Session 21

November 17, 1933

We closed our first session with the distinction between the formal and material concepts of nature. We did not want to run the risk of talking about such a split and division of nature without clearly knowing the meaning of this word. It is not a coinage of the moment, but stands at the end of a historical sequence.

So what does natura mean? “Getting born.” Birth occurs in the realm of living things; getting born indicates a relation to what is alive. But what about heaven and earth, mountain and valley, which are nature for us just as plants and animals are? What made the word natura capable of undergoing such an extension of its reference that today we can encompass as nature not only what gets born, but what does not get born?

The Latin word gives us no solution. It is not the beginning of the Western conception of nature. Before it there stands the Greek word φύσις, growth. What does that mean? Does it get us any further?

Both the Latin “getting born” and the Greek “growth” indicate a process. What is going on when something grows? A development, we think, since something is getting bigger. But how so? Getting bigger is not the essence of development. Maybe something is altering in growth. How does alteration happen? When the light goes out in the classroom, has it altered? No, a change has taken place. So what is that? Does the chalk lit by the light change if, losing its whiteness, it turns blue? No, it is altered, because its color has become—other.

We have not yet experienced whether, in growth, there is alteration or change, development or becoming other. But the processes that we [60] believe we see in growth are ultimately motions. So growth, too, is ultimately a motion. This cannot be some arbitrary motion. There must be something