The Fundamental Question of Metaphysics • 15

In the age of the first and definitive unfolding of Western philosophy among the Greeks, when questioning about beings as such and as a whole received its true inception, beings were called φύσις. This fundamental Greek word for what is is usually translated as “nature.” We use the Latin translation natura, which really means “to be born,” “birth.” But with this Latin translation, the original content of the Greek word φύσις is already thrust aside, the authentic philosophical naming power of the Greek word is destroyed. This is true not only of the Latin translation of this word, but of all other translations of Greek philosophical language into Roman. This translation of Greek into Roman was not an arbitrary and innocuous process, but was the first stage in the isolation and alienation of the originary essence [11|16] of Greek philosophy. The Roman translation then became definitive for Christianity and the Christian Middle Ages. The Middle Ages trans-lated themselves into modern philosophy, which moves within the conceptual world of the Middle Ages and then creates those familiar representations and conceptual terms that are used even today to understand the inception of Western philosophy. This inception is taken as something that we have left behind long ago and supposedly overcome.

But now we leap over this whole process of deformation and decline, and we seek to win back intact the naming force of language and words; for words and language are not just shells into which things are packed for spoken and written intercourse. In the word, in language, things first come to be and are. For this reason, too, the misuse of language in mere idle talk, in slogans and phrases, destroys our genuine connection to things. Now, what does the word φύσις say? It says what emerges from itself (for example, the emergence, the blossoming, of a rose), the unfolding that opens itself up, the coming-into-appearance in such unfolding, and holding itself and persisting in appearance—in short, the emerging-abiding sway.10


10. See the discussion of Walten in our introduction.


Introduction to Metaphysics, 2nd ed. (GA 40) by Martin Heidegger