The essence of what is today called science is research. In what does the essence of research consist?

It consists in the fact that knowing establishes itself as a procedure within· some realm of beings in nature or history. Procedure, here, does not just mean methodology, how things are done. For every procedure requires, in advance, an open region within which it operates. But precisely the opening up of such a region constitutes the fundamental occurrence in research. This is accomplished through the projection, within some region of (for example, natural) beings, of a ground-plan [Grundriss] of natural processes. Such a projection maps out in advance the way in which the procedure of knowing is to bind itself to the region that is opened up. This commitment [Bindung] is the rigor of research. Through the projection of the ground-plan and the prescribing of rigor, procedure secures for itself, within the realm of being, its sphere of objects. A glance at mathematical physics — the earliest of modern sciences which is, at the same time, nonnative for the rest — will make clear what we mean. Insofar as modern atomic physics still remains physics, what is essential — which is all that concerns us here — will be true of it as well.

Modern physics is called "mathematical" because it makes use, in a remarkable way, of a quite specific kind of mathematics. But it is only able to proceed mathematically because, in a deeper sense, it is already mathematical. Τὰ μαθήματα means, in Greek, that which, in his observation of beings and interaction with things, man knows in advance: the corporeality of bodies, the vegetable character of plants, the animality of animals, the humanness of human beings. Along with these, belonging to the already-known, i.e., "mathematical," are the numbers. When we discover three apples on the table we recognize that there are three of them. But the number is something "mathematical." Only because numbers represent, so to speak, the most striking of the always-already-known, and therefore the best-known instances of the mathematical, is "the mathematical" directly reserved as a name for the numerical. The essence of the mathematical, however, is in no way defined in terms of the numerical. Physics is, in general, knowledge of nature. In particular, it is knowledge of material corporeality in motion; for corporeality manifests itself immediately and universally — albeit in different ways — in all natural things. When, therefore, physics assumes an explicitly "mathematical" form, what this means is the following: that through and for it, in an emphatic way, something is specified in advance as that which is already known. This specification concerns nothing less than


Off the Beaten Track (GA 5) by Martin Heidegger