a different ground than the Greek one. And, contrary to what he will argue later, this different ground was not “foreign soil.”
We have seen that an early interest in theological questions could have incited Heidegger to cast a critical gaze upon Greek ontology. The impetus thus given, he will devote his work to “deepening” the question of Being—all the way to renewing entirely the way it was worked out. One of the principal foci of this renewal consists in underscoring a difference: Being is not constant presence, and still less a supreme being. Being—properly speaking—”is” not; it is not an entity. What then is it? The first step toward answering such a question consists in saying: with and within the entity is divulged, in some way, the Other of all entities, this other that is Nothing—a nothing [cet autre qui n’est Rien—un néant]. It is only when man passes beyond the entity in its entirety, to withdraw into the inside of this nothing, understood as active nihilation, that he can relate to the entity.70 Thus, nothing appears, in the years surrounding Being and Time, as the condition for the revelation of beings. Far from being reduced to a pure negation, nothingness gets referred to the “Being of beings,”71 although the nature of this reference is not yet clearly established.
Later, that which the 1929 lecture was still calling Nothing [Nichts], albeit sensing already its quality of plenitude [caractère de plénitude], will be recognized not only as participating somehow in Being, but also as constituting its proper mode of unfolding, that is, its very essence: “That which is never a being discloses itself as that which distinguishes itself from all beings and which we are calling Being.”72 And it is this “nothing that is not nothing” that, still later, Heidegger will hear resounding in Hölderlin’s “sacred Chaos,”73 identified with the primordial gaping from which all openings arise and, thereby, all beings. In brief, one of the essential traits of Being, such as Heidegger endeavors to think it, is its character as nothingness, which will be specified later on, in a more complex movement of thought, as an abyss (that is, the groundless [Abgrund]) and as withdrawal (that is, self-concealment). That such a conception of nothingness could have given rise (notably, in its initial formulations) to so many misinterpretations, tells us to what point it was unheard of, in regard to the traditional mode of thinking in the West.