Science and Reflection

Our old high German word wara (whence wahr, wahren, and Wahrheit)17 goes back to the same stem as the Greek ὁράω, ὤρα, ορα.

The essence of theory as thought by the Greeks, which is ambiguous and from every perspective high and lofty, remains buried when today we speak of the theory of relativity in physics, of the theory of evolution in biology, of the cyclical theory in history, of the natural rights theory in jurisprudence. Nonetheless, within "theory," understood in the modern way, there yet steals the shadow of the early θεωρία. The former lives out of the latter, and indeed not only in the outwardly identifiable sense of historical dependency. What is taking place here will become clearer when now we ask this question : In distinction from the early θεωρία, what is "the theory" that is named in the statement "Modern science is the theory of the real"?

We shall answer with the necessary brevity, since we shall choose an ostensibly superficial way. Let us take careful note how the Greek words θεωρεῖν and θεωρία are translated into the Latin and the German languages. Deliberately we say "words" [die Worte] and not "terms" [die Wörter] , in order to emphasize that, each time, in the coming to presence and holding-sway of language, it is a destining that decides.

The Romans translate θεωρεῖν by contemplari, θεωρία by cantemplatio. This translation, which issues from the spirit of the Roman language, that is, from Roman existence, makes that which is essential in what the Greek words say vanish at a stroke. For contemplari means : to partition something off into a separate sector and enclose it therein. Templum is the Greek τέμενος, which has its origin in an entirely different experience from that out of which θεωρεῖν originates. Τέμνεΐν means: to cut, to divide. The uncuttable is the ἄτμητον, ἄ- χομον, atom.

The Latin templum means originally a sector carved out in the heavens and on the earth, the cardinal point, the region of the heavens marked out by the path of the sun. It is within the region that diviners make their observations in order to determine the future from the flight, cries, and eating habits of birds.

17. This passage makes clear how these words wahr (true), wahren (to keep safe, preserve), Wahrheit (truth) all bear, in Heidegger's mind, fundamental connotations of manifesting and watchful safeguarding. Cf. T 42 n. 9.