obscure.’ The thinking of the thinker who thinks the obscure, and himself is called Th e Obscure, is thus ‘Apollonian,’ i.e., essentially related to the light. How are the two to be reconciled? For φωσφόρος , ‘bringer of light,’ and σκοτεινός , ‘the obscurely minded,’ are as different as night and day.

However, through these few introductory remarks we have already recognized that every time we bump up against the apparently irreconcilable and oppositional, the essential is stirred. Th e obscure (i.e., the dark) and the light belong together, and not only in the sense that, where darkness is, generally light must also be, and vice versa. Rather, the dark ‘is’ in its essence the light, and the light ‘is’ in its essence the dark. In the first place, we recognize this for the following reason: where the brightness in question is pure brightness, and is thus a brightness that shines on its own terms beyond the measure of what is adequate to us, one can see nothing precisely on account of this pure brightness. Such a situation is not due to us, but rather has its ground in the fact that the bright and the light are, in their very essence, somehow also a concealing.

When we say “the dark ‘is’ the light, the light ‘is’ the dark,” or “what is alive is dead and what is dead is alive,” then we appear to be speaking in a Heraclitean manner. In truth, however, such speaking is mostly idle chatter, and we should not fool ourselves into thinking otherwise. For precisely there, where the possibility exists within essential thinking to think what is decisive and singular and at the very limit of thought, there is also the constant danger of a superficial leveling-down into mere mechanical chatter. [34] Where this danger is not conquered ever anew, there arises the clamorous clatter of the empty opposition of contradictory words: light and dark, life and death, wakefulness and sleep, movement and rest, freedom and necessity, infinity and finitude. Already since Plato’s time, and especially since the metaphysics of German Idealism, one has called the thinking of opposites together in a higher unity ‘dialectical’ thinking. Some have already contrived, through such easily learned ‘dialectical’ noise, to feign profundity and to ape the gestures of the thinker. With the help of the dialectical back-and-forth of the words of Heraclitus’s, a clever person can easily make it seem as though he himself were a thinker like Heraclitus, if not still ‘greater’ than him, since such a person supposedly understands Heraclitus and thus believes he has surpassed him. All of this is of little help in regard to a genuine understanding of Heraclitus. But we must note that, after Hegel, and especially after Nietzsche, an atmosphere formed around the figure, the thinking, and the word of Heraclitus’s that is difficult to escape both for the inexperienced and for the all-too-clever in equal measure. Th is atmosphere surrounding Heraclitus springs from a hasty application of dialectical thinking, which harbors within itself a peculiar danger that even the experienced thinker cannot entirely escape. Indeed, sometimes even Hegel’s thinking, and also that of Schelling’s, are caught in the gears of dialectic. Why, then, would those who trail behind such thinkers, and who no longer think from out of the experience of the ‘substance’ of the matter, be any less vulnerable?

The word in the inception of thinking    27

Heraclitus (GA 55) by Martin Heidegger