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Four Seminars by Martin Heidegger

In Four Seminars, Heidegger reviews the entire trajectory of his thought and offers unique perspectives on fundamental aspects of his work. First published in French in 1976, these seminars were translated into German with Heidegger’s approval and reissued in 1986 as part of his Gesamtausgabe, volume 15. Topics considered include the Greek understanding of presence, the ontological difference, the notion of system in German Idealism, the power of naming, the problem of technology, danger, and the event. Heidegger’s engagements with his philosophical forebears—Parmenides, Heraclitus, Kant, and Hegel—continue in surprising dialogues with his contemporaries—Husserl, Marx, and Wittgenstein. While providing important insights into how Heidegger conducted his lectures, these seminars show him in his maturity reflecting back on his philosophical path. An important text for understanding contemporary philosophical debates, Four Seminars provides extraordinarily rich material for students and scholars of Heidegger.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780253008954
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Publication date: 06/22/2012
Series: Studies in Continental Thought
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 144
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Andrew J. Mitchell is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Emory University.

François Raffoul is Professor of Philosophy at Louisiana State University.

Read an Excerpt

Four Seminars

Le Thor 1966, 1968, 1969, Zähringen 1973

By Martin Heidegger, Curd Ochwadt, Andrew Mitchell, François Raffoul

Indiana University Press

Copyright © 2003 Indiana University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-253-34363-5


Seminar in Le Thor 1966

The seminar from 1966 (eight years after the lecture in Aix-en-Provence: "Hegel and the Greeks") consists of seven conversations. The first two concerned Parmenides and the following five were all in regard to Heraclitus. Two young Italian friends, Ginevra Bompiani and Giorgio Agamben, joined Vezin, Fédier, and Beaufret. At that time, no protocols were kept. From the combined notes of the participants, however, a report can be given of three of the Heraclitus conversations. These took place on September 5th, in a garden of Le Thor; on the 9th, in Le Rebanqué; and on the 10th, in Les Busclats.

September 5

"Upon its poetic cliffs, Le Thor rose up. Mont Ventoux, the mirror of the eagles towered into view."

After two conversations on Parmenides' poem, we searched for a guiding thread for the reading of Heraclitus' fragments. The decisive question here is: to which words of Heraclitus should the elucidation direct itself? We certainly have many words before us: logos, physis, world, strife, fire, the singular-one, etc. Taking our cue from a comment provided by Aristotle, we could follow the tradition and take Fragment 1 of the Diels-Kranz edition as the beginning of Heraclitus' writing. According to Diogenes Laertius, Heraclitus is supposed to have laid them in the temple of Artemis in Ephesus for their safekeeping. The other fragments are arranged by Diels-Kranz according to the alphabetical order of the authors who have cited them—from Aetius to Theophrastus—except for fragment 2, which was handed down by Sextus Empiricus and almost directly linked by him to fragment 1: "When before going further he adds ..."

We will therefore take as our guiding thread the logos, a concern right from the start of fragment 1:


Right away we encounter a first difficulty.

Already in antiquity, Aristotle had observed (same reference as above) that the word [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] can refer just as much to what precedes it as to what follows it. Is it indeed [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] that is named the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] Or is it said of the humans, that they never cease to remain in ignorance of it? Against Burnet and Diels, though with Kranz, Heidegger gives preference to the relation of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] with what follows it. His reason for this decision is not that of Kranz, namely that the word is followed by adverbs ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) which would determine the sense of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. The basis for Heidegger's decision is that he does not read [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] as an epithet of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], but instead, literally, as the genitive of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] the being in its being. In his more paratactical than syntactical reading, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] are taken as corresponding precisely to one another, which also determines the separation of the fourth word in the sentence: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] into [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].

We thus do not read:

Now of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], as what is everlastingly ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) true, humans are without understanding;

and also not:

Now of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], of that which is true, the humans are ever ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) without any understanding;

but rather:

Now of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], of beings in their being, the humans never have an understanding.

What is said here would thus be the sameness of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], in the sense in which Parmenides likewise says in his poem:

"For it is indeed the same, both thinking and being."

It is at least from this reading that we are to understand what Heidegger said in The Principle of Reason from 1956, namely that "a belonging to being ... speaks in all that is said in the Greek word [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]," in other words that, "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] names being," or that, "Though it had other names in early Western thinking, 'being' means [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]."

We will now read fragment 1 as a whole:

"But of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], of the beings in their being, humans remain constantly outside of all understanding, as much before they have heard as after they have first heard; for while everything occurs according to the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] of which I speak, they are indeed like the inexperienced, when they attempt such words and works as I set forth, in that I distinguish each thing according to its essence and I say it as it is. But what the other humans do while awake escapes from them just as what was present [gegenwärtig] to them while asleep again conceals itself from them."

Fragment 1, which makes [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] into the foremost fundamental word of all the fundamental words, is supported in this by fragment 72, as reported by Marcus Aurelius:

"With what they most belong together ..., from this they diverge, and hence: all that they encounter everyday appears to them in a foreign light [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]."

The text apparently contains a paradox. Aren't the things that one comes across everyday entirely familiar? To just what an extent are they supposed to show themselves in a foreign light? In so far as the humans, when they diverge [entzweien] from the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], only see a side of what they encounter; to the same extent, the thing encountered is, as it were, estranged from itself.

The fragment thus names the humans, insofar as they depart from being, in order to then fall from being and upon beings. This is seen in Being and Time, where "departure from being" is made to designate such a fall or falling away (upon beings). What Heraclitus says, however, is in no way related to the Fall of Man, but belongs to the Difference between being and beings itself, by which the humans are even more originally gathered. The interpretation of fallenness as the Fall of Man, on the contrary, is itself the setting aside of this difference. Since here the difference between being and beings is maintained, even Platonism with its denigration of what would be mere appearance remains yet to come. The [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] of Heraclitus are not any less beings, but rather are themselves beings of such a sort that they show themselves as foreign to those who depart from the difference. Heraclitus is not yet as antagonistically disposed toward the foreign as Plato is.

If we now turn back from fragment 72 to fragment 1, we are able to add that everything that is there said of the "inexperienced" is equally confirmed by fragment 2, where they are named anew [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "those who do not go along." With what do they not go along? With the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], from which they are separated. The diverging-ones of fragment 72 are just such separated ones. It is thus the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] that must be our guiding thread for the reading of the fragments of Heraclitus (especially since these fragments are much less fragments in a genuine sense, than citations from a text now lost).

(The preceding remarks explain Heidegger's reservations a few months later during the 1966–67 winter semester Heraclitus seminar led by Eugen Fink at the University of Freiburg. The text of that seminar appeared in 1970 from Klostermann. Cf. especially pp. 179 f. "Your (i.e., Eugen Fink's) way of Heraclitus interpretation starts out from fire toward [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], my way of Heraclitus interpretation starts out from [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] toward fire.")

September 8, 1966

"Sleep in the hollow of my hand, olive tree, upon new earth, trust that beautiful will be the day, that morning, too, first found."

Here, at the edge of the olive trees which nestle along the slope before us to the plain below where, off in the distance, not yet visible, the Rhône river flows, we begin again with fragment 2. Behind us rests a Delphic mountain range. This is the landscape of Rebanqué. Whoever finds the way there is a guest of the gods.

"... (which is why it is necessary to direct oneself according to the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], which means according to the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]):

But from [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], which is the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], they surely live, those who make up the great multitude, and such that each has his own opinion for himself."

Now we hear something more about the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], though we already know from fragment 1 its name and its sameness with beings. The [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] presents itself now as the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. The commentary of Sextus Empiricus on the other hand says: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] means the same as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. But at exactly this point everything is questionable.

Heidegger says that behind what Heraclitus named [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], and even if this runs contrary to grammar, one must hear [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] a going together, the coming of one to the other. Whereas, the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is merely the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], the universal in the sense of what belongs equally to all despite differences; in the way that to be a living being, for example, is characteristic of frogs as well as of hounds. We could say that [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is the definition of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], while the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is the determination of the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] from the standpoint of a thinking that is concerned with distinguishing universals from the individualities subordinate to them.

For Heraclitus, on the contrary, the "agreement," the co-belonging that lays in [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], is neither the universal nor the generic. What manner of belonging together does he then have in view? That of what essentially is differing: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. This alone can bring together, in the Latin sense of conferre, to move oneself to the same side, to turn to it, thereby to belong in this way to the "agreement": in Greek, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], in the sameness of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. For example: day and night. There is no day "alone," nor night "apart by itself," but rather the co-belonging of day and night, which is their very being. If I say only "day," I do not yet know anything of the being of day. In order to think day, one must think it all the way to night and likewise the reverse. Night is day as the day that has set. To let day and night belong to each other, in this there is being just as much as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. This is precisely what Hesiod could not understand, for he only saw the alternation of day and night, as he says in the Theogony (verse 751):

"The house never holds them both within."

For Heraclitus it is precisely the opposite. The house of being is that of day-night taken together. Accordingly, he says in fragment 57:

"The teacher of the multitude, Hesiod, they hold him for a man of the deepest wisdom, he who did not recognize with respect to day and night: in truth it is one."

Coming back from this to fragment 72, it now says: the human lives everyday in relation to day and night. But, like Hesiod, he only notes their alternation or transformation. He does not see that this supposed alternation (transformation) is itself, more secretly, their very being. What truly is, is neither the one nor the other, but the co-belonging of the two as the concealed middle between them. But because the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] who do not know the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], turn away from that which they are essentially related to, everything appears to them in an alienating light. Unremittingly, the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] provides a measure which is not accepted. Thus:

Since the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is in that which presences and its presencing, and in this respect assigns to each a measure, they live from it, the multitude, but nevertheless in such a way that each has an opinion for himself. They live from it, without knowing what they are talking about. They say "is" without knowing what "is" actually means.

Such is the case with the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], for which to be thirsty means nothing other than to be thirsty, to be hungry nothing other than to be hungry, since the day is only the day and the night nothing other than the night. Opposed to this is the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], which we relate to the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], and which Heraclitus understands even more boldly than us as: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (fragment 114): to say the sense in agreement with [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], or rather, to let it be in this agreement.

Those whose speech agrees with the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] must become ever stronger by holding to the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], to that wherein everything agrees—and not sway in any and all directions according to the wind of opinion, as happens to those who, instead of thinking, limit themselves to the gathering of information ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], fragment 35).

We shall conclude with two observations:

1) In everything for which [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] provides the measure, it is indeed a matter of a [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], but [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is nonetheless never dialectically determined, that is, as the polarity of standing opposites. The [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] of Heraclitus is much more the unfolding of contraries and grounded in the inapparent character [Unscheinbaren] of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. We explain:

The opposites exclude each another, while the contraries correspond to one another, in that they let one another reciprocally come forth, in the sense that:

"The tide struggles with the pebble, and the light with the shade."

Just as Aeschylus says, "Dark and light are contrarily distributed to one another." The conception of standing opposites presupposes the statement as proposition, within which they both appear through the play of negation. The investigation of the proposition is the business of logic, which is the art of preserving the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] from contradiction as a disagreement pushed to the extreme—at least as long as logic does not reverse its basic intention and become dialectic, for which contradiction, as Marx says, makes up the "font" of truth itself. It is characteristic of dialectic to play the two terms of a relation against each other, with the intent of bringing about a reversal in a situation previously determined by these terms. So for Hegel, as an example, day is the thesis, night is the antithesis, and so the spring board is found for a synthesis of day and night. It is a synthesis in the sense that the conflict of being and nothing is equalized by the appearance of becoming, which arises dialectically from their collision.

With Heraclitus, however, the reverse occurs. Instead of combining the opposites methodically, so that both terms of a relation play out against one another, he names the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] as the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] "The God?—Day-Night!" This is the sense of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. In other words, Heraclitus names a belonging to a singular presence of everything that separates itself from another, in order to turn all the more intimately to the other, in the sense that along the "country path": "Winter's storm encounters harvest's day, the agile excitation of Spring and the serene dying of Autumn meet, the child's game and the elder's wisdom gaze at each other. And in a unique harmony, whose echo the pathway carries with it silently here and there, everything is made gladsome...."

2) Human thinking itself, its [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], belongs to the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and determines itself from this as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (fragment 50). It was this, says Heidegger, that I attempted to show in a 1942 explanation of fragment 7 in a seminar for beginners. It is commonly translated thus:

"If all beings were to become smoke [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]], the nose would distinguish them."

In this, the sense of the verb [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is misunderstood, since, instead of the transformation of something into something else, it means here the presencing of it. Thus we translate:

"If being showed itself everywhere as smoke, then the nose would notice the difference."

One could not more humorously say that the faculty of knowledge is determined by the appearance of a being. With this, the proximity in which Heraclitus and Parmenides stand to one another is completely visible. Fragment 7, as we now understand it, is to a certain extent the Heraclitean conception of fragment 3 from Parmenides' poem:

"Indeed, the same is just as much thinking as being."

In summary:

1) With Heraclitus there is no dialectic—even if his word provides the impetus for this, since, in this sense, what began after him is literally that "which the morning first found."

2) All thinking is "for the sake of being," which is certainly not to say that this would only be an object of thought.

September 9

"To the health of the snake"

Today we are gathered at the house of the poet by the lavender fields. Already tomorrow we will depart from one another, but Heraclitus remains near to us, for we wish to read fragment 30 together.

"This [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] here, insofar as it is the same for everyone and everything, none of the gods and no man has brought forth, it always already was and it is and will be: inexhaustible living fire [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]], kindled in measures and in measures going out."


Excerpted from Four Seminars by Martin Heidegger, Curd Ochwadt, Andrew Mitchell, François Raffoul. Copyright © 2003 Indiana University Press. Excerpted by permission of Indiana University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Preliminary Table of Contents:
Translators' Foreword
Seminar in Le Thor 1966
Seminar in Le Thor 1968
Seminar in Le Thor 1969
Seminar in Zähringen 1973
German Translator's Afterword to Vier Seminare
Martin Heidegger, "The Provenance of Thinking"
Martin Heidegger, "Parmenides..."
German Editor's Afterword to Collected Works, volume 15
Endnotes on the Translation

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