HOW HEIDEGGER CAME UP WITH THE WORD “EREIGNIS.” By Thomas Sheehan.

9tom-03

(I am grateful to Thomas Sheehan, from Stanford University, for his permission to post this text here, which is what the editors allowed us to post as an excerpt out of a larger text, commented upon below in the blog, to be published in Richard Polt and Greg Fried eds., After Heidegger?, forthcoming later this year.)   

  1. eignung 

1.1 In describing ex-sistence’s actuality as possibility, Heidegger was modeling ex-sistence on Aristotle’s notion of movement: κίνησις as ἐνέργεια ἀτελής. 

1.2 Κίνησις is a thing’s ontological condition of being real (ἐν ἔργῳ) but not yet fully (ἀ-τελές), i.e., actual to a degree, yet still coming into its own:

1.2.1 ἐνέργεια is a thing’s essential activity (Im-Werk-stehen), i.e., its functioning

  • either as fully within its τέλος   (if its movement is already complete)
  • or as still underway to its τέλος (if its movement is not yet complete).

1.2.2 δύναμις is a moving thing’s Eignung (GA 9: 215.25; GA 19: 265.14; etc.), its condition of

  • coming-into-its-own/eigen, coming-ad-proprium, that is:
  • being ap-propri-ated by and unto its τέλος.

1.3 Two examples, one from nature (ϕύσις), the other from human know-how (τέχνη):

1.3.1 An acorn has the δύναμις/Eignung of being an oak tree. It is “drawn” into its proper wholeness by its τέλος (“oak tree”). This τέλος lies within the acorn; it is the origin and ordering (ἀρχή) of its movement. Put otherwise, the acorn already has itself in its τέλος (ἐν τέλει ἔχει), but not fully. The realness (actuality) of the acorn has the form of ἐν-τελ-έχεια ἀ-τελής.

1.3.2 Guiding the construction of a cabinet is the carpenter’s know-how (τέχνη), beginning with the prior projection of an idea of the outcome, the εἶδος προαιρετόν that will function as the τέλος of the activity.

The wood that has been selected as appropriate (geeignet) for the task then undergoes a process of appropriation (Eignung) to being a cabinet. In this case the process is guided not by an internal τέλος, as with the acorn, but by the external τέλος residing in the mind of the carpenter who first projected the outcome (GA 9: 191-93; MEGA II 5, 129.31-36). 

1.4 In short, Eignung names the reality of a something that is in the process of being brought-ad-proprium, still coming into its proper status as complete and whole.

  1. ereignis

2.1 What Eignung is to artifacts and acorns, Ereignis is to ex-sistence – but with an important twist.

2.2 Ereignis does have to do with κίνησις, and κίνησις does have to do with incompleteness. However, Ereignis applies exclusively to existential κίνησις.

2.2.1 Ex-sistence is unique in being already “complete” in its incompleteness, already “whole” as never being whole. Ex-sistence is perfectly “perfect” in its imperfection, its inability to achieve complete self-coincidence.

2.3 In SZ, what accounted for ex-sistence’s finitude (its open-ended-ness vs. full self-presence) was called “thrownness.” But in 1936 Heidegger began calling thrownness “Er-eignis” (“ap-propri-ation”), a term modeled on Eignung. 

2.4 Appropriation names the fact that ex-sistence has been brought a priori into its proper ownness (er-eignet) as the finite, mortal Open (GA 73,1: 226.26; GA 12: 128.29-30.; 248.16; 249.5–6).

2.4.1 The word “Ereignis” simply reinscribes the basic structure of ex-sistence that SZ had called thrownness. (GA 65:34.8–9; 239.5; 252.23–25; 322.7–8 with SZ 325.37; GA 9: 377, note d; GA 73, 1: 642.28-29; etc.)

2.4.2 Appropriated ex-sistence is Zu-sein: as possibility, ex-sistence is in the condition of ever-becoming.

2.4.3 To name this asymptotic condition of ex-sistence, Heidegger adopted Heraclitus’ hapaxlegomenon ̓Αγχιβασίη, “ever approaching” (fragment 122).

2.5 Appropriation is not an “event” in any sense of that term (GA 14: 25.33; GA 11: 45.19-20; GA 70.17-19). It is an existential fact, the very facticity of ex-sistence.

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