Here, however, and in similar instances, we easily run the risk of searching too far afield. For we presume the phrase is clear enough to warrant an immediate and exclusive search for the sort of thing to which "the never-setting" must, according to Heraclitus' thinking, be attributed. But our inquiry will not take us so far. Nor shall we decide whether the question can be asked in that way. The attempt to render such a decision would fall away once it became clear that the question (to what does Heraclitus ascribe the never-setting?) is superfluous. But how can this be made clear? How can we avoid the danger of inquiring too far afield?

Only if we realize to what degree the phrase τὸ μὴ δῦνόν ποτε gives us quite enough to think about, once we clarify what it says.

The key is τὸ δῦνόν. It is related to δύω, which means to envelop, to submerge. Δύειν says: to go into something—the sun goes into the sea, is lost in it. προς δύνοντος ἡλίου means toward the setting sun, toward evening; νέφεα δῦναι means to sink into the clouds, to disappear behind clouds. Setting, as the Greeks thought of it, takes place as a going into concealment.

We can easily see, if at first only tentatively, that the two main—because substantial—words with which the fragment begins and ends, τὸ δῦνον and λάθοι, say the Same. But in what sense this is true still remains in question. Meanwhile, we have already gained something when we perceive that the fragment, in its questioning, moves within the realm of concealing. Or do we, as soon as we pursue this line of thinking, lapse into gross error? It seems so, for the fragment names τὸ μὴ δῦνόν ποτε, that which never does set. This is obviously something that never goes into concealment. Concealment is excluded. Of course the fragment would still ask about remaining-concealed. But it questions the possibility of concealment so emphatically that the question amounts to an answer—which rejects the possibility of remaining-concealed. In the form of a simply rhetorical question, the affirmative proposition says: no one can remain concealed before the never-setting. This sounds almost like a maxim.

As soon as we hear the key words τὸ δῦνον and λάθοι in the unbroken unity of the fragment, and no longer extract them as individual terms, it becomes evident that the fragment does not operate in the realm of concealment, but in the utterly opposite sphere.


Martin Heidegger (GA 7) Aletheia (Heraclitus, Fragment 16)