§15 Explication of the essence of πόλις [107-109]

turning. To tower into the heights of one's own essential space and thus govern that space, yet simultaneously to plunge downward into its depths and be lost in that space. Uncanniness does not first ensue as a consequence of this twofold possibility. Instead, the veiled ground of the unity of this twofoldness prevails within the uncanny, a ground worthy of question, and one from out of which this twofoldness has its power to carry that carries humans high into the extraordinary and to tear them away into violent activity. Because human beings must let prevail—in accordance with its most extreme counterturning character in its historical being—that uncanniness that appears and simultaneously veils itself within the πόλις, they are the most uncanny beings. And being unhomely itself? It stands in an essential bond with the πόλις, that is, with the site of abode of human beings as historical in the midst of beings. This too the poet says clearly enough. Those who lose the essential site of their history, that is, whatever is fitting in all destiny, in towering high above that site, are in such a way only because nonbeings can be in being for them. This entails that the relation of human beings to beings bears within it the possibility of this reversal of a possibility, something that presumably has its origin in the being of beings in general. Human beings are placed into the site of their historical abode, into the πόλις, because they and they alone comport themselves toward beings as beings, toward beings in their unconcealment and concealing, and can be mistaken within the being of beings, and at times, that is, continually within the most extreme realms of this site, must be mistaken within being, so that they take nonbeings to be beings and beings to be nonbeings.

a) The meaning of καλόν and τόλμα

What we here in translation term "nonbeings" is called τὸ μὴ καλόν by Sophocles. If we translate "literally," we have to say "the un-beautiful." Genuine translation according to the letter, however, in no way amounts to substituting the "same" words in different languages but in finding a transition into the corresponding word. τὸ καλόν means the beautiful. Yet What is the beautiful? What is meant by the Greek καλόν? Here again we are too misled by the modern interpretation of the beautiful, that is, by the aesthetic conception of the beautiful that relates the beautiful to consciousness and to "enjoyment," for us to immediately grasp that realm that is intended by the so-called "beautiful" in the sense of the Greek καλόν. Even Plato equates τὸ καλόν with τὸ ἀγαθόν, which we call the "good," and he names both in the meaning of ἀληθές, which we translate as "the true." Yet when we speak of the "true," the "good," and the "beautiful," we move, whether knowingly or not, within the realm of modern, enlightenment.

Hölderlin’s Hymn “The Ister” (GA 53) by Martin Heidegger