The task of this chapter is not a simple one. Heidegger's interpretation of φύσις in Introduction to Metaphysics is as complex as any of his interpretations in his work in the history of philosophy1. Following his thought is difficult in part because his German is often convoluted. This makes the rendering of his thought into English especially challenging. But the most difficult aspect of Heidegger's thought is always the matter for thinking that he attempts to address in his writing. I will attempt to lay out his thought as straightforwardly as possible by following the structure of his text. The reader, of course, will herself need to follow Heidegger's thought and text in order for my chapter to make any sense at all.

On the basis of early Latin translations of φύσις as natura, φύσις is commonly translated into English as "nature." A general definition of this word as we find it in a collegiate dictionary reads:

n. [ME, fr. MF, fr. I, natura, fr. natus, pp. of nasci to be born ...] 1a: the inherent character or basic constitution of a person or thing: ESSENCE b: DISPOSITION, TEMPERAMENT 2a: a creative and controlling force in the universe b: an inner force of the sum of such forces in an individual 3: a kind or class usu. distinguished by fundamental or essential characteristics ... 4: the physical constitution or drives of an organism ... 5: a spontaneous attitude (as on generosity) 6: the external world in its entirety 7a: man's original of natural condition b: a simplified mode of life resembling this condition 8: natural scenery.2

Not only do the meanings in the above list not appear to have a common meaning, there is also no meaning in the list that, at least on first analysis, would take priority over the others. Is "nature" simply equivocal, that is, does the word indicate a variety of things that don't have any inherent connection? Furthermore, some of the meanings listed appear to contest others. It is not clear, for example, whether temperament is or is not to be thought of as belonging to the essence of a thing (another listed meaning of "nature"). Thus, if we are looking for the meaning of "nature," merely following such a dictionary definition leaves us unsatisfied.

Would a dictionary of philosophy be more helpful? Consulting such a dictionary, we also find included under the heading of "nature" various definitions, such a "the origin (or foundation) of everything; the ground for the explanation of things," and see listed a statement of Aristotle's definition of "nature" (φύσις) as that which is not made by humans ... in contrast to τέχνη, ... the cause (principle, law, source) of all change (motion, movement)."3 Such a definition is also unsatisfactory. For example, it seems to exclude what otherwise might be thought necessary to a definition of nature, namely, temporal phenomena. We might wonder how we are to reconcile the apparently paradoxical relation of natural (that is, temporal) phenomena to that which is supposed to be their (natural, that is, permanent) source. Questions like these, among many others, motivate us to join in an attempt like Heidegger's to reenter and raise again the question of φύσις.

The interpretation of φύσις that Heidegger gives in his Introduction to Metaphysics is a rigorous attempt to understand the way in which the word φύσις comes to be thought in terms of definitions such as those cited above. In the process, Heidegger reopens questions, unresolved difficulties, and ambiguities of meaning at the heart of such definitions. Why, for example, does φύσις come to mean something like a permanent being that gives rise to beings. And how is it that physical things stand our both from each other and from their source, indeed, appear to be independent from and in conflict with each other, without, however, being able to fall entirely out of their togetherness? When Heidegger writes his "introduction to meta-physics," then, he is turning toward a question of φύσις that also attempts to retrieve the earliest Greek experiences of being.4 His project has revolutionary consequences for our understanding both of nature, in the more restricted modern sense, and or beings as a whole, including ourselves. As we shall see, at the very least, his attempt leads to a way of thinking of the meaning of φύσις that points beyond the ambiguities of the meaning of the word (but not beyond the questioning o an understanding on being without substance that transforms an interpretation of being as permanent nature.


Φύσις enters Heidegger's discussion of metaphysics early in the text, as he first turns to a consideration of the ways in which the ancient Greeks conceived of beings. For the Greeks, Heidegger says, "beings were called φύσις" (10|15). In the context of the concern to recover an originary question concerning the being of beings, Heidegger points out the need to attempt to understand the meaning of φύσις for the Greeks and thus for philosophy in its first inception. Since the meaning of φύσις has to do with beings, it also has in some way to do with being. We must be careful, then, not too quickly to assume the late Latinized way of thinking of φύσις, namely as natura, which basically means "birth" or "to be born." Doing so may result in "the isolation and alienation of the originary essence of Greek philosophy" (10-11|15). Heidegger's interest in the question of the being of beings works to retrieve an originary dimension of Greek thought that is obscured by later metaphysical interpretations of being whose primary focus is on beings and not on being. Because these interpretations of being and of φύσις already assume too much, they understand too little of the difference between beings and the meaning of being and of φύσις that Heidegger wishes to retrieve. In order to clarity the meaning that φύσις bore for the Greeks, we must attempt to return and explore for ourselves ancient Greek texts where it appears. Language, translation, and interpretation, then, are all already clearly foregrounded as matters for concern in this text.

In a fashion that is itself questionable given his caution regarding interpretation, Heidegger proceeds to venture an initial, elaborated interpretation of the meaning of φύσις for the Greeks: "It says what emerges from itself (for example, the emergence, the blossoming, of a rose), the unfolding that opens itself up, the coming-into-appearance in such unfolding, and holding itself and persisting in appearance-in short, he emerging-abiding sway [das aufgehend-verweilende Walten]" (11|15). In order to support this interpretation, Heidegger refers to the etymology of one of φύσις cognates, φύειν, in its meaning of "to grow or make grow Although this emerging character of φύσις "can be experienced everywhere" (11|16), Heidegger's claim is that φύσις was not first experienced by, in, or as natural processes, "but the other way around: on the basis of a fundamental experience of being in poetry and thought [dichtend-denkend], what [the Greeks] had to call φύσις disclosed itself to them" (11|16).

Here it appears that Heidegger thinks of an experience of being as in some sense grounding the Greek experience or φύσις. The implication is that φύσις disclosed itself on the basis of a (still more?) fundamental experience of being. Accordingly, an experience of being would have an even more primordial status, at least in this interpretation, than would φύσις. In turn, the disclosure of φύσις becomes a basis for experiencing natural things (τὰ φυσικά) as natural or as belonging in and to φύσις. The priority that Heidegger appears to assign to being in this initial statement of the relation between being and φύσις, which in many respects he maintains throughout the text, turns, however, into a virtual equivalence such that we cannot clearly determine which word has priority in his interpretation of the Greeks.

Φύσις may be thought of as process, but not as a process among others. Φύσις means "process in a different sense from any particular process or the combination of processes that beings can be observed to undergo in their physical careers. Φύσις means "process in an originary sense of that eventfulness that enables or allows the processes of things to come into appearance. to take a stand "for the first time" (12|16). Neither is φύσις a collection of processes that physical beings exhibit. Φύσις, for the Greeks, according to Heidegger, meant something like the continuous emerging or coming into being of beings that then, in a derivative sense, could be thought to exhibit differentiated and interrelated processes. Far from—and far greater than, in the sense of "more originary than"—the conception of nature that modern science investigates, φύσις names for the Greeks "what is, as such and as a whole" (12|18). An originary meaning of φύσις remains, he says, in Aristotle when Aristotle speaks of "the grounds of beings as such" (12|18).

Out of, or on the basis of, this originary conception of φύσις, a variety of narrower meanings of the word arise. Φύσις comes derivatively to mean something as contrasted with or opposed to counterphenomena such as "the psychical," "θέσις", "νόμος," "ἦθος," "τέχνη," and "the historical" (13|18). Yet, for the Greeks, all these continue until much later to be included an "originally broader sense of φύσις" (13|19). Both being "in the [later and] narrower sense of fixed continuity" (12|19) and becoming are still included in that which the word φύσις originally says. The distinction between being and becoming, then, was a later. subsequent interpretation of being and φύσις.

Like the words "being" and "metaphysics," the word φύσις is susceptible of more than one meaning. Along with various narrower meanings, it also carries a wider one that ought not to be forgotten. Whereas a delineation of the narrower definitions of φύσις is achieved through contrasting them with counter phenomena (the psychical," and so on) its wider meaning embraces both "sides" of the narrower oppositions and enables these opposites to relate to each other both as opposites and as "'same." The question of the way in which this wider sense of being and of φύσις is to be thought and articulated is one of the central questions that Heidegger is wrestling with throughout this text.

Heidegger can thus make the following two claims: (1) "Beings as such and as a whole are φύσις" (13|19), that is, in the wider sense of φύσις, and (2) the word φύσις "means the being of beings" (14|19). The entire discussion, then, clearly "is in itself already beyond τὰ φυσικά, on beyond beings, and is concerned with being" (14|20). In this way, Heidegger begins to use the words "being" and "φύσις"—in their wider meanings—as synonyms. Just as φύσις cannot only be thought of in terms of physical or natural things, so also being cannot be understood by thinking only about beings. The traditional meanings of both these words need to be called into question in such a way that the originary—for Heidegger the unitary (47|67)—meaning of these words is able to emerge.

In attempting to understand the way in which Heidegger thinks of φύσις in this text, then, we need to keep several points firmly in mind. (1) The meaning of the word φύσις, like that of the word "being" is ambiguous; it has wider and narrower meanings, which we must not confuse. (2) If we are to be able to think the full meaning of φύσις, we heed not collapse the Wider meaning of φύσις into any of its narrower ones. Rather, we need clearly to understand these narrower meanings as embraced by the wider one. (3) For Heidegger and, according to Heidegger, for the Greeks, the word φύσις in is wide and more originary meaning denotes the emerging-abiding sway (das aufgehend-verweilende Walten).8 It thus also means the same as the being of beings.

Heidegger's virtual equation of being and φύσις is elaborated, at least initially, by characterizing both in terms of cognates of "standing." Φύσις, he says "is the event of coming-to-stand, arising from the concealed and thus enabling the concealed to take its stand for the first time" (12|16, translation modified; emphasis added). Further, as Heidegger suggested earlier in the discussion of the Greek experience of φύσις, knowing (Wissen) "means to be able to stand in the truth ... to be able to stand in the openness of beings, to stand up to it" (16|24). Restated, the question of being becomes, "How does it stand with being?" (25|36). The discussion then focuses increasingly on the question of the meaning of the word "being." Although we do not know what, if anything, the word means, this "is counterbalanced by the fact that we still understand being and distinguish it with certainty from not-being ..." (62|89). Being contrasts with not-being insofar as beings are clearly other than nothing. Nevertheless, "the being that we are asking about is almost like nothing ... [and is] undiscoverable" (27|39) and "indeterminate" (30|43).

Heidegger argues that πτῶσις and ἔγκλισις (inflection) designate "a falling, tipping, or inclining a dropping-off from an upright, straight stance" (46|65). In contrast, the meaning of the infinitive "to be" (sein) has to do with "standing-there ... taking and maintaining a stand that stands erected high in itself (46|65). On the basis of his etymological excursus, then, Heidegger interprets the meaning of the word "being for the Greeks as follows: "Whatever takes such a stand becomes constant in itself and thereby freely and on its own runs up against the necessity of its limit, πέρας ... [The being of beings is] the self-restraining hold that comes from a limit, the having-of-itself wherein the constant holds itself" (46|65). In short, "for the Greeks, 'being' fundamentally means presence (46|66). In a similar way, Heidegger further infers that "φύσις means the emergent self-upraising, the self-unfolding that abides in itself. In this sway, [opposites such as] rest and movement are closed and opened up from an originary unity. This sway is the overwhelming coming-to-presence that has not yet bee surmounted in thinking and within which that which comes to presence essentially unfolds as beings" (47|67)

Φύσις names the originary, unitary, eventful process-the "sway abiding in itself"—that yields the beingness of beings; φύσις names the eventfulness out of which beings emerge as beings. Within this occurring all things that are presencing come to pass as beings. Φύσις points, then, not only to physical beings that emerge, not only to the emerging into being of beings, but, in addition, to that occurring which yields determinate things (or out of which, as it were, determinate things emerge) but which is not itself a thing. Thar originary "out of which" "is" no thing, since before the yielding of determinate things there "is" neither world nor beings nor names, neither before nor after.

The thought of φύσις here becomes particularly difficult. The difficulty stems from the radical question that is involved here, namely, the question of the way in which φύσις and is originary, differentiating determination are to be thought and brought into human language. How, if at all, is it possible to render in words that which "is" previous to any being, word, or name: How to articulate the very coming-into-being of determination for the first time? For according to Heidegger, this is what φύσις must mean originarily (see again 12|16). Only secondarily or subsequently can the word mean anything like "something out of which beings emerge, or "the context within which beings come to be, or "the event of the emergence of being" or even "the determination of nothing as something."

If we follow the radicality of Heidegger's thought, we can see that the word φύσις points not to beings—or even to the being of beings as beings—but to that originary event of the very emerging, for the first time, of some determination. In its most originary meaning, φύσις means the emerging, for the first time, of something out of no determination at all. It means the occurrence of the originary, determinate emergence of something as other than indeterminate nothing or, in other words, the process of somethings coming-to-be something from nothing. The elaboration of things, of beings in their being, is secondary to this most originary event.

But this formulation, too, is inadequate. Φύσις is a name for the emerging of the originary difference of determination and no determination, the very occurrence of an articulation of a primordial difference between something and nothing. This originary determining that is but one aspect of the meaning of φύσις determines "something" to be for the first time; it thus "is" the articulation of originary differentiation as a difference of something and nothing which occurs "within" or "out of" or "from" what then comes to be thought as that "not yet anything and yet not yet nothing other which yields it. Thus originary articulation to which φύσις points first brings into being something as other than nothing or, one might venture to say, first brings being into being as being and not just nothing. This event of articulation thus occurs somehow both "out of" and "within" that which yields it.10 That within (or out of, or from) which this originary differentiation of something and nothing occurs is not reducible to any thing or determination, neither to (a) the articulation of itself, (b) the beings that emerge "from" it, (c) the event of emerging, (d) what, subsequent to the emerging of something, comes to be called nothing nor (e) the entire constellation of these. The meaning of φύσις at once embraces and exceeds all these determinations.

We might attempt ts approach such a radical meaning of this word by attempting to describe the way in which, according to a phenomenological analysis like that of Husserl, the differentiation between background and foreground occurs in consciousness: the differentiation first discloses itself in consciousness as a differential that simultaneously determines foreground as foreground and background as background. In this differentiation, the background is determined as receding into indetermination as the foreground becomes more or less determinate. The phenomenal movement of foregrounding and backgrounding, the coming to be background and the coming to be determinate foreground, all occur simultaneously. This complex movement of determination is originary in the sense that it makes simultaneously possible (a) the determination of background (however indeterminate) as background and foreground as foreground, (b) the consequent appearing of determinate beings that appear (in the foreground), and (c) the coming into being of the entire constellation as context or world, including background, foreground, and the determinate movements of differentiation. All these aspects belong to an originary event of differentiation of background and foreground.11 Analogically, the meaning of φύσις includes (a) the originary event or movement of articulation or differentiation of something and nothing, (b) the indeterminacy of what now can be called "indeterminate nothing," which recedes back or withdraws from the field of determinate beings, and thus both serves as phenomenological background for the emerging of those beings and as that over against which beings come to stand, (c) the emerging of particular beings into being, and d) the entirety of this complex.

Our language misleads us, then, if we say φύσις "is": φύσις does not name a being, the being of beings, indeterminate nothing, the emerging of beings into being, nor all of these. Rather, φύσις names at once that originary not-yet-even-background yielding a determination of "itself" and the originary event of differentiations that art articulated in and by that determination.

In the paragraphs immediately above, am struggling as Heidegger was struggling to think and to articulate φύσις in its most radical, originary unified meaning. And, as Heidegger has already indicated, insofar as the word being functions as a synonym of φύσις, it likewise points, on one hand, to that before which there "is" nothing, and on the other, to the originary differentiating event of something and nothing. Thus, although in this text and iv his later work Heidegger appears to continue to prioritize the question of the meaning of being over that of φύσις, both words indicate a dimension of originary eventfulness that is forgotten in the history of metaphysics. In both cases, Heidegger compels us to remember the originary differentiation of being(s) and nothing and thus to think also of that which "is" not yet even determinate enough to call "it" anything, including "being."

The meaning and Status of originary φύσις, then, is determinately ambiguous. Only on the basis of the originary determination of φύσις as φύσις can come to be thought at all; only on the questionable basis of this originary determination can φύσις, in a highly questionable and still ambiguous way, come to be thought, as Heidegger thinks of it here, as the "abiding sway. This physical sway can subsequently be thought in relation to the beings that come to be in and from it and yet can also be thought to "have" or "be" that sway which holds sway in and through, over and beyond beings. Φύσις names "that which originarily worlds" or "that which originarily holds sway" (48|68). "This sway [φύσις] first steps forth from concealment, that is, in Greek, ἀλήθεια (unconcealment) happens, insofar as the sway struggles [erkämpft] itself forth as a world" (47|67). Φύσις "abides" in this sense, that is, as the emergence of world as world and as interworldly beings in their difference from nothing as well as from each other.

Here again there is, however, a problem, namely, understanding φύσις as abiding The name φύσις originarily names—and so originally determines - not-yet-anything, so that "it" (which is not yet even an "it") becomes some thing, becomes determinate. A determination comes to be and names "some thing that is then characterized as abiding But the abiding character of this determination, like the standing or enduring character of things that the Greeks called beings, is indeed highly questionable, since having arisen from nothing, what arose was not always, and certainly not always so. What, if anything, abides, then: We will leave this question open.

The originary opening and determining power of φύσις that Heidegger elaborates in terms of "worlding" involves a differentiation that, with the aid of Heraclitus, he proceeds to think of in terms of πόλεμος, struggle. Φύσις, characterized by Heraclitus as strife, confrontation, is that which abidingly "allows what essentially unfolds to step apart from each other in opposition [and] first allows position and status and rank to establish themselves in coming to presence.. [It] allows those that struggle [within it] to originate as such in the first place (47|67).

Aside from the question of the standing of what φύσις names, we might ask also the following questions: How is the status—the standing—of physical things to be thought: What power enables different things in their differences to stand at all and to last for a time both against each other and against the unified "overwhelming sway" in terms of which Heidegger characterizes what φύσις names?12 How do particular beings preserve themselves in their over againstness so that they appear constant? As far as I can tell, these questions remain largely unanswered by Heidegger. He does speak, however, of a kind of struggle that "first projects and develops the un-heard, the hitherto un-said and un-thought. This struggle is then sustained by the creators, by the poet, thinkers and statesmen ... [who] throw the counterweight of their work and capture in this work the world that is thereby opened up. With these works, the sway, φύσις, first comes to a stand in what comes to presence. Beings as such now first come into being. This becoming-a-world is authentic history" (47-48|68). A strange mixture of being and not being, we might say, characterizes what φύσις names. Heidegger's thought is that a power of giving names brings something first into being. This power of naming, which, Heidegger says, belongs to "creators,"13 struggles within "the overwhelming" (φύσις) to enable something that was no thing to appear for the first time. What appears is delimited by this originary physical (in the sense of belonging to φύσις) power of naming. It is this originary delimitation of something rather than nothing that Heidegger will later say remains at once a mystery (119|173, 125|183) and susceptible to degeneration into a prototype for reproduction and copying (48|68).

The way in which the power of creators functions remains largely unaddressed by Heidegger. We glean only that creators work within the sway of φύσις. The implication appears to be that they (or something) must work for the sake of making real (verwirklichen) ever anew the emerging of something from and in opposition to nothing as well as for the sake of preserving things in their being. The meaning that being acquired for the Greeks, then, as the constant, the standing, οὐσία, was originally—and that means historically - effected through a physical, poetic power of naming. This power came to be in and by delimiting that indeterminacy of the unnamed for the first time. "It" called "itself" φύσις and then subsequently called φύσις other further delimited things. By virtue of originary naming, then, things could have—could be—their "stands" in—and in contrast or opposition to—the overwhelming sway, φύσις. According to Heidegger, poetic naming (Dichtung) is an originary power that holds the otherwise indeterminate sway or φύσις at bay, as it were, so that a site for the being of beings clears. This siting is the originary occurrence in a delimited way of something over against or in differentiation from an indeterminate background. Yet this delimitation also enables the indeterminate background to be both indeterminate and background in relation to a foreground. Naming gives some "constancy of determination, gives determination constancy, constantly gives determination in the sense of originarily delimiting something as different from nothing. "For the Greeks, 'being' says constancy" (48|68) in such a way that falling, not standing, comes to mean not-being. Thus, by virtue of the name and the effect of naming in first bringing something to a stand, the contrast of this standing with not-being (not-standing) also was made inevitable, since delimiting, bringing something to a stand, drew some thing out from what before this was not (any thing) at all named or delimited.

Heidegger's attempt to return to the realm of questioning concerning both φύσις and the being at beings here indicates that we are obliged to approach the meaning of these words indirectly. Thinking must always approach the question of the meaning of being (and of φύσις) from within that meaning. from among beings. The questioning proceeds, for example, from asking a question concerning beings toward something like what Heidegger refers to as the ground of beings (2, 18/3, 27) or the universal essence (allgemeines Wesen) or the "as-suchness" that originarily enables us think of such beings as being (61/90). In our approach, however, we discover a "necessity that we already understand the word "being" (62/90), albeit in an indeterminate manner. That is, we are already in some way consequent to that which we seek to understand in our attempt to understand being. This "fact" gives us an inkling, albeit indirect, of originary being, as well as of its remove from us. "[T]hat we understand being. it only in an indefinite way—has the highest rank, insofar as in this, a power [Macht] announces itself in which the very possibility of the essence of our dasein is grounded" (63/90).


In order further to expose the wider meaning of the word "being" that embraces its narrower meanings. Heidegger now undertakes an examination of four interrelated respects according to which being is delimited in opposition to an other. According to these delimitations, the word "being" (like the word φύσις) came historicality to have not just a wider but also narrower meanings A further discussion of φύσις also recommences within the discussion of this fourfold delimitation of being. We should bear in mind as Heidegger proceeds that he has been occupied with being in contrast to nothing AS we saw in the context of Heidegger's previous discussion of φύσις, however, there is a sense in which "being and "φύσις both name an opposite or other to nothing and another sense in which they name a "unity" that also embraces these "opposites. The meaning of both these words, being and φύσις, is ambiguous, and it is their wider meaning that is most questionable because, apparently, it most conceals itself in our attempt to approach it, hiding, as it were, behind the Various narrower meanings that these words historically have acquired. Because our access to the wider meaning of these words. Is indirect, as noted above, we mist pass back through the narrower meanings toward the wider meaning. Heidegger states that his discussion of the fourfold delimitation of being is intended to indicate the ways in which "contrary to the widely accepted opinion, being is anything but an empty word for us. Instead, it is determined in so multifaceted a fashion that we can hardly manage to preserve this determination sufficiently" (71/103).

For Heidegger, Parmenides stands as the preeminent thinker of being as "self-collected perdurance of the constant" (74/106) in contrast to becoming. Parmenides views becoming as not-being. Although the thought-pathway toward not-being, "the path of nothing," cannot be traveled, it must nevertheless be considered, if only in order to be reconfigured as unviable (85). In addition to these two sharply opposed paths (toward being and toward not-being or nothing), there is. according to Heidegger's reading of Parmenides, a third way, the way of seeming, of δόξα. This is the way along which the view of things always changes. Yet, along this way, according to Heidegger, "seeming is experienced as belonging to being" (86/124), that is, there still appear to be things and not just nothing. Although seeming or appearing changes, within that changing it is possible for a thinker nevertheless to distinguish being, as that which endures, from seeming. Interpreting this third way, Heidegger says without further elaboration only that it can be avoided. In addition, knowing it as one of the three ways enables humans to come to a decision (Entscheidung) for or against them so that, depending on the character of this decision, either dasein comes to stand, to endure in and against seeming, which is to "tear away both seeming and being from the abyss of not-being" (84/121), or ... not.

It is important to note, as Heidegger does, the way in which seeming (appearing) and being as the constant belong together (106). Indeed there are at least some senses in which seeming means exactly the same as being" (76), insofar as both mean self-showing. for example, in stars' shining. This would Indicate that, beyond the meaning of being in opposition to becoming and seeming (appearing), a wider meaning of being is the togetherness of constancy and change.

Here, Heidegger remarks that φύσις names being's opening itself, appearing, "Being means [heißt] appearing" (77/111). "The emerging-abiding sway is in itself at the same time the seeming appearing" (77/112). Φύσις, the emerging sway is also appearing; this is an event or disclosure (ἀλήθεια) wherein something comes to be revealed. Yet, there is also, simultaneously, a concealing occurring. Being or φύσις is not only appearing or what appears but the event appearing or concealing. Here, being, φύσις, and ἀλήθεια all mean the same: Heidegger's equation of these terms is particularly evident in this passage.

In what way, if any, are we able to think enduring and changing together? If we think in a more originary way, that is, in terms of the belonging together of what the opposing terms name, this opposition—according to which being and becoming, as well as being and appearing are contrasted-might enable us to think of shat which being and φύσις name in their wider meanings. With echoes back to our earlier explication of the strangeness of that which φύσις names, perhaps as an abyss at the very root of our questioning, the further question again opens up: How, it at all, can anything of φύσις, of being, of dasein, endure? Does that no thing which φύσις or being names endure? If so, in what sense?

At least it seems clear that, according to Heidegger's interpretation, enduring was the value assigned by Parmenides, as well as by many thinkers who followed him, to being over against becoming and seeming. The latter two were, in contrast, both names for change. Yet, being (φύσις) also names that in and out of which anything arises, comes to be, or appears. What, in short, do these names mean? Don't they name not only that out of which things appear but also that into which they disappear? And how are we to think of this "that"? So far Heidegger has heavily stressed appearing, opening, coming to stand. But do being and φύσις also mean the opposite of these determinations? Do they also mean disappearing, closing and falling? We shall see that his emphasis on this other becomes more emphatic in the latter part of the text, where Heidegger begins to discuss death in the context of the ode from Sophocles Antigone. We must follow the way in which his reading of the (Greeks--and if he is correct, the characteristic Greek manner of thinking of being as "the constant" - covers over the opposite of constancy. The emphatic insistence of constancy in such a way of thinking that is, its assumption of the meaning of being as constancy and not as the opposite of constancy, obscures a meaning of being that is the paradoxical togetherness of constancy and change. So, we might rase the additional question: does either that which shows itself or that which conceals itself ever really stand? Or is the character of beings as appearing not even more mysterious in the sense that any standing is also a falling? Isn't the falling of beings as constant as their emerging and thus equally disclosive of both being and φύσις?

In Heidegger's reading of Heraclitus, too, we find that, rather than putting equal stress on the inclination toward concealment or the movement of striving aspects falling apart, Heidegger stresses, as he did in his reading of Parmenides, primarily if not exclusively the importance of constant persisting, the "glory" of standing in repute (78/113). His stress is on the gatheredness of the gathering, the constancy of strife and of the gathering (96-97, and the straightness and prominence of being. It is the Constancy of the gathering and not falling apart that Heidegger interprets as the meaning of φύσις for Heraclitus (93). It is the rank and dominance of being in the sense of constancy and the maintenance of it that appear to be in the foreground of his concern (101-102). To what extent, then, is Heidegger glossing over differences between Parmenides and Heraclitus when he states that he wants to think of Heraclitus as saying "the same as Parmenides" (74)? Perhaps, we may suspect, Heidegger's unevenness stems from the way in which this thought of constancy is not immune to opposition, and thus, perhaps, is one of the most contested, most questionable characterizations of being.


Heidegger's third pair of opposites, in which being is thought not primarily in terms of its wider meaning as embracing the opposites but rather in terms of its meaning in opposition to an other, is being and thinking This involves him in a discussion of logic as the historically preeminent "science" of thinking and in the question of the originary meaning of λόγος in relation to its subsequent interpretations. How does Heidegger continue his discussion of φύσις in this section?

There is an ambiguity of meaning in the word λόγος that corresponds to the ambiguity of the meaning of the words "φύσις"'and "being." Λόγος also has both a narrower and a wider meaning." Heidegger is referring to the wider meaning of λόγος when he states that "being and λόγος [are] originally and unitarily the same for the Greeks" (95) and thus that "we find an originary connection between being φύσις and λόγος (94). Because being means for the Greeks: φύσις (96), and because both being and φύσις are originally the same for the Greeks as λόγος in its sense of gathering, we can understand all three more fully when we see the connection between λόγος and φύσις. To do this, Heidegger turns once again to Heraclitus, then to Parmenides. In Heidegger's interpretation, λόγος in Heraclitus fragment 1 means that which "constantly remains itself and which essentially unfolds as the together [Zusammen] in beings" (98, translation modified). The κατά τὸν λόγον in this fragment means the same as κατά φύσιν, and hence, φύσις and λόγος are the same, The gathering of λόγος is also that which contends: πόλεμος, struggle, originary Auseinandersetzung. Being is λόγος, ἁρμονία, ἀλήθεια, φύσις, φαίνεσθαι. Change, Heidegger says, is not a matter of pure inconstancy, but instead it means: the whole of beings in its being is always thrown from one opposite to the other, thrown over here and over there-being is the gatheredness of this conflicting unrest," Λόγος, in this sense, "has the character of pervasive sway, of φύσις (102). Λόγος and φύσις originally belong together as same only on the basis of chis relation is it possible to comprehend "the inner necessity and possibility of their division" (103).

To demonstrate the process of the disjunction between φύσις and λόγος, Heidegger turns again to Parmenides. Although the customary translation of Parmenides' Fragment 5 reads thinking and being are the same," this, according to Heidegger, is a misinterpretation. Νοεῖν (which Heidegger translates as Vernehmen, apprehension) originally belongs to φύσις, to being. It is "the receptive bringing-to-a-stand of the constant that shows itself in itself. Νοεῖν happens "of the sake of being. which "essentially unfolds as appearing, as stepping into unconcealment only if unconcealment happens, only it a self-opening happens .... Apprehension [Vernehmen] also necessarily occurs along it appearance (106). Along with any (delimited) appearing of something there is also a dimension of being and φύσις that, although not itself appearing as a being. "holds around" that which appears, occurring beyond it, as it were, as the taking in or hearkening Perception of it." Taken in its meaning of (human) thinking, νοεῖν therefore is a narrowing of the meaning of νοεῖν in its originary sense as the other of appearing. Νοεῖν, then, does not originarily mean either "thinking" or "apprehension" as a (human) faculty (107). Rather, being human happens within that more originary apprehension that occurs in differentiation from and together with the appearing of beings in being or φύσις.

The next segment of Heidegger's discussion turns to the ode in Sophocles Antigone, which thematizes φύσις as uncanny and man as "the uncanniest." He elaborates his interpretation of the ode in terms cognate with Walten (which he has already introduced as his translation of φύσις) as follows: "The violent, the overwhelming is the existential character of the sway itself" (115). In this section of the text, Heidegger elaborates his earlier discussion of φύσις as πόλεμος by thinking of φύσις in terms of the violence enacted on one another by each participant in the struggle. Das Uberwältigende (the overwhelming and das Gewaltige (the violent) are, both, together, φύσις, in such a way that both "the overwhelming" and "the violent point to the physical breaking in (hereinbrechen) on each other, as it were, of the sides of the πόλεμος that φύσις is, and thus the breaking in of φύσις upon itself. Das Gewaltige (the violent) is φύσις breaking in on itself, which enables a "keeping' of its power (Macht) "to" itself (116). As human, the violent 15 a power of φύσις (the overwhelming sway), indeed, the power of φύσις, which uses violence against itself; that the overwhelming turns against itself characterizes the power of φύσις. By asserting that the sway is overwhelming violence, Heidegger is saying that both φύσις and being human are δεινόν because being human is derivative of φύσις. Human being remains a determinate, physical way of being given by φύσις, which, however, is itself determined or destined in its being to use violence in setting itself against other physical things by differentiating itself from them through language and action. Human being stands out violently from and against sea, earth, animals, and so on, all of which are named, delimited things other than human. This means, however, that human being is also always in relation to other beings. Human beings power is dependent upon as well as in conflict with other physical things. To be humans, humans must use their physical power to make a "venturing" way through other beings (116). This venturing, however, is also inevitably a tearing displacement of the lives of other things our of their given physical order (Fug), which then becomes a matter of "capturing" and "subjugating" and thus surmounting them (118).19

But though it may seem that "it is he [the human] who has [the other powers of φύσις] at his disposal" we need to understand this seeming by reference to the ways in which human being remains "disposed" into the uncanniness of φύσις (120). Thus, although human being may arrogate to itself the power to invent language, understanding building and poetry, human being does not originally bring these about. Rather, the origin of these remains shrouded in a mystery that humans can neither create not understand. Genuinely historical knowing, in Heidegger's sense, is understanding the character of this origination as mystery (119).

The power "granted" by φύσις to humans as human, which Heidegger has called "violence," though not belonging originarily to humans, does produce a sense in which humans can be thought to "co-create" paths into other beings Language, understanding, constructing and building are powers due originarily to φύσις that nevertheless can be thought also, in a secondary sense, to be used by and useful to humans (119-120). "Human" powers granted originarily in and through the mysterious, originary, opening up and differentiating power of being or φύσις, is also always already delimited. It is always also over against that of φύσις, which exceeds it. This over-againstness makes inevitable the shattering of the delimited power that is "human" against the delimiting power of that over against which it stands. Thus, death is inevitable. Death originally occurs as the closing up or shattering of the "breach that originarily occurs in the breaking open of φύσις (124-125).

Heidegger's discussion then becomes an interpretation of the physicality of τέχνη, which he translates as "knowing" (Wissen) and takes to mean "being out beyond [that which] sets to work ... [that which] first gives to what is already present at hand its relative justification, its possible determinateness, and thus is limit" (22). Τέχνη means "to work out [er-wirken] being in a being ... to bring φύσις] into the work. within which. as what comes to appear, the emerging that holds sway, φύσις, comes to appear" (122). Τέχνη in this sense is doubly uncanny (115): it is at once determinative and derivative of φύσις. It is a physical power that takes up delimited power and uses it against other physical powers; its power is at once the very power of unitary φύσις and a delimitation of both itself and other things in an over-against structure. The physical power of delimitation that is "human" determines beings to stand in their differentiations over against each other. It thus is the knowing struggle to set being which was formerly closed off, into what appears as beings" (122).

This struggle entails, according to Heidegger, a question of fittingness (Fug). joint or fit (Fuge), structure (Gefüge), arrangement (Fügung), and direction (Weisung). Any manner in which human fittingness or direction happens is always highly contested and contestable. Although being or φύσις urges (nötigt) human being(s) to stand in and out of it so that it can be something rather than (only) nothing, the relative duration depends, it would seem, solely upon the physical strength of the originary urge. And inevitably, the physical strength of any being weakens, wanes, and dies. Heidegger says that, for humans, knowing the inevitability of undergoing disaster while also experiencing the urge and urgency to be constitutes "the deepest and broadest yes to the overwhelming" (125|182). Through human being, being "confirms itself in works as history" to which belong both arising and going under. We see that the stress on standing with which Heidegger initially is preoccupied yields to a reciprocal stress on the inevitability that any standing will all. However enduring a stand may be in and against φύσις, its tall is also inevitable by virtue of its belonging to φύσις. Being, as gathering fittingness, as φύσις, thus "becomes the necessity [Notwendigkeit] of the essence of historical humanity" (130).21

Dasein, being-there, then, is to take a relatively lasting, although always mortal, always temporal, always contested, stand in and against being or φύσις. This is the pivotal meaning of disclosure as Heidegger is working it out in this text. When this stand occurs, it is in a historically decisive (entscheidende) manner that opens up a determinate site for beings within being or φύσις (the overwhelming). The abiding possibility and inevitability of defeat, of not being, for dasein announces itself together with an ever renewed resurgence of being-there as the opening of sites of disclosure of beings within being (136).

Throughout the entere course that this text traces, Heidegger attempts to follow the way in which the wider meanings of being, φύσις, ἀλήθεια, and λόγος are transformed into narrower meanings (144-145|211). His primary interest is in following the transformation of an originary thought of disclosiveness of being to the closure or collapse of this way of thought of origin. In the course of his discussion, however, he also shows the way in which, no matter how much human beings might like to be able to represent things as permanent in language, and to "count on things, this is not possible, because of the temporal, eventful character of φύσις. Φύσις, in an original sense, prevents—does not allow—such a familiarity but remains strange, withdrawing from familiarity so that human dasein is urged again and anew into the question of itself, of its meaning—which it always "is." Heidegger's attempts in Introduction to Metaphysics to expose and to rethink originary, physically powerful ways of thought and being that have been forgotten therefore can only have limited success. His later work, nevertheless, rakes up in various ways the themes which he addresses in this text. Indeed, in his later works, he will call the closure or collapse of originary thought of origination the abandonment of being (Seinsverlassenheit) and articulate this in terms of the forgetfulness or oblivion of being (Seinsvergessenheit). This collapse, Heidegger will say, also occurs out of an inevitability. It occurs because originary disclosiveness, "the inception, as incipient, must, in a certain way, leave itself behind. ... [In the way it initiates, originary disclosiveness can never directly preserve its initiating (145-146|213). The only way that a thought of originary disclosiveness may be preserved in ts originality is "by re-trieving it more originally," by following how it occurs, by articulating it, and by displaying its collapse "as far as possible in its historical course" (146|213). Following this inevitability out, we ourselves participate, perhaps, in the enactment of ... another beginning.

beyng.com: The references to Einführung in die Metaphysik page numbers in the original have been appended with links to the corresponding pages in Introduction to Metaphysics, 2nd, 2014.

A Companion to Heidegger's Introduction to Metaphysics