The Unity in the Transformation of
Martin Heidegger’s Thinking

Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann

Translated by
Thomas Sheehan


1. Introduction: The Gesamtausgabe three decades on

2. The experience of meaningfulness in hermeneutic phenomenology

3. Existenz – ex-sistence – transcendence and horizon

4. Appropriation: The reciprocity of

a. the clearing as appropriating ex-sistence and

b. ex-sistence as appropriated by the clearing


1. Translator’s afterword

2. Notes on the translation

3. Lexicons: German-English, English-German


The thirtieth anniversary of Martin Heidegger’s death also marks thirty years since the publication of his Gesamtausgabe began. We are now in a position to review the path his thinking took from the beginning to the end of his six-decade career and to understand the inner motives and intentions of the three phases of his thinking.

1. 1919–1923: The ten Freiburg-1 courses mark the inception of his thinking and determine the path that led to Being and Time, his first and fundamental magnum opus.

2. 1923–1928: The subsequent ten courses at Marburg guided Heidegger through the genesis and elaboration of Being and Time I.1 and I.2 and, immediately after the book’s publication, provided both the general outline of Being and Time I.3 and the crucial answer to the basic question about how being is intelligible. The Marburg courses devoted to Kant, Descartes, and Aristotle dealt with Being and Time II, “Basic Features of a Phenomenological Destruction of the History of Ontology, Using the Problematic of the Time-Character [of Being] as the Clue.”

3. 1928–1944: Most of the twenty-eight courses of the Freiburg-2 period hold to the perspective that emerged in the 1930s and guided his work from then on, namely the immanent transformation of his thinking from its first path – the transcendental-horizonal approach to the question of being – into its second path focused on the clearing as appropriating ex-sistence.

How the second approach emerged from the first, along with the decisions guiding the later approach, is spelled out in the seven major treatises of 1936 to 1944 on appropriation. Most importantly, the first of those treatises, Contributions to Philosophy (of Appropriation), provides the outline of his thinking on appropriation while highlighting the interrelated connections constituting appropriation’s basic structure. Contributions to Philosophy also points to the specific turning points where the transcendental-horizonal structure gets transformed into


that of appropriation. Thereafter, appropriation will be the focus sustaining Heidegger’s second approach in all the later loci of his thinking with their ever-new linguistic formulations. A good example are Heidegger’s thoughts on releasement, where the relations of appropriation shine through clearly.

The publication of Heidegger’s extensive and important Nachlass – the three sets of courses (Freiburg-1, Marburg, Freiburg-2) along with the treatises on the clearing as appropriating ex-sistence – throws new light on the sixteen books that Heidegger published during his lifetime (= Division 1 of the Gesamtausgabe). This compels us to reread and re-appropriate those books in light of the Nachlass – which entails jettisoning some still current but outdated opinions about the unpublished Being and Time I.3 (“Time and Being”) and about how Heidegger’s second approach relates to his earlier transcendental-horizonal approach.

The following pages discuss three texts from the Nachlass that are important for understanding the trajectory of Heidegger’s thinking:

1. his first Freiburg course, The Idea of Philosophy and the Problem of Worldviews (1919)

2. his Marburg course The Basic Problems of Phenomenology (1927), delivered right after he had published Being and Time

3. his 1936–37 Contributions to Philosophy (of Appropriation), which outlines his thinking on the clearing as appropriating ex-sistence.


Heidegger’s thinking has its origin in the utterly fundamental experience that

• the world of human life and experience is a world of meaningfulness, an ensemble of meaningful things;

• our lives are essentially a correlative experience of meaningfulness;

• and our lives amidst what is meaningful are enacted within the intelligibility that is our proper and ownmost being and movement.


Heidegger designates the structure of that intelligibility by the formally indicative concept of Er-eignis, ap-propriation (GA 56/57: 70–76/59–64).

Our experiences of the environment (which are always experiences of meaningfulness) are, in Heidegger’s words, “Er-eignisse, instances of ap-propriation, in that they are lived from out of what is proper to us” (GA 56/57: 75.27–28/64.7–8).“Ap-propriation” thus names our original proprium, that from out of which we enact our lives both as a whole and in each single experience. It is what allows us to understand the significance of whatever we encounter within the world, whether things and events in various regions of being, or our fellow human beings. The lifeworld that is our environment is not primarily a world of things serving as a foundation for the values of culture and convention. It has no such foundational function; rather, it is primarily a world of the significant and meaningful (GA 56/57: 71.27–31/60.20–24). Nor is it just “given” to us. We experience this world only by “encountering” it, that is, not by theoretically observing it but by understanding various ways of dealing with things, broadly speaking, while relating to them as fraught with meaning. Such dealings express the primary and most basic way we inhabit the world.

Hermeneutical phenomenology’s hermeneutical understanding is the method for gaining access to the intelligibility that is the very being of life and experience. The unique thing about hermeneutical understanding is that it prescinds from the seemingly obvious preconceptions that epistemology would foist on us and instead “follows out explicitly” the direction that intelligibility takes in our experience of the environment (GA 56/57: 117.5–7/99.2–5).1 The only modification our experience of meaningfulness undergoes in the process is that of rendering explicit the implicit pre-phenomenological life we usually live. Explicitly following out the full intelligibility of life is the one and only way to arrive at the key insight of hermeneutic phenomenology, namely that our original, natural experience of the environment is an experience of what matters for knowing how to deal with things in the broad sense of that term. It is not an experience of sense data that then serve as a foundation [for higher levels of cognition]. It has no such


function. While sense perception certainly is an element in our natural experience of meaningfulness, it is not a [lower] stratum serving as the foundation [for higher levels]. Rather, it is always embedded in and guided by our understanding of meaningfulness.

An astonishing fact comes to light in this earliest of the Freiburg courses. In a single stroke Heidegger has already secured the thematic and methodological starting point for what he will properly launch at Being and Time §12: the analysis of ex-sistence as concerned, foresightful being-in-the-world-of-meaningfulness. In the subsequent and related Freiburg-1 courses, Heidegger’s analyses of the experience of meaningfulness and the meaningful world succeeded in hermeneutically disclosing and spelling out what the structural concept of Er-eignis had formally indicated as most proper to, indeed the very core of, life and experience, namely:

• factical life: life as lived in its most basic and core facticity

• the lifeworld, differentiated into (1) the most immediate world of everyday living, (2) the world we share with others, and (3) one’s self-world

• the lived possibilities of factical life

• everydayness: the undifferentiated and most immediate possibilities of life

• the world of meaningfulness as the primary locus of factical living

• the directions intelligibility takes in factical life as regards

• content (the world)

• relation (the movement of one’s very life as caring/ concern)

• enactment (either just falling into various forms of meaningfulness or gaining one’s own self)

• “the historical” in the sense of being historical [shaping one’s own future]

• the temporal unfolding of factical life

Existenz: the being and being-structure of life or ex-sistence


• the ex-sistentials: the structural characteristics of the being of factical life/ex-sistence

• as regards the intelligibility of relation: the ex-sistential characteristics of inclination, distancing, and self-isolating

• reflectedness and projective structuring as discernable characteristics of life-as-movement

• averageness, the public, and “everyone” as ways of being

And the last of the Freiburg-1 courses, Ontology: The Hermeneutics of Facticity anticipated Being and Time’s analysis of tools and world (GA 63: 93–97/71–74).

Soon after these early lectures were published, a widely circulated opinion alleged that Heidegger began his work in connection with Dilthey’s philosophy of life and only later made the transition to ontology when he took up Aristotle (in a so-called “ontological turn”!). This opinion is based on a superficial analysis of the texts and fails to see that those courses were already clearly aimed at something other than a philosophy of life. Their hermeneutical-phenomenological focus on explaining the sphere of pre-theoretical life and experience was searching for the original, fundamental source from which philosophy and its most basic questions arise. From the very beginning, and in clear distinction to Dilthey, Heidegger connected his analyses of life and experience to the meaning of ex-sistence as the understanding of world/being.


To adequately understand Heidegger’s first Freiburg course we have to grasp a decisive and pathbreaking fact, namely that the hermeneutical perspective he adopted as his own unprecedented method in 1919 is the vital source of everything his phenomenology would lay out thereafter, whether in the other Freiburg-1 and Marburg courses or in his fundamental systematic work, Being and Time. Not a single question in those subsequent texts stems from another kind of reflection that got smuggled into the hermeneutical-phenomenological insights he had already acquired. Heidegger’s unswerving adherence to this


methodological perspective in his hermeneutical philosophy is comparable to Husserl’s unwavering commitment to the phenomenological epoché in all the presentations and analyses of his reflexive (transcendental) phenomenology. The hermeneutical viewpoint of the Marburg courses and Being and Time is the same one Heidegger embraced as his basic methodological approach in 1919. Throughout his phenomenological analysis of ex-sistence, his ex-sistential and categorial explanations all originate without exception from this hermeneutical perspective. When he adopted it for the first time in the 1919 course, he established the essence of “the hermeneutical” in the only sense that term has in this paper.

Being and Time and the related Marburg courses are where Heidegger decisively determined what he meant by the issues of and the terms for

1. Existenz as the basic structure of being-in-the-world: an ex-sisting entity’s ownmost way of being; and

2. ex-sistence [Dasein]. Heidegger calls entities that ex-sist “Dasein” – “ex-sistence” – not because they simply “have existentia,” but because the being of the “ex-” or Da is simply and solely Existenz.

In turn, the “ex-” of ex-sistence (the Da of Dasein) means “openedness,” and that in two senses: (1) the self-openedness of Existenz, along with its ex-sistential characteristics; and (2) the supervening openedness of being itself, being as a whole. The 1927 course Basic Problems of Phenomenology (GA 24) provides an important clarification of these issues. In its very Existenz, an ex-sisting entity is opened up in and for itself. But in its ex-sistential self-openedness, Existenz is ex-statically transposed not only into that self-openedness but also into the openedness of being itself: the universal horizonal openedness of the non-ex-sistential being that pertains to all entities. Thus the “ex-” of ex-sistence is both ex-static self-openedness and universal horizonal openedness. Heidegger calls the ex-sisting entity “Da-sein,” written with a hyphen, for the sole reason that, in and through its Existenz, it holds open the “ex-” or Da: the universal openedness of being.


Existenz as the ex-static being of the universal “ex-” has a basic threefold structure. It is an ex-sistent

1. thrownness into the “ex-”

2. projective opening up of the “ex-”

3. holding open of the projectively opened “ex-” in disclosing entities, letting them enter their disclosedness within the world.

Heidegger shows that, as a whole, this threefoldness is structured as concern [Sorge] in the sense of ex-sistence’s caring about

1. its own ex-static self-openedness,

2. the horizonal openedness of being as a whole, and

3. the disclosedness of entities.

The openedness of being is the ontological condition that makes possible the disclosedness of entities; and between the openedness of being and the disclosedness of entities the ontological difference is in play.

The openedness of being (ἀλήθεια-1) is its “truth,” whereas the disclosedness or pre-predicative manifestness of entities is their “truth” (ἀλήθεια-2). Propositional truth (ἀλήθεια-3) derives from these two original phenomena of ἀλήθεια, which themselves are discoverable only within a hermeneutical perspective. Any philosophy that claims sense experience is our primary access to entities and that insists the environment is first and foremost a world of sense-perceptible things will inevitably fail to see all three: Existenz, the clearing as the “truth” of being, and the disclosedness of entities. Hermeneutical phenomenology grew out of the experience of the world of meaningfulness, and as such it is the underlying factor making it possible to bring those two original phenomena – the openedness of being and the disclosedness of entities within the openedness of being – into the scope of hermeneutical insight.

Ex-sisting is the enactment of concern for the openedness of being-in-the-world and of being itself. An ex-sistent entity stands out ahead of entities – the ex-sistent entity it itself is as well as those it is not – out into both the ex-static openedness of itself and the horizonal openedness of the world/being itself. But it does this so as, from out of this openedness, to come back to itself as the entity that stands out-ahead, and to


understand itself as such an entity. This standing-out-ahead is what Heidegger means by “transcendence” as transcending, and thematizing that phenomenon was one of the major tasks of the course Basic Problems of Phenomenology (GA 24: 418–29/294–302). Ex-static self-openedness is a matter of being-qua-Existenz, whereas horizonal openedness is the essential locus of all forms of the being of non-ex-sistent entities.

Transcendence constitutes the ontological intelligibility of the movement of Existenz and concern, and as such it is grounded in the most fundamental and original ontological sense of Existenz: temporality as unfolding.

• In unfolding as projectively-opening-up, temporality yields ex-sistence as coming to itself.

• In unfolding as factically thrown, temporality yields ex-sistence as coming back to itself.

• And this coming-to-itself-as-coming-back-to-itself renders enti ties present, i.e., discloses them, holds them open.

In unfolding, an ex-sisting entity transcends, and in such transcending, temporality unfolds. Each of the three ex-static unfoldings transposes ex-sistence, with understanding, into a horizonal openedness, that of “time.” Moreover, each of temporality’s ex-static unfoldings has an intrinsic directionality, an “objective” towards which its ex-static unfolding moves, and each of those “objectives” constitutes a horizon that has a horizonal schema. The course Basic Problems of Phenomenology (the second draft of Being and Time I.3, “Time and Being”) shows that the correlate of the ex-static unfolding of making-present is the horizonal schema of being-present. It is in terms of this horizonal openedness that the being of non-ex-sisting entities gets its time-determined intelligibility as presentness (GA 24: 429–45/302–13). With his presentation of [the horizonal schema of] being-present, Heidegger has answered his fundamental question about how being is intelligible. The being of Existenz is intelligible in terms of ex-static temporality, and the being of non-ex-sisting entities is intelligible in terms of the horizon of being-present that is correlative with ex-static temporality. Heidegger analyzes the time-determined horizon of being-present within the


horizonal openedness of the “ex-” or Da, and he presents this analysis under the rubric of either “Zeitlichkeit und Temporalität” or “Temporalität und Sein.”

As with everything else, Heidegger’s uncovering of transcendence and of ex-static temporality with its correlative time-determined horizon has its hermeneutical source in life as the understanding of meaningfulness. Only a hermeneutical perspective that explicitly and consistently tracks the experience of meaningfulness can disclose the phenomenon of being-present as a time-determined horizon within the horizon of openedness. This hermeneutical perspective ultimately shows that ex-static temporality and the horizonal time-character of being are the source of life lived in terms of meaningfulness, i.e., the origin of ex-sistent being-in-the-world as an understanding of being.


Heidegger’s transition from his first approach of working out the question of being within a transcendental-horizonal framework to his second approach, focused on the clearing as appropriating ex-sistence, grew out of a crucial experience in his thinking. He realized that not only is ex-sisting, in its possibilities as being-in-the-world, geschichtlich (= the “historicity of ex-sistence”), but also that the clearing – the openedness of being itself, being as a whole – holds forth as, and intrinsically is, geschichtlich (albeit in a different sense of the term).2 This experience of the Geschichtlichkeit of the clearing entailed the further insight that the thrownness of ex-sistence has its ontological (vs. ontic) origin in the clearing’s ex-sistential “thrownness to” – i.e., its appropriation of – ex-sistence. In that regard, Contributions says that “the important thing is not to step beyond entities (= transcendence)” but to move beyond both

1. the transcendental-horizonal distinction between the openedness of being and the disclosedness of entities and

2. the ontological difference that is linked with it.


In Heidegger’s words, what matters is to get beyond transcendence and to question from out of the origin, from out of being itself/“truth.” (GA 65: 250–51/197.29–30).3

Without abandoning the thrown-openness of the clearing as such, Heidegger stopped characterizing it as a matter of transcending entities to their being-as-horizon or as a “thrown-projecting-open” of the clearing, as soon as he realized that

• the clearing’s prior and primary appropriation of ex-sistence is what holds open the clearing;

• the holding-open of the clearing is therefore not carried out by transcending to it but is always already accomplished in and through the appropriation of ex-sistence; and

• ex-sistence holds the clearing open by “taking it over,” letting it have priority in the opening up.

Contributions formulates the matter as follows: “The throwing-open of the clearing is enacted…as the transposition [of ex-sistence] into the open in such a way that the “throwing-open thrower” experiences himself as thrown – i.e., ap-propriated – by the clearing.” (GA 65: 239.3–6/188.23–26)

In short, the clearing’s claiming of ex-sistence (= its “thrownness to” ex-sistence) for the sake of holding open the clearing occurs as the appropriating of ex-sistence. Thus, ex-sistence’s own thrownness is due to the clearing’s “thrownness to” (its appropriation of) ex-sistence; and ex-sistence’s holding-open of the clearing is therefore always an appropriated holding-open.

Ap-propriation is not an event that occurs in time. What it is can be gathered from another crucial text in Contributions:

143. The Clearing
as Ap-propriation. This ap-propriating determines human being to be ‘owned’ by the clearing. (GA 65: 263.12–14/207.14–16)

Heidegger’s early notion of appropriation pointed to Existenz as what is proper to and ownmost in life and ex-sistence. But in his later focus


on the clearing as claiming ex-sistence, ap-propriation means that the holding-open of the clearing is “owned” by the clearing insofar as ex-sistence, as appropriated, “takes over” the clearing by holding it open. But why speak of ex-sistence as “owned”? Answer: (1) The clearing as appropriating ex-sistence “needs” the appropriated holding open that is the sein of Da-sein, the very being of ex-sistence; and in turn (2) ex-sistence’s appropriated holding-open of the clearing “belongs to” the clearing. Thus, Contributions says: “This reciprocity of needing and belonging constitutes being itself as appropriation” (GA 65: 251.24–5/198.14). The reciprocity is that of

• the clearing as “thrown to” ex-sistence – appropriating and as such needing ex-sistence; and

• ex-sistence as holding open the clearing – appropriated by and as such belonging to (“owned by”) the clearing.

It is clear, then, that in his second approach Heidegger’s notion of appropriation encompasses two principal interconnected elements: the clearing as appropriating the being of ex-sistence; and ex-sistence’s appropriated holding-open of the clearing that appropriates it. The reciprocity of these two interconnected elements is what Contributions calls “a Kehre, in fact the Kehre, a term that indicates the essence of being itself, namely appropriation as intrinsically reciprocal” (GA 65: 251.25–26/206.2–3). Here the “essence” of being itself does not mean essentia as the “whatness” of something. Instead it means what Contributions calls Wesung (GA 65: 8.3/9.7 et passim), the way-of-being or prevailing and perduring way that something comes to pass and is. Whereas in the earlier approach the relation between entities and the clearing’s way of being was a matter of transcendence, Contributions can now say: “Entities belong within the clearing’s very way of being” (GA 65: 269.12–13/212.2–3) – in fact, in such a way that the clearing, which is always and ever “thrown to” and held open by ex-sistence, is concealed in entities as their manifestness/disclosedness. That is, along with (1) its appropriating thrownness-to and (2) the appropriated holding-open, the clearing’s full way of being also includes (3) the “concealing” of the clearing in and as the disclosedness of entities (GA 65: 389–92/307–10).


In Heidegger’s second approach, the manifestness of entities now signifies the concealedness of the “thrown to”/appropriating clearing in entities. This concealing is both (1) intrinsic to the clearing as “thrown to” and held open by ex-sistence and (2) enacted by ex-sistence when it uncovers/ discloses entities. Thus, the later approach reads the ontological structure of the “ex-” of ex-sistence as having a threefold articulation:

• It is appropriated (= thrownness).

• It holds open the clearing (= projection).

• It is the concealing of the “thrown-to”/appropriating clearing in entities when those entities are rendered manifest (= disclosedness).

Nonetheless, a distinction remains between the clearing as always and ever appropriating ex-sistence and the clearing as appropriating ex-sistence in particular [epochal] forms, i.e., as specific historical clearings [such as those of Aristotle, Kant, and Nietzsche]. The former is never exhausted in the latter, i.e., in any particular [epochal] form of the clearing.

In Heidegger’s transcendental-horizonal approach, the thrown-open clearing was seen as the condition that makes possible the disclosedness (or “truth”) of entities. But in his later approach that transcendentalhorizonal difference between being itself and entities is transformed into the distinction between, on the one hand, the clearing as “thrown to” and held open by ex-sistence, and, on the other, the clearing as concealed in entities. Moreover, this distinction is now part of the clearing’s full way of being. The difference between the earlier and later approaches is that the distinction between the clearing and disclosed entities (entities-in-their-disclosedness) is now integral to the clearing itself. Henceforth the concealing of the appropriating-and-held-open clearing is the disclosedness of entities. In addition, both transcendence and its accompanying horizon are finally overcome as such. What the first perspective envisioned as the horizonal dimension of openedness now disappears as horizonal into the clearing seen as appropriating ex-sistence.


We have characterized some fundamental elements of the transition Heidegger’s question of being made from a transcendental-horizonal approach into one based on the clearing as appropriating ex-sistence. But we would completely misunderstand this transition if we saw it as a leap from one position to another. Instead, the transition proves to be an immanent transformation of the first approach into the second, while remaining within the same hermeneutical perspective. The sole text that provides an insight into this immanent transformation is Contributions. It shows that Heidegger never abandoned his principled hermeneutical way of presenting matters, even as he went on to conceive of the clearing in terms of the structures of appropriation rather than in terms of a transcendental horizon. The experiences that prompted the transition from the first to the second approach remained entirely embedded in his hermeneutical perspective.

Appropriation is the structure of the clearing’s (1) appropriating of ex-sistence for the sake of both (2) the appropriated holding-open of the clearing and (3) the concealment of the clearing in the disclosure of entities. This structure shaped Heidegger’s perspective throughout his second approach, including his “topological” thinking as one of the ways he worked out his later thoughts on appropriation. Contributions formulates the matter in this way:

Appropriation is the self-establishing, self-mediating center. From the very outset we have to think the clearing’s way of being back to appropriation. […] All notions of the clearing must be articulated from out of appropriation (GA 65: 73.20–22/58.35–59.2).

Heidegger’s focus on appropriation emerged from the immanent transformation of his transcendental-horizonal approach as sketched out above, and both approaches, early and late, grew out of the hermeneutical-phenomenological focus that he first adopted in 1919.


* * *

Heidegger inserted an illuminating remark into the protocol of his 1962 Todtnauberg seminar on “Time and Being”: “The relations and connections that constitute the basic structure of appropriation had been worked out between 1936 and 1938” (GA 14: 52.22–24/43.20–22).

That is, the thoughts he published on appropriation in the 1950s and 1960s (which were the only texts we had on the topic until Contributions came out in 1989) actually originated in the mid-1930s. This means we have to go back and rethink those later texts on appropriation (e.g., GA 11: “The Principle of Identity” and GA 14: “Time and Being”) in light of Contributions to Philosophy. But there are other texts that do not use the language of appropriation but nonetheless were conceived in terms of the relations of appropriation. A prime example is “Ἀγχιβασίη,” the first of Heidegger’s Conversations on a Country Path (GA 77), where he thinks “releasement” as the essence of human being (and of a future thinking focused on the clearing as appropriating ex-sistence). “Releasement” refers to our being allowed into – and in turn letting ourselves into – the clearing as the openness (“truth”) of being. Here the clearing is interpreted as the “countryside” as “encountering” us and letting our Existenz into the openness of being itself.

• The “countryside” as letting Existenz into the openness of being corresponds to the clearing as ap-propriating ex-sistence.

• In turn, the relation between being let into and letting oneself into the “countryside” corresponds to the reciprocity of being appropriated by and holding open the clearing.

Heidegger’s thoughts on releasement are bound up with his focus on appropriation; they translate the language of appropriation into that of releasement.



The constant change of the language in which Heidegger expressed his thinking should not obscure the single structural relation that perdures throughout those changes and guarantees the unity of his thinking. We have tried to show how the structure of appropriation emerged from an immanent transformation of the transcendental-horizonal framework. This is a transformation not only within Heidegger’s language but also within the structures of his central issue. Nonetheless, even in that latter transformation, as throughout the whole of Heidegger’s thinking, a single phenomenal field holds constant, what he termed “the intimacy of the relation of being itself and ex-sistence” (GA 66: 414.24/367.20–21). It is the utterly fundamental relation that he worked out in both his earlier and later approaches. It is a relation that shows up only within a hermeneutical-phenomenological perspective. And that perspective, along with the relation of being and ex-sistence, constitutes the unity in the transformation of Heidegger’s thinking.



Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann’s Wege ins Ereignis (1994) is arguably the clearest exposition of two fundamental issues in the later Heidegger – Ereignis and the Kehre – and yet it is too little read, if read at all, in Anglophone scholarship.4 In turn, von Herrmann’s Transzendenz und Ereignis: Heideggers “Beiträge zur Philosophie,” Ein Kommentar (2019) is an important expansion and elaboration of what he had argued in the 1994 text. The present essay, composed in 2006 to mark the thirtieth anniversary of Heidegger’s death and not yet published in German, is a masterful overview of the unity of Heidegger’s thinking from 1919 to 1976. Its third section offers an incisive summary of issues expounded in both of the aforementioned texts.

Now that virtually all of Heidegger’s Gesamtausgabe is available, his pre-Being and Time courses (in Division 2) along with the seven major treatises on Ereignis (in Division 3) shed important new light on his focal topic. Therefore, Prof. von Herrmann invites us to review the entire oeuvre and to revise and even jettison what he calls “still current but outdated opinions” about it. His present essay provides principled arguments supporting that revision and, among other things, offers decisive clarifications of the following important issues.


1.1. The essay shows that, from beginning to end, Heidegger’s work was phenomenological and hermeneutical, i.e., focused exclusively on meaningfulness and its source (Anwesen and Anwesenlassen, GA 14: 45.28–30/37.4–5), both of them in correlation with ex-sistence (Dasein).

1.2 Whereas Being and Time I.1 showed how entities are intelligible, Heidegger’s final goal was to show how being is intelligible (“die Frage nach dem möglichen Verständnis des Seins überhaupt,” GA 24: 444.30–31/313.1–2). The heuristic title for that goal was der Sinn von Sein, and his early transcendental-horizonal approach argued that being is intelligible thanks to the thrown-open clearing’s time-determined horizon (GA 24: 428–45/302–313).



2.1 Von Herrmann argues, as Richardson had in Heidegger, 623–41, that there is no rupture between the early and later Heidegger, only an immanent transformation of the transcendental-horizonal approach into the Ereignis-oriented approach. Whereas Being and Time read ex-sistence as being thrown forward (geworfen-entworfen) to hold open the clearing, Contributions reads that thrownness as ex-sistence’s being appropriated (Ereignetsein) to holding open the clearing. In both cases, what thrownness aka appropriatedness is inevitably for is: to hold open the clearing. (“Ent-wurf besagt: Er-öffnung und Offenhalten des Offenen, Lichten der Lichtung”: GA 49: 41.25–26.) What remains constant in both approaches is the fact that ex-sistence cannot not hold open the clearing – because ex-sistence’s very way of being is to be the clearing (Lichtung-sein: GA 15: 380.11/69.4–5; GA 69: 101.12/85.23), and “being the clearing” means holding it open (Zollikoner Seminare 351.12–13/281.31–32).

2.2 Thus, ex-sistence does not take the initiative to “project the clearing open” sua sponte et ex nihilo; nor is the clearing a Separate Something, endowed with agency, that occasionally drags ex-sistence over into the clearing. Rather, the clearing is the Worumwillen, the raison d’être, the τέλος of the ἐν-τελ-έχεια that determines ex-sistence to be then clearing, analogous to the way, in traditional philosophy, your human essence determines you to be your mind. Ex-sistence cannot not be the clearing, any more than you cannot not be your mind. We are “condemned” to hold the clearing open: that is our Schicksal and Geschick. And resolve in the early Heidegger (GA 2: 395.27/SZ 298.25) and the Einkehr in das Ereignis in the later Heidegger (GA 14: 51.33–34/42.30–31) are ex aequo names for the enactment of amor fati.



3.1 Heidegger frequently repeated – although with virtually no effect on Anglophone scholarship – that Ereignis is most certainly not an event, hence not even the “event of appropriation” (GA 11: 45.19–20/36.18–19; GA 12: 247.10/127.26–27; GA 14: 25.33–26.2/20.29–33; GA 70: 17.19; GA 98: 341.25). Ereignis is nothing chronological. It did not operate once upon a time (say, with Parmenides and Heraclitus), only to stop with Plato, but hopefully to return one day “when Being finally reveals itself.” No, Ereignis is always already at work wherever there is ex-sistence. It is our very way of being, our Wesen/Wesung. As such, it is “ontologically prior” (ontologisch vorgängig) and “always already operative apriori” (das jeweils schon voraus Wesende: GA 2: 114n). In Aristotle’s terms, it is “prior by nature” (πρότερον τῇ ϕύσει: Posterior Analytics I 2, 71b34) insofar as it is “what and how human being always already is” (τὸ τί ἦν [ἀνθρώπῳ] εἶναι: Metaphysics VI 1, 1025b28–29).

3.2 Heidegger terms Ereignis the Gegenschwung – which in turn is die Sache selbst of all his thought. This Gegenschwung is the reciprocity (Latin: reci-proci-tas) of ex-sistence ↔ clearing, the back-and-forth oscillation of (1) ex-sistence as fated to hold open the clearing, and (2) the clearing as needing ex-sistence to hold it open. Hence, there are not two different “somethings” – ex-sistence over here, the clearing over there – that need a tertium quid to relate them to each other. Their reciprocity is the relation (“Der Bezug ist das Seyn selbst, und das Menschenwesen ist der selbe Bezug”: GA 73.1: 790.5–8), something Heidegger had already intimated in Being and Time (8.17/28.11) when he spoke of the remarkable Rück- oder Vorbezogenheit of being and the questioning of being.

3.3 This reciprocity is also the primary meaning of the Kehre, which was not some mid-course correction in the 1930s, a supposed “turn” in Heidegger’s thinking from Dominant Dasein to Big Being. Rather, it is baked into the very Sachverhalt of his thinking as the reciprocity that sustains the realm of being itself. The Kehre in its primary sense is the ever-operative Ur-Faktum that defines human facticity. That is to


say: our ineluctable Worumwillen, our very reason-for-being – that into which we are thrown, that for which we are appropriated – is to hold open the clearing.


4.1 Professor von Herrmann’s works have clearly shown (and a private communication has recently confirmed) that Heidegger’s Seinsgeschichte in its primary and basic sense does not fit any of the current meanings of either the English “history” or the German Geschichte. Rather, the primary sense of Geschichte bespeaks the determining claim (Anspruch) that the clearing has on ex-sistence, whereby ex-sistence cannot not hold open the clearing as the locus of intelligibility. This claim is what Heidegger means by the appropriation of ex-sistence.

4.2 In Contributions and elsewhere, Heidegger speaks of that claim as a Zuruf – the clearing’s “call” to ex-sistence to hold open the clearing (an offer ex-sistence can’t refuse) – or as a Zuwurf, as if the task of holding open the clearing were “thrown to” ex-sistence (into its lap, as it were), a “throw” that ex-sistence cannot not “catch” and that ideally it would resolutely take over as its own (GA 2: 431.13–15/SZ 325.41–42/; GA 65: 322.7–8/254.36–37). Given the difficulty of rendering Zuwurf and Zuruf smoothly and elegantly into English, I employ “appropriation” – which is what those two terms actually mean – to translate them.

4.3 The various forms the clearing takes in the course of metaphysics (e.g., Platonic, Aristotelian, Thomistic, etc.) are what Heidegger calls Geschicke or Schickungen. Those epochal “sendings” of the clearing reveal entities within a certain form of being (i.e., render them intelligible in such ontological forms as εἶδος, ἐνέργεια, esse) while concealing the clearing-as-appropriating-ex-sistence. These revealing-concealing Geschicke, taken together, constitute the Geschichte des Seins: metaphysics as disclosing entities while overlooking and forgetting the clearing.

The Geschichte des Seins comes to an end once one resolutely embraces one’s appropriation (die Einkehr in das Ereignis). That


entails actively allowing the clearing its intrinsic hiddenness (ϕύσις κρύπτεσθαι ϕιλεῖ) instead of overlooking and forgetting it.

4.4 Section 3 of the essay notes the difference between the Geschichtlichkeit of ex-sistence and that of the clearing. Both, in fact, have to do with the appropriation of ex-sistence, but in different ways. In the early Heidegger, ex-sistence’s Geschichtlichkeit is the ability to shape one’s present-future in terms of one’s mortal thrownness into sustaining the clearing (GA 2: 509.8–16/SZ 385.11–18). In the later Heidegger, the clearing’s Geschichtlichkeit is bound up with the epochal appropriation of key metaphysical thinkers – “epochal” insofar as the appropriation of ex-sistence remains in ἐποχή, bracketed out, while entities get disclosed in various forms, from Plato’s εἶδος to Nietzsche’s Will to Power.

4.5 Just as the Seinsgeschichte in its primary sense should not be translated as the “history of being,” so too seinsgeschichtlich should never be translated as “being-historical” and even less so as “onto-historical.” The reason: “historical” is a misreading of geschichtlich, and “onto-” refers to entities rather than the clearing.



Von Herrmann helpfully distinguishes the (inseparable) ontological and ontic aspects of human being by using “Existenz” to name the Sein of human being and “Dasein” to name the human being as ein Seiendes. The present translation leaves Existenz in the German and renders Dasein as “ex-sistence” (etymologically: sistere: “made to stand” + ex: “out ahead”).


I translate Sein selbst qua Aufgeschlossenheit as “openedness” and Sein qua Entdecktheit des Seienden as the “disclosedness” of entities.



Heidegger’s Umsicht is his retrieval of the unsaid in Aristotle’s ϕρόνησις, the ability to act well in human affairs. The Latin translation of ϕρόνησις is prudentia, which is a contraction of pro-videntia, to see ahead (providere) to what one wants to accomplish. Umsicht is not a matter of “looking around” (circumspicere, “um”-sehen) but, rather, of foresight into one’s goal or purpose.


Von Herrmann makes it clear that the phrase die Wahrheit des Seins is a synonym for die Lichtung (see above, p. 50.22–23), and therefore I translate that more cumbersome phrase by the less unwieldy term “the clearing.”

5. WAHRHEIT, ἀλήθεια, “TRUTH”

At the beginning of his career (GA 2: 4–9/SZ 219.33–37), and again in the middle (GA 45: 98.8–12/87.20–24), and yet again in two retractationes towards the end (GA 14: 86.16–20/70.2–5; GA 15: 262.5–10/161.31–34), Heidegger made it unambiguously clear that ἀλήθεια should never be translated by Wahrheit except when it refers to “correctness” or adaequatio intellectus et rei (ἀλήθεια-3). That notwithstanding, in 1967 he admitted that “Wahrheit” had occasionally “slipped in” to his work (schob sich dazwischen: GA 15: 262.10/161.34).

Accordingly, as above, I translate the Aufgeschlossenheit of the clearing (ἀλήθεια-1) as “openedness” and the Entdecktheit des Seienden (ἀλήθεια-2) as “disclosedness,” and I put scare quotes around the word “truth” when it “slips in” to Heidegger’s texts as a name for either Aufgeschlossenheit or Entdecktheit.


6.1 In keeping with Heidegger’s clarifications, I translate sich zeitigen and Zeitigung as “to unfold” and “the unfolding” (cf. Zollikoner


Seminare 203.7–8/158.10–11: “Zeitigung als Sich-zeitigen ist Sich-entfalten, aufgehen und so erscheinen” and GA 73.1: 85.18–19: “ϕύσις: das Sichentfaltende Aufgehen”). Sich zeitigen and Zeitigung are usually mistranslated as “to temporalize” and “temporalization,” terms that say nothing and obscure everything.

6.2 In the “remarkable reciprocity” of ex-sistence ↔︎ clearing, Zeitlichkeit pertains to ex-sistence, and Zeit (aka Temporalität) pertains correlatively to the clearing. Heidegger made it clear that Zeit was only a preliminary name for the clearing (Vorname: GA 9: 376.11/285.26–27 et passim), and therefore I use scare quotes in translating Zeit as “time.” To distinguish Zeitlichkeit and Temporalität in English, I translate the former as “temporality” and the latter as the “time-character” of the clearing/being.

6.3 Ex-sistence as the temporal movement of being-ahead-of-itselfas- coming-back (Sich-vorweg-sein als Zurückkommen: GA 21: 147.23– 26/124.19–20) is what makes possible the disclosure of entities. But it is important not to confuse two different kinds of “coming back” or “returning”: ex-sistence returning to entities vs. ex-sistence returning to itself.

1. Disclosing entities (e.g., Being and Time §18) is a matter of ex-sistence

• being ahead of entities, directed to purposes, while simultaneously

• returning to those entities to disclose them in terms of those purposes

2. But self-disclosive temporality (e.g., Being and Time §65) is a matter of ex-sistence

• being ahead of itself (as coming-to-itself, zu-kommen) while simultaneously

returning to itself in the sense of remaining with what and how ex-sistence always already is, “das heißt sein ‘Gewesen’” (GA 2: 431.17/SZ 326.1).


3. Heidegger holds that

• like all forms of κίνησις, ex-sistence has its present in terms of its becoming, its being-ahead-of-itself; and

• ex-sistence’s present and becoming are grounded in how ex-sistence always already is: its Gewesen or Gewesenheit (GA 2: 455.20–21/SZ 344.15–16: aus ihr [Gewesenheit] erst Zukunft und Gegenwart sich zeitigen);

• ex-sistence’s becoming thus is a matter of “returning to” itself in the sense of remaining with its ἀρχή, the very source of its becoming, namely: how it always already is (GA 9: 293.10–11/224.5–7).

In short, ex-sistence’s Wesen or way of being is becoming as coming-to-itself; and becoming, for all the “progress” it may entail, is a matter of ex sistence’s remaining with – i.e., being – what it always already is. Ex-sistence’s Wesen is its Ge-wesen.

Confusion on the two meanings of “coming back” is widespread in Heidegger scholarship and has fundamentally obscured the kinetic structure of temporality. However, in Section 2 of the essay von Herrmann gets the matter exactly right.

6.4 The unspoken but absolutely basic presupposition informing Heidegger’s concept of temporality is the structure of κίνησις in Aristotle. On May 12, 1971, Heidegger told a young visitor that if he wanted to understand Heidegger, he first had to understand the two issues that guided him to the heart of his thinking: Husserl’s categorial intuition of being (Logical Investigations, vol. 2, vi/6) and Aristotle’s doctrine of κίνησις (Physics III 1–3). Thus, what Heidegger said in 1951 about studying Aristotle (GA 8: 78.9/73.33) applies here as well. Aristotle famously declared that if you don’t understand κίνησις, you can’t understand ϕύσις (Physics III 1, 200b14–15) – which Heidegger might gloss: If you don’t understand κίνησις, you’ll never understand temporality, much less ϕύσις.



Each time he refers to Heidegger’s two Wege (approaches, paths), von Herrmann tends to write out the full description of each one, e.g., der transzendental-horizontale Weg and der seins- oder ereignisgeschichtliche Weg. The repetition becomes a bit awkward when translated each time into English. Therefore, after the essay has made it clear what the structure of each approach is, I generally simplify the two Wege into “the first approach” and “the second approach” – which might equally be rendered as “the first phase” and “the second phase.” (Re geschichtlich, see above, “Translator’s Afterword, no. 4.” )



Abriegelung self-isolation
Abstand distantiation
Anwesenheit presentness
Aufgeschlossenheit openedness
bedeutsam meaningful, significant
begegnen to encounter
Begriff concept, notion
Bekümmerung care, caring
Bergen concealing
Blickbahn perspective, focus
Blickstellung viewpoint
Dasein, Da-sein ex sistence
Differenz distinction, difference
eigen (see also ureigen, ureigenst) own, proper
Eigentum is “owned” by
einrücken to enter
entrücken to transpose
enthüllen to disclose, uncover
Entschluss resolve (noun)


entwerfen to project, throw open, hold open
Entwerfendsein projectively opening up
ereignen to appropriate
Ereignis, Er-eignis appropriation, ap-propriation
erleben to experience
Erleben, Erlebnis experience
Erschlossenheit openedness
Existenz Existenz (rarely: ex sistence)
existenzial ex-sistential
Existieren ex-sisting (gerund)
existierend ex-sistent; ex-sisting (adj.)
ekstatisch ex-static
Gegenschwung reciprocity
Gegewärtigen making present
Gegnen encountering (gerund)
Gegnet countryside
gehören in belongs to, is integral to
Gelassenheit releasement
Geschichtlichsein being historical (italicized)
geworfen, Geworfenheit thrown, thrownness
historisch “historical”
je und je always and ever
jeweilig particular, (occasionaly:) always
Man, das “everyone”
mit-gehen to follow out, to track
Neigung inclination
Praesenz being present
Sein being
Sein als solches, Sein überhaupt being itself
Selbsterschlossenheit self-openedness
Sinn intelligibility; sense
Sinnrichtung the direction intelligibility takes
Sorge concern (following William J. Richardson)


Sorgetragen concern for
Temporalität (cf. Zeit) time-character [of being]
übersteigen to stand out beyond
Umsicht foresight
umsichtig foresightful
Umwelt environment; most immediate world
Unterschied distinction, difference
ureigen own unprecedented
ureigenst most basic and core
ursprünglichst most fundamental and original
Währen und Walten, Wesensgeschehen the prevailing and perduring way something comes to pass and is
Wahrheit des Seins clearing (see “Notes on the Translation,” 4)
Wandel transformation
Weg approach; path, trajectory
Wesung way of being
Zeit (cf. Temporalität) “time”
zeithaft time-determined
Zeitigung unfolding
Zeitlichkeit temporality
Zusammengehören reciprocity (of ex sistence and the clearing)
Zuwurf the clearing as thrown to ex-sistence



1 For an interpretation of this course as a whole, see F.-W. von Herrmann, Hermeneutik und Reflexion: Der Begriff der Phänomenologie bei Heidegger und Husserl. Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 2000.

2 [Translator’s note] The Geschichtlichkeit of the clearing, unlike that of ex-sistence, has to do with the clearing’s Entzug and Zukehr/Zuwurf, i.e., its remaining intrinsically concealed (entzogen) even as it appropriates ex-sistence (sich zukehren/zuwerfen) to hold open the clearing. Cf. F.-W. von Herrmann and F. Alfieri, Martin Heidegger, 47.8–10: “Die Geschichtlichkeit der Wahrheit des Seins zeigt sich in ihrem Walten zwischen Entzug oder Zukehr der Wahrheit des Seins. Die Zukehr faßt Heidegger als die Ereignung des Ereignisses, den Entzug dagegen als die Enteignung des Ereignisses.”

3 For an interpretation of this entire issue see F.-W. von Herrmann, Wege ins Ereignis, esp. 1–84.

4 [Translator’s note] The book was highly recommended to me years ago by William J. Richardson and was essential in shaping the “paradigm shift.”


Original version in Gatherings 10 (2020).