Iain Thomson on changing to a new understanding of being.
“[E]nowning” (Ereignis) is Heidegger’s name for the way in which “being as such” takes place historically when it is hermeneutically appropriated (or “enowned”) by human beings in a distinctive way. More precisely “enowning” describes the way “being as such” or “be—ing” (Seyn, the deliberately archaic name Heidegger uses in Contributions for the inexhaustible source of historical intelligibility) gets brought into our “being—here” (or Dasein) and made intelligible in a way that brings entities, our own being—here, and being itself into their own simultaneously. [... F]or example, when Van Gogh brings A Pair of Shoes (1886) into its own as a painting, he thereby also comes into his own as a world-disclosing artist, indeed, as an artist who discloses what art itself is (namely, the essential struggle between the phenomenological abundance of “earth” and the tacit coherence of “world), and he thus allows being to show itself (in its ownmost, postmodern meaningfulness) as an historically inexhaustible tension of emergence and withdrawal.
What, we might thus ask, does Contributions’ 1936—7 meditation on “enowning” add to Heidegger’s analysis of the poetic naming—into—being that he described as the very essence of art and the origin of historical intelligibility just a year or two earlier, in 1935—6’s “The Origin of the Work of Art”? What “enowning” emphasizes (I would say) is Heidegger’s conviction that these ontologically generative interpretive appropriations not only bring the being of entities and of human being—here into their own, but that they do so in ways that allow us to understand the being of entities in terms of being as such (to use Heidegger’s terms), that is, as both informing and exceeding our ability to render entities intelligible in conceptual terms. In other words, such an ontological truth event exemplifies the postmodern way in which being can take place for us. For, in such events we no longer implicitly understand and approach entities either as objects to he controlled by subjects (as in the modern understanding of being), or as inherently meaningless resources standing by to be optimized and ordered efficiently (as in the late—modern understanding of being). Heidegger believes that such ontological truth events can help move us into the postmodern understanding of being they exemplify. That is why he writes (in the penultimate section of Contributions, §255, “The Turn in Enowning”): “Enowning has its innermost happening and broadest reach in the turn”. For Heidegger, “the turn” (die Kehre) names the beginning of a new ontohistorical ages not simply the transformation between his early and later work — although (pace the current misunderstanding) the two are related. The former is the “concealed ground” of the latter (as Heidegger suggests in the very next sentence). That is, Heidegger believed that the philosophical and stylistic transformation between his “early” and “later” work (a transformation he was engulfed in while writing Contributions) followed from his attempt to help inaugurate an ontohistorical transition beyond the modern understanding of being.