Four Seminars [68–70]

but rather an excess. The Greeks belong in their being to ἀλήθεια, in which the being unveils itself in its phenomenality. Accordingly this is their destiny: Μοῖρα.

Placing ourselves before the equivalence of meaning between a being and phenomenon, we ask: how does philosophy arise from the Greek residence in the midst of phenomena? To what extent is philosophy only able, and was only able, to emerge among the Greeks? From where does philosophy receive its first impetus, which sets it upon its way? Succinctly put, what is the beginning of philosophy? These questions lead back to a main question: In the relationship of Greek humanity to beings, in the sense of what is unconcealed, is there something that makes philosophy (as investigation into the being of beings) necessary?

However difficult it may be for us to accomplish anew what the Greeks did when they thought the being as an appearing outside of concealment, as coming-forth-out-of-concealment (in the sense of φύσις), we nevertheless ask: what occurs in the fact of arising-into-ἀλήθεια? What is at once co-named in the word φύειν?

It is the overabundance, the excess of what presences. Here one should recall the anecdote of Thales: he is that person so struck by the overabundance of the world of stars that he was compelled to direct his gaze towards the heavens alone. In the Greek climate,68 the human is so overwhelmed by the presencing of what presences, that he is compelled to the question concerning what presences as what presences. The Greeks name the relation to this thrust of presence θαυμάζειν.69

In extreme opposition to this, one can say that when the astronauts set foot on the moon, the moon as moon disappeared. It no longer rose or set. It is now only a calculable parameter for the technological enterprise of humans.

Clearly, what is decisive in all this is that the privation, the α of ἀλήθεια, corresponds to this excess. Privation is not negation. The more strongly it becomes what the word φύειν indicates, the more powerful is the source from which it springs, the concealment in unconcealment.

Consequently, it must always be emphasized that the dimension of the entirely excessive is that in which philosophy arises. Philosophy is indeed the answer of a humanity that has been struck by the excess of presence—an answer which is itself excessive, and one which leads to a more precise formulation: that philosophy as philosophy is no Greek way of ek-sisting, but rather a hyper-Greek way [eine übergriechische Weise des Ek-sistierens ist]. With this, we can understand the second part of the anecdote concerning Thales, who is so struck by what he sees that he no longer attends to the common things before his feet and falls into a well. To summarize: the Greeks are involved with ἀλήθεια in

68 Hölderlin’s second letter to Böhlendorf. Friedrich Hölderlin, GSA 6.1: Briefe, ed. Adolf Beck, 1954, “Letter Nr. 240: An Casimir Ulrich Böhlendorf,” pp. 432–433. English translation in: Friedrich Hölderlin, Friedrich Hölderlin: Essays and Letters on Theory, trans. and ed. Thomas Pfau (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1988), pp. 152–153.

69 Cf. Plato, Theaetetus, trans. M. J. Levett, rev. Myles Burnyeat, in Plato, Complete Works, ed. John M. Cooper (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1997), 155d.