The way in which entities as a whole are manifest, and the way in which human beings are allowed to stand within this manifestation, is grounded and transformed in such a decision. Such an Ereignis is rare, and the rare history, when it occurs [ereignet sich] and is prepared, is so simple that the human being at first and for a long time overlooks and misjudges it, because his view is disturbed by the habituation to the great diversity of the ordinary. (GA51:21)

A historical Ereignis thus alters the space of possibilities for events, but it is not itself an event.3 It is not a causal process, and it doesn’t change the objective features or conditions of entities: “Ereignis effectuates nothing” (GA70:76).

A significant problem with translating Ereignis as “event,” then, is that this translation invites the misapprehension that it is some species of ordinary causal change, or some transformation in the properties of entities. “Er-eignis,” Heidegger explains, “is essentially richer than any conceivable plenitude of events [Begebenheit]” (GA70:17). Indeed, he elaborates, “the very question ‘what happens in Ereignis itself?’ falls short of the essence of Ereignis” (GA70:17). That is, to try to imagine Ereignis as if it is an event or consists of events is to miss the point. Such happenings “remain infinitely distinct from the Er-eignis itself” (GA70:17). Ereignis itself is not an ontic occurrence, a change in material conditions, or some causal affair running its course; it is instead an ontological process “in which first and alone any entity whatsoever can arise into its being out of itself ” (GA70:17–18).

But this points to a second problem with translating Ereignis as “event.” This translation tells us nothing about the type of process involved in Ereignis. For that, we need to look to other candidates for a translation of the term.

§2.2 Ereignis as Coming into View

A very important strand of signification for Heidegger’s account of Ereignis is found in its relationship to words having to do with vision or manifestation. As Heidegger himself repeatedly pointed out, and as the Deutsches Wörterbuch confirms, the root eignen in Ereignis is a corruption of eugen or äugen, verbs formed around the root word ouga or Auge: “eye.” As Thomas Sheehan explains, “er-öugen and er-äugen, as well as the obsolete High German verb er-eigen, all . . . mean ‘to place before the eyes, to show’” (Sheehan 2015, 231–32). Grimms’ dictionary notes that the earliest meaning of ereigen sich is “to show oneself,” or “to reveal oneself” as such and such a thing, and only in a derivative sense “to happen or occur.”4 Heidegger’s occasional reliance on this aspect of the etymology leads Sheehan at one point to propose “coming into view” as a translation for Ereignis, and Sheehan equates Ereignis with “the opening of the open on the basis of a concealment” (Sheehan 2001, 198). There is something clearly right about emphasizing the connection between Ereignis and becoming manifest. “Ereignis,” Heidegger notes, “is a bringing to sight that makes apt” (GA11:121/QCT 45). In and through Ereignis, relationships, meanings, and possibilities come into view that are suited to the situation, thus at times altering the essential structure of the things and situations we encounter.5

See also: “History is not a sequence of any occurrences [Vorgängen] and events [Begebenheiten]. History is the settlement of the essence of truth, but this settlement itself has the character of an Ereignis, and this is beyng” (GA70:44).

Ereigen,” Grimm and Grimm 1862, 784.

Oddly enough, no one has adopted “coming into view” as a translation for Ereignis, even though it is nearer to the mark than “event,” “enownment,” or “appropriation.” Even Sheehan lapses back into translating it as “appropriation” (Sheehan 2015, 234).

The Cambridge Heidegger Lexicon