the turn gather around and derive their sense from the first and primary meaning, the prime analogue that is Kehre-1. In fact this reciprocity of man and meaning is the core of Heidegger’s thought, the “thing itself” (die Sache selbst).

We now take up the main characteristics of each of these three “turns.”

One can gain insight into one’s own Being, and ultimately into Being as such, only by lifting oneself out of everyday, anesthetized comfort and coming to grips with who one is. Heidegger thus says that Dasein is a “who,” not a “what” (45). A general definition of the human species fails to yield insight into how any individual is existing; we must ask who the person is, that is, which defining possibility he or she is pursuing. Furthermore, because Dasein is always Being-with, we can infer that the question “Who am I?” implies the further question, “Who are we?”—a decision about the destiny of a people. Every generation must discover its destiny, Heidegger writes laconically, through “communicating and struggling” (384).

* * *

Kehre-1, reciprocity. Only with the posthumous publication of Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy did it become clear that the primary meaning of “the turn” was the chiasmic reciprocity of human existence’s need of meaning and meaning’s need of human existence. The thesis underlying this position is that the very nature of human being is to make discursive sense of things, that is, to understand their meaning (to deny this thesis is willy-nilly to make sense of it and thus to confirm it). We do not first exist and only then, as an add-on, make sense of things. Rather, we are pan-hermeneutical: sense-making is our very existence. Even madness is a way of making sense.

To begin with the first moment of this chiasmic reciprocity: Contributions speaks of human existence as necessarily belonging (zugehörend) to meaning in the sense of sustaining the openness that is the condition of all discursive intelligibility. Meaningfulness requires a “space”—a possibilizing dimension— within which we can perform the twofold act of making sense of something, namely, distinguishing S and P (διαίρεσις: keeping distinct a thing and its possible meanings) while taking S in terms of P (σύνθεσις: unifying the thing and its meaning). The primordial openness of the clearing is what makes possible such distinguishing and synthesizing. Without that possibilizing “space” there could be no meaningfulness at all, whether practical (using this tool for that task) or theoretical (taking Socrates as an Athenian). The primary function of human existence, its raison d’être, is to hold open that space and to belong to meaning. Or to put it in terms of the second half of the chiasm: meaning requires (braucht) human existence to sustain the openness within which meaning can occur.

Heidegger often speaks of meaning as such (“being itself”) as taking the initiative of “calling” human existence to itself and as awaiting a “response” or “correspondence” to that call.9 He will sometimes say that being itself “throws itself forth” to human existence while at the same time “claiming” existence as its own “property” (Eigentum).10 Such metaphors risk serious misunderstanding, not only because they hypostasize being itself into an “other” that stands over against human existence but also because they attribute anthropomorphic agency to meaning (“being itself”), as if it had a mind and will of its own. The same anthropomorphizing hypostatization persists in Heidegger’s use of the faux reflexive voice when he speaks of being “hiding itself” from and “revealing itself” to human beings. The way to avoid these gross misunderstandings is first of all to read “being” phenomenologically in terms of meaningfulness and its enabling source, and then to understand man’s “thrown” nature (Geworfenheit) as the necessity of holding open the space for meaning.

In Contributions to Philosophy, Heidegger equates such thrown-openness with what he calls the “appropriation” (Ereignis or Ereignetsein) of human being to sustaining the clearing. The term Ereignis/appropriation means the same thing as thrownness and has to do with human existence being “brought into its own.”11 Appropriation is


Thomas Sheehan - The Bloomsbury Companion to Heidegger