enowning
Thursday, August 25, 2005
 
Hans Ruin's essay Contributions to Philosophy, revolves around the term Ereignis [but of course!]. Heidegger's book is about a philosophy that goes beyond representing concepts, or this or that thing. A philosophy that doesn't fall back to discussing a "thing". Tricky that.
[H]ow should it avoid this trap? Is it not the inevitable fate of a language to posit and objectify the entities which it designates? Heidegger's response here evokes the key concept of the whole work, namely Ereignis, which in the English translation of Contributions has been rendered as enowning. The story of its various translations is a theme in its own right. Among the earlier alternatives are "appropriation" as well as "event." "Enowning" is an awkward, but etymologically well founded possibility, since the German term is composed by the prefix "er" and "eigen," which means "own." Yet the expression "being owned over into enowning" is so strange and unnatural from an English perspective that it risks prohibiting the access to what Heidegger is after from the start. The German expression here is "dem Ereignis ├╝bereignet zu werden" (GA 65: 3). Unlike the English translation, this passage has an immediate and more straightforward meaning in German, where it signifies something like "to abandon oneself to the event." To be sure, Ereignis is a concept which in Heidegger's use obtains a depth and philosophical gravity which the undifferentiated notion of "event" can hardly carry. Yet it is a common word in German, which "enowning" in English is not. In forging a philsopheme from out of the neutral term of Er-eignis Heidegger seeks to reach beyond the subject-object dichotomy, to designate the event of meaning, that which takes place, that which manifests itself and shines forth, as something to which the subject of knowledge also belongs. As a descriptive term it therefore short-circuits itself at the root, since the very premise for its use is that it is not an ordinary descriptive term, whereby something is depicted and designated by someone.

P. 365
If it is desirable to be able to translate Heidegger's German directly so that phrases "abandon oneself to the event" may be rendered, then Ereignis should be translated simply as "event". Otherwise, translators are being to clever, by noting that Heidegger's Ereignis is not simply the "event" of common German and using "enowning", they at the say time eliminate the simple phrases, that Heidegger himself used.

To be sure, using a phrase such as "Ereignis is a concept" above is a problem, and it already comes across as a term for something transcendental. Tricky, like I said. Perhaps the best study of Ereignis as the term that is not a thing is Polt's The Event of Enthinking the Event. I'll perhaps post something about that essay after absorbing it some more.

Although the etymology of Ereignis above (as enowning) is the one justified by the translators of the Contributions, it is controversial, and I'll post something about that tomorrow.
 
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For when Ereignis is not sufficient.

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