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Chapter 8

and owns: land, for example, or a house. Rather, a proprietas first and foremost is a quality that belongs to a thing, a special property or characteristic that is appropriate to that thing and makes it be what it is, as in the philosophical sense of the “properties” of something.12 Heidegger’s meaning of Er-eignis/ap-propri-ation is less about “owning” something and more about bringing something ad proprium, into its own proper state such that it comes into its own, into its proprietas as the essential “something” that it is. In Heidegger’s specific sense of bringing-into-its-own, Ereignis means that ex-sistence has always already been brought into its own as the thrown-open clearing, and “occurs” precisely as that.13 In another formulation, appropriation is the “opening of the clearing” as an always-already operative fact.14

Right at the start, the ordinary everyday German meaning of Ereignis presents a problem. So, Heidegger’s objections notwithstanding, let us ask: Is appropriation an event? Is it a unique moment in a temporal continuum, with a before and an after? Does it happen at a certain distinguishable time, so that we can say “Now it is in effect, whereas before it was not”? No, appropriation is much more than an event: it is a fact, that which is always already done (factum) and thus always already operative.15 And what is more, it is the fact, “the thing itself,” without which there are no other facts, events, or happenings in the human realm.16 This ur-fact both determines ex-sistence and is coterminous with it without being supervenient to or separable from it.

Thus when Heidegger allows himself to say that ap-propri-ation (Er-eign-ung) determines man as the Eigentum (usually “property”) of the clearing, what he means is that human being, in its essence, has always already been brought into its “own” as the open space for meaningfulness. And as ever open, it “sustains” (aussteht) the clearing. We must be more careful than Heidegger himself was to avoid the reifying language that presents Ereignis or Sein selbst or Seyn



12. Oxford Latin Dictionary, 1495 b and c, s.v. “proprietās.” See also The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “properties”: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/properties/.
13. GA 65: 262.2–3 = 206.10–11: “die Gründung der Wahrheit des Seins im Dasein.” That is: as appropriated, ex-sistence comes into its own as the groundless ground of the opened clearing. See ibid. 293.4–5 = 231.4–5: “[N]ur auf dem Grunde des Da-seins kommt das Seyn zur Wahrheit.” Also ibid. 294.9 = 232.9.
14. GA 49: 41.26, GA 4: 56.27 = 79.12, etc.: “Lichten der Lichtung.” This is also the meaning of Austrag (“drawing out”): GA 66: 84.33–34 = 70.37–38: “Der Austrag meint . . . Eröffnung, Lichten der Lichtung—Er-eignis als Austrag.”
15. Appropriation is “das Unzugangbare,” the inaccessible fact to which “wir Sterbliche / anfänglich ge-eignet sind”: GA 13: 242.7–9. It is always already operative: GA 11: 20.23–26 = 73.10–14. Appropriation is that which “eh wir waren, schon bei uns gewesen und deshalb in der Rückkehr auf uns zukommt und unser Wesen in diese Zukunft ruft”: “Der Weg,” 26.5–7.
16. See GA 26: 270.10 = 209.7, where the unfolding of the clearing (“die Zeitigung der Zeitlichkeit”) is not a “temporal” event but the always already operative “Urfaktum.”


Thomas Sheehan - Making Sense of Heidegger