THE AGE OF THE WORLD PICTURE


being and its truth, is founded. Man becomes the referential center of beings as such. But this is only possible when there is a transformation in the understanding of beings as a whole. In what does this transformation manifest itself? What, in accordance with it, is the essence of modernity?

When we reflect on the modern age, we inquire after the modern world picture. We characterize this by contrasting it with the world picture of the Middle Ages and of antiquity. But why is it that, in interpreting a historical age, we inquire into its world picture? Does every historical epoch have its world picture — have it in such a way, indeed, so as, from time to time, to concern itself about that picture? Or is it only a modern kind of representing that inquires into a world picture?

What is it — a "world picture"? Obviously, a picture of the world. But what is a world? What does "picture" mean here? "World" serves, here, as a name for beings in their entirety. The term is not confined to the cosmos, to nature. History, too, belongs to world. But even nature and history — interpenetrating in their suffusion and exceeding of each other — do not exhaust world. Under this term we also include the world-ground, no matter how its relation to world is thought (Appendix 5).

Initially, the word "picture" makes one think of a copy of something. This would make the world picture, as it were, a painting of beings as a whole. But "world picture" means more than this. We mean by it the world itself; the totality of beings taken, as it is for us, as standard-giving and obligating. "Picture" means, here, not a mere imitation, but rather that which sounds in the colloquial expression to be "in the picture" about something. This means: the matter itself stands in the way it stands to us, before us. lo "put oneself in the picture" about something means: to place the being itself before one just as things are with it, and, as so placed, to keep it permanently before one. But a decisive condition in the essence of the picture is still missing. That we are "in the picture" about something means not just that the being is placed before, represented by, us. It means, rather, that it stands before us together with what belongs to and stands together with it as a system. To be "in the picture" resonates with: being well informed, being equipped and prepared. Where the world becomes picture, beings as a whole are set in place as that for which man is prepared; that which, therefore, he correspondingly intends to bring before him, have before him, and, thereby, in a decisive sense, place before him (Appendix 6). Understood in an essential way, "world picture" docs not mean "picture of the world" but, rather, the world grasped as picture. Beings as a whole are now taken in such a way that a being is first and only in being insofar as it is set in place


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Off the Beaten Track (GA 5) by Martin Heidegger