Monday, August 14, 2006
Mindfulness (GA 66) is the latest work by Heidegger to be translated and published in English. Here, the translators explain their translation of Besinnung as mindfulness. Note that "be-ing" is these translators' rendition of Seyn, or beyng.
Right from its onset, be-ing historical thinking unfolds itself as Besinnung and not as reflection since the latter belongs to the domain of a thinking that is not being-historical. Accordingly, it is of paramount importance in translating the word Besinnung to hone in on the foundational difference between reflection and Besinnung. In this context it would server well to note the intimate hermeneutic-phenomeological connection between Sinn and Besinnung to which Heidegger pays especial attention both in Being and Time and Contributions to Philosophy. To obtain a rendition of the word Besinnung that approximates in English to what Heidegger regards as the very unfolding of being-historical thinking, we have to bear in mind that Besinnung is nothing but an inquiry into the self-disclosure of being -- self-disclosure that in Being and Time Heidegger calls the meaning of 'der Sinn' of being and that in Contributions to Philosophy he calls the truth of being. What is of utmost significance here is that philosophy as Besinnung unfolds this inquiry. This inquiry is not merely a human enterprise of reflecting on the data of consciousness, on the peculiarities of perception or on the states of mind. It differs from reflection in that, as Besinnung, this inquiry is not entirely and exhaustively in human discretion. What distinguishes this inquiry as Besinnung is that it is basically determined and shaped by the truth of being. Thus there is an intimate interconnection between this inquiry, as Besinnung, and being. As Besinnung, this inquiry is already enowned by being. As enowned, it stands at the service of being by projecting-opening being's enowning sway or conferments -- its 'enowning throw'. This 'being mindful of being's enowning throw' cannot even be classified as a particular kind of reflection, or even as a mode of conscious awareness. Two factors are important here: on the one hand there is "the inexhaustibility of being's enowning throw" and on the other hand "the inconclusiveness of its projecting-opening". As a result, 'being mindful of being's enowning throw' is not an addendum to this inquiry but "originates from within the inexhaustibility of being's enowning throw..."

One way of grasping the distinction that Heidegger draws between Besinnung and reflection is to consider their bearings upong the issue called 'self.' Reflection of the 'self', which sustains all psychology and psychiatry, attends to the empirical states of the 'self' in order to render those states accessible to objectification. By contrast, in Besinnung on the 'self' these states are bracketed out and what is at stake is the grounding of the 'self' via 'temporality', 'linguisticality', 'historicality', ' mortality', and so forth. Heidegger alludes to the distinction between Besinnung on the 'self', as its grounding, and reflection on the 'self' by first questioning whether the 'self' is accessible to reflection at all and then by alluding to the necessity of grounding the 'self'. He says:
[Besinnung] is ... so originary that it above all asks how the self is to be grounded ... Thus it is questionable whether through reflection on 'ourselves' we ever find our self ... [xxxii]
Here we see that while Heidegger endorses a grounding of the 'self' via mindfulness of the 'self' he questions the very possibility of accessibility of the 'self' to reflection.

In order to obtain in English an approximate rendition of the word Besinnung, we took our bearing from the distinction that Heidegger draws between reflection on the 'self', and being mindful of the 'self', and rendered the word Besinnung with mindfulness. The unique advantage of this rendition consists in the fact that the word mindefulness has a pliability that is denied to reflection -- a pliability that does not let mindfulness become rigid and unyielding and end up in doctrines, systems, and so forth. In section 11 of Mindfulness, which comes right after the "Introduction", Heidegger brings to mind this pliability of minfulness when he says:
Coming from the overcoming of "metaphysics", mindfulness must nevertheless touch upon the hitherto and cannot become inflexible as the finished product of a usable presentation either in a "doctrine" or ina "system", or as "exhortation" or "edification".[17]
P. xxiii-xxv
I am a complete newbie to this material, but I am a professional translator living in Heidegger country and I disagree with the translation of "Besinnung" as "Mindfulness." My first reason for this is that the term "mindfulness" grows out of a very specific context involving Buddhist meditation practices that do not necessarily involve the withdrawal implied in "Besinnung." My second reason is that this German noun also has a verb form that is reflexive ("sich besinnen") and used often in everyday speech, which is not the case with mindfulness, and this fact must have philosophical immplications as far as the issue of "self" is concerned. As far as I can tell, the simplest course would be to translate "Besinnung" with "meditation," which comes with verbal, adjectival and adverbial forms.
Some folks use meditation. I've also seen reflection used. And some leave the term in German.

Sorting out English terminology is going to take decades. It seems each new translation introduces new subtleties to the vocabulary, which require reexamining previous word choices, for which there was never a concensus anyway.
'MIndfulness' is good, for the reasons that Emad indicates. Given that thinking, in Heidegger's sense, is beyond re-presentation, it's integral—and obvious—that he is extensively re-appropriating given terms within the way of thinking that a keynote comes to emblemize, in-and-of his way of working with it. For the English reader, it's vital to think with-and-through 'mindfulness' newly—gaining mindfulness itself originarily— which Heidegger intended for his German readers. The "proper" translation of 'Besinnung' might be '[H]mindfulness', which the English reader is to grow to understand in Heidegger's way of thinking through the emblem.
I'm surprised to find my own comment here. I'd forgotten.

As I was reading Parvis Emad's wonderful explication again, I thought: Better than 'mindfulness' would be 'mindfulling'.

This neologism has, to proximal English, a confusing sense, which is good. It's brought into reading—into thinking—to gain itself originarily, just as Heidegger intended with Besinnung. So, the aim of avoiding the lexical "noise" of given sense (which motivates the first comment here, associating 'mindfulness' to Buddhism) is better avoided by inviting that—it is the case that—'mindfulling' "has" (is to gain) its ownmost meaning by way of working with the text—working with thinking through the "Heidegger"-in-translation's text.

In any event, Besinnung is emblematic of a way of thinking (Heidegger's) that the reader in thinking with the text is to enown. This is not to represent Heidegger's thinking, but to think—at best (unlikely, yet...)—originarily.
I wish Blogger had thought more originarily and included year, with blog comment dates. They considered blog posts to be ephemeral, soon over, but the mindfulling ones will go on forever.

Making-sense of 'Besinnung', taking-sense as sense takes place.

In trying to keep thinking saying in play my current wrestling with this term is revolving around sense and sense being done or taken, performed or happening. There is perhaps an advent of sense as each day I open a window uncovering a picture showing what is to come and taking and inwardly digesting the wrapped chocolate.

Dave Verrill 13rd September 2016
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