Sunday, September 15, 2013

"Las fuentes ocultas de Heidegger" por May Reinhard


(May Reinhard: Heidegger’s hidden sources) 


The foregoing investigation has shown that Heidegger’s work was influenced by East Asian sources to a hitherto unrecognized extent. Moreover, it seems highly probable that Heidegger, without stating his sources, in a number of cases of central importance appropriated ideas germane to his work from German translations primarily of Daoist classics but presumably of Zen Buddhist texts as well.

Case 1

As the juxtaposition of relevant textual passages has shown (see 3.2.1), Heidegger adopts almost verbatim, in order to articulate the Topos ‘Nothing’ in anon-Western way, locutions from Chapter 22 of the Zhuangzi in the translation by Richard Wilhelm -to the effect that the thingness of the thing cannot itself be a thing.

Case 2

The earlier formulation ‘The Being of beings ‘is’ not itself a being’ ( SZ  6)apparently anticipates the ‘thing ’— locution in terms of sentence structure and meaning. Drawing on Victor von Strauss’ commentary on Chapter 2of the  Laozi — and the corresponding locution in the Shin jin mei in hazama — Heidegger then writes in further clarification of his ‘new’ thinking:‘ Being and Nothing are not given beside one another. Each uses itself on behalf of the other’. And: ‘Nothingand Being the Same’ (see the juxtapositions in 3.1.3).

Case 3

With respect to the topos ‘Nothing’, Heidegger obviously formulates the synonymous topos ‘Emptiness’, drawing this time on Chapter 11 of the  Laozi  in Wilhelm’s translation, which has the thingly nature of the container consisting in emptiness (see the discussion in 3.2.2)

Cases 4 and 5

In his pseudo-dialogue ‘From a Conversation on Language’, Heidegger adopts almost verbatim, but well hidden, two formulations from a text by Oscar Benl on Noh drama (see2.4). While these two instances do not affect Heidegger’s major ideas of East Asian provenance, they nevertheless provide further evidence of the manner in which he integrates foreign ways of thinking into his own texts without indicating their source.

Case 6

Drawing on the idea of dao in the sense of both Way and Saying, as expressed by Richard Wilhelm and Martin Buber, Heidegger clearly formulates his correspondence between Way and Saying (see 4.2). Further cases beyond these can probably be adduced (see, especially, 4.3.4). Another case of striking correspondence suggests that Heidegger conceived his key idea of ‘Appropriation’ on the model of the concluding trope of Chapter 25of the Laozi (see 4.3.2–3). Taken together, these cases show that Heidegger very probably thought through and deliberately elaborated his path-breaking ideas from as early as the1920s on, drawing particularly from the above-mentioned texts of Victor von Strauss, Richard Wilhelm, and mainly from Martin Buber’s Tschuang-Tse, without ever giving the customary indications of the sources of his thinking. His subsequent appropriation of East Asian ways of thinking, effected through encoded presentations, was presumably furthered in no small measure by his conversations with Chinese and Japanese scholars, though obviously unbeknown to those interlocutors (see Chapters 1,2, and 7). As became known only after his death, Heidegger’s collaboration with Paul Hsiao in the summer of 1946 played an important role in this respect (see 1.2.2). This is also confirmed in the connection with Hsiao’s account by the letter of 9 October 1947 in which Heidegger expresses the desire to continue his conversations with him again soon (see 1.1).

The assumption that these correspondences are merely fortuitous can be rejected on the basis of their nature and quantity (Chapters 2–4); they become especially numerous in the texts from the 1950s, following the period during which Heidegger collaborated with Hsiao on translating the Laozi.

The nature and quantity of the correspondences suggest a deliberate appropriation of East Asian ways of thinking. It is highly improbable that Heidegger, whose interest in East Asian thought is uncontested, who was able to appreciate it, and even admitted being familiar with most of the relevant texts we have mentioned, should have happened to think and write in such a closely parallel manner in the passages adduced above merely by chance. And the same is of course true for numerous other passages in which Heidegger, as we have seen, thinks in a similarly East Asian way

The assumption of mere coincidence needs to be rejected also on the basis of Heidegger’s ‘confession’ (see Chapter 5, above). In an encoded manner, yet unambiguously, he speaks of a ‘deeply hidden kinship’ between his own and East Asian thinking. In other words, he speaks of a connection based on his adoption of some essential traits of East Asian thinking which, for reasons easy to understand, he declined to reveal. In contrast, the passage from the ‘Der Spiegel conversation’ (see 1.2.3)  must be understood as a tactically necessary ‘cover-up’ man oeuvre that turned out to be necessary for the preservation of his secret (see 5.4). [1]

Heidegger’s letter to his Japanese colleague Kojima Takehiko, written on 18 August 1963 and published a year before the Der Spiegel conversation (3.2.2), also speaks in favour of this interpretation. There Heidegger indicates quite decisively, if again in an encoded manner, what has determined his path of thinking:’ above all not a reanimation of the beginning of Western philosophy’ [2] even though one is happy to assume the contrary in the West.


In so far as Heidegger’s work has been influenced by East Asian sources, it is not simply a matter of peripheral topics that are thought about merely incidentally. In the case of the topos ‘Nothing’ (and it is a matter bearing in mind the locution— ‘
Nothing and Being the same’—of the major idea, the ‘only one’ the thinker needs
(WCT 50/20); a matter, then, of an idea that is new to Western thinking, and which Heidegger owes to insight into the teachings of  dao in the  Laozi and  Zhuangzi.
For Heidegger, ‘Nothing’ is not merely a nugatory nothing, the nothingness of nihilism: it is rather the ‘Nothing of Being [Seyn]’, fullness (see 3.1, 3.2)

He pursues this thought in his texts continually, which are in this context striking for their repetitions and variations of ‘the Same’. [3]

To effect a complete and conclusive clarification he eventually (in 1969) adds the ‘simple’ formula: ‘Being: Nothing: Same’(‘SLT’ 101). Corresponding Daoist — and Zen Buddhist-tinged paraphrases are to be found (see Chapters 3 and 4), in more or less encoded form, throughout the work that has been published so far. Whereas in the formula ‘Being: Nothing: Same’ the ‘Same’ constitutes a conspicuous key word (WCT  50/20) for a better understanding of Heidegger’ s work in general, one that holds together in a hidden way all the identifications discussed above, thought of as corresponding silently with the spirit of the Daoist teachings, the reader must first laboriously explicate the identification of  Way and Saying in order to see that here, too, Heidegger’s thinking draws significantly from East Asian sources (see Chapter 4, above).


The preceding investigation has not only shown what  Heidegger has appropriated but also how he has paraphrased the adopted ways of thinking and integrated them into his texts in such a way that hardly a trace remains of their East Asian sources. We were able to point at the beginning of the investigation to a valuable document that now assumes considerable weight. For it shows quite explicitly how Heidegger para-phrases a German translation of a passage from  Laozi 15 in such a way that his text eventually becomes so distant from thewording of the translation that the major topoi of the Daoist teachings find expression in his adaptation (and diction) as corresponding key terms in his own thinking. The document is Heidegger’s letter to Hsiao of 9 October 1947, which came to light only after forty years through being printed in the volume Heidegger and  Asian Thought.

In this brief letter Heidegger takes Hsiao’s translation of a passage from the Laozi, which Hsiao had carefully explained to him character by character during their collaboration the previous year, as the basis for two versions of his own (see 1.1 above). While the first appears to stem from the earlier collaborative translation work, and renders understandable Hsiao’s discomfort with such ‘transposition’ (see  EMH 126), y the second has hardly anything to do with Hsiao’s translation, which at best stays in the background ‘like the wind-borne echo of a distant call’(‘Conversation’, 37/131).

A comparison of the texts easily reveals to the practiced interpreter how Heideggeris proceeding here and what his aim is. (The discussion that follows concerns the passages quoted on pp. 2f above).The addition of the phrase ‘the dao of heaven’ may be acceptable in the context of a broadly conceived interpretation, [4] but this is not the case with the question preceding it [‘who is able by making tranquil (stil-lend) to bring something in to Being?’]. For here Heidegger would appear to go far beyond the original text in alluding with the word stillend (not  moving, in the sense of there sting of any kind of movement)—posited as synonymous with‘ Nothing’ in the sense of ‘Nothing and Being the Same’ (see 3.1.3) — to‘Being’. [5]

The result is that Nothing brings, through nothinging [nichtend], beings (‘something’) ‘into Being’—something that in Daoism only dao could do (see 3.1.2). This, then, explains the answer Heidegger appended (referring to Hsiao’s calligraphy) to the question. His first version could now serve well as a basis for the second. This
second version represents a creative and eloquent  ‘recomposition’ influenced by the relationships (discussed above) among wu (Nothing),  yu (Being), and dao (Way/Saying), in Heideggerian terminology, such that we have before us the keywords that Heidegger drew from Daoist teachings as early as the 1920s and 1930s,and which eventually, after the collaborative translation with Hsiao of the chapters in the Laozi dealing with dao, extensively condition his subsequent thinking— above all during the 1950s. [6]

One can see in the way Heidegger writes the verb ‘move’ [be-wegen] (playingon
dao, Way [Weg], even though the Chinese word for ‘move’ in the  Laozi text does not provide any ‘etymological’ warrant for this) an indication of how the ‘multi-layered meaning of the Chinese text’ (Hsiao,  EMH  127) can be made ‘thinkable and clear in a Western language’ (even in Heidegger’s idiosyncratic diction and interpretation, which go beyond the original). Our previous investigation (in Chapter 4, above) attempted to clarify the way this ‘moving’ [be-wegen] flowed into Heidegger’s texts on language (with the ‘e’-trema in wëgen and other combinations). [7]


In this context Heidegger’s often repeated associations of thinking [Denken] and poetizing [Dichten] gain a special meaning, in so far as the greatteachers of classical Daoism are poets as well as thinkers, and Zhuangzi, to whom Heidegger owes so much, is the greatest among them. Heidegger may well have taken Zhuangzi as a significant model to measure himself by, and not only Hölderlin, Rilke, George, or Trakl to name just a few Western figures who have played a similar role for him. Heidegger the poet, as opposed to Heidegger the thinker, would not then be expected to observe the custom of citing the sources underlying the ‘beautiful’ work, for knowledge of those, as Thomas Mann so aptly remarks, would ‘often confuse and shock, thereby annulling the effects of what is excellent’. That would be fine — if only Heidegger did not lay claim to being understood and taken seriously as a thinker! But thinking and poetizing are so closely intertwined in him that one is hardly to be distinguished from the other. [8]

This is because thinking, as Heidegger proclaims, has to poetize in response to the enigma of Being. [9]

Is it, therefore, so astonishing that one has had to admit — with regard to a thinking that issues in enigmas and likes to create an abundance of encoded locutions (in other words, concealed plays on Daoist teachings which have gone unrecognized) — that, as Walter Biemel has said, we have still not managed to achieve a proper dialogue with Heidegger, because the partner has not been there and we have been genuinely taken aback by this thinking?


This kind of thinking and poetizing under East Asian influence has again taken (post-Nietzsche) as its major task the overcoming of metaphysics, the basic trait of which Heidegger sees as ‘onto-theo-logic’ (ID 59/50). Where this thinking has from early on received its (‘silent’) directive from is now not difficult to surmise. [10]

From ancient Chinese thought — for metaphysics, soconceived, was never developed there. [11]
Being neither indebted to Aristotelian logic [12] nor receptive to an ontology involving a subject-object dichotomy, nor, above all, being conditioned by any theology, ancient Chinese thought was completely remote from the assertion of ‘eternal truths’, which belong according to Heidegger‘ to the residue of Christian theology that has still not been properly eradicated from philosophical problematics’(SZ 229). On this issue, what could be closer to the mark than Heidegger’s saying that his thinking (under East Asian influence, to be consistent) could be ‘theistic’ as little as ‘atheistic”. [13]

Thus Heidegger, ‘as message-bearer’ of his message (see 5.3), recommends underway that the lacunae left in the greatness of the Western beginning (see ‘Hölderlin’s Earth and Heaven’ 36) be gradually filled by the teaching of ‘the fullness of Nothing’.

This, too, could ultimately communicate Heidegger’s ‘confession’ to us (see 5.2).

If one agrees with Walter Biemel’s assertion that an interpretation must open the text up and be able to show what lies hidden in a thinker’s thought and what it is grounded upon, [14] then the present investigation can also be seen as a small contribution to the interpretation of Heidegger. At any rate, the full extent of its consequences for appropriate future interpretations cans at this point hardly be gauged. In order to gain a new perspective from this ‘Heidegger case’, we in the West will have to devote ourselves to non-Western thinking as thoroughly as to that of our own tradition, not least since Heidegger has, in his own special way, demonstrated the necessity of  transcultural thinking. Thanks to Goethe’s having rendered great service to the cause of world literature, such a field is now, a good hundred-and-fifty years later, firmly established; but ‘world philosophy’, by contrast, is still a long way off. Nevertheless, Karl Jaspers sees here ‘the unavoidable task of the era’. And to this task Martin Heidegger, too, has paid tribute in a unique way.


[1] Compare the different interpretation of this passage in Cho,  Bewusstsein und  Natursein, 16 [who takes Heidegger’s assertion of the irrelevance of Zen Buddhism at face value]

[2] Briefwechsel mit einem japanischen Kollegen ’, 6 [ JH, 224].

[3] On Heidegger’s view it is precisely this thought that has been misunderstood in the West (see 3.1.1 above, especially the passage [WL19/ US108–9] cited in note 69).

[4] This is how Hsiao seems to have understood Heidegger’s supplement in connection with his original calligraphy of the verse for Heidegger (see  HAT  100).

[5] Compare the ‘Afterword to “What Is Metaphysics?”’:‘“Being” (Austrag) as the soundless voice, the voice of stillness [Stimme der Stille]’(GA 9:306, footnote f). [The note is appended to the word ‘soundless’ in the context of the possibility of experiencing Being through not shrinking in the face of ‘the soundless voice that summons to the terror of the abyss’ (Wm 102).]

[6] The role the Laozi chapter may have played in Heidegger’s ‘Discussion of Gelassenheit [‘Conversation on a Country Path about Thinking’], which was published in1959 but supposedly written in 1944/5, is shown, for example, by a short passage (DT 70/ GA13:51) for which Heidegger drew, presumably before his collaboration with Hsiao, from the version of  Laozi15 by Wilhelm ( Laotse,134) and/or that by von Strauss ( Lao-Tse,74, 230f). The later versions in the letter to Hsiao would then be simply the expression of new (and deeper) endeavours at appropriation.

[7] See section 3 of both ‘The Nature of Language’ and ‘The Way to Language’; the coin age wëgen occurs in the latter essay (WL 129f/US 261f.

[8] See ‘What Are Poets For?’, in PLT 99–100/  Hw256; The Thinker as Poet’, in PLT 12/ GA13:84. Compare also Karl Löwith,  Denker ind ürftiger Zeit (Göttingen 1953, 1965), 11 [where Löwith writes:‘It is for the most part undecidable whether Heidegger poetizes thinkingly or thinks poetically, so much does he poetically condense a thinking that is associatively disintegrated’].

[9]  ‘The Anaximander Fragment’, in EGT 5S/  Hw 343; compare ‘Logos’, in EGT 78/ VA3:25.

[10] It was not from pre Socratic thought, nor from Western (theo-) mystical thinking, nor from Nietzsche ’s poetic thinking, nor even from Hölderlin’s poetry that Heidegger received the essential impetus for his ‘new’ poetic thinking. One can hardly help but think that the Western thinkers and poets he mentions simply serve to help him further, step by step, his significant[wegweisend]work through so-called dialogue with them, without this attempting or sustaining an authentic interpretation of them.

[11] See Hajime Nakamura, Ways of Thinking of Eastern Peoples: India —China —Tibet  — Japan (Honolulu 1964,5 1971), 243–6; Joseph Needham, Science and Civilization in China, vol. 2: History of Scientific Thought (Cambridge 1956,  1975),  37.

[12] Hsiao instructed Heidegger on this point;  see  EMH  128.

[13] ‘Letter on Humanism’, in  BW 230/ Wm 182.

[14] Walter Biemel, Heidegger,129

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