on Heidegger's "The Way to Language
", section III, in Heidegger's Later Writings
We only encounter beings linguistically, but language is a response to this encounter. Heidegger steps outside of this chicken-and-egg paradox of priority to portray them as equiprimordial. Instead of asking which accounts for the other, he inquires into the way they belong together. How is it that language and beings accommodate each other, finding the other fitting or 'well-joined'? Heidegger calls the occurrence of their presencing to each other 'Ereignis', translated here as 'propriation'. This rich word means 'event', but it also resonates with 'eigen' which signifies what is one's own, proper, or authentic; the prefix 'er-' adds the sense of drawing something into this condition. The term also suggests 'eräugen' and 'ereugen', bringing something within hearing or seeing. Ereignis means both our being drawn into the clearing where we can perceive, think, and talk about beings, and the correlative drawing of beings into the clearing where they can appear to us. We can only speak by listening, and we can only listen if we belong to the realm of speakable things. Our belonging here is complemented or 'well-joined' by Being's owning us.
After establishing our dependence on beings showing themselves, this section explores the question, 'whence does the showing arise?' (414). But Heidegger immediately chastises this inquiry: 'our question asks too much, and too quickly....We can never try to know it, much less cognize it in the appropriate way....We can only name it, because it will deign no discussion' (414). once we think of the appearance to each other of beings and speech as an event, we naturally want to know why and how it happened. But we cannot look 'behind' the appearance of beings for the source or cause of their appearing, nor can we study how manifestation occurs, because any kind of examination or analysis must always already take place within the manifestation of beings (423). This primordial 'event' is not a cause which effects the clearing, nor is it an occurrence that literally took place at a specific time and place 'for it is the place that encompasses all locales and time-play-spaces'. Propriation is nothing beyond the presence of speakable beings around us, just as Being or the 'there is' is not another being behind or underneath all beings.
Page numbers in parentheses are from Basic Writings
, Revised and Expanded Edition.