the chatter], his conversational tone that is as lively as it is cultured and humane.” Given such an assessment of Plato’s language and, more importantly, given the opinion that the thinkers before Plato must only be construed in terms of this and only by means of it, and thus taken only as ‘pre-Platonic’ and preliminary thinkers, is it then any wonder that Hegel finds in Heraclitus “unrefined language” and “the careless combining of words”? We think about the thinking and the language of the inceptual thinkers differently now, in the same way that one now judges the ‘archaic style’ of Greek art differently than classical art history did, whereby it may remain undecided whether or not the now customary interpretation of the ‘archaic’ is in agreement with the Greek world. ‘Archaic’ comes from the word ἀρχή, which means ‘inception.’ Without knowledge of the inception, the interpretation of ‘archaic art’ no doubt fumbles in the dark. Furthermore, we should not measure the inceptual language of the Greek thinker by means of the yardstick of subsequent Hellenistic grammar.
Three thinkers approach us from out of the realm of Occidental thinking: Anaximander, Parmenides, and Heraclitus. In the present lectures, we are attempting to become attentive to the word of Heraclitus’s. At the outset of this attempt, it may be prudent to experience straightaway the atmosphere in which the word of Heraclitus’s was said. Because Heraclitus is a thinker, the air that envelopes him is the crisp and cool air of thoughtful thinking, which is itself a daring deed. Two ‘stories’ concerning Heraclitus should help bring it about that perhaps, from time to time, we feel the draft of this air, if only from out of the farthest distance.
The first of these two stories reads, in translation:
Regarding Heraclitus the following (story) is recounted: namely, that he spoke to the visitors who wanted to approach him. Coming closer, they saw him as he warmed himself at an oven. They remained standing there. He bid the surprised ones to have courage and come in, with the words: “Here, too, the gods are present.”
The other story reads:
18 The Inception of Occidental Thinking