Originarily [ursprünglich] and inceptively
[anfänglich] speech ‘gathers’ (collects) the
unconcealed as such by disclosing it. That is
why gathering as saying becomes the
distinctive legein—why from early on, as
gathering, legein also means saying.
Originarily [ursprünglich]—as well as
beginningly [be-ginnlich]—thinking and
poetizing are, although in fundamentally
different ways, the same: being bringing itself
forth into speech, gathering itself into
To say Anfang or Ursprung instead of archē or principium is to abolish the patterns of command and rule that accompany the Classical Greek and Latin representations of origin.
Heideggers writings may be read in their entirety as a quest for the origin. They can never be read, however, as a quest for a fons et origo, a mythical source of all things. The word Ursprung (literally “primal leap”) recurs at each stage of his itinerary. Toward the end it comes to designate the pertinent trait of the ‘event’: not an occurrence or an incident, nor a feat (Ereignis never connotes these), but coming about, coming to presence, ‘presencing’. Since this is the phenomenon that Heidegger seeks to grasp as ‘being qua being’, it will be no surprise that in this matter his vocabulary is somewhat complex. I start therefore by trying to clarify the contours of meaning between the different words for ‘origin’ used in the lines quoted above.
In plain language, what Heidegger seems to say in those lines is that there exists a pre-linguistic sense of legein and a more narrowly linguistic one. In the pre-linguistic sense, speech does not differ essentially from other activities in which man “gathers” something up (for example, twigs to start a fire or arms and armors after battle). Gathering, then, is the originary sense of speech. And here is the first apparent slippage: gathering is also said to be the inceptive sense of speech. “Originarily and inceptively speech ‘gathers’ ” Then, still plainly stated, Heidegger seems to explain why the linguistic meaning of legein has nevertheless prevailed over its broader meaning since a very ancient age—possibly Homer’s. What constitutes the prepotency of ‘saying’? Precisely its relation to being. Poets and thinkers give utterance to being and have done so since the beginning—probably of Greece. Hence, the second apparent slippage: poetry and thinking are said to be the same in their origination as in their beginning. It is not easy to untangle these relationships between beginning, inception, and origin in Heidegger. And yet, the task is crucial if acting—life—is to be disengaged from teleocratic as well as principiai frameworks; if deconstruction is to set free from beneath archē and principium an origin less compromised by command and domination; and if in the final analysis the question of acting comes down to complying with that more elusive origin. It is as elusive as anything best designated by verbs: beginnen, anfangen, springen. The principles, on the other hand, bear names since, as we have seen, during the metaphysical age “being receives its essential stamping each time from one measure-giving entity.”2 First the three terms derived from those verbs have to be clarified. I shall translate Beginn as ‘beginning’, Anfang as ‘inception’, anfänglich as ‘inceptive’, ‘initial’ or ‘incipient’, Ursprung as ‘origination’ and ursprünglich as ‘originary’. Then I shall try to show why and how presencing is inseverable from the reversals or breaks in history—how, in other words, the ‘thinking of being’ cannot dispense with deconstruction. In all this my ultimate purpose is to understand what acting would be like when freed from epochal principles.
1. The semantic extension of the three terms in the epigraph is not clear-cut. Would origination be identical with the beginning (of Western civilization or at least philosophy)? And would the latter not then be reckoned in centuries elapsed (approximately twenty-five)? Or conversely, would origination fall under the law of temporal distance? Is the originary contemporaneous with us, in us or around us, or is it contemporaneous with the poets and thinkers of ‘the dawn’? And what of inception? Is this a historical notion, or perhaps an existential one? Or is it ontological?
Of these three words the easiest to clarify is Beginn, beginning. In Heidegger it usually designates the birth of metaphysics in Plato and Aristotle.3 However, Heidegger also speaks of the “unique and incomparable beginning of Western thinking,” and here he means “pre-metaphysical thinking.”4 Obviously, the guiding idea is that of a moment when a new age arises, an auroral, inchoate moment. Our own era also constitutes a beginning. With the turning, being “has begun (begonnen) to come back to its truth. Being turns silently . . . in order to give humans the beginning (beginnlich) of their unique dignity.”5 Recognizable here are the three great inaugural moments in the history of presence, according to Heidegger: the pre-metaphysical dawn, the classical reversal that founds metaphysics, and the transition, which has become possible today, toward a post-metaphysical age.
However, by ‘beginning’ Heidegger understands yet something else. He says: “Whoever has thought only begins to think and only then thinks.”6 There is still something of an inchoate movement implied, namely, the first steps (which one perhaps never relegates behind oneself) in thinking. But the historical-epochal sense of ‘beginning’ seems to become entirely untenable when one reads, for example: “Man begins and conceals his essence with being, he waits and beckons with it, keeps silent and speaks with it.”7 These lines are not as enigmatic as they appear. They deal with the historical modalities of presence. They state that in his way of being, man always follows these modalities, that historical truth appropriates him, makes him its own. The event of appropriation is described here as something that begins. Are we then to think of it as a perpetual birth, as something ever new? If that is the case, even this last sense of Beginn cannot be separated completely from the historical-epochal one. Are we to presume that the ‘beginning which is the event can be grasped only through the ‘beginnings which are the epochs?
By Anfang, too, Heidegger designates a certain point of departure. And here again his uses of the word shift from a historical sense to one pertaining to the event.
‘Inception’ is first of all a matter of experience. The so-called Presocratics are anfängliche Denker because they experienced presence as pure preseneing, which is what made them think. As they are initially experienced, they initiate philosophy. The historical sense of incipience is thus a result of the sense one might call experimental. Inception is to be distinguished from the “later beginning of metaphysics,”8 that is to say, from the forgetting that, with Plato and Aristotle, descends over the initial experience. What is that experience whose loss has gone unnoticed for so long? The words Anfang and inception (just like principium)9 mean that which seizes, catches, takes hold first. The pre-Classical Greeks were seized, “that is why they found the inception of authentic thinking.”10 Such finding comes from being seized. By what? By something to which one can or must respond and correspond. “This initial corresponding, carried out for its own sake, is thinking.”11 The Presocratic experience is initial less by virtue of its antiquity than of its responsorial character. The correspondence that initiates everything obviously cannot consist in the conformity between a judgement and its object. What is initially gripping is so elementary that responding to it amounts to something like perplexity. Anfang strongly resembles ϑαυμάζειν, the wonder that Plato tells us is the archē of philosophizing.12 Philosophical thinking remains authentic—historically, with the Greeks, and very personally in the Heideggerian ‘repetition’—only as long as “the perplexity of not understanding the word ‘being’ ”13 remains alive and incipient. Such is the initial experience of thinking—the always inceptive experience that is thinking—as it addresses concrete existence.
It is as an address, then, that inception has the characteristics of speech. For philosophy to remain authentic much more (or much less) is required than confessing perplexity before the many senses of one word, the copula. The starting point of thinking is something simple. A certain sense for word-like claims on man needs to be aroused, a sense for the injunctions that inaugurate every act of thinking. “At the inception of thinking” is an “initiating soundless word.”14 It is an exacting word (Wort) to which thinking is the response (Antwort); an in-ceptive word (an-fangen) that listening ac-cepts (ent-fangen).15 The initiating claim laid on man is moreover so encompassing that it addresses itself to sight as well as hearing: thinking “sees being itself, imageless, in its initially simple essence as a constellation.”16 To be seized and called upon inceptively is, then, to find oneself inserted into an aletheiological constellation.
That thinking will be anfänglich which echoes such a disposition or such an economic presence-absence. ‘Anfang is a historical notion only because, at the close of over twenty centuries of metaphysical principles, we will never regain the simple starting point of thinking—namely, heeding ‘being’ as a temporal constellation, without any suprasensible alibi—except by returning to the pre-metaphysical experience in order to take from it the cue for our post-metaphysical potential.
The commemoration-anticipation (Andenken-Vordenken) so described is the very content of the ‘turning’. Obviously, under ‘Anfang, Heidegger thinks, in part, the same traits as he does under ‘Beginn: “If the incipient holds sway beyond all its consequents and prior to them, then it is not something lying behind us, but rather the One and the Same that comes before us, toward us, in a mysterious turning (Kehre).”17 Something is mysterious which manifests itself while hiding (alētheia), or which emerges into presence while remaining absent (phusis). The reason Heidegger takes up the fundamental words of the Presocratics is that they enable us to think what comes toward us, what already grasps (fängt) us and in that sense is anfänglich. Not just any economic disposition that embraces and situates man is inceptive, but one definite historical-destinal disposition: ours, as stamped by global technology. “For us, what is wanted . . . is an inceptive reversal (eines anfänglichen Wandels).”18
What, then, is it that already holds us? Nothing other than the post-principial economy made possible by technology as the completion of metaphysics. What holds us is the possibility of “thinking ‘appearance’ in the Greek way, i.e., of experiencing it as being.”19 Pure appearing is the incipience to which the Greeks knew how to respond and correspond. It remains for us “to listen initially,”20 to “put aside personal opinions and to think what is inceptive about incipient thinking really as if we were ‘initiates’, and that is to say, with simplicity.” Indeed, “there is inception only in initiating, Anfang ist nur im Anfangen.”21
It should be quite apparent how the historical notion of inception is linked to the experimental one: in both cases it is a matter of responding to the claim that alētheia addresses to us, that is, of entering into history as the conversation alētheia holds with itself. The Greek inception as well as the turning toward “the other inception” opens a historical destiny only insofar as we know how to experience the aletheiological mutations and give ourselves over to them.
Here, then, is how the experimental-destinal topos shifts toward the topos of event. If another Anfang is about to take shape around us in our contemporary world, its primary locus is not thinking, nor is to initiate’ equatable with to think’. It is rather “phusis that has its constant inception in such a way that, prior to anything else that may appear, that is, prior to any entity that may be present for a while, emergence [as such] has already appeared.”22 In other words, if thinking is essentially a response, an echo, a reverberation of appearing as such, then it can hardly be initiating, taking initiatives. What, then, is it that catches hold first and thereby precedes any entity? The text says: phusis, “emergence,” and that is to say being qua being. “That free inchoation is the inception itself: the inception ‘of’ being qua being.”23 In this way, Anfang comes to be situated in the ontologicai difference. Being precedes all and any entities. It ceaselessly “initiates” their unfolding. The difference between being and entities is “the initial difference itself.”24
One may of course wish to add that, in this new focus, man is not at all marginalized since the difference ‘initiates’ appearances for him. And indeed, Heidegger writes that pure appearing, phusis, is “seen initially,” prior even to the phenomena that appear.25 But in what way is coming-to-presence for manΡ “The essence of inception” declares itself in the ambiguity of phusis, i.e., its locus is the conflict between hiding and showing;26 or it declares itself in the ambiguity of alētheia, i.e., its locus is the conflict between veiling and unveiling.27 Inception makes ‘use’ of men by situating them in a constellation of presence and absence. What road, then, is to be followed if we wish to understand the Anfang fully? None other than the road of deconstructing the sequence of these constellations, of “meditating on our position, the position of the West in relation to its historical inception,”28 so as to wrest from this sequence ‘emergence as such’. Our position within history is our good luck and our distress. It is our good luck, for “that mittence (Geschick) of being into its truth is being itself as initiating.”29 But our position is also “the unfolding of an initial distress,” of the obfuscation that marks our entire course since the Greeks.30 As with Beginn, access to the origin as inception is provided by the phenomenology of the reversals in history; access to the ontological difference as initiating ages is gained by the deconstruction of initial historical moments. But the difference as initiating is the ‘event of appropriation’, Ereignis. Access to the event is thus through history. “What is initial happens properly [ereignet] ahead of all that comes. . . . Recalling history is the only viable road toward what is inceptive.”31
Ursprung, ‘origination’, first of all also expresses a certain destiny and its point of departure. Here are two examples of this use, one concerning the start and the other the end of the metaphysical itinerary: “In the equation between thinking and logos is hidden the origination of a Western destiny.”32 “[To conceive of] man’s thought as that of a ‘subject’ . . . is to fulfill an errancy that comes from far away and that originates in a misunderstanding of the essence of reflection.”33 When the essence of logos falls into oblivion, a long errancy sets in—“originates”—at the end of which man comes to understand his own thought as subject opposite his objects. However, origination as the starting point of the European itinerary is not the proper locus of the concept of Ursprung in Heidegger.
That proper locus is better approached by examining the function of thinking prior to the Socratic turn toward man. Insofar as Presocratic thinking does not pursue ultimate entities, it is “essential thinking.” “If common opinion represents entities and only entities, and if essential thinking thinks being . . . then the cleavage between originary thinking and essential thinking must originate in the difference between being and entities.”34 This ontological difference makes the hiatus between thinking and opinion possible. Prior to the humanist and logical reversal, to think is “to correspond, by disclosing [phenomena], to phusis.” Correspondence so understood is the locus of the origin. “In the essence of phusis, as in the essence of those that, in disclosing, correspond to it, alētheia sways as the originarily unifying ground.”35 Ursprung, then, is the “originary compliance”36 through which man gives himself over to unconcealment.
Ursprung harks back to unconcealment as the identical trait of both phusis and man, to their ‘freedom’ as one and the same opening. This is a more essential origination than the rise of an age in history. On the other hand, as long as the imperative of logic to “think correctly” predominates, “the ground and origination of correct thinking, and even of thinking as such, still remain hidden from us.”37 Concealment, lēthē, remains hidden.
Heideggerian recollection has the consequence, infelicitous to some, that seen in light of alētheia the contrary of correctness, error, is as much thinking’s originary “dowry” as is correctness.38 Some have indeed been scandalized by Heidegger’s statement, “Who thinks greatly must err greatly.”39 Whether scandalous or not, this consequence is inevitable once ‘man’ and ‘nature’ are traced to their common origination in unconcealment. So understood, the origin is irreducible to everything born of it, notably to technē and science.40 It is an origin, however, that can “come back.” In these “times of reversal” which are ours, “the essential stamping” under which “the originary essence of logos has been lost” for twenty-five centuries can be placed in question. Could “this want of the originary sense of logos . . . then be the inconspicuous foretoken of a long return?”41 What is possible or to come, reaching beyond everything actual, is the return of the simple consent to the ever changing flow of alētheia, of unconcealment. In that potential of our era the historical and the aletheiological concepts of origination come together.
But their alliance is still far from the proper locus where Ursprung can be grasped. Its proper locus remains incomprehensible as long as legein, ‘gathering, is considered to be something man undertakes. The proper locus of origination can be glimpsed—but still only glimpsed—when we think the agreement between the legein performed by man and the Legein which is presencing. Their agreement, Heidegger writes, is a “relation between relationships, that is to say, a pure relation, originating no-where.”42 The gathering performed by man (for the moderns: by the subject) is already a relation, namely, of man to the things that he selects and retains from the mass of present entities. The gathering which is phusis (for the moderns: nature) also constitutes a relation, namely, between presence and absence. The relation between these two relations, Heidegger says, “originates nowhere.” There is nothing more originary, it seems, than the homolegein between man and presencing. “Being itself cannot be experienced without a more originary experience of the essence of man, and conversely . . . Only the relation between these two, as their origination, [is] the true.”43 This clearly recalls Heidegger’s The Essence of Truth: the essence of truth is the essence of freedom—the opening in which man ‘ek-sists’. However, the ‘ecstatic’ opening cannot disown its antecedent, transcendental subjectivity. The event of origination, on the other hand, proves to be as unthinkable in terms of existence as it is in terms of subjectivity. Hence Heidegger’s recourse to the Presocratic “basic words.” Furthermore, origination remains equally unthought in its simplicity when it is construed as the “relation between the two logoi,”44 as if presencing and human doing were two processes to be coordinated. In the foreword to the lecture course on the doctrine of Logos in Heraclitus, Heidegger introduces the task he assigns himself as the search for “the originary logic.” This requires that the idea of homologizing human projects and given situations be renounced and that a single Logos be discovered: “ ‘Logic’ as the thinking ‘of’ the Logos will be originary only when the originary Logos is thought.”45 The conjunction of thinking (which includes acting) and presencing must be reexamined, then, if the simple origination of all phenomena is to be found. This cannot consist in some rudimentary version of the conformity theory of truth.
Heraclitus could only point to simple origination from a distance, but he could not think it. If it is “being as time,” then the Greek fundamental words, “each of which utters the originary essence of the initial thinking,”46 can only serve as guideposts for “the other thinking” and the other inception. We must think “even more originarily than Heraclitus.” Thus Heidegger’s reading of Heraclitus is expressly dictated by “the other thinking.”47 In order to understand simple origination, post-metaphysical thinking cannot dispense with pre-metaphysical Logos, with “Logos in the sense of the gathering that preserves originarily”;48 but neither can it dispense with the epochal temporality discovered through metaphysics. The simple event that is origination can be attained only through the many complex junctures that have initiated new economies throughout the ages. This unavoidable detour through history will be fully understandable only when the difference between what I will call the original and the originary has been established. This difference will be developed below.
To conclude this survey of the vocabulary and to see what issues it raises, it should be clear that the historical-epochal notion of ‘beginning’ (Beginn), with its overdetermination of event, and the experimental-destinal notion of ‘inception’ (Anfang), with its ontological overdetermination, are fully intelligible only in conjunction with the notion of ‘origination’ (Ursprung) as the event proper, itself historically overdetermined. The natural locus of ‘beginning’ is epochal history; that of ‘inception’ is thinking; and that of ‘origination’ is the event of appropriation. The question is not: Which is more fundamental, history, thinking, or being? but rather: How is origination identical with both inception and beginning, yet nevertheless different from both? “Originarily, as well as beginningly,” poetry and thinking are the same, said the text cited in the epigraph to this section. On the other hand, “initially being makes itself known as logos and thereby discloses itself as what is to be thought originarily.”49 If it is possible to see how, for Heidegger, the origin is linked to history, it will also be possible to overcome (while retaining it) the opposition between diachrony and synchrony—or between left-wing Heideggerians, who read in him only deconstruction, and right-wing Heideggerians, who read in him only the Poem of Being. The project Heidegger pursues after his Kehre crystallizes in the question, How does presencing become history? How does it, as event, condition all that can occur?
The event to which the Heideggerian notion of origination points is always a showing-forth. Its most familiar instances are the “rising up” of speech and of an artwork. “To make something rise up with a leap, to bring it into being from provenance in an enabling leap: that is what the word origination means.”50 This description suggests perfectly the event-like character of origination, but it reveals neither its anti-humanist impact nor its connection with history, nor in which (non-dialectical) sense the origin is both one and many. To retrieve the full sense of Ursprung, a double route has to be followed: asking the question of ontology more originarily (section 18) in order to attain the one issue of radical phenomenology, being as time, and asking the question of origin ontologically (section 19) in order to attain the anti-humanist solution to that issue, presencing as ‘event’. Ereignis and history will thus appear as the terms of the temporal difference.
2. The first of these two routes is traced by the project of the young Heidegger in Being and Time: from the initial fact of immersion in entities, from being-in-the-world, existential analysis steps back to progressively more elementary conditions of such facticity. The phenomenological project of a transcendental construction51 discloses, if not in fact, at least by right, the temporality of being. Being as time is its guiding pre-understanding.
Later, the second route is traced by the phenomenological project of epochal deconstruction. The focus is on those entities that have been held as ultimate rulers in the course of our culture because they institute and command a given economy. Presencing is then no longer only adumbrated, it is reached by an “enabling leap.”
The constructive task of raising the ontological question more originarily is historical in the sense that the problematic of an a priori is inherited directly from Kant and indirectly from Plato.52 The deconstructive task, on the other hand, of raising the question of origin ontologically is historical in an entirely different way. It is historical as a working through, thus an overcoming, of that problematic of the a priori inaugurated by Plato—as the retrieval, therefore, of an understanding of presencing to which the philosophy of archai and principia could hardly do justice. For Heidegger, to raise the ontological question originarily (before the Kehre) meant to ask again, after the Greeks, τὶ τό ὄv, and to do so by analyzing being-in-the-world. Later, to raise the question of the origin ontologically (after the Kehre) meant to transgress Plato so as to recover presencing from Pre-socratic thought, and simultaneously to transgress the ultimate referents so as to recover presencing as a possibility53 for thought today.
This rather complex structure of the repetition of presencing—repeating the question of first philosophy, exhibiting the existential structures, returning to the Milesian and Eleatic beginnings, and retrieving the nonstatic at the core of everything present—must be preserved intact if the origin is to be understood in the full sense of Ursprung. The first task mentioned, i.e., raising the ontological question more originarily and making it “fundamental,”54 cannot be pursued independently. Inquiring into more and more originary conditions would lead to the illusion of a hierarchy of grounds—the very fallacy that Heidegger denounces in the metaphysical quest for principia. It is true that at the same time he seems to outline just such a hierarchy when he sketches a transcendental retrogression that leads from the question, What is being? to that of ‘being qua being, then to that entity who asks such questions, and finally to the very structure of the understanding where these questions are articulated. At a first reading of Heidegger’s early writings, then, to think the origin ‘originarily’ means to step back from the τὶ τὸ ὄν to the ὄν ἧ ὄν, to Dasein, to Verstehen.55 Many of the misunderstandings concerning Heidegger are explainable by the exclusive attention paid to his effort to raise the ontological question originarily, without noting his simultaneous effort to think the origin ontologically. By seeing only the “originary rootedness” (ursprüngliche Verwurzelung)56 of the being question in human existence, one ends up inevitably reading Heideggerian transcendentalism as yet another sequence of degrees that still lead to an ultimate condition of possibility and therefore a principial referent. The Kehre would then only push the search for ultimacy further back beyond Dasein and Verstehen into what the later Heidegger calls the “clearing,”57 which he says “is being.”58
To the extent that the “clearing” is a field of epochal economy constituted prior to all human projects, this term does designate an a priori to the existential structures. But to understand Heidegger is to understand that with him philosophy has rid itself of all ultimate a priori referents. That the clearing is not one such referent appears from his ontological notion of origin, without which the search for transcendental conditions of possibility would continually rebound. In the last text published during his life, Heidegger, as if the ultimate instance of the question of being had still not been reached, suggests one step further in “the attempt, undertaken ever anew since 1930, to shape the question of Being and Time in a more initial way.”59 He asks: “But whence and how is there the clearing?”60 On the final page of his work, he thus seems to inquire about the horizon that encloses the opening in which entities “presence,” the horizon that makes their mutual presencing possible and in which “there is [es gibt] being.” What seems to be ultimate, then, is the “there is” itself—capitalized, moreover.61 The “There is” makes the clearing possible, which makes understanding possible, which in turn makes Dasein possible, which alone allows one to ask what is being qua being, from which degree of derivation one might finally ask what beings are. . . .
But the stages that lead to the “there is” do not constitute such “a gradation in the sense of an ever greater originariness.”62
The originary pursuit of the ontological question, then, must be supplemented by the ontological pursuit of the originary. The ontic question of origin has received plenty of answers throughout history. Sensible substance, later the first nature at the top of the essential order, then the principle of reason that orders reasoning, are just so many ways of designating a particular entity that institutes and commands the totality of present things for a time. The ontological question (in the sense of the Seinsfrage) of origin has shown itself to be tied to the deconstruction of the economies and the reversals through which principles rise and wither. It is obvious, then, that presence ‘comes about’ in two ways: according to phenomenological construction, as the emergence of entities constituting a world, as their synchronic ‘there is’; and according to phenomenological deconstruction, as the instituting of an order of entities on the threshold that separates diachronically one world from another.
Raising together the ontological question of origin and the originary question of ontology is to reformulate the debate about transcendental conditions from the double viewpoint of the ahistorical, synchronic Ereignis, which is at issue in the construction, and of the epochal, diachronie Geschehen, the issue of deconstruction. One may see here an aporia comparable to that in Being and Time: in that earlier work, Heidegger set out to retrieve the question of being qua being, but he only reached the being of Dasein; likewise in the later context: the outset is the same, but again, he only reaches the being of history. The impression of an aporia vanishes however as soon as the systematic tie is seen that links the ‘event’ to the epochs. Heidegger therefore alludes to a historical-ahistorical dialectic.63 It imposes a transmutation on the transcendental method such that this method can no longer yield any regulatory focal point by which philosophy becomes an edifice and reason, architectonic. The ‘very issue’ of phenomenology that Heidegger’s transcendentalism sets free is not one. It is the twofold advent of presence: the epochal institution in illo tempore and the event-like manifestation hie et nunc. This double advent determines any possible discourse on being in the later Heidegger.
Due to this double coming to presence, truth itself appears in its unsurpassable contingency. How could there remain room for one canon of truth, one ideal of truth, if the origin is so essentially polymorphous? Alētheia is the self-manifestation in which anything thinkable and livable emerges from concealment (lēthē). Whether historical or ahistorical, coming to presence is an essentially precarious a priori.64 The modesty of such a thinking, which remains riveted to contingency, appears in what one might naively be tempted to take as the ultimate Heideggerian referent, namely, the there is understood as the origin, oriri, of being. To the traditional philosophical wonder, Why is there being rather than nothing? Heidegger answers with the simple there is. Such an answer not only flies in the face of any quest for explanation, but it amounts to an option for the fortuitous, for the unstable. Explanations operate by recourse to some immutable referent, a cause or a condition; but to say ‘there is’ presencing amounts to espousing what is mutable in its shifting constellations.
A great many ontic origins have run our life world through the ages: “the suprasensory World, the Ideas, God, the moral Law, the authority of Reason, Progress, the Happiness of the greatest number, Culture, Civilization.”65 They regulate a given economy, each time, and they are always replaceable in that function. The ontological concept of origin proved to be linked to the phenomenon of setting into presence. This phenomenon is twofold: setting into presence as the rise of an order that will prevail for a while in history (the deconstructive moment), and setting into presence as the ahistorical, always instantaneous emergence of presencing (the constructive moment). In the later Heidegger the guiding issue for establishing the ontological difference is: how is the origin as a historical-ahistorical happening to be understood once its ontic representations have withered away?
We saw that the three key terms—Beginn, Anfang, Ursprung—all share a historical meaning. Certain features of Greek culture were called “the beginning,” “the inception,” and even “the origination” of Western civilization. But all three terms also share an ahistorical meaning. In one way or another, they all imply the event of appropriation. To articulate this ambiguity in the origin as both an empirical (Geschehen) and a transcendental (Ereignis) happening, a slightly different convention in vocabulary is required. I will call the phenomenon of historical beginning/inception/origination the ‘original’ and the phenomenon of ahistorical beginning/inception/origination the ‘originary’. This distinction emphasizes most sharply Heidegger’s method in trying to understand being qua being, the method of reaching the (originary) event of presencing through the deconstruction of (original) epochs.
We also saw that the metaphysical concept of ontological difference rests on the mutual exclusion of ontic representations and their common fact of being. Understood phenomenologically, that difference sets apart the epochally determined fact of being (die Seiendheit) and the to-be (das Sein): from the viewpoint of the phenomenological difference, the ‘original’ and the ‘originary’ are the mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive notions of the origin. One could continue speaking instead of’history’ and ‘being’, but then their kinship as the two types of oriri—of phenomenal showing-forth—would get lost.
These two notions of ‘original’ and ‘originary’ (to which the following sections are devoted) may be viewed as the result of Heidegger’s critique of metaphysics: he criticizes the archē in order to recover its pre-philosophical sense of pure ‘commencing’, archein; and he criticizes the principium in order to recover its sense of pure ‘showing forth’, phuein. This double repetition restores historicality to the original and temporality to the originary. The outset of an era is the ‘decisive’ instant in which a new way of being-in-the-world substitutes itself for a previous one; the showing-forth or rise66 is the now-’event’ in which presencing appropriates absencing.67 This appropriation will turn out to be the temporality of being, which had remained the sole issue for Heidegger since Being and Time.
The distinction between ‘original’ and ‘originary’ helps to spell out Heidegger’s answer to the old question of the many and the one. There are many cases of new beginnings (although the leading instance of ‘commencing’ is undoubtedly borrowed by Heidegger from the German Romantics: what is original par excellence is ancient Greece), our history is made of many ruptures in which a new arrangement breaks through. Each of these breakthroughs has a date. But there is only one event of ‘showing forth’, one essence of manifestation, one originary origin. This is the conjunction, the coming together, of phenomena into such an arrangement—their mutual presencing. To understand the ‘originary’—Heidegger’s “being”—we first have to grasp the ‘original’.
Before being can occur in its original
truth . . . the world must be forced into ruin
and the earth must be driven to desolation,
and man to mere labor. Only after that
decline does the event take place in which,
in a long span of time, the sudden abiding of
the original occurs.
These lines, written during the war,69 indicate the conditions under which it would be possible to retrieve what Heidegger considers the initial issue of Western philosophizing. They especially show the sense in which such conditions are historical. The retrieval of the ‘original’ would require an occurrence, a happening (Geschehen, therefore both Geschick, a ‘mittence’ always beyond us, and Geschichte, the history in which we respond to such sendings), of the same scope as the reversal of history from which metaphysics was born after the Peloponnesian War. Deconstruction thus evinces how the new can appear in history, it points out the origin as a sudden break in which something unforeseeable, a new ‘problematic’, sets in. Furthermore, since “the inception already contains the end latent within itself,”70 such a problematic has its cycle of development. An archaeology, to borrow Michel Foucault’s term, would isolate regularities in a given problematic so as to read in it the discursive formations that govern knowledge. The phenomenology of the original, on the other hand, lays bare formations of presencing that govern being in the world. It can achieve this since, as I have indicated, its method consists (a) in raising the ontological question originally: “The beginning of the West is that in the Greek age, the being of entities becomes worthy of thought.”71 But such a phenomenology departs further from the archaeology of human sciences inasmuch as its method also consists (b) in raising the question of the origin ontologically: “The sudden abiding of the original” designates the possibility that after the devastations being-in-the-world “enter into the event of appropriation,”72 an entry which would bring the initial question of metaphysics to completion. Overcoming metaphysics would therefore require taking up the pre-metaphysical inception. Even if, on the threshold where we find ourselves, such a return to the original is still bound to thought patterns inherited from ground-seeking ontologies, deconstructing the epoch issuing from Socrates and Aristotle at least allows one to confine those thought patterns to their one legitimate phenomenal domain, that of fabrication. The quest for an origin as a ground or foundation, the waning of which we seem to be witnessing with our own eyes, marks out an eventually closed field in history.73
The concept of the ‘original’ as it arises from the deconstruction of the epochs is understandable only within the context of an anticipatory retrieval. “Our thinking today is charged with the task of thinking what the Greeks have thought in an even more Greek manner.”74 Original thinking—the thinking in which the origin is understood as inception—proceeds on two fronts, retrospectively as well as prospectively. It recalls the ancient beginnings, and it anticipates a new beginning, the possible rise of a new economy among things, words, and actions. The wonder before that potential of our age displaces the traditional ϑαυμάζειν. It directs wonder or perplexity toward the temporal essence of presencing and thereby obliges us to “think through still more originally what has been thought initially.”75 This is the first ambivalence, metaphysical/pre-metaphysical, of what Heidegger understands to be original about the being-question.
From Being and Time onward, however, an incipiency in a quite different sense keeps mingling with the Greek original to be retrieved and thereby (possibly) anticipated. The book, Being and Time, not only thematizes the original in the context of such anticipatory retrieval, it begins with the retrieval of the Western beginnings—a quote from Plato about our ignorance concerning “being.”76 What Heidegger sets out to retrieve is indeed the beginning of metaphysics, the gigantomachia between the Academy and the Sophists on behalf of “being.” What, then, does it mean to repeat the being-question originally? Does it mean to re-enact the gigantomachia, the original origin of metaphysics? Or rather to reclaim the pre-metaphysteal original?77 Neither of the two, according to this description of the task of retrieval: “Do we have an answer today to the question of what we properly mean by the word ‘being? Not at all.” The ignorance to which the Eleatic Stranger confesses in the Sophist displaces what is held to be original: “Are we today even perplexed at our inability to understand the expression ‘to be? Not at all.”78 To be sure, the being-question originally appeared in the time of Parmenides, then later at the time of the Academy; but to raise this question anew is not to repeat the battle of the Schools. It is rather to confess ignorance and to experience perplexity. Why perplexity? Because this ignorance concerns something we ought to know and, in a way, do know. For the entity that we are, the relationship to being itself is always understood prior to any reflection and conception: “We do not know what ‘being’ means. But as soon as we ask, What is being? we remain within an understanding of the ‘is.’ ”79 This acquaintance with what nevertheless we do not know is the incipience of thought. The perplexity of not knowing while already having an understanding may be alleviated by a return to the Ancients which would be simultaneously a return to our own pre-understanding. Such is at least the double return with which Being and Time opens.
Unless the historical inquiry is so tied to the existential inquiry, the question formerly approached “in so general and ambiguous a fashion” can never be raised suitably. Heidegger’s starting point is however still more complex. To “struggle for the question of being which in the [Greek] gigantomachia has not yet been worked out”80 confers indeed a threefold temporal structure upon the retrieval: renewing the (past) Greek problematic, elucidating our (present) own pre-understanding, and anticipating a possible (future) thought of being. This last point is the guiding issue throughout, although it is clearly stated as such only in later writings. If the very problematic that has shaped the West “has not yet been worked out,” the original origin must be construed out of the future. Phenomenological reduction and construction cannot do without an anticipatory deconstruction. As Heidegger works out the Abbau, the role of the future changes. From that of the primary sense of existentiality it shifts to that of a possible economic reversal. As was the case for the existential analytic, the time-dimension that guides the deconstruction is not the past at all. Deconstruction anticipates the possibility, “in a long span of time, [of] the sudden abiding of the original,” i.e., of a thinking entirely given up to its sole issue, presencing. The condition for phenomenology to so take up its very issue is not only a post-technological economy, but also an attitude.
When Heidegger speaks of the origin as inception, it is not enough to read him as referring to the Greek “dawn,” nor to “the epochal lighting of being”81 in the subsequent reversals as testified to by the philosophers. Before as after the turning, incipience of thought consists first of all in an attitude: a Socratic confession of ignorance or an availability for a reversal to come in the aletheiological constellation of our age. Only when the ‘existential’ espouses the ‘economic’ do we have novelty in history. Inception is the “instigation of the strife of truth” by an “unmediated bestowal and foundation”; it is essentially the “setting-into-work”82 of an order of presence-absence. The original, then, consists in a making, poiēsis, which is not purely man’s. René Char spoke of “the poet, great Beginner.”83 This must be understood in the sense that every commencement is itself of a poietic nature. To initiate something new is to make truth by instigating an aletheiological struggle. “The poietic project comes out of nothing in that it never takes its gift from the ordinary and the transmitted.”84 Bringing about truth in acting has no other prerequisite than this attitude of readiness through which our projects, without the shackles of what has been transmitted and become current, turn into echoes of truth in presencing,85 of networks of unconcealment setting themselves up.
In the texts on language, the poietic essence of an original inception is said to call for a way of “dwelling”: a way of lodging ourselves in a given constellation of truth. As a practical a priori for thinking presencing, “we must first learn how to dwell.”86 And just as on the exordial page of Being and Time a confession of ignorance was demanded in order to retrieve the being-question, so these texts on dwelling demand that, as a condition for such a retrieval, we make the preconceptual Greek way of inhabiting language our own,87 a way less obsessed with the architectonic of propositions and their foundation.
In the texts on Hölderlin, the original, although then situated within the “holy,” is again described by the threefold temporality of the retrieval: the ‘original, das Anfängliche, “remains as what was formerly,” adumbrated by the poets. “Their adumbration points to what is forthcoming and breaking forth.”88 Thanks to the poets, the breaking-forth of presencing, phusis, becomes thinkable now, whereas it was “formerly perceptible only in a first glimmer, as the initial and original rise of what, since then, has become present in everything.”89 The original is not phusis itself, but the “first glimmer” of phusis, formerly recognized at the dawn of Western culture, set to work today by those we therefore call poets, and anticipated by thinkers.
The retrieval of the being-question is anticipatory because it is poietic. This results from the very way in which the original question of ontology is traced back by Heidegger beyond the “battle of giants” among schools and doctrines. The first historical gleam of being as phusis (in Heraclitus) was a happening in which a measure was set: “What was thereafter to be called ‘being was set into work, setting up a measure.”90 But this “happened” (geschah). No master-mind, human or not human, set any standards. Heraclitus only responded to “the claim of being as a whole.”91 The same holds for the other question, the ontological question of origin. It is answered always by a poiēsis that precedes any possible human doing. The arrangement of concealing-unconcealing “produces itself’ for every age. It institutes itself without an agent or actor. Because it is poietic in this non-humanistic sense, it is also anticipatory: “A genuine inception is always a leap ahead (Vorsprung)”92 incalculable and unforeseeable. To “dwell as a poet,” then, means to espouse the aletheiological mutations strictly, ‘sticking’ closely to their folds. The decisive thinkers knew how to give themselves over to the “releasement of the original” (Gelassenheit des Anfänglichen)93 which implicates us in its folds, so that the great philosophers do not really know what is given them to think.94 The actual starting point of their thought is the dawn of an economy. This essential implication in the poietic fabric was acknowledged only by thinkers like Heraclitus. In retrospect we can learn from them that any order of presence locates, and in this sense even precedes, pre-understanding. Such a dependence of Verstehen on its economic situation, which becomes obvious in transition periods, tells us something about how a potential of thought is one with the order of its age.
The situation in which thinking finds itself at the reversals of history is indeed characterized by a remarkable kind of oneness, reminiscent of Parmenides. It results from the amphibology of the original just described. As a new age dawns, the starting point of thought shifts in such a way that the unthematized understanding of presence renovates itself. In the reversals of history it becomes plain, down to the vertigo seizing civilizations, that the ‘economic’ original, the world’s legein, and the ‘existential’ original, the noetic legein, share one and the same starting point.95 This essential dependence of thought on economies remains masked as long as thinking is described simply as a predicate of the subject ‘man’ or as the faculty for producing statements about him. From the viewpoint of the deconstruction of past historical fields, the incipience of an epoch and the incipience of its noesis are one and the same rise. This identity constitutes the full phenomenon of the ‘original’.
The Parmenidean figure of unity, according to which thought begins where an epoche begins, should dissipate a frequent misunderstanding about what Heidegger calls das Anfängliche, the ‘original’. Contrary to what some have claimed is implied in a few text segments, the initial setting into work of truth—in a work of art or in the establishment of a community, for example96—in no way entails praise of the heroic leader, of the great man as founder, of genius. On the contrary, “the creators, poets, thinkers, statesmen” are charged with what one’s aletheiological constellation renders present, in the mode it is brought to presence. Their action follows in the closest possible way the struggle between what is epochally within reach and epochally out of reach. It follows the polemos (Heraclitus) of hiding-showing as it stamps an age. This polemics, and not man’s initiative, is said to “project” what formerly remained “unheard of, unsaid and unthought.” It is what inaugurates, what initiates the new. Men come and take it up “thereafter.”97 Their doings and dealings begin with what alētheia prescribes. Such an insurpassable priority, through which the dispositions of presence precede all thoughts and actions, gives an ‘epochal’ face to the identity between thinking and presencing. In the identity between noein and einai, being “claims and determines” all apprehending98 like a transcendental condition. In this sense, it anticipates noein, although by itself, separated from what men think and do, an economy of presence is nothing. It “uses” men (Anaximander’s chreōn). Only when the inception of thoughts and actions remains dissociated from epochal inception do they become ‘humanistic’, without locus or history. Such dislocation is what ideologies produce. Whether in the name of human dignity or any other ‘standard’, they separate discourse and practice from their embeddedness in a concrete aletheiological order.
The establishment of an order may be called poetic,99 or rather, poietic, since the epochal struggle between the concealed and the unconcealed is itself a setting into work, poiēsis. The poet makes a given disposition of present and absent entities appear in speech. But, to quote René Char again, “in your essence you are constantly a poet.”100 Why? Because in his essence—which no hubris can swerve from the course of aletheiological orderings—man keeps responding and corresponding to what projects itself and sets itself in place around him; to “being” as it “sends itself” to him, “sets itself up” and “is a mittence”;101 in a word, to the original as it sets in around him. Man is not the measure of all things, but the identity between the birth of an epoch and the birth of a mode of thought is. It alone allows one to understand how “thinking changes the world”: “The word of thinkers knows no authors.”102 Finally, this identity alone makes, for instance, Hölderlin’s fear understandable when he writes: “Formerly I could rejoice in a new truth or in a better vision of what is above us and around us; now I fear that my fate will be like that of the ancient Tantalus, to whom the gods gave more than he could digest.”103 Thinking occurs as the truth, the epochal alētheia, institutes itself As an order of presence-absence gathers itself, most articulately in those called thinkers and poets, the new comes about in history.
If the original is the identical rise of a lex of things and of its logos in thought, then what Heidegger holds to constitute the phenomenality of phenomena must be understood as twice anti-humanistic:104 “The beginning reversal of the inherited position toward things”—that is, the beginning of an epochal lex (legein in the economic sense)—arises of itself; and the thought that gathers it (legein in the noetic sense) is in turn only the self-manifestation of that new law, that “changing fundamental position in the midst of relations to entities.”105 Phenomenality is constituted, not in reference to one source of forms, but by the systemic regime in which phenomena appear. Hence also Heidegger’s claim that thinking is neutral with regard to the moral law, values, and the like.
One has to see the extent to which Heidegger’s kinship with Parmenides in this domain upsets common sense. If he professed a relation of antecedent and consequent between an epochal order (lex) and thinking (legein), his claim would be less difficult. Such a relation may indeed suffice to account for the possibility of regional theories.106 But one logos that spells itself out in two loci, the world’ and ‘thinking’, is another matter. Again, common sense might admit that the opinions and convictions of men depend on the constellations of truth in history, on their cultural worlds; that a medieval may well be held in an order of presence such that the mathēsis universalis, or a critique of pure reason, or a genealogy of morals remain for him projects that are epochally out of reach. But is it not good sense to add that when a Duns Seotus writes about the order of essences or a Thomas Aquinas about analogy of being, all the same it is authors who conceive such views? Likewise, is it not good sense to say that the rise of an epochal regime is at most the necessary empirical condition of our thinking, however situated we may be; that the law of hiding-showing is perhaps a concrete a priori of thought, but that an identity between legein as economy of presence and legein as thought amounts to yet another version of monism—the opposite of ever-changing presencing?
By so reducing the phenomenology of reversals to a mere theory of Sitz im Leben, what gets cancelled out is the unitary happening of epechein and thinking: they are one in the way they come to pass. An epoch is not the other of thought, neither its empirical antecedent, nor its matter. Both are ‘original’ in the process107 in which they occur, in their oriri. This identity of occurrence is what Heidegger at first called transcendence. “Being is the transcendens pure and simple”108 because, following Kant’s discovery, the structures of Dasein’s stepping beyond itself and those of the world into which it transcends itself are the same. Later, “thinking” explicitly designates the process character of the identity between being and life. In the epochs, when novelty unites differently phenomena and thought, their structural identity is most evident. If the decisive philosophers do not know what, literally, comes upon them, this is because they find themselves in the midst of a sudden phenomenal reversal whose latencies are still unknown, nameless and impossible to name. In these breaks there are few actually new things to be known, but there is much potential to be thought. For their investigation, Heidegger borrows from Kant the distinction between knowing and thinking,109 or between “explanatory thinking” and “the other thinking.”110 Thus the original identity between a phenomenal constellation and the discourse about it entails no knowledge claims, it is not an issue for knowledge.111 It is, on the contrary, the issue for a thinking that is “besinnlich,” the thinking compliant with the “sense” (Sinn) of the reversals: the historical directedness of their destiny.
The transcendental legacy in the description of original inceptions is ultimately preserved by the difference between a knowable ontic order and its thinkable historical rise or coming-about. Transcendental inquiry steps back from an established fact (Vorhandenheit des Vorhandenen), to disclosedness as the universal and necessary condition for such a fact to appear (Entdecktheit des Vorhandenen),112 that is, to the establishing, the coming about of the economic functions that insert it in a play of unconcealment. The Anfang that regulates what Heidegger calls entities in their totality is the identity between epechein and noein. The identical coming-about of epochal being and thinking imprints its rule on all phenomena that become knowable for a time. Clearly transcendentalism has come a long way from thought as regulating the knowable through subjective principles to thought as regulating the knowable through epochal inceptions. Nevertheless, it is still according to the model of the a priori that epochal disclosure, the initial unity of unconcealment, becomes understandable at all. The other thinking, that which is other than knowledge, has no assignable content except this initial identity as it structures any aletheiological constellation. That identity determines in advance the modalities in which a proposition will be conformable to a given; it determines what will be ‘true’ in the sense of adequate judgments. The original identity between ‘objective’ epoche and ‘subjective’ logos (life) is the source of any and every law, whether it regulates cultural functions or reason.113 “The inception is always what is greatest,”114 but as the inception of both an order of presence and the response to it in thought, it also contains an inner complexity. It is “greatest” since it precedes everything knowable and doable as its condition, and it is complex since it dictates the rules for everything knowable and doable. In an entirely different context Heidegger thus preserves Kant’s discovery that what we can only think regulates what we can know as well as what we can do.115
To commence is not to accomplish mighty deeds. And if the inception of thought bears the names of Heraclitus, Parmenides, Plato, it is only insofar as these names designate the decisive, critical reversals in the order of presence. Any inception is a disclosure of a new aggregate of entities. “But disclosure is alētheia. This and the logos are the same.”116 Truth institutes itself in presence in one stroke, “abruptly, in an instant.”117 Understood as the rise of an order, the original regulates the totality of existence, “its gods, its art, its polity, its knowledge.”118 Truth qua alētheia precedes all instances of truth qua adaequatio, it is their transcendental condition. This implies that such instances remain essentially contingent, provisional. The history of being becomes the issue for phenomenology when the conditions of pre-understanding, discovered by the existential analytic, are in turn examined and show themselves to be the original shifts in history. These put in place the coordinates that determine the modalities of pre-understanding for a while.
The epochal beginnings indeed yield an anti-subjectivist notion of the transcendental because they are occurrences. They exhibit the historical ‘sense’ of presencing. It is therefore a misapprehension of the Sinn des Seins to construe the ‘sense’ as ‘meaning’ for reflection and to advocate a ‘return to the subject’ as the hermeneuts do who claim kinship with Heidegger. Even in Being and Time, ‘sense’ implied direction as much as meaning: time is the sense of being as one would say that a body moves in one sense or another.119 This antihumanistic thrust of the vocabulary of sense in Heidegger is confirmed especially in his ontological comprehension of the original. The epochē is to be understood as inception since it imparts a new orientation to phenomena. The temporal bearings of the being question are thus due to the fact that it has always been ‘stamped’ epochally. In deflecting the issue of time from the three ecstases toward the sudden epochs in history, this phenomenology definitely ceases to be centered on man as the bestower of meaning.
Three conclusions should be retained:
1. The difference between the original comprehension of ontology and the ontological comprehension of the original amounts to a radicalization of the difference between the empirical and its transcendental conditions. Something new (ontic) can happen in history only because thinking belongs to the (ontological) displacements called ‘epoch’ as Dasein belongs in the world. There could be no lived history if thinking did not essentially comply with those displacements. Heidegger uses the Kantian understanding of the a priori—a set of conditions—to retrieve the Parmenidean understanding of identity: the economical legein and the noetic legein are one insofar as they make novelty in history possible. Concretely, their identity allows for the shifts from pre-classical antiquity to the classical age, to Rome, to the Middle Ages, to modernity, and to the contemporary era.
2. What is original in history is the identity between two non-identical beginnings, between a novel disposition of phenomena and the new starting point it provides for thought (i.e., for existence). But if this is so, the epochs cannot merely be understood as the sequence of the ages just enumerated. The epochs introduce a fluidity into any given economy. The constellations of truth must be thought of as broken by incessant internal rearrangements.
3. The original in the sense of “the earliest dawn” (die früheste Frühe), Heidegger says, is an object of piety—that is, of “compliance”120—for us to the extent to which its return, “the other dawn” (die andere Frühe), becomes a possibility.121 That possibility assigns us our locus in the flux of economies. The topology of the epochal constellations gives us our location: near the original which remains what is “initially familiar,”122 but which also reserves itself while it grants itself.123 In speaking of piety and of the possible dawn of another order of things, Heidegger indulges neither in secularized religion nor in utopia. To be pious (fromm as fügsam) is to heed (sich fügen) the junctures (Fugen) of concealment-unconcealment.124
Phusis, the originary mode of appearing. . . .
What Is a Thing?125
The original modes of appearing are countless; they are as numerous as the disjunctive moments in history. The originary mode of appearing, on the other hand, has no history. With the originary concept of ontology and the ontological concept of the originary we leave the phenomenology of reversals (needless to add that this is not to return to an ontology of full presence, to a predicative conception of origin in which presencing would be the predicate of an ens originarium, an entity out of reach for our understanding but considered constantly present to the phenomena within our reach). Rather, presencing itself is to be understood as originary, as emergence in the economic fabric, as pure coming-about. Thought of originatty, this coming-about articulates itself through the epochs in the past history of being; thought of originarily, it “puts an end to the history of being.”126
The originary origin, “the rise that presences at the same time as it withdraws into itself,”127 is always implicated in what we live and understand. But it is rarely grasped for its own sake. Whence the necessity of a phenomenology which attempts to “wrest” it from present entities; which disimplicates the presently given, its epochal entrance into presence, and presencing as such, i.e., as temporal (although ahistorical) coming about.128 The identity between thought and the original origin referred human initiatives back to the aletheiological constellations which consolidate and dissolve and which a thoughtful man lets come to pass. The identity between thought and the originary disarms man in another way: it deprives thinking of all references to entities. The description of the reversals in history teaches us nothing about the Ursprung. It has to be ersprungen, attained by a leap.129 Only as a step back from referential constructs does “philosophy belong to the most originary of human efforts.”130 The Parmenidean figure of an event-like identity takes on its radical form here: at the root not only of the metaphysical notions of the origin (archē and principium), but also of these same notions under deconstruction, being and thought are one in their phuein, their identical arising. Entities become phenomena when they appear, united with others, in a finite constellation which is their truth. To think is to follow this appearance and this gathering. It is to adhere to the movement through which present entities emerge into presence, by an ‘originary leap’ (Ur-sprung). Originary thinking heeds such emergence for its own sake and not for the sake of these entities. To advocate a ‘leap’ in thinking is therefore not to plead some form of the irrational, but to disentangle the two levels of the temporal difference: that of the ‘originar, in which the coming-about of presence is described as the birth of a more or less short-lived network of present entities, and that of the ‘originary’, in which that coming-about is described without reference to entities.131
But what does it mean to say that this event-like identity (ursprünglich, not anfänglich) is essentially ahistorical?132 It means that it resists reiteration, that the return to the ancients is not enough—although as a means of constituting the phenomenality of the originary, that return is indispensable.133 As soon as it has occurred, the originary identity between presencing and thinking is lost. It remains the great absentee in all reflection on history. That is why we will never comprehend from within what Delphi meant for the Greeks, Sacsayhuaman for the Incas, or the proclamations of Jesus for the Jews. Indeed, how could the mutual emergence of things, actions, and words be repeated once their interdependence has changed its mode? The origin as entering into presence is instantaneous, the extreme finitude, it has no history—which is why we remain forever mute when we would like to know what the ‘puma was before the conquest of Peru, how the trans-Andine routes, the decimal system, the works and sacrifices, the ornaments, the solid metal statues, the temples of Cuzco, the caciques and the emperor, and death were mutually present.
Phuein has no history, no destiny. But this is not to say that it is atemporal. If it were, how could acting ever be kata phusin, following the coming-about of presence? The temporality of this coming-about may be understood through the corresponding notion of nothingness. The ‘original, i.e., an epochal beginning, is a rise out of ontic nothingness, out of all those (possible) entities that remain absent for an age. The ‘originary’ is a rise out of ontological nothingness, out of the pull toward absence that permeates presencing to its very heart. This presencing-absencing is originary time: both approaching (Angang)134 and departing (Abgang);135 genesis and phthora, rising and declining;136 being and non-being.137 The mutual emergence of phenomena, in which non-being temporalizes being, is the ‘originary’ origin, Ursprung.
The togetherness of hiding and showing can be thought of as temporal only in regard to the future. Heidegger has always held the possible, the not-yet, to “stand higher”138 than the actual. But the anticipatory character is not the same in the case of the ‘original’ and the ‘originary’. At the beginning of an era, new components enter the economy of words, things and deeds. The gold of the conquistadors, the theses nailed to the doors of the church at Wittenberg (if that gesture ever took place), the insurrections of the peasants following Thomas Müntzer, are just so many new elements that compose the economy of emerging modernity. But the gold, Luther’s theses, and the Peasants’ Revolt were absent, economically impossible, until that epochal reversal. At the breaks in history, then, certain entities withdraw (“At the end of the Middle Ages, leprosy disappeared from the Western world”139), fall into oblivion, and others reveal themselves. Such is the structure of ontic hiding-showing as the deconstruction—the “overcoming of metaphysics”—allows it to be read at the moments of transition. The ontological structure of hiding-showing does not involve entities. It is the interplay of lēthē and alētheia, “without regard to the relation of being to entities. . . . What matters is to let all ‘overcoming’ be and leave metaphysics to itself.”140 Why does the originary hiding-showing remain unthinkable as long as the question of being remains tied to the project of overcoming metaphysics? Because that project is aimed at dismantling the ontic economies, at dethroning ultimate referents, at subverting the principiai constellations of which our history consists, whereas presencing as such is to be thought “prior to the [ontological] difference . . . and therefore without entities.”141 What then is the futurity due to which presencing appears as a temporal, although not a historical, event? Heidegger’s answer is: the appropriation of absence. But this is meant to suggest no more than a feature in the essence of manifestation. For manifestation to be a temporal event, the absence which lies at its heart has to be seen as possible presence. In any phenomenon, what is future-oriented is indeed the possibility that belongs to it: the most tenuous element, as it were, in any aletheiological constellation. Heidegger tries to suggest this ahistorical temporality through the German phrase “es gibt,” “there 1s.”142 The es (‘it’) designates the utter anonymity of presencing, and the gibt (‘gives’), its temporal nature.
Needless to add that the ‘originary’, the phuein which is manifestation, remains irreducible to the ancient existentia or the mere dass (the fact-of-being), and the ‘original’, the epochē, to the ancient essentia or the mere was (quiddity). The epochs do not add whatness to being as they would in a metaphysics of real composition. If phusis were just another name for actuality, living “according to phusis” would be a rather abstract endeavor—divine, perhaps. But as thoroughly temporal, being has lost all divine connotations. It renders the economies—and thereby, any modalities of action—possible by the way it retains absence. The differentiating factor in the economies, which determines what can be done and thought, is the temporal rapport of alētheia and lēthē.
In Being and Time, the ‘originary’ was already recognized as the temporal condition of all that can be done and thought. Entities “arise,” Heidegger wrote then, within the horizon opened by our project of being, according to the way we relate to them.143 But since it remained construed out of our death, temporality could not yet be retained as mere presencing. What is ‘originary’ in Being and Time is the opening, projected by ourselves, in which entities are insofar as they appear to the entity that we are. The Kantian model is obvious. The continuity between transcendental criticism and existential analysis appears nowhere more clearly than when Heidegger finally links the Ursprung to transcendental apperception.144 So understood, the ‘originary’ is finite in that it manifests some entities against a background of others that are not manifest. The necessarily selective character of such gathering signifies that the unlimited manifestation of everything potentially present is impossible.145 This has some consequences for the understanding of truth. The existential structures by which we discover entities in their many ways of being present also “manifest the most originary phenomenon of truth.” Truth is understood as the disclosure opened up by our being-there. The ‘originary’, in Being and Time, is thus both an homage to, and a denial of, subjectivist transcendentalism. A homage, since “uncovering is a mode of being-in-the-world,” and even the relationships of reciprocal belonging that constitute the world are construed from the standpoint of human being-there: “the world . . . is a character of being-there itself.”146 And yet subjectivist transcendentalism is denied by the equiprimordiality of Dasein and the world. All of this certainly does not mean that in Being and Time what is originary about truth and the world is conceived “humanistically” in the sense of humanism, that “circulatory movement around man, approximating him more or less” in his metaphysical essence.147 Rather, in being-there we “let [the world and truth] spring forth” (Ursprung as entspringen lassen).148
The tendency toward anti-humanism in the understanding of the originary—and consequently of truth as disclosure and of the world as the network of phenomenal interconnectedness—becomes reinforced after Being and Time. Most revelatory in this respect is the coupling of ‘originary’ and ‘original’: in the history of philosophy, “the essence of truth could not be retained and preserved in its original originariness” (in seiner anfänglichen Ursprünglichkeit); whence the necessity of “retrieving it more originarily in its originariness.”149 Heidegger now no longer understands truth as a disclosure constituted by man. It does remain located in one privileged entity, however: in “the work of the word, poetry; the work of stone, the temple and the statue; the work of the word, thought; the work of the polis, the historical place in which all this is grounded and preserved.”150 What “opens up a world” is no longer the human entity, but a “work.”151 The originary is thus displaced from being-there to works. That shift clearly reveals the anti-humanist thrust of the Kehre, but it also shows how the originary is thought in relation to the original. This link appears for instance in the opposition between the “world,” understood as manifest arrangement, and the “earth,” as sheltering and hiding (bergen). A work of art “sets up a world . . . and lets the earth be earth.”152 The struggle between hiding and showing, the originary essence of truth, finds itself displaced from existential transcendence to an “originary conflict”153 between earth and world. What is not immediately apparent in these metaphors is that they refer to the history of presence: the works, especially communities, of which our history is made, each time open a domain for life and thought. Setting to work differs from coming to presence. They are distinct as the phenomenology which describes historical constellations is distinct from the transcendental phenomenology of ahistorical presencing. What, then, is substituted as originary for the quasi-humanist ‘projection’ in Heidegger’s early writings, after he has turned away for good from all remnants of subjectivist transcendentalism? It is the anonymous historical happening in which a work imposes itself on a fabric of exchanges among phenomena.154 Besides communities and works of art there are few classes of entities that so institute a world.155 Even though, in these writings concerning the history of being, the locus of the originary is no longer the entity that we are, it is still one entity that institutes a world and that sets off the struggle between the closed and the open, the aletheiological struggle. That reference to entities and their regions disappears as Heidegger’s phenomenology comes into its own: he no longer seeks to understand the originary through its ontological difference from entities, but through its temporal difference from the original.
Once so thematized in itself, the Ursprung proves to be irreducibly manifold. This is the decisive discovery. It shows that prior to the binary struggle between veiling and unveiling, presencing de-centers the process of manifestation. When Heidegger speaks of a fourfold struggle,156 it is not the number four that is important, but the fragmentation of the originary. Presencing then appears as the appropriation, “out of an originary one-ness,”157 of the multiple dimensions of the world.158 This event of multiple appropriation “cannot be retained either as being or as time”; it is rather their mutual coming to presence, “the neutral ‘and’ in the title On Time and Being.”159 Presencing has lost its center. The “originary oneness” allows for no henology. Heidegger never conceived of presence according to the pros hen model, as “presence to” man, to a work, or to some other entity. But if indeed he understood the field of presence as opened by’ man or an artwork, even these phenomenal referents lose their codifiers’ prestige. Originary oneness is no more than the simple event of any phenomenon’s ‘coming-about’. This event has its own temporality, its “motility,”160 which no longer has anything to do with the ecstases or with the epochs. The event is the most ordinary trait, that most common to any experience: the appearance of the ‘there’. To speak of the fourfold is then not without polemical overtones, directed against representations of a ‘universe’, that is, of a world turned toward one, be it a substantive (metaphysical), formal (transcendental) or phenomenal (e.g., the artwork) ‘one’. Nothing is gained—on the contrary, everything is lost—when the event of presencing is interpreted, as some commentators have done, from the viewpoint of the Aristotelian difference between dynamis and energeia,161 or from that of the Hegelian dialectic of recognition.162 In both cases, coming to presence or presencing remains oriented toward man, centripetal, not truly a manifold play. The event of appropriation is one only as it directs dimensions of manifestation (such as “the earth and the sky”) into an “essential mutual relation.”163 These dimensions of the fourfold have little in common with phenomenal regions besides their multiplicity. They are as multiple as Dionysus torn to pieces.164
The way presencing comes about differs from the way something new comes about in history. This difference between the originary and the original is the temporal difference, the ontological difference radicalized. Heidegger establishes it in three successive approaches:165 (1) the originary is the a priori of the original; (2) to think the originary is to bring the history of epochal beginnings, that is, of original origins, to its end; (3) the concealment that belongs to the essence of the original is cancelled, superelevated, and preserved in the originary.
1. The event of coming to presence is the a priori of any epochal beginning. We have seen that Ursprung does not designate a new historical stamp, not yet another mark in the sequence of Western configurations. The versions of the original, as they have left their imprint on the way something new has been capable of coming about in history, all “belong to” and are “reabsorbed in” the originary. The a priori so understood certainly cannot be construed according to the traditional model inaugurated by Plato (as ideal cause) and taken up by Kant (as subjective condition). And yet, as a priori, it can only function as preceding any experience. The ahistorical event in which presencing comes about must “(in one way or another)” be recognized as the condition for the possibility of the historical occurrence in which something new, a new order of things present, appears. We understand ‘being’ as the synchronic emergence of such an order, which situates everything knowable as well as doable. As emergence, it determines not only presence but also and identically, absence, out of which emergence takes place. To discover the determinative function of the temporal difference, it suffices to wonder that in each instant there is such an event-like distributing of presence-absence, that presence ‘comes about’. In its ultimate phenomenal content, then, the difference appears as that between the there is and the epochal stamps that arrange an order of things present and absent.166 Presencing-absencing is the a priori event that makes it possible for any such order to spell itself out in history.
2. The entire intent of Heideggerian phenomenology is toward this emergence of presence, thought of in itself and for its own sake. That is what is meant when he claims that the lineage of epochal inceptions has come to an end. “Thinking then stands in and before ‘It’ which has sent the various shapes of epochal being.”167 But “It” is always understood by each and every one, prior to any empirical content. When an entity like the city of Cuzco was inhabited solely by the descendants of the emperor, to the exclusion of any other clan, the web of being was pre-understood otherwise than when Pizarro had churches and convents built on the partially razed Inca dwellings; and Cuzco “is there” still differently as it turns quietly into a commodity on the international tourist market; differently again when, sooner rather than later, “the air which is so pure that corpses don’t rot,” in the words of a Spanish chronicler, surely will have become unbreathable even for the monoliths, when UNESCO will decide to protect them, too, under plastic domes. At each stage of this history, certain entities are present, others absent. Today, Atahualpa is no longer in that valley and modern industry, not there yet. The absence of what is gone and the absence of what is to come demarcate the field of ontic168 presence. At each stage, too, there is beingness, the foundational beginning of an order that articulates an aletheiological constellation for thought. Lastly, at each stage there is the there is itself, the event of coming-about by which presence rather than pure absence is possible. But to become attentive to this last origin, to the bare springing forth, the philosophic gaze must be diverted from the series of the constellations of beingness over the course of the ages. What is it precisely then that is seen as drawing to a close?
3. “With the awakening into the event of appropriation, the forgottenness of being is cancelled, super-elevated, and preserved.”169 Forgottenness is what draws to a close. But is this to say that to think presencing beyond “apprenticeship” and “preparation,”170 would amount to capturing it at the high noon of a univocal ‘there is’, beyond all absence? No, for as we have seen, in its advent presence withdraws into itself; it is essentially “a bestowal in withdrawal.”171 Inasmuch as the event is both appropriation and expropriation in one, the concealment that characterizes the epoch of metaphysics is aufgehoben. To be sure, this allusion to Hegelian dialectic does not make it easier to understand how the (‘originary’) event is linked to and differs from history (the ‘original’). What can be said, though, is that a shift in standpoint occurs: historical time is no longer merely described through the reversals, but transcendentally construed as different from primordial time, the event. In that sense, the original, along with the concealment that mingles with all beginnings, is indeed cancelled. As deconstruction, then, attains its aim, as it sets free a springing forth entirely other than the original, it also preserves historical time in the always nascent coming about of presence that founds nothing. Lastly, it has super-elevated concealment, namely, from epoche to lēthē, and so introduced absence, the not-yet, expropriation, the ad of the future, into “appropriation,” into presencing as advent. “For the thinking that enters the event of appropriation, the history of being as what is to be thought, is at an end.”172 The allusion to dialectics—a hapax legomenon, single occurrence, in Heidegger—concerns exclusively the step back from ‘epochal’ forgottenness of being, to lēthē and its temporal figure, ‘expropriation’. The allusion in no way entails any reconciliation of opposites, nor the constitution of any universal. If the history of being comes to “an end,” Heidegger’s negation of principles remains non-dialectical.
Such is the ‘step back’ from the original to the originary, by which Heidegger attempts to overcome the epochal principles that have governed the constellations of present-absent things. The ‘It gives’, or better: the ‘there is’ (Es gibt’), is to be grasped in such a way that it accounts for the possibility of these concrete constellations and their principles. But the issue of phenomenology lies beyond them. What, then, is at issue in the overcoming of metaphysics? It is the effort to forestall the relapse from an understanding of the origin as event into its principiai comprehension. The transmutation through which presencing institutionalizes itself into principies that rule and justify action is the ill fate of the origin. As pure emergence, the originary is essentially fragile, finite, no sooner recognized than ready to turn into a principle. Heidegger may have done a disservice to his own radical phenomenology by surrounding ‘It’ which ‘gives’ presence—i.e., its self-giving—with an aura of mystification. ‘Es gibt’ means: appearance occurs. Transcendental philosophers since Kant have stressed that what appears is beyond the reach of knowledge. As Heidegger displaces the transcendental conditions from the subject to originary presencing, he radicalizes this apophatism, too. He urges us to be silent before the mystery of that which ‘gives’. What is at stake is the impossibility of speaking of absence as absence. The “expropriation” at the very heart of appropriation “includes the question: expropriation toward where? Of the direction and the sense of this question nothing more was said.”173 Unknowability, too, is then taken “a step back,” namely from the Kantian noumenon as absent, to absencing as such. In any principiai order, absence is one distinctive feature of the supreme referent. The medieval God and the Kantian noumenon can only impart their measure on our living and thinking because they escape our grasp. To fulfill their normative office, both must rule from remote and impenetrable heights. Radical phenomenology, on the other hand, not only brings principiai history to an end, but it takes away from absence the aura of authority by showing its temporal “direction and sense.” The price paid, in the metaphysical quest for a distant father, is the abandonment of the temporal essence of presencing. Any ultimate referent always governs, fully and timelessly present in its absence. Not so ‘It’.
The annihilation, in Heidegger, of philosophy’s legitimating, justificatory function results from the link he establishes between the ‘original’ and the ‘originary’.174 If the history made of “stamps” of being (Seinsprägungen) comes to an end,175 the one issue for philosophy—for thinking—will be the event of presencing as such. The original is then opposed to the originary as the last epochal principle, the technological, scientific, industrial complex (Gepräge176) is to the possibility of a turning. This would be a reversal entirely other than those separating the epochs. The phenomenology of the originary It “does not wish and is not able to predict a future”; but it wishes indeed and is also able to demand “that man be ready for a determination which, whether it is heard or not, always speaks in the still undecided destiny of man.”177 What is clear, at least, is that this originary determination sustains, authors or authorizes nothing. It is neither present nor absent, nor another “stamp.” It differs from the two forms of rule, archē and principium, as well as from the original, in that it fails to stand in league with duration. Any ultimate referent that would legitimate human activities would have to subsist, remain constantly present and available, ready to be called upon as a norm wherever action is taking place. But if Ursprung is indeed a determination that is heard everywhere and always by man, it by no means determines praxis by referring it to one founding term. It is a “broken foundation,” and we have only manifold modes of emerging within a “temporal play space” by which to measure our actions.178 Compared to the quest for foundations, and viewed as restoring innocence to radical multiplicity, the originary can only appear as play.179 The manifold Ursprung commits “thinking to the play with that in which being qua being rests, and not with something on which [being] would repose as on a foundation.”180 It is the time factor in that play.
The inquiry into the epochal beginnings already amounted to de-humanizing, so to speak, the phenomenon of origin. A ‘project’ of truth was seen as springing, not from existence, but from the aletheiological struggle. The inquiry into presencing consummates that anti-humanistic impact. An original project (Entwurf)—Inca civilization or modern technology—is possible only due to the always preceding originary coming-about (or throwing-toward, Zuwurf) which is presencing. The difference that impels Heidegger’s thought more and more exclusively is that between the pro-jective original and the ad-jective originary. From the origin as an existential project to the origin as an epochal project, the regions of presence were displaced from our own being to that of history; but with the step back to the mere event of presencing, phenomenology ceases to be regional.181 As Heidegger comes to recognize presencing as the one issue for thought, the structure of springing forth turns from a making (or ‘setting’ into work) to a receiving (or ‘letting’). In this way, the poietic element appears as secondary in comparison with phuein, originary springing forth. Once the primacy of ‘letting’ (entlassen) over ‘making’ (poiein) is recognized, that is, once archē and principium are unmasked as ontic substitutes for the originary, metaphysics has found its location: as the sum of the attempts to objectivate the Ursprung under the guise of arch-present entities. Their reign, be it divine, logical, or human, functions as a pretext that obfuscates the texture of presencing.182 Little would be gained if deconstructing that pretext were only a matter of revoking metaphysical representations, without laying bare the ‘forgotten’ texture. In asking what is genuinely originary among phenomena, Heidegger’s whole point is to free that texture of interconnectedness; to rehabilitate, in other words, the essentially non-objectifiable, multiple event of phenomena entering into mutual presence. From this rehabilitation nothing is gained for the lofty problem of securing an underwriter who guarantees truth, and much is lost for the systems of authority articulating their legitimation on the pros hen relation. This reference to a first showed itself to be the conceptual pivot that has allowed metaphysicians since Aristotle to translate a first philosophy into practical philosophy. Radical phenomenology, on the other hand, will never allow propositions or public and private acts to be referred to the originary as accidents are referred to substance; or, in the most recent attempt at legitimating praxis through a first philosophy, as Critical Theory refers rational propositions about emancipation to an ideal community of undistorted communication.183
At the end of an epoch, when its principle expires, thinking is in the unique position of reverting to the issue of presencing (to ‘the question of being’); but it can seize that possibility only by subverting all ultimate referents. The post-modern age, inaugurated by Nietzsche,184 is the one in which the availability of referential truth for purposes of legitimation becomes suspect. Indeed, when not only one or another epochal principle, but the pros hen itself which in metaphysics sustains all firsts, gives way, it becomes urgent to ask how the origin could ever come to be conceived on the model of juridic justification and architectonic underpinning. The difference between the ‘original’ and the ‘originary’ then tells us something about presencing as such, as opposed to its predominant modes in the West: namely, that it is without principle, an-archic, and that in an age of transition the origin as pure phuein is all there remains to be thought for those who look for truth . . . very little, to be sure, to justify and sustain any economic referent. But as long as one seeks to revert to the initial question of Western philosophy without also subverting the focal points into which that question has crystallized, it will remain unintelligible why Heidegger can claim: “finding the way into the truth of being” presupposes that we renounce “instituting rules.”185
Heidegger’s progressive discovery of the origin as essentially an-archic is traceable by following his usage of the phrase Es gibt (“There is,” literally “It gives”). At first it refers to the phenomenon of understanding, that is, to ourselves as discovering things in the world and thereby rendering them true.186 “Only as long as Dasein ‘is’ . . . ‘is there’ being.”187 Later (second period), Heidegger interprets passages such as the line just quoted from the perspective of the history of presence: ‘being’ is given differently at each epochal reversal.188 The sudden advent of an order ‘gives’ a new modality of presence. ‘It’ which ‘gives’ originally sets itself to work in an epochal order. To seek truth then means to preserve the novelty of this setting to work:189 for Freudianism or Marxism, to seek truth would mean to keep alive the insurrection among ‘entities as a whole’ as it bears the names of Freud and Marx; it would mean to safeguard (bewahren) their aletheiological (wahr) constellation not in its doctrinal fixity, but in its incipiency. The dogmatisms that have been born from these new beginnings, with their retinue of individual or collective oppression systems, show to everyone’s satisfaction how easy it is for the original to be perverted into a principle. Then the uniform rules: ‘in principle’, men belonging to one epoch all do the same things. Finally in Heidegger’s writings where the “There is” (third period) designates the simple springing forth of presence, “It” which “gives,” not only bears no human name,190 but it is operative in language in such a way that it forbids thinking of the origin otherwise than as an an-archic, non-principial, manifold: this neuter “It” is neither being191 nor time.192 And if it “is” speech, “all standards are still lacking in every way for determining it.”193 “It,” the coming-about of presence, is nothing, as the visibility of the visible is nothing. At the same time, that coming-about is everything: it is the monstration of the visible, and in this sense, its truth. Here there is no risk of dogmatism and no room for administration and surveillance, whether over thinking or doing.
The link between Heidegger’s late form of the ontological difference and deconstruction is easily stated: the ‘original’ is the deconstructed archē. To grasp an entity by its form, or a case of generation or corruption by its causes, that is, to grasp metaphysical being or becoming, means to respond in one way or another to the question: where does this come from? The origin as archē, even critically articulated in epistemology, is still conceived in view of a mediate, genetic production of knowledge. To explain substance and becoming, or to explain our knowledge of them, is always to trace substantial being, becoming, or knowledge to an entity that ‘gives’ them: forma dat esse, “the form gives being.” But in the ‘original’ as deconstructed archē, no such causal, entitative giving occurs. Phenomena are seized in the rise of an epochal order, which incipience produces no science. The original is only thinkable. In this deconstruction knowledge loses its essence, at least if to know is essentially scire per causas, knowing through causes.
Likewise, the ‘originary’ is the deconstructed principium. A principle governs beyond time. It manifests itself in its effects. But the originary manifests nothing; it is manifestation, the temporal event of manifesting. Understood originarily, an entity is true as it enters into presence. Its manifestation is its truth. In this way, the deconstruction of the ‘principle’ leads to a differential understanding of truth: the field in which ‘there is’ truth is the difference between a modality of presence and presencing, or between the given and the giving. This differential, phenomenological understanding of truth precedes all of its causal, metaphysical conceptions. It is also prior to—indeed, more originary than—economic arrangements and their description. Heidegger’s retrieval of the originary entirely abolishes whatever could have survived, in the guise of remembering founding deeds, from the old genetic method in his program of returning to the original.194
The origin is said in many ways: metaphysical archai and principia, and phenomenological ‘original’ and ‘originary’—the original rise of a mode of being (Seiendheit,195 “beingness”) and the originary rise which is the event of being. The gist of Heidegger’s deconstructive method is this difference between mode and event, the temporal difference. It puts out of function any notion of origin as first referent. It thereby renders possible a phenomenology of being that is not a first philosophy. In order to show, then, how claims to both theoretical and practical ultimacy are annihilated by Heidegger’s dismantling of the pros hen model, it is necessary provisionally to separate two questions: How is multiple presencing thinkable (‘theoretical’ question)? and: What are its consequences for practice (‘practical’ question)? The separation of these two questions is provisional since the question of being and the question of acting are not two different questions for Heidegger.
The temporal difference will allow us first to establish the categories of presencing (Part IV) and then to show their practical implications (Part V). Neither question could be raised without a preliminary understanding of being as time. This has been worked out through the two senses of origin and can now be put to work.