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Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 2005, volume 23, pages 811 ^ 827

DOI:10.1068/d369t

Contributions to geography? The spaces of Heidegger's Beitrage

Stuart Elden

Department of Geography, University of Durham, Durham DH1 3LE, England;


e-mail: stuart.elden@durham.ac.uk
Received 26 January 2004; in revised form 18 June 2004

Abstract. In this paper I provide a reading of Heidegger's Beitrage zur Philosophie (Vom Ereignis) [the
contributions to philosophy (of propriation)] as a contribution to geography. This collection of manuscripts, written between 1936 and 1938, is extremely important in terms of the development of Heidegger's
work, his political career, and his rethinking of the relation between space and time. This rethinking is one
of the key themes discussed, along with the political and geographical implications of Heidegger's notion
of calculation. In order to situate these insights, I first provide a discussion of the context within
which Heidegger wrote the work. After outlining this biographical, intellectual, and political situation,
I move to the geographical contributions, suggesting ways in which Heidegger's thought can impact
on our thinking of environment, nature, globalisation, and measurement.

Published only in 1989, on the centenary of its author's birth, Heidegger's Beitrage
zur Philosophie (Vom Ereignis) [Contributions to philosophy (of propriation)] is a
complicated and multifaceted book. It is a collection of manuscripts written between
1936 and 1938, which has been promoted by some as his second major work after Being
and Time (Emad, 1991; Kovacs, 1996; see Heidegger, 1962; 1967), and claimed by
Poggeler to surpass even that, being Heidegger's ``true magnum opus'' (1982, page 481,
cited in Schmidt, 2001, page 32). Although it has been translated into English by Emad
and Maly as Contributions to Philosophy: From Enowning (Heidegger, 1999), (1) and,
despite its obvious importance to Heidegger's project, it has not received nearly the
attention that might be expected (though see Greisch, 1989; Krell, 1992; Scott et al,
2001; Vallega-Neu, 2003). Perhaps most notable is that almost all of the attention
has been in the field of philosophy, with very little in the other disciplines in
which Heidegger's writings have had an impact.(2) Shortly after its initial publication
Schurmannhimself a professor of philosophysuggested that this contribution to
philosophy was actually a ``monstrous Contribution to Politics'' (1992, page 313). In the
wake of the revival of interest in Heidegger's political past, perhaps this delayed a
balanced assessment. The political context is undoubtedly important: this was a project
written in the last few years of peace before World War 2, in Nazi Germany, by the resigned
rector of Freiburg University, still a member of the party (see also de Beistegui, 1998;
Elden, 2003a; Janicaud, 1996, pages 96 ^ 97). However, although I will discuss the political
aspects, I want to suggest that the work also functions as a contribution to geography.
The important implications of the Beitrage to work on Heidegger's understanding
of time and space are a challenge that has been ducked before (Casey, 1997, page 453;
Elden 2001a, pages 56 ^ 57; Villela-Petit, 1992, pages 121, 128, 137),(3) despite de Beistegui's
(1) Page references are given only for the German edition, as the German of this and other texts
pagination is usually found in the margins of the English translation. I have regularly revised
existing translations.
(2) All the contributors to Scott et al (2001) are philosophers, for example.
(3) On space in Heidegger's work generally see also Franck (1986), which was published before the
Beitrage. A useful recent discussion is also found in Vallega (2004).

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claim that here we find ``possibly Heidegger's most sustained and convincing effort'' on this
topic (2003, page 199). Although Heidegger's one reference to geography as a discipline, in an extended critique of the modern academy, is dismissive and throwaway
(1989, page 153, see also pages 145 ^ 159), the Beitrage has much to offer the continued
rethinking of the theoretical basis of contemporary geography. Its contribution can, I
think, be seen in two main areas: the notion of calculation and the issue of the relation
between time and space, and the understandings of these terms. Thinking through
notions about calculation is useful in debates about the difference between place and
space, and in his remarks Heidegger himself touches upon issues of globalisation and
the environment. The issue of time and space is important in terms of the relation
between these two key terms, between history and geography, and between the issue of
calculation and representations of these terms. However, in order to introduce these
key themes, I look first not at what the Beitrage offers geography but to its own
situation, the geographies of the Beitrage.
The geographies of the Beitrage
Germany in 1936 was a country of contrasts. This was three years after Hitler had
taken power, and quickly withdrawn from the League of Nations, one year after the
Nuremberg laws on racial purity, and the Four Year Plan for economic growth began
in September. The year 1936 also saw the reoccupation and militarisation of the
Rhineland, an alliance with Mussolini, and the beginning of the Spanish civil war;
Guernica was destroyed the following year. Germany's gearing up for a war economy
was well underway and it was the incremental marginalisation of the Jews which made
possible their later extermination. But, for much of Germany, increased employment
and prosperity meant that things were better than they had been since 1914. The Berlin
Olympics of 1936, in particular, were a showcase to a new Germany and a greatly
exploited piece of political propaganda.
For Heidegger, there was a similarly contrasting set of circumstances. Tucked away
in the Black Forest, in the university city of Freiburg, his childhood hometown of
Mekirch, or in his mountain Hutte in Todtnauberg, he continued to think, write,
and teach. Although his twice-yearly courses continued after the resignation and
throughout the war, Heidegger found it increasingly difficult to publish, and so many
of his writings from this period first appeared in postwar collections, notably Holzwege
first published in 1950 (see Heidegger, 1977). The restrictions on publications were
because of political reasons, and, beneath the surface of Heidegger's rural idyl,
political tensions seethed and festered. His own political involvement, as the rector
of Freiburg University, had come to a crushing end two years previously. Initially
harbouring na| ve ambitions that the regime could be changed from within, with
himself cast as the philosopher to Hitler as king, Heidegger had hoped for a reawakening of the German Volk to their spiritual destiny and a return to the West's heritage
in Greek thought. Disappointed and embittered, Heidegger resigned the post, and
returned to his role as professor of philosophy, the chair previously occupied by
Husserl.(4) Heidegger remained in the Nazi party until the end of the war, and for
some time after his resignation seemed to feel that the movement and Hitler could
transcend the party. Nonetheless, his critical commentsoften equivocal, regularly
ambiguous, and usually guardeddo begin to surface from 1934 onwards. Retrospectively, he would suggest that these were his declarations of `spiritual resistance'. If this
is far too strong, what he does say is worth attention.
(4)

The literature on this is vast, but for some useful perspectives see Bambach (2003); de Beistegui
(1998); Janicaud (1996); Ott (1993); Thomson (2003).

The spaces of Heidegger's Beitrage

813

It is notable that Heidegger had, in his own words, remained in the provinces.
Refusing two calls to a chair in Berlin, first in 1931 and then in late 1933, Heidegger
had chosen to stay in the land he had been born into.
``On a steep slope of a wide mountain valley in the southern Black Forest, at
an elevation of 1150 metres, there stands a small ski hut [Skihutte]. The floor plan
measures six metres by seven. The low-hanging roof covers three rooms: the kitchen
which is also the living room, a bedroom and a study. Scattered at wide intervals
throughout the narrow base of the valley and on the equally steep slope opposite,
lie the farmhouses with their large over-hanging roofs. Higher up the slope the
meadows and pasture lands lead to the woods with its dark fir-trees, old and
towering. Over everything there stands a clear summer sky, and in its radiant space
two hawks glide around in wide circles'' (1981, page 27; 1983a, page 9).
Heidegger's description of his `work world' continues, as he talks about how this
landscape is conducive to his writingthe solitude rather than lonelinessand to
his integration into the peasant environment. ``The inner relationship of my own
work to the Black Forest and its people comes from a centuries-long and irreplaceable
rootedness [Bodenstandigkeit] in the Alemannian-Swabian soil'' (1981, page 27; 1983a,
pages 10 ^ 11). This rootedness in the soil is important in terms of both Heidegger's
politics and his philosophy. Although this would be developed in his later works as the
notion of dwelling, which has occasioned much interest in geography (for example,
Cloke and Jones, 2001; Harrison, forthcoming; Seamon and Mugerauer, 1985), `dwelling' is not yet a term that has been worked through in Heidegger's thought.(5) Instead,
Heidegger is contrasting his rural existence with the asphalt alienation of the big city.
Romantic and reactionary, rootedness is politically, as Bambach (2003) has shown,
a tragic ^ comic repetition of Greek myths of autochthony. But it is important to note
here, because it is also Heidegger's opposed term to the domination which he would later
call `technology' and what, at this time, he called Machenschaft (machination).
Todtnauberg was therefore for Heidegger a retreat from Freiburg, but, after his
resignation as rector, it was the place where, like Plato, he returned from Syracuse
(Gadamer, 1989). It was here that he wrote Being and Time, and where the Beitrage was
largely composed. The Beitrage is a work whose potentials can be hard to discern; it is
written in a stuttering, disjointed style, conceptually opaque, and filled with references
to other parts of Heidegger's work, to the tradition, and, in extremely muted form, to
contemporary events. Its vast resources are akin to a working draft, bringing together
themes either published or discussed in publicthat is, in Heidegger's lectures and
seminarswith those which appeared only in published work many years later or indeed
never saw the light of day in his own lifetime. It requires quite extensive knowledge of
Heidegger's other writings before it begins to make sense, and, indeed, Heidegger himself
ordained that the Beitrage should be published only in his Gesamtausgabe (collected
edition) after all of his lecture courses (volumes 17 ^ 63 of this edition) had appeared.
He believed that only then would readers be ready for it (see von Herrmann, 1989,
page 513). In fact, in 1989, eighteen of these volumes had not yet been published.
Heidegger's lecture courses from 1936 to 1938 included three on Nietzsche (1985;
1986a; 2003), the first two of which appear in revised form in the 1961 book Nietzsche
(1991; 1996 [1961]), one each on Schelling (1988a) and Kant (1984b), and a course that
is often thought to be the best single introduction to the Beitrage, Grundfragen der
Philosophie (Basic questions of philosophy) (1984c; 1994a; see von Herrmann 1989,
page 513). In terms of the themes I will argue are of relevance to geography, this last
(5)

It was developed through Heidegger's engagement with Holderlin, in lecture courses in 1934 ^ 35,
and, most explicitly, in 1942 (1980; 1984a; see Elden, 2001a, pages 33 ^ 43, 82 ^ 84).

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course offers relatively little, except for a remarkable inventory of how the course was
originally to have been delivered. I reproduce it here in full: we should note that the
course as actually delivered was largely confined to the first point, and the draft found
as an appendix to the lecture course (1984c, pages 195 ^ 223; 1994b, pages 168 ^ 186)
breaks off halfway through the third point.
``I. Foundational issues in the question of truth.
II. Leaping ahead into the essency [Wesung] of truth.
III. Recollection of the first shining forth of the essence of truth, aletheia (unconcealedness), as the basic character of beings. (The history of its shining forth
and expiring from Anaximander to Aristotle).
IV. The question of truth as the unfolding of the essency of beyng, which appropriates
[er-eignet] as the clearing of the `in the midst' [Inmitten] of beings.
V. The question of truth as the grounding of Da-sein.
VI. The essency of truth as the truth of beyng in the abyss [Abgrund ].
VII. The a-byss as the space of the play of time [Zeit ^ Spiel ^ Raum]. (Space and time
in the previous interpretation, one determined by metaphysics and its guiding question).
VIII. The abyss and the strife (Da-sein: earth and world).
IX. Truth and its shelter in beings as the recasting of beings in beyng.
X. The full essency of truth and the inclusion of correctness'' (1984c, page 193;
1994a, page 167).
There is a lot that could be said of this, much of which is well known in terms
of scholarship on Heidegger and perhaps of marginal relevance to his contribution
to geography. But it is worth noting briefly two points because of their importance to
Heidegger's work. One is Heidegger's archaic spelling of being, as Seyn instead of Sein,
which along with many commentators [but in contrast to Rojcewicz and Schuwer
(Heidegger, 1994a), and indeed to Emad and Maly in 1999] I have rendered as the
English word `beyng', which is similarly old. The point is that Heidegger wants to
retrieve a sense of being that is not tainted with metaphysics. A similar intent is found
in Heidegger's well-known translation of the Greek aletheia, commonly rendered as
`truth', as `unconcealedness', preserving the alpha privative of the Greek: truth is a bringing
of something into the open, and the notion of truth as correctness (see point X) or veracity
is a later invention (see 1988b).
More important to the overall argument is the term Da-sein, a common word for
`existence' but which here is hyphenated by Heidegger to draw out the root meanings
of `being' Sein, and `there', Da. Although this term is usually untranslated in English,
it has sometimes been rendered as `being-there'. Straightforward appropriations of this
in a purely spatial sense largely miss Heidegger's point, because the term is better
understood as `being-the-there', the openness to being of human existence (see 1989,
page 17).
Reading this as a straightforward spatial term is misleading, but there is a
profound thinking through of issues around space to be found in Heidegger's
work which is merely hinted at here. In particular, the notions of the `abyss' and
the Zeit ^ Spiel ^ Raum and the suggestion that common understandings of space
and time are ones determined by metaphysics promise much. And point VIII, with
its juxtaposition of the abyss and the strife, and with it the juxtaposition of earth and
world, recalls vocabulary found in Heidegger's 1935 ^ 36 lecture ``On the origin of the
work of art'' (1977, see especially pages 35 ^ 36, 42; see also 1989, pages 30, 398 ^ 399,
408, 510). All of these themes are important in terms of the Beitrage, but I would
contend that here they are merely promissory notes, and that, rather than being useful
in terms of understanding the Beitrage, they are really understood only in the context

The spaces of Heidegger's Beitrage

815

of that work. In some respects this is also true for the confrontation with Nietzschewhat
Heidegger would call an Auseinandersetzung, a `setting-apart-from-another'. Whereas the
Beitrage's comments on the notion of Augenblickthe famous word used by Martin
Luther concerning `the twinkling of an eye' in his translation of Paul's First Letter to
the Corinthians, and later utilised by Nietzsche as the `moment' of the eternal recurrencetrade upon work in the Nietzsche courses,(6) on other issues it is other way round.
For example, in a discussion of the notion of Zeit ^ Raum Heidegger explicitly makes
reference to the unpublished manuscript (1985, page 286).
As with so much of Heidegger's later work, it is in the 1935 lecture course `An
introduction to metaphysics' that more useful clues can be gleaned. The openings are
particularly found in the famous comments on geopolitics:
``This Europe, in its unholy blindness always on the point of cutting its own throat,
lies today in the great pincers between Russia on the one side and America on the
other. Russia and America, seen metaphysically, are both the same: the same
hopeless frenzy of unchained technology and of the rootless [bodenlosen] organization of the average man. When the farthest corner of the globe [Erdballs] has been
conquered technologically and can be exploited economically... when time is
nothing but rapidity, instantaneity and simultaneity [Schnelligkeit, Augenblicklichkeit
und Gleichzeitigkeit] ... when the tallies of millions at mass meetings are a triumph
[Millionenzahlen von Massenversammlungen ein Triumph], yes then, there still looms
like a spectre over all this uproar the question: what for?where to?and what
then?'' (1953, pages 28 ^ 29).
Although the Germanic thrust of this is deeply problematicit is the German Volk
that lies `in the pincers', that is, the `metaphysical Volk'there is something that goes
beyond this here. Perhaps, most obviously, there is the sarcastic reference to the
`triumph' that can be tallied through numbers at mass meetings. Is it necessary to
note that Leni Riefenstahl's contemporary film of the Nuremberg rallies The Triumph
of the Will had been released the year of Heidegger's lectures? Then there is the advent
of a mechanised and technological `globalisation', a process where the earth is but a
ball, conceived as a whole, conquered and exploited. Again the notion of machination
is anticipated, but without a full development. Heidegger's point about rapidity, instantaneity, and simultaneity is more nuanced than a simple translation can capture.
Schnell is the word for speed, and so this captures something of the transitory, accelerated nature of time; Augenblick is the `moment' discussed above; and Gleichzeitigkeit
implies each moment of time (Zeit) being made the same (Gleich). The mournful
references to the ``destruction of the earth'' and the ``reduction of human beings to a
mass [die Vermassung des Menschen]'' which follow (1953, page 29) equally hint at
the political opportunities beyond the straightforward ones we might associate with
Heidegger.
``The prevailing dimension became that of extension and number [Ausdehnung und
der Zahl ] ... . In America and Russia, then, this all intensified until it turned into the
measureless [malose] so-on-and-so-forth of the ever-identical and the indifferent
[Immergleichen und Gleichgultigen], until finally this quantitative temper became a
quality of its own'' (1953, page 35).
Slightly further down that page, Heidegger offers a discussion of how that highly
charged Hegelian word Geist usually translated as `spirit' or `mind when rendered
as mere Intelligenz, is examining and calculating (Berechnung und Betrachtung ).
(6) See, for example, ``the thinking question of the truth of beyng is the moment [Augenblick] that
carries the transition. This moment can never be fixed as actualand even less calculated
[errechnen]. It first establishes the time of propriation [Ereignis]'' (1989, page 20; for a reading see
Elden, 2001a, pages 44 ^ 49; McNeill, 1999, pages 221 ^ 238).

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What is interesting is that this way of thinking is seen in action in three potential
realms: ``the regulation and domination [die Regelung und Beherrschung] of the
material conditions of production''; ``the intelligent ordering [Ordnung und Erklarung]
of everything that is present and already posited at any time''; and as ``applied to the
organisational regulation [der organisatorischen Lenkung] of the vital resources and race of
a Volk [der Lebensmasse und Rasse eines Volkes]'' (page 29). Heidegger notes that the first
is found in Marxism, the second in positivismby which he surely means its American
form. He does not name the third, but note this was 1935, and it was delivered in Nazi
Germany (1953, pages 35 ^ 36). As Kisiel notes, too strongly but on the right track,
``thus the practice of German National Socialism is, already in 1935, `metaphysically
the same' as that of Americanism and Russian Communism'' (2001a, page 240).
If this is the situation in Germany, and of the Beitrage in German, how is it to
translate it, to carry it across, into the modernday Anglophone world and into the
English language? Aside from the obvious problems of reading a book almost seventy
years after it was first written, with the difficulties of recognising all the allusions and
contexts of Heidegger's time, the English-language reader is faced with a translation
which has tended to invite severe criticism (for example, Bambach, 2000). Emad and
Maly have, to their credit, brought this work into English in some form, and allowed
wider discussion of this text to begin. Faced with the text they had to work with, one
can only have sympathy for their task. That said, several contentious decisions have
been made here, and the book needs to be retranslated as it is read. Essentially, Emad
and Maly have overtranslated to an alarming degree. For example, Wesen, essence
or character, has been translated as `essential sway', or sometimes, when it implies
das Eigenste einer Sache (what is ownmost to something), as `what is ownmost', and
then at times it is rendered as `way of being'. Although a recognition of the importance
Heidegger puts on this word is necessary, to translate continually with different words
or phrases obscures the point (see de Beistegui, 2003, pages 87 ^ 89; Sallis, 2001, page 196).
Similarly, the choice of `en-owning' for Ereignis is deeply problematic, the word having
a common meaning of `event' and a sense of `appropriation' or `propriation' (see Casey,
1997, page 278; Elden, 2003a, pages 37 ^ 38; Krell, 1992, page 231).
This is why I have regularly revised the translation of passages and terms taken
from the Beitrage, which has the additional advantage of allowing some of the wordplay around key terms to emerge. It is for this reason that many German terms are
included in brackets within the text, and that quite a bit of stress is given to word
association and etymology. As both Heidegger and Nietzsche have shown, the analysis
of words can reveal much about meanings that have become obscured or forgotten.
The use of language is a crucial tool in Heidegger's mode of argumentation, and, for
that reason, it is necessary to pay careful attention to what he actually says.
Calculation and politics
The political background established above is important, as Heidegger's work on
measure (Ma ) and calculation (Rechnung) has to be understood in the context of
its time, and it is perhaps here more than any other theme in the Beitrage with the
exception of racethat the political intrudes.(7) The word `measure' is Ma, which
derives from messen, to measure or to gauge. Heidegger continually works with words
that share this stem. We have already seen Massenversammlungen, the mass meetings;
Vermassung, the reduction to a mass or measure; and Lebensmasse, vital resources.
More broadly, in those references to Einfuhrung in die Metaphysic (an introduction
to metaphysics) (1953) we saw how Heidegger believed all had been condensed to
(7)

For a much more detailed account see Elden (2003a). These themes are developed in Elden (2005a).

The spaces of Heidegger's Beitrage

817

extension and number. One of the most important of these related words in a political
context is Gemaheit, a word vital to national socialism, which means conformity
or accord, the removal of dangerous elements as things are brought together around
a fixed measure or norm. In this it is directly related to the better known concept
of Gleichschaltung, which implies political coordination, literally `same wiring' or
`connection', the bringing into line and elimination of opposition, subordinating things
to a common measure (see Friedlander, 1980; Klemperer, 2000). The other key theme
is the gearing up of the economy, particularly in the Four Year Plan (see Kisiel, 2001a).
A running theme of the Beitrage concerns the problems of mechanistic, calculative
ways of looking at the world. For Heidegger, by this time, it is increasingly obvious
that Nazism is a continuation of this problematic, rather than its potential solution,
which he had at one point patently believed.
Indeed, Heidegger's lifelong claim that the tradition has forgotten or is oblivious to
being is seen, in the Beitrage, as dependent on three things, three concealments
(Verhullungen): calculation (die Berechnung), acceleration or rapidity (die Schnelligkeit ),
and massiveness (Massenhaften, that root again) (1989, pages 120 ^ 121). These three
themes are necessarily related, the second and third being particular ways of celebrating quantitative growth, with the obvious dual relations to time and spacequicker
times and greater extension. Calculation, a particular way of taking measure that
increasingly becomes the only way, requires all things to be adjusted in its light: the
incalculable is only the not yet calculable. The last of the three, massiveness, is related
to a term Heidegger calls the gigantic (das Riesenhafte) (1989, pages 135 ^ 138, 441 ^ 443).
There are three candidates for giganticism in 1930s Germany: the Leviathan, a state of
unlimited and undivided sovereignty on the Hobbesian model; the Behemoth that
became the symbol of the Nazi war machine; and the Hindenberg airship which had
burst into flames in 1937 (see Kisiel, 2001b; Neumann, 1942; de Syon, 2002).
``The gigantic was determined as that through which the `quantitative' is transformed
into its own `quality', a kind of magnitude [Groe]. The gigantic is thus not something quantitative that begins with a relatively high number (with number and
measurement)even though it can appear superficially as `quantitative'. The gigantic
is grounded upon the decidedness and invariability of `calculation' and is rooted in a
prolongation of subjective re-presentation unto the whole of beings'' (1989, page 441).(8)
This theme of the quantitative as a quality in itself is important. The quale of
something is its whatness, effectively its way of being, or, in the traditional sense, its
essence. That the quantitative has become a quality is an important shift. The gigantic,
for Heidegger, is not merely a quantity of dramatic proportions, but is his name for
this shift. In other works, as I have traced elsewhere (2001b; 2003a), Heidegger sees
Descartes as the crucial moment of this development. Descartes sees the world as
``mechanical nature, that is, extension'' (Heidegger, 1988a, page 103). What is important
here is how the shift to seeing `what is' as `what can be calculated' plays out politically.
Essentially, the current malaise is seen in terms of the twin themes of order (Ordnung)
and calculation. These two are related to each other in that dividing something into
elements helps to establish control over it, as these can be organised, rendered, and
further divided, or grouped and forced into similarity.
Heidegger's critiques of the Nazi concept of `new order' (Neue Ordnung) and their
notion of Lebensraum are notably not from any moralising position, nor are they even
explicitly political, but they are seen as examples of the greater problem of nihilism and
the culmination of metaphysics in technology (1986b, pages 139 ^ 141; 1998, page 143).
(8)

Almost exactly the same formulation to the first sentence is found in ``The age of the world
picture'' (in 1977, page 75 ^ 113), first delivered on 9 June 1938.

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Calculability is an essential prerequisite for mechanism (1989, page 376), and


more generally the notion of machination is highly dependent on this particular way
of grasping the world. In a particularly striking passage, Heidegger interrogates this.
``The machine, its essence. The service that it demands, the uprooting that it
brings. `Industry' (operations [Betriebe] ); industrial workers, torn from homeland
and history [Heimat und Geschichte], exploited for profit. Machine-training,
machination and business. What recasting of man gets started here? (Worldearth?) Machination and business [Machenschaft und das Geschaft ]. The large
number, the gigantic, pure extension [Ausdehnung] and growing levelling off and
emptying. Falling necessarily victim to kitsch and imitation'' (1989, page 392).
There are several things that can be said here. In a few places Heidegger notes the
relation between thought of machination and previous understandings of poiesis and
techne. This is a complicated issue which deserves a little more examination. In his
seminal reading of the Nicomachean Ethics Book Six (Aristotle, 1909, 1139b16 ^ 1139b17)
crucial for both his own work and a generation of European thinkers Gadamer,
Arendt, Strauss, and Klein, to name but a fewHeidegger (1992) stresses the connections and distinctions between techne, episteme, phronesis, sophia, and nous the five
ways the mind arrives at truth (aletheuein). These would usually be translated as art or
skill; scientific knowledge; practical wisdom or prudence; philosophic wisdom; and
intellectual. For us here, the most important distinction is between techne and phronesis. These two intellectual virtues are distinct because they relate to poiesis and praxis,
which are two entirely separate realms of human activity: production or making
as opposed to action or doing. Phronesis is related to praxis and techne to poiesis. Techne
is an intellectual virtue concerned with making as it is logou alethous poietike that is, a
mode of logos aiming for truth concerned with production (Aristotle, 1909, 1140a10 ^ 11).
In stressing this distinction Heidegger indicates the separation of our everyday dealing
with equipment in the world, and insight into our actions explored in Being and Time
(1962; 1967). The first division of the published book, concerned with the techne of
poiesis, examines our relation to beings which do not share our way of being, such as
objects, tools, ``trees, stones, land, sea'', in the Umweltthe surrounding world or
environment. The second division looks at the phronesis of praxis, the way we deal
with beings that share our way of being, other humans, in the Mitwelt (the with-world
or shared world) (Heidegger, 1992, page 386; see Elden, 2005a; Kisiel, 1995, page 179).
Machination (Machenschaft) is a mode of making (machen). The former is usually
associated with ``a `bad' type of human activity and plotting for such an activity''
(Heidegger, 1989, page 126), but Heidegger is interested in retrieving a sense of how
it impacts on the issue of being. The latter is, however, unquestionably a human
comportment: Heidegger adds ``poiesis, techne'' (page 126) in parenthesis here to
underline the point. That said, he wants to stress that this comportment is possible
only on the basis of a particular interpretation of beingsthat is, of physis, the Greek term
that encompasses nature and the physical more generally. Physis is thought in relation to
techne, ``so that what counts now is the preponderance of the makeable and the selfmaking [Machbare und Sich-machende] ... in a word: machination.'' Physis is not techne, but
a reduction of physis into techne is pronounced.
``What does machination mean? That which is let loose into its own shackles?
Which shackles? The pattern of generally calculable explainability [berechnenbaren
Erklarbarkeit], by which everything draws nearer to everything else in the same
measure [gleichmaig] and becomes completely alien to itselfyes, totally other
than just alien [ja ganz anders als noch fremd wird]. The relation of non-relationality
[Der Bezug der Unbezuglichkeit]'' (1989, page 132).

The spaces of Heidegger's Beitrage

819

Heidegger's ongoing critique of Descartes is revealing in the way he shows how


notions of measure have changed over time. This historical investigationrelated to
the one around concepts of space I will discuss in the next sectionis something that
appears in many forms in his work. A number of important works in the history
of science have made progress in this inquiry, something which is still somewhat
underdeveloped in geography. Examinations of the relation between geography and
mathematics have tended to concentrate on the mathematics of geography, the quantitative revolution. More recent reassessments have noted the importance of a related
issue, that of the geographies of mathematics (Barnes and Hannah, 2001a; 2001b;
Philo, 1998). Much of the interesting work on this area develops ideas found in the
work of Foucault, particularly around notions of governmentality and biopower (for
example, Hannah, 2000).(9) But, although Foucault is extremely interesting in terms
of conceptual and historical work, I would suggest that philosophically this is developed much more explicitly in Heidegger's work. Indeed, as I have argued elsewhere
(2001a), much of Foucault's work in this area is closely related to some of Heidegger's
claims.
Heidegger pursues this theme across the Beitrage and a comprehensive summary is
impossible. Let me confine myself to three points: first, the relation between machination and lived experience. Although we might appeal to a more `authentic', vitalist,
experiential way of thinking as a reaction against cold mechanism and calculation,
Heidegger suggests that `lived experience', Erlebnis, shares a common foundation with
machination, made most obvious in Descartes (Heidegger, 1984c, page 149; 1989,
pages 123 ^ 124, 129, 131 ^ 134; 1994a, page 129). Second, thinking machination back
through its root in techne may provide a way into the issue of being, albeit from one
of its most oblique angles (1989, page 132). We can see this if we look at the way
Heidegger retrieves so much from his reading of Aristotle (Heidegger, 1992). Third,
and in most detail, there is the issue of world ^ earth, raised in an earlier quotation as
a question but invoked in other places as a direct problem.
The problem of world ^ earth opens up contemporary concerns with the environment and globalisation, which Heidegger was grappling with. If his credentials as a
foundational theorist of certain types of ecological thinking are well known, through
an engagement with his writings on technology and poetic dwelling (Foltz, 1995;
Zimmerman, 1993), what is less understood is how such themes emerged in his work
of the 1930s, within this particular political context, most notably in the Beitrage.
Heidegger's argument is complicated, and hinges on the reduction of the Greek physis
to the Latin natura, the root for our term `nature'. For Heidegger, even in 1936 ^ 38,
in technology (die Technik) nature is destroyed because it is separated from human
beings, it is seen as a separate realm from human existence. In part, this is the
argument against Descartes found in Being and Time, where Descartes's separation
of the mind and body is challenged with the idea of being-in-the-world. Heidegger
argues that the originary, more rooted sense of physis is lost as nature is seen as a
being itself, ``and, after this demoting [Absetzung], ultimately reduced to the full force
of calculating machination and economy'' (1989, page 277). Nature becomes res
extensa, an extended material resource. The natural no longer has any ``immediate
relation to physis, but rather is fully set-up [gestellt ] according to the machinational''
(page 133). Recent debates in geography have demonstrated that the problematic
(9)

The 2004 Association of American Geographers centenary meeting in Philadelphia, for example,
had a panel under the title of ``Place, Space and Calculation'', organised by myself and Jeremy
Crampton. Papers included assessments of calculative citizenship, urban planning, 17th-century
maritime navigation, the cartography of the Peace of Paris, public policy, national socialism, and
the American Geographical Society.

820

S Elden

division of the social and the natural needs to be rethought, but also that the idea of
the production of nature is worth investigating (see Castree, 1995; Castree and Braun,
1998; Demeritt, 2002; Gregory, 2001). Heidegger's argument here is not merely that
nature is never pure but is always already social, but also that the very idea of `nature'
in some supposedly pure state is already a reductive understanding. This perhaps adds
another angle into this ongoing debate.
Heidegger talks of the human reduction and ``transition to a technicised animal, which
begins to replace the instincts, which have already grown weaker and less refined by the
giganticism of technology [der Technik]'' (1989, page 98, emphasis in original). In this reduction, nature becomes merely scenery and a place for recreation, and even in this it is
arranged for the masses as a form of the gigantic (page 277). Very similar language would
be used for the Rhine river in the later ``Question concerning technology'' essay (2000,
pages 7 ^ 36), which also makes use of the crucial term Ge-Stell, enframing or the setup,
which names the essence of technology. In the earliest form of this lecture, from 1949, the
title was ``Das Ge-Stell'' (1994b, pages 24 ^ 45). For Heidegger, the prospects are bleak.
``The human might for centuries yet pillage and lay waste to the planet with their
machinations, the gigantic character of this driving might `develop' into something
unimaginable and take on the form of a seeming rigour as the massive regulating of
the desolate as suchyet the greatness of beyng continues to be closest off (1989,
page 408).
The key issue is the separation of world and earth. Earth, a more rooted experience, is lost in the technologised world through the advent of a globalisation that
reduces the earth to a ball, to the world made picture, rationalised, calculated, and
controlled. Calculation here plays a key role. It is not just the impact of technology
that must be investigated, but the very thing that makes it possible: calculation. ``Must
nature be surrendered and abandoned to machination?'' asks Heidegger. ``Are we still
capable of seeking earth anew?'' (1989, page 278).
Time ^ space and the Abgrund
For geographers, perhaps the most crucial part of the manuscript is the discussion
of the notion of time ^ space (Zeit ^ Raum) in sections 238 ^ 242 (1999, pages 371 ^ 388).
It is potentially through these that we might be able to rethink the notion of earth.
These sections are anticipated by an earlier comment, which sums up the key aspects
of the discussion.
``One must first generally attempt to think the essence of time so originally (in its
`ecstasis') that it becomes graspable as the possible truth for beyng [Seyn] as such.
But already thinking time through in this way brings it, in its relatedness to the
Da of Da-sein, into an essential relationship with the spatiality of Da-sein and thus
with space (compare `Grounding' [Part 5 of the Beitrage, in which sections
238 ^ 242 are found]). But measured against their ordinary representations, time
and space are here more originary; and ultimately, they are time ^ space, which is
not a coupling of time and space but what is more originary in their belonging
together'' (1989, page 189).
Three points can be made about this: the relation between time and space; the attempt
to think time and space without notions of calculation; and the notion of the abyss.
The treatment of time and space together is a correction of the one-sided analyses
of Being and Time. Time here is the possible truth for being (and the nonmetaphysical
beyng at that), but it must be thought in relation to space in this regard, unlike in
Being and Time when temporality was the guiding clue for the question of being (see
also 1989, pages 191 ^ 193). In this alone it is clear that Heidegger is trying to think
their relation, which in itself is important in contemporary debates within geography.

The spaces of Heidegger's Beitrage

821

As I have argued elsewhere, the issue of the reassertion of space within social theory
can neither be at the expense of time, nor allow space to be assimilated into an
otherwise unproblematised historical method (Elden, 2001a; for a related argument
see Lefebvre, 2004). Indeed, Heidegger's suggestion is more than time ^ space needing
to be thought together, instead of apart. Time ^ space is not simply the coupling of time
and space, but the very notion that allows each to be thought distinctly. Zeit ^ Raum is
not the same as Zeitraum that is, a span of time, a notion that betrays a measured,
mathematical sense. Thinking the idea of time (the Wesen, the essence of time), forces
usthrough the notion of the Da, the there or the here of being, being-the-thereto
come to terms with space. The reverse is also the case. However, we should note the
caution that neither time nor space here are understandable in terms of ``their ordinary
representations'', a point hinted at above in the passage from the Grundfragen der
Philosophie (Basic questions of philosophy) (Heidegger, 1984c, page 193; 1994b,
page 167). Time ^ space takes on a particularly privileged role in the Beitrage, as
``originally the site for the moment of propriation [Augenblicks-Statte des Ereignisses]''
(1989, page 30, see also page 235). Although this is perhaps more important for
Heidegger scholarship than for geography, we should note that this is the way to
understand the notion of Da-sein, as ``the site for the moment of the grounding of
the truth of beyng'' (page 323, see also pages 374 ^ 375). Da-sein, which according to
Being and Time is the being for whom, in its being, its being is in question (1967,
page 11), is here seen as similarly related to this key issue.
Heidegger suggests that time ^ space needs to be thought in a way distinct from the
mathematical calculative understanding of time and space. Time is not simply a fourth
coordinate or parameter (Parameter), a t, to add to the three coordinates of space, the
Cartesian x, y, and z (1989, page 377). In such a way of thinking, ``space and time are
merely strung together, after both have been levelled off in advance unto the same of what
is countable [Zahlbaren] and what makes counting possible [Zahlung Ermoglichenden]''
(page 377). Problems arise in trying to think space and time in any way other than
quantitatively, ``at most as forms of these quantities'' (page 136). Heidegger's way of
thinking the problem of calculationwhich is relevant, as I suggested above, to a whole
range of inquiriesis central to his thinking of the issue of time ^ space more generally
(see Elden, 2001a; 2005a). The notion of time ^ space has important affinities to the
breadth of Heidegger's project here, as when he suggests that the ``time ^ space character of decision to be grasped as the bursting cleft or fissure [aufbrechende Kluftung] of
beyng itself, that is being-historically and not morally-anthropologically'' (1989, page 103,
emphasis in original; see Krell, 1992, page 202).
Time ^ space is therefore more originary than both time and space separately and
the idea of four-dimensional space ^ time. Zeit ^ Raum should not be separated into
space and time, but they must be thought together, with a lack of a distance between
them. The term also seeks to exceed a straightforward understanding of all historical
events as `somewhen' and `somewhere' (Heidegger, 1989, page 377). This is not to say
that they are entirely invalid ways of thinking, but that they are reductive and limited.
For Heidegger, the standard form of knowing ``will be above all relegated to
the naturally limited sphere of its accuracy [or correctness, Richtigkeit]'' (page 378).
Heidegger's counterexample is valuable in thinking through concerns with performativity and embodiment, where he attempts to use examples of these ways of being as
access to the question itself. He suggests that if we take a number of everyday issues
nearness and distance, emptiness and gifting, energy and hesitation (Nahe und
Ferne, Leere und Schenkung, Schwung und Zogerung)we should not try to think
them in terms of the usual representations of space and time, but try to think space
and time differently through them, because ``within them lies the hidden essence

822

S Elden

[verhullte Wesen] of time ^ space'' (page 372). Why might this be hidden? Once again the
German shows us more easily than English can about Heidegger's intent. The three
concealments of being, the Verhullungen, are at play here, particularly in the way calculation, acceleration, and massiveness relate to and impact on our understanding of time and
space.
It should of course be mentioned that we cannot simply try to return to the origin,
a way of thinking before the metaphysical fall. We cannot simply turn back metaphysics. Rather, we need to think historically about the problem, and retrace the
``descent out of the history [die Herkunft aus der Geschichte]'' (page 372):
``We need to show how it happens that space and time become framing representation
(ordo-concept [row or rank]) (`forms of intuition') for `mathematical' calculation and
why these concepts of space and time dominate all thinking, even and precisely
where one speaks of `experienced time [erlebter Zeit]' (Bergson and others)''
(page 373).(10)
In such an inquiry into the history of the concepts of space and time, there will be
various stages. For Heidegger the key events are the following:
1. Aristotle's Physics particularly the analysis of topos and khronos in Physics book 4
(Aristotle, 1936). But even here, pou and pote (the where and when) are categories,
determinations of beingness, ousia.
2. The Christian interpretation of beings, which seemingly keeps the `results' of
Aristotle. By this Heidegger means scholasticism, in all its many varieties, a topic
which he does not treat in anything like sufficient detail (see Lang, 1992; 1998).
In this period Heidegger contends that we see the replacement of ousia with substantia,
a revised reading of the term megethos from a notion of stretch to that of the
continuum, and the idea of space as sensorium Dei (Sense of God).
3. Space and time in Leibniz's work and the notion of mathesis (learning, especially
mathematically). We might add Descartes in this chronology here, just as Heidegger
usually does.
4. In Kant, time and space are attributed to the human subject, a determination which
is challenged, but not fundamentally, by Nietzsche (Heidegger, 1989, page 373, see also
pages 70 ^ 71, 207 ^ 208, 376).
This is an inquiry which looks at ``why and under what assumptions is the breaking
apart of space and time historically necessary?'' (1989, page 373). In this we have two
historical inquiries, but inquiries of the conditions of possibility for things to be as they
are: what might be called, in Heideggerian ^ Foucauldian manner, historical ontology,
in other words a historicisation of the Kantian problematic (Elden, 2003b; Hacking,
2002). Although Heidegger does suggest that we need to be careful in this,(11) we can
do some interesting things with such thinking: in particular, tracing the relations
between mathematical and philosophical conceptions of space and their political and
geographical counterparts. This relation is not straightforwardly causal, in that one
makes the other, but it is revealing to trace their connections. Such an analysis is at the
heart of Casey's history of the concept of place (1997) and is something I have tried to
pursue in relation to the idea of territory.
(10)

On the problem of experience (see Elden, 2003a, pages 47 ^ 49; Heidegger, 1989, page 74).
``But all of these historical expositions, frequently attempted since the nineteenth century, are blind
and useless and without real philosophical questioning, apart from the fact that they merely pick the
`passages' out of each respective context of inquiry and line them up, The history [Geschichte] of these
`representations' is the history of the truth of beyng [Geschichte der Wahrheit des Seyns] and can be
fruitfully brought into a sharper philosophical focus only with the history of the guiding-question
[Geschichte der Leitfrage]. Everything else is scholarly pretence, merely misleading even more to the
superficiality of collecting and comparing passages'' (1989, pages 378 ^ 379).
(11)

The spaces of Heidegger's Beitrage

823

The key argument in this ongoing work is that space and place should not be
distinguished on the basis of scale, but that space emerges in Western thought through
a particular way of grasping place. This way of grasping is to see place as something
extensible and calculable, extended in three dimensions, and grounded on the geometric point. On this understanding, territory is not merely a political way of conceiving
land, but the political corollary of this emergent concept of space. What this means is
that although territory is integrally related to the state, in that both the modern state
and the modern concept of territory emerge at the same historical juncture, it does not
necessarily follow that territory is inherently tied to the state. The historical moment
we call globalisation demonstrates that the calculable understanding of space has been
extended to the globe, which means that even as the state becomes less the focus of
attention territory remains of paramount importance. Territory therefore is a political
way of conceiving of calculable space (see Elden, 2005b).
Beyond such historical analyses, Heidegger's suggestionand quite possibly the
most complicated one he makes in the Beitrage in relation to geographyis that we
should think time ^ space as Abgrund. What does he mean by this? Abgrund is the
German word for abyss, so time ^ space is abyssal, unfathomable, without ground. Is this
our impossible, the impassable, the shattering encounter of the immeasurable void?
Heidegger declares that ``Ab-grund is the originary essency of ground. Ground is the
essence of truth [Ab-grund ist die ursprungliche Wesung des Grundes. Der Grund ist das
Wesen der Wahrheit]'' (1989, page 379). This shares an affinity with the notion of fissure
or cleft, Kluftung, as noted above, which can also mean crevasse or chasm, and related
words such as Zerkluftung, the fissured or the indented. `The Leap' part 4 of the
Beitrageis concerned with the way the other beginning is the ``leap into the en-cleft
middle of the turn of propriation'' (1989, page 231; see pages 235 ^ 239, 244; Krell, 1992,
pages 202 ^ 203).
There are a range of words that share an etymological kinship with Abgrund,
including Grund, Ungrund, Urgrund, grunden, Grunder, and Grundung (Emad and
Maly, 1999, pages xxx ^ xxii). Grund is related to the English `ground', which like
Grund comes from the Old High German word grunt. But there is also the Latinate
`found', from fundus, and these two terms help to get a sense of what Heidegger is
driving at. Several of the available translations of Heidegger's lecture courses have
titles such as `The fundamental concepts of metaphysics' or `The basic problems of
phenomenology'. The key word in both is Grund: Grundbegriffe or Grundprobleme.
Heidegger was always concerned with the fundamental, the foundational, the grounding issues. `Found' and `fundamental' both come from the same root, fundare. However,
Grund also means `bottom', `root', `basis', and can also, like in English, mean the reason
or grounds for something.
For Emad and Maly, Abgrund is not abyss, but in regular German it is.(12) It would
make German readers think of abyss, chasm, depth, or precipice, and therefore force
them to think this term more carefully when they see it on the page, to sidestep what
might be thought by the term in its standard use, and so it should be for English
readers. To coin a word such as `abground' means that the reader already knows that it
is unusual, peculiar, and problematic, rather than letting the sense emerge from the
discussion. Heidegger notes that ``Der Ab-grund ist Ab-grund '' (1989, page 379)that is,
Abgrund is not wholly negative. We should perhaps compare its structure to the term
aletheia, translated above as unconcealment, which is not something that has a negative
(12)

Heidegger uses it in its standard form in a few places. See, for example, ``the animal is separated
from man by an Abgrund '' (1983b, page 384), and the suggestion that in relation to biologism there
is an ``abgrundig that separates Nietzsche from all this'' (1996, volume 1, page 510).

824

S Elden

connotation, but one of bringing something into the open, revealing it. Abgrund could
simply mean something like `groundless', or potentially `from ground', `by ground', `away
from ground'.
In fact, the English `abyss' does a lot of this work. It comes from the late Latin
abyssus, itself a simple transliteration of the Greek abyssos, basically the alphaprivative with bathos, depth. From this word we get the English `bathos', meaning
depth, but also meaning the rhetorical device of a move from the elevated to the
commonplace, after Alexander Pope. In a sense Abgrund follows the same path
the other way, so we might think of a notion of `abathos', a move from the commonplace to the elevation of being. In other words, it is a move from the everyday nearness
and distance, emptiness and gifting, energy and hesitation (Nahe und Ferne, Leere und
Schenkung, Schwung und Zogerung) to the question of being. Such things function as a
mode of access to this question of being.
``The a-byss as the first essence of ground grounds (lets the ground essence as
ground) in the way of temporalising and spatialising [Der Ab-grund als erste Wesung
des Grundes grundet (lat den Grund als Grund wesen) in der Weise der Zeitigung und
Raumung]'' (1989, page 383).
The abyssal then, feet gripping the edge, tottering on the rim of the precipice.
Without ground, without depth, or, rather, from ground, from the depths. An impossible encounter that makes possible what follows. From the Ab-grund comes the Grund,
from the abyss, the foundation, and this ``in the way of temporalising and spatialising''.
Unfortunately, the resemblance to abatos, impassable, is visual rather than etymological,
although it is clear that the impasse becomes a way, just as the abyss grounds. If we try
therefore to fathom the unfathomable, it must be through taking our measure from the
immeasurable, rather than the other way round: in other words, we should not see
the incalculable as simply the not-yet-calculable. Just as the abathos move takes us
from the commonplace to the question of being, so too should our notion of measure
emerge from an engagement with the world, through those everyday issues noted above.
We should, therefore, not think them in relation to a preexisting sense of space and time,
but allow a sense of space and time to emerge from thinking them.
Conclusion
I have attempted here to show how Heidegger's Beitrage zur Philosophie can offer much by
way of a contribution to geography. There are doubtless several potential issues of interest
within this complex work, a resource I have only touched upon, but I have concentrated
on two main concerns, intimately related: the issue of calculation and the understanding of
time ^ space. Heidegger's work on these two issues opens up a whole range of questions
and perspectives. These includebut surely cannot be reduced tothe question of
what it means to calculate, and how understandings of measure and number may
have changed; the interrelation and conceptualisation of time, space, and time ^ space,
both theoretically and from a historical perspective; and the connections between
technology or machination and the environment and globalisation.
In the final lines of the Beitrage, Heidegger rehearses and develops some of the
themes touched upon here:
``Language is grounded in silence. Silence is the most sheltered measure-holding [Mahalten]. It holds the measure, in that it first sets up measures [Es halt das Ma, indem es
die Ma-stabe erst setzt]. And so language is measure-setting [Ma-setzung] in the
most intimate and widest sense, measure-setting as essential essency of the jointure
and its joining (propriation) [Erwesung des Fugs und seiner Fugung {Ereignis}]. And
insofar as language ground of Da-sein, the measuring [Maigung] lies in this
and indeed as the ground of strife of world and earth'' (1989, page 510).

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825

Perhaps, given Heidegger's later concerns, it is only apposite that the Beitrage
should end with a reflection on language. Here, Heidegger opens up the possibility of
thinking about measure in a different way, taking measure from language, being, and
Da-sein. The strife of world and earth, that theme of the lecture on art but with wider
geographical and geopolitical implications, can be traced back to the ground of
Da-seinhuman openness or potential closedness, oblivionto being. If geography
is to make progress in addressing the issues of environment and globalisation, of the
relation of time and space and the problematic politics that arise from notions of order
and calculation, a rethinking of the notion of measure would be entirely appropriate.
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Heidegger M, 1988a Schelling: Vom Wesen der menschlichen Freiheit (1809) Gesamtausgabe, Band 42
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Heidegger M, 1988b Vom Wesen der Wahrheit: Zu Platons Hohlengleichnis und Theatet
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Heidegger M, 1991Nietzsche translated by D Farrell Krell, F Capuzzi, J Stambaugh (HarperCollins,
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Heidegger M, 1994a Basic Problems of Philosophy: Selected `Problems' of `Logic' translated by
R Rojcewicz, A Schuwer (Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN)
Heidegger M, 1994b Bremer und FreiburgerVortrage Gesamtausgabe, Band 79 (Vittorio Klostermann,
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Heidegger M, 1996 Nietzsche Gesamtausgabe, Band 6 (Vittorio Klostermann, Frankfurt am
Main) two volumes; first published in 1961
Heidegger M, 1998 Logik als Frage nach dem Wesen der Sprache Gesamtausgabe, Band 38
(Vittorio Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main)
Heidegger M, 1999 Contributions to Philosophy: From Enowning translated by P Emad, K Maly
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Janicaud D, 1996 The Shadow of That Thought: Heidegger and the Question of Politics translated
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