Martin Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy reflects his famous philosophical "turning." In this work, Heidegger returns to the question of being from its inception in Being and Time to a new questioning of being as event. Heidegger opens up the essential dimensions of his thinking on the historicality of being that underlies all of his later writings. Contributions was composed as a series of private ponderings that were not originally intended for publication. They are nonlinear and radically at odds with the traditional understanding of thinking. This translation presents Heidegger in plain and straightforward terms, allowing surer access to this new turn in Heidegger’s conception of being.
About the Author
Richard Rojcewicz is Scholar-in-Residence in the Philosophy Department at Duquesne
University. He is author of The Gods and Technology: A Reading of Heidegger and translator of several volumes of Heidegger's Gesamtausgabe, including Basic Concepts of Ancient Philosophy (IUP, 2008).
Daniela Vallega-Neu teaches philosophy at the University of Oregon. She is author of Heidegger's Contributions to Philosophy: An Introduction (IUP, 2004) and editor (with Charles E. Scott, Susan Schoenbohm, and Alejandro Vallega) of Companion to Heidegger's Contributions to Philosophy (IUP, 2001).
Read an Excerpt
Contributions to Philosophy (Of the Event)
By Martin Heidegger, Richard Rojcewicz Daniela Vallega-Neu
Indiana University PressCopyright © 1989 Vittorio Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main
All rights reserved.
The official title: Contributions to Philosophy and the essential rubric: Of the Event
The official title must by necessity now sound dull, ordinary, and empty and will make it seem that at issue here are "scholarly" "contributions" to the "advancement" of philosophy.
Philosophy can be officially announced no other way, since all essential titles have become impossible on account of the exhaustion of every basic word and the destruction of the genuine relation to words.
The official title, however, is also in accord with the "matter at issue" to the extent that, in the age of transition from metaphysics to the thinking of beyng in its historicality, no more can be ventured than an attempt at a thinking which would arise out of a more originary basic position within the question of the truth of beyng. Yet even the successful attempt must—in conformity with the basic event of that which is to be thought inventively—keep its distance from every false claim to be a "work" in the previous style. Future thinking is a course of thought, on which the hitherto altogether concealed realm of the essential occurrence of beyng is traversed and so is first cleared and attained in its most proper character as an event.
The issue is no longer to be "about" something, to present something objective, but to be ap- propriated over to the appropriating event. That is equivalent to an essential transformation of the human being: from "rational animal" (animal rationale) to Da-sein. The fitting rubric is therefore Of [von] the Event. That is not to be understood in the sense of a report on it [davon], about it. Instead, it means that a belonging to beyng and to the word "of" beyng, a belonging in thinking and saying, is something ap-propriated by [von] the event.
1. These "contributions" question along a way ...
These "contributions" question along a way which is first paved by the transition to the other beginning, the one Western thought is now entering. This way brings the transition into the open realm of history and founds the transition as a possibly very long sojourn. In carrying out the transition, the other beginning of thought always remains something only surmised, though indeed something already decided.
Accordingly, these "contributions," although already and exclusively a speaking of the essence of beyng, i.e., of the "appropriating event," are not yet able to join the free conjuncture of the truth of beyng out of beyng itself. If this articulation once succeeds, then that essence of beyng, in its trembling, will determine the structure of the work of thought. This trembling will then strengthen into the power of the released mildness of an intimacy proper to that divinization of the god of gods from which occurs the assignment of Da-sein to beyng as the grounding of the truth of beyng.
Nevertheless, here already the thoughtful speaking of a philosophy within the other beginning must be attempted, in the manner of a preliminary exercise. The issue is then neither to describe nor to explain, neither to promulgate nor to teach. Here the speaking is not something over and against what is to be said but is this latter itself as the essential occurrence of beyng.
This speaking gathers beyng to a first resonating of its essence and yet sounds forth itself only from this essence.
Spoken in the preliminary exercise is a questioning that is not the purposive act of an individual nor something delimited and calculated by a community. Prior to all that, it is the passing on of an intimation that comes from, and remains assigned to, what is most question-worthy.
Detachment from every "personal" domain will succeed only out of the intimacy of the earliest belonging. No grounding is granted unless such a detachment would vouch for it.
The age of the "systems" has past. The age that would elaborate the essential form of beings from out of the truth of beyng has not yet come. In the interim, in the transition to the other beginning, philosophy needs to have accomplished something essential: the projection, i.e., the grounding and opening up, of the temporal-spatial playing field of the truth of beyng. How is this unique accomplishment to be brought about? There is no precedent for it and no foothold. Mere variations on previous notions, even if these variations arise with the help of the greatest possible intermixing of historiologically familiar modes of thought, will get us nowhere. Furthermore, all worldview theories stand completely outside of philosophy, for they can exist only by denying that beyng is worthy of question. By honoring this question-worthiness, philosophy possesses its own dignity, one that cannot be derived from elsewhere and cannot be calculated. All decisions regarding philosophy's dealings arise from the preservation of this dignity and as preservations of this dignity. In the realm of what is most worthy of question, however, these dealings can only constitute a unique questioning. If in any of its hidden ages, then it is in the transition to the other beginning that philosophy, in the clarity of its knowledge, must come to a decision regarding its own essence.
The "other beginning" of thought is so named not because it is simply different in form from all other previous philosophies but because it must be the only other beginning arising in relation to the one and only first beginning. From this assignment of the first and the other beginning to each other, the character of thoughtful meditation in the transition is also already determined. Transitional thinking accomplishes the grounding projection of the truth of beyng as historical meditation. History is thereby not the object and sphere of a spectating but is that which first awakens and brings about thoughtful questioning as the site of the decisions of history. In the transition, thought places in dialogue the first having-been of the beyng of truth and the extreme to-come of the truth of beyng and in that dialogue brings to words the hitherto uninterrogated essence of beyng. In the knowledge belonging to transitional thinking, the first beginning remains decisive as the first and yet is indeed overcome as a beginning. For this thinking, the clearest respect paid to the first beginning (a respect which first discloses this beginning in its uniqueness) must be accompanied by the disrespect of the renunciation implicit in another questioning and speaking.
The outline of these "contributions" toward the preparation of the transition is taken from the still-unmastered ground-plan of the historicality of the transition itself:
the future ones
the last god
This outline is not a series of various considerations on sundry objects; nor is it a step-by-step ascent from the low to the high. It is a preliminary sketch of the temporal-spatial playing field which the history of the transition first creates as its own realm in order to decide, according to its own law, about the futureless ones, i.e., those who are always only "eternal," and about the future ones, i.e., those who occur only once.
2. The saying of the event as the first answering of the question of being
The question of being is the question of the truth of beyng. When grasped and worked out historically, it becomes the basic question, versus the previous question of philosophy, the question of beings (the guiding question).
The question of the truth of beyng is, to be sure, a penetration into something well guarded, since the truth of beyng—in thinking, this truth is the steadfast knowledge of how beyng occurs essentially—is perhaps not even an entitlement of the gods but, instead, belongs uniquely to the abyss of that dispensation to which even the gods are subject.
And yet: if beings are, then beyng must occur essentially. But how does beyng occur essentially? And are there beings? Out of what else does thinking decide here, if not out of the truth of beyng? Accordingly, beyng can no longer be thought on the basis of beings but must be inventively thought from itself.
At times, those who ground the abyss must be consumed in the fire of that which is well guarded, so that Da-sein might be possible for humans and constancy within beings might thus be saved, and also so that beings themselves might undergo restoration in the open realm of the strife between earth and world.
In other words, beings are brought into their constancy through the downgoing of those who ground the truth of beyng. Beyng itself requires this. It needs those who go down and has already ap-propriated them, assigned them to itself, wherever beings appear. That is the essential occurrence of beyng itself; we call this essential occurrence the event. Measureless is the richness of the turning relation of beyng to the Da-sein it appropriates, incalculable the fullness of the appropriation. Yet only very little speaking "of the event" is possible here in this thought that is making a beginning. What is said is questioned and thought in the "interplay" between the first and the other beginning, out of the "resonating" of beyng in the plight of the abandonment by being, for the "leap" into beyng, toward the "grounding" of its truth, as preparing the "future ones" of "the last god."
This thoughtful speaking is a directive. Without being an order, it indicates that the free domain of the sheltering in beings of the truth of beyng is necessary. Such thinking never allows itself to be made into a doctrine. It completely withdraws itself from the fortuitiveness of opinion. But it does issue a directive to the few and to their knowledge, when at issue is the retrieval of humans from the intractability of nonbeings into the tractability of the restrained creation of the site destined for the passing by of the last god.
If the essential occurrence of beyng constitutes the event, however, then how near is the danger that beyng might refuse, and must refuse, to appropriate because humans have become powerless to be Da-sein on account of the untrammeled force of their frenzy for the gigantic, which latter, under the semblance of "greatness," has overpowered them.
Yet if the event becomes a withholding and a refusal, is that only the withdrawal of beyng and the surrendering of beings into non-beings, or can the refusal (the negativity of beyng) become in the extreme the most remote appropriation—assuming that humans grasp this event and that shock and diffidence place them back in the basic disposition of restraint and thereby already propel them out into Da-sein?
To know the essence of beyng as the event means not only to be aware of the danger of refusal, but also to be prepared for overcoming it. Far in advance of that, what remains first here can only be: to place beyng in question.
No one understands what "I" am here thinking: to let Da-sein arise out of the truth of beyng (i.e., out of the essential occurrence of truth) in order to ground therein beings as a whole and as such and, in the midst of them, to ground the human being.
No one grasps this, because others all try to explain "my" attempt merely historiologically by appealing to the past which they believe they understand because it apparently already lies behind them.
As for those who will some day grasp this, they do not need "my" attempt, for they must have paved their own way to it. They must be able to think what is attempted here in such a manner that they believe it comes to them from afar and is nevertheless what is most proper to them, to which they are ap-propriated as ones who are needed and who therefore have neither the desire nor the opportunity to focus on "themselves."
Through a simple thrust of essential thought, the happening of the truth of beyng must be transposed from the first beginning to the other one, such that in the interplay the wholly other song of beyng resounds.
And therefore what is in effect here throughout is history, which denies itself to historiology, for history does not simply let the past appear but, instead, in all things thrusts over into the future.
3. Of the event
The future ones
The last god
The resonating of beyng in its refusal.
The interplay of the questioning of beyng. The interplay commences with the first beginning playing over to the other beginning, in order to bring the latter into play such that out of this mutual interplay, the preparation for the leap develops.
The leap into beyng. The leap leaps into the abyss of the fissure and so for the first time attains the necessity of grounding Da-sein, which is assigned out of beyng.
The grounding of truth as truth of beyng: (Da-sein).
4. Of the event
Here everything is placed in relation to the unique question of the truth of beyng, i.e., in relation to questioning. In order for this attempt to become an actual impetus, the wonder of questioning must be experienced in carrying it out and must be made effective as an awakening and strengthening of the power to question.
Questioning arouses immediately the suspicion of amounting to an empty, obstinate attachment to the uncertain, undecided, and undecidable. Questioning appears as a backtracking of "knowledge" into idle meditation. It seems to be narrowing and hampering, if not even negating.
Nevertheless: in questioning reside the tempestuous advance that says "yes" to what has not been mastered and the broadening out into ponderable, yet unexplored, realms. What reigns here is a self-surpassing into something above ourselves. To question is to be liberated for what, while remaining concealed, is compelling.
Questioning is, in its seldom-experienced essence, so utterly different from the way it appears in its distorted essence that it often extracts the last remnant of heart from those who are already disheartened. But they then also do not belong in the invisible ring enclosing those whose questioning is answered by the intimation of beyng.
The question of the truth of beyng cannot be calculated in terms of what has preceded it. Furthermore, this questioning must be carried out in an originary way if it is supposed to prepare the beginning of another history. As unavoidable as is the confrontation with the first beginning of the history of thought, just as certainly must questioning forget everything round about itself and merely think about its own plight.
History comes to be only in the immediate leap over the "historiological."
The question of "meaning," i.e., according to the elucidations in Being and Time [Sein und Zeit], the question of the grounding of a projected domain, or, in short, the question of the truth of beyng, is and remains my question and is my unique question, for at issue in it is indeed what is most unique. In the age that is completely questionless about everything, it is enough to begin by asking the question of all questions.
In the age of infinite wants stemming from the concealed plight of a lack of a sense of plight, this question must necessarily seem the most useless idle talk, of the kind that has been opportunely dismissed already.
All the same, the task remains: the retrieval of beings out of the truth of beyng.
The question of the "meaning of beyng" is the question of all questions. As we unfold this question, we determine the essence of what is here called "meaning," that within which the question as meditation persists, that which it opens up as a question: the openness for self- concealing, i.e., truth.
The question of being is the leap into beyng, the leap carried out by the human being as the seeker of beyng, i.e., as the thinker who creates. A seeker of beyng, in the most proper abundance of the power to seek, is the poet, who "institutes" beyng.
We of today, however, have only the one duty, to prepare this thinker through the grounding that reaches far ahead, the grounding of a secure readiness for what is most worthy of question.
5. For the few—For the rare
For the few, who from time to time question again, i.e., newly put the essence of truth up for decision.
For the rare, who are endowed with the great courage required for solitude, in order to think the nobility of beyng and to speak of its uniqueness.
Thinking in the other beginning is in a unique way originarily historical: the compliant disposing of the essential occurrence of beyng.
A projection of the essential occurrence of beyng as the event must be ventured, because we do not know that to which our history is assigned. Would that we might radically experience the essential occurrence of this unknown assignment in its self- concealing.
Let us indeed want to develop this knowledge such that what is unknown and given to us as a task might leave our will in solitude and thereby compel the steadfastness of Da-sein to the highest restraint in the face of what is self-concealing.
Nearness to the last god is reticence, which must be set into work and word in the style of restraint.
Excerpted from Contributions to Philosophy (Of the Event) by Martin Heidegger, Richard Rojcewicz Daniela Vallega-Neu. Copyright © 1989 Vittorio Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main. Excerpted by permission of Indiana University Press.
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Table of Contents
II. The Reasoning
III. The Interplay
IV. The Leap
V. The Grounding
a. Da-sein and the projection of being
c. The essence of truth
d. Time-space as the abyssal ground
e. The essential occurrence of truth as a sheltering
VI. The Future Ones
VII. The Last God
What People are Saying About This
Written during the dark years 1936-1938, these Contributions help us to make the transition from Heidegger’s masterpiece, Being and Time, to his later thinking. Some of the darkest pages Heidegger wrote are here, and also some of the most brilliant. The translation by Richard Rojcewicz and Daniela Vallega-Neu is judicious and inspired.
Contributions is among the most challenging works of our time: rigorous, it is also acrobatic in its leaps and logic; imaginative, it is nonetheless precise; intensely self-reflexive, it engages far-reaching questions. Its greatest challenge though is its language and the new vocabulary it forges. This new translation meets that challenge and so marks a real advance in our understanding of this impossible, yet indispensible book.
I had tried to study the Contributions before, but I found it impossible. Now, thanks to this new translation, I have access to what may turn out to be the most important philosophical work of our time.