than twenty years later, Heidegger will return to the image of the Theaetetus, this time not to caution us against a fall, but rather to provoke one: “Mortal thinking must let itself down into the dark depths of the well if it is to see the stars by day” (GA 79: 93/89). The modesty that forswears independent integrity falls upon an entry into mediation, a vision of the inapparent stars by day.
Apart from the ridicule of the servant girls, this modesty can be found in the fourfold, too, where no one component can be isolated from the others, not even in our thinking. In the inaugural depictions of the fourfold, the presentation of each member ends with something of a refrain addressing this interrelation. Taking the earth as representative, in the lecture version of “The Thing” from December 1949, we hear that “when we say earth then we already think, in case we are thinking, the other three along with it from the single fold [Einfalt] of the fourfold” (GA 79: 17/16). By the time of its publication, however, this has changed to read “when we say earth, then we already think the other three along with it from the single fold of the four” (GA 7: 179/PLT 176, tm).1 The lecture voices a worry over whether we are actually thinking (What Is Called Thinking? is only a year and a half away). Presumably, the published version entails that if we talk of the earth in Heidegger’s sense, then we are already demonstrably thinking. By the time of “Building Dwelling Thinking” in 1951, the worry has shifted: “When we say earth then we already think the other three along with it, but we do not yet consider the single fold [Einfalt] of the four” (GA 7: 151/PLT 147, tm). Taken together, we see a concern as to whether or not we are thinking, and even if we are thinking, a concern over whether we are still failing to consider the four in their simple unity. We might think the four members together, but the link between them remains thought-provoking.
Heidegger is explicit in “The Thing” as to how not to understand the interrelation of the four. As he cautions, “the united four are already suffocated in their essence when one represents them only as individuated actualities which are grounded through one another and are to be explained in terms of each other” (GA 79: 19/18). The members of the fourfold are so tied to each other that to think them as separated, even if only to mutually ground them in one another, is to misconstrue their delicate relation. The four are neither groundable nor explicable, insofar as both of these functions presuppose a stable basis upon which the grounding occurs or back to which the explanation leads. Instead, and not surprisingly, Heidegger will speak of the gathering of the fourfold in more active terms as a “fouring” (Vierung), to wit: “The unity of the fourfold is the fouring” (GA 79: 19/18). It is this unity, however, that we must diligently
1 The first appearance of “The Thing” in Gestalt und Gedanke of 1950 is identical on this point to both the Neske single edition of Vorträge und Aufsätze (1954) and its Gesamtausgabe adoption (2000).