Thursday, March 08, 2007
Jeff Malpas describes the role of place in Heidegger's way of thinking, beginning with the earliest lectures.
The point is not merely that in 1919 Heidegger was already thinking about the problem of situatedness in terms that draw upon notions of happening and gathering, and so on, terms that are at the core of the later notion of Event, but that the notions at issue here are themselves already bound together. The problem with which Heidegger grapples form early on is how to understand the way in which our own being is given to us, "happens," along with the giving of world. That this is indeed a happening, and a happening in which we find ourselves gathered to that to which we already belong (as we are gathered in to the life that we live), is given in the original "datum" that gives rise to our thinking and to which we must respond. The Event is thus the starting point for thinking, while also being that to which thinking has to "return." Moreover, the happening that is at issue here is not some abstract "occurrence," but a happening in which we are gathered in to the concreteness and particularity of the world and to our own lives. As such, the happening at issue is also essentially a "there-ing," a "near-ing," a place-ing"--it is a happening of that open region, that place, in which we find ourselves, along with other persons and things, and to which we already belong. In returning to the original Event that is the happening of belonging, the happening of being, we also return to the original happening of place.

The idea of place that is invoked here is not, it should be stressed, the idea of that in which entities are merely "located"; rather, in the terms I used immediately above, place is that open, cleared, yet bounded region in which we find ourselves gathered together with other persons and things, and in which we are opened up to the world and the world to us. It is out of this place that space and time both emerge, and yet the place at issue here also has a dynamic character of its own--it is not merely the static appearance of a viewed locale or landscape, but is rather a unifying, gathered regioning--place is, in this sense, always a "taking place," a "happening" of place. It is this idea which I have argued has to be seen as already, in a certain sense, determining Heidegger's thinking from the start, and it is this idea which, as I have argued elsewhere on quite independent grounds, has to be viewed as having a central role in understanding both the world and our being "in" it. Moreover, the idea of a certain singularity and unity in "structure" that is characteristic of the way the happening of world occurs in Heidegger's earliest thought, and comes more clearly to the fore in the later, exactly parallels the singularity and unity that is a crucial part of the idea of place as I have employed it here and elsewhere, and that is captured in the idea of topology. Topology is the attempt to articulate place, not by means of any derivation from an underlying principle or ground, but rather in terms of its own differentiated and yet unitary character. The idea of the Event is topological in just this sense, operating against any attempt at grounding the original happening of place that is the focus here in anything more basic, more primordial, more originary. It is at this point, of course, that the idea of the Event both as happening and as gathering/belonging is crucial. Just as place does not gather separate elements "in" place, and is itself the gathering of those elements (elements which are themselves brought to light only in the gathering), so neither is the Event itself something that stands apart from the gathering of the elements that themselves brought to self-evidence through it.

Pp. 221-222
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