Four Seminars [20-21]

for itself, but, by its shining, show the one who wears it and upon whom it shines.

The concealed unity of this threefold sense constitutes the Heraclitean sense of “world,”—a sense which, on its way through Latin, is still preserved in the French monde, insofar as the opposite of monde is not some “other world,” as one might unthinkingly represent it, but instead what is said by the adjective immonde: the impure.

—Since Heraclitus speaks with such a wealth of meaning, which he is nevertheless able to bring together in a single name, the poet says, he belongs in the company of the poets.

—It is so, Heidegger responds, because the fundamental relation of the Greek language to nature consists in leaving nature open in its radiance, and not, as one would have it in the modern era, in making its appearances easily calculable. Thus it names the κόσμος as older than the gods and men, which remain related back to it, since none of these at any time could have brought it forth.

This also explains, in a certain respect, in what way the κόσμος is a fire (πῦρ). Fire contains another threefold sense, insofar as it is simultaneously the rising flame, the brooding glow, and the radiating light, along with the richness of contrasts which this equivocation make possible. We, the completely different people of the modern era, as devotees of logic, believe the contrary, that a word is only first meaningful when it has just one meaning. But for Heraclitus precisely this manifold richness is the κόσμος. It never appears as something isolated, but shimmers ungraspably throughout everything. So we understand him in our reading of fragment 124: In comparison with the κόσμος, in its complete appearing as fire, “the most beautiful ordering of all is surely comparable to a heap of randomly spilled garbage.” This means that the inapparent joining together of the κόσμος is superior to every visible ordering, even if it be the most beautiful possible (fragment 54).

And what follows now presents the most extreme opposition to this. As distinct from the “world” of Heraclitus, by the standard of which the plenitude of nature is offered to the inhabitants of this world, today a world dominates in which the decisive question runs: How do I have to represent nature in the sequence of its appearances to myself, so that I am in a position to make secure predictions about all and everything? The answer to this question is that it is compulsory to represent nature as a totality of energy particles of existing mass, the reciprocal movements of which are to be mathematically calculable. Descartes already says to the piece of wax that he holds before his eyes: “You are nothing other than an extended, flexible, and mutable thing,” and thus I proclaim myself to know everything about you that there is to know of you. Someone from our circle says that in such a world there is room enough for everything, even for poetry, provided that it be something

Martin Heidegger (GA 15) Seminar in Le Thor 1966