Continuing Lee Braver
on Heidegger's "The Way to Language
", section III, in Heidegger's Later Writings
Like language, this unique event needs to be approached on it own terms: 'there is nothing else to which propriation reverts, nothing in terms of which it might even be explained.... What propriates is propriation itself--and nothing besides.... The propriation that rules in the saying is something we can name only if we say: It--propriation--owns.' In German this last phrase is closer to 'propriation propriates', resembling other tautological expressions Heidegger is fond of, such as 'the world worlds', 'the thing things', or 'language speaks' (again, clearer in German: 'die Sprache spricht'). Propriation is and is only the event of our ability to perceive, think, and speak about beings, their intelligible presence to us. This event cannot be explained by reference to a cause like Forms or God or transcendental subjectivity, since these are just present beings as well, even if they possess unusual forms of presence. Like the brute fact that beings are not nothing in 'What Is Metaphysics?' (110), or the ineradicable concealment that accompanies unconcealment in 'On the Essence of Truth' (113-6), or inexplicable earth in 'The Origin of the Work of Art' (172), the event of beings and man manifesting themselves to each other must simply be experienced and noted in sober awe. Explanations fail and, in the attempt, dissipate the grateful wonder we should have.
As the source of our way of thinking, propriation cannot be accounted for by this thinking. Like language, we cannot get outside of it in order to survey it comprehensively (423). Each era gets 'sent' or appropriated into its own understanding of Being which forms a coherent way to think about everything and which determines every attempt to make sense of things. The world we live is ruled by a 'gentle law' or 'gathered' a coherent sense of how things are (416). We cannot use this sense of things to explain propriation because any such attempt has to employ the particular understanding that 'propriation bestows' (416) upon us.
Propriation bestows upon us a meaningful clearing in which an articulated world appears and appeals to us to articulate it. Since our essence is to be the beings to whom beings appear and who speak of these beings, propriation is what allows us to become whom we are. Poets and thinkers do this with excellence in that they articulate the profound folds of the world without ever taking this ability for granted or turning language into an inconspicuous medium to satisfy our desires. Their articulations thankfully celebrate their ability to articulate. Correlatively, beings have a 'drive' towards manifestation, so to speak, so that speaking of them brings their unconcealment to its highest point: 'the saying that rests on propriation is, as showing, the most proper mode of propriating' (420). We are, in an almost Hegelian sense, 'needed' and 'used' by the world to manifest itself more fully. In this way, the event of mutual appropriation allows man and beings to bring each other to fulfillment.
Page numbers in parentheses are from Basic Writings
, Revised and Expanded Edition.