More on the “fourth way.”

Given the discussion below, in the blog entry titled The (Fourth) Way of Parmenides, I thought I would post the following here. It is a little introduction to some pages in Heidegger reading Parmenides that I prepared for a seminar. I think it could clarify, 1), what it is about the so-called fourth way that deserves the name of Ursatz, or “originary (or axiomatic) statement” and, 2), why the Ursatz could be taken to be at the beginning of any political or indeed existential commitment.

Introduction to #22 e-i of Martin Heidegger, The Beginning of Western Philosophy.  Interpretation of Anaximander and Parmenides, Richard Rojcewicz transl., Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2015.  Pages 125-34, corresponding to GA 35, 161-74. 

Heidegger continues the discussion of what he calls Parmenides’ “axiomatic statement,” Ursatz in the German, perhaps better translated as “originary statement.”  Note that in previous paragraphs Heidegger has said that the Ursatz is “where Being, there apprehension; where no apprehension, no Being,” which translates Parmenides’ “for the same is apprehending as well as being.”   Note further that the axiomatic claim is not something like “there is Being,” es gibt Sein—what is axiomatic is the co-belonging of thinking and being. 

(Compare this with a much later Ursatz, this time belonging to Heidegger not to Parmenides: Ereignis er-eignet, in “On Time and Being,” from 1962.)

e), in 125, connects the Ursatz strongly to Diké.  There is a point of krisis, a decision which does not “separate” but rather “grounds.”  Diké’s “ontological content” enables those who undergo the decision only by “disposing them:” to the correct understanding of Being. 

Heidegger immediately glosses another statement that is also proferred by Parmenides in an unmediated, direct, ungrounded, merely asserted manner.  “We will call this statement—Being utterly un-negative—Parmenides’ essential statement [Wessenssatz]about Being” (125-26). 

Reading down the poem Heidegger notes that there is a hint that the relation of Being and reason and the question of Being and time are connected (126).  Heidegger names a third statement in the poem, the “temporal statement” [Zeitsatz] according to which “Being has a relation to the present and only to this” (127).  More emphatically, “everything that constitutes Being, everything that pertains to Being, stands above all in relation to the nun [the now]” (127).  

A new perplexity: the Zeitsatz is also ungrounded, merely stated. “So we find ourselves as regards this newly acquired temporal statement in the same situation we were in as regards the axiomatic and essential statements” (128).  The rest of that central paragraph in page 128 problematizes the relation between the statements.  Heidegger wants to find their “inner connection” (128).  The question is particularly poignant: do we have one Ursatz and two consequences of it, two derivations of it?  Or are they, taken together, one and the same Ursatz? 

Indeed, that must be the case, as otherwise it would seem to be contradictory to say that, among the three statements, der Zeitsatz hat Vorrang, “the temporal statement has the priority” (129).  How could the temporal statement have priority over the Ursatz without indeed becoming more ur- than the Ursatz?  So, better to say: within the Ursatz its temporal dimension claims a priority, and the sameness of apprehending and Being and the non-negativity of Being must be thought in relation to it, to the temporality of Being.

It is a curious temporality.  On the one hand, “everything is purely filled, no void, no ‘away,’ i. e., no absence in Being as such, instead only presence” (129).  At the same time, “Being is outside of duration” [ausserhalb von Dauer] (130).  Remember that in page 127 Heidegger had explained that there is no timelessness in Being, “Parmenides never claims . . . that Being is timeless” (127).  So we have a temporal Being that nevertheless is “outside of duration.” 

There is now, on the way to some more clarifying words about that seeming contradiction, recourse to Diké again:  “Being is not the endlessly ongoing ‘now’ but rather is the binding present, intrinsically self-enclosed . . . the apprehension of Being grounds itself on itself, i. e., is in itself Diké, the disposing of Being . . . the essence of Being is not to be found and snatched up here and there in just any being but, instead, arises from the originary disposing that is its own law: binding, bond” (130-31).

(Let me only say, as an aside, that I find this insistence on Diké as the bond of Being, together with the hint that apprehension, noein, relates to Being through the very disposing of Diké, since Diké is precisely the disposing, quite enigmatic but also quite rich and decisive.  Let me also offer as confirmation of the decisiveness that Heidegger calls this paragraph Der Rückgang in den Ursatz, in such a way that he is asking us to reconsider, after all, what the priority of temporality might mean in this context: the first Ursatz about the sameness of being and apprehending returns here, won´t be forgotten.)

Heidegger goes on, towards the hen as one of the semata of Being.  “Being is the oneness excluding all otherness.  That does not simply mean set over and against something other but, rather, beyond everything othersome, outside all otherness” (131).  “In holding itself on the basis of itself and remaining present to itself, it is unifying, a unity-forming unity, and that is how it essentially occurs” (131). 

Heidegger attempts to clarify now the paradox of temporaliy, namely, how the present can be fully temporal and at the same time outside duration.  Heidegger says: “This persevering [of Being] cannot be conceived as the resistance of a now against the other nows that are always thrusting themselves forth only to swim away at once.  It means instead a remaining that does not at all enter into the stream of nows.  Yet this does not imply that remaining would be extra-temporal.  Such is so little the case that the non-now-like present as time is precisely what gives to the now and to the stream of nows dimensionality, direction, and stability” (131-32).

(There is an aside here concerning what Heidegger had called in Being and Time the vulgar understanding of time, from Aristotle to Hegel.  The claim is that only the seeming paradox of a time-being//being-time outside duration can set things right.)

At the end of i) Heidegger offers a summation regarding the semata.  He subtracts two conclusions: “the unity of this prospect on Being proves to be the present, presence . . .  The present and presence dominate the entire prospect on Being” (134). 

And Heidegger returns to the Ursatz once again, something that the translation distorts a bit by using the word “axiom” instead of the previously used expression “axiomatic statement.”   This is important, because Heidegger is grappling with the fact that the constant emerging, he says, “interrupting,” in the course of proof concerning the semata of Being, of the Ursatz, that is, of issues pertaining to the Ursatz, is symptomatic.  Heidegger says: the interruption “is the explicitly carried out consolidating and securing of the totality of perceiving in the unitary respect directed toward Being in the prospect on the hen. . .  The axiom [that is, the Ursatz] is so to speak the goal of the entire way, i. e., the goal is to acquire and carry out that which is expressed in the axiom” (134).

Perhaps with this final emphasis we may come closer to an understanding of why the originary statement is not Es gibt Zeit, Es gibt Sein, but rather to gar auto noein te kai einai.  We may assume that “the goal of the entire way” refers to the way of the goddess, the sojourn on which a number of pages ago Heidegger called “a fourth way.” 

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