essentially: if conventional thinking conceives of beings and only this, and if essential thinking thinks being, and if the difference between being and beings is an essential difference—or, indeed, is the inceptual difference itself—then the rift between conventional thinking and essential thinking has its origin in the difference between being and beings. This means: the relation between common thinking and essential thinking is in no way only a question of the ‘reaction’ of the public to philosophy, nor is it a question of the reaction of philosophy to the public’s reaction. Why do we say all of this during an elucidation of fragment 51? Because in this fragment the relation of essential thinking to common thinking is thought, and because a number of Heraclitus’s fragments that say something about this relation have been handed down to us.4 From the number of sayings alone it is evident that the above-discussed relation between conventional and essential thinking is something that must be thought essentially. What is also shown, through the haphazard scattering of such fragments through their customary sequence and arrangement, is that there is still no knowledge concerning their essential connectedness and the ground upon which such connectedness is based. Fragment 9, which [151] is so-named without regard for its proper content, reads:

ὄνους σύρματ᾽ἂν ἑλέσθαι μᾶλλον ἢ χρυσόν.

Asses may prefer chaff to gold.

The fragments of Heraclitus’s enumerated above require a special elucidation because, up to this point, they have only been misused ‘psychologically’ to ‘illuminate’ the ‘personality’ of Heraclitus, and for characterizing the relation of the philosopher toward the public. In this, one forgets to consider whether perhaps a thinker such as Heraclitus was compelled by other reasons to speak out concerning this relation, just as one forgets to ask what is at stake in the fact that in the inception of Occidental thinking precisely this relation came to the word in unity with the inceptual thought that, in turn, bears all that is to come.

(In modern times one all too eagerly understands the words of Heraclitus’s concerning the understanding of the mob in light of the rantings and ravings that Schopenhauer delivered during the previous century regarding university philosophy and its followers. With Schopenhauer—who was never a thinker, but merely a writer who obtained his thoughts secondhand from Hegel and Schelling and then trivialized them—grumpiness is the principle from which the relation of philosophers to the world is determined.)

Because the disparity between conventional and essential thinking is grounded in what each thinks, and because the disparity between what is thought in each, on

4 Cf. fragments 1, 2, 9, 13, 17, 19, 29, 34, 37, 40, 72, 87, 97, 104, 108.

114    The Inception of Occidental Thinking