often open to interpretation. All speaking, all call and response, are translation. Therefore, the essence of translating does not consist in two different languages entering into a dialogue. We Germans, for example, must each time translate Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason in order to understand it. Such translation does not entail degrading the sophisticated language of the work down to the level of everyday speech: rather, it means trans porting the thinking of this work into a thinking and saying that engages and confronts it. By this process it occasionally appears, strangely, that the interpreter ‘actually’ understands the thinker ‘better’ than the thinker understood himself. For the empty vanity of the ‘heady’ pendants, this appearance is dangerous: for they conclude from this that, in this case, Kant himself did not quite know what he himself wanted, but that now the subsequent interpreters know it precisely. However, the fact that a thinker may be ‘better’ understood than he understood himself, is surely not a deficit that may be attributed to him retroactively; rather, it is a sign of his greatness. [64] For only originary thinking harbors that treasure within itself the pondering of which remains forever inexhaustible, and which can be ‘better’ understood each time it is pondered (i.e., can be understood as other than what the words only apparently mean). Mediocre thinking, by contrast, contains only the easily intelligible, and possesses nothing that continually compels toward a more originary understanding and interpretation. Moreover, mediocre thinking cannot call forth those epochs that are compelled once again to recognize and translate what is taken to be familiar.

(That is why thinkers, and only thinkers, have the experience that they one day come to understand themselves better in light of what they have already thought, in such a way that the entire edifice of their earlier thought suddenly collapses, even though they always think the same. But this ‘same’ is not the boring emptiness of the identical, which is only a semblance of the same. There are those, however, who do not know of the restiveness of the same, and who are proud of the fact that they, at seventy, still think the same as what they already thought and knew as high school students.)

Only what is truly thought has the good fortune of being continually ‘better’ understood than it first was. This superior understanding, however, is never due to the merit of the interpreter, but is rather a gift bestowed by what is interpreted.


2) ‘Submerging’—thought in a Greek way—and the question concerning the essence of the word


We will now attempt, from the outside and with insuffi cient preparation, to dissect the saying of Heraclitus’s in a crude way. In this saying there is talk of the “never


50    The Inception of Occidental Thinking


Heraclitus (GA 55) by Martin Heidegger