on its own terms in publications, however far it has come in the meantime, but rather have always only presented it in such a way that, provisionally, I wanted to make my thinking understandable in terms of the tradition.”2 It behooves us then to take up Heidegger’s thinking “on its own terms.”

The following work consequently focuses on the most distinguishing feature of the “Thing” lecture—the fourfold—and attempts to do so “on its own terms.” So much confusion and befuddlement has attended Heidegger’s thinking of the fourfold that his basic insights into the thing have largely gone unheeded. Too often commentators have taken flight from the perplexity of thinking through the fourfold in Heidegger’s work by assimilating it to some outside framework or set of concerns, be they Platonic, Aristotelian, Ancient Greek more generally, Native American, Chinese, Hölderlinian, or a recasting of Heidegger’s own Being and Time. But even when this is not the case, commentary has not remained very close to the actual wording of Heidegger’s text.3 In making my case for the fourfold’s central place in a Heideggerian thinking of relationality, my intention is to take Heidegger at his word and follow the presentation of the fourfold as given in “The Thing” lecture of 1949, as well as the complementary presentation in the lecture “Building Dwelling Thinking” from 1951.4 The following chapters devoted to the fourfold thus examine these initial depictions on a word-for-word basis. Instead of explaining away the fourfold, I endeavor to trace out the importance of each term used in these presentations, following their resonances throughout the surrounding texts. Broadly speaking, then, the chapters devoted to the fourfold stake out and survey the terrain of Heidegger’s later concerns out from this epicenter of the fourfold. In so doing, I develop a conception of mediation and relationality as operative across Heidegger’s thinking of the thing. While such an approach may not grant us comprehensive coverage of Heidegger’s later thought, it does allow us an ordered approach to the bulk of his motivating concerns of the period and a point of conceptual purchase for reading the later Heidegger.

What I hope to show through such an exegesis of the fourfold is that Heidegger’s thinking taken “on its own terms” is ultimately a thinking of finitude. Obviously, this is no startling claim, but the fourfold pushes the consequences of finitude to their extreme. To think the finitude of a thing is to think it as limited, but for Heidegger this limitation is to be thought positively. To think the finite is to think the limitation of a thing as the surface of its exposure to the world beyond it. The limit of a thing is its interface with that beyond. But this means that to be finite is to extend past oneself and enter into a multiplicity of relations. Finitude is a kind of relational “radiance,” we might say. By thinking finitude in this “ecstatic” way, we make the relation to a beyond essential to what the

2 Letter to Dieter Sinn of August 24, 1964, cited in Sinn, Ereignis und Nirwana, 172, em. I am grateful to Richard Polt for drawing my attention to this reference. For Heidegger’s thinking of the thing “in terms of the tradition,” see my “A Brief History of Things: Heidegger and the Tradition.” The Sinn letter also has the potential to shed some light on a perplexing claim from the 1951 seminar in Zürich. Here Heidegger is asked why his own thought is so bound up with the interpretation of texts. He replies that “an essential part of this arises from an embarrassment: because I am apprehensive to say directly what I could perhaps still say; for this reason I eschew this, because in today’s age it would be immediately commonplace and thereby distorted. It is to a certain extent a defensive measure. In my 30-35 years of teaching, I have only once or twice spoken of my own concerns [Sachen]” (GA 15: 426, em). It is my contention in the following that Heidegger’s “own concerns” here are those of the fourfold and the thing. This is at least in accordance with the claims of the 1964 letter just cited.

3 In considering the secondary materials addressing the fourfold and the thing in Heidegger’s thinking, we should recall the hesitation of William J. Richardson, who remarks in addressing the fourfold (or “quadrate” as his text would have it) that “we do not feel obliged to solve the problem (if it can be solved)” (Richardson, Heidegger, 570). Richardson ultimately proposes taking earth and sky together as “nature,” and reading this alongside the divinities and mortals as a recasting “of the trilogy that characterized classical metaphysics: God, man, ‘world’” (Richardson, Heidegger, 572). The hesitation persists in regards to contemporary scholarship on the fourfold, insofar as discussions of it have been few and neither extended nor comprehensive. Of the discussions that do exist, Julian Young has an entry on “The Fourfold” in The Cambridge Companion to Heidegger. Young endeavors to understand the fourfold as ultimately offering an opposition between nature and culture as the crux of human dwelling. While the role of nature is surely an important one in the fourfold, construing the relation between divinities and mortals in terms of “culture” is quite limiting given the richness of Heidegger’s account. Indeed, in “Sky and Earth as Invariants of the Natural Life-world,” Klaus Held notes that “this polarity [of sky and earth] belongs to the invariants of the human life-world, but one would understand it in a falsely naturalistic way, if one opposed it to culture as a work of human freedom” (Held, “Sky and Earth,” 22). This is a danger for all who write on these matters. Young also tends to read the fourfold in terms of Being and Time. My tendency runs in the opposite direction, to let the fourfold be as radical and original a thought as possible, and this on its own terms. Perhaps the person who has said the most about the fourfold (though still not a great deal) is Graham Harman, who first takes up the notion in his book Tool-Being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects. Harman views the fourfold as a tension between concealment and revelation, on the one hand, and specificity and generality, on the other. This is a reading that is by his own admission not concerned with textual fidelity to Heidegger so much as promoting his own object-oriented philosophy. In his subsequent book, Heidegger Explained, where the goal is at least titularly one of explanation, Harman nonetheless repeats the same reading. Apart from how this construal functions in Harman’s own philosophy, it lacks the specificity requisite for a full-fledged interpretation of the fourfold as I hope to provide in the pages that follow. Another author who has worked on the thematic of the fourfold is Jean-François Mattéi, author of “The Heideggerian Chiasmus” in Janicaud and Mattéi, Heidegger: From Metaphysics to Thought. In this text, Mattéi reads Heidegger as a thinker of chiasmic relation, one formulation of which is that of the fourfold. The focus is thus not on the fourfold as such but rather on a chiasmic structure that expresses itself throughout Heidegger’s work as a whole. This creative interpretation is continued in Mattéi’s subsequent book, Heidegger et Hölderlin: Le Quadriparti, which is not so much an interpretation of the fourfold as a creative conception of the political underpinnings of Heidegger’s readings of Hölderlin and the question of a homeland (the fourfold is an instance of a “crossroads”). For both Harman and Mattéi, then, the agenda is not one of exegesis, but creative appropriation. My work attempts to show the creative dimension of Heidegger’s own thought through strict interpretation and close reading of the texts themselves. While some of our sources are the same, my agenda is far more restricted.

4 While “The Thing” and “Building Dwelling Thinking” present the fourfold at its fullest and will serve as the guides for the interpretations that follow, two other early contextualizations of the fourfold are to be noted and will be drawn upon opportunely as the interpretations proceed: the lecture “Language” of 1950 and the letter to Ernst Jünger, “The Question of Being,” from 1955. These four texts provide the fullest sense of how Heidegger conceives the fourfold.

Andrew J. Mitchell - The Fourfold

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