of the stone “is constitutive of the stone in the sense that the stone cannot even be deprived of something like world” (GA 29/30: 289/196). This deprivation or foregoing of world will be the purview of the animal. The stone on the contrary has no access to world and is worldless: “The worldlessness of a being can now be defined as its having no access to those beings (as beings) amongst which this particular being with this specific manner of being is. . . . [H]aving no access is precisely what makes possible its specific kind of being, i.e. the realm of being of physical and material nature and the laws governing it” (GA 29/30: 290–91/197). According to Heidegger, all of nature (material being) is without access to the rest of nature. The stone has no access to the river, the river no access to the stone. Ultimately, the being of nature is simple presence at hand, as Heidegger says regarding the stone: “It is—but is essentially without access to those beings amongst which it is in its own way (presence at hand), and this belongs to its being” (GA 29/30: 290/197). The stone is locked within itself.

The closure of the stone is such that it does not even touch anything, as this would require a moment of access. The fact of a stone lying on the ground is not taken to show that stones can touch, but instead a presumed inability of a stone to touch is used to interpret the stone that lies on the ground: “The stone is lying on the path, for example. We can say that the stone is exerting a certain pressure upon the surface of the earth. It is ‘touching’ the earth. But what we call ‘touching’ here is not a form of touching at all in the stronger sense of the word” (GA 29/30: 290/196). The stone does not even touch the earth, it does not have any access to the earth at all; “it lies upon the earth but does not touch it. The earth is not given for the stone as an underlying support which bears it, let alone given as earth” (GA 29/30: 290/197). The closure of the stone is complete: “In each case according to circumstance the stone crops up here or there, amongst and amidst a host of other things, but always in such a way that everything present around it remains essentially inaccessible to the stone itself” (GA 29/30: 290/197). The stone is thus paradigmatic of self-enclosed presence-at-hand.

Stone returns in one of the first discussions of the fourfold, the lecture “Language” of 1950, devoted to the work of the poet Georg Trakl, as well as in the 1953 Trakl interpretation “Language in the Poem.” Here, the thought that stone would have no access to the world around it is completely abandoned. Instead, stone is now the figure of transition par excellence, the threshold. Heidegger will take this understanding of stone so far as to see in stone a mediation of one of the fundamental antagonisms of metaphysics, that of the sensible and super-sensible.

Andrew J. Mitchell - The Fourfold

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