discussed 1929–30 lecture course The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude.

While this lecture course is certainly Heidegger’s most thoroughgoing discussion of these matters in all his work, even to the point of engaging with contemporary scientific findings, this does not warrant its adoption as Heidegger’s final view on the organism or the animal, despite increasing tendencies to the contrary. The course is representative of a period that Heidegger will leave behind in the half century of creative work before him. To call to mind exactly how early this course is, let us merely note that at this time Heidegger is not yet critical of “metaphysics” as opposed to philosophy; much less has he given up philosophy in the name of “thinking.” In fact, Heidegger even still considers himself a metaphysician (this is the year of the lecture “What Is Metaphysics?”). At the time of this course there is no thinking of the earth, no Contributions to Philosophy and its thought of withdrawal, no “On the Essence of Truth” with its reflections on untruth and errancy, no worry about planetary technology, no National Socialism or rectorship, and no glimmer of the importance of Hölderlin or poetry in general. While Heidegger’s later remarks on stones, waters, plants, and animals are nowhere near as extensive as the earlier elaboration, they nonetheless mark decisive shifts away from the thought espoused in that course. Before turning to these particular later occurrences, however, a shift in position is already observable from just the description of the earth within the fourfold.

First, in his presentation of the earth’s role in the fourfold (cited above) Heidegger names stones, waters, plants, and animals as part of the earth. What this means is that these all participate in the fourfold. Insofar as it is the fourfold that is gathered into the things around us, this means that stones and animals, waters and plants, all participate in the thinging of the thing. Insofar as the thinging of the thing is determinative for the worlding of the world, stones and animals, plants and waters, all participate in the worlding of the world. This is already a substantial break with the 1929–30 course’s famed thesis (to be addressed in greater detail in what follows) that the stone would be “worldless,” the animal “poor in world,” and the human “world-forming” (GA 29/30: 272/184). That position is even more stridently reiterated in the 1936 “Origin of the Work of Art” where the claim is that “The stone is world-less. Similarly, plants and animals have no world; they belong rather to the hidden throng of an environment into which they have been put” (GA 5: 31/23). In the fourfold, plants and animals are on par with waters and stones; one is no less constitutive of world than the other. Otherwise put, world building is not a privilege of anyone, not even of the mortals. The mortals are participants in the gathering of the fourfold that things in the

Andrew J. Mitchell - The Fourfold

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