Zollikon Seminars: An Evening’s Exchange

On February 13, 2013 by admin

Heidegger and Boss 2

from  Z O L L I K O N  S E M I N A R S 1 9 5 9 – 1 9 69


[The Zollikon Seminars were a series of philosophical seminars delivered between 1959 and 1969 by Martin Heidegger at the home of Swiss psychiatrist Medard Boss. The topic of the seminars was Heidegger’s  philosophical method as it pertained to the theory and praxis of medicine, psychology, psychiatry and psychotherapy. The protocols of the seminars, along with correspondences between Heidegger and Boss, were published in German in 1987 under the title Zollikoner Seminare, Protokolle- Gersprache- Briefe Herausgegeben von Medard Boss. The English version of the text was published in 2001. Here is a section from an evening’s informal discussion ]




July 6,1964, at  Medard Boss’s Home 

But let us praise not only the sage
Whose name shines on the book,
For first of all one has to tear the wisdom from the sage.
That is why the customs collector should also be thanked.
He was the one who asked it of him.

Legend [“Legend of the Origin of the Book Tao-te-Ching by Lao Tzu on His Way to Emigration”]

                                                                                                                                                                                                         (Bertolt Brecht)


MARTIN HEIDEGGER: For once we must disregard all science in view of what we will now discuss, that is, no use should be made of it now. It must be asked then in a positive sense: How then should we proceed? We must learn a new way of thinking—a thinking which was already known to the ancient Greeks. Returning to the theme of our last meeting, we ask: Is this the same table which stands before me today?

SEMINAR PARTICIPANT: I remember it differently. It’s really not the same! It’s been exchanged.

MH:Suppose it is the same [derselbe]. Is it also alike [dergleiche]?*

SP: No, I remember it differently.

MH: In the aide-memoire [seminar protocol] which lies in front of you, the expression “pure and simple” is used. How about it?

SP: It has something to do with something simple and plain.

MH:  Yes, but is this “acceptance” [hinnehmen] actually so simple? Obviously not. Direct acceptance is not an absolute certainty. Does it have the character of certainty at all?

SP: It has a momentary certainty: It is here and now, not absolute.

MH: What characteristic of certainty does direct receiving-perceiving have?

SP: Empirical existence.

MH: It is an actual, but unnecessary existence. This is called assertoric certainty. This is in contrast to what is called apodictic certainty, for example, 2 X 2 = 4. Apodictic certainty is not absolute either, but it is necessary. Why isn’t it absolute? .. . In 2 X 2 = 4 “the same as” [=, equals] is presupposed. It is also presupposed that two always remains identical to itself; therefore, it is a conditional certainty. Now, we first described this table, but that is not what interests us. Only “the table which exists” is of interest to us. We took this existence for granted in the sense of what is called acceptance. Now, what does it mean to exist? Being is not a real predicate according to Kant, but we speak about the table’s existence. What is meant by this “real”? It indicates relating to the nature of a thing [Sachhaltifrkät]. In this sense, existence is not real. Nevertheless, we attribute existence  to the table. Existence belongs to it. How does it belong to it? What does existence mean?

SP: The table is in space.

MH: Does this belong to the nature of the thing?

SP: Extension is a property of space.

MH: How?

SP: It has extendedness [Ausgedehntheit]: how high it is; how wide, and so forth. These are its dimensions.

MH: Are extension and dimension different? What is the difference?

SP: Dimension is an arbitrarily selected extension.

MH: How do particular spaces relate to “space”?

SP: Space contains them.

MH: Space is not “the universal in relation to [particular] spaces, as with trees, for example, as the tree is [the universal] to particular trees. Now, what characterizes this space?

SP: It is space, which is demarcated.

MH: It is a space for living; it contains useful things. There is an orientation to things in space. Things have a special meaning for the people who live there. They are familiar to some [of the people], but strange to others. This space has characteristics other than “space.” How is the table in space now?

SP: It belongs to space; it takes up space.

MH: But how?

SP: It has a shape which limits it according to its space.

MH: Yes. Now you can see how it is with this aide-memoire, as they call it. What meaningless sentences! That’s why we*re so helpless with this scribbling on paper!

Now, we are asking whether this table would still be here if Dr. R. were no longer here to see it.

SP: Both of them are located in the space, which separates the observer from the table, as well as connects him to it.

MH: Separates? Are you sure? If something is separated, it must have first been connected.

SP: Better to say distant from, removed from.

MH: Distance [in the originary, ontological sense]  has nothing to do with separating and connecting. Now, last time we asked: If we put a wall between the table and Dr. R., [then] is the table still there?

SP: Then the table is no longer visible to the observer.

MH: But is the table still there?

SP: It’s behind the wall. It’s hidden.

MH: No, not even hidden.

SP: We don’t have an immediate perception [of it], but we can remember and imagine it.

MH: Do you see? It’s not so easy.

SP: For a child or for a primitive man, it wouldn’t be there anymore. Existence not only consists in its being seen.

MH: Close your eyes. Where is the table now?

SP: Concerning perception, the table is gone—but with [your] eyes closed you can still trip over it.

MH: Yes, that would be a particularly stark perception. Then, is the table only represented in my head?

SP: The table remains in its place, but that’s not absolutely certain. Someone could have taken it away…. When I close my eyes, I still have a particular relationship to it. It doesn’t make any difference whether the table is still there. ^

MH: Let’s assume you close your eyes. When you open them again, is the table gone? What then?

SP: Amazement, disappointment.

MH: What does disappointment mean?

SP: An unfulfilled expectation.

MH: Yes, exactly. Even when your eyes were closed, you were by the table. Dr. R. then perceives the table here from over there. How does this happen? Then where is R.?

SP: Here and there.

MH: R. is here and there at the same time, but the table cannot be here and there at the same time. Only the human being can be here and there at the same time.* The table is in space in a different way than the human being.

SP: R. has a relationship to the table, but the table does not have a relationship to him.

MH: But what about space?

SP: I move in space.

MH: How?

SP: I move myself. The table is moved.

MH: Then, how about this clock? Doesn’t it move by itself as well?

SP: No, its hand is moved by people.

MH: It runs by itself.

SP: No, a spring moves it. The spring is made by people.

MH: The spring belongs to the clock. The clock runs. That is part of it.

SP: No, the clock does not move itself, only the hand.

MH: Then the hand.. . . What part of the human being is in space?

SP: The body.

MH: Where are you yourself? I change my position like this. Then, do I only move my body? . . . The table does that too!

SP: Last time we reached the point where we characterized space as the open and as pervious. How does the human being relate to the open now?

MH: Yes, that’s the question.

SP: I am not only in space. I orient myself in space.

MH: What does that mean?

SP: I am in space, as far as I comprehend it.

MH: In what way?

SP: Space is open for me, but not for the table.

MH: Space is open through you. And how is it for the table in this case?

SP: Space is not open for the table.

MH: Is space anything at all for the table?

SP: The human being has space present to him.. . . The table was made. The human being has space and has [also] made the table.

MH: Can’t the table, which has been made, be in space the same way as the human being? Here “to make” [produce] means “to stand here.” The table has been released away from its relationship to production. The meaning of handicraft and art is that something has been made and can stand on its own. So what does it mean [when I say]: I orient myself in space, but the table does not?

SP: We suppose that the table doesn’t do it.

MH: Doesn’t the table have anything to do with orientation?

SP: The human being can orient himself or herself to it. For example, the table itself is oriented in relation to the four cardinal points of the heavens (N, S, E, W). It has a definite location and has been placed there for Professor H.

MH: It has been arranged in the room. It is oriented according to a way of living. Orientation has something to do with the rising of the sun. Why then not ocddentalization?

SP: “Orient” means the rising of the sun and of the light.

MH: With the rising of the sun, it gets light and everything becomes visible. Things shine. In certain burial rites, the face is turned toward the east. Churches are oriented in the same way as well. By the way, when the light is turned off, how is it then with the clearing [Lichtung]? . . . “Clearing” means “to be open.” There is also clearing in darkness. Clearing has nothing to do with light but is derived from “lighten” [unburden]. Light involves perception. One can still bump into something in the dark. This does not require light, but a clearing. Light—bright. “Light” comes from “lighten,” “to make free.” A clearing in the forest is still there, even when it’s dark. Light presupposes clearing. There can only be brightness where something has been cleared or where something is free for the light. Darkening, taking away the light, does not encroach upon the clearing. The clearing is the presupposition for getting light and dark. It is the free, the open.

SP: What is that—the free, the open?

SP: The free and the open is space. Is it only the free space or the space occupied by the table?

MH: If space were not free, the table couldn’t be there. Space frees the table. Space is then “occupied,” but that doesn’t mean it’s no longer free.

SP: Then is it the same space as the space of this room?

MH: The room belongs to it. Once more, you see that language is wiser than we think. “Space” comes from “making space” [for]. What does this mean?

SP: “To free”. . . but also “to make space for,” that is, to arrange, to put in place, or on the other hand, to make a place for.

MH: Space has places. To clear away [aufräumen], to make order among things that are not in place. That is something different from simply being present-at-hand [Vorhandensein].

SP: We also speak about “being cleared up” [aufgeräumt] if someone is in a good mood.

MH: Yes, then one is serene [cleared up], free. Are space and clearing identical, or does one presuppose the other? . . . Now, that cannot be decided yet. There can be something else in the clearing: time. We haven’t talked about that yet. Let’s occupy ourselves some more with the difference between free and open, on the one hand, and with something empty, on the other.

SP: Something “empty” means “containing nothing.”

MH: Therefore, not occupied. “Free” also means “not occupied,” but in a different way.

SP: “Free” means “free for something.”

MH: It is able to be occupied. “Empty,” however, means “not occupied.” Space can also remain free, even when it is occupied. Something is empty only because there is the free.

SP: Is it possible then that unoccupied is different from not able to be occupied?

MH: The empty [avoid, a vacuum] is the unoccupied free [realm].

SP: The free has a ground [Boden], Under certain circumstances, the empty does not. You can have a groundless void.

MH: Outer space, for example. Isn’t it able to be occupied? It’s very much occupied indeed. There is no void without the free [realm]. The void is grounded in the free.

SP: What is meant here by “ground”? The ground for what?

MH: It is a relation concerning the nature of a thing, not a logical ground [between concepts].

SP: That’s difficult for the students because ground is always understood in the sense of logical conclusions alone. You say: having the nature of a thing [sachhaltig], But what kind of a thing [Sache] is this?

MH: Thing [as a subject matter] is that with which we are dealing.

SP: I cannot understand the open or the free as a “thing.”

MH: Is “subject matter” only a “thing”?* Indeed, there are non-perceptible subject matters. Space, or 2 X 2 = 4, for example. These are subject matters. Here “subject matter” means “something with which we are dealing.”

SP: Then what does being a “subject matter” mean?

MH: A ground for a subject matter means that one subject matter cannot exist without another subject matter. There cannot be a void without the “free. “Free,” that is, “capable of being occupied,” is more original than “void.”

SP: We feel that it could also be stated inversely: There is the “free” only because there is the void [empty].

MH: The difference between ratio essendi and ratio cognoscendi comes into play here. Something empty is the ground for knowing [Erkenntnisgrund]the free, but the free is the ratio essendi [Seinsgrund] for something empty. It is a ground for being, not a [physical] cause. Then how is the human being in space? Does the human being only occupy space, or am I in space in a different way?

SP: I use my place. I sit.

MH: Does the table sit? What does “it sits” mean?

SP: I can take different positions [verschiedeneHaltung] in space.. . . The human being fills up space.

MH: So does the table.. .. When I refer to the human being, I am already referring to space too.

SP: The human being and space belong to each other.

MH: How? Space also belongs to the table.

SP: The human being is able to comport [verhalten] himself toward space.

MH: He is always comporting himself [toward something].

SP: Space belongs to the human being’s essential characteristics. I comport myself toward things in space, therefore, also toward space. Space is open to the human being.

MH: For the table too.

SP: I’m already in this space in which I move.

MH: I walk by occupying space. The table does not occupy space in the same way. The human being makes space for himself. He allows space to be. An example: When I move, the horizon recedes. The human being moves within a horizon. This does not only mean to transport one’s body.

SP: Then how is it with an animal?

MH: Again, it is a different relationship toward space. The animal does not speak. The animal does not experience space as space.

SP: What does this “as” mean?

MH: The animal is acquainted with the ditch it jumps over as a simple matter of fact [Sachverhalt], but not as a concept.

SP: The animal cannot reflect.

MH: Is language so essential? Surely there is also away of communicating without language.

SP: Language and verbal articulation are confused with each other here.

MH:The human being cannot comport himself in any way without language. Language is not only verbal articulation. Communicatio is only one possibility. “To say” [sagen] originally meant “to show” [zagen].+

SP: When we talk about “occupying space,” the usual understanding is that we are there, where our body is.

MH: I sit here. I talk with you. I sit opposite the wall. I am related to things in space. The table as a table is not related to other things! To comport oneself to something as something means to speak and to say: I am open to space. I can move. I know where something belongs, but I don’t need to view space as space. Without paying attention to it thematically, without being occupied with it, I let space be as the open.


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