Country Path Conversations [199–201]

Tower Warden: More likely because we are not yet sufficiently intimate with that into which our thinking is nevertheless already initiated.

Teacher: How can we recognize this?

Tower Warden: By paying attention to how we ask everywhere about the selfsame.

Teacher: You mean the question of provenance?

Tower Warden: Yes, and I mean not only what we ask about, but also how.

Teacher: The question of the where-from is so familiar to us that it seems to be innate. [200]

Tower Warden: You mean that it belongs to the nature of the human.

Teacher: I thought this for a fleeting moment, but now I must admit that we gain nothing by appealing to the nature of the human.

Tower Warden: At most we become aware that this nature, which is often appealed to, itself means nothing other than the provenance.

Teacher: We would then find ourselves led into the question of the provenance of provenance, and thereby into the well-known infinite regress [endlosen Prozeß].

Tower Warden: Certainly, if we neglect to first of all clarify what is called “provenance.”

Teacher: To that I might be able to contribute something. It suffices to fundamentally think through what is given in the course of Greek thought; I need only mention the terms ἀρχή and αἰτία.

Tower Warden: And we would at once be in the whole realm of that which we generally designate as ground [Grund].

Teacher: If we attempt to fathom [ergründen] its essence, then we seek the ground of ground and end up in emptiness—

Tower Warden: If that is what you want to call what is always identical, which presents itself to us whenever we are not in the right moment to see—or to allow the surmise—that what we call “ground” does not coincide with what is called “provenance.”

Teacher: Every kind of ground provides a provenance; but not every provenance is a kind of ground. And so provenance would have to be in play where no ground is given.

Tower Warden: Not even abysses [Abgründe], which prevail only within a looking backward toward grounds [Gründe].

Teacher: Thus we would have to think provenance as [201] remaining in the same manner both groundless and abyssless—an audacious demand [Zumutung], to be sure, on the customary manner of representing, which has long provided the authoritative standard of measure for thinking. How do you intend to force such a long-accustomed manner of thinking to acquiesce to this audacious demand?

Tower Warden: We cannot force something to acquiesce to an audacious demand, but rather can only free something for it.

Country Path Conversations (GA 77) The Teacher Meets the Tower Warden by Martin Heidegger