- Heidegger's Poetic Writings: From Contributions to Philosophy to The Event by Daniela Vallega-Neu
With the nonpublic works of Heidegger's written between 1936 and 1942 now almost all translated into English, the earnest reader is hard put to summarize, assess, or critique Heidegger's project. Daniela Vallega-Neu has selected five of these manuscripts to summarize and critically reflect upon in their historical context during the period of Heidegger's relation to National Socialism. In translation, these works have the titles of Contributions to Philosophy (of the Event), Mindfulness, Über den Anfang (On Inception or About the Beginning), and The Event. During this same period, Heidegger also composed upwards of twenty-five public manuscripts and lecture courses, which are already translated. Vellega-Neu, who previously authored Heidegger's Contributions to Philosophy: An Introduction, has given a great deal of time over the last seventeen years to thinking about Heidegger's public and private writings, and I would recommend reading Heidegger's Poietic Writings to get a handle on these works.
The title derives from Vallega-Neu's approach to Heidegger through the Greek word ποίησις, usually translated as "making," and usually meaning the making of something that did not exist before. Vallega-Neu interprets "poietic" as "to bring forth," not as a human maker brings forth an artifact or an artwork but as beings emerge in their presence, manifesting what they are. In these poietic writings, Heidegger is trying to step into, be part of, and experience the event of the bringing forth of beings. These "poietic events," historically, have already happened. Thus, the history of metaphysics is a nuanced relation to these historical events.
In German these particular texts are described as seynsgeschlichtlich or "beyng-historical." Heidegger spells Sein as Seyn, which is spelled "Beyng" when translated, thus distinguishing it from metaphysically framed concepts of "being." Unlike other "histories," Heidegger's beyng-historical is not an objective, representational portrayal of "events" that have happened, have a specific character, and are recorded by writers of history. In these volumes, Heidegger goes deeply into the character of "event," especially as the event that is a bringing forth or emergence. Further, he steps into the experience of the emergent event in his poietic writings. Beyng-historical is not philosophical history or history of ideas such as we find in Hegel, Marx, Merleau-Ponty, or Lovejoy. Beyng-historical can be accessed in its resonances with Nietzsche's philosophy and the poetry of Hölderlin, both of which Vallega-Neu does a wonderful job of drawing upon.
These nonpublic works are thus very different from the published works from the same period, and familiarity with the public works does not aid in understanding these texts, though we can see their efforts emerge in the writings of 1950s and 1960s. Heidegger is thinking deeply about "the event" and how to articulate beyng eventing in the very moment of the event and thinking that occurrence. Vallega-Neu tries to get at this participation in thinking by evoking the middle voice of a Greek verb. [End Page 630] Unlike the active and passive voice, in the middle voice the subject is both the agent of the action and taken up in the action such that subject and event meld. The middle voice utters the poietic beyng-historical event with "the relationship of being and thinking in the event, as the turning in the 'between' of truth and being." The middle voice articulates a double sense of seynsgeshichtlich, beyng-historical. Beyng issues in different senses in different epochs of Western history. This history belongs to beyng, and thinking itself belongs to this history and contributes in paving its way to the groundless and the nothingless.
As we delve deeper into this history, we find a lot of nuance about the approach to history. To the author's credit, Vallega-Neu takes on both the emergence of thinking in the ancient Greeks that lead to the distancing of thinking and what is...