something about the ‘question of being,’ reads: “The essence of being loves to conceal itself.”

Throughout these translations, φύσις is taken generally as ‘nature,’ and indeed in the sense that we speak of the ‘nature’ of a matter, and thereby mean its essence. Every being has its ‘essence,’ its ‘nature.’ Now, it is well known that the essence of things, their nature, is not always easy to discover. This difficulty may in part be owed to the inability and limitations of human cognition: however, it is owed in greater part to the fact that the essence of things, φύσις, ‘likes to hide,’ so that the human being must struggle to retrieve the essences of things from their hiding place. “The essence of things likes to hide itself.” So Heraclius has already said. Should we attribute such a platitude to the thinker? If we do this, which is effectively what happens through the above-mentioned translations, then we subsequently ‘have’ a saying that conventional thinking could also say. Well, why should we not expect a thinker to at least once utter a statement that abides in the lowlands of conventional thinking? Must everything he says always be spoken from on high?

Did Heraclitus say, “The essence of things likes to hide itself ”? Let us set aside the question of whether or not we should impose upon Heraclitus’s saying such a platitudinous interpretation. Let us ask only this: in terms of the content, could Heraclitus have said anything of the sort? No. For the meaning of φύσις that is now supposed in the translation—namely, φύσις = nature = essence, [122] and this latter in the sense of essentia = οὐσία—is only operative in Greek thinking beginning with Plato.

φύσις κρύπτεσθαι φιλεῖ, translated absolutely literally, means: nature likes to hide itself. This, at least, everybody can understand. Why, then, always engage in these insulting methods, matters, and expressions that nobody understands? Indeed, why engage in such insulting things, ladies and gentlemen, when everything is just fine and dandy and has been for decades and even longer? How is everything fine? In that we simply demand that what is said must at all costs be such that ‘we’ understand it straightaway. In the face of all of this, I ask: where, really, is the insult? Does it consist in the fact that it is expected of us to take the essential seriously, or rather in the fact that we demand that everything should be familiar to us as we find ourselves off the beaten path before the saying of the thinker? ‘We’—who are we, anyway? How does it come about that ‘we’ have taken control of history, and even the inception of the essential fate of our history? How does it come about that we make use of this history only as though it is ours? Is it because we are the latecomers who, precisely because of coming late, can look back historiographically at everything and claim that the history is ours, that we have it at our command, and place in it our claims regarding what is allowed to be intelligible and what ‘we’ hold as unintelligible? I ask again: where is the insult? Does one not see here the insult that lies at the core of the arrogance of the historiographical outlook? Does one not see here the destruction and ‘nihilism’ that lie in the ever-so-reasonable demand to speak about things ‘as simply as possible’ so that everyone understands

The exposition of emerging and submerging    91