Heidegger’s Reticence: From Contributions to Das Ereignis and toward Gelassenheit

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  • 1 Department of Philosophy, 1295 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-1295, USA

Using as guiding thread the difference between being (beyng) and beings, this article traces and questions the movement of Heidegger’s thinking in his non-public writings from Contributions to Philosophy (1936–38) to The Event (1941–42) and ends with references to the thought of Gelassenheit (1944/45). In 1941–42 this movement takes the form of a “downgoing” into the abyssal, withdrawing dimension of being. Heidegger rethinks the event in terms of inception (Anfang) as he attempts to let go of any form of representational thinking more radically than in Contributions and seeks to respond in imageless saying to nothing but the silent call of beyng. Heidegger’s downgoing brings with it a transformed relation to history and to what he calls “machination,” as well as a shift from dispositions marked by decision, strife, and endurance to thinking in terms of releasing, following, and thanking.

Abstract

Using as guiding thread the difference between being (beyng) and beings, this article traces and questions the movement of Heidegger’s thinking in his non-public writings from Contributions to Philosophy (1936–38) to The Event (1941–42) and ends with references to the thought of Gelassenheit (1944/45). In 1941–42 this movement takes the form of a “downgoing” into the abyssal, withdrawing dimension of being. Heidegger rethinks the event in terms of inception (Anfang) as he attempts to let go of any form of representational thinking more radically than in Contributions and seeks to respond in imageless saying to nothing but the silent call of beyng. Heidegger’s downgoing brings with it a transformed relation to history and to what he calls “machination,” as well as a shift from dispositions marked by decision, strife, and endurance to thinking in terms of releasing, following, and thanking.

Introduction1

Heidegger’s The Event (Das Ereignis)2 begins with a quotation from Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonos taken from the following context:

Having blinded himself after discovering that he had killed his own father and married his own mother, old Oedipus, finally exiled from the city of Thebes, wanders around with the help only of his daughter and half-sister Antigone in order to find a place where he can die. Finally Oedipus and Antigone reach Athens and more specifically the temple of the Eumenides at Colonos where a quite mysterious death awaits Oedipus. An Oracle had told him about his final destiny and after long wanderings, having heard where he had arrived (namely, at the place an Oracle had foretold), he finally knows what awaits him. At that point, Oedipus asks a stranger to call for the king of Athens, Theseus, as he, Oedipus, could help Theseus reap great gains.

It is then that the stranger asks the old blind Oedipus: “And what is the warrant, then, of a man who cannot look [βλέπειν]?” And Oedipus answers: “Whatever we might say, we see in all that we say [ὁρᾶν].”3 Heidegger interprets this passage as saying that the man who cannot look does not see beings; he is blind to beings. Whereas the phrase “we see” means to have an eye for being, for the “destiny” and “truth of beings.” This seeing of being is, says Heidegger, “the sight of the pain of experience” and “the capacity to suffer, up to the affliction of the complete concealment of the departure [Das Leidenkönnen bis zum Leid der völligen Verborgenheit des Weggangs]” (ga 71: 3; e, xxiii). Blind to beings but seeing being, Oedipus suffers the complete concealment of departure (literally “going away”).

The way Oedipus dies or, rather, “goes away into complete concealment,” is also quite mysterious. After receiving the signs from the sky (Zeus’ thunder), Oedipus, who up to that point is depicted as not being able to go one step without the help of his trusted Antigone—this blind Oedipus gets up and walks ahead alone and quite assuredly to his destiny. He knows where he is going. It is a god who summons Oedipus to his final destiny. What happened in the end, nobody knows. Sophocles writes: “it was some messenger sent by the gods, or some power of the dead split open the fundament of earth, with good will, to give him painless entry.”4 Thus Oedipus suddenly disappears into the earth, leaving no trace, no corpse behind.

It is telling that Heidegger begins The Event with reference to this tragedy. What happens to Oedipus has some similarities to the movement of Heidegger’s thinking in his non-public writings (I call them as well Heidegger’s “poietic” writings in reference to the Greek word ποίησις, bringing forth) between 1936 and 1942. In the attempt to let go more and more of representational thinking and thus of beings insofar as we look at them and represent them, and in the attempt to purely think in response to the silent call of imageless beyng, perhaps following the intimation of a god, Heidegger’s thinking goes down (geht unter) into concealment.

In what follows, I will trace the movement of Heidegger’s thinking in his poietic writings from Contributions to Philosophy5 (1936–38) to The Event (1941–42) (including Besinnung6 [1938] and Über den Anfang7 [1941]), and I will end with references to the thought of Gelassenheit in the Country Path Conversations (1944/45).8 My guiding thread is the difference between being (or beyng)9 and beings that Heidegger so forcefully brings into play in his reference to blind Oedipus. I will place emphasis on how from 1936 to 1944 Heidegger articulates in different ways the simultaneity and difference of beyng and beings by focusing as well on the dispositions or attunements of Heidegger’s thinking.

A striking change occurs in Heidegger’s thinking from Contributions to Philosophy to Country Path Conversations, a change in the mood or attunement of Heidegger’s thinking from a period that emphasizes decision, strife, and endurance (a period in which Heidegger is, so to speak, in the trenches with Nietzsche) to a period that emphasizes releasing (Gelassenheit) and takes on quasi-mystical tonalities. In Heidegger and The Will, Bret Davis thoughtfully traces this shift along the notion of “will” and interprets it as a shift to a more mature thinking in which Heidegger finally lets go of the will.10 I myself am not sure whether Heidegger’s thinking becomes more mature or overcomes some previous stances in his thinking, which then would allow him to respond to beyng’s historicality more adequately. But, for sure, something very puzzling happens in Heidegger’s meditative exercises between 1936 and 1942, which are marked by a further and further retreat into the abyssal, withdrawing dimension of being.

Although in my essay I am not addressing directly Heidegger’s political engagements in these years of World War ii, tracing the question of the difference between beyng and beings may reveal something about Heidegger’s engagement with his times, which—by common standards—mostly takes the form of a disengagement. For sure, the task for Heidegger is a deeper engagement with history, but according to him, this requires a certain blindness with respect to beings or a disengagement with respect to our common approach to things. Whether Heidegger is successful in thereby engaging his times more deeply is an issue that perhaps needs to remain open.

To be blind to beings may be necessary for a thinking as Heidegger attempts in Das Ereignis, a thinking that goes against the grain of traditional thought. In his poietic writings, Heidegger actively directs his thinking away from beings as much as he can (we might say that he blinds himself) in the attempt to respond to nothing but the silent call of beyng itself. Yet the task of Contributions to Philosophy is precisely to prepare another beginning of history, which requires grounding the truth of beyng in Da-sein by sheltering it in beings. In other words, another (or rather “the” other) beginning of history requires beings; it requires that the concealed origin of all appearing and of all that appears somehow permeate beings (words, works, deeds, for instance) and through them find a concrete site, there, in the openness of a historical world, grounding at the same time a historical people. In 1933 Heidegger was blinded to think that such a grounding was on its way for the German people. By 1936 he thought differently; although he did not let go of thinking the necessity and possibility of such a grounding.

There is, then, a tension in Heidegger’s thinking of the thirties between, on the one hand, thinking in the necessity of the grounding, and thus simultaneity, of beyng and beings, and on the other hand, and precisely in view of that necessity of grounding, a thinking that withstands a directedness toward beings. In other words, Heidegger at once seeks and resists being in its concrete singular articulation through beings, things, works, words, and deeds.

1 The Difference of Beyng and Beings in Contributions to Philosophy

Contributions to Philosophy and the volumes following it are an attempt at thinking from within an authentic disclosure of beyng in Da-sein such that beyng and beings are transformed into their “simultaneity.”11 As Heidegger writes in section 5 of Contributions: “beyng is not something ‘earlier’—existing in itself, for itself. Instead, the event is the temporal-spatial simultaneity for beyng and beings.”12 One might say, indicatively, that the ontic and ontological dimensions that Heidegger differentiated in Being and Time merge.13 In an originary disclosure of beyng—if humans are authentically there (Da) in the abyssal openness of truth—humans find their ownmost being, and beings (things or words, for instance) “shelter” truth. Beyng occurs in a certain way through beings such that being become “more being.”14

There are a number of major difficulties that challenge thinking beyng and beings in their simultaneity. One is that authentic or proper being-there cannot be willed, cannot be “made to happen” at will. It must be appropriated by beyng. The other difficulty is that the simultaneity of beyng and beings, if we can think in it, does not abolish the difference between beyng and beings, which means that we need to think the difference of beyng and beings from within their simultaneity.

In Heidegger’s view, overcoming the ontological difference takes his thinking of beyng one step further in the transition away from metaphysics (the first beginning) where beyng and thinking are set apart such that thinking merely represents being as beingness on the basis of the presence of represented beings. In the transition to the other beginning, the reunion of beyng and thinking needs to happen not by virtue of thought but through beyng itself, since Heidegger’s thinking finds itself to be appropriated or to eventuate (ereignet) by the event as which the truth of beyng occurs.

The task for Heidegger is to think of beyng or out of beyng as event (Ereignis). This cannot be a decision we make but must be something happening to and with us insofar as we are responsive in what occurs with us. An authentic responsiveness to the event requires that one be unsettled from a subjective stance, exposed, dislodged into the abyssal opening of beyng where beyng occurs as appropriating event. Otherwise one remains deaf to the call of being. At the same time, the dislodging is made possible, according to Heidegger, now that all the possibilities of metaphysical thinking have been exhausted, by the plight of beyng’s withdrawal. This plight, if it is sustained (if the dislodging is sustained in restraint), initiates the transition into another beginning of the history of beyng and thus into another thinking.

This is why Contributions begins with the junction “The Resonating”—the truth of beyng resonates when the plight of the abandonment of beings by beyng is sustained—that together with the juncture “The Interplay”—which is the interplay between the first and the other beginning or a meditation on historical inception—prepares for the “Leap” (third juncture) into the truth of beyng.15 “The Leap” is followed by “The Grounding,” “The Future Ones,” and “The Last God” whose passing by (Vorbeigang) would mark the other beginning for a people.

The task for Heidegger in Contributions is to ground Da-sein, which is the sustaining of the opening of the event of beyng such that a historical grounding, another beginning would occur. Da-sein here names not simply human being, since the Da, the “there” of being-there (Da-sein), exceeds humans; it is the abyssal disclosure of the truth of beyng. As indicated earlier, Da-sein or the grounding of truth occurs in the simultaneity of beyng and beings such that, for instance, the words of the philosopher or poet shelter truth.

In Geschichte des Seyns Heidegger criticizes Contributions for being “still frame, but not a conjunction” (ga 69: 5).16 Contributions are an attempt at saying the truth of beyng. In Contributions he writes: “although already and exclusively a speaking of the essence of beyng, i.e., of the ‘appropriating event,’ [Contributions] are not yet able to join the free conjuncture of the truth of beyng out of beyng itself” (ga 65: 4; c, 6). Furthermore, the difficulty of thinking being through Da-sein (as thinking is there) has to do with the fact that there is not something called beyng that Heidegger may speak about; there is, rather, nothing, no thing, to speak about. Thinking of the event has nothing already there to see and describe; it is, so to speak, initially blind. Beyng discloses, conceals, and disguises itself in the saying that is appropriated. This means that appropriation does not come from thinking, but neither is it prior to thinking. Appropriation occurs in thinking as thinking is responsive in this event.17 Thinking occurs inceptively (anfänglich) as erdenken, as inventive thinking such that what gives itself to thought gives itself in the saying, first discloses or unconceals and thus is, in the responsive saying.18

What does this mean with respect to the simultaneity of beyng and beings? Does it mean that it is not yet occurring because in our epoch beings remain abandoned by beyng, as Heidegger writes? Or does there occur a simultaneity of beyng and beings—at least at some moments—in Heidegger’s thinking through his words? Perhaps yes and no. One may differentiate between a historical grounding of the truth of beyng through what Heidegger calls its “sheltering” in beings (which would initiate another epoch in the history of beyng) and a grounding happening in Heidegger’s own thinking inasmuch as (and if) he is able to say beyng as it eventuates in the saying. And yet, Heidegger will always maintain a difference between beyng and beings, both in his own thinking and in “what” he thinks. Reflecting on how attunement works in Heidegger’s thinking may give us insight into this difference.

According to Heidegger, his saying attempts to get its direction from how he finds his thinking disposed or attuned (gestimmt) historically, in the in-between of what he calls the first and the other beginning. The basic disposition of Contributions in transition from the first to the other beginning oscillates, Heidegger tells us in section 5, in a variety of dispositions: Erschrecken, Verhaltenheit, and Scheu, i.e., shock, restraint, and diffidence. Shock is an important moment of the basic disposition because it addresses implicitly the difference between beyng and beings. Shock unsettles us from our everydayness and entanglement with beings (this is similar to the function of Angst in Being and Time) and discloses beyng as withdrawal through the experience of the abandonment of beings by being. “Shock lets us be taken aback by the very fact that beings are (whereas, previously, beings were to us simply beings), i.e., by the fact that beings are and that beyng has abandoned and withdrawn itself from all ‘beings’ and whatever appeared as a being” (ga 65: 15; c, 14). Shock dislodges us from being simply involved with beings and discloses the being of these beings as withdrawal; in other words, beings are disclosed in their abandonment by being. Here a differencing between beyng and beings occurs that has the character of a withdrawal. This withdrawal and thus the differencing is what Heidegger attempts to hold open, to keep somehow manifest, by sustaining it and saying it, which requires an acknowledgement of the withdrawal, a turn towards it, or as Charles Scott puts it in Living with Indifference, it requires staying in the draft of the withdrawal.19 The turn toward the withdrawal occurs at the same time in an un-settling move “away from” beings.

Staying in the draft or draw of the withdrawal without losing the relatedness to beings requires a certain effort, a certain “active” stance that Heidegger curiously addresses as “will” in quotation marks. He writes:

[B]ecause in this shock it is precisely the self-concealing of beyng that opens up, and because beings themselves as well as the relation to them want to be preserved, this shock is joined from within by its own most proper ‘will,’ and that is what is here called restraint. (ga 65: 15; c, 14)

To restraint belongs Scheu, “diffidence,” not in the sense of shyness or a lack of confidence but in the sense of a hesitant approach toward something to which we find ourselves drawn. Diffidence, writes Heidegger, “even surpasses the ‘will’ of restraint and does this out of the depth of the ground of the unitary basic disposition. From diffidence in particular arises the necessity of reticence [Verschweigung]” (ga 65: 15; c, 15).

Restraint (together with diffidence) articulates a tension by virtue of which shock and, with it, a dislodgment of thinking away from everyday relatedness to beings is sustained. The tension marks a spacing, a bodily spacing I want to say, that provides a site for the withdrawal of beyng such that this withdrawal is held, maintained, kept manifest in this hesitation. Hesitancy (Zögerung) names the spacing, the opening as which truth occurs. Truth is the unconcealing of the concealment of beyng, the open site of beyng as withdrawal, held in hesitancy through restraint. Thus restraint allows the “there” of beyng’s withdrawal to “be.” It allows for Da-sein, for “there-being” to occur as an in-between in the differencing of beyng and beings.20

This holding open of the temporal spacing of Da-sein is not yet a historical grounding of a people, which can be granted only by beyng itself. In his essay “On the Origin of the Work of Art,” which Heidegger wrote at the same time as Contributions, he thinks ahead (or perhaps back) in the possibility of a historical grounding. He envisions here beings, works of art no longer abandoned by beyng but that have become, or are in a fuller sense such that through them truth finds a worldly-earthly site. Heidegger speaks of a shoe painting by van Gogh, of a temple, of stone, sky, and of animals. In Contributions Heidegger hardly mentions any specific thing. Why not? Is it that Heidegger cannot think the truth of beyng by speaking of sky, rocks, animals, and other concrete things surrounding him because—following what he says—things in our epoch are deprived of truth? Is it because beings are abandoned by being, and it is not up to Heidegger to initiate a change for a people? This may indeed be something he realizes more sharply after his experiences of 1933.

Heidegger’s disenchantment with the current political events of his time must have something to do with why and how Heidegger continuously meditates on the abandonment of beings by beyng, on its origin and history. The truth of beyng is occurring not yet as appropriating event but as dis-propriation. The possibility for beings to be more fully has to be sought in the dark depths of concealed historical beyng, because beyng occurs as withdrawal. It seems that Heidegger needs to find a way to spread awareness of the plight of the abandonment of beings by beyng in our epoch; somehow he needs to prepare the possibility of a fundamental transformation of how beyng occurs and determines our relation to world, earth, and things. This is the reason, I believe, why in Contributions and even more in Besinnung and Geschichte des Seyns, he places emphasis on the junctures of Anklang and Zuspiel (resonating and interplay) in the transitional thinking of the other beginning. Heidegger meditates extensively on the abandonment of beings by beyng, the forgetfulness of being in machination, and on the difference between the metaphysical thinking of the being of beings and a more inceptive historical thinking of beyng. And yet, it is not up to Heidegger to initiate another beginning of history; it is up to being itself.

2 Three Possibilities of History (Besinnung)

In 1933 Heidegger believed there to be an opening toward a transformation of the history of beyng. By the time he writes Contributions, he limits himself to thinking of the possibility or, more precisely, of holding open the possibility of a revolution in our basic dispositions and worldly relations. But he also continuously keeps in sight the possibility that no grounding of truth will happen. In section 70 of Besinnung, Heidegger speaks of three possibilities of history “through which, and in different ways, the differentiation of beings and beyng is held open as the decision” (ga 66: 229; m, 204).21 The order in which Heidegger presents them is, so he emphasizes, of no importance:

  1. One possibility is that the revolution of beyng occurs and that Da-sein and, through it, beings are inceptively grounded. Through the grounding of Da-sein “beyng and truth, divinity and humanity, history and art first find in poetry and thought the origin of their essence” (ga 66: 230; m, 204).
  2. Another possibility is that beings remain stuck in the “shackles” and “common paths” of beingness and “compel to a complete lack of decision” (ga 66: 230; m, 204). It would be the endless continuation of the dominion of machination and lived experience.
  3. The remaining possibility is a hybrid situation. The grounding of Da-sein does not happen, but “in the unknowable concealedness, the history of beyng . . . begins in the successive battles [Kampffolge] of the lonely ones, and beyng enters into the most proper and estranging history whose jubilations and mourning, victories and falls carry over into the region of the heart [Herzensraum] only of the most rare ones” (ga 66: 230; m, 204f.).

Heidegger speaks of these possibilities in a section titled “Gods. The Essential Knowing.” We should understand essential knowing (wesentliches Wissen) here more in terms of a disposition than a cognitive grasp of something. (It may remind us of the knowledge of blind Oedipus walking to his final destiny.) To use Heidegger’s language, essential knowing addresses an alert, thoughtful steadfastness in Da-sein, in being-there unsettled from the everyday relation to beings, dis-lodged into the draw of beings’ withdrawal. In this essential knowing Heidegger’s questioning unfolds, a questioning that honors (verehrt), he says, what is most question-worthy. Especially when it comes to meditating on the gods, he says, thinking must occur in relation to the first possibility, that of the grounding of the truth of beyng. Yet even here the other two possibilities are known as well, since questioning, in the first possibility, cannot claim to begin the history of beyng in a decisive way. And yet, this originary questioning is, Heidegger stresses here, unsettled or dislodged (entsetzt) from beings, from the precedence (Vorrang) of beings in the forgetfulness of being; and this unsettlement must be “withstood” (ausgestanden). “Essential knowing in its honoring questioning already is too close to the distant proximity of beyng to tolerate a perturbation by what is merely a being” (ga 66: 232; m, 206). It appears that when thinking questions farthest toward the gods and the possibility of a grounding of truth in beings, the distancing from what are “only beings” is most pronounced.

At the same time that Heidegger questions the possibility of a historical grounding, this questioning must remain open to the second possibility, that of no grounding, and in his reflections in Besinnung, Heidegger ends up giving this second possibility much more space than the other possibilities. He writes that this second possibility is hardest to sustain while carrying out inceptive questioning in the stance of essential knowing and that historiographical viewpoints keep sliding in between (die historische Blickstellung schiebt sich dazwischen) (ga 66: 233; m, 206f.).

I would say that here Heidegger’s thinking is always in danger of remaining determined by what it seeks to overcome. Precisely when he thinks about machination and lived experience, he often writes in the mode of warding off metaphysical thought, of differentiating himself from it. Yet in this way he remains tied to what he differentiates himself from, and this includes beings in their actual “machinational” occurrence. One could say that, according to Heidegger’s own standards, he slips back into metaphysical or representational thinking.22

According to Heidegger, through the three possibilities of history “the differentiation of beings and beyng is held open as the decision” (ga 66: 229; m, 204). The differentiation is opened up through the unsettlement or dislodging from the general way beings “are” or rather “are not” truly in our epoch. Within this unsettlement that opens the differencing of beings and beyng, the disposition of thinking might be turned either more toward the “positive” possibility of grounding beings, or toward the “negative” possibility that they may stay ungrounded endlessly, or toward some hybrid situation where, in terms of the general way the Western world unfolds, beings remain ungrounded but where, in an untimely hidden realm, the history of being takes its course only with a few individuals.

In Besinnung and Die Geschichte des Seyns, Heidegger emphasizes the second possibility (that the history of being ends in the total domination of machination) more pronouncedly. The possibility of the closing down of the other possibilities of being and thus of essential history, resonates in Heidegger’s language that emphasizes resistance, standing, withstanding, steadfastness, decision, and knowing.

Here are a few examples of what I call Heidegger’s language of resistance:

The necessity of philosophy as meditation consists in the fact that it must not do away with that plight but must instead withstand it, ground it, and make it the ground of the history of mankind. (ga 65: 45; c, 37; translation altered)

Da-sein: withstanding the openness of self-concealing. (ga 65: 301; c, 238)

Da-sein is humanly endured and sustained in the steadfastness that withstands the “there” and belongs to the event. (ga 65: 31; c, 26)

The steadfast withstanding of the abyssal “there” of being-there (Da-sein) at the same time carries out the differencing of being and beings such that philosophical questioning occurs as a “resoluteness for meditation and for withstanding the plight” (ga 65: 60; c, 48). In this way thinking holds itself in the decision regarding the possibility of history. Heidegger’s thinking in Besinnung has a similar tonality.23

This language of resistance, of steadfastness in being-there is sometimes contrasted with a phrase we find in Contributions and Besinnung, namely, “letting loose into machination” (Loslassung in die Machenschaft) beings. In Mindfulness Emad and Kalary translate Loslassung nicely as “unleashing.”24 Beings are unleashed into the overpowering at work in machination; beings circulate groundlessly in the continuous movement of production that Heidegger finds announced in Nietzsche’s will to power that he interprets as a will to will.

Yet it would be too reductive to characterize all of Heidegger’s language in Contributions and Besinnung as a language of resistance against machination and the letting loose of beings. In those passages in Contributions that meditate toward the first possibility of history, its grounding, another gravitational pull seems to structure Heidegger’s language, and that gravitation comes from what Heidegger calls “stillness,” which is related to the basic disposition of Scheu, diffidence. Heidegger writes: “From diffidence in particular arises the necessity of reticence;” and “diffidence is the way of drawing near and remaining near to what is most remote as such (cf. The Last God). Yet the most remote, in its intimations, provided these are held fast in diffidence, becomes the closest and gathers up into itself all relations of beyng” (ga 65: 16; c, 15).

Diffidence is, then, the moment in the grounding disposition of Contributions that directs especially to the first possibility of history. It disposes into a gathering into stillness, a stillness that, Heidegger intimates, would mark the passing by of the last god, which is the moment of historical transformation, i.e., the inception of the other beginning of history for a people.

One cannot simply reduce thinking in the disposition of diffidence and bearing silence to a language of resistance, but neither can one simply dissociate diffidence and silence from what I call Heidegger’s language of resistance. Silence and reticence (Erschweigung und Verschweigung) always remain bound to restraint. In section 13, for instance, Heidegger writes how “the great stillness must first come over the world for the earth. This stillness arises only out of keeping silent. And this bringing into silence grows only out of restraint” (ga 65: 34, c, 29). When Heidegger writes how the grounding disposition of Contributions is complex, he seems to address an oscillation between stillness and unsettlement or shock.

The oscillation of the basic attunement can also be found in the way Heidegger articulates the originary experience of language. Again in section 13, in the subsection titled “Restraint, silence, and language,” we find a silence that goes along with the unsettlement in shock; it is the moment when language fails us: “Words do not yet come to speech at all, but it is precisely in failing us that they arrive at the first leap. This failing is the event as intimation and incursion of beyng.” The failing of words marks the first moment of the language of being in transition from the first beginning, but ultimately, the language that Heidegger seeks, the language of the event, would not simply be a failing of words although it would be made possible by this failing and would let it resonate at the same time. Heidegger writes: “This failing us is the inceptual condition for the self-unfolding possibility of an original (poetic) naming of beyng” (ga 65: 36; c, 30). In such naming beyng and beings would be transformed into their simultaneity; the word, a being, would arise out of beyng and bespeak it at the same time.

Retrospectively, Heidegger would criticize the language of Contributions as being still too much bound to metaphysics. Already at the time he completed Besinnung, Heidegger voiced a criticism with respect to Contributions.25 In The Event, Heidegger critiques Contributions as being “too didactic,” as depending too much on the quasi-metaphysical differentiation between grounding question and guiding question, as grasping the beginning “as something carried out by thinkers,” and as thinking Da-sein “too unilaterally in relation to the human being” (ga 71: 4f.; e, xxiv).

What Heidegger calls at times the “didactic” character of Contributions probably is what allows the reader some better access to the book. As I see it, a large part of the thinking of Contributions is devoted to the preparation of the transition to the other beginning. He sets up parameters through the sequence of junctures and places emphasis on the first two junctures (The Resonating and The Interplay). The leap also suggests a sense of break between preparatory reflections and preliminary experiences, on the one hand, and the full immersion into the thinking of the event, on the other hand. (This parallels the differentiation between the guiding question of metaphysics and the grounding question of the other beginning.) Heidegger himself “leaps” back and forth between different levels of engagement with a saying of the event. In Über den Anfang, however, the volume immediately preceding The Event, Heidegger ventures more radically into thinking “from” the event.

3 Departure, Abyss, and Inception in Über den Anfang

With Über den Anfang, the turn toward concealment intensifies and takes on a different character. Thinking occurs less as a withstanding in the draw of beyng’s withdrawal than as a following, an “egress into the abyssal ground” (Entgängnis in den Ab-grund) (ga 70: 11, §1). And as Heidegger’s thinking goes down, it lets go of something; something that we may preliminarily think of as a tension that held his thinking back in Contributions. In his downgoing, Heidegger thinks even beyond beyng and beyond the nothingness belonging to being; he does this through the notions of the “nothingless” and the “beingless” (das Nichtslose and das Seinlose) that bespeak a limit he had not thought before such that beyng “loses its exclusive priority” (ga 70: 9).

In Über den Anfang Heidegger thinks the event as inception (Anfang) without giving priority to the relation to thinking. Concerning “inception,” he writes: “this word here thinks the taking-to-itself [An-sich-nehmen] and catching [Auffangen] of that which is appropriated [er-eignet] in the reaching out that takes on-to-itself [an-sich-nehmendes Aus-langen]; what reaches out and takes on-to-itself is not thinking but: the clearing of the openness, the unconcealing. The taking on-to-itself is at once unconcealing and concealing” (ga 70: 10). The word An-fang has the root meaning fangen, “to catch.”26 What catches, here, is not a human, not thinking, not even in the guise of Da-sein. (Note how this differs from section 122 of Contributions where Heidegger speaks of thought catching what is thrown to “it”.) There is, strictly speaking nothing and nobody that catches. We rather should think as in the Greek middle-voice: a “catching itself” occurs of what is appropriated. In the catching, what is unconcealed is held in concealment. The movement of thinking is not one of withstanding the abyss but rather one of departure, Abschied, a new essential word for Heidegger:

In-ception is the taking on-to-itself of the departure into the abyss. This taking on-to-itself is the inceptual seizing [Aneignung] and therefore ap-propriation [Er-eignung] of the initiation [Anfängnis].

In-ception is inceptively and this means in an abyssal way the appropriating event.

(ga 70: 11)

The German word for what I translate as “seizing” has the root meaning eignung, just like appropriation (Ereignung), which is a cognate of Ereignis, event. In-ception is thus thought as a seizing of what is appropriated. Another new basic word we find in the context of thinking the event as in-ception (Anfang) is Anfängnis, a neologism Heidegger coins, which makes a noun out of the occurrence of beginning or inception. I translate it as initiation. Heidegger speaks of the initiation of the inception, die Anfängnis des Anfangs, thus emphasizing the actual occurrence of the in-ception he is thinking. It is not an accident that Heidegger speaks simply of inception without specifying “other inception” (other beginning), since he is moving in a realm of thinking where the inception is one, or rather where it is the unique occurrence of the event in the departure into the abyss.27

Heidegger describes the relation between the seizing-appropriating inception and beings as follows:

The inceptive appropriating event, however, has its full essence only in the fact that by occurring as appropriation and thus as a carrying out [als Er-eignung austragend], it clears the inceptive clearing and thus appropriates the openness. Such an appropriating is the coming-in-between [Dazwischenkunft] of the clearing as time-space. The appropriating appropriates the in-between (as in-the-midst and meanwhile) to that which—until the time span [Frist] that occurs essentially out of the appropriating—[is] the nothingless [das Nichtslose] which then arises as a being.

(ga 70: 11)

The inceptive appropriating event clears an openness, with which Heidegger rethinks the “there” of being-there, the open site (or time-space) for the truth of beyng. It is interesting that now, in the first section of Über den Anfang, Heidegger thinks this openness right away in relation to the becoming being of beings out of the nothingless, which “is” (“is” needs to be crossed out here) precisely a “being” before it becomes a being, before it is differentiated into becoming a being. He writes that the in-between is appropriated to the nothingless that in this appropriation becomes a being. He calls this event (here comes another basic word) Dazwischenkunft, the “coming in between” in both a spatial and a temporal sense.

In Contributions the relation between the event as the occurrence of truth of beyng, on the one hand, and beings, on the other hand, was held at a distance by thinking first the necessity to prepare Da-sein such that then a sheltering of truth in beings may occur; but now Heidegger brings beings into play right away. They are brought into play, however, in a most radical way, namely, as that which cannot be named because it is not yet something, so little that not even nothingness can be applied to it, given that we think nothing in relation to something. Beings before they are, are the nothing-less.

The nothingless becomes a being through the clearing of the in-between Heidegger calls Dazwischenkunft (coming-in-between). In this in-between happens the arising of beings into being, which is at the same time the movement of differentiation of being from beings. Although the appropriating event has its full essence in the coming in-between of beings, Heidegger at the same time sharply differentiates being from beings:

A being remains so decisively differentiated [unterschieden] against, through, and from beyng, that a being has as its own not even nothingness [das Nichts]; because only beyng has the essential occurrence of nothingness.

(ga 70: 11)

Only being (not beings) has the essential occurrence of nothingness. Perhaps we may think this nothingness of being out of the draw of being’s withdrawal or out of the horizon of death that determines our being. Beings do not have that dimension. They are not in the draw of being’s withdrawal as we are when we face our mortality. As beings rise into being they only or simply “are” beings. The word are, however, is not appropriate in relation to beings. In fact, beings are not, even when they arise into being:

Beyng as inception and event uniquely has that essence that allows saying: “Beyng is”. All beings only arise into being; beings never are; but always only ‘are’ beings.

A being is not, in so far as it is to have its circumstances [Bewenden], i.e. here the inception, in the “is”. A being only is as a being; and this means: a being reaches being only at times, but a being is not itself being.

(ga 71: 11)

Trees, rocks, birds, words (can we include radios, cups, and chairs too?) are not but at times rise into being, presumably at those times, when the event appropriates the in-between. But even then they are not, if we take the “are” in the strong sense that includes nothingness. Even when beings rise into being, they are precisely differentiated from being.

We need to distinguish, then, the not-being-of-beings, on the one hand, in metaphysics and, on the other hand, in the event of inception. In section 9 of Über den Anfang Heidegger describes the movement of how in rising into being beings may seize being for themselves such that being becomes beingness (Seiendheit) and beings end up covering over the truth of being.28 If we think this differentiation from the vantage point of beyng, it is the event of the withdrawal of beyng such that beings remain abandoned by being. Beyng differentiates itself and withdraws, leaving beings to themselves, groundless, without being. In the first beginning (in metaphysics), this is the event of the “unleashing of beings into being ‘only’ beings.”29

But when the event appropriates, the rising of beings into being does not necessarily end up in the unleashing of beings. When beings rise into the openness of being without covering over this event, beings “come into the saying and into the word. But saying and word are not expression and conceptualization [Fassung]; rather, they are the essential occurrence of being [Wesung des Seins]” (ga 70: 117). Saying and word are the essential occurrence of being such that the formerly nothingless comes into being. Beings only rise into being in the saying and the word. Heidegger continues:

The rose blooms in the poem of the poet and only there, but this ‘blooming’ is not simply what is said afterwards about a so-called real thing, a being, instead it alone [the blooming] is the being. That is why according to the uniqueness and rareness of being, inventive poetizing [Er-dichtung] happens rarely.

(ga 70: 117)

The blooming of the rose here addresses the be-ing of the rose. There is not first a thing, the rose, that then is brought into being. The being, the rose in the how of its being, i.e. in the blooming, rises into its be-ing in the saying or in the word. Beyng, thought as the event of appropriation is the rising into being of beings.

The rising up of non-beings into be-ing is always unique, says Heidegger. It “is always different depending on beings being propriated (an-geeignet) to being as stone, tree, animal, human, god.” Furthermore, “rising is not representedness and not mere appearing; rising is emerging [Aufgehen] and yet at the same time staying back in the beingless” (ga 70: 119).

What Heidegger says here in the end—that beings at the same time that they arise stay back in the beingless is crucial, since only thus is the relation to being preserved. Again, what is preserved is not nothingness but the beingless.

4 The Last Downgoing: The Beingless, Inceptive Dis-propriation (Enteignis), and the Passing By of First and Other Beginning

Perhaps we can think the beingless in terms of emptiness rather than a sense of withdrawal or passing or lack. As I understand it, with the beingless, Heidegger thinks a more inceptive letting be of “not yet or no longer be-ing beings,” which occurs in the most extreme downgoing into the abyss. I also believe that it is related to a new historical disposition in Heidegger’s thinking, that of letting the abandonment of beings by being (the historical unfolding and installment of machination at the end of the first beginning) pass by, of not resisting it. His thinking thus enters into what I called above the hybrid situation, the in-between the never ending epoch of machination and the estranged realm where being is appropriated for the few. All this happens in 1941.

The notion of beinglessness is, if I may say so, a positive notion for Heidegger and needs to be sharply differentiated from the abandonment of beings by being.30 Together with beinglessness, Heidegger thinks also a positive notion of Enteignis, of dispropriation, where dispropriation again is not the movement of withdrawal of beyng that unleashes beings into machination but points to the most inceptive moment in the downgoing into the abyss of inception.

In section 98 of Über den Anfang, Heidegger writes that thought as the beingless, beings “are in a certain sense ‘prior’ and older than being”:

Since, however, being comes in-between into the beingless [Weil aber das Sein in das Seinlose dazwischen ankommt] and begins as the inception of beings, therefore beings—namely as the subsequently be-ing beingless [als das nachmalige seiende Seinlose]—are in a certain sense “prior” and older than being.

(ga 70: 121)

Heidegger is not saying that beings are things in themselves before we think them and that in thinking them we attribute being to them. But he also does not want to say that beings arise from beyng such that beyng somehow would generate beings. This is why he writes: “Although beinglessness is still conceived coming from being, it does not originate from being” (ga 70: 121). Perhaps this is also related to the fact that Heidegger first spoke of the not-yet-being beings as the nothingless. Beings before they rise into being are not even nothing. “Neither can be said [that] the beingless is, nor that it is not” (ga 70: 121).

The beingless are beings before and after they rise into being, i.e., before a clearing of being is appropriated, i.e., before Da-sein! We should wonder how Heidegger can think such a thought. Is not his thinking in Contributions and in the following writings precisely an attempt at thinking of being, i.e., out of a basic attunement that already is a being in the there, i.e., in Da-sein? How can Heidegger think prior to Da-sein?

Heidegger does not say anything about the beingless as being experienced in restraint or withstood in Da-sein. The beingless is conceived in a movement of departure and allows Heidegger to think something most extreme belonging to the essence of being.31 This is not the concealment belonging to truth that is held in hesitation; it is not the nothing that we experience in the draw of beings withdrawal or in the face of our mortality. It is the not-yet and no-longer begun inception of being as event.32

Let us consider how he thinks this most extreme thought—the “unsayable” (das Unsägliche), as he calls it in section 68 (p. 85)—in the last downgoing:

This [the last downgoing] determines an inceptive time in-between [Zwischenzeit], in which history does not necessarily continue in the same manifestness [Offenbarkeit]. . . .

When the inception of beyng is and beyng essentially occurs only inceptively, then beyng itself (as event) must once bring forth the “time” (temporal-spatial-playing field) in which and with which it [beyng] essentially attains [erwest] its downgoing.

“Then” every possibility of a “then” has disappeared; then—spoken still again and only out of the transitional letting alone [aus der übergänglichen Überlassung gesprochen]—there also are no “beings”. Non-beings, which—said transitionally—continue, are neither nothingness nor not nothingness.

(ga 70: 51)

Heidegger qualifies the last downgoing of his thought as a transitional überlassen, which has the sense of letting something alone. In Heidegger’s context, we may think of it as a letting go that leaves beings to machination where beings are non-beings (which is not the beingless but very much related to it). This is, as I already pointed out, a new move in Heidegger’s thinking. In Das Ereignis (ga 71) Heidegger articulates this move as a letting-pass-by, ein Vorbeigehen, namely, “the passing each other by of [on the one hand] the abandonment of beings by being and [on the other hand] the twisting free of beyng [Seynsverwindung] into the beginning” (ga 71: 84; e, 71).

At the same time that Heidegger lets go of machinational beings, he thinks his most extreme thought of the beingless. This most inceptive moment in Heidegger’s inceptual thinking marks a time outside of time, a suspension of history in an in-between. As I just mentioned, there is an intrinsic connection between the letting be of abandonment and the beingless. Heidegger writes that in the abandonment of beings by being, the beinglessness of beings is prepared and with it, the possibility of the other beginning (ga 71: 103; e, 87). The notion of the passing by intrinsically relates to the beingless and to a new conceptual pair that Heidegger works with: Entwindung and Verwindung. Rojecwicz translates Entwindung with “disentanglement”; I will translate it with “twisting out” in order to keep a cognate with “twisting free,” i.e., Verwindung.

When Heidegger’s thinking departs into the abyss of inception, he thinks the event as inception (Anfang) in-between the first and the other beginning. In the departure into the abyss, thinking twists free from metaphysics by twisting into its hidden essential occurrence, i.e., the event, which he now calls, in its most inceptive occurrence, the “Kranz der Kehre” the “wreath of the turning” (ga 71: 50; e, 40). Twisting free is, says Heidegger,

the twisting up into the winding (the wreath) of the event, such that beyng and its turning purely and essentially occur in the event. Thereby the twisting free is a circulating in the event, wherein a constancy prevails which is itself determined out of the event. Thus within the event beyng is ultimately sheltered and also concealed; twisted free from but not “sublated”.

(ga 71: 141; e, 121)

From here, from the abyss of the inceptual event, Heidegger thinks the inception or beginning of metaphysics as a “twisting out” (Entwindung), the not-yet-experienced turning in the first beginning.33 Twisting out is a Loslassung, a letting go, of being into truthlessness.34 It is a twisting out of the event such that beings are let go to themselves and the truth of beyng remains concealed.

The twisting out and unleashing of beings is experienced and becomes visible only in the twisting free of beyng as thinking goes under into the inceptual dimension of the event. Thinking thus occurs inceptively in between the first and other beginning where first and other beginning are the same.35 This being in-between the beginnings, suspended as it were, in a time in-between (should we say an a-historical time?) has a distinctly different character than the withstanding of the withdrawal that marked the thinking of Contributions. The beginnings pass by each other: The beginning of metaphysics passes by in its ending or demise (this is how Rojcewicz translates “Verendung”) whereas the other beginning passes by as transition:

The demise and the transition pass each other by; according to the law of the releasing [Loslassung] of being into its extreme distorted essence (i.e., into the will to willing), beyng lets the distorted essence go on. Beyng overcomes the dominance of the distorted essence not by “engaging” with it and overpowering it but, rather, by releasing the distorted essence into its demise. . . . But his releasing is nothing “negative”; instead, it belongs to the dispropriation characteristic of all metaphysics since the start. And this dispropriation is proper to the event.

(ga 71: 84, e, 70f.)

Dispropriation [Enteignung] has a double ring to it: it is dispropriation leading to the abandonment of beings by being, but it is also dispropriation as the proper and most inceptual moment of the event. Heidegger begins to think the beingless and beinglessness as he lets go of metaphysics in the departure into the abyss; as he lets dispropriation happen or rather releases his thinking into dispropriation. This means letting machinationally determined beings go “into the fanaticism of [their] distorted essence.”

The word “fanaticism” sounds very much like an allusion to what happens very concretely as Heidegger is writing this in 1941/42. All this he lets go of as he goes down into the abyssal occurrence of the event in the attempt to think “beyond ground” the groundless inception.36

When Heidegger’s thinking moves beyond the limits of representation, as it does in The Event, he thinks without images. There is no image for the beingless or for dispropriation. We should remind ourselves that what guides his thinking is not a Gegenstand, an object standing against our perceptual experience or the mind’s eye, which would provide a hold and directive for thinking; there is nothing there that we could describe and think about. What he perceives in his surrounding world permeated by war is rather that of which he lets go. What is it that gives directive to his thinking, then? It is an attunement or a disposition (Stimmung). A main attunement guiding Heidegger’s thinking in The Event is der Schmerz, pain.

5 Inceptive Dispositions

Pain is only one of the words marking the attunement of Heidegger’s thinking in The Event. It is the most prominent one and in some sense takes the place of restraint in Contributions. Just as in Contributions Heidegger spoke of restraint as the middle of shock and diffidence, in The Event he speaks of pain as the originary unity of Schrecken and Wonne, i.e., of horror and delight.37 There are many other words that express dispositions. I will focus on pain first.

Pain gathers the horror of the abyss and the delight of departure.38 It characterizes the in-between of twisting out (or disentanglement) and twisting free in the letting go of metaphysics in the departure into the abyss. Horror relates to the twisting out that leads to the abandonment of beings by being that makes possible the experience of the abyss that discloses the event as originary dispropriation. While it is understandable that the experience of the abandonment of beings by being and a sense of groundlessness come with horror, the delight of which Heidegger speaks is more difficult to approach. It relates to the twisting free into the event that is experienced as dispropriation in the passing by of the two beginnings. How would that be delightful? Maybe delight marks the moment of release, the letting go. Maybe it also relates to the intimation of a fuller sense of being in the light of utter loss. It would be, then, a tragic pleasure.

Pain, which gathers horror and delight, is a disposition of being that occurs in the differencing of being and beings in departure:

We must learn the enduring of the difference in the departure. In this enduring, the pure essential occurrence of the difference is experienced out of the departure, and this essential occurrence no longer needs beings.

(ga 71: 132; e, 112)

Enduring, austragen, literally means “carrying out” and takes the place of “withstanding,” ausstehen (literally translated “standing out”), which is more characteristic of Heidegger’s thinking in Contributions (although we do find Heidegger speaking of withstanding also in The Event). Enduring or carrying out is what Heidegger emphasizes when he speaks of the experience of thinking the event as inception and also when he speaks of pain, the pain of enduring the differencing in the departure into the abyss.39 Enduring is not so much a resisting but a following:

Enduring? [Austrag?] is submissiveness to [Folgsamkeit literally means the disposition to follow] the twisting free of beyng toward departure. What and who submits [or follows]? Thinking, as an enduring that speaks.

(ga 71: 247; e, 213)

As the machinery of war unfolds and destruction waves over Europe, Heidegger’s thinking follows the departure into the abyss. In this departure there lies a delight, and I indicated above that we might understand this as a tragic pleasure, perhaps a fuller sense of being in the face death. We do find indeed this relation to death in The Event when Heidegger meditates on the relation between the event and human being. Just as in Being and Time, in section 202 he speaks of death as “the extreme possibility of the relation to being.” He then continues: “What is death? The departure-like abyss with respect to the beginning [Abschiedlich der Ab-grund zum Anfang]” (ga 71: 193, e, 165). I would like to retranslate this fragmentary sentence the following way: “in the manner of departure [death is] the abyss toward the beginning.” Death is departure from beings and this departure is the fulfillment of the relation to beyng: “Death is the going out into the pure nearness of beyng” (ga 71: 194, e, 166).

There was death all around Heidegger in 1941. Safranski cites from a letter Heidegger wrote to the mother of a former student of his who was killed in action September 26, 1941: “For us who are left behind it is a difficult step to the knowledge that every one of the many young Germans who are today sacrificing their lives with a still genuine spirit and reverential heart may be experiencing the most beautiful fate.”40 The connection to section 202 of The Event is not hard to make.41

How should we understand the relation between Heidegger’s thinking in The Event and the times in which he writes? Did the war influence his thinking in a way that led him to withdraw more and more into the abyssal dimension of being such that he somehow fled from concrete political engagement? (This path down, however, had already begun earlier. One could argue that it was predisposed already in Being and Time.)42 Or did the proximity of death allow Heidegger to think the essence of being more deeply and to finally let go of his resistance toward what happened? Or was he interpreting actual events from the vantage point of his thinking that carried a certain blindness toward what was actually happening, as so many interpreters of Heidegger are led to think? Is all this, furthermore, permeated by an aftermath of Heidegger’s failure to pull through with his private National Socialism; is it a repercussion of his own sense of powerlessness to change the behavior of the Germans, to let them see their true destiny?

These questions let show the difficulty I have to dissociate the pain, of which Heidegger writes, from his life and the historical situation in Germany in 1941, even if Heidegger does not want this pain to be misunderstood anthropologically and even if I do not want to fall into the all too trodden footsteps of those who like to blame Heidegger for his political actions and reduce his thinking to his documented life. I want to make, here, an appeal to caution, since I am putting my finger on a wound and woundedness that immediately incites emotive responses or visceral rejection that can easily glide into moral righteousness. This would mark the end of thinking. I want neither to defend nor to attack Heidegger, neither to purify his thinking from contaminations of historical and psychological considerations nor to reduce his thinking to them. Instead, I would like to sustain, in the encounter with what he writes, a pain and question-worthiness that are different from Heidegger’s (but perhaps not unrelated) and that have to do with sustaining and questioning concrete historical events determining also our own lineages and histories.

Not relating what Heidegger writes to his life becomes even more difficult when I encounter these other words that occur more and more often in his meditations. The words I have in mind have to do with courage, nobility, dignity, poverty, and thankfulness, words that recur in the Country Path Conversations where we find the move to releasement even more intensified and transformed into a dialogical form of writing. I will take this as an occasion to transition to Heidegger’s Country Path Conversations in order to compare some words or concepts in The Event and the first of the Conversations.

To think the event requires attunements or dispositions and that one follow what gives itself to thought in attunements. The origin of attunement is at the same time the origin of language such that the spoken or written word arises out of what Heidegger thinks as the silent word or the silent voice of beyng. See, for instance, section 314 of The Event:

The word is the origin of language. . . .

What is the word? The soundless voice of beyng.

What is called voice [Stimme] here? Not “sound” but, instead, disposing [Stimmen], i.e., to let experience. How so?

Disposing toward the experience of the beginning (the beginning itself cannot be experienced).

Disposing through determining [Be-stimmen].

Determining through thinking of the voice of the word of the beginning.

Thinking—through the imageless saying of the beginning.

Saying through the experience of the (event).

(ga 71: 283; e, 246)

What Heidegger is after in The Event is nothing but a saying of the event as inception occurring in departure as his thinking descends into the abyss, letting beings go into their demise. In section 242 titled “Stimmung,” “Disposition,” he writes

Disposition is the steadfast hearkening [innestehendes Hören auf ]—(to reply) to the voice of the dignity of beyng, a voice that disposes into the pain of the question-worthiness of beyng.

(ga 71: 219; e, 188)

“The disposition of thinking is the voice of beyng,”43 and the attempt is to let that disposition resonate in the thinking word. Words like Langmut, Grossmut, Scheu, i.e. forbearance, magnanimity, and diffidence, and words like Adel, das Edle, Armut, Mut, Würde, and Danken, i.e., nobility, the noble, poverty, courage, dignity, and thanking—among others—these words bear affective dimensions and determine the way Heidegger’s words resonate for the reader. They are not so much words about attunement as they are attuning words. They do or can possibly do what Heidegger attempts to do, namely, not to speak about being or about disposition but to dispose. He says this in section 314, and it sounds like a reminder for himself: “Disposing—instead of talking ‘about’ dispositions” (ga 71: 284, e, 247).

Another way Heidegger’s language carries attuning or disposing qualities is through repetitive sound-iterations such that in these iterations words gain a certain constancy. These iterations derive from the twisting free into the event, and as Heidegger writes, “the twisting free is a circulating in the event, wherein a constancy prevails which is itself determined out of the event” (ga 71: 141; e, 121). The constancy determined out of the event occurs through the repetitive thinking and saying that lets itself be attuned by the event and the silent, abyssal voice of beyng. One needs to read the German text in order to get a full sense of how Heidegger is thinking through word/sound iterations. See, for instance, the beginning of section 314 quoted above in English:

314. Das Wort (die Sage)—das Stimmen. . . . Was ist das Wort? Die lautlose Stimme des Seyns. Was heißt hier Stimme? Nicht ‘Laut’, sondern das Stimmen, d.h. Er-fahren lasen. Wie dies?

Stimmen in die Erfahrung des Anfangs (der selbst unerfahrbar). Stimmen durch Be-stimmen.

Bestimmen durch Denken der Stimme des Wortes des Anfangs.

Denken durch bildloses Sagen des Anfangs.

(ga 71: 283; e, 246)

Heidegger continues to develop this move toward a disposing language to the very end of his life and the intensified play with semantic roots that we find as well in his later writings begins to surge precisely in Das Ereignis. One more volume of Heidegger’s poietic writings has yet to appear, namely, Stege des Anfangs (“Footbridges/docks of the inception”), written in 1944, shortly before the Country Path Conversations, and one can only surmise that there Heidegger is developing even more his poietic language and his move to Gelassenheit, which is less a questioning and more a mode of thinking in “obedience” to what disposes thinking. This is striking, since from Being and Time to Contributions (up to the end of the ’30s), Heidegger has always emphasized questioning. In The Event he begins to put questioning into question, given that thinking is now more a disposed following, but he still keeps a sense of inceptive questioning active.44 In the first country path conversation, he has made a clearer decision: Proper thinking does not consist in questioning but in responding.45

There are many places in The Event where Heidegger speaks of obedience either in the sense of Gehorsam (a word that has hören in it) or Folgsamkeit (which relates to following).46 It is in this context that the words Langmut and Grossmut (forbearance and magnanimity) appear. Langmut literally means “long courage” or “long mood” and has a sense of endurance and submissiveness in it. Grossmut literally means “great courage” or “great mood” and has a sense of power in it. The two words are thus cognates, in one way, and opposed to each other, in another way. They relate to the in-between of twisting out and twisting free that are gathered in the pain of departure. In carrying out the pain of departure, the thinking of The Event is obedient to the disposing word. “Obedience as forbearance and magnanimity with respect to the inceptual pain,” writes Heidegger in a quasi-poem in section 69. Here he speaks of Großmut, magnanimity, with respect to the errancy of the abandonment of beings by being. It thus relates to the letting go and letting pass by of machinationally disclosed beings. Forbearance (“long mood”), on the other hand, qualifies the character of inceptual thinking as a carrying out (Austragen) of the departure in the in-between.47

In section 139 Heidegger relates forbearance (Langmut) to poverty (Armut) and the graciousness of what is noble (die Anmut des Edlen).48 This web of words reappears in sections 228–238 of The Event that address Inständigkeit and Da-seyn. It also appears in the first country path conversation. Here the scholar quotes what obviously is a thinking poem of Heidegger. The title of the short thinking-poem is “Inständigkeit,” which Bret Davis translates fittingly as “indwelling.” The second half of the “poem” reads:

place the thinking heart
in the simple forbearance
of the single magnanimity
of noble recollecting.
(ga 77: 145; cpc, 94)

The conversation addresses the indwelling in releasement to the open-region. This indwelling is a noble-mindedness, says the guide, and a little later we hear that what is noble “abides in the provenance of its essence.” The indwelling in the open-region (Gegnet) relates to the in-between Heidegger speaks of in The Event; the in-between thinking endures in obedience to the attunement disposing it. Here, in forbearance and magnanimity, indwelling in-between, thinking becomes a thanking.49

These few indications should suffice to see how the thinking of releasement—and by this I mean the disposition that guides Heidegger’s thinking—begins in some way already in The Event; one could say that it begins already in Über den Anfang, although at a dispositional level. The Event carries out the releasement more clearly at the performative level of Heidegger’s thinking. The thinking of Gelassenheit begins once Heidegger lets go of the withstanding disposition characterizing Contributions and lets the abandonment of beings by being pass by in departure.

6 Being and Beings

How do being and beings relate, then, in the thinking of releasement?

In Über den Anfang and in The Event, Heidegger thinks again their simultaneity and their difference, and both more radically, one could argue, than in Contributions. In the later volumes, Heidegger thinks the event as the coming in-between of being into the beingless such that the beingless is, in a hard to think way, older than being, in the same way that dispropriation now characterizes the most inceptive moment of the event of appropriation. Beinglessness is lost in machinationally disclosed beings just as truth and the inceptive dispropriation get covered over. Beinglessness thus is something that needs to be preserved if the event is to occur inceptively. This is what the thinking in releasement allows to happen. In beinglessness, beings rise more fully into being, Heidegger would say. When thinking departs into the groundlessness of dispropriation, when thinking lets itself be attuned by the soundless voice of concealed being and becomes a receiving thanking, then, for Heidegger, beings are released into their essence.

Besides Heidegger’s own words, we do not find any examples of beings that are released into their essence in The Event, but we do in the Country Path Conversations where Heidegger begins to speak not just of beings, das Seiende, but of things, Dinge. He also speaks of the woods, the field, and of night and day, of earth and sky. This is the beginning of what often is called Heidegger’s topological thinking. I like to call it as well a cosmological thinking. For many readers of Heidegger, this is where Heidegger’s thinking becomes more concrete. The word “concrete” comes from the Latin concrescere, “grow together.” It brings to mind in some way the word Versammlung, “gathering.”50 In this sense, Heidegger would have happily embraced the term “concrete.” But his thinking certainly does not become concrete in the more common sense of the term, since he does not speak of what we think of as real and solid things, of things insofar as they resist our flesh or can be measured.

Consider for instance the jug of which the interlocutors of the first country path conversation speak. The task in thinking the jug is not to represent it as an object but to let it be what it is. Eventually, we find the thought that the essence of the jug lies not in its so-called materiality but in its emptiness.51 In relation to this emptiness, the interlocutors develop further relational determinations of the jug. The emptiness is emptiness of the drink so that the containing quality of the jug (das Fassende des Krugs) abides in the drink. The drink is further developed in relation to what is drunk, i.e., the wine that gathers earth and sky, and the one who drinks, the human.52 Thus the emptiness of the jug is brought to abide in this expanse of earth and sky and the relation to the human as well. It is then that the jug is itself, the interlocutors conclude (ga 77: 134f.; cpc, 87). The scholar says: “The jug abides in itself in that it turns back to itself over and through this expanse” (ga 77: 135; cpc, 88). This expanse is then identified with the open-region, the Gegnet, which is the essential occurrence of truth. The relation of the drink to the human, furthermore, brings into play the festival that also brings the human to abide. (Not explicitly named, but surmised, in this context, is the relation to the divine.) In the open-region that emerges from the emptiness of the jug, earth and sky and humans (and the divine) come to abide in the festival. What is developed here is the thought of a being, a jug, in the context of a relation to being where thinking is released into a relation to the open-region such that this releasement is vergegnet, “enregioned.” With recourse to the language of Contributions and The Event, we may rethink this by saying that thinking is appropriated into belonging to the event of appropriation in which the truth of beyng occurs such that being comes in-between the beingless, and beings (in this case the jug) become more being (wird seiender).

In my reading of Heidegger’s approach to the jug, the emptiness of the jug mirrors and in the mirroring carries with it, so to speak, the beingless that is preserved insofar as the open-region or the openness of truth is such only in relation to the emptiness, i.e., the beingless that in turn reflects the dispropriation as which the event inceptively occurs.

The jug has become more being through the thinking of its emptiness. This is how thinking lets this thing rest in its being. Clearly such an approach to things no longer looks at them as manipulable objects. But does it let beings be what they are? Does it think them in their singularity? Or, rather, is not the singularity—the Einzigkeit of being that Heidegger attempts to evoke—the singularity of a moment of contemplation that has left the singularity of things behind? Is Heidegger opening up for us the possibility of a deeper or more essential relation to things or is he missing the relation to things as he lets pass by machinationally determined beings?

For Heidegger, the experience of the emptiness or groundlessness that comes with the experience of the abandonment of beings makes possible, if we let ourselves be guided into it, a most inceptive, most essential sense of being. The proximity to this being resonates through the distance that is the distance of the beingless, of dispropriation, to which thinking has to continuously give itself. The war may have sharpened Heidegger’s sensibility for this proximity of what is most distant and ungraspable; his disillusionment with regards to National Socialism may have played a role too in letting himself embark into the departure from the world of machination and to intimate a fuller sense of being.

How is this relevant for us? Why does Heidegger’s thought capture us or repel us or stir us (provided it does so)? We are still in times of war, although the proximity of these wars is for most of us so distant that we hardly feel them. Machination largely determines our relation to an ever more exploited and endangered environment; it determines in many ways university life and daily affairs. The desert of which Nietzsche speaks continues to grow. In all this Heidegger thinks a saving power, a saving power maybe not for all people, maybe not even for one people, but for the few who become followers of the silent call of beyng.

Let me end with words Heidegger takes from Hölderlin’s hymn Patmos, words to which I will add a twist such that the two phrases together may express the ambiguity or unrest in which my engagement with Heidegger in his poietic writings takes me.

“Wo aber Gefahr ist, wächst das Rettende auch.”
Und wo das Rettende ist, da wächst auch die Gefahr.
(“Where there is danger, there rescue grows too.”
And where there is rescue, there danger also grows.)

1 This essay is a condensed and slightly altered version of a lecture course I gave at the Collegium Phaenomenologicum in 2013.

2 Martin Heidegger, The Event, trans. Richard Rojcewicz (Indiana University Press, 2013), henceforth cited as e followed by the page number. Originally published as Das Ereignis, ed. F.-W. von Herrmann, vol. 71 of Gesamtausgabe (Frankfurt a. M.: Klostermann, 2009), henceforth cited as ga 71.

3 See “Forewords,” in e, xxiii (translation modified here and below). In the translation by David Grene, this sentence reads: “There shall be sight in all the words I say” (Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonos, trans. David Grene, in Greek Tragedies, ed. David Grene and Richmond Lattimore, vol. 3 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), 80.

4 Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonos, line 1880.

5 Contributions to Philosophy (Of the Event), trans. Richard Rojcewicz and Daniela Vallega-Neu (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012) henceforth cited as c. Originally published as Martin Heidegger, Beiträge zur Philosophy (Vom Ereignis), ed. F.-W. von Herrmann, vol. 65 of Gesamtausgabe (Frankfurt a. M.: Klostermann, 1989), hereafter cited as ga 65.

6 Martin Heidegger, Mindfulness, trans. by Parvis Emad and Thomas Kalary (New York: Continuum, 2006), henceforth cited as m. Originally published as Martin Heidegger, Besinnung, ed. F.-W. von Herrmann, vol. 66 of Gesamtausgabe (Frankfurt a. M.: Klostermann, 1997), hereafter cited as ga 66.

7 Martin Heidegger, Über den Anfang, ed. P.-L. Coriando, vol. 70 of Gesamtausgabe (Frankfurt a. M.: Klostermann, 2005), hereafter cited as ga 70.

8 Martin Heidegger, Country Path Conversations, trans. Bret Davis (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010). Originally published as Feldweg-Gespräche, vol. 77 of Gesamtausgabe (Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 1995), hereafter cited as ga 77.

9 Heidegger writes Seyn with a “y” to indicate that beyng is thought seinsgeschichtlich, i.e., being-historically.

10 Bret W. Davis, Heidegger and the Will: On the Way to Gelassenheit (Evanston, il: Northwestern University Press, 2007). See especially the introduction and chapter 7: “Twisting Free of the Domain of the Will: On the Way to an Other Beginning of Non-Willing.”

11 “Simultaneity” here is not meant in the sense of “at the same time” such that we take time in a linear sense but rather in the sense of “at once.”

12 c, 13; ga 65: 13. See also c, 13–14; ga 65: 14.

13 With respect to the overcoming of the ontological difference in thinking of Contributions, see Daniela Vallega-Neu Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy. An Introduction (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003), 24–26.

14 In Heidegger and the Romantics: The Literary Invention of Meaning (New York: Routledge, 2012), Pol Vandevelde reads Heidegger’s work of the ’30s and ’40s as attempting an ontology under the dictum “Poetry makes a being more being” (“Dichtung macht das Seiende seiender”). For my response to his book, see Daniela Vallega-Neu, “Inventing Heidegger’s Fluid Ontology” in Research in Phenomenology 44, no. 1 (2014) 143–59.

15 See Contributions, section 3. In the Appendix to Heidegger’s 1937–38 lecture course Basic Questions of Phenomenology, trans. Richard Rojcewicz and André Schuwer (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994), Heidegger writes: “Access to the essence always has about it something of the immediate and partakes of the creative, the freely arisen. We therefore speak of a leap, a leap ahead into the essentialization [Wesung] of truth. Admittedly, this terminology does not at first contribute a great deal toward the clarification or justification of our procedure. But it does suggest that this procedure must in every case be carried out by the individual expressly for himself. Whoever does not take this leap will never experience what it opens up. Speaking of a ‘leap’ is also meant to intimate, however, that a preparation is still possible and necessary here: the securing of the approach run for the leap and the predelineation of its direction” (Basic Questions, 173; ga 45: 203).

16 Martin Heidegger, Die Geschichte des Seyns, ed. Peter Trawny (Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 1998).

17 See section 122 of Contributions.

18 The er- in erdenken has a transitive sense. In the translation of erdenken as “inventive thinking” we should hear “inventive” not in the sense of making something up but more literally in its Latin meaning as “in-coming”.

19 Charles Scott, Living with Indifference (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007), 41.

20 Heidegger sometimes speaks of Da-sein as the open center for the truth of beyng. Section 95 of Contributions: “The truth of beyng is nothing less than the essence of truth, grasped and grounded as the clearing-concealing; it is the occurrence of Da-sein, the occurrence of the axis in the turning as self-opening center” (ga 65: 189; c, 148f.). Cf. section 191.

21 My translation here and below. I am nevertheless indicating (here and below) where, in the published English version, the sentences I am quoting and translating may be found.

22 This applies especially to Heidegger’s polemic remarks in his non-public writings, including the Schwarze Hefte, when he attacks Christianity, Judaism, Bolshevism, Americanism, National Socialism and many other—isms. These are hardly instances of poietic thinking. See David F. Krell’s review of the Schwarze Hefte in this issue.

23 The emphasis is on the decision over history and section 8 articulates this decision even in terms of “battle.” The German word here is Kampf as in the title of Hitler’s book Mein Kampf. Section 8 of Besinnung also reveals that Heidegger had his own take on war and peace. He writes: “War is only the uncontrolled machination of beings, peace only the seeming quieting down of that uncontrolledness. Battle, however, is the mirroring of the free gifting of essence [Wesensverschenkung] out of the mildness of the proudness of refusal. ‘Battle’ here is thought out of the stillness of the essential occurring” (ga 66: 15).

24 See ga 65: 406, 416, 132; c, 322, 329, 104; and section 12 in ga 66: 17f. and in m, 13.

25 See “A Retrospective Look at the Pathway (1937/8)” (ga 66: 427; m, 377).

26 “In-ception” has the same root meaning (“-ception” comes from the Latin capere, “to catch”) as An-fang. That is why it makes sense to translate Über den Anfang as On Inception.

27 Compare, for instance, section 42, or the end of the first section of Über den Anfang.

28 ga 70: 27.

29 ga 70, section 44.

30 See section 98 of ga 70: 121.

31 “But in beinglessness can be conceived something most extreme belonging to the essence of being (inception—downgoing—departure).

“Here—in the ‘beinglessness’ and in the ‘beingless’—lies a challenge [eine Zumutung] in the face of which no metaphysics finds a way” (ga 70: 121).

32 “The beingless ‘is’ the prior-inceptive and the post-inceptive and this not insofar as it has the character of inception but insofar as it only ‘becomes’ a being in the inception and ceases to be [entwird] in the downgoing. . . . Yet only here the innermost nihiliation [Nichtung] of being itself is revealed, that in itself it is not only concealment and refusal but the disappropriation in the manner of downgoing [untergänglich die Enteignung]” (ga 70: 122).

33 “The twisting out is the essence of emergence and of unconcealedness as disconcealment.” (Section 180 of ga 71: 137 and of e, 117)

34 See beginning of section 164 of ga 71.

35 See section 39 of ga 71: 28 and e, 21.

36 See ga 71: 132; e, 112 and ga 71: 237; e, 204.

37 Rojcewicz translates Wonne with “bliss,” which has a more religious connotation. He may be right to emphasize this, but the German word Wonne has a “physical” connotation not so prevalent in “bliss.”

38 ga 71: 68, 211; e, 55, 181.

39 See sections 256–259 of ga 71, which are gathered under the heading X.A. “The enduring of the difference (distinction) / Experience as the pain ‘of’ the departure.”

40 R. Safranski, Martin Heidegger: Between Good and Evil, trans. Ewald Osers, 4th ed. (Cambridge, ma: Harvard University Press, 2002), 328.

41 See also the following remark: “Death is the consummation of the steadfastness in Da-sein; death is sacrifice” (ga 71: 193; e, 165).

42 Notes from Heidegger’s Schwarze Hefte are quite explicit about the fact that in 1931 (prior to his infamous Rectorship) Heidegger rejects appeals to the situation (Situation) (Martin Heidegger, Überlegungen ii–vi (Schwarze Hefte 1931–1938), ed. Peter Trawny, vol. 94 of Gesamtausgabe [Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 2014] 7f.) and emphasizes “alone-ness” (Allein-heit) and bearing silence. This is the time that he intimates the necessity of a more radical leap (he speaks of Loswurf and Sichloswerfen, of “leaping off” [ga 94: 77–80]) into the beginning. A decisive date for Heidegger is March 1932, since it marks for him a break from his previous path (see ga 94: 19).

43 This is the title of section 243 of The Event.

44 See The Event, sections 259, 262, 264. In section 259 Heidegger writes about the enduring of the difference: “In this thinking, ‘questioning’ also is overcome.” And in the following paragraph: “The enduring is, if speaking in this way is still possible, more of a questioning than any question, because the enduring belongs to the abyss and therefore does not stop at a ground but goes back beyond it instead” (ga 71: 237; e, 204).

45 fg, 24f.; cpc, 15.

46 Sections 69, 139, 173, 246 of The Event.

47 ga 71: 234; e, 202.

48 Rojecwicz translates Lang-mut (written with a hyphen) as “patience” and Armut as “indigence.”

49 See section 245 of ga 71: 148, cpc, 97 and ga 77: 100, cpc, 64.

50 In the early use of the word concrete, it came to mean the descriptive quality of a substance, e.g., white, as distinct from a quality per se, e.g., whiteness. Then it came to mean something “existing in a physical form” (New Oxford American Dictionary, s.v. “concrete”).

51 ga 77: 130, cpc, 84.

52 ga 77: 134f., cpc, 87.

19

Charles Scott, Living with Indifference (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007), 41.

  • 19

    Charles Scott, Living with Indifference (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007), 41.

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