PHI 381

Contemporary European Aesthetics

Summary 5

Madiha Hamdi and Thomas Was

September 21, 2010



            The class began with the review of the quiz for What Are Poets For? by Heidegger. The differences between the poet in relation to the abyss and the Open include: the abyss is the fleeting of the gods, the hiddenness of the truth, the abgrund and is associated with Holderlin's poem in the text; and the Open is related with the truth, unconcealedness, the urgund, and is associated with Rilke's poem.


            Holderlin was a 19th century German poet, which during his time recognized it was a destitute time. He was the original person to ask “what are poets for in a destitute time?” The abyss, which is used in Holderlin's poem, for Heidegger is the lack of grounding because of the fleeting gods. There is an Abgrund, meaning away(Ab-) from ground/foundation/basis (grund). The Open can only be reached by turning away from this abyss and to find solid ground, a fundemental basis for life.


            What Are Poets For? was written in 1946 right after the end of WWII. During this period the denazification trials were occuring and being a Nazi Heidegger was questioned then eventually barred from being allowed to teach in Germany. Hitler and the Third Reich had crumbled and can be related to the fleeting of the gods. For Germany they were the people's gods and with their removal, large amounts of deaths and large amounts of destruction, the times are destitute. Therefore Heidegger brings up Holderlin's question, what are poets for in a destitute time? Can poets help to find the way? The answer for Heidegger is yes, they are good for something.


            Poets are the first to realize the the times are destitute, they are the first to reach into the abyss. They search for the ground in order to attempt to appeal or turn to the Open. The Open is the true which has to do with the disclosure, unconcealedness and unshieldedness of things.


            Rilke was an Austrian poet that died before WWII. Heidegger uses one of Rilke's unpunblished poems to describe how the poet can turn from the abyss to the Open. The poet is a mediator, he leads the way in the turn away from the abyss. Dichtung is the word poetry in German. It can also mean washer, as in the piece of hardware that tightens yet separates. So poetry is used to tighten the space that the abyss creates. Denken means thinking in German and is very closely related to to Dichtung. Both are engaged in self-reflection.


            Beings have a relationship to the ground, they are situated on the ground and grounded in the ground. Nature is the ground of beings. Rilke talks about Nature in his poem from The Sonnets of Orpheus and is the equivalent of the Open. Orpheus was a mythical singer, poet, and musician before Plato. He was a extremely attractive man who was wanted by almost all the women. The story is that Orpheus was ripped apart by the Maenads while they were intoxicated and heard Orpheus' song and each took a piece for themselves. The Orphets were a secret society that worshipped Orpheus.


            Nature or Natura in Latin, is the equivalent to the Being of beings. It is the ontological difference. The Open, Nature, and the Being of beings are the same thing. Also in relation to Nietzsche Nature is the will to power, which Heidegger lectured about in 1938-1939. Nature and will are related to Er-eignis which is the event of the Being of beings. Nature is the ground for the history and art. The poet brings the Nature out in the poem. Rilke calls Nature the Urgrund. Ur- translated in the essay means pristine, but it also can mean original, most primitive, first and most basic. Humans are grounded and this grounding is more original than the ground for other things. The poets gets to the most fundamental Nature or ground because he reaches into the abyss to get to it. Calculative sciences that try to uncover the Being of beings or the Open will never reach this Urgrund.


            Heidegger's essay Language was written in 1950-51, 5-6 years after What Are Poets For? Language in German is die Sprache. For Heidegger language can speak in the Being of beings, in the differential space. Not any language can though, it can only be logos. Logos can mean dy of, structure of, logic of, or language. Logos in Latin is verbum which translates into English as word.


            Language is of course closely related to speaking but is the relation in the words themselves is lost in English. In German language is die Sprache whereas to speak is sprechen. The whole notion of speaking is activated at all times, meaning it's natural for man. Humans get their function as humans through speech. Heidegger uses Trakl's poem to demonstrate how language speaks.


            The wanderer in Trakl's poem is stuck outside in the cold while there are people inside enjoying the warmth and the break and wine. This marks a dichotomy between the inside and the outside. The threshold marks this dichotomy or dif-ference. This dif-ference is the between of the world and thing. The word dif-ference itself has a gap. Hearing and belonging are a part of the space of the Being of beings.