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.
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.
In the first paragraph of his essay Mr. Polt, reasonably, describes the Contributions