§ 3. The inception of the inceptual to-be-thought. Fragment 16

a) Parenthetical remark on the task of translating

With that fragment of Heraclitus’s that we now take as the first in the preliminary succession we are presenting here, thinking would like to arrive at the constitutive core of what is, for thinkers of the inception and therefore for Heraclitus, the inceptual to-be-thought. We place fragment 16 at the ‘inception.’ It says:

τὸ μὴ δῦνόν ποτε πῶς ἄν τις λάθοι;

From the not ever submerging (thing), how may anyone be concealed (from it)?

This and all other translations in what follows should, if possible, be true to the word. ‘True to the word’ means something other than ‘literal.’ In mere literal translations, single words are confronted by almost mechanically lexical counterparts. But mere words are not yet words in the fullest sense. Therefore, when translation seeks to be not only literal, but also true to the word, the words must receive their naming power and their structure from the already presiding fidelity to the unifying word (that is, to the totality of the saying). Nevertheless, every translation remains makeshift. When the stakes are low, a makeshift approach suffices—for example, in the case of translating business paperwork. Here, both sides understand what is at stake, perhaps even too well. In the case [45] of translating the sayings of Heraclitus’s, the stakes are very high indeed. Here translation becomes a kind of trans porting to the other shore, one which is hardly known and lies on the opposite side of a wide river. Such a voyage is easily led


Heraclitus: The Inception of Occidental Thinking


GA 55 p. 44