Identity and Difference

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Essays in Metaphysics: Identity and Difference. Translated by Kurt F. Leidecker, New York, Philosophical Library Inc., 1960.


In a footnote, the translator says this about Ereignis:

Event would be the usual translation of Ereignis. In view of what follows, and paralleling the German, we have chosen "concern" in the sense in which it is also listed in Webster: "That which relates or belongs to one." "Concern" is derived from con and cerno in Latin. One meaning of cerno is to "distinguish," "see," and, hence, has an etymology similar to Ereignis which comes from OHG ougen and Gothic augjan, to show, which are derivatives from Auge, eye. By adopting and adapting "concern" to Ereignis we can proceed with Heidegger's discussion which is an etymologizing around the concept er-eignen which originally derived from visual activity but now serves to convey the idea of happening, not without the overtones of reference to self and possession.

When Heidegger describes Ereignis himself he also brings up its etymology.

The belonging-together of Man and Being in the manner of a reciprocal challenge drives home alarmingly the that and the how of Man's alienation from Being, at the same time, however, also the that and how of Being. Within the frame-work there prevails a starnge alienation and dedication. Now, we are under obligation to experience in our own person quite simply this concinnity wherein Man and Being are con-cinnate. In other words, we must return to what we call a concern. The word Ereignis (concern) has been lifted from organically developing language. Er-eignen (to concern) means, originally, to distinguish or discern which one's eyes, see, and in seeing calling to oneself, ap-propriate. The word con-cern we shall now harness as a theme word in the service of thought, keeping in mind what has just been explained.

P. 27

If you compare this paragraph to the same one in Joan Stambaugh's later translation, the difference in the translation is very apparent. Not only is each translator's writing style and choice of words different, but they sometimes merge or even leave out entire sentences. For example, the later translation ignores Heidegger's linkage of Ereignis with seeing. In The Poetics of Resistance the missing sentence is considered untranslatable.

In the ontotheology essay, Heidegger, describes the importance of it in metaphysics.

The totality of the Whole is the unity of Existence, which unity unites by virtue of being the productive ground. For him who can read this means that metaphysics is onto-theo-logic. Whoever has, through his own development, experienced theology, be it that of Christian faith, or that of philosophy, will prefer nowadays to be silent about God as an object of thought and thinking. For the onto-theo-logical character of metaphysics has become questionable to thinking persons, not by reason of some sort of atheism, but because of an intellectual experience in which the still unthought unity of the essence of metaphysics revealed itself within onto-theo-logic. However, the essence of this metaphysics will still remain in our minds as what is most worthy of giving thought to so long as thought does not break off arbitrarily and hence inappropriately the discussion involving its fateful tradition.

P. 48

Identity and Difference (GA 11). Translated by Joan Stambaugh, New York, Harper & Row, 1969.

In the first part of this lecture Heidegger describes Ereignis, which the translator has rendered as the event of appropriation:

[M]an's distinctive feature lies in this, that he, as the being who thinks, is open to Being, face to face with Being; thus man remains referred to Being and so answers to it. Man is essentially this relationship of responding to Being, and he only this. This "only" does not mean a limitation, but rather an excess. A belonging to Being prevails within man, a belonging which listens to Being because it is appropriated to Being. And Being? Let us think of Being according to its original meaning, as presence. Being is present to man neither incidentally nor only on rare occasions. Being is present and abides only as it concerns man through the claim it makes on him. For it is man, open toward Being, who alone lets Being arrive as presence. Such becoming present needs the openness of a clearing, and by this need remains appropriated to human being. This does not at all mean that Being is posited first and only by man. On the contrary, the following becomes clear:

Man and Being are appropriated to each other. They belong to each other.

Page 31-32

Heidegger introduces his key term Ereignis.

The belonging together of man and Being in the manner of mutual challenge drives home to us with startling force that and how man is delivered over to the ownership of Being and Being is appropriate to the essence of man. Within the framework there prevails a strange ownership and a strange appropriation. We must experience simply this owning in which man and Being are delivered over to each other, that is, we must enter into what we call the event of appropriation. The words event of appropriation thought of in terms of the matter indicated, should now speak as a key term in the service of thinking.

Ereignis/appropriation cannot be defined as something else.

As such a key term, it can no more be translated than the Greek logos or the Chinese Tao. The term event of appropriation here no longer means what we would otherwise call a happening, an occurrence. It now is used as a singulare tantum. Which it indicates happens only in the singular, no, not in any number, but uniquely.

Page 36

There is an earlier translation of this work. Comparing it to this one is instructive on the problems one faces studying a thinker via translators' interpretations. There is a later translation of "The Principle of Identity".
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Created 2006/4/17
Last updated 2023/10/23