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Heidegger, Martin. Parmenides. Translated by A. Schuwer and R. Rojcewicz. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992. xv + 170 pp. $29.95--This work is a translation of volume 54 of the Heidegger Gesamtausgabe. The original German volume is the text of a lecture course given from 1942 to 1943 at Freiburg and amended by Heidegger before its publication in 1982. The translators provide a brief Foreword with background and examples illustrating their principles of translation. The translation itself is well done, accurate, and clear.

The organization of this volume is complex, and is explained briefly in an editor's afterword. The work is divided into an Introduction and two parts. Each part is divided into sections and each section includes "recapitulations." In these summaries Heidegger repeats the main points of the section, but he often develops ideas unanalyzed in the section proper. Depending on one's sympathies with Heidegger's project, the repetition in these portions of the work will be found either tiresome or usefully reinforcing.

The title of the Introduction indicates that Heidegger is offering a meditation (Besinnung) on Parmenides' poem. The meditation begins with a reflection on lines 22-32 of the first part, particularly Parmenides' reference to "the goddess." Heidegger rejects the prevailing view, that this use of deity is only a mythic prelude to "abstract" (Heidegger's word) philosophizing. Instead, Heidegger asserts that when Parmenides appeals to the goddess, he refers to truth: "|the truth'--itself--is the goddess" (p. 5).

This identification sanctions Heidegger's development of a four-part series of "directives" based on the primacy of the notion of truth in Parmenides' poem. Part 1 of the lecture series is devoted to the first three directives: truth is concealment; unconcealedness "indicates that truth is wrenched from concealment and is in conflict with it" (p. 26); unconcealedness refers to a realm of "oppositions" in which truth stands. The brief Part 2 concerns the fourth directive: the open space of the clearing of Being. In neither of these parts does Heidegger analyze the sections of the poem generally thought to contain its most philosophically important themes, the Way of Truth and the Way of Seeming.

Since it is axiomatic for Heidegger that truth is historical and that philosophy and poetry are frequently allied pursuits, the ways in which Heidegger develops the four directives range far and wide: the figures treated include Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Descartes, Leibniz, Anaximander, Nietzsche, Burckhardt, Schelling, Homer, Hesiod, Theogonis, Kierkegaard, Grimm, Livy, Spengler, Fichte, Pindar, Schopenhauer, Holderlin, Herder, Sophocles, and Rilke. Heidegger's approach to this diversity of subjects depends, in large measure, on deriving meanings from a number of Greek words consonant with his reading of the history of truth (and a fortiori, the history of philosophy and poetry). As a result, the reader must be prepared for many of Heidegger's etymological reflections.

The central themes concerning truth advanced in this volume have already appeared in a number of texts published around or after the time these lectures were given. Heidegger frequently illuminates phenomena unconsidered in these works, however, or adds detail to figures or notions he has already examined. We find an instance of the latter in the remarks on the myth of Er in the Republic (pp. 97-9), and of the former in an incisive treatment of handwriting and the leveling effect of technology's way of expediting handwriting--for example, "the typewriter makes everyone look the same" (p. 81).

In view of the current interest in Heidegger's connections with the Nazis, one may wonder whether these lectures add to our awareness of how Heidegger saw the wartime situation in the land of "poets and thinkers" (a phrase Heidegger uses several times). Heidegger generally ignores current events, here and elsewhere; but toward the end of the final lecture, he says that "a moment of history is approaching, whose uniqueness is by no means determined simply, or at all, on the basis of the current situation of the world and of our own history in it" (p. 162). This may be a veiled allusion to Germany's position in World War II, but Heidegger then adds that what is at stake in this regard are only "beings"; the decisive question is, "How are beings supposed to be saved and secured . . . if the essence of Being is undecided, unquestioned, and even forgotten?" (p. 162).

On the whole, this work is a useful supplement for understanding Heidegger's desire to question "the meaning of Being."
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Author:White, David Gordon
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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