Martin Heidegger’s principle of identity : on belonging and Ereignis

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Abstract: This article discusses Martin Heidegger’s interpretation of Parmenides given in his last public lecture “The Principle of Identity” in 1957. The aim of the piece is to illustrate just how original and significant Heidegger’s reading of Parmenides and the principle of identity is, within the history of philosophy. Thus the article will examine the traditional metaphysical interpretation of Parmenides, and consider G.W.F. Hegel and William James’ account of the principle of identity in light of this. It will then consider Heidegger’s contribution, his return to and reinterpretation of Parmenides in his last lecture. Heidegger will, through the Parmenidean claim that “Thinking and Being are one”, deconstruct the traditional metaphysical understanding of the principle of identity, and in its place offer a radically different conception of how our relationship, our “belonging together” with Being can be understood. “Mon Dieu! how the time passes!” Nothing could have been more commonplace than this remark; but its utterance coincided for me with a moment of vision. It’s extraordinary how we go through life with eyes half shut, with dull ears, with dormant thoughts. Perhaps it’s just as well; and it may be that it is this very dullness that makes life to the incalculable majority so supportable and so welcome. Nevertheless, there can be but few of us who had never known one of these rare moments of awakening when we see, hear, understand ever so much — everything — in a flash — before we fall back again into our agreeable somnolence. (Conrad 2012, 709)