Re: "The Fourfold"


>Maybe I'm missing something really profound, but I've always thought
>Heidegger's invocation of the "fourfold" (living on earth under heaven among
>mortals in the presence of the gods, or something like that) was just his
>nostalgia for peasant life (although I doubt he wanted to *be* a peasant, but
>rather to retreat as a tenured professor to a little log hut among the
>peasants). One of Heidegger's Holderlin quotes is: Poetically man dwells on
>earth. The fourfold certainly seems "poetic".

I'm not sure how much nostalgia is at work here. Note that Heidegger invokes
the "fourfold" in the context of a discussion of presencing or appropriation,
and presencing is something that does not happen all the time. Presencing--
the emergence of a _new_ world, a new whole of determinations for beings as a
whole--is something that occurs fitfully, on the inscrutable initiative of
Being as such. And thinking--the apprehension of the emerging new world that
fixes the world in language--is something of which not everyone is capable (or
more precisely, something to which not everyone is called). I think Heidegger
would say that, in the ordinary life of the peasant, there is no fourfold,
because there is no presencing. Or to put it in his earlier terminology,
ordinary peasant life is inauthentic.

Indeed, it's not clear that he's talking about peasant life in the first
place. For what does Heidegger mean by "the gods"? He does not mean divine
beings. If you look at the first essay in _Elucidations_of_Hoelderlin's_
_Poetry_ (which essay is in _Existence_and_Being_, under the title
"Homecoming"), these gods turn out to be the particularities of place and time
where and when presencing occur. I daresay that's not how you everyday
peasant-in-the-field understands the gods!

The fourfold (which involves _dwelling_ and not living--these are not the same
for Heidegger) is poetic, but that's because when Heidegger's talking about
_poiesis_ he's talking about presencing, which he thinks takes place
essentially and primarily within language (and certain "uses" of language, at

> In this mailing list I have previously cited a question the Der Spiegel
> interviewers asked Heidegger in the "Only a God Can Save Us" interview. I
> think it is relevant to repeat it here, with the notation that Heidegger did
> *not* respond to the question: "Evidently you experience an opposition in
> your person which is such that many of the by-products of your activity can
> really only be explained by the fact that, with various parts of your being,
> which are not concerned with your philosophical core, you cleave to many
> things which you as a philosopher know have no substance -- concepts, for
> example, like 'homeland.' 'roots,' or the like...."

Since this question is framed in terms of a substance-accident opposition that
belongs to metaphysics, wouldn't he think that the question is simply badly


| "My friend, blood shaking my heart
Ronald M. Carrier | The awful daring of a moment's surrender
[email protected] | Which an age of prudence can never retract
Philosophy, Northwestern U. | By this, and this only, we have existed"
| --T.S. Eliot, "The Waste Land"

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