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Four Seminars

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In Four Seminars, Heidegger reviews the entire trajectory of his thought and offers unique perspectives on fundamental aspects of his work. First published in French in 1976, these seminars were translated into German with Heidegger’s approval and reissued in 1986 as part of his Gesamtausgabe, volume 15. Topics considered include the Greek understanding of presence, the ontological difference, the notion of system in German Idealism, the power of naming, the problem of technology, danger, and the event. Heidegger’s engagements with his philosophical forebears—Parmenides, Heraclitus, Kant, and Hegel—continue in surprising dialogues with his contemporaries—Husserl, Marx, and Wittgenstein. While providing important insights into how Heidegger conducted his lectures, these seminars show him in his maturity reflecting back on his philosophical path. An important text for understanding contemporary philosophical debates, Four Seminars provides extraordinarily rich material for students and scholars of Heidegger.

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Seminar in Le Thor 1966

ePub

The seminar from 1966 (eight years after the lecture in Aix-en-Provence: “Hegel and the Greeks”) consists of seven conversations. The first two concerned Parmenides and the following five were all in regard to Heraclitus. Two young Italian friends, Ginevra Bompiani and Giorgio Agamben, joined Vezin, Fédier, and Beaufret. At that time, no protocols were kept. From the combined notes of the participants, however, a report can be given of three of the Heraclitus conversations. These took place on September 5th, in a garden of Le Thor; on the 9th, in Le Rebanqué; and on the 10th, in Les Busclats.

September 5

“Upon its poetic cliffs, Le Thor rose up.
Mont Ventoux, the mirror of the eagles
towered into view.”13

After two conversations on Parmenides’ poem, we searched for a guiding thread for the reading of Heraclitus’ fragments. The decisive question here is: to which words of Heraclitus should the elucidation direct itself? We certainly have many words before us: logos, physis, world, strife, fire, the singular-one, etc. Taking our cue from a comment provided by Aristotle,14 we could follow the tradition and take Fragment 1 of the Diels-Kranz edition as the beginning of Heraclitus’ writing.15 According to Diogenes Laertius, Heraclitus is supposed to have laid them in the temple of Artemis in Ephesus for their safekeeping. The other fragments are arranged by Diels-Kranz according to the alphabetical order of the authors who have cited them—from Aetius to Theophrastus—except for fragment 2, which was handed down by Sextus Empiricus and almost directly linked by him to fragment 1: “When before going further he adds . . .”

 

Seminar in Le Thor 1968

ePub

August 30

This is the first session of the seminar. Consequently, Heidegger begins with a general remark on the work of the seminar. There can be no authority, since we work in common. We work in order to reach the matter itself [Sache selbst] which is in question. Thus the matter itself is the sole authority. On the basis of the text in question, the issue is to touch, and be touched by, the matter itself. The text is therefore ever only a means, not an end.

In our case, the issue is Hegel: we must therefore begin a confrontation [Auseinandersetzung] with Hegel, so that Hegel speaks to us. To let him speak for himself, and not to correct what Hegel has to say with what we know. In this way alone can one prevent the danger of personal interpretation.

This is why, in a genuine seminar, the teacher is the one who learns the most. For this, it is not required that he instruct the others what the text means, but instead that he listen rightly to the text.

 

Seminar in Le Thor 1969

ePub

September 2

The text serving as a basis for the work is Kant’s “The Sole Possible Proof for a Demonstration of the Existence of God” (1763), more precisely, the “First Observation: Of Existence As a Whole.”

This seminar aims to elucidate Kant’s text indirectly. Indeed, one must keep in view that Kant himself altered his interpretation of being twenty years later.

The path our mediate elucidation will take is the question of being, the question concerning being, along with how it has unfolded from Being and Time to today.

So we pose the question: what does the “question of being” mean? For, as a question, the question of being already offers numerous possibilities for misunderstanding—something confirmed by the continual failure to understand the book Being and Time.

What does “the question of being” mean? One says “being” and from the outset one understands the word metaphysically, i.e., from out of metaphysics. However, in metaphysics and its tradition, “being” means: that which determines a being insofar as it is a being. As a result, metaphysically the question of being means: the question concerning the being as a being, or otherwise put: the question concerning the ground of a being.

 

Seminar in Zähringen 1973

ePub

September 6

After the Thor seminars, the Freiburg seminar begins. Whereas in 1968 and 1969 an access to the question of Being was attempted on the basis of Hegel and Kant, here such an access is attempted on the basis of Husserl.

The point of departure is a letter from Jean Beaufret, in which two questions are raised:

1) To what extent can it be said that there is no question of Being in Husserl?

2) In what sense is Heidegger able to call his analysis of environment104 an “essential gain”105 and yet claim elsewhere that it “remains of subordinate significance.”106

The work begins by the examination of the second question.

The analysis of the worldhood of the world is indeed an “essential step” to the extent that, for the first time in the history of philosophy, being-in-the-world appears as the primary mode of encountering entities. Better: being-in-the-world is discovered as the primary and irreducible fact, always already given, and thus radically “prior” to any conception of consciousness.

 

German Translator’s Afterword to Vier Seminare

ePub

In the 1937 essay “Wege zur Aussprache,” Heidegger referred to France for the first time as the “neighbor people,” with whom a “meditation to be achieved through productive reciprocal conversation”126 would be historically necessary. This was explained through a reference to Leibniz, whose thinking was “constantly conducted in a confrontation with Descartes.”127 The “foundational and predetermining character of mathematical thinking in the principal sense” is indebted to the thinking of Descartes, i.e., to the “beginning of modern French philosophy,” and from out of this grew the concept of nature for mathematical physics. Indeed, Heidegger sees the “meditation opened with respect to the essence of nature”—opened “predominantly through” Descartes and Leibniz—as “so little closed that it must be taken up once again on the basis of a more original posing of the question.”128 The question to be more originally posed is the one that Heidegger’s own thinking sought to articulate, the clarification of which is the main concern of the Four Seminars as a whole, even if in 1966 this occurred for the most part indirectly. The statement following the previous citation makes clear what Heidegger already saw in 1937 as the task for thinking in France and Germany: “Only in this way do we also gain the preconditions for conceiving the metaphysical essence of technology, and thereby first achieve a conception of technology as a form for the installation of beings in one of their possible configurations.”129

 

Martin Heidegger, “The Provenance of Thinking”

ePub

“From the Experience of Thinking” voices the thought:

“We may venture the step back out of philosophy into the thinking of beyng as soon as we have become at home in the provenance of thinking” (1947).150

Are we already at home there? Hardly. What does it mean: to become at home in the provenance of thinking? It says: to attain a grounded residence in Dasein where thinking receives the determination of its essence.

Parmenides provides us with a first hint as to which way the provenance of thinking is to be questioned. This hint is contained in the claim:

τò γὰρ αὑτò νοεῖν ἐστíν τε καì εναι (Fragment 3)

“Thinking and being (i.e., perceiving and presencing) belong, namely, to one another.”

Yet from where is this belonging to one another determined? What preserves here the possibility of this “to one another”?

For perception to be able to be encountered at all by the perceivable, it must hold itself open for . . . for what? For presencing [An-wesen]. Now for presencing to reign as such, it must be able to bring itself from itself into the open and the free dimension.

 

Martin Heidegger, “Parmenides: ’Aληθείης εκυκλέος τρεμς τορ

ePub

“The well-rounded, unshaking heart of truth”—with these words from the “didactic poem” of Parmenides (Fragment I, 29), the Goddess names for the thinking man what he should experience in the course of his sojourn along the path that is first, both temporally and in terms of priority.

Before this, however, the Goddess characterizes the basic character of the whole journey in her greeting (Fragment I, 27):

γὰρ ἀπ’ ἀνθρώπων ἐκτȞζ πáτòυ ἐστἰν.

“truly, it runs far away and outside the common residence of humans;”

This word of the Goddess still holds today, and probably more urgently so for every attempt to fittingly follow the originary thinking of Parmenides. Thus the common translation of the title words cited above probably also lacks the care of this demanding and unusual saying. It listens neither to the Greek language, nor does it bother with a precise and thoughtful determination of what is said by the Goddess. The truncated text at hand attempts to come nearer to such a determination.

 

German Editor’s Afterword to Collected Edition, volume 15

ePub

Heidegger gave the above mentioned manuscript of the Parmenides elucidation, including the preliminary remark “The Provenance of Thinking,” to his brother Fritz on his eightieth birthday, “in memory of the years of mutual work.” Since these texts belong together they are both presented here, though Heidegger did not deliver “The Provenance of Thinking” in the last session of the 1973 seminar. In conversation, Heidegger had considered placing the Parmenides elucidation at the place where it is recounted in the protocol. Since the preliminary remark cannot be inserted along with this text without falsifying the course of the seminar, the appendix now provides an acquaintance with the text as a whole, a text intended not solely for that seminar session. Further, the text was presented in the seminar with “elucidations . . . accompanying the reading,” which are entered into the protocol. For this reason as well, the text of the protocol remains unaltered. In comparing the two, along with repetitions, one finds conclusions drawn from the elucidations.

 

Endnotes to the Translation

ePub

1. See pp. 85–92.

2. As Heidegger refers to the French in the 1937 essay “Wege zur Aussprache,” pp. 15–21 in Martin Heidegger, Aus der Erfahrung des Denkens, ed. Hermann Heidegger (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1983), p. 15; Vol. 13 of Martin Heidegger, Gesamtausgabe, 102 vols. to date, gen. ed. Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1977–), hereafter cited as GA.

3. Martin Heidegger and Imma von Bodmershof, Briefwechsel 1959–1976, ed. Bruno Pieger (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 2000) p. 83.

4. See the German translator’s afterword, pp. 90–91.

5. On the unique relation between Heidegger and France, the reader is referred to the work of Dominique Janicaud on the history of the French reception of Heidegger. His two volume Heidegger en France (Paris: Albin Michel, 1991) is a momentous and exhaustive survey of this rich terrain. Both translators have benefited from the conversation and friendship of Professor Janicaud, an attendee of these very seminars, throughout the years. We mourn his recent and untimely passing.

 

German–English

ePub

abbauen

to dismantle

Abgekommensein, das

departure

abkehren

to turn away from

abkommen

to depart

abwenden

to turn away from

angehen

to encounter

ankündigende Vorzeichnen, das

the heralding portent

Anschauung, die

intuition

Anwesen machen

to make present

anwesen

to presence; presencing

Anwesen, das

presencing; to presence

anwesend

presencing

Anwesende, das

what presences

Anwesenheit, die

presence

Anwesen-lassen, das

to let come to presence

Anwesung, die

presenting

Aufeinanderfolge, die

succession

Aufenthalt, der

residence

aufhalten

to reside

Aufhebung, die

sublation

Ausdrück, der

expression

Auseinanderfolge, die

development

Aussage, die

proposition

aussagen

to make a proposition

Bedeutung, die

significance, signification

 

English–German

ePub

to address

zusprechen

adornment

Zier, die

agriculture

Bodenbewirtschaftung, die

to become at home

heimisch zu werden

be-ing

Seyn, das

to belong together

zusammengehören

belonging together

Zusammengehörigkeit, die

bodily

leibhaftig

body

Körper, der

categorial intuition

kategoriale Anschauung, die

challenge, challenging forth

Herausforderung, die

co-belonging

Miteinanderzusammengehörigkeit, die

conjoining

Vereinigung, die

consciousness

Bewußtsein, das

constraint

Zwang, der

consumed

verbraucht

consumption

Verbrauch, der

contradiction

Widerspruch, der

contradictory

widersprechende

contraries

Widerwendigen, die

contrast

Kontrast, der

corporeality

Leibhaftigkeit, die

decoration

Schmuck, der

to deny

verneinen

to depart

 

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