But, when Heraclitus plays ‘dice’ with the children in the temple-precinct of the goddess, does this exhibit his care about the extraordinary and about the particular goddess of his particular πόλις? We shall ask this question, as do the Ephesians within the fragment. Heraclitus, however, in no way refuses the bystanders this question. Rather, he addresses it directly in order to properly ask about why they marvel about his present action.

τὶ … θαυμάζετε; — “What are you gaping at?” Are you surprised that a thinker, set off from commerce and its successes, spends his time only in useless games and not even pursuing his thoughts, which is the least of what may be demanded of a thinker? If they wonder solely about these things, they understand altogether nothing about his conduct. Were it a mere pastime, the game with the children would in fact be no better than the gaping of the Ephesians. Then why should this activity be granted the privilege of being better for the thinker? What truly astonishing thing conceals itself in the harmless actions of the thinker? Does the nearness to an extraordinary game lie hidden in this perfectly familiar and ordinary playing with the children? If so, then the harsh words of the thinker to the Ephesians would be unwelcoming only in appearance, just as the words at the oven had the appearance of a mere, glib invitation, as though [13] the gods let themselves be encountered by just anyone in any disposition.

In what follows we must be attentive to whether, and in what way, the thinking of Heraclitus’s is always determined from out of the nearness to a game, and whether even the to-be-thought of thoughtful thinking is revealed to him to be something like a game.

b) Heraclitus’s word under the protection of Artemis

Both stories regarding Heraclitus show, albeit in varying ways and with varying distinctness, that in the thinking of the thinker a nearness to the gods prevails. If one attended sufficiently to this, one could easily explain it in accordance with the later imaginings of metaphysics through the suggestion that, precisely in thoughtful thinking, where the entirety of the world will be presented, the universal world-ground— i.e., the godly in a broad and undetermined sense—would also necessarily be represented. One can also easily prove how, in all metaphysics from Plato to Nietzsche, a theological moment predominates, because of the fact that ‘the godly’ is thought therein as the universal world-cause. Herein also lies the ground for a far-reaching process within the history of the Occident: namely, the reciprocal relation between metaphysics and Christianity.

By contrast, we would do well, already at the beginning of this lecture course, to keep all theological interpretations—and thereby also the opinion that philosophy,

12    The Inception of Occidental Thinking

Heraclitus (GA 55) by Martin Heidegger