Tuesday, August 23, 2005
In his essay Ereignis, Richard Polt examines Heidegger's use of that term at three different times: the 1919 Kriegsnotsemester, the Contributions, and in the Time and Being lecture. He then summarizes the differences in Heidegger's use of the term.
    In everyday German, any change or motion, any happening, can be called an Ereignis (although, like our "event," the word can hint at a special and unique quality). Heidegger's usages of Ereignis grow increasingly distant from this normal usage.

    In 1919, Ereignis refers to experiences that belong to my own, meaningful life. Such happenings are the norm, whereas objectified, meaningless processes are products of a theoretical attitude that is neither normal nor philosophically necessary. Even the Ereignis of the pre-worldly "something" is an accessible part of human life -- "a basic phenomenon that can be experienced in understanding" (P. 97). Both everyday, worldly events and extraordinary, pre-worldly events illustrate the workings of appropriation in human existence.

    In 1936-38, Ereignis has become far more rare, perhaps even becoming a unique future possibility that has never yet taken place. Now it is life as we know it, at least in its everyday modern state, that is drained of meaning and consigned to the "confusion of unbeings" (GA 65). Only through a supreme effort might we begin to take part in the event of appropriation. Only an extreme emergency can illustrate Ereignis.

    In 1962, Ereignis does not seem to be happening at all. It is a constant aspect of the human condition, even though philosophy up to now has failed to recognize it. Ereignis is already "appropriating" in ancient Greece -- and indeed, wherever and whenever human beings have existed. Far from being an extraordinary emergency, it seems to be a universal.

P. 388
The quote from GA 65 above, appears in the standard translation, in section 2, Saying from Enowning as the First Response to the Question of Being, like this:
We call it enowning. The riches of the turning relation of be-ing to -Da-sein, which is en-owned by be-ing, are immeasurable. The fullness of the enowning is incalculable. And here this inceptual thinking can only say little "from enowning." What is said is inquired after and thought in the "playing-forth" unto each other of the first and other beginning, according to the "echo" of be-ing in the distress of being's abandonment, for the "leap" into be-ing, in order to "ground" its truth, as a preparation for "the ones to come" and for "the last god."

    This thinking-saying is a directive. It indicates the free sheltering of the truth of be-ing in beings as a necessity, without being a command. Such a thinking never lets itself become a doctrine and withdraws totally from the fortuitousness of common opinion. But such thinking-saying directs the few and their knowing awareness when the task is to retrieve man from the chaos of not-beings into the pliancy of a reserved creating of sites that are set up for the passing of the last god.

P. 6
In the first paragraph of his essay Mr. Polt, reasonably, describes the Contributions as "cryptic".
A question, do you think the use in the late 30's versus the use in the 60's is as disconnected as it first may appear?

That is, what do you think of thinkers like say Derrida who say the impossible is a constant happening.

It seems to me (and perhaps I'm quite wrong) that the divide between these two periods is a clear logical one, but perhaps the actual phenomena isn't that different after all.
I don't know the context for Derrida's saying, so let me set that one aside, and say a couple of things about your first question.

(1) This is an active area of research and it depends who you talk to. E.g., before the Contributions was published, the people who had read the text claimed no difference, or disconnection (e.g. Poggler). In fact, Heidegger himself said in 1962 that Ereignis was "worked out between 1936 and 1938", but Polt has teased out enough differences in the use of Ereignis to make them appear distinct. Despite pointing out the differences in Ereignis at these three times, Polt himself admits much of the language is open to interpretation. In the more-work-needed department, it is also worth noting that GA 71, Das Ereignis (1941), hasn't even been published in German yet.

(2) To me, Ereignis appears to be used in two different ways. The purely ontological mechanism of how humans apprehend things, and the historical Ereignis which is different because humans apprehend differently in different epochs. I'm keenly interested in the first, and have my suspicions about the second--i.e. is historical Ereignis even the case, or mere fantasy. It has the smell of Hegel about it, and it peaks around the time of the Contributions, when Heidegger was concerned about places in history, both for personal reasons and because he was formulating his Nietzsche-at-the-end-of-metaphysics theme.

It is probably appropriate to note here that this divide has nothing to do with the traditional (in the literature) "turn" in Heidegger between the B&T and later Heidegger. Polt's are new divides, based on the relatively recently published Contributions and KNS lectures. B&T is in this matter noteworthy because Ereignis is entirely absent (concealed? heh).
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