Being as Place: Introduction to Metaphysics – Part Two (The Limitation of Being)

The structure of Being (Photography: Alessandro Calvi Rollino Architetto).

This is the continuation of Being as Place: Introduction to Metaphysics – Part One, where I presented Heidegger’s metaphysical discourse on Being, with the parallel scope to see how many intersecting threads that metaphysical concept may have with respect to the reformed concept of place I’m arguing for here, at

What Heidegger has delineated so far, in the first three chapters of Introduction to Metaphysics (the 2000-edition translated by Gregory Fried and Richard Polt),[1] is the preparatory territory for the final investigation of the structure of Being, which is discussed in Chapter Four, the subject of this article. ‘How does it stand with Being?’ — that is, What is the status of Being? What about Being? — will be the question of reference, from now on.

Chapter Four: The Restriction of Being

A brief note concerning the discrepancy between the title of this Chapter Four, according to the translation of Fried and Polt — The Restriction of Being —, and the final part of the title I have used for the featured image of this article: ‘The Limitation of Being.’ Given that my fundamental interest is to consider how close the concept of Being is to the concept of place, understood as a processual notion, I preferred to use the term ‘limitation’, which was used by Ralph Manheim, in the first English translation of An Introduction to Metaphysics, rather than the term ‘restriction’ used by Fried and Polt for the original German expression ‘Die Beschränkung des Seins’.[2] Given that the underneath hypothesis running through these two articles consists in taking into the light the closeness between the domain of Being and the domain of place, and given that place, as we know, is a notion built on the concept of limit, I found quite natural to adopt Manheim’s translation. In this article especially, I will use some images and schemes that show how the constitution of the domain of Being can be understood as a placial domain, which, just like any other domain, is determined by limits, whether concrete or abstract. Hence, my preference for Manheim’s translation, ‘The Limitation of Being’.

As a guide to the overall argumentation developed in this Chapter Four, I report here what I’ve already presented in the opening part of the past article: this final Chapter defines the different paths the question of Being can be handled by comparison with other basic notions that delimit the essence and the meaning of Being itself; accordingly, the title of this chapter is: ‘The Restriction of Being’. An introductory section — Section A. Seven points of orientation for the investigation of the restriction of Being — offers an overall indication concerning the directions that Heidegger’s arguments will follow; then, in the other sections, Being is confronted with those characters that delimit its essence, that is: Section B. Being and becoming; Section C. Being and seeming; Section D. Being and thinking (this section has special relevance since ‘thinking’ is the decisive limitation, or restriction, that gives a final orientation to the modern interpretation of Being); Section E. Being and the ought. A final section — Section F. Conclusion —  presents a brief review of the arguments discussed.

Just like in the previous article, the resume of Heidegger’s arguments is introduced by headlines written with bold and italics characters, announcing the specific chapter, and section of the book; my commentaries are introduced by headlines written with bold characters on a light-grey background.

Heidegger’s strategy to give the final assault on Being is presented in Section A of Chapter Four.

Chapter Four — Section A. Seven points of orientation for the investigation of the restriction of Being

Now, the question is to confront Being with what is distinguished from it. Heidegger announces: ‘We will now pursue the distinctions between Being and its Other’.[3] The distinctions mentioned — Being and becoming; Being and seeming; Being and thinking; Being and the ought — indirectly affirm the domain Being belongs to; they have to be elucidated taking in mind some important points, which will give a direction to all the remaining investigations on Being. Let’s hear directly from Heidegger what these ‘points of orientation’ consist of: ‘1. Being is delimited against an Other and thus already has a determinateness in this setting of a limit. 2. The delimitation happens in four interrelated respects [Being and becoming; Being and seeming; Being and thinking; Being and the ought]… 3. These distinctions are by no means accidental. What is held apart by them belongs together originally and tends to come together. Hence, the divisions have their own necessity. 4. Therefore, the oppositions… arose in close connection with the stamping of Being whose openness became definitive for the history of the West. They had their inception with the inception of philosophical questioning. 5. The distinctions have not remained dominant only within Western philosophy. They pervade all knowing, acting, and speaking, even when they are not expressed explicitly or in these words. 6. The sequence in which we listed the terms already gives an indication of the order of their essential connection and of the historical sequence in which they were stamped. The two distinctions we named first (Being and becoming, Being and seeming) get formed at the very inception of Greek philosophy… The third distinction (Being and thinking), which was foreshadowed in the inception no less than the first two, unfolds definitively in the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, but first takes on its real form at the beginning of modernity… The fourth distinction (Being and the ought) belongs thoroughly to modernity… 7. Asking the question of Being in an originary way, in a way that grasps the task of unfolding the truth of the essence of Being, means facing the decision <Entscheidung> regarding the concealed powers in these distinctions <Unterscheidungen>, and it means bringing them back to their own truth.’ [4]

The first distinction worked out by Heidegger is the distinction between Being and Becoming:

Chapter Four Section B. Being and becoming

This division and opposition stands at the inception of the questioning of Being’: this is Heidegger’s introductory statement concerning the division between Being and becoming.[5] The division is further elaborated in this way: ‘That which “is” has left all becoming behind it, if indeed it ever became or could become. What “is” in the authentic sense also stands up against every onslaught from becoming.’[6]

Image 01: What we have called the ‘wavering between Being and not-Being’ , in Image 05 of Being as Place: Introduction to Metaphysics  – Part One , here can be considered again to understand the division between Being and becoming: it is a question for Being to ‘stand up’ against the possibility of not-Being, or becoming something else (a falling column, a broken column, etc.). Being in contrast to (the forces of) becoming: here, the question between Being and polemos — the Greek term for ‘war’, ‘struggle’, ‘confrontation’ between Being and ‘its other’ —resurfaces (see Chapter Two — Section B.2.b.ii).

This question concerning the division between Being and becoming is developed by Heidegger along two lines of reasoning, based on the Greek originary way of thinking; in the following two sections, a fragment of Parmenides is taken as a reference, and, then, confronted with Heraclitus’s thinking.

Chapter Four Section B.1. Parmenides on Being as constancy

According to Heidegger, Parmenides, who lived at the turn of the fifth century B.C., ‘set forth the Being of what is in contrast to becoming.’[7] By quoting a fragment of Parmenides (fragment 8, lines 1-6), Heidegger points out the main characters of Being, which I will enucleate from that fragment: Being is ‘without genesis and without decay’; it is ‘complete’ and ‘standing fully there alone’; it is ‘present’, and ‘all-at-once’, ‘unique unifying united’; ‘gathering itself in itself from itself’, that is ‘holding itself together’ in full presentness.[8] Heidegger immediately draws some important conclusions on the character of Being: ‘We conclude from all this that Being indicates itself to this saying as the proper self-collected perdurance of the constant, undisturbed by restlessness and change.’[9]

From a fragment of Parmenides, we know that Being is ‘without genesis and without decay’; it is ‘complete’ and ‘standing fully there alone’; it is ‘present’, and ‘all-at-once’, ‘unique unifying united’;  ‘gathering itself in itself from itself’, that is ‘holding itself together’ in full presentness

It seems immediately evident that this statement by Parmenides is in stark contrast to Heraclitus’s thinking, who, according to traditional interpretations, is considered the putative father of ‘change and becoming’. But Heidegger surprises us, with a completely different interpretation:

Chapter Four Section B.2. The agreement between Parmenides and Heraclitus

Even today, in accounts of the inception of Western philosophy, it is customary to oppose Parmenides’ teaching to that of Heraclitus. An oft-cited saying is supposed to derive from Heraclitus: “panta rhei,” all is in flux. Hence, there is no Being. All “is” becoming… Heraclitus, to whom one ascribes the doctrine of becoming, in stark contrast to Parmenides, in truth says the same as Parmenides. He would not be one of the greatest of the great Greeks if he said anything else. One simply must not interpret his doctrine of becoming according to the notions of a nineteenth-century Darwinist.’[10] It seems we are confronted with the coincidence of the opposites; I interpret this difference/coincidence simply in this way: the subject of the investigations made by Parmenides and Heraclitus is the same, that is, phusis. Phusis, according to the originary Greek way of thinking (which is different from the modern way to conceive of nature — this is the sense of Heidegger’s reference to the modern Darwinist interpretations of nature) is both Being and becoming: these are two modes of interpreting the same event, that is phusis-as-nature, in the original Greek sense. We can see this since one of the first formulations made by Heidegger, concerning the conceptual identity and continuity between phusis, Being and beings: ‘Phusis is Being itself, by virtue of which beings first become and remain observable’, Heidegger said.[11] To become and to remain observable is the expression of the natural contiguity or complementarity that exists between Being and beings, as well as between Being (as permanence) and becoming (‘Becoming means: coming to Being’):[12] both are aspects of the event-phusis — ‘Phusis is the event of standing forth, arising from the concealed and thus enabling the concealed to take its stand for the first time.’ [13] Both Parmenides and Heraclitus are considering phusis. But phusis is a complex event and any great thinker focuses on some specific characteristics of this event: ‘What use, then, is the multifaceted and complex history of Western philosophy, if they all say the same thing anyway?’, Heidegger asks.[14] This is why Heidegger says that they are saying the same, ultimately. There is not an absolute contrast between Being and becoming (traditional presupposition), but their opposition is the complementarity necessary for the unity of nature, or: the opposites acquire their complete and true sense only if they are considered part of the same structure (coincidentia oppositorum or the unity of the opposites) — this structure is phusis, as the Being of beings, in the originary Greek sense; it includes becoming as a way of defining and delimiting Being.

So, now, Heidegger continues with the elucidation of the other parts of the complex structure of Being: the delimitation of Being against seeming, is the next step, Section C.

The place of Being and the place of becoming;  Place (instead of Being) as Parmenidean presence. The coincidence of the opposites.

Before continuing with Heidegger’s elaboration of the division between Being and ‘its other’, I try to consider this question — the distinction between Being and becoming — from the perspective of place to show how close this perspective can be (at least, close to the reformed understanding of place that I’m proposing here) with respect to Heidegger’s elaboration of the notion of Being ‘opposed to’ or ‘against’ becoming. Within the structure of place that I am delineating, place is at the same time the place for processes ‘to be’ — I mean ‘to be’ present (in the sense of Being here or there) — as well as the place for processes ‘to become’, that is to come into the specific forms of beings, or to emerge, to appear as beings and maintain their presence (Being). Here, becoming is considered as ‘to come to being’ (see note [12], above, concerning the ambiguity between ‘to come to Being’ and ‘to come to being’). So, place is both universal (the place of Being or beings as such and as a whole) and particular (the place of beings, the essents). Place as such is eternally present, without genesis and without decay. This character of continuity is what guarantees the constant presence of nature, phusis, as the place where Being and becoming coincide, as Heidegger has said in regard to the seeming opposite philosophical positions of Parmenides and Heraclitus. According to this placial-and-processual perspective, the opposites coincide in place (nature, in the originary sense of phusis, is the place of processes, that is,the place of Being and beings, which is also the place of Being and becoming). Without place there can be no physicochemical, biological, social and/or symbolic stands for beings and, therefore, if this is the case, before their realization (before their coming into Being as particular beings), there would be no possibility — no stand — for (their) Being at all. Without place, there would be no nature at all (no phusis). So place, aside from being eternally present, without genesis and without decay, allows its eternal presence (Being-as-place) to come to beings (that is: place offers a stand to Being and becoming as well), that’s why it is a unique unifying united; this unique unifying united structure is the place of Being and becoming, or, using the pictorial expression I often recur to in similar cases, it is the place of Being(  )becoming, that is of Being-and-becoming: the two halves — one representing Being, the other representing becoming — form that unique domain, that unique structure: a placial structure. Place. This does not mean that there are three different structures: Being, becoming and place; the structure is One, and what appears to us as the opposites (Being and becoming) or divided (Being and beings versus place), is actually united in this One-as-place, holding itself together, in full presentness. In this One, we all recognize Parmenides’ thinking; yet since the constitutive part of this One is also ‘becoming’, we should recognize in it Heraclitus’ thinking as well, which is not contradictory yet complementary, as Heidegger acutely observed, against all traditional presuppositions.  Being(  )becoming: this is the place of nature: this is phusis. The One, because of its internal constitution — ( + ), that is: the dynamics of the two halves making a whole as One — contains parts, and it is properly the dynamics of these parts that constitute the unity. Being and becoming. That is the place of Being and becoming. Place is the ground.

Image 02: The division/opposition between Being and becoming as elaborated by Heidegger in Introduction to Metaphysics (IM), first line, and as I conceive it,, from the perspective of place. The conception of phusis described by Heidegger (quotations on the left)I have described pictorially, with the symbol (  ) — composed of two opposing brackets forming a set, or a whole, that is, the place of/as phusis — which means ‘belonging together’, opposition and unity; Phusis as the place of opposition and unity of Being and beings, is, in turn, a structure on which the opposition and unity of Being(  )becoming, constant presence and change is grounded. Then, this unitary structure formed by the reciprocal action of the opposites is a place — the place of processes: in this way, the conception of Nature understood as the place of processes recovers the originary sense of phusis of the early Greeks.

Contrarily to traditional ways of thinking about place as a static notion (from this sense of place, certain geographical and sociocultural outdated narratives of place and space derived), the notion of place I’m delineating holds together the Being of beings (Being), as well as their potentiality for Being something else (becoming). This means that place is not merely a static structure, a constant presence (Being), but is also a dynamic structure, open to change (becoming), therefore open to what is beyond its founding limits. This structure is so vast that holds together the limited and the unlimited in an all-embracing ground spanning from the physical to the metaphysical, from the particular to the universal, from the concrete to the abstract, from beings to Being. The question concerning Being and becoming can also be considered from the perspective of what is actual as opposed to what is not actual (that is, potential). This difference discloses the horizon of another opposition which characterizes the structure of Being that Heidegger is delineating (and also has its representation according to my way of considering the notion of place): the opposition between Being and seemingwhat is and what appears to be but is not (yet, or anymore) —, which we are going to consider in the next section.

Chapter Four Section C. Being and seeming

The opposition between Being and seeming is as originary as the opposition between Being and becoming. At a first sight, the distinction appears clear: ‘Being as opposed to seeming means what is actual as distinguished from and opposed to what is not actual’, Heidegger says.[15] The same question can also be considered from the perspective of Being as that which is constant as opposed to what seems or ‘what at times surfaces, and just as fleetingly and unsteadily disappears again.’[16] However, as clear as this distinction may appear, we should consider it, ‘in a Greek way…[and] go back, here too into the inception’, Heidegger says.[17]

Chapter Four  Section C.1. The connection between “phusis” and “aletheia”

With a couple of examples in the current German language, Heidegger shows that we can still find some traces of the originary distinction between Being and seeming. This connection is made by means of the term ‘schein’, which has three related senses: to shine (‘schein’ as luster and glow); to appear (‘schein’, and the verb ‘scheinen’, as appearing — the manifestation of something); to seem (‘schein’ as mere seeming — the mere semblance presented by something). Those senses are intimately related between themselves (‘appearing’ as self-showing is appropriate both as a modality of ‘shining’ and as ‘semblance’) ‘not as an accidental characteristic — Heidegger says  — but as the ground of their possibility. The essence of seeming lies in appearing.’[18] The connection with Being is almost immediate: in showing itself the moon appears, it shines and seems that large, ‘it stands in the heavens, it is present, it is.’[19] Analogously, when we say that the stars shine, ‘in glowing they are coming to presence. “Seeming” means exactly the same as “Being” here.’ [20] But this connection between Being and seeming can be grasped in its full import only by referring to the originary sense of Being, in accordance with the Greek way. Let’s hear it directly from Heidegger: ‘We know that Being opens itself up to the Greeks as “phusis”. The emerging-abiding sway is in itself at the same time the appearing that seems. The roots “phu-” and “pha-” name the same thing. “Phuein”, the emerging that reposes in itself, is “phainesthai”, lighting-up, self-showing, appearing.’[21] Heidegger continues: ‘for the Greeks, standing-in-itself means nothing other than standing there, standing-in-the-light. Being means appearing. Appearing does not mean something derivative, which from time to time meets up with Being. Being essentially unfolds “as” appearing… The emerging sway is an appearing. As such, it makes manifest. This already implies that Being, appearing, is a letting-step-forth from concealment. Insofar as a being as such “is”, it places itself into and stands in “unconcealment, aletheia”.’ [22]

The emerging-abiding sway [phusis, that is Being] is in itself at the same time the appearing that seems… standing-in-itself means nothing other than standing there, standing-in-the-light… as such [Being]  stands in ‘unconcealment, aletheia’

Image 03: Appearing, standing in the light: this is what Being means according to the originary Greek sense. What appears, what is, gives itself an aspect — in Greek dokei. The term doxa, from the verb ‘dokei’, has different meanings: aspect or respect as glory; aspect as the sheer view offered; aspect as mere looking, that is, seeming as mere semblance; a view that someone constructs, an opinion. This explains the intimate connection between Being and seeming (Elaboration on a photo by Chado Nihi, at Pixabay).

These passages concerning the sense of seeming in relation to Being are decisive to eradicate a couple of presuppositions that halt genuine modes of understanding the character of nature (or phusis, according to the originary Greek sense): first, from the connection between Being and seeming, from their belonging together in the originary sense, we immediately see how meaningless are terms like ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’, or ‘realistic’ and ‘idealistic’ — Heidegger notes. Second, more specific, ‘aletheia’ cannot be simply translated as ‘truth’, sic et simpliciter, as it is usual; ‘aletheia’ is truth, in the sense of letting things appear as they are: to appear as seeming, in the aforementioned sense of Being. Truth is not a possibility for being (true or false): it is the only possibility for beings to be (Being) the beings they are; as the only possibility for beings to be, ‘truth belongs to the essence of Being’[23] — this is what ‘aletheia’ as the un-concealment of Being means. This question of the connection between Being and truth, in the sense of what appears and what seems, is further elaborated in the next section C.2; but, before that section, allow me a couple of considerations concerning what we have just said so far and relate it to the structure of place I am arguing for, here.

Seeming: Place as originary appearance (‘peras’: limit and place). Place as ‘un-concealment’ (‘aletheia’).

‘The essence of seeming lies in appearance’, Heidegger has said;[24] and this ‘essence’ is one thing with Being — this is what Heidegger is saying in this Section C of Chapter Four. This intrinsic connection between Being and seeming, this ‘belonging together’ grounded on ‘appearance’ is preserved in the structure of place that I am describing here, Even more, I think their connection is clearer if they are thought of as intrinsic characters of place, in the following sense: we should remind that the notion of place has been linguistically, philosophically and physically built on the notion of ‘limit’; this is the Aristotelian starting point — ‘place is the first unchangeable limit of that which surrounds’, is the definition given by the Stagirite (see Place and Space: A Philosophical History). We know that ‘limit’, in Greek, is ‘peras’; I have already talked about the linguistic affinity between ‘peras’ and ‘appearance’ (paragraph 1, in the article Limit Place Appearance) taking as an input the intuitions of the American linguist Merritt Ruhlen, author of The Origin of Language. Only a thing that has a limit can appear as an individual entity, standing out from the multitudes of entities that compose the background-as-stage of that appearance. That which appears I understand as place. It is evident that ‘limit’ and ‘appearance’, by means of their common linguistic origin grounded on the root of the Greek term ‘peras’,  are reciprocally explicative of their respective function. The limit — peras — is that which enables an event (or a set of processes) to be gathered within a definite region, so that the limit is the essential condition for that particular region to appear, whether as a primordial form of existence waiting for further processes to unfold (this is ‘Being’ according to Heidegger who has elaborated on the nature of those processes: ‘appearing’, ‘standing forth’, ‘abiding’…; synthetically, I describe this, this Being, as ‘place of processes’) or as definite forms of existence, resulting from the actualization of particular processes (these are ‘beings’, like rocks — actualization of physicochemical processes —- trees, or animals —- actualization of biological processes —, a family or a nation-state — actualization of social processes —, or even sculptures, buildings, mathematical formulas or poems —- actualization of symbolic or intellectual processes). Very important, what appears by means of a limit, that is, what for me corresponds to the processuality taken to the light by means of that limit, whether it is an abstract or a concrete limit is narrated by Heidegger as ‘unconcealment’ of Being (aletheia); I believe the image of an abstract or a concrete place of processes as the stand for Being (generic processes) and beings (actualized processes) is a powerful image to grasp the meaning of ‘aletheia’ as ‘unconcealment’ of such processes; by means of place, processes are taken into the light, whether as Being or beings. If there is a place, it means a process, or a series of processes are taken into the light  — ‘unconcealment’, ‘aletheia’. This is another way to show how close the narration of Being made by Heidegger is with respect to the narration of place that I am attempting here.

All I have briefly mentioned here — the connection between ‘appearance’ and place, and between unconcealment, or ‘aletheia’, and place (appearance and unconcealment are the fundamental characteristics of the relation between Being and seeming) — is narrated more in detail in the article Limit Place Appearance, to which I redirect you.

Chapter Four  Section C.2. The connection between appearing and semblance

If to be a being means ‘to be made manifest, to step forth in appearing, to set itself forth, to pro-duce something’, in contrast, not-Being means ‘to step away from appearance, from presence. The essence of appearance involves this stepping-forth and stepping-away … Being is thus dispersed into the manifold beings. These display themselves here, there…’.[25] What appears, what is, gives itself an aspect, in Greek dokei. From the verb dokei the noun doxa derives, which has different meanings on of them is ‘aspect — namely, the respect in which one stands. If the aspect, corresponding to what emerges in it, is an eminent one — Heidegger continues — then “doxa” means brilliance and gloryTo glorify, to bestow and demonstrate regard, is, in Greek, to place into the light and thereby to provide constancy, Being. Glory, for the Greeks, is not something additional that someone may or may not receive; it is the highest manner of Being .’ [26]

Doxa has also other meanings (see the description of Image 03, above); if the aspect of what emerges, its stepping forth into the light, is merely experienced in passive terms of vision, that is as a point of view, then ‘Doxa, as what is assumed to be thus or thus, is opinion.’ [27] We are coming to the important conclusion of this section: ‘Because Being, “phusis”, consists in appearing, in the offering of a look and of views, it stands essentially, and thus necessarily and constantly, in the possibility of a look that precisely covers over and conceals what beings are in truth— that is, in unconcealment. This aspect in which beings now come to stand is “seeming” in the sense of semblance. Wherever there is unconcealment of beings, there is the possibility of seeming, and conversely: wherever beings stand in seeming, and take a prolonged and secure stand there, seeming can break apart and fall away.’ [28] Here, Heidegger immediately warns us against considering seeming or semblance a derivative, reduced, or negative form of Being: ‘we must guard ourselves against cavalierly taking seeming as something just “imaginary,” “subjective,” and thereby falsifying it. Instead, just as appearing belongs to beings themselves, so does seeming.’[29] Seeming, just like becoming, is ‘an essential domain of our world’, concludes Heidegger.

Seeming, just like becoming, is ‘an essential domain of our world’

Chapter Four  Section C.3. The struggle between Being and seeming: Oedipus Rex

By working out this complicated relation between Being and seeming, the Greeks succeeded in discerning Being from beings, bringing beings ‘into constancy and unconcealment.’[30]

Now, Heidegger introduces an important passage for the future development of Western thinking: this passage is at the origin of misconceived dualisms and regards a change of the meaning of Being and beings, with respect to constancy and presence as opposed to appearance, in the sense of mere seeming. Let’s see this question more in detail.

So far we have considered becoming and seeming as characters of Being, but a change of sense is underway: ‘with the sophists and Plato… seeming [was] explained as, and thus reduced to, mere seeming. At the same time, Being as “idea” was elevated to a supersensory realm. The chasm, “khorismos”, was torn open between the merely apparent beings here below and the real Being somewhere up there.’[31]

with the sophists and Plato seeming [was] explained as, and thus reduced to, mere seeming. At the same time, Being as ‘idea’ was elevated to a supersensory realm. The chasm, ‘khorismos’, was torn open between the merely apparent beings here below and the real Being somewhere up there.

This change of meaning and separation between the constant presence of Being (up there, in the world of universal ideas — an immutable, ideal domain without generation and decay) and the fleeting appearance of beings, in perpetual change, this time looking like this (seeming…), this time like that (below here, in the world of particular physical entities — a sensible domain of appearance, movement, change, perishing…), entailed a separation between Being and becoming on the one side, and Being and seeming on the other side; moreover, very important, this shift of meanings will be at the origin of another change in the conception of Being, in the material sense (we will return on this important question in another section: it is here that originates our final conception of phusis as nature, in a reduced, physical sense, opposed to what is merely ideal —  a dualism we are still entangled into).

The important question concerning the struggle, unity and antagonism, between Being and seeming, was further elaborated by Heidegger on the base of poetic thinking, as poetic struggle, analyzing the tragedy of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, which Heidegger calls ‘the tragedy of seeming’.[32] Moreover, Heidegger considers the question of Being and seeming in parallel to the question of language we already introduced in Chapter Two (Section B.2.b. ‘Enklisis’ and ‘ptosis’ as based on the Greek understanding of Being as constancy): in fact, Heidegger notes, we can consider ‘seeming’ a variant of Being, the same way we considered ‘enklisis’ and ‘ptosis’ variants of the basic positions of verbs and nouns: ‘Now we see that seeming, as a variant of Being itself, is the same as falling over. It is a variant of Being in the sense of standing-there-straight-in-itself. Both deviations from Being [the linguistic one and the one concerning ‘seeming’] are determined by Being as the constancy of standing-in-the-light, that is, of appearing.’[33]

By considering ‘seeming’ a part of the structure of Being we continuously face the possibility of being deceived by what it seems, that is, we constantly live with the possibility of aberration and mistakes; but we shouldn’t be surprised by that, because this possibility belongs to Being, as its constitutive part. The problematic question is not that ‘seeming’ belongs to the structure of Being, but the fact that we, as human beings, may interpret ‘seeming’ as Being: we take what it seems for what it is, and this may be a cause of delusion. ‘Seeming’ dissimulates itself presenting as Being, and, when this happens, we say we are deceived by the appearances. Delusion and deception originate from the modes of interpreting ‘seeming’ with respect to ‘Being’. In the distance between Being, unconcealment and seeming, there is space for interpretation, in the sense of the correct understanding of their relation, as well as in the sense of deception or self-deception: that ‘space’ Heidegger calls ‘errancy’ (Chapter Four  Section C.4.).

Chapter Four  Section C.5. Parmenides and Heraclitus on thinking as laying out three paths: Being, seeming, and not-Being

Both truth, as unconcealment, and seeming, as a mode of appearance, belong to Being; they are so intimately connected that this ‘belonging-together’ may generate confusion and the possibility of mistakes. This is the reason why the Greeks tried to elaborate and elucidate these differences at the inception of philosophy. In this regard, Heidegger says: ‘the chief effort of thinking at the inception of philosophy — that is, in the first opening-up of the Being of beings— had to consist in controlling the urgency of Being in seeming, in distinguishing Being from seeming.’[34] How did they proceed, how did they control that urgency and make the opportune distinctions? Three paths were necessary, Heidegger explains: ‘Because matters stand in this way with Being, seeming, and not-Being, three paths are necessary for the humans… [they] must bring Being to a stand, they must endure it in seeming and against seeming, they must tear away both seeming and Being from the abyss of not-Being.’[35] This threefold strategy was attempted at first by Parmenides; therefore, Heidegger analyzes some of fragments of Parmenides: these show that the first path — that of Being, the path into unconcealment — is ‘unavoidable’. Of course, the path to not-Being is ‘unviable’, ‘inaccessible’, it cannot be travelled, because it takes to Nothing; while the third path — the path to ‘seeming’ — which ‘looks like the first, but it does not lead to Beingis constantly traveled, so that human beings completely lose themselves upon it.’[36] This way to seeming is travelled, therefore it is ‘accessible’, but it can be avoided, Heidegger says; the man who truly knows is the one who knows all the three ways and experienced them.

Heidegger concludes the elucidation of the opposition and the unity of Being and seeming (opposition ‘also means the unity’ — Heidegger observes) [37] with a saying of Heraclitus phusis kruptesthai philei.  Usually translated as ‘Nature loves to hide’ Heidegger rendered it in this way: ‘Being [emerging appearance] intrinsically inclines toward self-concealment’;[38] this obviously means that concealment intrinsically belongs to Being, and, therefore, Being intrinsically ‘wavers’ toward seeming: the two belong together. ‘Being means: to appear in emerging, to step forth out of concealment — and for this very reason, concealment and the provenance from concealment essentially belong to Being. The immediate proximity of “phusis” and “kruptesthai” reveals the intimacy of Being and seeming as the strife between them.’[39] Simultaneously, ‘emerging-appearance and concealment’, that is using the pictorial expression I often rely on these occasions appearance(  )concealment’, this is phusis, or ‘Being itself, by virtue of which beings first become and remain observable.’

Image 04: Systasis position at the start of the pale, the ancient Greek wrestling, which was the first event added to the Olympic program after the footraces, in 708 B.C. ‘The starting stance was called the systasis, or “standing together,” and is frequently portrayed in vase painting and sculpture. The wrestlers lean into each other with their foreheads touching, a stance likened by Homer to the way the rafters meet in a house (Iliad 23.30; A 1 ).’[40]

Misconceiving the concepts of place and space. Place as a system of processes: opposition and unity, ( ). The Greek wrestlers and Heraclitus’ fragment.

Many traditional and outdated narratives of place and space — social, geographical, architectural, political but also physical and philosophical narratives — understand place as a static structure; from this, derives the common idea that ‘place’ is something that human beings can rely on, a sort of refuge, a stable and cosy ‘territory’ for psychological relief, a bounded territory to defend against the assaults from the outside — where everything is fluid, fleeting, insecure, chaotic — to preserve its internal stability. Complementary to this misplaced vision of place has been developed a corresponding misplaced vision of space, which represents exactly that fleeting and fluid territory, without boundaries, which surrounds place or places. This vision is based on two false presuppositions: the first is that place is literally interpreted as a bounded, closed and static structure (this is a misinterpretation of Aristotle’s notion of place, which was essentially a dynamic structure and, as such, intrinsically open to exchanges — just like any relational structure — rather than ‘closed’ in itself by its self-generating boundaries; this misinterpretation is grounded on a ‘poor’ and almost literal interpretation of the concept of ‘limit/peras’, on which Aristotle has built his definition of place). The second presupposition is that space, more often than not, is considered a physical structure, whether static or dynamic: this is a misplaced interpretation of space, due to Newton’s concept of absolute space, and Einstein’s relative spacetime. Contrary to the ‘appearances’, there is an ‘essential’ continuity between these two physical definitions of space, because what ‘essentially’ counts — their ‘Being’ — is not the difference absolute-relative, but the difference ideal-physical, a more profound ontological difference; concerning this difference, the spaces devised by these two great physicists were both physical spaces, in the end. If we accept the historical primacy of place, as a physical structure (I think there are no doubts about it: this is what Aristotle and the common sense say) space cannot be physical, unless it replaces place—and this is exactly what happened: emerged (invented?) as two different concepts, with different meanings and domains, with the time passing by, there was a superposition of their meanings and domains. The substitution of place with space is a process that lasted many centuries and is still ongoing, generating confusion between the two concepts and their domains. It is because of this confusion that two great minds, Kant and Einstein, completely overturned their interpretations of space during their lifetime.

Space and place are among the basic concepts necessary to understand and explain the structure of reality, that is nature (phusis). The confusion and the presuppositions regarding place and space are hard to eradicate because they are based on a couple of millennia of highly debatable interpretations concerning our understanding of nature (let’s say ‘wrong interpretations’ if we side with Heidegger), and of the basic concepts that were necessary to think about or investigate nature: I mean the concepts of matter, time, and motion especially, other than concepts of place and space, of course. Concerning the notions of place and space I speak about here, I’ve already tried to show the differences and continuities between the two concepts, starting from the assumption that one concept, place, can be both physical (or, better, can be referred to the physical domain, which is its originary domain of belonging) and ideal/mental (this is an acquired domain) while space should be preferably considered as an ideal or abstract concept: this is the first way to recover their originary senses. Traditionally, it is the opposite: space is sometimes understood as an ideal entity, but often it is considered as a physical entity (here, the import of the theories of Newton and Einstein is decisive) while place is usually considered as a physical entity. For the moment, I leave behind their metaphorical interpretation, to avoid further confusion on a subject already confused. This widespread confusion is due to the fact that there was an overturning of the meaning of nature (phusis), as Heidegger is showing in Introduction to Metaphysics; above, we have hinted at the dualism, generated after the sophists and Plato, between Being and beings; this dualism generated a sort of confusion between a supersensory realm of Being and the physical realm of beings; things further worsened when the concept of ‘substance’ passed from determining the essence of ‘Being’ to determining the essence of ‘beings’, transforming the concept of substance itself from a metaphysical concept into ‘matter’, the physical concept precursor of modern ‘elements’ and ‘particles’ (on this question, I redirect you to the forthcoming article The Nature of Physical Existence). These fundamental changes in the meaning of nature caused a parallel overturning of the fundamental concepts that were necessary to explain nature: not just substance/matter, which passed from the metaphysical realm to a physical one; but also place and space, which exchanged their meanings and functions, other than the realm (physical/ideal) they belonged to. What is constant in all these shifts of meanings is that any originary circularity existing between concepts (Being and beings, being and becoming, being and seeming, the actual and the potential…) within the originary view of nature as phusis  — (  ) — was completely removed by the new meanings.

The concept of place I am thinking of, and, as a consequence, the concept of space which stands in opposition to place, are a way to recompose the dualisms intrinsic to our modern understanding of nature. Place and space stand in opposition and unity like in a sort of yin-yang relationship. This means that nature has a placial and spatial structure as well.  

Concerning the concept of place, to say that place is always the place of processes (Being) and the place of actualized processes (beings) — Being(  )beings = Place  — means that place is where the oppositions resolve their relationship of contrast/complementarity into a (placial) unity. Place, the place of processes, by embracing in the same structure Being, beings, becoming, and seeming, also embraces the actual and the potential, the universal and the particular. These are all characters strictly interconnected, as Heidegger is showing us; these connections, I say, happen by way of place. Place is where Being and beings, Being and becoming, Being and seeming, the actual and the potential, the universal and the particular, the abstract and the concrete stay together in opposition. As opponents, they belong together, they are one by the other, in the embracing structure of place. Out of this fundamental structure, there is No-thing. I express this opposition and unity, this overarching embrace (a fundamental way for nature to act, as Heidegger is showing us with respect to Being, becoming and seeming) by means of the pictorial expression (  )  — see Images 02, 04, above or Images 05, 07, 09, 13, below. This conception of intimacy and strife which is so characteristic of the Greek way to understand nature, I also have adopted to unveil the fundamental character of reality as the ground where (= place) contrasts between opposing parts are resolved into a greater unity. This is the fundamental message contained in the gallery On the Structure of Reality: ‘reality’ is fundamentally another term for ‘nature’, where different processes give birth to different domains (nature means ‘birth’, we have seen in the initial Chapter: the domains of nature are made of inorganic systems, biological systems, social systems, cultural/symbolic systems, which are the place of their respective processes); those domains and their respective processes are in opposition, but, at the same time, out of those oppositions a greater unity is attained: this is nature, as a whole, understood as place of processes (see Image 15 and 16). Opposition(  )unity.

I have envisioned this character of nature/phusis by means of Image 04 above, which is at the same time the metaphor for strong cohesion (the arms of the wrestlers forming a powerful embrace, almost a unity between two bodies), and opposition. By analogy, for instance, we can consider the concreteness and abstractness of place (e.g. the place of inorganic processes, or the place of symbolic processes) as two opposing characters of the same reality — a reality of place. Place as opposition and unity, that is : opposition(  )unity = place. What is farther apart from a diamond present-at-hand than its reduction to an abstract symbol expressed by the letter ‘C’ of carbon? There is an opposition between the two perspectives, the material and the symbolic; yet, this opposition is resolved into unity if we think of them as the place of processes: this place is the unifying structure that gathers, develops, unfolds, persists, dissolves, etc., either those processes will evolve into physicochemical states (the concrete) or symbolic states (the abstract). The ‘being-diamond’ and the ‘being-C’ behind which we find the essence (Being) — the idea of the diamond itself — as a constant presence, are part of exactly the same reality, which is One. Physicochemical processes determine the concrete and actual reality of the diamond, as this particular physical being present-at-hand, as well as symbolic processes determine its reality as an abstract being, either it is an idea of this particular diamond, or the universal idea of the Being of the diamond; in any case, these different states of place (the place of inorganic processes and the place of symbolic processes) belong together, are constantly one by the another, in virtue of their Being-as-place of processes.

Chapter Four  Section C.6. The relation between the division of Being and seeming and the division of Being and becoming

In the light of the Greek understanding of phusis/Being as opposition and unity, ‘we can understand not only how Being differs from and is delimited against seeming but also how Being and seeming intrinsically belong to the division “Being and becoming”.’[41]

Image 05: The structure of Being with respect to becoming and seeming, as shown schematically by Heidegger in Introduction to Metaphysics (IM); below, an alternative interpretation of Being as a function of place (Being as place of processes), which emerges from the opposition and unity of becoming and seeming,

If we remind the fragments of Parmenides concerning the three paths for understanding Being and its other, then becoming and seeming are an alternative and viable way to confront Being with not-Being: ‘What maintains itself in becoming is, on the one hand, no longer Nothing, but on the other hand it is not yet what it is destined to be. In accordance with this “no longer and not yet,” becoming remains shot through with not-Being. However, it is not a pure Nothing, but no longer this and not yet that, and as such, it is constantly something else. So now it looks like this, now it looks like that. It offers an intrinsically inconstant view. Seen in this way, becoming is a seeming of Being.’[42]

In the inception, the Greeks had to make decisions regarding ‘the powers of Being and becoming, Being and seeming. This confrontation had to develop the relation between thinking and Being into a definite form. This implies that the formation of the third division is already being prepared among the Greeks. ’[43] This introduces us to the next Section regarding the decisive division between Being and thinking; ‘decisive’ because that division determined our current understanding of Being.

Chapter Four Section D. Being and thinking

The Section of Introduction to Metaphysics regarding ‘Being and thinking’ nearly covers half the length of the book: the reason for such an extended treatment of this argument is due to the fact that, according to Heidegger’s interpretation,  ‘thinking’ is what determines the sense of Being, its final meaning, which, in turn, determined the ‘fundamental orientation of the spirit of the West’, the real target of Heidegger’s attack.[44] The very title of this section, with its reference to thinking, immediately suggests how the question of Being is intimately connected to (and dependent on) the human beings as historical Dasein. It is to establish how human beings condition and enter into Being. We will especially consider [1] the connection between thinking and logos, and their relation with Being/phusis, other than the transformation of thinking/logos ‘as the revealing gathering… in the sense of phusis’ into thinking/language, as discourse— a human faculty.[45] It is this latter transformation of sense that caused [2] Being to be identified with ‘ousia’, interpreted at first as ‘idea’, in the sense of constant presence (opposed to the always-changing forces of becoming), and, finally, as ‘substantia’  — substance —,which is the current way we interpret the Being of beings, in material sense.The historical references considered by Heidegger to elucidate these passages are, at first, Parmenides, Heraclitus and Sophocles, and then, for the second transition of meanings, Plato and Aristotle.

Chapter Four — Section D.1. Thinking as the ground of Being in the Western tradition

If we remind how Heidegger characterized becoming and seeming with respect to Being — they lie on the same level (see, Image 05) — this time the division between Being and thinking is of a different degree: thinking is the ground upon which the structure of Being is constituted: ‘in the division between “Being and thinking,” not only is what is now distinguished from Being — that is, thinking — different in content from becoming and seeming, but the direction of the opposition is also essentially different. Thinking sets itself against Being in such a way that Being is re-presented to thinking, and consequently stands against thinking like an ob-ject <Gegen-stand, that which stands against>…  Consequently, thinking is no longer just the opposing member in some new distinction but becomes the basis on which one decides about what stands against it, so much so that Being in general gets interpreted on the basis of thinking.’[46]

Image 06: The structure of Being with respect to becoming, seeming and thinking, as shown schematically by Heidegger using arrows (scheme above), in Introduction to Metaphysics (IM). Below, is an alternative interpretation of Being as a function of place, determined by the contraposition and unity of becoming, seeming and thinking (Being as ‘place of processes’, that is, the place of becoming, seeming and thinking). By replacing arrows with parentheses denoting opposition and unity (see also Images 04 and 05), something is gained: 1] from the perspective of the fundamental unity of nature/phusis (that is, Being) — understood as ‘place of processes’ (what are ‘Being’, ‘becoming’, ‘seeming’, and ‘thinking’ if not terms behind which we find processes that unfold? Where does this unfolding happen?); 2] from the recurrent Heideggerian and early Greek perspective of the originary belonging of what is divided; finally, 3] from the perspective of ‘gathering’ (again, a name for a process: ‘gathering’ as which offers a ground — i.e. a place; no gathering is possible without a place, see also Image 07, below), which, we are going to see, is a decisive factor for understanding the structure of that which exists, whether we understand it as Being or beings.

Apart from the new hierarchy established between becoming, seeming, thinking and Being, what is important concerning this initial description, is that the relation between Being and thinking is developed on a representational basis; if we want to elucidate the nature of thinking, which is the next step made by Heidegger, we must focus on that. But, why does ‘thinking’ has this privileged role? In a certain sense Heidegger briefly touched (and answered) this question, in Chapter Three (Sections A.1 and A.2), when he worked out the relation between beings and Being, advancing the hypothesis that we could climb up to the meaning of Being starting from the analysis of particular beings; but — we have seen — that was not the case: ‘How are we supposed to discover the much-invoked particular, the individual trees as such […] unless the representation of what a tree is in general is already lighting our way in advance?’, Heidegger said.[47] Similarly, now, passing from the example of the tree to that of the clock (about which we must already know in advance the question of time, its reckoning and measuring), Heidegger says: ‘Our viewpoint’s line of sight must already be laid out in advance. We call this prior line of sight “perspective.” Thus it will become clear not only that Being is not understood in an indeterminate way but that the determinate understanding of Being itself moves within a prior line of sight that has already been determined.’[48] Heidegger speaks of ‘line of sight’ given that the question of thinking revolves around the issue of ‘representation’. The elucidation of this representational function of thinking, which is explicated in the next Section D.2. is introduced by the prior question: ‘What does it mean to think?’[49]

Chapter Four — Section D.2. Superficial interpretations of thinking

From a list of examples, we see that ‘thinking’ may have different meanings: to devise, to plan, to set one’s sight on something, to intend, to picture or imagine something, to have an opinion… But these are just common meanings that we all know and understand. We must see what lies behind this linguistic usage. What is characteristic of ‘thinking’ — Heidegger says —  is that it ‘relates to what is future as well as to what is past, but also to what is present. Thinking brings something before us, represents it’, according to three modalities: [1] Re-presenting as an intrinsic mode of human behaviour, according to which ‘we think upon and think through what is represented’, with the scope to analyze, lay out and reassemble it so that [2] re-presenting is also a mode of analytical connection with what is represented; these modes allow us to get behind the thing (represented), ‘to experience how it stands with the thing in general’ so that we can also consider [3] re-presenting as a mode to comprehend the universal.[50] The elaboration and elucidation of the first two modalities of ‘thinking’ are worked out and explained by Heidegger in this section, while the complex development behind ‘thinking’ as a mode to comprehend the universal and the consequences that derived from that modality of thinking are the subject of Section D.3. (The originary connection between “phusis” and “logos”), Section D.4. (The originary disjunction between “phusis” and “logos”), and Section D.5. (The interpretation of Being as “ousia”). These three latter sections especially required an extensive and articulated elaboration by Heidegger.

As concerns the representational interpretation of thinking anticipated above, Heidegger believes it is not an adequate conception of thinking; so, we are still in search of adequate comprehension of ‘thinking’: ‘where can we get such a concept?’ Heidegger asks; and he immediately observes: ‘When we ask this, we are acting as if there had not already been a “logic” for centuries. It is the science of thinking, the doctrine of the rules of thinking and the forms of what is thought.’[51] Accessing ‘thinking’ by way of logic seems an opportune strategy to avoid ‘the trouble of asking elaborate questions about the essence of thinking.’[52]

Now, Heidegger’s task is to elucidate the nature of logic: ‘What does “logic” mean? The term is an abbreviation for “episteme logike”, the science of logos. And logos here means assertion. But logic is supposed to be the doctrine of thinking. Why is logic the science of assertion? ’[53] Heidegger reminds us that our final scope is to understand the essence of thinking, ‘aletheia’ and ‘phusis’, that is Being as unconcealment, but ‘this is precisely what was lost due to “logic”, so it seems a desperate attempt to explain something (the nature of Being/phusis) with the reason for which that something was obscured (logic as discourse).[54] The beginning of logic coincides with the end of Greek philosophy and its systematization within academies and schools, that is, when philosophy became a matter of organization and technique: a mode of teaching (here, the reference is directed to the Platonic and Aristotelian schools); this happened ‘when “eon”, the Being of beings, appears as “idea”, and as “idea” becomes the “ob-ject” of “episteme” <scientific knowledge>’.[55] As the formal elaboration of the structures and rules of thinking, logic developed ‘after the division between Being and thinking had already been carried out’, Heidegger observes.[56] This is still of no aid for the clarification and grounding of logic; here, investigating the connection between logic and the Platonic school, and the relation between thinking and logos-as-assertion may help us to determine the ground for the power of logic, a position of power that constantly expanded until Hegel defined the logical ‘the absolute form of truth’.[57] The appropriate mode to disentangle those connections, and to trace back the originary and genuine meaning of thinking, the import of logic on it, and its relation to Being, means a return to the question of Being as such.

Chapter Four — Section D.3. The originary connection between “phusis” and “logos”

Again, the same starting point (the question of the meaning of Being) is expressed from a different perspective, by way of more definite questions: ‘1. How does the originary unity of Being and thinking essentially unfold as the unity of “phusis” and “logos”? 2. How does the originary disjunction of “logos” and “phusis” come to pass? 3. How does “logos” arise and gain preeminence? 4. How does “logos” (the “logical”) become the essence of thinking? 5. How does this “logos”, as reason and understanding, come to rule over Being in the inception of Greek philosophy?’[58]

These questions constitute the new ground for the elucidation of the connection between phusis, Being, logos, and thinking.

Chapter Four — Section D.3.a. “Logos” as gathering

Thinking’ in Latin is ‘intelligere’ — the business of the ‘intellectus’, Heidegger says. The connection between the Latin ‘lego –ere’ and the Greek ‘logos’ via the verb ‘legein’ is quite evident from its etymological meaning; this connection comes before their meaning as ‘thinking’ and is oriented towards Being. Let’s see what Heidegger says, in this regard.

what do “logos” and “legein” mean?

[there’s] no immediate relation to language…

‘“Logos” means the word, discourse, and “legein” means to discourse, to talk… But logos does not originally mean discourse, saying. What the word means has no immediate relation to language. “Lego”, “legein”, Latin “legere”, is the same word as our “lesen” <to collect>: gleaning, collecting wood, harvesting grapes, making a selection… This means laying one thing next to another, bringing them together as one — in short, gathering; but at the same time, the one is contrasted with the other. This is how Greek mathematicians used the word logos. A coin collection that one has gathered is not just a heap that has somehow been thrown together.’ [59] Heidegger does not elaborate further on the reasons that determined the passage from the originary meaning of ‘logos’ and ‘legein’ in the sense of ‘gathering’ and ‘relation of one thing to another’ to that of word and discourse: what counts is that the originary meaning was still retained long after that change of meaning.

Image 07: “Gathering” — the place of opposition and unity

Logos the Locus/Luogo (place) of inter-relations; Logos/Place as gathering

I stop a brief moment, here, to consider the important question of the relation between ‘logos’ and the concept of place. From the very beginning of my investigation into the concept of place, I tried to verify the possibility to link etymologically the Greek ‘topos’ and the Latin ‘locus’, which both mean ‘place’. I found very scant traces on the internet: just a possibility from an unverified author in the form of an anonymous draft paper, which I omit for obvious reasons. Apart from my failed attempt to link etymologically locus and topos by means of a common PIE root, there was another ‘placial/spatial’ etymological ‘unsolved’ issue gnawing at my stomach: the possibility to find an etymological relation and, most of all, a relation of meanings between the Latin ‘locus’ (place) and the Greek ‘logos’ (traditionally translated as ‘word’, ‘discourse’, or ‘reason’, as also Heidegger observed). It was so striking for me their phonetic affinity that it seemed strange the fact that no attested linguistic relation between the two terms could be easily found; I thought the reason was their different meaning, or, better, their seemingly different meaning: in fact, as soon as I understood that their possible ‘placial’ relation could be evaluated on the ground of philosophical argumentations rather than of etymological arguments, my ideas concerning the intimate relationship between ‘logos’ and ‘place’ (via the Latin ‘locus’, whence the Italian ‘luogo’, and Spanish ‘lugar’ directly descend) began to acquire some consistency: it was through the Aristotelian concept of ‘topos’ based on the notion of limit (peras), and the Heideggerian interpretation of the Being of beings as logos, that is as ‘gathering’, that the hypothetical link I had in mind between place-as-topos, locus and logos became more concrete in the guise of a primordial gathering of concrete and abstract aspects of reality: concrete or particular if we refer to the ‘locus’ of beings (the place where processes actualize in the forms of beings, the essents); abstract or universal if we refer to ‘logos’ as the place of Being (logos, the place of ‘reason’ and ‘thinking’).

We’ve made some progress in the elucidation of the connection between logos and thinking, but we still need to see how ‘logos’ and Being are exactly related: ‘to what extent are Being and logos originally and unitarily the same for the Greeks?’ Heidegger asks.[60] So, again, it is clear that to progress further, we must get back to the originary understanding of the Greeks: ‘The indication of the fundamental meaning of logos can give us a clue only if we already understand what “Being” means for the Greeks: phusis… Being as “phusis” is the emerging sway. In opposition to becoming, it shows itself as constancy, constant presence. This presence announces itself in opposition to seeming as appearing, as revealed presence.’ [61]

Being as “phusis” is the emerging sway. In opposition to becoming, it shows itself as constancy, constant presence. This presence announces itself in opposition to seeming as appearing, as revealed presence

Keeping all this firmly in view, at first Heidegger directs his attention to the interpretation of Heraclitus to find the correspondence between ‘phusis’ and ‘logos’ in the inception of Western philosophy.

Chapter Four — Section D.3.b. Heraclitus on “phusis” and “logos”

After a brief consideration concerning the frequent misunderstandings that occurred to the many interpretations of Heraclitus’s philosophy — ‘it is Heraclitus who was subjected to the most fundamentally un-Greek misinterpretation in the course of Western history’ —,[62] Heidegger observes that it was Christianity that first misinterpreted Heraclitus’s logos, turning it into ‘word’ as ‘revealed truth’— the son of God:  ‘The logos is Christ’.[63] 

Let’s follow Heidegger’s interpretation and see what Heraclitus himself says concerning ‘logos’. From Heidegger’s analysis of Heraclitus’ fragments 1 and fragment 2, there are three main senses that can be referred to logos: 1) logos as ‘constancy’, that is: that which lasts; 2) logos as ‘gathering’, that is: that which ‘unfolds as the Together in beings, the Together of the being, that which gathers’.[64] 3) logos as ‘standing’, that is: ‘everything that happens, that is, that comes into Being, stands there in accordance with this constant Together; this is what holds sway.’[65]

[according to Heraclitus] it is said of logos:

1) constancy…; 2)… that which gathers [and] 3)… stands there

This is the way Heidegger resumes the meaning of logos contained in those two fragments: ‘“Logos” here does not mean sense, or word, or doctrine… but instead, the originally gathering gatheredness that constantly holds sway in itself.’[66]

Logos [is] the originally gathering gatheredness that

constantly holds sway in itself

There are some passages in other fragments of Heraclitus (e.g. Fragment 50, 73) in which the interpretation of ‘logos’ is that of ‘word’ or ‘discourse’, but in those Fragments, 1 and 2, the context says we have to interpret logos as ‘constant gathering’, Heidegger observes. By interpreting other fragments (e.g. 34, 50) Heidegger shows that ‘logos’ has to do with ‘word’, or ‘hearing’ in the sense of ‘to grasp’ or ‘understand’: so, very often, he says, people hear ‘words’ but they do not really understand what they mean, they do not grasp their sense, they do not take hold of ‘logos’ — this is the sense of Fragment 34: ‘those who do not bring together the constant Together are hearers who resemble the deaf.’[67] Accordingly, when this happens, human beings are those who ‘are in the midst of things, and yet, they are away… The “logos”  is what human beings are continually amid and what they are away from all the same, absently present; they are… those who do not grasp.’[68] This is a characterization of ‘logos’ that clarifies somewhat the relation between ‘logos’ as gathering and logos as word or discourse. But let’s get back to the originary sense of logos as ‘gathering’.

The view of ‘logos’ as ‘the originally gathering gatheredness that constantly holds sway in itself’ or, to state it slightly differently, the view of ‘logos’ as ‘the gatheredness of beings that stands in itself’ is nothing other than Being.[69] This also means that: ‘“Phusis” and “logos” are the same. “Logos” characterizes Being in a new and yet old respect: that which is in being, which stands straight and prominently in itself, is gathered in itself and from itself, and holds itself in such gathering.’[70]

according to Heidegger’s interpretation, Heraclitus says that ‘Phusis’ and ‘logos’ are the same.  

This kind of identification between ‘logos’ and Being, or phusis, grounded on the meaning of ‘gathering’ is also traceable to Fragment 103: ‘gathered in itself, the same is the beginning and the end in the circumference of the circle ’ and  to Fragment 8: ‘What stands in opposition carries itself over here and over there, the one to the other, it gathers itself from itself’.[71] Heidegger continues: ‘That which contends is gathering gatheredness, “logos”.’ [72]

Two observations follow from the analysis of the last fragments: one regards the originary Greek meaning of ‘that which contends’ as opposition and unity in relation to the concept of ‘beauty’ — a question we have already met in a previous section when we introduced the notion of ‘polemos’; the other regards a further explication of Heraclitus’s saying ‘panta rhei’ — everything flows — in the light of the new senses derived from the fragments analyzed.

What stands in opposition carries itself over here and over there, the one to the other, it gathers itself from itself’ —HERACLITUS, FRAGMENT 8

Concerning the first issue, we are in the domain of the concept of beauty and the meaning of the work of art. For the Greeks ‘the Being of all beings is what is most seemly <das Scheinendste> — that is, what is most beautiful, what is most constant in itself’;[73] we have just seen that Being and ‘logos’, in its most originary and genuine interpretation, are the same, therefore, the characteristic element of ‘logos’ we have just identified the gathering gatheredness that constantly holds sway in itself — pertains to Being; the meaning of gathering gatheredness acquires its full sense on the background of confrontation, or what we have also called ‘opposition-and-unity’: it is this confrontation that for the Greeks has the highest value since only from confrontation and opposition Being emerges as a unity, a constant presence. Therefore it is this character of confrontation or opposition of parts polemos —, necessary for the unifying emergence and presence of Being, that is held in the highest consideration by the Greeks (see Image 04): ‘polemos confrontation, opposition as the ground for ‘what is most beautiful’. This conception is completely different from our modern conception of beauty: ‘The gathering together of the highest contending is “polemos”, struggle in the sense of the confrontation, the setting-apart-from each-other… In contrast, for us today, the beautiful is the relaxing, what is restful and thus intended for enjoyment. [Therefore] concludes Heidegger — ‘We must provide a new content for the word “art” and for what it intends to name, on the basis of a fundamental orientation to Being that has been won back in an originary way.’[74]

The other question regards the interpretation of the famous saying attributed to Heraclitus — ‘panta rhei’,  everything flows. Here, Fragment 8, may contribute to clarifying the appropriate interpretation of Heraclitus’s thinking: the constant change Heraclitus refers to with that saying is change within unity — the Being as the constant gatheredness of conflicting parts, again, opposition-and-unity  (this is a complementary view to Parmenides, and not simply opposite — we have already seen that). In Heidegger’s words: ‘If this saying stems from Heraclitus at all, then it does not mean that everything is mere change that runs on and runs astray, pure inconstancy, but instead it means: the whole of beings in its Being is always thrown from one opposite to the other, thrown over here and over there— Being is the gatheredness of this conflicting unrest.’[75]

Heraclitus and Parmenides have complementary views, not opposing views: the One* Being – the Being of beings – is their common ground

*One, O, (  ) = unity as ‘belonging-together’ of the opposites, their dynamics

Concerning the important characteristic of logos as gathering Heidegger concludes: ‘If we comprehend the fundamental meaning of “logos” as gathering and gatheredness, we must firmly establish and firmly hold to the following: Gathering is never just driving together and piling up. It maintains in a belonging-together that which contends and strives in confrontation. It does not allow it to decay into mere dispersion and what is simply cast down. As maintaining, “logos” has the character of pervasive sway, of “phusis”. It does not dissolve what it pervades into an empty lack of opposites; instead, by unifying what contends, the gathering maintains it in the highest acuteness of its tension.’[76]

After returning briefly to the question of the misinterpretation of logos made by the Christian fathers (here, ‘logos’ does not mean Being in the sense of ‘the gatheredness of that which contends’, but ‘logos’ is one particular being, namely the son of God, see Chapter Four — Section D.3.c. The Christian concept of “logos”), Heidegger makes a brief resume to recap where we are now with the question of the relation between phusis (Being) and logos, and where we are directed: ‘We were attempting to display the essential belonging of “logos” to “phusis”, with the intention of comprehending, thanks to this unity, the inner necessity and possibility of their division.’[77] To understand the disjunction between Being and thinking —that is between phusis and logos , which is the main subject of this section to understand why Being changed its original meaning, we must understand better their ‘unity and belonging-together’: to elucidate that question Heidegger now focuses on Parmenides. By focusing on Parmenides, Heidegger introduces the characterization of Being as Being-human, and of thinking as apprehending.

Chapter Four — Section D.3.d. Parmenides on thinking as “noein”

To introduce this extended and complicated argument, once again (and against the established tradition) Heidegger returns to the continuity between the philosophical positions of Heraclitus and Parmenides, who share the same view on ‘the Being of beings’, as the ultimate ground. Concerning the relationship we are investigating, that between Being and thinking (which originally unfolded as phusis and logos),[78] if one — Heraclitus — determined Being/phusis in opposition and unity with logos by way of the notion of ‘gathering’ (which is the common determination for phusis and logos, because of which, we have seen, ‘Phusis and logos are the same’ — fragment 1),[79] the other, Parmenides, — we are going to see — determined Being/phusis in opposition and unity with noein, which means thinking as ‘apprehension’ (‘noein’, is a notion intimately related with legein/logos: the ‘gathering’ of logos/legein corresponds here to the ‘bringing-to-a-stand’ behind the verb ‘noein’),[80] because of which, in perfect accordance with Heraclitus’s fragment 1, Parmenides says that ‘… thinking and Being are the same’ (fragment 5).[81] Let’s work this out, following Heidegger.

The first move is to offer Parmenides’ characterization of Being as 1] ‘that which holds itself together in itself’, 2] ‘uniquely unifying’ and 3] ‘constantly complete, constantly self-showing sway, through which there also constantly shines the seeming of the one-sided and many-sided’: this is Heidegger interpretation of fragment 8.[82]

Then Heidegger focuses on another fragment to see where exactly Parmenides speaks about Being and logos (and to see if that statement can also be seen as the condition for their later division — that is, the division between Being and thinking, the ultimate scope of this section). The fragment analyzed is fragment 5: ‘“to gar auto noein estin te kai einai.” Translated roughly and in the way that has long been customary, this says:but thinking and Being are the same”.’ [83]

to gar auto noein estin te kai einai’… this says: ‘but thinking and Being are the same’ —PARMENIDES, FRAGMENT 5

Heidegger immediately warns us against the possible misinterpretations of this old saying: if noein is thinking, and if all thinking is subjective (as an activity of the subject), then Being is subjective, given that it is determined by thinking of the subject; moreover, it would follow that ‘there are no beings in themselves’.[84] This is the way of philosophy down to Kant and to German idealism, Heidegger explains. To avoid this well-worn reading and find back the originary truth behind the statement of Parmenides — ‘to gar auto noein estin te kai einai’  — Heidegger unravels it by analyzing every single Greek term of the fragment.

What do we get from that analysis? Concerning ‘einai’, Heidegger calls the reader’s attention back to all that has been said so far about ‘phusis’; ‘Being’ is the traditional translation for ‘einai’ — the translators say in a note —,[85] so to get back to the originary sense of ‘einai’ we must retrieve all that has been said so far concerning phusisBeing, understood in the originary Greek sense.

Concerning ‘noein’ — which, the translators say in that note, is traditionally translated as ‘thinking’ — Heidegger says it translates the verb ‘to apprehend’, while the Greek name ‘nous’, corresponding to the verb ‘noein’, is ‘apprehension’ (always in that note, the translators say the traditional translation for ‘nous’ is ‘mind’ or ‘intellect’). According to Heidegger ‘to apprehend’ or ‘apprehension’ have two senses that belong together: ‘On the one hand, to apprehend… means to take in… to let something come to oneself—namely, what shows itself, what appears. On the other hand, to apprehend… to comprehend the state of affairs, to determine and set fast how things are going and how things stand. Apprehension in this double sense denotes a process of letting things come to oneself in which one does not simply take things in, but rather takes up a position to receive what shows itself .’[86] So, ‘noein’ seems to have a more active connotation than what is generically expressed by the verb ‘thinking’: in thinking we must take a precise position for letting things appear what they are — this is what ‘noein’ says. There is co-presence of two distinctive moments (which represent the mechanism of ‘opposition and unity’ we have already considered) in this apprehending/apprehension: 1] letting things come in, and 2] determining how things stand (a position which, as an active position and not mere passive reception of what is ‘taken in’, literally becomes an opposition): ‘“Noein” involves this receptive bringing-to-a-stand of that which appears’. [87] So, by modifying a bit the initial translation of that fragment ‘Parmenides’ statement says of apprehending that it is the same as Being.’ [88]

This same schema of ‘opposition and unity’ as the generator of meaning we find in the analyses of the other Greek terms, in the mentioned fragment, ‘to auto’ and ‘te kai’ (which, the translators say, are conventionally translated as ‘the same’ and ‘both… and’, respectively — see the note above). Concerning ‘to auto’ Heidegger says that, here, ‘oneness’ — that is, ‘the same’, expressed through the Greek terms ‘to auto’ — is ‘the belonging-together of that which contends. This is what is originally unified’ by means of the words ‘to auto/the same’.[89]

Concerning the expression ‘te kai’, Heidegger says that Parmenides used that expression because ‘Being and thinking, in the sense of contending against each other, are unified, that is, are the same in their belonging-together.’[90] In the context of our argumentation, keeping back to mind what we have said so far concerning Being, this means that where Being as ‘standing in the light, appearing, stepping into unconcealment’ happens, ‘apprehension holds sway too and happens too, as belonging to Being. Apprehension is the receptive bringing-to-a-stand of the constant that shows itself in itself.’[91] This belonging-together says that ‘Apprehension belongs to “phusis”; the sway of “phusis” shares its sway with apprehension.’[92]

The unveiled correspondence between ‘Being’ and ‘noein’ as apprehension takes us to the next step: that concerning the relation between Being and Being-human. Given that ‘thinking’ — expressed here by the term ‘noein’ in the original Parmenidean sense of ‘apprehension’ — is a characterization of the human essence, how does the relation between Being and Being-human unfold? The answer is immediate and clear:  ‘if human beings have a part in the happening of this appearance [Being] and apprehension [‘thinking’ as ‘noein’], then they must themselves be, they must belong to Being — and, this is the conclusion — … then the essence and the manner of Being-human can be determined only on the basis of the essence of Being.’ [93]Heidegger continues: ‘the Being of the human first determines itself on the basis of the happening of the essential belonging together of Being and apprehension.’[94] It is from the misinterpretation of this saying concerning the relationship between Being and thinking (as ‘noein’, apprehension) that idealism aroused, but the proper interpretation of this saying of Parmenides expresses ‘a determination of the human essence on the basis of the essence of Being itself.’ [95]We have to pass through the gates of Being (phusis) to understand the meaning of Being-human and its relation with thinking.

What Parmenides’ saying expresses is a determination of the human essence on the basis of the essence of Being itself

Those are important passages because Heidegger, by way of those fragments, is determining what it means to be human (Being-human) with respect to the overarching structure of phusis/Being: ‘Apprehension and what Parmenides’ statement says about it is not a faculty of the human being… instead, apprehension is a happening… in which humanity itself happens, and in which humanity itself thus first enters history… as a being, first appears — that is, [in the literal sense] itself comes to Being.’[96]

We have to elucidate better the question of Being-human,  which happens in connection with thinking/noein. Now, the questions ‘What is humanity? Who is humanity?’ emerge and need an answer. Those are difficult and decisive passages that require further inspection: taking in mind the decisive efforts made at the inception of Western thought — the determination of Being/phusis accomplished so far — and the difficulty to approach this determination of Being-human as elaborated by Parmenidean thinking, Heidegger turns now to poetic thinking to see how this determination of Being-human has been elaborated among the Greeks. The analysis focuses on Sophocles’ Antigone.

Chapter Four — Section D.3.e. “Antigone” on the human being as the uncanniest

Here, lines 332-375 of Sophocles’ Antigone, are under close inspection. Very briefly, as an introductory note, Antigone is a fifth-century BC Greek play, a tragedy, which narrates the story of Antigone, the daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta. This play belongs to a series of tragedies based on the dramatic events of Oedipus, King of Thebe, and his descendants. The other two tragedies of the series written by Sophocles — Oedipus Rex and Oedipus at Colonus — precede the events narrated in Antigone (we have already analyzed the tragedy, Oedipus Rex, in a previous section, regarding Being and seemingChapter Four, Section C.3. The struggle between Being and seeming: Oedipus Rex — where Heidegger defined Oedipus Rex as ‘the tragedy of seeming’). In Antigone, the events regard the decision of Antigone to bury her brother, Polynices, against the will of the new King of Thebe, the tyrant Creon (Polynices was considered a traitor to the city). Because of her decision, she was sentenced to death, but she committed suicide.

The lines 332-375 are a choral ode regarding how human beings invented their way to survival, through their achievements (hunting, navigation, use of animals, agriculture, the foundation of the polis, language itself…).

The theme of the violence, which runs underneath those lines, presents the human being as ‘the uncanniest’ — ‘deinotaton’ from the Greek term ‘deinon’ — the uncanny — which comprehends the senses of ‘the terrible’ as ‘the overwhelming sway, which induces panicked fear, true anxiety’, and ‘the violent’ as ‘one who needs to use violence—and does not just have violence at his disposal but is violence-doing, insofar as using violence is the basic trait not just of his doing but of his Dasein.’[97] Here, Heidegger’s highly critiqued interpretation[98] takes the violence of Being — the almighty sway necessary for Being to surmount the forces of not-Being — as an analogy for the intrinsic sense of violence that accompanies human beings and vicissitudes. So, standing to Heidegger’s interpretation, there is a parallel between the violence of Being (necessary to suppress the assault of not-Being) and the violence of Being-human (necessary for its survival at first, and, then, to be itself): this seems unavoidable, if we follow Heidegger’s argumentation, since Being is the ground of beings, thereby including human beings. This violence-doing so characteristic of the human being (from the abilities to hunt to building cities, from poetic saying to the thoughtful projection of plans in the future), according to Heidegger, ‘is not an application of faculties that the human being has, but is a disciplining and disposing of the violent forces by virtue of which beings disclose themselves as such, insofar as the human being enters into them. This disclosedness of beings is the violence that humanity has to surmount in order to be itself first of all’:[99] This explains ‘the inner contour of the essence of the [human being as the] uncanniest’, which isone of the issues shown by the ode through Heidegger’s analysis.[100] The analysis also shows ‘the domains and extent of its sway’  that is the domain where the terrible and the violence-doingof the human beings operate, disturbing nature, from the seas to lands, using snares and nets, capturing and subjugating animals, ploughing the earth, founding cities, communities, etc.; finally, the analysis also shows ‘its destiny’, that is the fact that human beings founded cities, polisthe site of history, the highest achievement of the human beings, the place where the gods, the temples, the poets, the rulers, the assembly of people belong to —, but they are ultimately rejected by it, and they become apolis, without city and state, that is, they become homeless, ‘because they as creators must first ground all this in each case.’[101] This latter passage is better elucidated and understandable when Heidegger introduces another interpretation (paragraph immediately below) regarding the nature of the human being.

There is also another level of interpretation for Heidegger, a more abstract level, which contributes to elucidate the character of the human being with respect to the poetic saying of Sophocles’ Antigone; again, this interpretation is elaborated on the Greek term ‘deinon’, in the twofold senses we already anticipated (the sense of ‘the terrible’ — the over-whelming — and the sense of ‘the violent’ — the violence-doers — attached to the human being) and their reciprocal relation: 1] here, the sense of violence of the human beings is interpreted with respect to ‘the whole circuit’ of their actions: in this context, Heidegger literally speaks of ‘the whole circuit of the “machination” that is delivered over to him [the violence-doer]’;[102] by the term ‘machination’, which fundamentally expresses the modalities of the human actions/achievements already shown in the preceding analysis, Heidegger wants to introduce the Greek term ‘techne’, which originally means ‘knowing’, in the genuine sense of ‘initially and constantly looking out beyond what, in each case, is directly present at hand’.[103]

‘Techne’ means neither art nor skill, and it means nothing like technology in the modern sense. We translate ‘techne’ as ‘knowing’…Knowing, in the genuine sense of ‘techne’, means initially and constantly looking out beyond what, in each case, is directly present at hand.

This ‘initially and constantly looking beyond what is directly present at hand’ which is so typical of ‘techne’ as a characteristic trait of human beings is the reason for their ‘destiny’, as we have seen just in the paragraph above: to be homeless, without city and state, apolis — this is the destiny of human beings who constantly look beyond what they have achieved. According to Heidegger, this ‘knowing as techne’ sets Being in motion to find its fullest expression, its proper stand as being, that is: ‘techne’ allows the Being of human beings to unfold according to its Being and surmount the opposite forces that would lead back Being into disintegration. Or, to come back to the original characterization of human beings: ‘techne’ is the one aspect that allows the Being of human being to be itself — ‘the uncanniest’. In the typical vein of circular argumentations (opposition and unity) that characterize the interpretation of Being, Heidegger says that ‘techne’ is the representative trait of violence (of human beings) necessary to overcome ‘the over-whelming’, which is the other character of human beings included in the Greek word ‘deinon’: this other character is explained after a brief parenthesis on the traditional understanding of ‘techne’ as ‘art’.

Reading the elucidation of Being with respect to ‘techne’, this has an important implication concerning our understanding of ‘techne’ as ‘artwork’ or ‘art’ (this is probably the meaning of ‘techne’ we already know, together with its meanings as ‘technical skill’ or ‘technology’ which are very loose meanings, if not wrong meanings according to Heidegger): the genuine work of art — ‘techne’ — brings Being to a stand, it makes visible what usually is not; here, we get back to the originary sense of Being as appearing, manifestation, standing in the light (see Image 03, above). Art, Heidegger says, is ‘opening-up [of what was concealed, therefore, it is ‘unconcealment’] and keeping [it] open’; thanks to the work of art Being is brought to a stand, it is brought into being — the work of art. From these considerations, the profound and originary meaning of ‘art’ as ‘techne’ emerges: ‘This opening-up and keeping open, which surpasses and puts to work, is knowing. The passion of knowing is questioning. Art is knowing and hence is “techne”. Art is not “techne” merely because it involves “technical” skills, tools, and materials with which to work.’[104]

2] Complementary to the interpretation of ‘deinon’ as the ‘violence-doing’ and expressed through the term ‘techne’, Heidegger considers ‘deinon’, ‘the overwhelming’, as a manifestation traceable back to another fundamental Greek term: ‘dike’, translated here as ‘fittingness first in the sense of joint and structure; then as arrangement, as the direction that the overwhelming gives to its sway; finally, as the enjoining structure, which compels fitting-in and compliance.’[105] Being-human happens only insofar ‘techne’, knowing, ‘breaks out against “dike”, which for its part, as fittingness, has all “techne” at its disposal.’[106] Again, opposition and unity are determinative of Being: ‘the reciprocal over-against, is.’ [107] In this case, 3] the reciprocal relation (opposition and unity) of ‘techne’ and ‘dike’— or, as I say, ‘techne(  )dike’ — brings to its fullest realization the meaning of deinotaton, ‘the uncanniest’, as the characterization of the human being.

This interpretation of the human being as ‘the uncanniest’, which is based on the reciprocity of opposing elements, the overwhelming (dike) and the violence-doing (techne), is decisive to connect the poetic saying of Sophocles and the philosophical sayings of Parmenides and Heraclitus. This is the next step of Heidegger’s discourse on the elucidation of the relation — unity and disjunction, or unity and opposition — between Being (the universal character of what is) and thinking (the particular character of what is human, which, in turn, determines the meaning of what is).  

Chapter Four — Section D.3.f. The affinity between Sophocles and Parmenides

By interpreting the nature of the human being as ‘the uncanniest’ (through the analysis of Sophocles) Heidegger has elaborated a symmetry between the specific reciprocal belonging-together of ‘dike’ and ‘techne’, as determinants of the human being, on the one hand, and the more general reciprocal belonging-together of Being and apprehension/noein/logos (which we have considered through the analysis of the sayings of Heraclitus and Parmenides), on the other hand. This is to show that the general structure of Being, elaborated on the opposition and unity of determinants (i.e. Being and becoming, Being and seeming we have seen so far, and Being and thinking, we are considering now), is the same structure the human being is grounded on, which, again, is based on the belonging-together of determinants (‘dike’, the overwhelming sway as Being, and ‘techne’, the violence-doing as active gatheredness, traceable back to the sequence apprehension/noein/logos). Furthermore, by introducing the Being of human beings (Dasein) as a historical ‘incident’ in the determination of Being (through thinking, as logos/noein/apprehension), such Being, at a certain moment in history, is subject to human determination: this is the final passage Heidegger has to elaborate in the elucidation of the relationship between Being and thinking.

Coming back to the analogy between Being-logos/noein (elaborated through Heraclitus and Parmenides) and diketechne (elaborated through Sophocles), while it is quite direct and evident the possibility to link ‘dike’ to Being (in this regard Heidegger says that, at first Anaximander, then Heraclitus and Parmenides speak of ‘Being in its essential connection to “dike”… So it becomes dear that both the poetic and the thoughtful saying of Being name Being —that is, establish and delimit it— with the same word, “dike”),[108] the relation between ‘techne’ — which, as ‘machination’, refers back to ‘the violence-doing’ of the human beings — and apprehension (as noein, which, we have seen, is related to logos)  is definitely more elaborated. Heidegger has to demonstrate that apprehension is a form of violence: ‘we should show that apprehension… is such that it uses violence, and as doing violence is an urgency, and as an urgency is undergone only in the necessity of a struggle.’[109] This is made in three steps:

1] The first move for Heidegger is to say that apprehension is a ‘de-cision’.[110] As an introductive etymological note, I observe that the hyphenation used by Heidegger already suggests a form of violence, a double form of violence in this case: from the Latin ‘de-caedere’ where ‘caedere’ is ‘to cut’, while the prefix ‘de’— ‘away’—, accentuate the act of violence, ‘cutting’, as a form of removal from something, a separation. Coming back to Heidegger: what do we have to de-cide? By way of thinking as apprehension (noein), Heidegger says, we have to take a position on Being, seeming, and not-Being, that is we have to confront them. Fundamentally, apprehension (as a domain of thinking) de-cides for Being against Nothing, and, then, confronts it with seeming (e.g.: this is the cathedral of Strasbourg; this seems the cathedral of Strasbourg). As such, that is, as ‘standing against’ (decision regarding Being against Nothing) and as ‘confrontation’ (Being versus seeming), the de-cision is already a struggle, it is immediately de-cisive: it is necessary (an urgency) to set-out the way to the Being of beings against not-Being.

2] Heidegger’s second move is to show that ‘Apprehension stands in an inner essential community with logos. Logos is an urgency’, Heidegger says.[111] This second step is elaborated considering fragment 6, by Parmenides, where noein is named together with legein — apprehension with logos: ‘needful is apprehension and logos’ the fragment says.[112] ‘Here, logos — Heidegger says —must mean, together with apprehension, that (human) act of violence by virtue of which Being is gathered in its gatheredness. Needful is gathering, the gathering that belongs to apprehension. Both must happen “for the sake of Being”.’[113] We have here a twofold characterization of ‘gathering’ (as legein, whence logos derives, and noein, as apprehension) which, other than determining Being, also determines apprehension, and, as such, shows their intimate relation, opening up Being to humanity: the essence of Being as well as the essence of Being-human is thus determined. Then, ‘this gathering — Heidegger says — has the basic character of opening up, revealing [de-concealing]… “logos” has the character of “deloun”, of revealing… bringing-to-self-showing’.[114] This gathering brings-to-self-showing Being as Being-human: their reciprocity is revealed; but this is also the moment  in which ‘the decline of the determination of logos sets in’ (with Plato and Aristotle) and their reciprocity is covered up in intelligibility: ‘Since then, for two millennia, these relations among “logos”, “aletheia”, “phusis”, “noein”, and “idea” have been hidden away and covered up in unintelligibility.’[115] To sum up these important passages according to which human beings, through the power of logos (and its decadence into what we now understand as thinking, language and word/sign), now determine Being, Heidegger says: ‘In originary saying, the Being of beings is opened up in the structure of its gatheredness. This opening-up is gathered in the second sense, according to which the word preserves what is originally gathered, and thus the word governs what holds sway, “phusis”. Human beings, as those who stand and act in logos, in gathering, are the gatherers. They take over and fulfill the governance of the sway of the overwhelming.’[116] This is how Being became a determination of Being-human.

In originary saying, the Being of beings is opened up in the structure of its gatheredness. This opening-up is gathered in the second sense, according to which the word preserves what is originally gathered, and thus the word governs what holds sway, ‘phusis’

3] Finally, Heidegger returns to logos as struggle, which ‘grounds the essence of language’ — the determining factor of Being-human and, consequently, of Being as well;[117] this ‘struggle’ is due to the twofold determination of ‘gathering’ mentioned above and the principle of opposition and unity on which Heidegger has elaborated the structure of Being since the inception: if logos (as legein) stands in reciprocal relation with phusis (Being), at the same time there is an opposition between the two: logos stands against phusis. Here, Heidegger says how this happens: ‘Because the essence of language is found in the gathering of the gatheredness of Being, language as everyday discourse comes to its truth only when saying and hearing are related to logos as gatheredness, in the sense of Being… therefore “legein” [to discourse, to talk] must turn away from mere recitation, from glibness and the ready tongue’;[118]then ‘the man who knows must constantly tear himself away from this way into the “legein” and “noein” of the Being of the being’;[119]

Chapter Four — Section D.4. The originary disjunction between “phusis” and “logos”

The constant effort of ‘the man who knows’ to withdraw from this superficial way to Being has to do with decision; this decision — a ‘selective gleaning’ — ‘in carrying out the gathering to the gatheredness of Being… grounds and sustains the pursuit of Being and the rejection of seeming’ — this is what Heidegger says concerning the analysis of fragment 7. We are on the threshold of the important transformation of the originary logos, (intrinsically) oriented to Being, into a faculty of the human being, which decides the sorts of Being.

We are on the threshold of the important transformation of the originary logos, (intrinsically) oriented to Being, into a faculty of the human being, which decides the sorts of Being

I would say that what we are currently seeing will lead to an ‘externalization’ of Being: logos (as thinking, a human faculty) will take precedence over Being and will establish its nature. This is foreshadowed in the analysis of fragment 7, where Heidegger shows the intimate connection between logos and krinen, which, according to Heidegger, means ‘to select, to bring into relief, to set the measure that determines rank’:[120] it is logos, understood as a faculty of the human beings, that sets the measure of Being (here, we can find the origins of Aristotle’s categories — we will see it soon).

To sum up these important passages, Logos and phusis disjoin and logos steps forth making ‘itself into the court of justice that presides over Being and that takes over and regulates the determination of the Being of beings. This happens only when logos gives up its inceptive essence — that is, when Being as phusis is covered up and reinterpreted. Human Dasein then changes accordingly. The slow ending of this history, in whose midst we have long been standing, is the dominance of thinking as “ratio” (as both understanding and reason) over the Being of beings. Here begins the interplay of “rationalism and irrationalism”…’ [121]

We have now to elucidate this dominance of thinking over Being (the Being of beings); to proceed further in this new direction Heidegger asks two main questions: ‘how does logos secede from and take precedence over Being? How does the decisive development of the division between Being and thinking come about?’[122] Those questions can also be answered by narrowing the focus a bit more, with two more specific questions: ‘1. How does the relation between phusis and logos look at the end of Greek philosophy, in Plato and Aristotle? 2. How did this end come about? What is the real basis of the change?’[123] This is the subject of the next two sections.

Chapter Four  — Section D.4.c. The Platonic and Aristotelian interpretation of phusis as “idea”

Concerning the first question, Heidegger is direct: ‘At the end, the word idea, eidos, “idea,” comes to the fore as the definitive and prevailing word for Being (phusis). Since then, the interpretation of Being as idea rules over all Western thinking’, from Plato down to ‘the system of Hegel’.[124] We are focusing on the origin of the passage from Being understood as phusis to Being understood as idea.

We are focusing on the origin of the passage from Being understood as phusis to Being understood as idea

So, now, Heidegger elucidates the meaning of the word ‘idea’, in the original Greek sense: ‘The word “idea” means what is seen in the visible, the view that something offers. What is offered is the current look or “eidos” of whatever we encounter… the look is that within which and as which the thing comes-to-presence — that is, in the Greek sense, “is”. This standing is the constancy of what has come forth of itself, the constancy of “phusis”. Thus, Heidegger has unveiled the connection between the original sense of phusis, as coming to presence, constancy, standing forth, standing in the light, or appearance — all determinants we have already analyzed in the sections above —, and ‘idea’, eidos — which is literally the look offered by that which comes to presence, stands forth, appears. But we can get even more information from this understanding of phusis as idea — the look through which something appears: ‘In the look, that which comes to presence, that which is, stands there in its whatness and its howness. It is apprehended and taken, it is in the possession of a taking-in, it is the holdings of a taking-in, it is the available coming to presence of what comes to presence: “ousia”.’[125] In these passages we are taking into the light the origin of a double change of meaning concerning Being, according to the interpretation offered by Heidegger: the originary ‘emerging-abiding sway’ with all that it represents (gathering gatheredness, constancy, persistence, presence, etc.) at first declines as ‘idea’, then as ‘substance’ (Plato and Aristotle offered decisive interpretations to change the sense of Being with their ‘theory of ideas’ and ‘categories’, respectively).

we are taking into the light the origin of a double change of meaning concerning Being, which, at first, declines as ‘idea’, then, as ‘substance

In a note concerning the meaning of the Greek term ‘ousia’, the editors and translators of Introduction to Metaphysics say that, etymologically, it means ‘beingness’; in the origin, it was used to mean ‘property’ or ‘holding’, and only later was used, in philosophical language, to mean ‘substance’ or ‘essence’, which is still the common meaning.

So, ‘ousia’ can have two meanings, Heidegger says: ‘the coming to presence of something that comes to presence and that which comes to presence in the whatness of its look.’[126] The first meaning is hidden behind the word ‘idea’, as ‘existentia’, that is the existent, existence; the second meaning will later acquire its own status as ‘essentia’, substance, independently of its prior connection with ‘idea’.

Ousia… can mean both the coming to presence  of something that comes to presence [the look as ‘idea’] and that which comes to presence in the whatness of its look [substance]

Let’s see what Heidegger says in this regard: ‘Here is the concealed origin of the later distinction between “existentia” and “essentia”… if we understand the “idea” (the look) as “coming to presence”, then coming to presence shows itself as constancy in a double sense. On the one hand, the look entails the standing-forth-from-unconcealment, the simple “estin”  <is>. On the other hand, what shows itself in the look is that which looks that way, “what” stands there, the <ti estin> the what-it-is.’[127] It is this latter meaning that will eventually evolve into substance, ‘ousia’ (see Image 08, below).

Image 08  Genesis of the different senses of Being, starting from its interpretation as ‘idea’, in the early Greek sense of the constancy of ‘that which comes to presence, that which is, [and] stands there in its whatness and its howness… [that is] ousia’. Hereinafter, the distinction between existentia’ and ‘essentia’ emerged, and, finally, ‘essentia/substance’ was exclusively interpreted as ‘ousia’, in the material sense.

So, ‘idea’ is the new term that defines the Being of beings (‘the “idea” constitutes the Being of beings’),[128] but we must pay attention: this meaning is different from our modern conception of ‘idea’: according to Heidegger, ‘here, “idea” and “eidos” are used in an extended sense, meaning not only what we can see with our physical eyes, but everything that can be apprehended. “What” any given being is consists in its look, and the look, in turn, presents the being’s whatness’;[129] only later, this ‘whatness’ will be acknowledged as substance (see Section D.5)

I repeat the passage since it is decisive to understand the development of our conception of Being and, as a consequence, the development of our understanding of nature, with the dualisms that accompanied it: when Being was expressed by the term ‘idea’ — eidos — it represented both what we can see with our physical eyes (that which is actual, in the sense of concrete and physical — the thing present at hand, as this particular thing) and everything that can be apprehended (that which is abstract, the thing present in my mind as the universal thing, the idea of ‘chair’ — the ‘chairness’ — that offers ground to any particular chair that can be present at hand, or, in an extended sense, everything that can be represented in my mind, as a modality of ‘thinking’). According to this meaning, the original sense of Being as idea comprehends the visible and the apprehensible, or, reminding what we have said so far concerning the unity of the opposites expressed in a more pictorial form, the visible(  )the apprehensible. Only later the two diverged, and a new dualism aroused.

Place as ‘idea’: the physical and the… ‘ideal’.

The argument Heidegger is discussing now,  gives me the opportunity to say that the concept of place I’m envisioning (place as Being/phusis) inherently accepts this interpretation of Being as idea in the originary Greek sense of the term: this place embraces all that exists, from the physical dimension of that which can be seen with our eyes to the ‘mental’ dimension of what can be imagined or ‘apprehended’ by thinking, and, as such, may offer a constant standing to the physical, as well as to the other dimensions. The visible(  )the apprehensible, or the concrete(  )the abstract: this is the overarching domain of place I am describing (the two brackets, one facing the other, represent a placial domain — opposition and unity). While the physical dimension of place begins with the actualization (concretization) of physicochemical processes and their eventual unfolding into biological and social dimensions (actualization of biological and social processes), the abstract dimension represents the ultimate, in the sense of final, stage of development of place: an intellectual or symbolic dimension, or state (so, in this sense, the platonic interpretation of ‘idea’ as the immutable ‘substrate’ of all that exist is also accepted: by analogy, place —  the Being of beings —, as a universal dimension, offers a stable ground, a substrate or sub-stance as that which stands below, hupokeimenon, to any other particular/concrete/visible dimension — physical, chemical, biological, ecological…). Here, there is almost an identification between the (platonic) sense of Being Heidegger is explaining right now, and the sense of place I am describing, where the concrete and the abstract, the physical and the ideal (mental), the actual and the potential, persistence and change… are the determinants that participate in the creation and dynamics of place, according to the known schema ‘opposition and unity’. The overarching dimension of reality — the Being of beings as phusis or as idea in the early Greek sense —, a domain extended from the visible to the apprehensible, finds its opportune expression in this (reformed) conception of place.

Returning to Heidegger’s interpretation, this understanding of Being as idea, which is at the base of the Platonic philosophy, is the fulfillment of the inception of Greek philosophy: ‘In fact — Heidegger says  — it cannot be denied that the interpretation of Being as “idea” results from the fundamental experience of Being as “phusis”. It is, as we say, a necessary consequence of the essence of Being as “emergent shining”.’[130] With Plato there is not a decline of Being, or a distance from it, as a founding principle. In Plato’s ‘theory of ideas’ is still traceable the originary sense of Being of the Greeks (and — I add — that sense of Being is also organic to his conception of chōra, which is the ‘spatial/placial’ notion on which his metaphysical system described in the Timaeus is grounded; that sense of Being is also organic to the notion place I’m envisioning here: there is a close relationship between Plato’s chōra and the reformed notion of place I am presenting The decline of the sense of Being as idea, a real overturning of its meaning with respect to the inception, happens when ‘that which is an essential “consequence” [that is the understanding of idea as a necessary consequence of the essence of Being as “emergent shining”] is raised to the level of essence itself, and thus takes the place of the essence’.

The decline of the sense of Being as idea, a real overturning of meaning with respect to the inception, happens when ‘that which is an essential “consequence” [that is Being understood as “emergent shining”] is raised to the level of essence itself, and thus takes the place of the essence’.

What is decisive, Heidegger says, ‘is not the fact in itself that phusis was characterized as “idea” [as in Plato’s system], but that the “idea” rises up as the sole and definitive interpretation of Being’ — [131] and this is what happened by misinterpreting the philosophy of Plato or, anyway, after him, by misinterpreting the originary sense of Being. Here, we have to consider that phusis, the ‘emerging sway’, is determined by ‘appearance’ in a twofold sense: ‘First, appearing denotes the self-gathering event of bringing-itself-to-stand and thus standing in gatheredness. But then, appearing also means: as something that is already standing there, to proffer a foreground, a surface, a look as an offering to be looked at.’[132]

Image 09: Being or phusis —  the emerging sway — as ‘appearing

To elucidate better this difference, Heidegger introduces an interesting argumentation, which is one of the core arguments of this website. How do the two meanings of ‘appearing’ differ from a spatial point of view? This is Heidegger’s position: ‘appearing in the first and authentic sense, as the gathered bringing-itself-to-stand, takes space in; it first conquers space; as standing there, it creates space for itself; it brings about everything that belongs to it, while it itself is not imitated. Appearing in the second sense merely steps forth from an already prepared space, and it is viewed by a looking-at within the already fixed dimensions of this space. The visage offered by the thing, and no longer the thing itself, now becomes what is decisive. Appearing in the first sense first rips space open. Appearing in the second sense simply gives space an “outline” and measures the space that has been opened up.’[133]

Place or space?

I have to make some distinctions with respect to the position expressed by Heidegger on space and Being, on this occasion. Rather than space, I attribute place any possible interpretation that might offer a ground to all that exists, from the universal presence of the Being of beings to its concretization into particular beings. Therefore, the first sense of ‘appearing’ Heidegger speaks about is for me better explained as the concretization of processes that in their unfolding have the creative power to determine the place of their coming into Being — the place of their appearance, or the place of their existence. Place not space. Then, it is not a question of ‘conquering’ or ‘taking in’ something external (space) as Heidegger says; this would entail a space that pre-exists the events we are describing, and it would mean Heidegger is depicting the existence of an absolute space that comes before Being; this conception would weaken the argumentations exposed so far concerning the priority of Being. Here, his references to the creation of space or the ambiguous statement concerning the space ripped open (which I could accept as logical) are neither supported nor elucidated by the previous references to the space taken in and conquered, which, for me, suggest a space preexisting to Being (as such, an absolute space). Rather, I interpret this situation as the simultaneous coming into appearance of processes and place: processes that come into Being as an occurrence, and, as such, something that ‘takes place’ in the sense of occurrence; then place, in this sense, does not preexist the processes that unfold, but is simply the simultaneous happening of their concretization: place and processes happen together; there is not one without the other, they come together, they belong together. And this is not merely a question of concretization of processes, intended as actualization into particular beings, having (or taking up) their specific places; from Aristotle down to Newton and Leibniz, it is quite clear that any (particular) being has its place. More in general, or even at a more universal or abstract level of discussion, anytime we hypothesize the presence of something — let’s say the Being of beings — that ‘something’ requires a domain to manifest its presence: therefore, I’m saying that that domain is a placial domain — a place, to begin with. As an example, just think of a perfect platonic solid, let’s say a cube: that cube in the very moment I have thought of it, that is in the very moment certain processes occurred in my brain, presented together with its place, the place of the processes along which that platonic solid appeared in my mind. Place is the natural domain of all that exists, either physical or ideal (mental); that’s why I have said ‘to begin with’, when I’ve spoken of the domain belonging to that cube. We have literally invented ‘space’, and, after space, we have also invented other domains of existence, e.g. digital or virtual domains, but, at any time, they come after place, they themselves necessitate a place to exist! Place (which happens contextually to the processes in it — place is ‘gathered’ and disclosed together with its processes, as the picture on the left of Image 09 may suggest) is the fundamental ground of all that exists, including other domains. And as the ground for an entity (a foreground), it is also a background for other entities.

Concerning the second sense (‘Appearing in the second sense simply gives space an outline and measures the space that has been opened up’) here, according to me, we find the origin of the change of role and meaning between space and place: while, again, I contrast Heidegger’s use of the term space, when he says that ‘Appearing in the second sense merely steps forth from an already prepared space’ — actually, this ‘second phase’ Heidegger is describing steps forth from an already prepared ‘place’, and not from ‘space’: that place is the place of beings, the place through which beings offer their looks —,I am tempted to say that it is properly that ‘passive’ understanding of beings as merely ‘visible’ and ‘external’ that prepared the way for place (an active agent) to be substituted with space (a passive agent) as a mean to measure, quantize or crystallize those beings as still-life beings, as well as to measure space itself (we know that this is exactly the original sense of space: a unit of measurement — see the article Back to the Origins of Space and Place). So there is a parallel between the passage from place to space (that is, from the active power of place, represented by the Platonic chōra or the Aristotelian topos — which I both consider placial notions —, to the passivity of space, ‘spatium’, formalized in the theory of Newton) and the changes of meanings of Being: from ‘phusis’ to ‘idea’ as ‘constant presence’ and, then, to ‘ousia’ as a material substance, which gave a definite direction to Western thinking and not just to it. We should not be surprised by that: as I’m trying to show here, place (and space) are intimately connected to the question of Being; so intimately connected that, I’m saying, place can absolve the very function of Being itself, including the early Greek perspective and explaining the modern one; so, if the concept of Being changes, concepts of place and space change as well, and with them concepts of motion, substance and time, which are one entangled with the other.

Coming back to this important Section D.4.c., with Plato begins to change the sense of Being-as-idea, from ‘existentia’ to ‘essentia’; a shift of meaning that will be formalized after Aristotle, but is not directly attributable to the two great thinkers (rather it is attributable to the frequent misinterpretation of their thinking). What is certain is that in the process that will take Being under the exclusive dominance of thinking, the Platonic ‘theory of ideas’ and the Aristotelian ‘categories’ will play an important part. At the end of this process, ‘we will no longer wish to deny that the interpretation of Being as idea stands at a distance from the originary inception.’[134] Later on, Heidegger glosses: ‘The transformation of Being from phusis to idea itself brings about one of the essential forms of movement within the history of the West’. [135]

Let’s see these important passages in detail following Heidegger’s description: ‘Being as “idea” is now promoted to the status of what really is, and beings themselves, which previously held sway, sink to the level of what Plato calls “me on” — that which really should not be and really “is” not either — because beings always deform the idea, the pure look, by actualizing it, insofar as they incorporate it into matter.’[136] Heidegger goes further in this explication of Being modelled on the Platonic theory of ideas:

… explication of Being modelled on the Platonic theory of ideas

the “idea” becomes the “paradeigma”, the model. At the same time, the idea necessarily becomes the ideal. What is produced by imitation really “is” not, but only participates in Being, “methexis” participation. The “chorismos” has been ripped open, the cleft between the idea as what really is, the prototype and archetype, and what really is not, the imitation and likeness.’[137] If ‘appearing’, the emerging abiding sway, originally defined Being as phusis, now, its sense as ‘appearing’ may degenerate into mere ‘seeming’ with respect to the surface of what appears, a question of ‘likeness’, which, as such, has an intrinsic negative sense: ‘Now appearing takes on still another sense on the basis of the idea. That which appears, appearance, is no longer “phusis”, the emerging sway, nor the self-showing of the look, but instead it is the surfacing of the likeness. Inasmuch as the likeness never reaches its prototype, what appears is “mere” appearance, really a seeming, which now means a defect.’[138] Heidegger continues: ‘Now “on” and “phainomenon” <what is and what appears> are disjoined. This involves still another essential consequence. Because the idea is what really is, and the “idea”  is the prototype, all opening up of beings must be directed toward equaling the prototype, resembling the archetype, directing itself according to the idea. The truth of “phusis — aletheia” as the unconcealment that essentially unfolds in the emerging sway — now becomes “homoiosis” and “mimesis”: resemblance, directedness, the correctness of seeing, the correctness of apprehending as representing.’[139] Here the relation between Being and thinking is disclosed in full clarity: if Being is changing its sense into ‘idea’ and if the ‘idea’ is now the prototype to which beings must conform, then the ultimate judge for deciding if a being conforms to the idea or not is the domain of thinking itself; accordingly, the relation between Being/phusis, thinking and logos comes to the fore again; in fact, Heidegger says, we have now to ‘trace what becomes of logos, in accordance with the reinterpretation of phusis [as idea].’[140] Heidegger continues: ‘The opening up of beings happens in logos as gathering. Gathering is originally accomplished in language. Thus logos becomes the definitive and essential determination of discourse. Language, as what is spoken out and said, and as what can be said again, preserves in each case the being that has been opened up. What has been said can be said again and passed on. The truth that is preserved in this saying spreads in such a way that the being that was originally opened up in gathering is not itself properly experienced in each particular case. In what is passed on, truth loosens itself, as it were, from beings… This implies that the decision about what is true now takes place as a confrontation between correct saying and mere hearsay. Logos, in the sense of saying and asserting, now becomes the domain and place where decisions are made about truth… logos as assertion becomes the locus of truth in the sense of correctness.’[141]

Logos, in the sense of saying and asserting, now becomes the domain and place where decisions are made about truth… logos as assertion becomes the locus of truth in the sense of correctness

So, we arrived at another decisive passage for the sort of Being and Western thought: Aristotle’s introduction of the ‘categories’ as a mode to determine what lies at the basis of Being — a decisive passage to see if what we have asserted about Being (an assertion is a ‘category’, in Greek) is true or false. Let’s see what Heidegger says in this regard: ‘We arrive at Aristotle’s proposition according to which logos as assertion is what can be true or false. Truth, which was originally, as unconcealment, a happening of the beings themselves that held swaynow becomes a property of logos. In becoming a property of assertion, truth… changes its essence…Truth becomes the correctness of logos. Thus logos steps out of its originary inclusion in the happening of unconcealment in such a way that decisions about truth, and so about beings, are made on the basis of logos and with reference back to it — and not only decisions about beings, but even, and in advance, about Being. Logos is now “legein ti kata tinos”, saying something about something. That about which something is said is in each case what lies at the basis of the assertion, what lies in front of it, “hupokeimenon (subjectum)”. From the point of view of the logos that has become independent as assertion, Being displays itself as “this” lying-there… That which lies at the basis can be exhibited in asserting in various ways: as what is in such and such a state, as what is so and so large, as what is related in this and that way. Being-in-a-state, Being-large, Being-related are determinations of Being.’[142] Here, Heidegger introduces a brief list concerning some Aristotelian ‘categories’;[143] then, he goes on to explain the literal meaning of the term ‘categories’ and their implication for ontology: ‘Because, as ways of Being-said, they have been created out of logos — and because to assert is “kategorein” — the determinations of the Being of beings are called “kategoriai”, categories. On this basis, the theory of Being and of the determinations of beings as such becomes a theory that investigates the categories and their order. The goal of all ontology is the theory of categories. ’[144]

the theory of Being and of the determinations of beings as such becomes a theory that investigates the categories and their order. The goal of all ontology is the theory of categories.

Now, following Heidegger, let’s make a brief resume of what we have said so far concerning the relation between phusis and logos, at the end of Greek philosophy (Plato and Aristotle):

Phusis becomes the idea, that is the ‘paradeigma’, the model beings must conform to; ‘truth’, which we have seen before, is connected with ‘aletheia’ — the unconcealment of Being — becomes (a question of) ‘correctness’, the determination of the correspondence between beings and the ‘idea’ as the model, while logos becomes the ‘assertion’, that is ‘the locus of truth as correctness, the origin of the categories, the basic principle that determines the possibilities of Being.’[145] So Heidegger concludes —, it happens that, from now on, ‘idea’ and ‘category’ will determine the entire course of ‘Western thought, action, and appraisal, under which stands all of Western Dasein.’[146]

The next step for Heidegger is to consider how all this came about, that is, how this transformation of phusis and logos came about: that is the subject of the following Section:

Chapter Four  — Section D.4.d. The basis of the Platonic turn: the collapse of unconcealment into correctness

What is the basis of the Platonic turn, that is the basis that eventually determined Being/phusis understood as eidos, idea, as ousia, constant presence, and logos as assertion? The question is inherent to the relation between phusis, logos, truth as unconcealment and truth as correctness. We have seen that phusis is what appears, and what appears shines and shows a look (Image 03, 08, 09); in this way, what is said (legein/logos) of the look of beings, ‘falls immediately into the domain of assertion as chatter.’[147] A consequence of the transformation of sense we have just analyzed (phusis as idea; logos as assertion — that is ‘the locus of truth as correctness, the origin of the categories’ we have seen right above) is that ‘from the point of view both of the idea and of assertion, the original essence of truth, “aletheia” (unconcealment), has changed into correctness.’[148] So, to give a more direct and complete answer to the question that opens this paragraph ‘The transformation of “phusis” and “logos” into idea and assertion has its inner ground in a transformation of the essence of truth as unconcealment into truth as correctness’, Heidegger says.[149] The essence of truth/aletheia as a way to interpret the Being of beings (phusis) collapsed; therefore, after Being collapsed,  the only possibility to put its pieces back together — the only possibility to bring Being back — was to represent Being in thinking, or in a thoughtful re-trieval’, as Heidegger says. Let’s see Heidegger’s explanation, in this regard: ‘This essence of truth could not be held fast and preserved in its inceptive originality. Unconcealment, the space founded for the appearing of beings, collapsed. “Idea” and “assertion,” “ousia” and “kategoria”, were rescued as remnants of this collapse. Once neither beings nor gathering could be preserved and understood on the basis of unconcealment, only “one” possibility remained: that which had fallen apart and lay there as something present at hand could be brought back together only in a relation that itself had the character of something present at hand. A present-at-hand logos must resemble something else present at hand — beings as the objects of the logos — and be directed by these… Therefore we can address the inception and the collapse of truth solely in a thoughtful re-trieval.’[150]

Image 10: Being as representation.

“Aletheia”, the place of Being unfolding into beings.

I’ve already hinted at this question in a commentary above (after Chapter Two — Section B. The grammar of the Word ‘Being’, in Being as Place: Introduction to Metaphysics  – Part One, see my commentary on  Aletheia’ and ‘standing’ as processuality of Place); here, Heidegger’s use of the term ‘space’ in direct connection with ‘aletheia’, or ‘unconcealment’ interpreted as‘the space founded for the appearing of beings’, shows how close and, at the same time, how distinct is my conception from that of Heidegger: ‘close’ in virtue of the fact that, just like Heidegger, I interpret this moment as a primal event embedded with dimensionality; ‘distinct’, or different because I interprete that dimensional event as a placial event — that is, an event of place — and not as a spatial event, or an event of space. In this regard, I also take a distance from those who attribute the term ‘spatial’ to questions of place or space indifferently: fundamentally, generic spatial expressions that refer to place, inadvertently reduce place to an ancillary function with respect to space, or, maybe, even worst, the use of generic spatial expressions make no ontological distinction between space and place, bypassing their important differences, thereby blurring the meaning of the two concepts. That’s why I often use the uncommon attribute ‘placial’ rather than ‘spatial’, in circumstances where behind ‘the spatial’ I see a place. The ‘spatial’, for me, does not include place, quite the contrary: it is place — the placial — that includes space.

For me place is one thing with the processes in it (gathering, standing forth, emerging, abiding…) and no real dimensionality can be created (either abstract or concrete) out of their simultaneous presence — I mean the simultaneous presence of processes and place; traces of this intrinsic co-belonging of place and processes is still found in the common expression ‘to take place’, which metaphorically means ‘occurrence’.

Returning to Heidegger’s argumentation concerning the modes through which recovering the originary truth of Being, he makes this observation he will return to in his later writings: it is only through the work — ‘the work of the word as poetry, the work of stone in temple and statue, the work of the word as thinking, the work of the polis as the site of history that grounds and preserves all this’ —[151] that unconcealment happens. In the work, unconcealment and (the strife against) concealment go hand in hand, one implies the other: ‘The striving for the unconcealment of beings and thus of Being in the work, this striving for the unconcealment of beings, which in itself already happens only as constant antagonism, is always at the same time the strife against concealment, covering-up, against seeming.’[152] Heidegger is now returning to the relation between Being and seeming, to show how that relation is elaborated in the light of the transformation of logos into assertion — the place of correctness that is, fundamentally, in the light of the new relation between Being and thinking, the ground of Dasein: ‘Seeming, “doxa”, is not something external to Being and unconcealment but instead belongs to unconcealment. But “doxa” is also ambiguous in itself. On the one hand, it means the view in which something proffers itself, and on the other hand it means the view that human beings have. Dasein settles into such views. They are asserted and passed on. Thus “doxa” is a type of logos. The dominant views now obstruct our own view of beings. Beings are deprived of the possibility of turning themselves “toward” apprehension, appearing on their own right. The view granted by beings, which usually turns itself toward us, is distorted into a view upon beings. The dominance of views thus distorts beings and twists them. “To twist a thing” is called “pseudesthai” by the Greeks. The struggle “for” the unconcealment of beings, “aletheia”, thus becomes the struggle “against” the “pseudos”, against twisting and distortion.’[153] This is the logical conclusion of this long passage that summarized the transformation of Being in contraposition to thinking: ‘The way to truth as correctness lies open.’[154]  And this takes us to the next important section, concerning the interpretation of Being as ‘ousia’ — constant presence.

Archi-textures’: a way to the unconcealment of architecture.

Before continuing, I would like to come back to the relation between ‘the work of…’ and ‘unconcealment’. Specifically, here, I mean the work of architecture and unconcealment, given that architecture is my profession. This will be the subject of a dedicated article, but now I want to give an outline of this question, in connection with what we have just learned from Heidegger. Going back in time to my years at the University before my graduation, as soon as I understood that architecture was a question of space — this is the traditional interpretation of architecture according to some of the most important critics and architects since the end of the XIX century (at this regard, see the Appendix: Architecture as the Art-and-Science of Space in the article On the Ambiguous Language of Space) — I’ve tried to find a way to unveil what there was behind space, not merely as a theoretical concept but also as a practical concept. It was a long way before a could put all pieces of my architectural research together, in-between theory and practice, and find a name for the completed puzzle: Archi-textures. Very briefly, by this term, which I discovered years later reading Henry Lefebvre’s The Production of Space, I wanted to take into the light (some of) the processes that occur in a real place, and which an architect can transpose in an abstract space (this transposition is a form of ‘representation’ of that which is actual), to generate a new kind of reality, which is at the same time placial and spatial: this is the place or space of the project, a choral reality, where place and space collapse into each other, and, with them, abstract and concrete domains. In a naïve and intuitive way, by taking processes into the light in the form of 3D and 2D wires, surfaces and volumes as the reification of basic relations between the perceiving subject embedded within a given physical environment-as-place and the objects contained in that physical environment-as-place, I found one way to give expression to some of the basic processes concealed behind architecture. Now, I intend that processual/placial territory that I began to explore years ago, in-between place and space, the founding territory ‘whereBeing and beings present themselves, stepping-forth from concealment: Being, as the place of processes; beings, as the place of actualized processes that unfold and present in the form of a model of architecture, and, eventually, in the form of a built architecture.

Image 11: Archi-textures, the primordial ground of architectural processes taken into the light (Project for a Library in Legnano, ITA, Alessandro Calvi Rollino Architetto)

Chapter Four — Section D.5. The interpretation of Being as “ousia”

The interpretation of Being against (its) distortion was secured in the word ‘ousia’, which means ‘Being in the sense of constant presence, presence at hand.’[155] That constant presence is ‘what really is… what always is’, that is, the idea, intended as the constant model of reference. Heidegger says: ‘What is continuously coming to presence is what we must go back to, in advance, in all comprehending and producing of anything: the model, the “idea”. What is continuously coming to presence is what we must go back to in all “logos”, asserting, as what always already lies at hand, the “hupokeimenon, subjectum.” What always already lies at hand before us is… the earlier, the a priori… The “hupokeimenon” is the forerunner of the later interpretation of the being as object.’ [156] In fact, Heidegger says, this interpretation of being as ‘ousia’, constant presence, ‘could not maintain itself’ and ‘immediately began to be reinterpreted as “substantia”’ — that is substance, the material —, which is the way we still understand ‘Being’ now (that meaning passed down from the Middle Ages to modernity); interpreting Greek philosophy retro-actively on the basis of the concept of substance, is to falsify the history of philosophy from the bottom up, Heidegger concludes.

The main term for the Being of beings… is ‘ousia’ [constant presence, the ‘idea’ as model of reference]… this fundamental meaning of ‘ousia’ could not maintain itself. ‘Ousia’ immediately began to be reinterpreted as ‘substantia.’

Finally, we’ve come to the end of this long narration concerning the relation between Being and thinking: ‘It remains to be seen how, starting with “ousia” as the term that is now definitive for Being, the divisions we have discussed before between “Being and becoming”, “Being and seeming” are also conceived’. [157] At this point Heidegger draws the schema with arrows we have already anticipated in the Image 06, above, which I re-interpret here:

Image 12: The interpretation of Being after Plato and Aristotle and before the modern epoch, according to Heidegger.

This is Heidegger’s explanation that accompanies the schema of the divisions of Being: ‘What stands over against becoming as its opposite is continuous endurance [Being as “ousia”]. What stands over against seeming as mere semblance is what is really viewed, the “idea”. As the “ontos on” <what really is>, the “idea” is furthermore what endures continuously, as opposed to mutable seeming. But becoming and seeming are not determined only by [Being as] “ousia”; for “ousia”, in turn, is still definitively determined by its relation to logos, judgment as assertion… Accordingly, becoming and seeming are also determined by the perspective of thinking.’[158] Heidegger goes on to elucidate how ‘becoming’ and ‘seeming’ appear from the point of view of thinking — ‘the thinking that makes judgments, which always starts from something that endures’:[159] 1] ‘becoming appears as not-enduring. Not-enduring shows itself at first, within what is present at hand, as not staying in the same place. Becoming appears as change of place, “phora”, local motion. Change of place becomes the definitive phenomenon of motion, in the light of which all becoming is then to be comprehended. When the dominance of thinking comes to the fore, in the sense of modern mathematical rationalism, no other form of becoming whatsoever is recognized other than motion in the sense of change of place. Wherever other phenomena of motion show themselves, one attempts to grasp them on the basis of change of place… Descartes — Heidegger continues —, the philosophical founder of this way of thinking, ridicules every other concept of motion in his Regulae, number XII.’ [160]

Becoming appears as change of place… the definitive phenomenon of motion, in the light of which all becoming is then to be comprehended.

Place as a geometrical-mathematical object.

A brief comment before introducing the second point of Heidegger’s explaination. What we have just read concerning ‘phora’ — local motion or locomotion — had far-reaching consequences for our understanding of the concept of place. That interpretation definitely transformed the concept of place, from a philosophical concept having physical and metaphysical grounds (in Aristotle) to a mathematical concept, whose physical and metaphysical meaning was reduced, or even totally absorbed by the concept of space. This is the current situation of the concept of place since the beginning of the modern era. More in detail, the mathematical concept of place finally acquired its status as site (‘situs’) and was reduced further to the extremes, getting the semblance of a ‘point’: from here, the passage to place understood as a mere ‘location’ and — the passage is short — ‘simple location’ (one of the greatest aberration of modern thinking) are just immediate consequences — the final step of a long run that removed any fruitful tie that, in the origin, existed between place and matter (all of these passages are successfully elucidated by Edward Casey’s essay ‘The Fate of Place’, which is the subject of the article Place and Space: A Philosophical History). There is structural parallelism between the changing interpretation of the concept of Being and the changing interpretation of the concept of place: the two are related concepts, as I’m trying to show here and in other articles. This is a core argument for this website and my research: from here, emerges the necessity to rethink the concept of place in order to reassess the originary relation between place, matter and space, and consequently, to reassess the originary understanding of nature-as-phusis, the place of processes that recombine oppositions (dualisms) into unity.

As concerns the second point 2], the effect of thinking on ‘seeming’, let’s see what Heidegger says: ‘Just as becoming, in accordance with ‘ousia’, is determined by thinking (calculating), so is the other opposite to Being, seeming. It is the incorrect. The basis of seeming is the distortion of thought. Seeming becomes mere logical incorrectness, falsehood.’[161] The basis for the next division (limitation) of Being is laid: not only does thinking extends its dominance over Being and its opposites (becoming and seeming) as we have just seen, but it also extends its dominance over what is opposed to Being. This is the final passage to elucidate the full spectrum of the divisions of Being: after Being and becoming, Being and seeming, Being and thinking, the focus is now on Being and the ought, which is the other division in preparation, a consequence of the dominance of thinking on Being (and its opposites). The new section is anticipated by the final schema, below.

Image 13: Heidegger’s final schema concerning the limitations of Being.

Chapter Four Section E. Being and the ought

The position of ‘thinking’ with respect to ‘Being’ in the schema (‘thinking’ stands below ‘Being’) ‘indicates that thinking becomes the ground that sustains and determines Being.’[162] Conversely, the position of ‘the ought’, standing above ‘Being’, ‘suggests that whereas Being is grounded in thinking, it is surmounted by the ought.’[163] What does that mean? It means ‘that Being is no longer what is definitive, what provides the measure’ because, the idea, as a being, ‘demands in turn the determination of its Being.’ [164] What is now that determines the Being of the idea as the highest rank? The highest idea — the idea of ideas — is the idea of the good, intended as ‘the valiant [that] which achieves and can achieve what is proper to it’, Heidegger says taking as a reference Plato’s thinking.[165] We are entering here the question of ‘value’ as the determinant factor for the modern interpretation of Being (we have to remind that while the first two divisions of Being — ‘Being and becoming’, and ‘Being and seeming’ — were elaborated in the Greek period, the division concerning ‘Being and thinking’, although began with Plato and Aristotle reached its final concretization at the beginning of the modern period, while this final delimitation of Being — Being and the ought — ‘belongs thoroughly to modernity’, see point 5 of Chapter Four — Section A. Seven points of orientation for the investigation of the restriction of Being). Before elaborating further on the concept of value, Heidegger returns to the explanation of the structure of Being, with specific reference to its opposition to ‘the ought’: ‘insofar as the ideas constitute Being as “ousia”… the highest idea, stands… beyond Being. Thus Being itself, not in general but as “idea”, comes into opposition to something else to which it itself, Being, remains assigned… Being itself, in its particular interpretation as idea, brings with it the relation to the prototypical and to what ought to be… this can occur only by setting something “above” Being that Being never yet is, but always “ought” to be.’[166] That ‘something above’ is represented by ‘values’.

Place and the ought.

Returning to the parallel between Being and place, with which I have accompanied the entire metaphysical argumentation of Heidegger (from the perspective of place), the following observation on the role that ‘the ought’ might have with respect to the concept of place (as compared to Being) regards the question of actualization. In a conclusive remark on Being and the ought, Heidegger says that ‘Being, in contradistinction to the ought, is what lies at hand in each case as what ought to be and has not yet been actualized, or already has been actualized’.[167] In general, the question of actualization is a central question for the concept of place, in the revised sense I propose here. I understand place as the inalienable counterpart of processes (the where of processes); when processes unfold and eventually actualize into a specific being (either a rock — the actualization of physicochemical processes —, a tree — the actualization of biological processes —, a beehive — the actualization of social processes —, or a poem — the actualization of intellectual or symbolic processes), then we can say of that being that it is the place of actualized processes and, consequently, that place is what lies at hand and has already been actualized.  The actualized being as what lies at hand, in the case of the rock, is the place of physicochemical processes; now, taking into consideration what Heidegger is saying about Being and the ought, this means that whenever a rock is present (lies at hand) a sequence of certain processes ought to be, so that a ‘rock’ will appear.  Actualization can happen in a physical domain (the material rock present at hand) as well as in an abstract or symbolic domain (the ideal or imaginary rock, present in my mind): as a place of processes, both domains are placial domains, before all. The repetition, in terms of place, of the same dynamics that Heidegger used between Being and the ought, is another way to show that it is possible to understand Being as place, provided place is not understood traditionally, but, more extendedly, if it is understood as an all-embracing place of processes; a place that,  just like Being, is subjected to the limitations of becoming, seeming, thinking and the ought, in the sense explained by Heidegger (see Image 14, below).

Chapter Four — Section E.2. The concept of value

Values are the ground of the ought; let’s see how Heidegger briefly explains this question. Given that ‘the ought’ must stand higher than Being, it ‘must attempt to ground itself in itself. Something like an ought can emanate only from something that raises such a claim on its own, something that in itself has a “value”, and itself is a “value”. Values as such now become the ground of the ought… Values provide the measure for all domains of beings — that is, of what is present at hand. History is nothing but the actualization of values.’[168]

Chapter Four Section F. Conclusion

In this final section of Chapter Four, Heidegger briefly summarizes the main argumentations exposed, which I propose here.

Heidegger questioned the meaning of Being through the four divisions: Being and becoming, Being and seeming, Being and thinking, and Being and the ought. These divisions have been introduced by seven points of orientation(Chapter Four — Section A. Seven points of orientation for the investigation of the restriction of Being), which I resume as follows: 1. Being is delimited against an Other; 2. This delimitation happens simultaneously with the four interrelated divisions (becoming, seeming, thinking, the ought); 3. These divisions are at the same time in opposition and unity (unity is what they tend to); 4 The oppositions are intrinsic to language and, as such, are intrinsic to the definite Western stamping of Being; 5. These divisions exceed Western philosophy and pervade all knowing, acting and speaking; 6. The sequence in which these divisions were presented unveils the character of Being as historical; 7. To ask about Being means unveiling the power behind these divisions, in an originary way, as they were elaborated at the inception of philosophy (Heidegger did that taking into consideration the early Greek period — with authors like Parmenides, Heraclitus and Sophocles — until Plato and Aristotle).

The fundamental question asked at the very beginning of the book — ‘Why are there beings at all instead of nothing?’ — soon took Heidegger to face the prior question: ‘How does it stand with Being as such?’  that is, ‘What is the status of Being? What about Being?’ Heidegger tried to see if the linguistic analysis could help in determining the evanescent meaning of Being: what at first appeared as an evanescent meaning, an empty word, in the end ‘proved to be what is most worthy of questioning… the fundamental happening, the only ground upon which historical Dasein is granted’;[169] therefore, it is erroneous to speak of Being as indeterminate or empty, as also the different examples on the common yet ambiguous usage of the ‘is’ showed (Chapter Three — Section C. The inclusion of the various meanings of “is” within the Greek understanding of Being as presence); as Heidegger observed, ‘the “is” determines the meaning and the content of the infinitive “to be” (and not vice versa).’ [170] The ‘is’ serves as conjunction (copula), a connecting word in the assertion (e.g. the chair is red:  the ‘is’ serves as the term of relation between ‘the chair’ and ‘red’); given that the assertion — logos as kategoria (Chapter Four  — Section D.4.c. The Platonic and Aristotelian interpretation of phusis as “idea”) — has taken the jurisdiction over Being, the assertion (logos) is what determines Being; therefore, Being is not an empty word, but something determinate:  its determinateness has been unveiled discussing the four divisions. ‘Endurance’, in contraposition to ‘becoming’; ‘perpetual identity’ in contraposition to ‘seeming’; ‘presence at hand’ in contraposition to ‘thinking’; ‘lying at hand’ as actualization, in contraposition to ‘the ought’: these are the determinants of Being, which, at the bottom, all say the same: constant presence (‘ousia’).[171] By determining Being, the four divisions — becoming, seeming, thinking, the ought — ‘dominate and bewitch beings, their opening up and formation, their closing and deformation.’ [172] Here comes to the fore the distinction between Being and beings: ‘from the originary questioning of the four divisions there grows the insight that Being, which is encircled by them, must itself be transformed into the encompassing circle and ground of all beings.’[173] (see Image 14, below). The character of Being thus determined ‘is “the” power that today still sustains and dominates all our relations to beings as a whole, to becoming, to seeming, to thinking, and to the ought.’[174] As such, this all-embracing Being also conditions human beings: then, to ask about Being is also to ask about human beings, or Dasein, the historical juncture at which Being, human beings, language and (self-reflective) thinking met (Chapter — Three Section A. The priority of Being over beings; Chapter One Section F. The prior question: How does it stand with Being?).

Image 14: Alternative schema for the structure of Being considered as place: ‘…from the originary questioning of the four divisions there grows the insight that Being, which is encircled by them, must itself be transformed into the encompassing circle and ground of all beings.’ Martin Heidegger.

Being, or the Place of Being.

I also conclude this long parallel journey between the Heideggerian interpretation of Being and the interpretation of place I’m describing at with some observations suggested by this conclusive section.

If we focus on the seven points of orientation for the investigation of the restrictions of Being we may draw further interesting parallels between Being and place: these might suggest the possibility to consider Being intrinsically grounded on place, or even identify Being as place — I mean a revisited concept of place, which extends the limits of its current traditional understanding and meaning. Concerning the first point, Heidegger says that 1. ‘Being is delimited against an Other’. I ask: isn’t the concept of ‘delimitation’ a ‘placial concept’, that is a notion based on the concept of place? Where there is a limit, there is a place — we already know that, since Aristotle’s definition of place, which the Stagirite, in Physics, book IV, devised as ‘the first unchangeable limit (peras) of that which surrounds’. I’ve already talked about this question in previous comments, and in other articles, e.g. Limit Place Appearance. In a way or another, any domain, or dominion, is a question of limits; and given that Being itself assumes the character of a domain, or dominion, in the very moment we say that Being is delimited against an Other (domain), that domain, or dominion, cannot help but be referred to some notion of place. Moreover, Being as phusis is defined by Heidegger as ‘the emerging-abiding sway’: here too, in the terms ‘sway’ and ‘abiding’, we find determinations of place as ‘dominion’ (sway) and ‘stand’, or ‘ground’ (there is no ‘abiding’ without a stand, that is, without a place).

This fundamental character of Being as ‘delimited’ against an Other — I take what is ‘delimited’ as a placial domain, fundamentally — is echoed in the other points of orientation, as when Heidegger says that 2. ‘The delimitation happens in four simultaneously interrelated respects’; if we consider Image 05, 06, 14, or 15, I have tried to represent figuratively the simultaneously interrelated respects of that happening as a happening that is inevitably grounded on place, understood as that which is delimited against an Other. This is in agreement with my relational understanding of the concept of place (see What Is Place? What Is Space?); the very definition and structure of place as ‘a system of processes’ — see Image 16, below — is a piece of evidence in this sense.

Even more, this ‘placial’ ground on which the Being of beings is founded is also traceable back to the third point of orientation, when we read that ‘3. Those divisions are at the same time in opposition and unity (unity is what they tend to):’ here, this ‘placial’ ground (of Being) unveils its character as structure (a system made of parts), that is, it unveils its functioning as something that accrued in construction, the effect of the belonging-together of the opposites (see Image 05, 06 and 14, above, especially): this is the structure of Being determined by the four divisions, according to Heidegger, or — I say — the structure of the place of Being (or, better, of Being as place, given that place can never be thought of as something exclusively external or separated from what place itself offers a stand or an abiding residence — were it not like that, this would imply the existence of an absolute place, or of place understood as a simple location, which are hypotheses contrary to the sense of place I’m thinking of). With specific reference to the structure of the concept of place I’m arguing for, its functioning grounded on the unity of the opposites is explicated in Image 15.

The parallel between the Heideggerian structure of Being and the structure of place I present on this website continues through the fourth point of orientation, where we read that 4. ‘the oppositions… enter language [and] arose in the most intimate connection with the definite Western stamping of Being’. According to my model, that particular and decisive historical juncture for the ‘Western stamping of Being’ (in this case we should say: ‘the stamping of place’) corresponds to what I call the final state (or stage) of place: its symbolic, dimension, which emerges from a substrate of more primordial dimensions (physicochemical, biological and social, to begin with); I also call that exclusively human dimension ‘intellectual’, or ’ cultural’. So, in the same way language, self-reflective thinking, and Dasein conditioned and determined the development of the structure of the Being, they also condition the structure of place I’m arguing for, in the following sense: the symbolic or intellectual dimension of place is the final determination of place, given that there are no further determinations of the domain of place beyond the symbolic; this final dimension or state is the exclusive domain of human beings, therefore it is a domain conditioned by language and thinking, as exclusive modes of human expression — that’s why this state of place, this dominion, I also call ‘cultural’.

Image 15:basic schema concerning the structure of Place presented at This place coincides with phusis as nature, that is, reality understood as an all-embracing domain, the stage of opposites-yet-unifying forces and dynamics (processes). See also Image 16, below.

Related to the points above, we come to the fifth point of orientation, according to which 5. ‘these distinctions [becoming, seeming, thinking, the ought]… have not remained dominant only within Western philosophy; they pervade all knowing, acting and speaking’. This hypothesis coincides with the structure of Being as Place, in the sense I’m showing you: given that the ‘human dimension’ (the human Being), which characterizes the final development of place, has to be understood at a universal, evolutionary level, other than at specific philosophical level, it means the ‘stamping’ of Place/Being cannot be delimited to Western thinking, but has implications at a more universal level, as also hypothesized by Heidegger with respect to the limitations of Being, when he says that they pervade all knowing, acting and speaking; analogously, I have summarized this pervasiveness of Place in the formula ‘Places Everywhere. This structural analogy between the Being of Heidegger, which, as a whole, is determined by the four distinctions, and the place I’m arguing forcan also be stated as follows: the symbolic, intellectual dimension (which, in nature, is the exclusive domain of the human Being), by the very composition and functioning of the whole structure of place, where parts and whole work together in opposition and unity, affects and is affected by other dimensions, according to the specific coupling between the different dimensions or states — physicochemical, biological, social, symbolic, to begin with (see Image 16, below).

Image 16: Phusis (nature) understood as a Place, that is as a system of processes (Alessandro Calvi Rollino Architetto)

Concerning 6. the sixth point of orientation, Heidegger recalls to our mind the importance of the historical sequence that has determined (the sense of) Being; analogously, there is a ‘historical’ correspondence in the structure of place I’m presenting, which, at a more universal level, is determined by the four states: physicochemical, biological, social, symbolic, or intellectual. In the same way Being has been determined historically, starting from the inception of the Western philosophy until modernity, the existence of place has been determined historically, from its emergence immediately after the Big Bang (physicochemical state of place) till its final determination as a symbolic or intellectual state, due to the emergence/appearance of abstract thinking (the human Being); in this final respect, the concept of place that I’m presenting here, in its inception has been determined by Western philosophy, but, I’m saying, its meaning can be determined as well by any other abstract system of thinking (the concept of place is a transdisciplinary concept).

Finally, in regard to 7. the seventh point of orientation suggested by Heidegger, it is properly in virtue of asking the question of place in an originary way, in a way that grasps the task of unfolding the truth of the essence of place (I’ ve substituted the term ‘Being’, used by Heidegger, with place) that I’m going as far as proposing the identification between the ground-as-Being and the ground-as-place, thereby rediscovering place as the fundamental principle — archè, ἀρχή  —  of that which exists (beings) as well as of the nature of (Being) that which exists. Places Everywhere is my personal formulation of the old Archytian axiom, which attributes place ontological primacy.[175]

Reading through this conclusive section, we can focus on another similitude between the structure of Being presented by Heidegger and the structure of place I’m arguing for, here; I’m speaking of the following assertion proffered by Heidegger, concerning the distinction between Being and beings: ‘… from the originary questioning of the four divisions there grows the insight that Being, which is encircled by them, must itself be transformed into the encompassing circle and ground of all beings.’[176] I have directly represented that assertion by means of the schema in Image 14, which I had anticipated through the schemes of Image 02, 05, 06, and can be confronted with the scheme of Image 15: the fundamental working principle common to both Heidegger’s elucidation of Being and this revised concept place is that of opposition and unity.

I close this article on the intrinsic ‘placial character of Heidegger’s discourse on Being with a brief observation on a final remark made by Heidegger, concerning the Being of beings and Dasein: ‘Within the question of Being, the human essence is to be grasped and grounded, according to the concealed directive of the inception, as “the site” that Being necessitates for its opening up. Humanity is the Here that is open in itself. Beings stand within this Here and are set to work in it. We therefore say: the Being of humanity is, in the strict sense of the word, “Being-here” <”Da-sein”> ’, Heidegger says.[177] Putting aside the question concerning the use of the term ‘site’ (which, standing to my vision of ‘place’,  especially in this case, could be assumed as a synonym for ‘place’), isn’t the entire proposition regarding Being and Dasein built upon a placial terminology? Isn’t the domain of place, whether considered as ‘physical’ or ‘ideal’ (in the sense of mental, abstract — and this sense includes the symbolic, the metaphysical, etc.), that which offers the ultimate ground to Being, beings, and Dasein as specific being? Isn’t that hyphen, the conjunction between ‘Being’ and ‘here’ (Being-here’, ‘Da-sein’) a final confession on the inalienability of place with respect to Being and beings—human beings included?


[1] Martin Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics, trans. Gregory Fried and Richard Polt (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000).

[2] Martin Heidegger, An Introduction to Metaphysics, trans. Ralph Manheim(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959), v.

[3] Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics, 99.

[4] Ibid., 99-100.

[5] Ibid., 100.

[6] Ibid., 101.

[7] Ibid., 101.

[8] Ibid., 101.

[9] Ibid., 102.

[10] Ibid., 102-103.

[11] Ibid., 15.

[12]Ibid., 69. The same expression is translated by Manheim as follows: ‘To become means “to come to being”.’ InMartin Heidegger, An Introduction to Metaphysics, trans. Ralph Manheim(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959), 65. The description in which we find that expression, at this point of the text, regards the elucidation of the term ‘paremphaino’ which is used to express the fundamental relation of the Greeks to beings (‘essents’ in Manheim’s translation) as what is constant. That explanation is made in connection with Plato’s use of the word in the Timaeus 50e (see Section B.3. of the articleBeing as Place: Introduction to Metaphysics – part One), where Plato explains the complicated passage concerning the actualization of beings. That’s why, in a passage after this note, I’ve also used the expression ‘becoming’ understood as ‘to come to being’ with particular reference to the Platonic sense of actualization of Being into specific beings.

[13] Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics, 16.

[14] Ibid., 102.

[15] Ibid., 103.

[16] Ibid., 104.

[17] Ibid., 104.

[18] Ibid., 105.

[19] Ibid., 105.

[20] Ibid., 106.

[21] Ibid., 106.

[22] Ibid., 107.

[23] Ibid., 107.

[24] Ibid., 105.

[25] Ibid., 108.

[26] Ibid., 108.

[27] Ibid., 109.

[28] Ibid., 109.

[29] Ibid., 110.

[30] Ibid., 111.

[31] Ibid., 111.

[32] Ibid., 113. Very briefly, Oedipus became the King of Thebes: he killed his father (the previous king) and married his mother, unaware that the person he killed was his father, and the person he married was his mother. When he realized he was responsible for patricide and incest, and after his mother, wife, and Queen discovered the truth and hanged herself, Oedipus gouged his own eyes out in despair.

[33] Ibid., 114.

[34] Ibid., 115.

[35] Ibid., 115-116.

[36] Ibid., 118-119.

[37] Ibid., 120.

[38] Ibid., 121.

[39] Ibid., 121.

[40] in, Stephen G. Miller, Ancient Greek Athletics (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), 47.

[41] Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics, 121.

[42] Ibid., 121.

[43] Ibid., 122.

[44] Ibid., 123.

[45] Ibid., 182.

[46] Ibid., 123.

[47] Ibid., 84.

[48] Ibid., 124.

[49] Ibid., 124.

[50] Ibid., 125-126.

[51] Ibid., 126.

[52] Ibid., 127.

[53] Ibid., 127.

[54] Ibid., 127.

[55] Ibid., 128.

[56] Ibid., 128.

[57] Ibid., 129.

[58] Ibid., 130.

[59] Ibid., 131.

[60]Ibid., 132.

[61] Ibid., 132.

[62] Ibid., 133.

[63] Ibid., 133.

[64] Ibid., 135.

[65] Ibid., 135.

[66] Ibid., 135.

[67] Ibid., 137.

[68] Ibid., 137-138.

[69] Ibid., 138.

[70] Ibid., 139.

[71] Ibid., 139.

[72] Ibid., 140.

[73] Ibid., 140.

[74] Ibid., 140.

[75] Ibid., 142.

[76] Ibid., 142-143.

[77] Ibid., 143.

[78] Ibid., 130.

[79] Ibid., 138.

[80] Ibid., 147.

[81] Ibid., 145.

[82] Ibid., 145.

[83] Ibid., 145.

[84] Ibid., 145.

[85] Ibid., 146.

[86] Ibid., 146-147.

[87] Ibid., 147.

[88] Ibid., 147.

[89] Ibid., 147.

[90] Ibid., 147.

[91] Ibid., 147.

[92] Ibid., 148.

[93] Ibid., 148.

[94] Ibid., 149.

[95] Ibid., 153.

[96] Ibid., 150.

[97] Ibid., 159-160.

[98] Clare Pearson Geiman, in the work on Heidegger’s Antigones, regarding  Heidegger’s interpretation says: ‘His reading has been frequently critiqued not only for doing violence to Sophocles but also, and more important, for the way in which appears to glorify actual violence in its heroic-tragic assessment of the nature of the human knowing and in the consequent role of ‘violent’ creators (priest, poets, thinkers, statesmen) in founding historical communities.’ Clare Pearson Geiman, ‘Heidegger’s Antigones’, in A Companion to Heidegger’s Introduction to Metaphysics, edited by Richard Polt and Gregory Fried (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), 161

[99] Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics, 167.

[100] Ibid., 163.

[101] Ibid., 162-163.

[102] Ibid., 169.

[103] Ibid., 169.

[104] Ibid., 170.

[105] Ibid., 171.

[106] Ibid., 171.

[107] Ibid., 171.

[108] Ibid., 178.

[109] Ibid., 178.

[110] Ibid., 179.

[111] Ibid., 179.

[112] Ibid., 180.

[113] Ibid., 180.

[114] Ibid., 181.

[115] Ibid., 183.

[116] Ibid., 183.

[117] Ibid., 179.

[118] Ibid., 184.

[119] Ibid., 185.

[120] Ibid., 185.

[121] Ibid., 190.

[122] Ibid., 191.

[123] Ibid., 191-192.

[124] Ibid., 192.

[125] Ibid., 192-193.

[126] Ibid., 193.

[127] Ibid., 193.

[128] Ibid., 193.

[129] Ibid., 193.

[130] Ibid., 194.

[131] Ibid., 194.

[132] Ibid., 194-195.

[133] Ibid., 195.

[134] Ibid., 197.

[135] Ibid., 198.

[136] Ibid., 196.

[137] Ibid., 196-197.

[138] Ibid., 197.

[139] Ibid., 197.

[140] Ibid., 198.

[141] Ibid., 198-199.

[142] Ibid., 199-200.

[143] Concerning the list of categories let’s see a brief passage from Aristotle’s Categories, translated by  J.L. Ackrill: ‘each [thing] signifies either substance [1. Substance] or quantity [2. Quantity] or qualification [3. Quality] or a relative [4. Relation] or where [5. Place] or when [6. Time] or being-in-a-position [7. Position] or having [8. State or Condition] or doing [9. Acting] or being-affected [10. Being Acted]. To give a rough idea, examples of [1]substance are man, horse; of [2] quantity: four-foot, five-foot; of [3] qualification: white, grammatical; of [4] a relative: double, half, larger; of [5] where: in the Lyceum, in the market-place; of [6] when: yesterday, last-year; of [7] being-in-a-position: is-lying, is-sitting; of [8] having: has-shoes-on, has-armour-on; of [9] doing: cutting, burning; of [10] being-affected: being-cut, being-burned.’ In: Aristotle, The Complete Works of Aristotle – The Revised Oxford Translation, Volume One and Two, ed. Jonathan Barnes (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), 27.

[144] Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics, 199-200.

[145] Ibid., 201-202.

[146] Ibid., 202.

[147] Ibid., 202.

[148] Ibid., 203.

[149] Ibid., 203.

[150] Ibid., 203-204.

[151] Ibid., 204.

[152] Ibid., 205.

[153] Ibid., 205.

[154] Ibid., 206.

[155] Ibid., 206.

[156] Ibid., 206.

[157] Ibid., 208.

[158] Ibid., 208.

[159] Ibid., 208.

[160] Ibid., 208-209

[161] Ibid., 209.

[162] Ibid., 210.

[163] Ibid., 210.

[164] Ibid., 210.

[165] Ibid., 210.

[166] Ibid., 211.

[167] Ibid., 216.

[168] Ibid., 211-212.

[169] Ibid., 215.

[170] Ibid., 216.

[171] Ibid., 216.

[172] Ibid., 218.

[173] Ibid., 218.

[174] Ibid., 217.

[175] ‘to be (at all) is to be in (some) place’: this is how the Archytian axiom is reported by Edward S. Casey in the book The Fate of Place — Edward S. Casey, The Fate of Place: A Philosophical History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997, 4. This formulation is slightly modified with respect to the original statement of Archytas which Casey refers to, as reported by Simplicius — ‘all existing things are in place or not without place’,  which we find in Shmuel Sambursky’s The Concept of Place in Late Neoplatonism — Shmuel Sambursky, The Concept of Place in Late Neoplatonism (Jerusalem: The Israel Academy of Science and Humanity, 1982), 37.* In this website, I have often used Casey’s slightly modified version since it is closer to my understanding of place as a concept having distinct yet complementary metaphysical and physical connotations: that ‘some’ between brackets suggests a relational and pluralistic sense of place which has a more physical connotation, very close indeed to Aristotle’s intentions when he gave his famous definition of place (topos) — ‘the first unchangeable limit (peras) of that which surrounds’, in Edward S. Casey, The Fate of Place: A Philosophical History, 55. Conversely, if we minimize what appears between brackets reducing the axiom to its essence — ‘to be is to be in place’ — that axiom may acquire an absolute sense which, in my opinion, has a more metaphysical connotation. One sense of the notion does not exclude the other if we think of the two levels — physical and metaphysical – as distinct yet complementary.

*Concerning the definition we find in The Concept of Place in Late Neoplatonism, since there are scant traces and fragments regarding the historical figure of Archytas, Sambursky, on page 14 of his book, refers to that statement as attributed to Archytas ‘but in fact deriving from an unknown Neopythagorean philosopher’ – that’s why he speaks of ‘Pseudo-Archytas’. This is the complete translation of the fragment appearing in Simplicius’ commentary on Aristotle’s Categories, 361, 21-24: ‘Since everything that is in motion is moved in some place (topos), it is obvious that one has to grant priority to place, in which that which causes motion or is acted upon will be. Perhaps thus it is the first of all things, since all existing things are either in place or not without place.

[176] Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics, 218.

[177] Ibid., 219.


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