not ‘nature’ in the sense of the lawfulness of what appears and the unity of what appears in its objectivity. On the contrary, in order even to think φύσις in a remotely adequate way, we must exhort ourselves to experience everything with an eye toward the extending, occluding self-opening in such a way that everything pervaded by φύσις weaves and unfolds in such relations.


By virtue of being conditioned by Roman and Latin thought, predicated as it is on nouns and the relations between them, and also by virtue of being conditioned by modern scientific thought, predicated as it is on objective, functional relations, we today are virtually excluded from the possibility of thinking-after being inceptually, and that means thinking it in the sense of φύσις in the manner that the Greeks did. Moreover, even Goethe’s view of nature is of no help to us here. Though such a view is in some ways in contrast to the mathematical and physical objectification of nature in the manner of Galileo and Newton, it is nevertheless thoroughly grounded in the modern metaphysics founded by Descartes and, above all, Leibniz, and thus remains separated by a chasm [300] from inceptual, Greek thinking. The decisive justification for these sentences, by means of which we distinguish the essence of φύσις from all later thought and the concepts of nature developing from it, can surely only be provided if we show to what extent the essence of truth, under whose law the thinking of φύσις stands, is fundamentally different from that particular essence of truth that determines metaphysics and the metaphysical views of nature. According to its originary meaning, φύσις is not at all the name for nature in distinction to history: rather, it means the being of beings, but not from the later perspective that interprets all beings naturally, or even biologically.

However, what has been said about the inceptual name φύσις also applies to the word ζωή, which we translate as “life.” Accordingly, what is alive also has the characteristic of emerging and arising-from-out-of-itself at one with the corresponding and oppositional characteristics of withdrawing-back-into-itself and self-occluding. Similarly, the word ζωή has the same breadth of meaning as φύσις, such that ζωή also can become the name for being. However, we are here asking about the essence of ψυχή. Previously, we said: to think ψυχή in a Greek way means to think its essence from out of its belongingness to ζωή and φύσις.

But what do we encounter as the main characteristic of ψυχή according to the meaning of the word? The word means puff, breath, the breath of life. Is it merely a coincidence that, when the soul slips away, we say that the breath of life has expired and the light of life has been extinguished? Why is it that we consider both ‘breath’ and ‘light’ as having the same relation to the fundamental characteristic of the living thing? Light is the lightening—it is that which lightens and opens, and which, as the bright, holds open. Breath, grasped broadly and properly enough as not being limited to air, is the drawing-in and drawing-out, the emerging into the open and the pulling back in of the open. In fact, if we think of air as ether, then ‘air’ and ‘light’ coincide. However, for our belated thinking they only coincide [301] because they are one in their concealed essence: they are one and the same with ‘life’ and φύσις .


226    Logic: Heraclitus’s Doctrine of the Logos


Heraclitus (GA 55) by Martin Heidegger