HEIDEGGER’S PHENOMENOLOGY OF THE GREEK GODS

Shawn Loht


Martin Heidegger’s long career shows a variety of engagements with philosophical thought on religion. Recent scholarship on this aspect of Heidegger’s thought typically examines one of the two principal thematic strands of his engagement with this subject. Some scholars are interested in Heidegger’s writing from the early 1920s on the phenomenology of religious life, in which Heidegger shows a strong interest in religious authenticity and the concept of the holy.1 Others studying Heidegger and religion have looked to the later post-Being and Time writings on topics such as the fourfold, human dwelling, and Heidegger’s engagement with gods, the holy, and the divine in Hölderlin.2 A few recent texts have also appeared that seek to account for the progression and guiding threads of Heidegger’s views on religion from his early studies to his later works.3 On this note there is also some disagreement regarding whether one can discern in Heidegger a unified, consistent view of religion, or whether his various analyses of religion remain subordinate to his larger philosophical concerns.4

Notably absent from the significant work that has been done in the last two decades on Heidegger’s philosophy of religion is any sustained consideration of whether Heidegger’s writings on the gods of the presocratics should be viewed as studies of religious themes, or whether he understands these gods in an altogether different frame of reference. This paper seeks to comprehend Heidegger’s understanding of the Greek gods in his work on Heraclitus and Parmenides from the early 1940s. My point of orientation is the lecture courses he gave on these figures between 1942 and 1944, with specific focus on the Heraclitus course of summer 1943. A larger goal of this paper is to lay some groundwork for future scholarship regarding how Heidegger’s engagement with the Greek gods—and what is traditionally seen as Greek “religion”—squares with his broader views on the religious. Some work has made reference to the religious dimensions of Heidegger’s reading of Parmenides.5 But there is an especially large absence in the scholarship concerning Heidegger’s understanding of gods in Heraclitus, particularly in view of the central role gods play in Heidegger’s reading. The continued lack of availability of Heidegger’s Heraclitus lecture courses in English translation has no doubt led scholars to overlook their significance for this area of Heidegger research.6 In addition, one could argue that Heidegger’s long-available writings on Hölderlin, and on this poet’s attempts to regain for modernity the spirit of the Greek experience, have overshadowed what Heidegger expresses in his own voice on the ancient gods.7

The main challenge in Heidegger’s account of the Greek gods that I wish to reckon with stems from some assertions he makes at the beginning of the summer 1943 Heraclitus course. He states that “there is no Greek ‘religion’” and also “no Greek ‘theology’” (GA 55, 13–14 {13}).8 This claim would likely be less problematic if, for instance, Heidegger were to suggest alongside that the Greeks of Heraclitus’ time are simply secular or that they already understand gods metaphysically. What is puzzling, however, is that Heidegger holds Heraclitus and the Greeks to have gods that show themselves in ordinary spheres of experience (GA 55, 13). Heidegger justifies this initial claim about a lack of Greek religion by asserting that gods are not objects of a faith but instead are entirely present for the Greeks in a way foreign to modern sensibilities. The questions that arise from these claims are the following: how is one to regard Heraclitus’ gods within a non-religious framework? And more generally, how does Heidegger understand the role of the Greek gods? Heidegger gives some attention to these questions at the 1943 course’s end, arguing that gods function as a specific manifestation of Being revealed as φύσις. But he leaves significant interpretive work to the reader. In the next several paragraphs I develop the context of these claims, then I give a close reading of Heidegger’s 1943 lecture course on Heraclitus. In this reading I give particular attention to how he develops his understanding of gods in the greater scheme of Heraclitus’ thought. I restrict myself to the 1943 course, which is entitled “The Inception of Occidental Thought [Der Anfang des Abendländischen Denkens].” The second course on Heraclitus, from summer 1944, examines the Heraclitean conception of logo;", and contains only passing reference to gods or religion. The Parmenides course of 1942–43, however, offers some avenues that provide a complementary foil to Heidegger’s reading of gods in Heraclitus. In the last two sections I address how that earlier course may help to round out what Heidegger says in his account of Heraclitus.

The Context for Heidegger’s Discussion of Heraclitus and the Greek Gods

Heidegger’s initial discussion of Heraclitus’ gods occurs early in the 1943 Heraclitus course. In his general introduction to the thinker, Heidegger cites two accounts preserved by Aristotle and Diogenes Laertius. The goal is to evaluate how ancient portrayals of the Ephesian reflect his style of thinking. Aristotle relates a story of Heraclitus receiving visitors at his house while warming himself at the oven. Heraclitus encourages them to enter, emphasizing that “even in here,” that is, in the oven, gods are present (GA 55, 6). The story from Diogenes tells of an encounter between Heraclitus and some citizens of Ephesus in a similar situation. The Ephesians are dumbfounded upon finding Heraclitus playing a children’s dice game in the temple of Artemis. Heraclitus rebukes them for judging how he chooses to spend his time, asking mockingly whether engagement in political affairs would make his time better spent (GA 55, 10 {10}).

Heidegger emphasizes that despite their questionable historical accuracy, these accounts indicate something substantial about Heraclitus and his thought: that in seemingly everyday situations, Heraclitus finds himself in a nearness [Nähe] to the gods (GA 55, 10). And alternately, Heidegger says, this presence of the gods in everyday places and situations such as the kitchen oven and the dice game articulates an important juxtaposition. One can see in Heraclitus the extraordinary or uncanny [das Ungeheure] placed alongside the commonplace [das Gewöhnlich] and the everyday [das Alltäglich]. The essence of the gods for the Greeks, Heidegger writes, is this very appearing in the commonplace (GA 55, 8 {9}). Gods emerge to human view as a kind of peering or looking-in [das Hereinblicken] from the extraordinary into the ordinary [das Geheure]. In this emergence, the commonplace and extraordinary become articulated in mutual contrast and unity (GA 55, 8). The introductory lesson here is that Heraclitus’thought occurs between these opposing poles of experience (GA 55, 8).9

A related claim that follows in Heidegger’s introduction to Heraclitus is his opaque remark that for the Greeks there is no “religion,” and in addition, no “theology” (GA 55, 14-15 {13}). Heidegger justifies this claim by suggesting that these terms take their modern colloquial meaning from the post-Greek, Christian distinction between objects of faith and things known through reason (GA 55, 13–14 {13}). Similarly, even setting theology and religious faith aside, Heidegger asserts that Heraclitus’ gods cannot be understood metaphysically, as world-causes or prime movers. This is a later innovation of philosophers, not present in Heraclitus (GA 55, 13).

Another twist comes in the claim Heidegger makes immediately following these comments: he says that Artemis is “the goddess of Heraclitus.” This claim, Heidegger says, does not get its thrust from cultural knowledge about Greece or from historical observations on Heraclitus’ geographic origin in Ephesus, where Artemis was a matron goddess (GA 55, 14 {13}). Rather, Heidegger says:

Artemis is the goddess of the thinker Heraclitus,… because she is the goddess of [all of] that which the thinker has to think. (GA 55, 14 {13})10

Heidegger explains some of his meaning here by elaborating on Artemis’ signs or symbols [Zeichen], suggesting that these are indicative of what Heraclitus thinks (GA 55, 16 {14}). Many of Heraclitus’ own keywords overlap with these traditionally cited symbols of the goddess. For instance, Artemis bears the torch, a symbol connecting with Heraclitus’ many references to fire and light. Similarly, Artemis is the huntress, as symbolized in her use of the bow and the lyre. The bow, which uses opposing forces of tension to issue the arrow, expresses at once the hunt’s harmonic connection of life and death. Above all, Artemis is the goddess of nature, or φύσις (GA 55, 16 {14}).

The important question pregnant in this introduction of Heraclitus is the following: what does it mean for Heraclitus to have a god or gods, particularly if the early Greeks’ gods are not beings of a religious orientation? Certainly, Heidegger senses the ambiguity in the series of claims that prompt this question. He says here that only a preliminary response to the concern can be given:

We do not yet fathom the originary way in which the Greeks were knowers [of the gods]. It was because they were knowers in this way, that they found the origin of genuine thinking. (GA 55, 15 {14})11

In the case of Heraclitus then, his knowledge of the gods relates to the manner in which his thought is “originary” [anfänglich]. “Originary” is a term whose meaning Heidegger only wishes to preview here. The meaning of the concept can only emerge in view of the scope of the entire course.12

Heidegger’s claim that Artemis is the goddess of Heraclitus also requires further inquiry in view of Heraclitus’ own terse statements related to gods and traditionally-viewed religious subjects. A glance at the hundred-odd extant fragments does not yield enough information to suggest that Heraclitus works out anything resembling a systematic doctrine of gods. Much less do the fragments mark any divinities as “the” god or goddess of Heraclitus in the way Heidegger suggests. In fact, only a handful of fragments contain any reference to specific Greek gods or demigods. Many others allude to the class term “gods,” while some discuss what one might call religious sorts of experiences.13 But overall, these fragments yield little for advocating the stance that particular gods speak for Heraclitus or function as his chosen gods. However, there is positive support for the view that Heraclitus downplays considering gods as world-creators. The strongest evidence for reading Heraclitus this way is found in Fragment 30, where Heraclitus speaks of κόσμος. In this fragment, Heraclitus says that the world-whole, or embellished arrangement of the all, is an ever-living fire, created by neither god nor man.14

Heidegger’s Reading of the Heraclitean Fragments

Heidegger uses Fragment 16 as a foundation for his analysis of Heraclitus in the 1943 course. Although he incorporates the fragment numbering of the seminal Diels edition of Heraclitus, Heidegger reads Fragment 16 as the first one, suggesting that this fragment will serve as both the center of the inquiry and the glue binding the narrative together (GA 55, 44 {37}).15 The fragment reads:

τὸ μὴ δῦνόν ποτε πῶς ἄν τις λάθοι; How would anyone be concealed from that which does not set? (GA 55, 44 {37})16

Heidegger asserts that there are two crucial items to notice within the fragment’s question. First, there is the question of precisely what it is that does not set. Secondly, the impossibility of being concealed or hidden [verborgen] requires elucidation (GA 55, 45–46 {38}). In regard to the first question, Heidegger holds that whatever this fragment conceives as that which does not set cannot be understood as a substance (GA 55, 47 {39}).

In order to justify these initial assertions further, Heidegger dissects the two principal words of the fragment that pose its riddle: δῦνόν, “setting” [Untergehen], and λάθοι, “concealing” [verborgen]. The term δῦνόν carries a connotation of becoming veiled, and in a particularly temporary fashion (GA 55, 49-50 {41}). Heidegger clarifies the concept as follows: according to the Greek sense, “setting” or δῦνόν “has its essence from entering into a concealment” (GA 55, 49–50).17 In other words, δῦνόν carries a sense of becoming concealed, but after which it will become uncovered again. The larger Greek phrase μὴ δῦνόν ποτε, however, suggests a deeper meaning. For Heraclitus to refer to “that which does not set” implies a broader notion of what never sets. That is, the fragment suggests a general opposition to setting, over and above claiming that setting will not happen now or in the near future. Thus, μὴ δῦνόν ποτε becomes “that which never sets” (GA 55, 85–86 {65}).

Heidegger also suggests transforming the phrase “that which never sets” into the phrase “that which always rises.” This rendering is predicated on the original statement’s obvious suggestion of celestial bodies that alternately set then rise again. Whatever never sets must always be rising (GA 55, 87 {66}). What is more, Heidegger notes that “always-rising,” in Greek τὸ ἀει φύον, shares a kinship to the Greek keyword φύσις through the common stem, φύ-. The original meaning of φύσις retained in its stem φύ- is not “nature” but instead “to rise.” Accordingly Heidegger suggests that if one reads τὸ μὴ δῦνόν ποτε as “that which always rises,” this phrase equally names φύσις proper (GA 55, 87). This reading therefore renders Fragment 16 a riddle of hiding from what always rises: how could anyone be hidden, λάθοι, in relation to φύσις, the always-rising (GA 55, 87)?

The remainder of Heidegger’s reading in the 1943 course further develops this sense of opposition by examining related fragments, especially those pertaining to φύσις. Yet at this juncture it remains to be seen why he reserves for φύσις such a primacy. Some clarification comes with Heidegger’s citation of Fragment 123, which he considers Heraclitus’ second fragment. This epithet, Heidegger says, shows the reading of Fragment 16 excised thus far to be incomplete. Fragment 123 in fact mentions φύσις directly:

φύσις κρύπτεσθαι φιλεῖ. Rising gives favor to self-concealment. (GA 55, 110 {84}).18

Heidegger reads this fragment’s term κρύπτεσθαι to speak reflexively of “self-concealment” rather than mere “concealment.” In the -εσθαι conjugation, κρύπτεσθαι can function in either the passive or middle voice. Heidegger reads it in the middle voice: rising favors self-concealing, rather than being concealed by an outside agent.19 The complication this fragment raises, though, concerns how φύσις can give favor to self-concealment (κρύπτειν), juxtaposed with the proposed reading of Fragment 16. The latter epithet maintains the impossibility being concealed from φύσις. Similarly, Heidegger observes that Fragment 123’s notion of φύσις also poses interpretive difficulty in its own right. In what sense can φύσις favor self-concealment if it means rising, and thus opposition to concealment or hiddenness (GA 55, 110 {84})?

Heidegger appeals again to the intrinsic meaning of φύσις. The Greek stem φύ- means a rising from and in relation to concealment. Therefore, the concealment that occurs with “setting” is implicit in the very idea of “rising.” This line of thought in turn clarifies the meaning of φιλεῖ: in Fragment 123. Heidegger suggests rendering φιλεῖ: as “gives favor,” in the sense of granting or not begrudging what is due to the other. To “give favor” entails bearing the other’s essence (GA 55, 128 {98}). In the case of rising and self-concealing, rising gives favor to self-concealing, and vice versa, because these preserve for one another and grant to one another what each essentially is. Heidegger concludes that φύσις and what it favors, κρύπτεσθαι, cannot be separated. They belong together. By analogy, a spring rises or originates from a concealed source. The hidden trickle feeding the spring, and the spring itself are twin dimensions of the same phenomenon (GA 55, 137 {104}).

Heidegger expands this line of interpretation by citing two other fragments. Fragment 54 reads:

ἁρμονίη ἀφανὴς φανερῆς κρείττων. An inconspicuous jointure is nobler than an apparent one. (GA 55, 142 {108})20

Heidegger suggests reading ἁρμονίη ἀφανὴς, or “inconspicuous jointure,” to convey precisely the nature of φύσις. The manifestation of φύσις is an ἀρμονία ἀφανὴς, a hidden joining of two opposing motions. Heidegger remarks that this inconspicuous jointure is not, properly speaking, something invisible [unsichtbare] but rather is unapparent [unscheinbare] in the sense of what is most fundamentally seen [das anfänglich Gesichtete]. The concept of space [Raum] provides an example (GA 55, 143 {109}). In the instance of space, when one walks into a room, although one first sees objects, furniture, and people, space is the foremost thing one sees, despite one’s lack of “perceiving” it (GA 55, 143). With this observation in mind, Heidegger calls ἀρμονία the φύ-ειν of φύσις. That is, φύσις is ἀρμονία in the infinitive verb form (φύ-ειν). It is the hidden jointure in which φύσις qua rising actually rises from its concealment (GA 55, 141–42 {107}). A phrase Heidegger selects from Fragment 51 bolsters this sense of φύσις:

παλίντονος ἁρμονίη o{kqsper tovxou kai; luvrh". The jointure is backward-stretched (namely, bringing itself apart), as one sees it in the bow and the lyre. (GA 55, 152 {115})21

This fragment suggests that the unity within φύσις is a backward-stretching, or as Heidegger clarifies, a mutual tensioning and relaxing between rising and concealing that allows each to transpire (GA 55, 147 {111}).

It is here that Heidegger’s treatment begins to circle back to the gods and their meaning for Heraclitus. The backward-stretching named in Fragment 51 alludes to two of the symbols of Artemis, the bow and the lyre. This connection suggests consequently that Artemis’ symbols express the structure of φύσις (GA 55, 152). In the remaining exegesis of the course, Heidegger’s account of the meaning of gods for Heraclitus focuses on the primacy of φύσις considered in terms of rising. The decision to render φύσις this way rather than in terms of setting has not yet been questioned fundamentally. Why emphasize the rising aspect of φύσις? Two other fragments suggest answers with which Heidegger also makes theological allusions in the vein of Fragment 16. Fragment 64 reads:

τὰ δὲ πάντα οἰακίζει Κεραυνός. The whole of that which is, however, is steered by lightning. (GA 55, 162 {123})22

Fragment 30 (abridging Heidegger’s very long German translation) reads:

κόσμον τόνδε, τὸν αὐτὸν ἁπάντων, οὔτε τις θεῶν οὔτα ἀνθρώπων ἐποίησεν, ἀλλ᾽ἦν ἀεὶ καὶ ἔστιν καὶ ἔσται πῦρ ἀείζωον, ἁπτόμενον μέτρα καὶ ἀποσβεννύμενον μέτρα. This adornment . . . was produced neither by one of the gods nor by any man, but rather it was always and (always) is and (always) will be: (namely) ever-rising fire, lighting up the far regions (clearings), extinguishing the far regions (into what is without clearing). (GA 55, 165 {124})23

The key to these fragments, Heidegger says, rests in the function of their shared motif of light. Light, or φα- in the Greek, fosters a visible ἀρμονία in contrast to the ἁθανὴς or unseen dimension of φύσις (GA 55, 165). This conception of light or lighting, represented by the lightning bolt in Fragment 64 and fire in Fragment 30, is special because light allows all beings to appear. Light possesses the unique capacity to make things appear specifically as rising things. A lightning strike in the night causes κόσμος, the embellished adornment or arrangement [Zier], to appear in its original structure. Fire likewise holds the capacity of giving this visible structure of κόσμος its original Weiten, mevtron, that is, regions or expanses (GA 55, 170–71 {128}). The light from a torch or fire burning in the night causes the proximity of nearby visible things to arise for the perceiver. Yet light for its part always appears out of a hidden source. In sum, these phenomena reveal a special connection between φύσις and the power of light. Still, why should one read φύσις in Fragment 16 as “rising” instead of “setting”? On one hand, Heidegger suggests looking at the opening words of the fragment, which ask “How could anyone . . .?” The fragment thus seems to refer to anyone answerable as a “who.” On the other hand, Heidegger suggests considering the relationship between human beings, that is, those answerable as “who,” and the dimension of light contained in φύσις. Human beings live an existence that is subject to light; human life is a state of illumination rather than darkness. Because human beings find themselves comported toward light’s revealing power, Heidegger concludes that Fragment 16 expresses light’s fundamental governance of the human (GA 55, 172–73 {130}).24 The fragment therefore asks after how someone who arises via φύσις can be concealed, λάθοι, from it. That is, how can one whose own self-realization becomes apparent through φύσις not also be a φύσις, an individual “rising”? Heidegger concludes that this inability for anyone to be concealed from φύσις expresses Heraclitus’ unspoken thought of ἀλήθεια. The latter expresses the fundamental uncovering and disclosure of φύσις. It is in this regard, Heidegger summarizes, that Heraclitus thinks ἀλήθεια as “the fundamental character of Being” (GA 55, 174-75 {131}). And because he thinks this fundamental character of Being, Heraclitus is an “originary” thinker (GA 55, 174). Heraclitus is an originary thinker precisely because he thinks the originary. As such, his primordial experience of ἀλήθεια grounds the mould in which all Western thinking follows. This insight into ἀλήθεια gives the Occidental or Western human its historical being (GA 55, 174, 180 {135}). Heidegger’s final rendering of Fragment 16 reads this way:

“How would anyone be concealed from what does not set,”—since namely ἀλήθεια is present in what never sets and in the essence of every τις? (GA 55, 175 {131})25

Heidegger gives ἀλήθεια such priority here because this concept seems to be what Fragment 16 really attempts to articulate. For Heidegger maintains that if Heraclitus did not think from under the sway of ἀλήθεια, Heraclitus would not be able to name φύσις. The keyword ἀλήθεια at once conveys the fragment’s relation of rising from concealment and expresses the necessary character of anyone who can witness Being’s rising (GA 55, 174 {131}).

With the principal outlines of the lecture course now almost complete, Heidegger makes another shift in reading. One must observe, he points out, that Fragment 16 also raises the issue of Heraclitus and gods. Gods are to be included among the entities unable to hide from φύσις because Fragment 16’s reference to an “anyone” logically includes any entity answerable as a “who.” It asks how “anyone” could hide from what always rises (GA 55, 174 {130}). Heidegger’s rationale here, which is echoed in some passages from the Parmenides course, is that gods as well as human beings must be understood as fundamentally constituted by an emergence in the light of φύσις.

Gods and Signs

Presumably using this remark about the gods’ relation to φύσις as a way to circle back to the course’s start and to deliver on the claims made there, Heidegger opens the final subsection of the 1943 Heraclitus course (Section §8, Subsection c) with the following series of reflections and summaries. Among the several manifestations of φύσις uncovered in the analysis was its inconspicuous jointure, ἀρμονία ἀφανὴς. This inconspicuous jointure of φύσις, however, is seen to be manifest in the symbols of Artemis. These symbols also traditionally represent Apollo, the twin brother of Artemis. Therefore, because these two gods bear symbols whose essence corresponds to the matter of Heraclitus’ thought, this is the reason for why Artemis and Apollo are the respective goddess and god of Heraclitus (GA 55, 177 {133}).26 These statements in large part repeat claims made at the outset of the course. But a decisive shift in how Heidegger regards these gods comes with his citation of Fragment 93. He prefaces his citation by asserting that this fragment indicates how Heraclitus names the god and thereby “makes him visible in his essence” (GA 55, 177).27 Fragment 93 reads:

ὀ ἄναξ, οὗ τὸ μαντεῖόν ἐστι τὸ ἐν Δελφοῖς, οὔτε λέγει οὔτε κρύπτει, ἀλλὰ σημαίνει. The high one whose oracle’s place is in Delphi neither (merely) reveals nor (merely) conceals, but he gives signs. (GA 55, 177)28

Heidegger takes the “high one” whose oracle resides at Delphi to mean Apollo, interpreting Fragment 93 to imply that the essence of gods consists in giving signs.29 Central is the fragment’s juxtaposition of σημαίνειν alongside the other keywords λέγειν and κρύπτειν. λέγειν indicates gathering, and equally, revealing or uncovering [entbergen]. κρύπτειν, on the other hand, carries a meaning of hiding or concealing— the opposite of λέγειν (GA 55, 178 {133}). What is remarkable for Heidegger about the “signs” [Zeichen] of Heraclitus’ term σημαίνειν, however, is that they function in a manner more primary than λέγειν and κρύπτειν. The term σημαίνειν conveys a “more original making-manifest” [Ursprünglicheres Erscheinlassen] operating prior to every instance of λέγειν and κρύπτειν (GA 55, 178). Sign-giving is a simpler, more originary mode of Being’s disclosure. Insofar as it is juxtaposed between λέγειν and κρύπτειν, sign-giving is a disclosure as well as a concealing.

The next question in the analysis, which Heidegger unravels somewhat opaquely, involves the nature of these signs themselves. Heidegger raises the issue explicitly: “what is a sign?” But more fundamentally, the question Heidegger needs to address at this juncture concerns just what distinguishes a sign from φύσις. These seem to have the same overall character. Heidegger responds that to give signs means:

to reveal something, which, while it appears, indicates within a concealment, and therefore conceals and covers over and thus lets the covering rise as such. The essence of signs is revealing concealing (GA 55, 178).30

By a “sign” Heidegger seems to mean an occurrence that appears and therefore uncovers, but which at the same time contains an overt dimension of hiddenness. But a sign must appear within φύσις. The latter is the most primary motion of uncovering from hiddenness. But what is unique about a sign is that, in its appearing, it maintains a hallmark of lingering, explicit impenetrability. Accordingly, Heidegger says that such signs are as distant from manufactured codes or pre-determined signals as one can imagine (GA 55, 179–80 {134}). He does not name examples, but a relevant instance of the sort of “sign” he means to discount may be the way in which red street signs or traffic lights give traffic the signal to “stop.” This kind of signification indicates a pre-established, rational meaning that is perfectly clear to one who knows the traffic laws. In Heidegger’s reading, the type of sign named in Fragment 93 must conceal while it becomes uncovered, so that an intrinsic hiddenness remains tucked away within whatever is uncovered.31 Prefabricated, man-made signs fail to meet this criterion.

Some additional clarification is needed, however, regarding what these signs are in a positive sense. How does the kind of sign Heidegger describes convey its meaning if this meaning is not discursive, not some kind of pre-programmed code, and not a completely opaque phenomenon lacking further meaning? Heidegger does not spell out any further how he understands these signs to function. What Heidegger envisions, though, seems to be signs that come on the scene with their meaning and thus their hiddenness ready-made. Such phenomena would reveal a concealment in such manner that this concealment can become a matter of thought.32 The earlier citations at the start of the lecture course regarding the bow, the lyre, and the torch, all of which Heidegger calls godly “symbols” or “signs” (the German word is the same in both places, Zeichen), also may illuminate what Heidegger says in the present context. These three objects can be said to “signify” the hidden jointure or ἀρμονία contained in the contrary elements of φύσις that grant to one another their essence. Moreover, following Heidegger’s reading of Fragment 93, the signs contained in these objects do not function purely as λέγειν or κρύπτειν. This is to say, these signs are not spoken words or impenetrable mysteries. Instead they convey something open to one’s insight that is nonetheless not perfectly comprehensible in a discursive fashion.

A broader implication of this account seems to be that, as altogether natural phenomena (that is, subject to φύσις), signs are instantiated by moments of experience that uncover something in a secretive way and by virtue of their own power.A parallel account of gods and signs from the Parmenides course bears this suggestion out: an instantaneous nighttime flash of lightning functions for the Greeks as a sign from the god (GA 54, 45–46/31).33 Although the meaning of this sign is hidden and difficult to discern, its obscure meaning is still regarded as inherent to its character. The sign is “dissembling,” obscuring a concealed message.

Remarkably though, Heidegger does not spell out any further in the Heraclitus course what it means to be a god. Nor does he clarify the possessive aspect of Heraclitus’ “having” of gods. The clearest positive assessment Heidegger gives of gods is expressed in this phrase: “In the manner that the god is a god, he must correspond to Being, that is, to the essence of φύσις” (GA 55, 177 {133}).34

But another way of broaching the question of gods from this analysis is as follows: how do signs connect to gods in Heidegger’s view? The gods “give” signs, but in what manner do they do this, such that Heidegger is led to claim that the signs appearing in φύσις actually originate in a god’s sending of them? Especially uncertain in Heidegger’s reading of Heraclitus is why he gives only very sparse argumentation in support of connecting gods to their signs phenomenologically. Fragment 93’s mention of the high one whose oracle gives signs is certainly a solid foundation for the sign/god framework Heidegger adapts, but so what? Lacking from Heidegger’s account is a more spelled-out description of the phenomenological evidence linking the signs that appear in φύσις to gods. Heidegger fails to account for why the essence of Heraclitus gods’ consists in giving signs. And does a god’s essence include anything else? Indeed, part of the motivation for Heidegger’s silence here is that he clearly does not want to convey that Heraclitus expresses a rational connection of gods and signs in the way of production or cause. Not only does this interpretation remove the spontaneous, independent character of the signs; it also verges on anachronistically rendering the Greek gods as Judeo-Christian world-creators. At the same time, the difficulty arises in deciphering how Heidegger views the link between Heraclitus’experience of signs and gods if the latter are not totally separate from the signs they give. For one thing, these gods cannot be understood as so distant from the human world that they become objects of faith rather than knowledge, as Heidegger stipulated at the beginning of the Heraclitus course. One may also take note that Heidegger likewise has been careful not to identify Heraclitus’ gods as Homeric, embodied divinities who appear and walk on earth. This whole line of questioning circles back to the question this paper started with: how does Heraclitus “have” gods if they are not the object of a religious orientation?

One way to respond to these questions is as follows: perhaps gods and signs are identical. In view of the phenomenological dimension of the φύσις-god-sign framework Heidegger describes in Heraclitus, nothing in the account unequivocally precludes an actual identity of god and sign. In addition, nothing in Heidegger’s account indicates that gods visibly appear alongside the showing of their signs. Gods’ giving of signs is not said to be a visible occurrence. To be sure, viewing these gods as identical with their signs seems to contradict Heidegger’s own words to the effect that in Fragment 93, Heraclitus finds the essence of a god to consist in sign-giving. That is, Heidegger does not say the essence of gods lay in being signs. Yet Heidegger also makes clear that the manifestation of signs, and the manner in which a god is a god, must correspond to φύσις. Perhaps most critically, signs for their part seem perfectly accountable without a look to the gods that “give” them, as Heidegger suggests in the following passage:

To signify [zeigen] in the sense of the sign means to reveal [offenbar machen] according to the essence of φύσις and its prevailing favor. Φύσις itself is the self-showing [das Sichzeigende], which essentially shows itself in signs [sich in den Zeichen zeigt]. (GA 55, 179 {134})35

But this proposal regarding the equation of gods to signs is a somewhat unfruitful reading of Heidegger’s words. Even with an implicit identity of god and sign, the same ambiguity remains for comprehending how Heidegger understands the gods and the manner in which he holds Heraclitus to know them. In short, what is a god beyond the signs manifested in φύσις? What is a god, such that gods may be the giving of signs

Gods and Demons in the Parmenides Course

Some of Heidegger’s descriptions of gods and their activity in the related 1942–43 Parmenides course suggest avenues for resolving the present ambiguity. Moreover, the continuity of these courses according to their original announcement as a unified sequence covering Parmenides and Heraclitus suggests that their accounts of gods are of a piece.36 Heidegger’s initial focus in the Parmenides course is not in fact the Eleatic figure’s poem so much as Parmenides’ portrayal of the goddess Ἀλήθεια. Indeed, a peculiar feature of Heidegger’s reading is his identification of the goddess in Parmenides’ poem with Ἀλήθεια, an identification Parmenides himself does not make in the extant fragments.37 Heidegger makes the explicit affirmation in the course’s opening pages that Parmenides’ goddess is ἀλήθεια and not merely the goddess of ἀλήθεια. Plainly Heidegger’s motivation here is in part to avoid hypostasizing truth as a definite thing, a mental concept available for subjective human judgment.38

Certainly one might wonder whether Heidegger’s characterization of this goddess provides clues into comprehending how he regards the Greeks’ gods. But in these passages from the Parmenides course Heidegger is terse on exactly why he makes this characterization. Scholars have been led to conclude that Heidegger’s silence on why Ἀλήθεια is Parmenides’ goddess can only be understood through comprehension of the course as a whole. The suggestion is that the course’s explorations on the history of Ἀλήθεια and “truth” function as this missing explanation.39 Heidegger wishes to read beyond Parmenides’ own words in order to unravel the poem itself as an historic eventuation of truth as ἀλήθεια and as a primordial disclosure of Being.40 The poem’s keyword ἀλήθεια indicates not merely what is unconcealed but more primarily, Being as unconcealing.41 This meaning seems to be Heidegger’s intonation in some passages from the course’s opening section. Heidegger says:

everything the thinker [Parmenides] says in the subsequent fragments of the “didactic poem” is the word of this goddess. If, at the very beginning, we pay heed to this and preserve it well and rigorously in our memory, from then on we shall take our direction from the insight, to be acknowledged gradually, that the dictum of the thinker speaks by bringing into language the word of this goddess. (GA 54, 6–7/4–5)

The goddess Ἀλήθεια and the poem are in a manner of speaking identical, such that the poem is best understood as a manifestation or granting of ἀλήθεια.

The goddess is the goddess “truth.” “The truth”— itself—is the goddess. Hence we shall avoid the locution that would speak of a goddess “of” the truth. . . . If, however, Parmenides calls the goddess “truth,” then here truth itself is being experienced as a goddess. (GA 54, 6–7/4–5)

The task then, as Heidegger writes in the course’s next subsection, is to unravel the meaning of ἀλήθεια, over and above the role of any gods or goddesses:

If we say in anticipation and without proof that the goddess Ἀλήθεια appears in the “didactic poem” of Parmenides not just for the sake of “poetic” embellishment but rather that the “essence” “truth” holds sway throughout the words of the thinker, then we need to clarify in advance the essence of Ἀλήθεια. (GA 54, 15-16/11)

A thorough analysis of the Parmenides course as a whole would take the present study too far afield. Of particular relevance for the present study, however, is Heidegger’s more developed treatment of gods (θεος) and demons (δαιμόνες) about two-thirds of the way through the course. The context of this treatment is the course’s sixth major section, in which Heidegger discusses the historic eventuation of truth in Plato. In this section, Heidegger aims to show that Plato’s thought, though significantly removed from the Parmenidean experience of Being as ἀλήθεια, still indicates a faint trace of this primordial disclosure. Heidegger focuses on some implications of the myth of Er from Plato’s Republic. This myth reports the account of a dead soldier named Er, who travels to a “demonic” place, a τόπος τις δαιμόνιος. At the end of this journey, Er receives instruction to report everything he has witnessed to mankind regarding the nature of the human race’s earthly sojourn (GA 54, 146–48/99).

Of particular note in Heidegger’s reading of Plato is his equation of das Ungeheure, or “the extraordinary,” to the concept of the “demonic” in the Er myth. It was observed above that for Heraclitus the gods presence themselves in the extraordinary [das Ungeheure]. The extraordinary occurs alongside the commonplace [das Gewöhnlich]. Similarly, in this section of the Parmenides course Heidegger describes the Greek experience of the extraordinary [das Ungeheure] as “the Being that shines into everything ordinary [das Geheure]” (GA 54, 150/101).

A feature of das Ungeheure Heidegger highlights here is its correlation to the Greek concept of to δαιμόνιον. Heidegger says that to δαιμόνιον conditions the appearance of das Ungeheure and its opposition to das Geheure. This conditional relationship holds because the “ordinary,” das Geheure, cannot be thought of as the basis for das Ungeheure (GA 54, 150/101). In short, Heidegger emphasizes that das Ungeheure cannot be regarded as simply the opposite of the commonplace and ordinary, as perhaps connoted by the terms “otherworldly” or “extramundane.”

Heidegger makes this relation of το δαιμόνιον and das Ungeheure more explicit by drawing out an implication of δαι-, the stem of δαιμόνιον. When rendered verbally, as δαι-ω, this keyword denotes presenting oneself in the sense of “pointing and showing” [Weisenden und Zeigen] (GA 54, 151/102). Thus, δαιμόνες are not “demons” of the Judeo-Christian variety. Instead, they “indicate the ordinary and point toward it” (GA 54, 151/102). As such, their presence grants the contrast of the ordinary with extraordinary, so that these poles of disclosure can emerge as distinct from one another. Some echo of Heidegger’s reading of the gods of Heraclitus is evident here when he adds the qualification that δαιμόνες “are who they are and are the way they are only in the essential domain of disclosure and of the self-disclosing of Being itself” (GA 54, 151/102).

The concept of δαιμόνες also has some overlap with how gods play into the Heraclitean conception of φύσις. Whereas Heraclitus’ gods must, in the manner that they are gods, correspond to φύσις, these δαιμόνες of the Parmenides course are also subordinate to and borne by Being’s fundamental disclosure. What is different about this account of δαιμόνες, however, is the more explicit connection Heidegger makes between Being as self-disclosure and the specific function δαιμόνες perform in distinguishing ordinary from extraordinary. In sum, δαιμόνες mediately communicate the self-giving of Being by conveying to the human sphere the attuning voice of Being’s disclosure precisely as the juncture of extraordinary and ordinary.42

Yet Heidegger also holds δαιμόνες to connect more fundamentally to a broader notion of gods. There is a kinship between the “pointing” function connoted by δαιμόνες and a meaning that is embedded in the Greek word θεά. θεά contains an ancient meaning of “looking” [blicken] as indicated by the verb θεάω. This meaning is more primary than the later meaning of “god” that the stem suggests. This double-edged meaning latent in θεά refers more fundamentally and originally to “looking” and to being a “looker” (GA 54, 152–55/103–04). But there is also phenomenological evidence to support understanding gods in this fashion. In order to be a looker, the looker must appear in the act of looking. As Heidegger says, “the one who looks shows himself, appears, and ‘is there’” (GA 54, 152–53/103). A looking-in on the part of the looker constitutes its appearance, because looking-in is experienced by the one who is seen. Thus, due to the kinship of meaning in the stem δαί- with θεά, Heidegger concludes that the ones who look into the ordinary and appear in it, τὸ θεαον, τὸ θειον, and alternately, ὁι θεοί, or “gods,” equally are οἱ δαιμόνες, the ones who point and give signs or hints [Weisenden und Winkenden] (GA 54, 154/104). Heidegger summarizes:

Because the god is, as god, the one who looks as the one emerging into presence, θεάον, the god is the δαίον-δαίμον that in the look presents himself as the unconcealed. The one who presents himself in looking is a god, because the ground of the [extraordinary] [das Ungeheure], Being itself, possesses the essence of self-disclosing appearance (GA 54, 154/104).43

A god is therefore to be understood as a disclosure of Being that occurs specifically in the manifestation of the extraordinary. The god’s essence is constituted by looking in [Hereinblickenden], pointing [Weisenden], and giving signs or hints [Winkenden].

This much suggests that gods show up in their act of looking in similarly to how one thinks of the Homeric gods appearing and making themselves known in the human realm. But Heidegger adds the qualification that gods’ fundamental pointing and sign-giving dimension is not an overtly physical appearance of gods who take human form (GA 54, 154-55/104). The reason for the Greeks’ legacy of gods who take human form and appear on earth, Heidegger suggests, is a phenomenological consequence of identifying ὁι θεοί as lookers and pointers. The looking one “appears in the ordinary and as the ordinary,” which is to say, the god does not appear as the extraordinary or as a god (GA 54, 154/104). For the extraordinary itself never appears. Rather, the extraordinary or the god only “looks” into the ordinary, rendering the human sphere as looked upon. Accordingly, Heidegger says “The looking one appears in the sight and ‘outward look’ of the ordinary, of beings” (GA 54, 154/104). The extraordinary thus makes its appearance among ordinary things and their outward looks. Heidegger’s meaning here suggests an overlap with his reading of signs in Heraclitus. One may consider this looking manifested in the ordinary to comprise the various Heraclitean “symbols” or “signs” whose own appearance conveys a hiddenness or unseen message.

But how does this account square with the overt historical fact of the Greeks understanding gods specifically as quasi-human figures, rather than as, say, inanimate idols or “signs”? Heidegger concludes that the Greeks regard the gods as taking human form precisely because the human realm itself is realized through acts of looking and being looked upon:

That which within the ordinary comes to presence by his own look is man. Therefore the sight of the god must gather itself within the ordinary, in the ambit of the essence of this human look, and must therein have its figure set up. (GA 54, 154/104)

The human comes to presence by seeing itself though its own look. For a human being to look upon itself or another constitutes a self-disclosure. 44 Therefore, in the case of gods, the Greek belief that gods take human form is a phenomenological consequence of experiencing θεά, of being looked upon. To be looked upon is coextensive with witnessing the ambit of the human look. Insofar as the human essence is similarly constituted by outward looking, whatever looks in at the human receives a projection of the characteristics of human lookers.45 That which looks in is a disclosure of the human look. So the extraordinary gathers itself in the beholding look of the human.46

How should one understand these gods then? It seems that their role is to point the human toward Being itself. In their pointing and looking in, gods disclose the more originary difference of ordinary and extraordinary that human looking alone is insufficient to discover.47 A larger implication of these issues is the equation of Being, the extraordinary, and the gods.48 In a manner of speaking, these three concepts are not entirely distinct but instead represent three interrelated manifestations of ἀλήθεια, the leading concept of the Parmenides course. This conclusion parallels the findings above regarding gods, signs, and φύσις in Heraclitus. The gods Heidegger describes in the Parmenides course are a manifestation of Being in signs, which is to say, they are significations of the extraordinary’s permeation of the ordinary.

Conclusions

In closing, I wish to tie up the loose ends in Heidegger’s interpretation of gods in Heraclitus. The preceding account from the Parmenides course helps to make sense of the larger interpretive issues pregnant in Heidegger’s reading of the Ephesian. The account from the Parmenides course suggests that Heraclitus “has” gods by way of a structure of disclosures similar to the Parmenides course’s conception of gods as pointers and lookers. In other words, the giving of signs that characterizes Heraclitus’ gods is complementary to the human experience of Being qua extraordinary versus ordinary that Heidegger describes in the Parmenides course.

Heidegger’s statements in the Parmenides course also ground his initial claims regarding gods in the Heraclitus lectures by providing a fuller phenomenological foundation for the notion that gods emerge to the human agent in the sign-giving dimension of φύσις. Considered on its own, Heidegger’s account of Heraclitus in the 1943 course leaves the connection of gods and signs seeming rather ad hoc and unmotivated.

Conversely, Heidegger’s reading of Heraclitus for its part also provides amplification to the account of gods in the Parmenides course. Heidegger’s claim in the Heraclitus course that the Ephesian engages in thought under the sway of Artemis and Apollo helps to complete his account in the Parmenides course regarding the priority of the goddess Ἀλήθεια. Artemis and Apollo are for Heraclitus not merely manifestations of φύσις in signs but in fact are φύσις itself. As Heidegger’s comments at the end of the 1943 Heraclitus course indicate, the Greek experience of φύσις ultimately requires the sway of Being revealed as ἀλήθεια.

An unspoken conclusion is that, after a certain fashion, Heraclitus, Parmenides, and the pre-philosophical Greeks do not “have” gods at all in the sense this word historically comes to own. It is instead the case that the Greek term for god is conditioned by its precursors δαίω and θεάω, features of the extraordinary that indicate the phenomenological conditions for witnessing anything like “gods” or “demons.” The gods are the very extraordinariness of ἀλήθεια that looks in upon the human. In short, these keywords better describe the character of Being itself rather than features of divine beings that show up on earth.

In a similar sense, this line of reasoning illuminates Heidegger’s claim at the beginning of the Heraclitus course that the gods of the Greeks are not objects of religious experience. Rather than depicting what one in the modern context would call “religious” activity, Heidegger’s sketch of the Greek experience of gods in Heraclitus and Parmenides tacitly depicts more of an insight into Being’s self-concealing yet indicative, sign-giving dimensions.49 In sum, Heidegger’s accounts of gods in the Heraclitus and Parmenides courses suggest a deeper interest in simply exploring the meaning of “having” gods, perhaps in a way that can lend broader phenomenological insight into notions of religious experience.50

NOTES

1. Sean McGrath and Andrzej Wiercin;ski, eds., A Companion to Heidegger’s Phenomenology of Religious Life (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2010); Jeff Owen Prudhomme, God and Being: Heidegger’s Relation to Theology (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1997).

2. See for instance Robert S. Gall, “From Daimonion to the Last God: Socrates, Heidegger, and the God of the Thinker,” Philosophy Today 53 (Fall 2009): 265–72; Mark A. Wrathall, “Between the Earth and Sky,” in Religion After Metaphysics, ed. Mark A. Wrathall (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 69–87; Julian Young, Heidegger’s Later Philosophy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 91–104.

3. See for instance Benjamin D. Crowe, Heidegger’s Phenomenology of Religion: Realism and Cultural Criticism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008); Ben Vedder, Heidegger’s Philosophy of Religion: From God to Gods (Pittsburgh: Dusquesne University Press, 2007).

4. A third but more sprawling direction of the scholarship, which cannot be addressed here, seeks to relate Heidegger’s talk of the “last god” in the esoteric writings to his more public writings on gods and religious experience. For a discussion of the continuity between the “last god” of Heidegger’s esoteric works and his thought elsewhere of divinities, holy ones, and gods, see Gall, “From Daimonion to the Last God,” 269. On the distinct periods of Heidegger’s thought on religion, see for instance John Caputo, “Heidegger and Theology,” in The Cambridge Companion to Heidegger, ed. Charles B. Guignon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 270–88.

5. Crowe, Heidegger’s Phenomenology of Religion, 116–22. The otherwise definitive texts by Jeff Owen Prudhomme and Ben Vedder give no attention to this topic, and Crowe’s recent monograph gives only a very brief treatment of what Crowe calls Heidegger’s “phenomenology of Greek religion.”

6. At the time of writing, an English translation of the 1943-44 Heraclitus courses (GA 55) has yet to appear despite longstanding plans for publication by Continuum. The themes of gods and the question of Greek religion receive very limited treatment in Heidegger’s later essays on Heraclitus entitled “Aletheia” and “Logos.” Both of these writings are respective summaries of the two semesters of the 1943–44 Heraclitus lecture courses. They have been available in English translation for some decades. See Martin Heidegger, Early Greek Thinking, trans. David Farrell Krell and Frank A. Capuzzi (New York: Harper & Row, 1975).

beyng.com: The references to GA 55 page numbers have been updated with links to the corresponding page in the English translation. The page numbers in Heraclitus are enclosed in { }.

7. The Hölderlinian aspects of Heidegger’s understanding of the Greek gods figure prominently, for instance, in the monographs of Crowe and Vedder.

8. Martin Heidegger, Gesamtausgabe, Bd. 55: Heraklit (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1979): “Es gibt überhaupt keine griechische ‘Religion.’ . . . Weil es keine griechische ‘Religion’ gibt, gibt es auch keine griechische ‘Theologie.’” English translations from this text are mine unless noted otherwise.

9. Manfred S. Frings, “Heraclitus: Heidegger’s 1943 Lecture Held at Freiburg University,” Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 21 (October 1990): 251. Much of Heidegger’s motivation for using the terms Ungeheure and Hereinblicken here only becomes clear within view of their phenomenological underpinnings described in the Parmenides course.

For the present it is most important to speak to Heidegger’s use of das Ungeheure. “Extraordinary” is likely the best translation for this context, particularly in its opposition to das Gewöhnlich (the ordinary or commonplace). Also embedded within Heidegger’s usage here is a sense of das Ungeheure understood as the “monstrous.” Etymologically, “monstrous,” from the Latin monstrum and monstro, is somewhat of a better fit for Heidegger’s reference to the appearances of gods. The Latin roots refer to pointing out, making known, indicating. Das Ungeheure is thus a kind of showing that makes the everyday or ordinary appear as what it is. For a useful discussion of the connotations of “monstrous” in Heidegger’s usage of das Ungeheure, see John Lysaker, “Heidegger’s Absolute Music, or What Are Poets for When the End of Metaphysics is at Hand?” Research in Phenomenology 30 (2000): 182.

Frings and Rojewicz/Schwer translate das Ungeheure as “uncanny.” I do not take issue with this translation choice as regards its basic functionality. But “extraordinary” is preferable as a translation for das Ungeheure on the ground that “uncanny” is commonly the translation for Heidegger’s term Ungeheimnis in Being and Time and elsewhere. In Being and Time “uncanny” qua Ungeheimnis refers to Dasein’s feature of not-being-at-home with itself. For a useful discussion of this concept, see David Farrell Krell, “Das Unheimliche: Architectural Sections of Heidegger and Freud,” Research in Phenomenology 22 (1992): 44, 51.

10. “Artemis ist die Göttin des Denkers Heraklit . . . weil sie die Göttin dessen ist, was der Denker zu denken hat.”

11. “Wir ermessen es noch nicht, in welch anfänglicher Weise die Griechen dieWissenden gewesen.Weil sie es gewesen, deshalb fanden sie den Anfang des eigentlichen Denkens.”

12. Another question Heidegger leaves relatively unresolved in these passages is the role of Artemis in contrast to Apollo, the latter of whom Heidegger acknowledges as the goddess’ twin brother. Heidegger only gives a preliminary answer to this question here, suggesting that Artemis more fundamentally symbolizes the matter of Heraclitus’ thought in terms of concealment and hiddenness. He observes that historical interpretations of Apollo from Nietzsche and others muddy the water, whereas beginning with Artemis may offer clearer avenues for understanding what Heraclitus thinks. See GA 55, 18–19.

Yet Heidegger does return to the question of Apollo at the end of the 1943 course. Ultimately, his philosophical suggestion regarding the kinship of Artemis and Apollo seems to be that Artemis functions as a better starting point for comprehending the matter of Heraclitus’ thought, whereas a study of Heraclitus’ relation to Apollo serves better to complete the arc of Heraclitus’ understanding of Being and gods. See Section IV below.

13. Fragments 15, 32, 92, 93, and 94 cite Greek divinities by name. Fragments 5, 24, 30, 67, 78, 79, 83, and 102 refer to “gods.” Fragments 5, 15, and 114 refer to quasi-religious experiences or rituals.

14. Kahn translates the fragment as the following: “The ordering, the same for all, no god nor man has made, but it ever was and will be: fire everliving, kindled in measures and in measures going out.” See Charles H. Kahn, The Art and Thought of Heraclitus: An Edition of the Fragments, with Translation and Commentary (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 45.

15. Also see Frings, “Heraclitus: Heidegger’s 1943 Lecture,” 254.

16. “Dem ja nicht Untergehen(den) je, wie möchte irgendwer (dem) verborgen sein?”

17. “Das griechisch gedachte ‘Untergehen’ hat sein Wesen aus dem Eingehen in eine Verbergung.”

18. “Das Aufgehen dem Sichverbergen schenkt’s die Gunst.”

19. This interpretation is reflective of Heidegger’s more generalized view that the Greek experience of Being occurs as presencing amidst a concealing. For a fuller account, see Heidegger’s later reading of Heraclitus in Martin Heidegger, “Aletheia (Heraklit: Fragment 6) (1954)” in Gesamtausgabe: Bd. 7, Vorträge und Aufsätze (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 2000), 251–57. For a more thorough analysis of the implication of the middle-voiced verb here and elsewhere in Heidegger’s accounts of Heraclitus, see Charles E. Scott, “Appearing to Remember Heraclitus,” in The Presocratics After Heidegger, ed. David C. Jacobs (Albany: SUNY Press, 1999), 254–57.

20. “Fügung unscheinbare über das zum Vorschein drängende Gefüge edel.”

21. “Zurückspannend (nämlich das Sichauseinanderbringende) west die Fügung, wie es im Anblick von Bogen und Leier sich ziegt.”) Historically, the first word of this fragment, παλίντονος, has posed a problem to scholars because of disagreement in the doxography regarding its spelling. Some sources suggest that the proper spelling is παλίντοπος", which, if true, changes the meaning from “backward- stretched” to “backward-turning.” Heidegger reads the first word of the fragment as παλίντονος, i.e. backward-stretching. For a summary of perspectives on this issue in Heraclitus scholarship, see Kahn, The Art and Thought of Heraclitus, 64. Also see T. M. Robinson, Heraclitus: Fragments. A Text and Translation with a Commentary (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987), 96–98.

22. “Das Seiende im Ganzen aber steuert der Blitz.”

23. “Diese Zier . . . weder irgendwer der Gotter noch der Menschen (einer) hat sie hergestellt, sondern sie war immer und ist (immer) und wird sein (immer): (nämlich) das Feuer immerdar aufgehend, entzündend sich die Weiten (Lichtungen), sich verlöschend (verschließend) die Weiten (ins Lichtungslose).”

24. Parvis Emad summarizes: man as man is not only the standing in φύσις or clearing but also relates to it. Therefore, when Heraclitus asks how anyone could remain concealed, he seems to mean the human person cannot relate to rising in terms other than unconcealing. This means the unconcealing in the human corresponds to the unconcealing or rising called φύσις: “the comportment . . . must have the basic trait of rising.” Parvis Emad, “Heidegger’s Originary Reading of Heraclitus—Fragment 16,” in Heidegger on Heraclitus: A New Reading, ed. Parvis Emad and Kenneth Maly (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 1986), 113–16. Cf. also Frings, “Heraclitus: Heidegger’s 1943 Lecture,” 263.

25. “‘Vor dem ja nicht Untergehen je, wie möchte irgendwer dem Verborgen sein’—da nämlich im niemals Untergehen und im Wesen eines jeden τίς die ἀλήθεια west?”

26. Heidegger italicizes the definite article here.

27. “Ein Spruch ist erhalten, in dem der Denker diesen Gott selbst nennt und das heist, ihn in seinemWesen sichtbar macht.”

28. “Der Hohe, dessen Ort der weisenden Sage der in Delphi ist, weder entbirgt er (nur), noch verbirgt er (nur) sondern er gibt Zeichen.”

29. Heidegger’s delay in providing a more focused treatment of Heraclitus’ relation to Apollo may seem unmotivated. But what Heidegger goes on to extract from Fragment 93 suggests a strategic interest in withholding information about the Delphic god’s role until now. Certainly, it is not a controversial claim that Apollo was the patron god of the temple of Delphi. Heidegger’s motivation in distinguishing the places of Artemis and Apollo in Heraclitus’ thought appears to stem from a wish to interpret Artemis in terms of Being qua rising from concealment, whereas Apollo functions to express Being’s sign-giving dimension. See GA 55, 18, 19 as well as my note above.

30. “Zeichen geben heißt: etwas entbergen, was, indem es erscheint, in ein Verborgenes verweist und also verbirgt und birgt und so das Bergende als ein solches aufgehen läßt. Das Wesen des Zeichens ist die entbergende Verbergung.”

31. Frings, “Heraclitus: Heidegger’s 1943 Lecture,” 263.

32. Walter Brogan, “Heraclitus, Philosopher of the Sign,” in The Presocratics After Heidegger, ed. David C. Jacobs (Albany: SUNY Press, 1999), 265.

33. Martin Heidegger, Gesamtausgabe, Bd. 54: Parmenides (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1976). English translations of this text refer to Martin Heidegger, Parmenides, trans. Andre Schuwer and Richard Rojcewizcz (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992). Page citations to the English translation follow those of the German text of GA 54.

34. “Der Gott selbst muß in der Weise, wie er Gott ist, dem Sein, d.h. dem Wesen der φύσις entsprechen.”

35. “Im Sinne des Zeichens zeigen heißt aber, dem Wesen der φύσις gemaß und der in ihr waltenden Gunst entsprechend offenbar machen. Die φύσις selbst ist das Sichzeigende, das wesenhaft sich in die Zeichen zeigt.”

36. The editor Manfred Frings reports that the course sequence of Parmenides in winter 1942–43 and Heraclitus in the summers of 1943 and 1944 was originally planned and announced as “Heraclitus and Parmenides,” a moniker that remained in the manuscripts Heidegger approved for inclusion in the collected works. The entitling of volumes 54 and 55 of the Gesamtausgabe as Parmenides and Heraklit, respectively, was an editorial decision that occurred after Heidegger’s death. Manfred S. Frings, “Parmenides: Heidegger’s 1942–43 Lecture Held at Freiburg University,” Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 19:1 (January 1988): 15–16.

37. Haim Gordon and Rivca Gordon, Heidegger on Truth and Myth: A Rejection of Postmodernism (New York: Peter Lang, 2006), 10, 85; Veronique Fóti, “Aletheia and Oblivion’s Field:On Heidegger’s Parmenides Lectures,” in Ethics and Danger: Essays on Heidegger and Continental Thought, ed. Arleen B. Dallery, Charles E. Scott, and P. Holley Roberts (Albany: SUNY Press, 1992), 72.

38. Fóti, “Aletheia and Oblivion’s Field,” 73.

39. See for instance Frings, “Parmenides,” 24–25, 30; Gordon and Gordon, Heidegger on Truth and Myth, 85–87.

40. For Heidegger’s various comments on this issue, see for instance GA 54, 15–6/11, 18–19/13, 35–36/24.

41. Fóti, “Aletheia and Oblivion’s Field,” 73–74.

42. Ibid., 76.

43. For the sake of continuity with the translation of das Ungeheure used above, I insert “extraordinary” here for das Ungeheure, whereas Schuwer and Rojcewicz render it as “uncanny.” See my note above regarding preference to render das Ungeuhere as “extraordinary.”

44. William McNeill, The Glance of the Eye: Heidegger, Aristotle, and the Ends of Theory (Albany: SUNY Press, 1999), 312; Fóti, “Aletheia and Oblivion’s Field,” 77.

45. Much of this discussion is paralleled by Julian Young’s reading of gods in the later Heidegger. Young reads the later Heidegger’s understanding of gods to favor a broader notion of divinities considered as existential features of the human. Young, Heidegger’s Later Philosophy, 94n3; 97.

46. Frings, “Parmenides,” 28–29.

47. McNeill, Glance of the Eye, 312.

48. Ibid.

49. Angus Brook, “Heidegger’s Notion of Religion: The Limits of Being-Understanding,” Forum Philosophicum 15 (2010): 54. Brook suggests that Greek Dasein depicts gods in the encounter with the truth as it emerges into presence. As such it appears that Heidegger intrinsically formulates religion as the human encounter with the truth emerging as Being. Heidegger seeks the ground of what gets called religion, or religious phenomena, and negates religion in the process.

50. This notion recalls Heidegger’s term “formal indication” from the early 1920s. For an excellent summary of formal indication relevant to the present study, see Prudhomme, God and Being, 84–90. In summary, formal indication refers to the mode of philosophical analysis that can point to and demarcate spheres of Being occupied by religious experiences and phenomena. In the present case, Heidegger’s “formally indicating” interest ostensibly lay in the phenomenological disclosure latent within the presencing of the gods and the Greek attunement within which this disclosure occurs.


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