7
A DIALOGUE ON LANGUAGE

I: It did stay there even in the course you mentioned, of 1921. The same held true also of the question of poetry, and of art. In those days of expressionism, these realms were constantly before me-but even more, and already since my student days before the First World War, was the poetic work. of Hölderlin and Trakl. And still earlier, during my last year in the Gymnasium—to give a date, in the summer of 1907—I came up against the question of Being, in the dissertation of Husserl's teacher Franz Brentano. Its title is "On the manifold meaning of being according to Aristotle"; it dates from 1861. The book. came to me as a gift from my fatherly friend and fellow Swabian, Dr. Conrad Gröber, later to become archbishop of Freiburg. Then he was vicar of Trinity Church in Constance.

J: Do you still have the book?

I: Here it is for you to look at, and to read the inscription which runs: "My lint guide through Greek. philosophy in my Gymnasium days." I am telling you all this, but not in order to give the impression that I already knew then everything that I am still asking today. But perhaps there is confirmation here for you—who as professor of German literature love and know Hölderlin's work particularly well—of a phrase of that poet which begins in the fourth stanza of the hymn "The Rhine": "... For as you began. so you will remain."

J: The quest of language and of Being is perhaps a gift of that light ray which fell on you.

I: Who would have the audacity to claim that such a gift has come to him? I only know one thing: because reflection on language, and on Being, has determined my path of thinking from early on, therefore their discussion has stayed as far as possible in the background. The fundamental flaw of the book Being and Time is perhaps that I ventured forth too far too early.


Martin Heidegger (GA 12) On the Way to Language