resistance (Widerhalt) from which everything that is said, shown,
and written, and above all, speaking, showing, and writing as such can
set themselves of. Te happening of language is from the very beginning
withholding or retention even in relation to this happening. It happens
out of the not of its happening. We can also say: Language speaks from
its not. Or: Language speaksits not.
Tis retention, however, alters every concept of the relation that we
have used so far, since it renders every relation withheld and held at a
distance from itself and, thus, a mis- or even an un-relation.
But not on the ground of the intervention of some external, lower or
higher agency, which can frst emerge only from this peculiar relation.
Only by virtue of its own structure will such a relation in its retention
become a mis-relation. To be more precise, we should say that the further
or other relationwhich is only to be understood in all the aspects of
the German word Verhltnismust be in itself a mis-relation, but not
because of the capabilities of its structure, rather because of the inca-
pability of this structure. Terefore, this relation can be the relation that
holds itself back, denies itself, and in this way withholding itself
The Re l a t i on 32
holds all other relations, but not because it preserves the fullness of a
capability and releases from it all imaginable possibilities and realities,
rather because it is itself a not of a capability and thereby makes it
possible to miss its capabilities.
So what about this holdinga holding, which is supposed to be at the
same time a carrying, and as such this holding and carrying should be
something steady, durable, enduring yet without being capable of being.
So far, we have always thought language from ararely clearly defned
capability. But since this clearly fails to grasp the structure of language,
we might not be able to continue to think it from what corresponds to
this capability, this potentia or essentia, as substance or carrying hold. We
may not continue to think it as a thing or as something, as a being, even
as the highest that grounds everything. Such a relation, the other and
further relation of which we are speaking, such a mis-relation must ofer
a completely other hold that ofers nothing but a halt.
Terefore, this hold is notit is not a beingbut a nota not to beings
and so that which frst releases beings as such.
What we call language must be thought from this holding of the not,
from this holding back without a hold, and this hold without hold. We
could then describe it, if it is possible to do so at all, without the risk of
misunderstanding or self-misunderstanding, as the relationdas Verhlt-
nisand, more precisely, the relation of all relationsdas Verhltnis aller
We are approaching Heidegger and his language . . . . As far as I know,
he was the only one who spoke of Verhltnis in the sense of this emphatic
polysemy; the only one who did not use this wordthis word of words
in the usual meaning of the German concept; the only one who used
it always also in the sense of the Greek epoch and the Latin retentio
and, thereby, turned it into a neologism that could hardly be any less
Germanic. In Anaximanders Saying he spoke of the epoch of Being
We r ne r Hama c h e r 33
as the holding to itself with the truth of its essence (2002b, 254). In the
Letter on Humanism, to the question how Being relates to ek-sistence,
he gave the answer: Being itself is the relation [das Verhltnis] to the
extent that It . . . holds to itself [an sich hlt] ek-sistence (1998, 253).
And in Te Way to Language, the essence of languagein modern high
German: language as happeningis written as Ver-hltnis and is thought
from what he calls the event of appropriation (Ereignis), which is defned,
along with language, in the following way: For that event, appropriating,
holding, self-retaining is the relation of all relations (1971, 135).
All this, quite frankly, is so awkwardly formulated that one longs for a
Heideggerian Dialect Dictionary to translate it into at least a usable if
not a usual language.
Dictionaries list meanings but not relations of tension, not the paths and
movements between them, which can only be presented in sentences and
even there not without losses and additions. To approach this Verhlt-
nisthis relation, this retention, abstention and holding to itselfand
thereby approach language, and if we try to do so by the detour of some
of Heideggers texts, we need to strike another path. We could describe
this path, tentatively and reservedly, as that of a critical variation and
start it at the point that we have already touched.
At the not.
In the Letter on Humanism, Heidegger summed up in a few sentences
his observations on nothing from Being and Time and from his inaugu-
ral lecture in Freiburg, What is Metaphysics?, and thereby specifcally
rejected the assumption that the not could be derived from the no
of an already constituted language: What annuls makes itself clear as
something that is not. Tis can be addressed by the no. Te not in no way
arises from the no-saying of negation. Every no . . . answers to the claim of
the annulment that has become clear. Every no is simply the affrmation
of the not (1998, 272). First of all, this apodictic explanation emphasizes
The Re l a t i on 34
that no-saying can only posit a not thatas something said, posited,
and signifedis at the same time something and is not the not that
is at stake here. Before any no-saying, in the sense of a negation through
an act of positing, there must have been a not, that as an address, must
have already directed itself to a possible speech, if this speech is to be able
to address not only an existing something but precisely the notand
especially the not in its happening as annulment. Although within the
medium of language the no can be said, every such no as a statement
can refer only to something that is already given and contained in the
form of representation. Furthermore, as an instrument of language, this
no itself must be a given for representation. Terefore, this no would
be an exemplary word for a commercium among present-at-hand beings,
which can only count with what is sayable but has no access to what it
no longer or not yet is, and thus has no access to the factum that it is and
to the way it is not. With the derivation of the not from the word of a
constituted language, something represented is derived from another
representation. Te not is converted into a being and, thereby, misses
the point that it is precisely not this, namely a being.
Not is underivable. But it is not solely the not that cannot be said
by any language and its not. It is also the not that must inexplicitly
speak withremain silent with and fall mute within every language as
the not-sayable. Te not is sensu strictu a not-word. It is the counter-
linguistic, the counter-word as such, through which every language can
become language. If it is a language, it is the language from this not that
is missing from it and resists it.
Language is the no to the not that precedes it and must precede it
in itself as its own proper not, if it is to speak as language at all and,
speaking, is to be in the movement from its not-yet to its not-anymore.
Tis is why Heidegger says of language that it is the answer to the move-
ment of the not, that it can only speak in response to the address of the
not and, in its turn, address its not-ness. But if it is an answer, it is not
We r ne r Hama c h e r 35
so as the existing acknowledgement of an existing object or a content of
representation, but only in the way that as language it itself corresponds
to the nihilation or annulment that addresses it.
Language cannot speak but by letting the not that addresses it happen
in languages own happening. Te residuum of correspondence theory
that persists in this explanation demands, however, that we conceive of
language as the answer and correspondence to the counter-linguistic
not, and understand every no as only the affrmation of the not and at
the same time understand the happening of language itself and in general
as a no, as the affrmation of the not and of nihilation. Language, how-
ever, corresponds to the nihilationand the correspondence dissolves
itself in itonly in such a way that it ent-spricht: it corresponds to itself
as language as not-saying. It loses its linguistic nature (ent-sprachlicht)
as it evacuates its contents as well as its forms, and it allows its being to
become a not-saying and with this not-saying the naked that of saying.
Saying no to itself as a being in all its moments, language speaks, and it
speaks beyond itself and the totality of beings: transcendence of language
in its being as the movement of not.
Tis is why Heidegger can write describing the movement of Being, and
along with Being also that of language: Being annulsas Being (1998,
273). It annuls as language in as much as it departs from itself as an exist-
ing correlation to other beings and it is evicted from what it can be as an
instrumental structure of reference: ek-sistence of language into a Being
without beings.
Tis movement that language never performs through acts of positing by
its speakers, this movement that occurs not only occasionally and never
intentionally or caused by motives, this movement that defnes language
as the language expelled from language was defned by Heidegger in his
Freiburg lecture as the language of anxiety, as the angst-ridden language.
At the end of a short description of an experience of anxiety, this reduc-
tion of language to its most properly own is characterized in the following
The Re l a t i on 36
terms: Not a hold remains [Es bleibt kein Halt]. In the slipping away of
beings only this not [kein] remains and comes over us (1998, 88).
essential impossibility of determining beings as a whole (88) that we
experience in anxiety leaves nothing enduring, nothing that speech or
action could ofer to hold on to, no hold apart from this not of the hold,
the hold without hold. Not is the word for the language no longer of be-
ings, but for language as it happens as a partingparting from everything
that can be defned, represented, and held. It speaks only by saying that
nothing remains to be said, and therefore, it corresponds to its own not:
still speaks, speaks for the frst time, and speaks as language even beyond
what in and through it is defnable. None (Kein) is not a word, nor is
it a mark; it is the counter-word and the counter-mark to all that could
be merely stated and signifed. But as this anti-word (Anti-Wort), it is the
answer (Antwort) of bare speech to the merely speakable. It is the primary
Ur-word, the word-word as such, the only word of language; language
itself as this single word, as it exactly says its Sein, its Being.
Not a hold remains. In the slipping away of beings only this not remains
and comes over us. Not does not say anything about Being. It speaks
itself as Being. Being happens in the not and nowhere else. It is the
hold without hold, the up- and with-holding dwelling (Auf-ent-halt) that
language is as the house of Being, the only ethos. Language speaks only
when it becomes this house of the not in all its idioms, in every word
and every silence, and thereby gains its Being as that which is not a being.
Not contracts the individual appearances in their nihilation into the
whole of a there. It allows to step back from the world assembled under
the deletion mark of the not: it is the word of the epoch of every word
and every world. Still, precisely as speaking beyond all merely real and
possible words, it speaks as one that does not represent anything, does
not declare, signify, or does anything, but simply happens: it is the that
of its self; and as this that it is the horizon of Being within which every
being can frst be what it is. It is the word of apocalypse, the revelation
of the possibility of all worlds and words. Epoch and revelation: the re-
turn of beings into their not and the rise of Being. In the not, beings
We r ne r Hama c h e r 37
and Being separate and (d)emerge as diferent. Not is the word of the
ontological diference.
A theory of the origin of language and at the same time of the origin of
Being and beings with language. None or not would be then the fat, the
fnite, not the originating but the witnessing, the Dasein-opening fat of
the homo humanus of whose humanitas Heidegger speaks in the Letter
on Humanism. Although here the connection between the origin of
language and the not remains only a suggestion, it defnes the gesture
that carries Heideggers thought in general: namely, that something
emerges as something frst in its slippage. For example, the hammer in
the becoming useless of the equipment; the world in the loss of reason
in anxiety; the possible wholeness of Dasein in being-toward-death; the
work of art in the rejection of the usual coherence of the world; the Being
of the word in its apartness and its infrmity.
Te not reveals nothing and it is as this revelation: a historical moment
in which nothing will be seen apart from the not of seeing: Being is
more in being than any beings (1998, 273).
However: the not can reveal the nothing only because, as a citation
Heidegger puts it between quotation marksfrom the inner-worldly
discourse of Dasein, it opens up the distance that allows Dasein to relate
to the world as a whole as its there (1998, 109). Te no as the word of
transcendence is at the same time that of the diference between Being
and the beings of the world. It can be both transcendence and diference
only as exposed from every determinable meaning. And, yet, this not
does mean. But it does not mean what something or one, cover or
Lazarus means, but rather always their and its own not. Heideggers
not, however, does not remain only a residue of innerworldliness and
meaningfulness. It also follows a direction in which it approaches Dasein,
relates to its language, allows its affrmation and even its recognition,
and allows Dasein to be bound to the not in its yes and no: Every
no is simply the affrmation of the not. Every affrmation consists in
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recognition. Recognition lets that toward which it goes come toward it.
(1998, 272) Just as in Hegel, in the Letter on Humanism, the not is
the not of something. But even when in an ek-sistential conversion it
turns itself into the something of a nihilation, this nihilation remains
as counter-phenomenon oriented toward something and remains ca-
pable of being grasped in an answer which, even though a citation, a
remainder, a residue, and a trace, remains still the determined trace of
a determined being and not the essential impossibility of determining
beings as a whole (1998, 88). In contradistinction to his claim, Heidegger
does not describe the not itself but the not of a self. Even though the
notonly this not (88)is supposed to be the not of the hold on
a determinable meaning and a determinable direction, it moves toward
the transcendental no of language and toward the dwelling in its house:
it remains a directional not.
And the other way around: if the no of language is the the affrmation of
the not (1998, 272), then this not can be affrmed only as the one that
language moves toward. Te spoken no, according to Heideggers words,
is an already addressed no in which only the not as an intentional
object will be affrmed: language retains for Heidegger an intentional
structure even in its epoch. Accordinglyand, in fact, in the sense of
a correspondence in a relational pairthe not in Heideggers Letter
is attuned to the affrmation of its affrmation. It is an intentionally
disposed and, moreover, affrmative not. Only this way can the whole
domain of meaningfulness be thought in it as simultaneously suspended
and founded.
Furthermore, if the recognition of the not, as Heidegger writes, lets
that toward which it goes come toward it (1998, 272), the recognition
becomes the place of the advent of the not, and the intentional not
becomes not only linguistically affrmable but, moreover, recognizable
and locatable in its recognition. In all these structures, the not appears
to be reduced to something less than what as the annulment should
We r ne r Hama c h e r 39
refuse every recognition and remain placeless, wordless, and non-inten-
tional. Since Being is more in being than any beings (1998, 273), the
not should be more nihilating than any nihilation within the horizon of
intentional acknowledgement. It should remain irreducible to relational
pairs, and it should withdraw itself from such alternatives as speaking to
and turning away from, presence to and absence from. Since it is not,
it should not remain restricted to pressure, constriction, and anxiety. It
should each time happen as that which in these relations releases from
them and makes them possible in the frst place.
Being is more in being than any beingsHeideggers catchy formula
employs a comparative to describe the relation between Being and beings
and, thus, the relation as such. It compares the two that should remain
absolutely incomparable. It speaks of Being in the language of beings
and says that it is a Being of enhanced intensity. Te formula, however,
remains ambiguous. It says, on the one hand, that being is in being and
even more in being than beings. On the other hand, however, it says that
it is in being only in such a way that it transgresses the measure and
range of beings, releases itself from all beings and gives up every hold on
them. Te relation that this formula speaks of is therefore the relation of
the dissolution of every relation, of transcendence into the relationless,
and of not only quantitative and merely relative but of the ontological
diference between Being and beings. Catchy as it is, it speaks only the
slippage of Being out of every form of every existing languageand,
hyperbolically, speaks beyond its own speech. Language in diference to
language; language of diference; language out of it.
Te syntagm being more in being than any beings is at the same time
a hypertagm. It ofers a proposition and steps outside everyeven its
Horrifying (entzetzliche) language. Every language is displacing (en-
The Re l a t i on 40
Every language speaks with an ent-, with a dis-, with a not. It should
also hold true for this not, since it is not a being, that it makes itself
noticeable beyond every linguistically verifable not in the domain of
the present-at-hand and the representable, beyond every mere lack and
every localizable privation, as a not of the verifable, a not of repre-
sentability and positing. To characterize the not, it does not suffce to
grasp it as an intra-linguistic phenomenon. It must also be understood as
a not of the phenomenon of language in generalotherwise it cannot
be understood as a not. Tis is why Heidegger insists that it cannot
be reduced to a linguistic negation and cannot emerge from a no. At
the same time, it cannot be disputed that the not is still a linguistic
expression, a mark within a given language, a syncategorematic particle,
that can be substantivized as the not (das Nicht) and verbalized as to
annul (nichten). But what it says within language is that it is an out of
and outside language and is not subjected to its laws and sentences. Only
from out of this not that does not belong to language can language be
understood as languageeven if it should be always understood as the
not-understandable and the inconsistent. Terefore, in the characteriza-
tion of the not, as in that of language, all traits that reduce its relations
to relations of intention, orientation, and localization should disappear.
Te not should in fact be articulated as what in these relations lets go
of them and, thus, lets them be.
Language left to be and, in every sense, left out.
Te not would not be a not if it could not let go of itself and could
not let be something other than itself. Not also means: counter-not,
more-or-less-than-not, other-than-not, and not-not. Not is not enough.
Terefore it cannot be missed by anyone.
Let us, then, admit that Heidegger did not miss it either, only did not say
enough to or about it, to clarify how the structure of the not and the
none of his language operate. If we engage this structurewhich is, let
us not forget, above all a not-structurewe might clarify the signifcance
We r ne r Hama c h e r 41
of the structure of intentionality, which is too strongly emphasized in his
thoughts on the not to have merely slipped into them. For Heidegger,
it is important that the not is not a nihil negativum or absolutum, not
an empty not merely posited by a subject or an Ieven if posited,
like in Fichte and Hegel, through a not-positing. For if it were a positum,
it would not only be a logicized not, but also a something (ens rationis)
and so precisely what it is not. At the same time, it is also important for
Heidegger that the happening of the notwhich, albeit always pos-
sible, still rarely enough really is (1998, 88)does not disappear in an
annihilation: once again, in such a case the nothing would not be a
not; it would not be there; it could not be experienced as a happening
or the happening of the withdrawal from happening. Joined together, the
two observations can be understood in such a way that the not cannot
be either a something or the fait accompli of a mere absence. It opens
itself as the zone of separation between beings and empty nothing, and
it can be the not only as that which emerges in the experience of the
departure or slipping away of all beings. Te experience of this not and
the not of this experienceand an abyss opens up in the reversibility
or irreversibility of these expressions and their double genitivesis the
decisive, pre-predicative synthesis. It is not an arch, an in itself unifed
principle. It is structurally an-archic (and in this sense originary), since it
is a synthesis only because of the split that crosses it. Heidegger describes
this bifurcation as a repelling reference toward beings [abweisende
(1998, 90): as a reference to beings through which they are
brought together and, at the same time, repelled as a whole. At the same
time as this not that formulates itself as a no and, in Heideggers
defnition as reference, carries an emphatically linguistic trait, the experi-
ence of Being itself emerges as the happening of this repelling reference.
Te not is the in itself diferentiated archi-disjunction.
Te separation, therefore, takes place between beings as a whole and
Being, and not between the not and beingthis separation is accom-
plished or is (or exists) in the not. Te nothing itself annuls (1998,
90): it is what happens in the repelling reference, and it is that it happens
The Re l a t i on 42
as this reference. Since the not would not be without its happening
(without its nihilation), the previous phrase can be made more precise:
Being nihilatesas being (1998, 273).
Tis is to say: Being is always already not-anymore and always not-yet. It
is in that it is the not of itself. As diference from itself, it is at the same
time the diference from everything and in everything that exists.
Te title of Being in Heideggers thinking belongs only to the movement
of the not, to the separation, the diference as inter-rift (Unter-Schied),
the ontological diference. Tis is why we fnd in the preface to On the
Essence of Ground the following ambiguous formulation: Te onto-
logical diference is the not between beings and Being (1998, 97). Tis
programmatic formula can be misunderstood because it places the not
between beings and Being as if they were two beings of diferent nature
or intensity. But this not is to be thought as the between with which
Being emerges as diferentiated from all, even the highest of all beings.
Being is what is resulting from and in the separation that happens in the
not and, thus, itself is the between, the diference. Terefore, Heide-
gger can write nothing and Being the same: Holding itself out into the
nothing, Dasein is in each case already beyond beings as a whole. Such
being beyond beings we call transcendence. . . . if [Dasein] were not in
advance holding itself out into the nothing, then it could never adopt a
stance toward beings nor even toward itself (91).
For Heidegger, to transcend means above all to transcend into a not
and, therefore, to transcend into a not of even this transcending. It does
not mean indication and relation to but repelling and repelling reference
from, as well as repelling of all reference, in-predication, ir-relation:
dis-intention. Transcendingif it is not already connected through
a continuous movement with a homogenous other and thereby in no
need of transcendingmust transcend into a nec trans and can only be
a transcending into the un-enterable: it must be attranscendence.
We r ne r Hama c h e r 43
Le pas au-del, writes Blanchot: step beyond; not beyond; step beyond
to the not of the step.
Only as transition into the not-going can it reach the zone of diference in
its own movement, where frst a possible toward of this movement opens
up as a relation to something and an intentional attitude to beings as
beings becomes possible. Tus, intentions are grounded in a structure of
transcendence that, in its turn, is defned by a not, a halt, a putting on
hold, or a suspension. Only this arrest ofers the possibility of a relation
to something; only in this suspension happens not something but only
the that of it happening.
Te not of this in-transcendence, therefore, can happen in two ways:
the retreating reference to something and the experience that the hap-
pening of this reference is other than and diferent from the reference
conceptualized as a relation and its correlates.
Tis arresting of the not in in-transcendence clearly defnes the mini-
mal structure of language. Whenever and in whatever way language is
spoken, there is reference that distances. But beyond this, something else
also happens that cannot be reduced to this (repelling) reference and the
agents emerging from it, the referents and their relations to each other.
Whether absolutely novel or older than old, it is incommensurable with
them. Te intentional attitude only exists as crossed out by the event of
its own epoch.
Terefore, it appears to be insuffcient and even erroneous to speak of
the claim of nihilation that has come to the clearing (1998, 272) and
to say that nihilation frst requires the no as what is to be said in the
letting-be of beings (273). Tis phrase attributes a linguistic structure
to the not that is at the same time also denied. Language is defned as
something claimednot claimed by a pre-linguistic existentiell beyond
of language but by its own exterior limits and, thus, by what cannot raise
The Re l a t i on 44
claims. Heidegger, therefore, goes around in circleseven if we consider
all the complications of going, going over, and inaccessibility. He goes
against himself, and he might be going that way because he thinks lan-
guage as a response.
Te commentary on the structure of transcending (namely, that it must
be that of in-transcending) and intentionality (that it must be suspended
in dis-intending) made it clear that these movements, for Heidegger,
always emerge frst in their not and their suspension. In very much
the same way, we could clarify the structure of the claim as Anspruch,
as Heidegger understands it, not by reading this word according to the
measure of its dictionary meaning but by reading it based on its context
with an emphatically stressed An: speaking onto.
Ten the claim raised by the notfrom nowhere by nobody and, mind
you, neverwould be a speaking onto and in the proximity of language
and its words and particles of negation, which, persisting in the onto,
would never make it out of this proximity to reach language. Te claim
would be a speaking onto because it would never be a speech in the sense
of a statement or a performative act. It would always be en route or on
the way to language. An-spruch would be toward language, what language
itself is not and that it itself is not presentit would be the irruption of
language, its start.
In fact, according to Heideggers text, the claim of nihilation cannot be
more than this, cannot be language. For he says of this claim that it calls
for the no as what is to be said but never as something already said,
never already given in or by language, rather as a no that remains still
and always yet to be said and, as what is to be said, remains forever im-
minent in every possible future. Speaking onto and speaking its not onto
language, the claim would be the retentive relation in which language is
kept away from itself but, at the same time, held to and held back from
itself and sustained and held in this holding onto and holding back. But,
unlike what an obvious misunderstanding would suggest, this sustaining
We r ne r Hama c h e r 45
does not hold in potentia as something always merely possible but
never real. Rather, it holds on this side of all modal categories, in statu
nascendi et moriendi (as Celan writes in an explicit reference to Heidegger
in a letter to Werner Weber): held out into the happening of language as
perpetual beginning (1997, 398).
Tis understanding of the speaking-onto of the not also clarifes the
structure of intention. It would not be some already given relation of an
already constituted consciousness to a content of consciousness, but the
irruption of these relations in their pre-withholding and, therefore, inten-
tion only arising out of the freedom from such a relation and the openness
to it. Tus, every An- that Heidegger writes is to be read not merely as a
close to or onto in the sense of a given extension, but always also as
the echo the Greek ana- as a privative in- or un-. In words like Anspruch
(claim) or Anruf (call), or Answesen (presence), Angehen (approach), and
Ankunft (arrival), with every close to and onto at the same time a not
and a no is also said that relates relation to irrelation, reference to ir-
reference, direction to indirection. An- is the prefx of diferencebut
not only of an intra-linguistic diference between diferent meanings of
one and the same morpheme but, before meanings can appear at all, the
diference between language speaking its not and language speaking
onto something. An-, not unlike vor-, zu-, hin-, and aus-, is the prefx of
ontological diference. Whoever uses speaking onto in this sense in fact
is saying something insuffcient and erroneous but is also saying that this
insuffciency and erroneousness belongs to the structure of language.
Language itself is the speaking onto language and therefore a speaking
onto another language or something other than language.
Understood as speaking onto (An-spruch) language is its othering (An-
Te An- is, therefore, the word and the fore-word of the madness of lan-
guage. In the essay Language in the Poem Heidegger writes as a com-
mentary on the line Te madman [Wahnsinnige] has died from Georg
The Re l a t i on 46
Trakls Psalm: Te word Wahn comes from Old High German wana
which means without. Te madman sensessenses in fact as no one
else does. But he remains without the sense of others. He is of another
sense. Sinnan originally means: to travel, to strive for, to strike a direc-
tion. Te Indo-Germanic root sent and set means path. Te departed is
the madman, because he is on his way somewhere else (1971, 173).
other way that the madman follows is the way into de-parture, into a dif-
ference that departs from every possible distinction and discrimination.
So Heidegger can write about the stranger who is the madman without
the sense of the other: Tis stranger unfolds the essence of the human
into the beginning of what has not yet come to bearing [Tragen] (Old
High German: giberan). Tis quieter and hence more stilling element
in the nature of mortals that has not been borne out is what the poet
calls the unborn (1971, 175).
But if the other waythis without-path, the
aporialeads into what has not been borne out, how do we stand with
what is defned as gesture in A Dialogue on Language: the originary
gathering of bearing against and bearing to (1971, 19)? And how does the
thought of the not-yet-born and the unborn relate to the thought of being
as diference, which is described in Te Onto-Teo-Logical Constitu-
tion of Metaphysics in the following way: Tat inter-rift [Unter-Schied]
alone grants and holds apart the between, in which the overwhelming
and the arrival are held toward one another, are borne away from and
toward each other. Te diference of Being and beings, as the inter-rift of
overwhelming and arrival, is the bearing out [Austrag] of the two in un-
concealing keeping in concealment. Within this bearing out there prevails
a clearing of what veils and closes itself ofand this prevalence bestows
the being apart, and the being toward each other, of overwhelming and
arrival (2002a, 65).
In these sentences, it becomes clear that the words held and borne
are used in the same sense: being held in relation (Ver-halten) is being
borne out (Austrag). Both describe the movement of diferentiation that
Heidegger writes as Unter-Schied (literally, inter-rift) to separate it from
rational distinctions as well as from diferences in perception and to
We r ne r Hama c h e r 47
emphasize the between that corresponds to the inter of the unter in
the concept of Unterschied (diference). Te German word Austrag is the
literal translation of the Latin diferentia, which in turn, is a translation
of the decisive Greek term diaphor. In a defnition provided in the frst
essay on Trakl, Language (in 1950), diaphor, diference, and bearing
out are juxtaposed with the following commentary: Te intimacy of
dif-ference [Unter-Schied] is the unifying element of the diaphora, the
carrying out [Austrag] that carries through. Te dif-ference carries out
world in its worlding, carries out things in their thinging. Tus carrying
them out, it carries them toward one another (2001, 200). And a few
sentences later, the series of synonymous concepts is extended to include
Ereignis, the appropriating event, gesture as bearing, and granting: Te
dif-ference for world and thing disclosingly appropriates things into bear-
ing a world; it disclosingly appropriates world into the granting of things
(200). In accordance with these connections, in Te Way to Language,
relation (Verhltnis) is thought out of the appropriating event and, more
precisely, as the appropriative happening of the essence of language: For
that appropriating, holding, self-retaining is the relation of all relations.
Tus our sayingalways an answeringremains forever relational. Rela-
tion [Ver-hltnis as holding to itself ] is thought of here always in terms
of the event, and no longer conceived in the form of a mere reference
(1971, 135). But if relation means appropriation, if appropriation means
diference, diference means diferentia and diaphora, and the latter two
mean the carrying out that carries through, while carrying out means
bearing, the question, unavoidable, emerges: How do the concepts from
the Trakl commentary, the unborn and what is not borne out, relate to this
series? And how can this series be unifed with the other, the without-
path, and the aporia of madness? Tese questions are not yet answered
by the remark that Heidegger understood human Dasein in the sense of
ek-sistence as the ecstatic being outside of itself of madness. Tis only
makes the question more urgent of whether this being-in-madness can
be thought with the concepts of diference and bearing out. Or whether
this madness overburdens the carrying out that carries through and the
bearing out and is, therefore, thrown away, evacuated, and forgotten.
The Re l a t i on 48
Te question, therefore, is once again whether the madness of ek-sis-
tence, of the not, of Being, and of language can still be articulated in a
languageeven if it as outr as Heideggers.
Or: Is it possible to think the not-borne-out as the not-borne-out? More
precisely: Does the not-borne-out allow itself to be thought only as a not
yet or, beyond that, does it allow itself to be thought as a never borne
Hence: Can the not as a neveras a never of the sayabledefne the
horizon of language? And can this never, then, also provide the tran-
scendental horizon of the possibility of what is sayable? Is the never
the condition of the happening of language and the horizon of being?
Or: Can the never be thought? But: How could it be other than never be
thought? Consequently: If the never were the pre- and proto-predicative
happening that is called Being and later, more precisely, coming-over
(berkommnis) because it is what overcomes, sur-prises, overwhelms,
more than just comes andoverburdens? Terefore: Can the unbearable
be borne and borne out?
Otherwise: How could Beingwhether as happening, history, destiny,
or coming-overas the unbearable not be borne? Because: Can the un-
bearable be found at all otherwise unbearable than as always still and
nevertheless borne? And, then, still not? Terefore: Is there not in Being
itself such a still and nevertheless, a but that keeps Being at a distance
from Being, and keeps Being out of Being, and in this out and apart brings
it together?
However: What does the out mean in out of each other and in bearing
out, if it still contains a together? Does it refer to an originary synthesis
before every predicative synthesis? Is not such a reference misleading, if it
suggests a together there where we can encounter only an out of each
othereven if we encounter it in the impossibility of its encounter?
We r ne r Hama c h e r 49
In his seminar in Le Tor in September 1966, Heidegger cites a paragraph
from the chapter On the impossibility of a cosmological proof of Gods
existence from Kants First Critique. Tese stunning sentenceswhich,
with their evocation of sinking, foating without stop, and the abyss,
may well have contributed to the descriptions of anxiety in Being and
Time (1962) and What is Metaphysics? (1998)speak explicitly not only
about the groundless but also about the unbearable. Kant writes:
Te unconditioned necessity, which we need so indispensably as the ultimate
sustainer of all things, is for human reason the true abyss. Even eternity
however awful the sublimity with which a Haller might portray itdoes not
make such a dizzying impression on the mind; for eternity only measures the
duration of things, but it does not sustain that duration. One cannot resist the
thought of it, but one also cannot bear it that a being might, as it were, say
to itself: I am from eternity to eternity, outside me is nothing except what is
something merely through my will; but whence then am I? Here everything
caves in beneath us, and the greatest perfection as well as the smallest, hover
without hold before speculative reason, for which it would cost nothing to
let the one as much as the other disappear without the least obstacle. (Kant
1999, 574; Heidegger 2003, 17) God, the highest ground of what is, appears in
its monologue as an abyss that does not carry it but lets it collapse. And Kant
says of this thought of a God that does not carry itself that one cannot resist
the thought of it, but one also cannot bear it.
With this the primal scene of critical transcendental philosophy and
speculative idealism is described: an ens realissimum et nesessarium
that does not contain the guarantee of its own being, a God that is not
a causa sui and sinks in the abyss of its own question after a ground
cannot ofer beings any more hold and must, therefore, pull down in
its own fall the categories that render it thinkable, necessary, and real.
What remains is the scene of the sinking away of the totality of beings,
the greatest perfection as well as the smallest, and with this scene, the
form of representation, the mere idea of reason, in which beings as a
whole together with the categorial structures of their knowability survive
The Re l a t i on 50
under the condition of their transcendentality. For the transcendental
objectthat Kant can only speak of after the sinking away of a world
and its transcendental groundis not an empirical object and not even
an object at all. Tis object, as Kant writes, therefore cannot be further
intuited by us, and that may therefore be called the non-empirical, i.e.,
transcendental object = X (1999, 233). In his Kant book, Heidegger calls
this transcendental X a Nothing that is at the same time Something
(1997, 86), and describes the X as the horizon of a standing-against. Tis
horizon is indeed not object but rather a Nothing, if by object we mean
a being which is apprehended thematically (87). Furthermore: Only if
the letting-stand-against of . . . is a holding oneself in the nothing can
the representing allow a not-nothing, i.e., something like a being . . . (51).
In the Kant commentary, the holding oneself in the nothing islike
the anxiety scenes in Being and Time, in the Freiburg lecture, and more
abstractly in the Letter in diferent waysthe gesture of the horizontal-
transcendental constitution of the domain of objectivity and with that,
at the same time, of no longer onto-theologically founded beings held
in the mere form of representation: not a creatio but still a constitutio ex
nihilo. Te fact that holding oneself in the nothing, as Kant examines
it in his critical philosophy, stops at the form of representation (Vorstel-
lung) and the idea of reason, makes these gestures into a regulatio nihili,
and prevents the further analysis of the transcendental form of being
represented and posited.
Heidegger took on this further analysis starting with the exposition of
Dasein in Being and Time. Tis analysis must show that the sinking of the
ens necessarium and, with it, that of mere being (which does not hold and
bear itself ) remain irreducible to the beings of representation, the idea,
or the concept. It must expose the fact that transcendental representa-
tion merely displaces the not that it encounters in the sinking of the
highest being, instead of engaging it as the decisive content of being. To
do justice to the implications of the anxiety-scene and the unbearable
question of God for his ground, the classical analytical concept of difer-
ence between ground and the grounded, positing and the posited must
We r ne r Hama c h e r 51
be transformed into the concept of a diference that can no longer be
contained within the horizon of representation and its transcendental
language. Tis analysis, therefore, should yield a concept of diference
that retains only a single transcendental remainder, namely that even
the horizon of a transcendental representation ofers no other hold than
the no holdthus, a diference in which everything that can bear is
abandoned except for this: that nothing bears. Being must be thought on
the basis of this diference and as this diference, since Being is neither
its own ground nor grounded in the structure of representation.
Consequently, this diference cannot be said in a language of predica-
tion, of position, or of synthesis. It must be the diference of ex-thesis,
im-predication, and the ex-positing of all forms of representation, the
concept, and the idea. Not only beings in their being-ness, not only the
highest and grounding being, but primarily and above all Being itself is
to be thought from and as this diferent diference: Being as diference
(2002a, 64). To bring out the diference of this diference, Heidegger
writes Unterschied as Unter-Schiedthat is, as inter-riftand transposes
the Greek diasphor and the Latin diferentia to the German Austrag.
With this, no rational distinction and no stable distance in the space of
the represented can be defned, only a movement that leaves the space
of representation and moves into an incommensurably other space.
Bearing out is primarily the bearing out between diference and bear-
ing out. (It is a transposition, a translation, an bersetzung as it is
written in Anaximanders Saying [2002b, 260] to show that it changes
over from one domain of language and thought to another.) Bearing
out now means nothing else but that the concept of diference has alto-
gether abandoned its meaning based in theories of representation and
consciousness as well as its historical-philosophical meaning, which is
not replaced by anything of the same order, that is, by any meaning. Not
only does Heidegger pursue in his whole work this elimination of the
historical meanings and contents of words and concepts, he also always
explains it and comments on it. Tis is what we fnd in Language, where
The Re l a t i on 52
Heidegger discusses Unter-Schied: Te word dif-ference [Unter-Schied]
is now removed from its usual and customary usage. What it now names
is not a generic concept for various kinds of diferences. It exists only
as this single diference. It is unique (2001, 200). It is unique in Trakls
poem A Winter Evening as well as in its interpretation by Heidegger.
Consequently, it is unique in the now of the moment that is not only
world-historical but also belongs to the history of being, the moment
that the interpretation of the poem tries to grasp. Te same is true for the
translation of diference into bearing out: the historical word is withdrawn
from its customary usage, and it is submitted to an anasemie that takes
out its usual meaning like a false fgure from an equation and leaves only
this evacuated meaning: Being as diference means being as bearing out
in the sense of the eference of nominal as well as predicative structures,
as a carrying-out-of into an outside of all hold and, at the same time, as
an opening of an ex, an out, and a not inside the house of language.
Being as bearing out is, therefore, the parting with beings and, at the
same time, with every habitual and inhabitable linguistic formulation of
being. Bearing out is to be read as the diference and parting from itself
of an elementary philosophical concept, as well as the parting diference
of being from itself in which alone it holds itself and holds onto itself as
being in that it holds itself away from itself. Understood as bearing out,
im-predicable being bears itself out in its own proper happening as this
im-predicable being: bearing out fulflls itself as the eference, the evacu-
ation and expropriation of historical beings.
Since this evacuation of historical modes of being is the proper historical
happening of Being itself, its expropriating bearing out is also its self-
appropriation and exists as the appropriating event of Being. Bearing out
carries itself out in the sense of an appropriating event in the history of
language. It carries itself out in the sense of an appropriating event in the
history of thought and being, which rests on nothing else but that being
suspends all of its habitual representations, exposes itself as a coming-
We r ne r Hama c h e r 53
over, and allows beings as diferent and separate from itself to come to
their proper status of predication. Te appropriating event that carries
itself out in Heideggers Unter-Schied is an appropriation only out of ex-
propriation, only possible due to the ex-propriation, ex-nomination, and
ex-predication of all concepts and sentences of representation that, his-
torically speaking, have fxed and still might fx themselves onto being
and beings. But it is also the appropriation of ex-propriation and, thus,
the affrmation of the propriative structure of all happenings, regardless
of whether it is understood as belonging to the history of being, thought,
or language. Terefore, in On Time and Being we read: Tought in terms
of the event of propriation, this means: in that sense it expropriates itself
of itself. Expropriation belongs to the event of propriation as such. By this
expropriation, propriation does not abandon itselfrather, it preserves
what is its properly own (2002c, 2223).
Bearing out therefore does not only mean evacuation and exference. For
the same reason, it also means carrying to an end and a goal, a telos, in
which something comes to its own and to itself, and thus it designates
once again the archi-teleological movement of the whole history of
philosophy. No matter how diferent the concepts and practices of dia-
phor and diferentia, distinction and diference might be in this history,
Heidegger pulls them together into the unity of the fundamentaland
a-fundamentaldiference and, thereby, clarifes the ference-structure of
the thought of Being in general. Only hence the vocabulary of unity; only
hence the symmetry between bearing away from and toward each
other; only hence, in the end, the persistence of the phor and ferre of
bearing: Tat inter-rift [Unter-Schied] alone grants and holds apart the
between, in which the overwhelming and the arrival are held toward
one another, are borne away from and toward each other (2002a, 65).
And: Of itself, it holds apart the middle in and through which world
and things are at one with each other. . . . Te dif-ference for world and
thing disclosingly appropriates things into bearing a world; it disclosingly
appropriates world into the granting of things (2001, 200). As long as the
The Re l a t i on 54
thought of being is understood as diference and carrying out, it remains
caught in the logic of the event of appropriation, of the property even in
expropriation, as well as the logic of bearing and of the bearable.
After this long detour, we must now return to the problem of what
happens with Gods unbearable question about his own ground, with
a ground that does not hold and holds nothing, with what cannot be
borne and with the unbearable that one cannot resist the thought of.
Furthermore, we must also ask if what happens here can still be called
or thought of as a happening? And in what relation, if it still is a relation,
does it stand with the other way of madness?
Kant calls the thought of the ultimate bearer [Trger] of all things that
is not its own groundcausa suia true abyss for fnite reason. For rea-
son only positional and propositional being is thinkable, only being as
positing, but never as an ab-solute being emerging from its self, that is,
from the not of every position. Such a being without position, such an
ex-posed being is the unbearable from which reason, transcendentally
posting its own horizon and always made anxious by it, must turn itself
away. Bare being cannot be borne. Tat there is such a thing is attested
by the thought that Kant calls unbearable. What it also attests to at the
same time is an abyss, a not of reason, that belongs to reason as its
own property, and not although but precisely because and as long as this
not expropriates reason, dispossesses it, and makes reason unbearable
for itself.
Te not of bare Being is always carried and borne only as the simply
unbearable that cannot be rejected. Being, which does not obey reason yet
belongs to it, must therefore be thought as bearing out of the incapability
to bear out. Being as diference must be thought as ex-ference of difer-
ence and diaphor. As a result, thinking must be thought as un-thinking.
When the unbearable must be thought, it must be thought as the unbear-
ability of thinking itself. It must be thought as the unthinkability or the
We r ne r Hama c h e r 55
forgetting of thought. Not-thinking belongs to the structure of thinking
itself. As long as it does not think its not-thinking, it does not yet think.
To be thinking, it must bear its diference from itself and therefore its own
not-thinking. Tinking must bear its not being able to bear.
A diference that does not bear anything apart from its not-bearing? It
would bear the without of ference. But would it be its own without
and could it be the without of its own ference? A bearing out that would
be unbearable for itselfcould it still give itself in its property and, in
the end, obtain itself ? Are these possessive pronouns in fact justifed,
when we are dealing with a not that precedes every act of positing by
a subject and, thus, it must release all nouns, pronouns, and possessives
that are made possible by such an act?
A diference that bears nothing but a not can never exclude the pos-
sibility that the not it bears is its own. But it cannot renounce the other
possibility either, namely, that it can not be its own. It is always possible
to turn the not into a possessive (even if it is primarily only a linguistic
possessive) or into a not of something, a genitive or dative not, but
with this putting into relation of the not, its reduction leads to a depen-
dence that is in fact dissolved by the not. Te not remains irreducible
to something other, since it means: not-other. It remains irreducible to
itself, since it means: not-self. Neither other nor self, the not is a not
also to the Hegelian other of itself. It is other than other, the movement
of unstoppable othering and, as such, always the other as well as the self,
yet never one of the two. It is the tie between them but only a tie that
dissolves itself.
Te not would be the solutionbut only as the dissolution of the not.
Tis is why it bears and does not bearand the formula Te ontological
diference is the not between beings and Being (1998, 97) is insuffcient.
It is not borne and cannot be the bearing out of itself to itself and to
the beings disclosed by it. Even the directional formula diference from
Being toward beings (2002b, 281) represents a restriction of diference,
The Re l a t i on 56
namely, its restriction to the teleological relation between Being and
beings. If this restriction is removed, the directional character of the
essence of diference is suspended by the not, that it carries and also
does not carry but rather mis-carries, carries away or throws of. Tis way,
bearing out as well as being and beings can only be thought of as one of
the possibilities of diference that is always thwarted by the other: that
the not of Being, the Being from not, is not and does not bear itself
out to beings. Between these two possibilities of the not, between these
two impossibilities, a diference in the sense of a bearing out can and also
cannot be thought and must remain, therefore, un-thought. Tis is why
Heideggers assumption that this localisation, which assigns the difer-
ence of Being and beings to bearing out as the approach to their essence,
could even bring to light something all-pervading which pervades Beings
destiny from its beginning to its completion
(2002a, 67) either must be
considered erroneous or must be abandoned. It does not bear out and
pervade because it does not bear witness to the alternative possibility
that the aporetic structure of the not breaks up every process before
its end and completion.
Not is the exproprium par excellence. It is what approaches yet does not
ever approachanything or anybody anytime. In this not-approaching
approach, it is the not-bearable that cannot be borne out. Te diference
that bears the not of its bearing, at the same time also always bears
the not of another bearing and the not of something other than bear-
ing. And since it can not be its own, diference cannot be thought in the
emphatic sense as bearing out, as the gesture of bearing, the birth and
the gift of the not of being, and neither can bearing out be thought
as the unconcealing of the concealment of being and the arrival of be-
ings. Rather, it must be thought as the withdrawal of bearing out, as the
epoch of diference, the deactivation of giving, and the depassivation
of bearing. Since it does not ever belong (gehrt) and does not belong
to itself, as a not it cannot be either heard (hrt) or simply not heard;
it can neither be stilled nor reached through the saying not-saying that
We r ne r Hama c h e r 57
Heidegger speaks about at the end of Identity and Diference. As the abyss
of reason, it is also the abyss of hearing and of every language that seeks
to answer it. It is silent not only in the sense that language could be the
peal of stillness (2001, 205); it is (if we can still say is here) also mute.
Since it must precede every distinction between outside and inside, it is
simply what cannot be interiorized in memory and yet also what simply
cannot be forgotten either.
Both may be said of Heideggers phrase of the forgetfulness of being. In
the fnal chapter of the Kant book (1929), it is spoken of as the primal
metaphysical factum [Urfaktum] of Dasein: Tis factum consists in the
fact that what is most fnite in its fnitude is indeed known, but neverthe-
less has not been grasped. Te fnitude of Daseinthe understanding
of Beinglies in forgetfulness. Tis [ forgetfulness] is not accidental and
temporary, but on the contrary is necessarily and constantly formed
(1997, 16364). Te moderate assessment of this forgetfulness shows itself
in that, even as it is a primal factum, it nevertheless must be possible to
ascertain; and even as it is forgetfulness, it must still be apprehensible. Al-
most 20 years later, in Anaximanders Saying (in 1946), Heidegger writes
the following, no longer from the perspective of the analytic of Dasein but
from that of the history of being: the destiny of Being begins with the
oblivion of Being so that Being, together with its essence, its diference
from Being, holds back with itself (2002b, 275). Te tension between
forgetfulness (veiling, concealment, holding back with itself ) and mani-
festation (unconcelament, experience, clearing) is dissolved here in the
thought of the trace, the trace of the erasure of the trace of diference: this
trace the oblivion of the diference, that Heidegger defnes as the event
of metaphysics (2002b, 275), remains legible because it bears diference
in its very forgetfulness and brings it out from its forgetfulness and bears
it out (275). With the oblivion of diference, the trace (the diferentiality of
diference that Derrida writes as difrance) carries two things: it carries
diference and hence the essence of Being, but also carries it together
with its forgetting, withholding, and withdrawal. Terefore, on the one
The Re l a t i on 58
hand, it is carrying the not of beings in which their Being emerges; on
the other hand, it is carrying the not of this not in which it conceals
and maintains itself.
Heideggers diference is the amphora of being, lethe-phor and aletheia-
phor, and as such, the sheltering that unfolds itself into unconcealment
and concealment and defnes the whole world-history of the Occident
(2002b, 275), yet maintains itself securely preserved and remaining
equally in both as sheltering. Heidegger writes: Te diference collapses.
It remains forgotten (275). But since this collapse and forgetting remains
unforgotten at least in the trace of a trace, which remains the primal
factum of the self-preservation of being and forgetting, it does not fall
and does not collapse but is rather preserved and maintained as the
erased and self-erasing. Nothing is forgotten. Te forgetting as thought
by Heidegger is the sublation of forgetting, Being, and self.
But it is not so in the sense of a sublation in an absolute knowledge that
knows itself in its negativity and secures its past in internalizing memory.
It is rather a keeping of forgetting and keeping forgetting in a medium
thatbefore every subjectivity of consciousness and every objectivity
determined by its representations and conceptsmakes consciousness
and self-consciousness possible in the frst place, and therefore cannot
be thought or remembered by it. Whereas Hegel can think forgetting as a
moment of internalizing memory, he cannot think it as the unthinkable
that still remains to be thought, and to be thought in its stillness. Forget-
ting does not allow itself to be internalized or remembered. Internalizing
memory, in which the gallery of forgotten contents of consciousness is
re-presented, does not forget the forgotten but forgets forgetting itself. If
in the Kant book, remembering again (written in quotation marks) is
described by Heidegger as the basic fundamental-ontological act (1997,
164), it does not make a case for a platonic anamnesis of what is, was,
and will be, but rather refers to the primal fact of forgetfulness and hence
to something absolutely un-rememberable that ofers the possibility of
We r ne r Hama c h e r 59
remembering it as absolute withholding, as that which cannot be held
or held up, kept, maintained, or preserved.
Being forgets itself; this fact of the pre-ontological de-facticity of fnite
and thus defective Dasein cannot be raised into internalizing memory
and, therefore, cannot be sublated. Neither can it be reversed, arrested,
or postponed. It resists every classical analytical work of dissolution
as well as every act, albeit a basic act, of separation or repression, of
internalization or opposition or positing. Tat being forgets itselfthis
auto-amnesia in the ur- and un-factum of happening in generalblocks
every operation of and every access to memory, remembrance, and think-
ing that tries to grasp and revive, to understand or explain a what or a
something. Tis self-forgetfulness of Being is the inaccessible (1983, 226),
the unanalyzable, phenomenologically inexposable in every attempt at
access, analysis, and exposition. Precisely because it is an irresolvable im-
possibility and, in that sense, a necessity, it must be thematized, however,
and in fact must be thematized as the un-thematizable. What remains
still unthought is the oblivion of the diference (2002a, 50), which is
not contingent and episodic, but structural oblivion, forgotten from the
beginning, never-yet-thought and still-to-be-thought.
End of thinking (Denk-Ende)the one thought to be thought: the un-
thinkable one. Terefore Heidegger speaks of memory not as internaliz-
ing Erinnerung, but as Andenken, once again with the emphatic isolation
of the prefx, as An-denken, which could hardly be understood diferently
than to think against a wall or to think of something that withdraws
itself. Te one who thinks forgetting thinks the not of thinking and
thinks toward, against, and from the not of this thinking. He thinks
from that which cannot be thought by his thinking itself, as long as it
happens with this thinking itself and happening this way resists thinking.
Always thought from the diference of thinking, the ontological diference
is at the same time forgetting and the forgotten, the outthe ex- and
exitusof thinking, happening, and being. Being as diference, diference
The Re l a t i on 60
as bearing out, therefore, means: the bearing out of the out into the
outinto lethe, forgetting, death. It also means: the appropriation of
the out as the end, from which every experience receives its defnition.
Furthermore, it means: the appropriation of beings as those which frst
receive their contour from their out.
However: this ek and ex, this lethe, death and forgetting, the not does
not allow itself to be thought. It can be said and passed on, written and
repeated, but it cannot be thought. So when Heidegger speaks of An-
denken, when following a metaphor from Hlderlin and Rilke, he speaks
of the trace of diference and the trace of the erasure of the trace (2002b
275), he tries to do justice precisely to the factum of the unthinkablity of
this factum. At the same time, however, he also tries to insist that this
not of the thinkable must be thought, and with this insistence he goes
astray. He means the trace to be of necessity the trace of diference, the dif-
ference always diference of being, forgetfulness always the forgetfulness
of diference. But forgetfulnessif it deserves its namemust always be
able to be also something non-relational, non-genitive, and non-genetic,
and nothing is able to ascertain that it ever was not without a tie to
Being. Although there are innumerable passages in Heideggers texts that
discuss with utmost care the double meaning of the genitive as subjec-
tivus and objectivus, there are none that formulate a serious thinking of
genitivity as such. When being forgets itself, its forgetfulness must also
be able to be the dissolution of the tie that bound it to the forgotten. If
the forgotten diference leaves behind a trace, this trace must always also
be able to be the trace not of this diference, but released and abandoned
by it without a memory trace. And fnally, if the diference of Being from
beings is truly a diference, it must also be able to be such that it does not
remain the diference of Being, but absolved from it and stepping into the
cold light of something indeterminably other than being.
This other difference and this other forgotten, which can never be
without the possibility of a relation to the one examined by Heidegger,
manifests itself in his language with the re-segmentation, the de- and
We r ne r Hama c h e r 61
re-semantization of customary words and syntagms, in the continuous
denaming of the already named, in the invention of a idiolect, which
should set against or next to the thoughtlessness of common metaphysi-
cal languages not only a new terminology but an alternative gesture of
thought. No less does it show itself in an attention to the languages of
poetry and art, which remain without an equal in modernity from Hegel
to Benjamin. Even if he leaves no doubt that he understands language
as the answer to the not of beings, the ontological vocabulary is used
conspicuously more discreetly in the texts devoted to language and po-
etry than in the quasi-systematic and historical works. No matter how
infnitely problematic these texts remain, they correspond to a trait of
language that corresponds to neither beings nor Being and cannot be
defned by the forgotten or preserved diference between the two. In
them, we encounter something other than Being, its oblivion, and the dif-
ferentiality of its residual traces without, however, being able to exclude
their possibility, obtrusion, and terroristic gestures of gathering. It speaks
with another and for another not in which occasionally still another
may intervene.
More not?
Still more. Language is a matter of the still: of the still of a not-anymore
and of a still-not. And this still, the one in the other and this in that,
speaks in such a way that its correlates can frst extract themselves from
it: the not of what has been and what is still to be in the future, of beings
and their presence and absence is spoken and thought from a still that
precedes both thinking and language.
Te concern that this still may be only a further variant of the ontologi-
cal diference in which its structures of appropriation, stabilization, and
presentation repeat themselves one more time might perhaps be dis-
persed through two observations. On the one hand, the still of language
always says moreno-more and still-more. In its still-more, it exceeds
every comprehensible limit of the form of representation as well as the
The Re l a t i on 62
analytic of its collapse in the history of being. It speaks for a still-more
than what all being and its oblivion could grant; for a forgetting that is
not even forgotten or still more than forgotten, and therefore speaks
beyond what is merely thinkable and thinking. Its still-more does not
say: more of the same but still-another and still-other-than-other. With
its still, language speaks itself free from everything that can be said and
On the other hand, the still and the still-other-than-other of language
is delirious. Two substantial pages of Heideggers Anaximanders Say-
ing bear witness to this that are not too far separated from the passage
in which he defnes thinking as based on language and its poetry: Te
thinking of being is the primordial form of poeticizing in which, before
everything else, language frst comes to language, enters, that is to say its
essence. . . . Tinking is the ur-poetry which precedes all poesy (2002b,
247). Somewhat later, we read: By revealing itself in what is, Being
withdraws itself. In this way, in its clearing, Being invests the beings with
deliriousness or errancy. What is, happens in errancy, deliriousness in
which it strays from Being and so . . . founds error and delirium. Tis is
the essential space of history (25354). Furthermore, after the epoch
of being is described as the clearing keeping to itself with the truth of
its essence, Heidegger writes: Each time that Being keeps to itself in
its sending, suddenly and unexpectedly, world happens. Every epoch of
world-history is an epoch of errancy and deliriousness. . . . Te epochal
essence of Being appropriates the ecstatic essence of Da-sein (25455).
Delirious. Aberrant. It is not only the bright madness of language but also
that of Being and the epochs of its history. As Being discloses (or bears
out or gives birth to) itself in beings, it keeps to itself with its truth, with-
draws and conceals itself: it shelt-ers and errs. What it releases from itself
is its errancya delirious birth-giver of delirious births. If every epoch of
world history is an epoch of errancy, it is because the epochal character
of being, as it keeps to itself, does not allow anything other than what
We r ne r Hama c h e r 63
is held outside of its truth and held into the errancy of Da-sein, into the
there and ek of ek-sistence as its un-truth. To think the epochality of
the epochs of being means to think errancy as the irreducibility of epochs
to a truth that would not be un-truth, withdrawal, and forgetfulness. Te
ur-poetry of thinking is the err-poetry of Being in which its epoch comes
about as the oblivion of thinking.
Te essence of being, which lies in its existence and not its essentia (1962,
68), and its diferentia could be called only errentia (if the word existed
and did not have to be frst invented). It does not lead only into errancy,
but is in errancy, and exists, as it spells the is of all beings in the errant
language of its errant Being as errs.
Te appropriating event of language (Ereignis)exposed in the language
of poetrythat bespeaks its happening, its essence, and its existence,
would be the mis-appropriating err-ent (Err-eignis oder Irr-eignis), since
it goes astray unbound from its essence and without access to it. And the
bearing out of its essence, its ek-sistence and errancy would be the bearing
out of its epochal impossibility of bearing out, its holding to itself and its
withdrawal: bearing out in errancy and, always still more errant bearing
out, in its diaphora as aphora, diference as dif-errence.
If language were thought otherwise (as logos apophantikos, proposition,
expression, structure of signifcation, communication of information), it
would always be thought only within a specifc epoch but not from the
epochality of each epoch. Te epoch of the happening of language, how-
ever, says that the opening as such is held back and, therefore, allows still
other epochs to be announced and to arrive. It says that still more errors
and errancies are possible, without the horizon of this still being able to
set a limit and a measure for a truth other than that of the guarding of its
un-truth. Epochality insists on a stilla still-not-yet of the appearance
of Being as such, a still-yet and a still-yet-another of the appearance of
Being in its delirious errancy.
The Re l a t i on 64
Tere is, then, only a parodic beinga being on the errant track of its
mere being ofered, named, represented, posited, and positionedbut
not one that can be defned by such positional and propositional state-
ments that would allow a more than an epochal, erroneous, delirious,
parodic access to its truth, its refusal. Clearing of being, thus, does not
mean that something but rather that always only the disappearance and
the unclearablity of its happening will become clear. Te clearing of
what veils and closes itself of (2002a, 65) means the revelation of the
impossibility of revelation, the release of the without-being of everything
that could be said and done, of everything that could be.
To the epochality of being (2002b, 254) and the ek-static character of
Da-sein corresponds, in terms of the method of thinking, the step back
of which Heidegger speaks taking up a phrase from Schillers twentieth
letter on the aesthetic education of man (2005, 57). In a marginalium
to Identitt und diferenz, he describes it in the following terms: the step
back before the whole of the destiny of Being is in itself awakening from
the appropriating event into the appropriating event as expropriation
from the jointure (2006, 59). Tis step, which is supposed to relinquish
the appropriating event of being as expropriation into the errancy of the
without-being, is (or errs) similar to the parekbasis in Greek comedy, a
parodic step, that even in the step back from the whole of the destiny of
being enters its parodic structure.
Awakening from the appropriating event into the appropriating event
the step back does not step out of the whole of the sendings of Being.
Even when it does step out, it does so only in such a way that it steps
into it as an outside without interiority. It is a step into the step itself,
going into going itself, thinking toward (An-denken) the toward (An) of
thinking, speaking toward (An-sprechen) the toward (An) of language, yet
it is not something said, thought, or reached. If this step is to be taken,
then it cannot take place as one of the historically already realized or the
still possible further historical steps, thoughts, or statements in which
Being occurs. It cannot be presupposed or experienced as one among
We r ne r Hama c h e r 65
other destinies of being, because the ofering and giving character of
being itself, its sense of occurring frst occurs in this stepand with
the occurring of the whole of the giving of Being is also its going astray
and erring, its un-destinal and expropriating sense: Being shows itself as
what never shows itself but as the self-withdrawing, shows in itself as
withdrawal of every showing. Being: step into the distance and the gift:
an ellipse.
If this is the meaning of aletheia, it is precisely the originary aletheic truth
that errs. It cannot be anything but what originarily jumps away from
itself and, therefore, can only be erroneous. But inasmuch as it is its own
errancy, only this errancy comes close to it: not the direct but only the
indirect wordone may think here of Kierkegaards indirect communi-
cation; only the ironic, yet neither the objectively nor the subjectively
ironic, but rather the irony of history and Being, which cannot be any
rhetorical fgure or trope, since as an anatrope it makes possible in the
frst place every trope, fgure, form, and shape of Being and thinking,
and makes them possible by withholding itself in its silence or muteness.
Being is an-tropological. Terefore it cannot be grasped by thought, but
must come about through poetry. Poetry is the language in which the
errancy of Being fnds itself as errancy as its only truth, the truth of its
truth. It is the err-language that deceives itself as little about the absence
of truth as about the fact that there is truth. Errancy without errancy:
Aletheia, thus, should not be understood simply as revelation but as
a clearing of what veils and closes itself of (2002a, 65): as revelation
of concealment. Te concealed that shows itself in this clearing is not
something kept secret that would be fnallywho knows through what
processexposed. Te concealed is concealment. It is the unstoppable
itself, unstoppability, that holds itself back; the fnitude, the forgetting,
the passing away that conceals itself in everything that shows itself and
what can only show itself as self-concealment by withdrawing from,
erasing and crossing out this (and precisely this) showing concealment.
The Re l a t i on 66
Te privation of lethe in the alpha privativum of aletheia belongs to lethe
itself: unconcealment belongs to concealment. When it allows itself
ironically or parodicallyto be written in poetry and, therefore, to be
thought, it does not stand before our eyes as the unconcealed as such,
but always only in such a way that the moment of its appearance is that
of the blinding glare of precisely this moment and the concealment in
this unconcealment. Te structure of the aletheic, the originary truth, is
paraletheic: it is the truth about truth that it is the not of truth, that it
is always almost and approximately, that it is by or close to truth, to the
now already past and the now still coming truth, that it is forever in error
about error itself and, therefore, not is but errs.
Tere is no proper apart from the refused and, therefore, only a going
astray, deliriously.
Every ousa is para-ousa in this par-odos that ofers no passage to no
ending on this other way that Heidegger reads in the madness (Wahnsinn)
of Trakls poem.
A somewhat other way of language than the one that is on the way to
it, already naming language as the goal which can be anticipated and,
therefore, promised; a way
worstward ho, Beckett writes, nohow on
into the closeness of the inaccessible of which Rimbaud vivant speaks
(Heidegger 1983, 226)inaccessible but always taken, always traversed,
always in every errancy fulflled.
Te epoch of being holds only to itselfit does not hold others. And hold-
ing to itself, it does not hold on to the name or the matter of being.
Te title of our discussion could also have been epochTo hold back
is, in Greek, epoche (2002c, 9)and still it would have been misleading.
We r ne r Hama c h e r 67
We have tried to speak of what holds, what does not hold, and what does
not hold itself and, thus, neither bears nor can be carried or borne. We
had to try it in a perhaps errant and probably labyrinthine wayand
the labyrinth is a horizontal abyss. Our dialogueor, as we have become
other and have been mute: our contribution to a comical com-mutism
could not therefore bear any title at all, or only the kind that it does not
bear and that at least refers to the complications of bearing, bearing out,
diference, diaphor.
Tis sounds as if our refections could begin only here, as if we had to
turn around now and return to begin again. As if we did not know where
our head is or if we still had one and not only feet without a ground. And
what turn could we fnd if Our Occidental languages are languages of
metaphysical thinking, each in its own way (2002a, 73) and are, there-
fore, delirious and erroneous, yet we have tried to take two or more steps
back to probe them, these languages and these steps?
It must not be a word from the lexicon of one of these languages. But it
could be two from diferent languages, which somehow play together,
approach each other and distance themselves from each other, miss
something and thereby allow something to be readeven if only a little
from that of which we spoke.
For example?
The Aphora

The Re l a t i on 68
n o t e s
1. Translation slightly modifed.
2. Translation modifed.
3. Translation modifed.
4. Translation modifed.
5. Translation modifed. In what follows, the Heideggerian term Austrag will be of central
importance. Te verb austragen means to carry out, deliver, discharge. To maintain the
continuity of argument that centers around tragen, it will be translated as bearing out
or carrying out depending on the context.
6. Translation modifed.

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