Since 1936, the year Heidegger began to write Contributions to Philosophy (Of the Event), Ereignis names the very core of how Heidegger attempts to think the truth of being in its historicality.1 Contributions to Philosophy is the work in which Heidegger lays out his thought of Ereignis for the first time, but Heidegger develops it further in volumes following Contributions2 and also in the last period of his writings.
Heidegger’s thought of the truth of being in terms of Ereignis begins with the abandonment of the transcendental-horizontal approach to the question of being (which marked his earlier fundamental ontology of Being and Time) in the attempt to speak more inceptually, more originally, from within an authentic experience of being. In the project of Being and Time being as such is questioned through Dasein’s transcendence. Dasein always already transcends particular beings (Seiendes) such that in Dasein’s being-in-the-world the being (Sein) of other beings also and thus being as such is disclosed. The itinerary of Being and Time leads toward the discovery of a temporal horizon out of which being discloses as presence; however the path of questioning still goes “toward” the temporal horizon of being. In Contributions, the task is to think out of the temporal horizon of being as such, a temporal horizon that since the 1930s Heidegger calls the “truth of beyng.”
To think and speak out of the truth of beyng is possible only if thinking attempts to stay attuned to an authentic mode of being in which the thinker finds himself/herself displaced (Heidegger speaks of a “leap”) from both everyday and theoretical modes of being and thrown into the groundless openness of being as such. The truth of beyng needs to be sustained in order to occur as truth, and this is why thinking needs to be (-sein) “there” (da-) in that groundless openness. It is then that thinking may find itself ereignet, “appropriated” by beyng and beyng in its truth may be experienced and thought as Ereignis, as “appropriating event.”3 In other words, out of the experience of being thrown into being, we experience a disclosing event in which we first find also our own being; we experience our being as er-eignet, “appropriated” in the event that—in turn—first discloses in this appropriation.4
The appropriating event cannot be represented in terms of a linear process such that some “being” appropriates another “being,” namely Da-sein, but instead oscillates between the truth of beyng and Da-sein, such that both occur simultaneously. Heidegger speaks in this context of the Kehre im Ereignis, the turning in the appropriating event.5 He articulates this turning as well in terms of an oscillation between the appropriating call (Zuruf) and a belonging (zugehören).6 The truth of beyng as event discloses only in Da-sein, in the moment of appropriation and belonging. Furthermore, Da-sein (now written with a hyphen) does no longer designate a human entity at all, nor does it designate simply human being, although it does require humans as the ones who are (-sein) the there (Da), the open site of a historical time-space.
The appropriating event (Ereignis) is not something one may willfully engage, but there are fundamental attunements or dispositions (Grundstimmungen, like Angst in Being and Time) that dispose thinking such that it undergoes the experience of the event. In Contributions, the basic dispositions that transpose into the event of the truth of beyng are those of an epoch rather than those of a singular human being. Heidegger mentions especially “shock” (Erschrecken), “restraint” (Verhaltenheit), and “diffidence” (Scheu). Disposed by shock, one realizes that in our epoch being does not occur as an appropriating event but rather as a withdrawal (Verweigerung or Versagung).7 This relates to the realization that the way beings appear is determined by machination (Machenschaft, the dominion of the makeability) and lived experience (Erlebnis) such that beings are abandoned by beyng and beyng in its truth remains completely forgotten. Restraint (which comprises shock and diffidence) disposes thinking to remain turned toward the withdrawal of beyng, toward the lack that marks our era, such that this lack is sustained in Da-sein.8 Thus the truth of beyng finds an open site. This truth occurs as “hesitant withdrawal” such that in this hesitation, unconcealment of the concealment occurs. The preservation of this unconcealed concealment becomes more and more important in Heidegger’s thinking of the event in the volumes following Contributions. The concealment belonging to beyng is precisely what remains concealed and thus forgotten in metaphysics (“the first beginning”).9 Thinking, as it finds itself appropriated and responds to the appropriating call, is dis-lodged into an untimely situation. It enters a realm “in-between” where it is no longer forgetful of the truth of beyng, and yet, in the sense of the history of a people, the event of appropriation does not occur, and people remain disposed by machination and lived experience. The moment in which Ereignis would hold sway historically, would mark an “other beginning” of history. In Contributions, we need, then, to distinguish Ereignis in an epochal sense from Ereignis in so far as it is intimated “by the few future ones” and sustained in the thinking and saying of a single thinker or poet. This single thinkers and poets are transposed (appropriated) into the transition into the other beginning and in this transition their thinking and saying is inceptive (anfänglich).10
In our epoch of the utmost abandonment of beings by beyng, beyng at first is experienced as withdrawal, that is, not as appropriation but as “dis-appropriation,” as Ent-eignung.11 Ent-eignung in this sense has a “negative” connotation; it indicates that in our epoch Er-eignis does not (yet) occur and the truth of beyng (especially the concealment belonging to it) remains concealed. This is not due to a human fault but rather is rooted in the way beyng itself unfolds in the first beginning, namely as presence.
Later, in “The Thing” (1950), Heidegger speaks of enteignen in a positive sense as a “letting go in to the proper” and in Time and Being (1962), Heidegger speaks of Ent-eignis—again “positively”—in terms of the originary concealment that belongs to the truth of beyng even when it occurs as Er-eignis.12
In Über den Anfang and Das Ereignis (1941–2) Heidegger’s thinking of the event moves further into the concealed dimension belonging to Ereignis while venturing to be more inceptive. Even with previous acquaintance with Heidegger’s Contributions, the volume Das Ereignis remains extremely difficult to access because of an even more radical attempt to speak out of an experiencing of the event. Heidegger now characterizes the movement of thinking as “departure” and “downgoing” into the beginning. “Downgoing is inception of the beginning in its inceptiveness [Der Untergang ist Anfängnis the Anfangs in seiner Anfänglichkeit].”13 “ The event [now] names the inception of the beginning that properly clears itself.”14 In Über den Anfang he writes: “Beginning is the taking into safe keeping of the departure [Abschied] into the abyss.”15 Heidegger begins to articulate the relation between the inceptive thinking and the epochal dis-appropriation of beings in terms of “the passing [Vorbeigang] by each other of the abandonment of beings by being and the twisting free of being into the beginning.”16 One may interpret this as a preliminary form of the differentiation he makes in Time and Being (1962) between, on the one hand, the appropriating event as the “giving” of historical determinations of being (such that this giving is not itself a form of history), and, on the other hand, the historically determined epochs.
In Contributions, besides the relation between the truth of beyng, being-t/here (Da-sein), and humans, Ereignis has other essential dimensions belonging to it. The full expanse of the appropriating event comprises gods and humans, world and earth, as well as beings; and Heidegger thinks Da-sein (being-there) as the “in-between” of these multiple dimensions.17
In Da-sein—when the appropriating event occurs—our being is appropriated in relation to the gods such that we are assigned (Zueignung) to the gods and the gods are consigned (Übereignung) to us. For Heidegger, the gods lack being; they are not and need humans as the ones who sustain the open site of truth such that a grounding of Da-sein occurs.18 This moment would mark the other beginning of history; Heidegger calls it a moment of decision; it comprises “the passing of the last god.” This moment does not result in a presencing of gods (as if they were beings); rather the gods remain tied to the essential concealment belonging to the event. This is why gods and humans emerge in the event both in their separation (Geschiedenheit) as well as in their assigned/appropriated encounter.
It is within this encounter between gods and humans that the strife of world and earth as well as the relation to beings are situated in the thought of Contributions.19 With the appropriation of Da-sein is disclosed the “strife of world and earth”20 that is related to what Heidegger calls the “sheltering” (Bergung) of the truth of beyng into beings. The truth of beyng occurs as Ereignis only when world and earth find an open site by virtue of beings, that is, works of art, deeds, things, and above all and first of all— words.21 (Otherwise beings remain ent-eignet, that is, “dis-appropriated” by beyng, as said above.) Thus Ereignis, as the moment of an other beginning of history, occurs only in the assignment of the gods to humans and the consignment of humans to gods, in which Da-sein is grounded such that in Da-sein, the strife of world and earth is sheltered in a being. This would also be the moment of the passing by of the last god.
In the grounding of the truth of beyng, beyng and beings are transformed into their simultaneity.22 Yet this simultaneity does not abolish all difference between beyng and beings. According to what Heidegger thinks during the time he is writing Contributions, the strife of world and earth functions as a form of medium between the truth of beyng and beings. He says that the truth of beyng cannot be “directly” sheltered in beings but first needs to be transformed into the strife of world and earth.23
The relation between “gods and humans” and “world and earth” in Contributions, foreshadows Heidegger’s thinking of the fourfold (Geviert) of gods and humans, sky and earth. Viewed from the horizon of Contributions, essays like “The Thing” (1950) and “Building, Dwelling, Thinking” (1951) think ahead into an occurrence of Ereignis such that a sheltering of truth in beings takes places and thus beings “gather” the event of appropriation. Yet whereas in Contributions Heidegger speaks of the strife of world and earth, in the later writings he speaks of the relation between sky and earth; all four elements of the fourfold are said to constitute the “worlding” (Welten) of the world. When speaking of the fourfold in the essay “The Thing,” Heidegger thinks that Ereignis occurs through the appropriating mirror-play of the fourfold such that “each of the four mirrors in its own way the presence of the other. Each therewith reflects itself in its own way into its own, within the unity of the four.”24 In this context, Heidegger uses the term Vereignung: “The mirroring appropriates [ereignet]—by clearing each of the four—their own essence into the simple appropriation [Vereignung] to each other.”25 The prefix “ver” has (in this context) the sense of an achievement; we may thus translate Vereignung as “achieving appropriation.” The essay “The Thing” also contains a different use of the term “enteignen” than in Contributions. When speaking of the fourfold, Heidegger will play with a more positive meaning of the prefix “ent”; this time, he stresses the sense of “letting go” or “letting free” that the term contains (whereas in Contributions he emphasized the sense of privation). He writes: “Each is expropriated [enteignet], within their mutual appropriation [Vereignung], into its own being.” Heidegger sums up: “This expropriative appropriating [dieses enteignende Ereignen] is the mirror-play of the fourfold.”26
Heidegger’s meditations on the mirror play of the fourfold are one way into thinking the event of appropriation. Another one is his meditations on Ge-stell, (“framework” or “enframing”).27 Through the notion of Ge-stell, Heidegger reflects further on what in Contributions he calls the domination of machination, calculation, and lived experience. An experience of the truth of beyng as appropriating event first requires that we experience and acknowledge the abandonment of beings by beyng. This abandonment is rooted in beyng’s withdrawal that, in metaphysics, issues a “technological” disclosure of beings, which covers over the essential concealment belonging to the truth of beyng. A meditation on the essence of technology leads precisely to this essential concealment of beyng out of which may arise an intimation of the truth of beyng as Ereignis. It is thus that Heidegger can speak of Ge-stell as a preliminary form of Ereignis.28
In Identity and Difference (1957) Heidegger writes that we need to pay attention to the claim that speaks in the essence of technology: “Our whole being everywhere finds itself challenged [. . .] to devote itself to planning and calculating everything. [. . .] The name for the gathering of this challenge which places man and being towards each other [einander zu-stellt] in such a way that they challenge each other is ‘the framework’ [das Ge-stell]”29 The belonging together of man and beyng through this mutual challenging reveals “that and how man is appropriated over [vereignet] to being, and being is appropriated [zugeeignet] to human being.”30 Thus, realizing how we are challenged into the planning and calculating of everything reveals our relation to beyng as occurring through the event of appropriation—if we explicitly enter into this relation.
In Contributions it remains somewhat ambiguous whether Ereignis only names how beyng occurs initially, in the moment of decision of the other beginning, or whether Heidegger thinks of the possibility of a whole epoch in which appropriation occurs more fully. Later, in Time and Being, Heidegger makes a clearer differentiation between Ereignis and the history of being in its epochal forms.31 Here, Heidegger thinks of Ereignis in terms of the sending of epochs and calls the history of being that is sent in the sending Geschick (destiny):
In the sending of the destiny of Being, in the extending of time, there becomes manifest a dedication [Zueignen], a delivering over [Übereignen] into what is their own [Eigenes], namely of being as presence and of time as the realm of the open. What determines both, time and being, in their own, that is, in their belonging together, we shall call: Ereignis, the event of appropriation.32
The event of appropriation is nothing “behind” being and time but rather names their appropriation, the event of their coming into their own and in relation to each other. Heidegger points out that the appropriating conceals itself as “it gives” time and “it gives” being. In the German sentence “Es gibt Zeit” (it gives time) the “es” has a similar function as in the sentence “it rains.” There is no thing that rains. Similarly, there is no thing that gives time or gives being; appropriation occurs as the giving, but in such a way that as “it” gives, “it” conceals itself.
As the sending of time and being, the event of appropriation is not itself a form of being; it is unhistorical while it determines the history (or histories) of being. Accordingly, for a thinking that turns into the event of appropriation as a sending that withdraws or conceals itself (here is where Heidegger speaks of die Enteignis or “expropriation” in the more original sense) “the history of Being as what is to be thought is at an end.”33 In one of the seminars held in Le Thor in 1969 Heidegger again draws the differentiation between Ereignis and the history of being: “There is no destinal epoch of enowning [Ereignen].”34 Heidegger also specifies “in enowning, the history of being has not so much reached its end, as that it now appears as history of being.” In summary, in his later thought, Heidegger understood Ereignis to be the event of appropriation out of which epochs of being occur.35 The event of appropriation itself remains concealed in the way being discloses in each epoch, unless thinking enters the event of appropriation and finds itself as appropriated thinking “of” the event.
1 See Heidegger’s indication of this in ZSD, 46/ TB, 43. For earlier uses of the term Ereignis by Heidegger, see William Koch, “Richard Capobianco: Engaging Heidegger,” Human Studies 34 (2011), 231–6; and Daniela Vallega-Neu, “Ereignis: the event of appropriation,” in ed. Bret Davis, Martin Heidegger (Key Concepts) (Durham: Acumen, 2010), 141f.
2 All these volumes attempt to think being in its historicality out of an experience of being as event. They comprise GA 65 (1936–8), GA 66 (1938–9), GA 69 (1938–40), GA 70 (1941), GA 71 (1941–2), GA 72 (1944), and GA 73. Only a few texts (lectures) published during Heidegger’s lifetime explicitly deal with Ereignis. In On Time and Being Heidegger names the “Letter on Humanism,” four lectures given in 1949 to which belong “The Thing,” “Enframing,” “Danger,” and “The Turn,” the lecture on technology, and “Identity and Difference.” (TB, 36) We should add to these texts the said lecture and seminar on “Time on Being” as well as “Four Seminars” (FS).
3 Ereignis in German usually means “event,” but, like in many other instances, Heidegger likes to play with a wider semantic field that opens up once we hear the word more literally by breaking it up into its two semantic components “er-” and “-eignis.” The prefix “er-” carries the sense of a beginning motion or of an achievement, whereas “-eignis” refers to the word “eigen,” which in German usually means “own,” but which is also at play in a word that is familiar to us from Heidegger’s Being and Time, namely “eigentlich,” in English “proper” or “authentic.” This has lead scholars to translate Ereignis not simply with “event” but also with the neologism “enowning,” or with “appropriation,” or, “the event of appropriation.”
4 See GA 65, 239/CP2, 188, section 122. Compare also sections 133–6.
5 See GA 65/CP2, sections 140, 141, and 191; in section 217, for instance, this turning is articulated as oscillation between appropriating call and belonging.
6 GA 65/CP2, section 217. “Zugehören” contains the root meaning “hören,” to hear.
7 See Contributions, the “fugue” titled Anklang (translated as “Resonating,” or “Echo”) section 50 and following (GA 65, 107ff./CP2, 85ff.).
8 This relates to being-towards-death as Heidegger elaborates it in Being and Time. Only in resolute anticipation of the possibility of the impossibility of being does being as such disclose out of its temporal horizon.
9 Compare “The Essence of Truth.” BW, 130f.
10 See the sections on the future ones in Contributions.
11 GA 65, 120/CP2, 95. Heidegger does not use the substantive Ent-eignis in Contributions but uses the verbal form: beings remain dis-appropriated (ent-eignet) by beyng.
12 “Expropriation [Ent-eignis] belongs to appropriation as such. By this expropriation, appropriation does not abandon itself—rather, it preserves what is its proper [sein Eigentum],” ZSD, 23/TB: 22f.
13 GA 70, 142.
14 GA 71, 147.
15 GA 70, 11.
16 GA 71, 84.
17 GA 65, 310f./CP2, 146f.; sections 190 and 191.
18 GA 65, 470.
19 See section 190 of Contributions (GA 65, 310/CP2, 246) where Heidegger even diagrams this relation.
20 Compare Heidegger’s essay “The Origin of the Work of Art.” BW, 143–212.
21 See The Origin of the Work of Art, where Heidegger speaks of poetry in a larger sense as encompassing all creation and preserving of a work (BW, 199). For the relation between language and Ereignis see Vallega-Neu, “Poetic Saying,” in Companion to Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy; and Dastur, “Language and Ereignis,” in Reading Heidegger, 355–69.
22 GA 65, 14/CP2, 14.
23 GA 65, 391/CP2, 308.
24 VA, 172/PLT, 177.
25 VA, 172. My translation.
26 VA, 172/PLT, 177. For the relation between the Ereignis as the mirror-play of the fourfold and Heidegger’s thought of Gelassenheit see Bret Davis, Heidegger and the Will (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2007) 231–8.
27 ZSD, 38f/TB, 36.
28 TB, 53/ZSD, 57.
29 Martin Heidegger, ID, 22f/34f. Translation slightly altered.
30 ID, 24/36.
31 Heidegger’s meditations especially in Über den Anfang (GA 70) and Das Ereignis (GA 71) pave the way toward that differentiation.
32 TB, 19/ZSD, 20.
33 TB, 41/ZSD, 44.
34 FS, 61.
35 These epochs are usually equated with the epochs of Western thought, namely the Greeks, the Middle Ages, Modern Though, and the current epoch of technology. But all these epochs belong to metaphysics and metaphysics may be seen as one large epoch in relation to which Heidegger thinks the possibility of another beginning of history.
Daniela Vallega-Neu - Ereignis
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