62 Martin Heidegger: Discourse on Thinking




A Translation of Gelassenheit



With an Introduction by






















Scientist: Toward the last you stated that the question concerning

man’s nature is not a question about man.

Teacher: I said only that the question concerning man’s

nature makes a consideration whether this is the case


Scienti’St: Even so, it is a mystery to me how man’s nature

is ever to be found by looking away from man.

T eacher: It is a mystery to me too; so I seek to clarify how

far this is possible, or perhaps even necessary.Scientist:

To behold man’s nature without looking at man!

Teacher: Why not? If thinking is what distinguishes man’s

nature, then surely the essence of this nature, namely the

nature of thinking, can be seen only by l ooking away

from thinking.

Scholar: But thinking, understood in the traditional way,

as re-presenting is a kind of willing; _Kant, too, under-

• This discourse was taken from a conversation written down in 1944–45

between a scientist, a scholar, and a teacher.



stands thinlcing this way when he characterizes it as

spontaneity. k think is to will, and to will is to think.

Scientist: Then the statement that the nature of thinking is

something other than thinking means that thinking is

something other than willing.

Teacher: And that is why, in answer to your question as

to what I really wanted from our meditation on the

nature of thinking, I replied: I want non-willing.

Scientist: Meanwhile this formulation has proved ambiguous.

Scholar: Non-willing, for one thing, means a willing in

such a way as to involve negation, be it even in the sense

of a negation which is directed at willing and renounces

it. Non-willing means, therefore: willingly to renounce

willing. And the term non-willing means, further, what

remains absolutely outside any kind of will.

Scientist: So that it can never be carried out or reached

by any willing.

Teacher: But perhaps we come nearer to it by a willing in

the first sense of non-willing.

Scholar: You see, then, the two senses of non-willing as

standing in a definite relation to each other.

Teacher: Not only do I see this relation, I confess that ever

since I have tried to reflect on what moves our conversation,

it has claimed my attention, if not challenged


Scientist: Am I right if I state the relation of the one sense

of non-willing to the other as follows? You want a nonwilling

in the sense of a renouncing of willing, so that

through this ~ may release, or at least p_re.E_are to re60


lease, ourselves to the sought-for essence of a thinking

that is not a willing.

Teacher: You are not only right, but by the gods! as I

would say if they had not flown from us, you have

uncovered something essential.

Scholar: I should now be tempted to say that y ou, in your

interpretation of the ambiguous talk about non-willing,

have surpassed both us and yourself- if any one were entitled

to mete out praise and if that were not contrary

to the style of our conversations.

Scientist: That I succeeded in this, was not my doing but

that of the night having set in, which without forcing

compels concentration.

Scholar: It leaves us time for meditating by slowing down

our pace.

Teacher: That is why we are still far from human habitation.

Scientist: Ever more openly I am coming to trust in the inconspicuous

guide who takes us by the hand-or better

said, by the word- in this conversation.

Scholar: We need this guidance, because our conversation

becomes ever more difficult.

Teacher: If by “difficult” you mean the unaccustomed task

which consists in weaning ourselves from will.

Scholar: Will, you say, and not merely willing . . .

Scientist: … and so, you state an exciting demand in a

released manner.

Teacher: If only I possessed already the right releasement,

then I would soon be freed of that task of weaning.

Scholar: So far as we can wean ourselves from willing, we

contribute to the awakening of releasement.


Teacher: Say rather, to keeping awake for releasement.

Scholar: Why not, to the awakening?

Teacher: Because on our own we do not awaken releasement

in ourselves.

Scientist: Thus rei easement is effected from somewhere else.

Teacher: Not effected, but let in.

Scholar: To be sure I don’t know yet what the word releasement

means; but I seem to presage that releasement

awakens when our nature is let-in so as to have dealings

with that which is not a willing.

Scientist: You speak without letup of a letting-be and give

the impression that what is meant is a kind of passivity.

All the same, I think I understand that it is in no way

a matter of weakly allowing things to slide and drift


Scholar: Perhaps a higher acting is concealed in releasement

than is found in all the actions within the world

and in the machinations of all mankind . . .

Teacher: . .. which higher acting is yet no activity.

Scientist: Then releasement lies-if we may use the word

lie–beyond the distinction between activity and passivity

Scholar: . . . because releasement does not belong to the

domain of the will.

Scientist: The transition from willing into releasement is

what seems difficult to me.

Teacher: And all the more, since the nature of releasementis

still hidden.

Scholar: Especially so because even releasement can still

be thought of as within the domain of will, as is the

case with old masters of thought such as Meister Eckhart.


Teacher: From whom, all the same, much can be learned.

Scholar: Certainly; but what we have called releasement

evidently does not mean casting off sinful selfishness and

letting self-will go in favor of the divine will.

Teacher: No, not that.

Scientist: In many respects it is clear to me what the word

releasement should not signify for us. But at the same

time, I know less and less what we are talking about.

We are trying to determine the nature of thinking.

What has releasement to do with thinking?

Teacher: Nothing if we conceive thinking in the traditional

way as re-presenting. Yet perhaps the nature of thinking

we are seeking is fixed in releasement.

Scientist: With the best of will, I can not re-present to myself

this nature of tbinlcing.

Teacher: Precisely because this will of yours and your

mode of thinking as re-presenting prevent it.

Scientist: But then, what in the world am I to do?

Scholar: I am asking myself that too.

Teacher: We are to do nothing but wait.

Scholar: That is poor consolation.

Teacher: Poor or not, we should not await consolationsomething

we would still be doing if we became disconsolate.

Scientist: Then what are we to wait for? And where are

we to wait? I hardly know anymore ~ho ~<Lwh.ere.I_am .

Teacher: None of us knows that, as soon as we stop_io.oling


SchoTar: And yet we still have our path?

Teacher: To be sure. But by forgetting it too quickly we

give up thinking.


Teacher: ~es me as something like a region, an enchanted

r~~n where everything belonging there returns

to that in which it rests.

Scholar: I’m not sure I understand what you say now.

Teacher: I don’t understand it either, if by “understanding”

you mean the capacity to re-present what is put before

us as if sheltered amid the familiar and so secured;

for I, too, lack the familiar in which to place what I

tried to say about openness as a region.

Scientist: That is perhaps impossible here, if for no other

reason than because presumably what you call a region

is exactly that which alone permits all sheltering.

Teacher: I mean something like this; but not only this.

Scholar: You spoke of’~” region in which everything re~

turns to itself. Strictly speaking, a region for everything

is not one region among many, but the region of all


Teacher: You are right; what is in question is the region.

Scientist: And the enchantment of this region might well

be the reign of its nature, its regioning, if I may call

it that.

Scholar: It seems a region holds what comes forward to

p1eet us; but we also said of the horizon that out of the

view which it encircles, the appearance of objects comes

to meet us. If now we comprehend the horizon through

the region, we take the region itself as that which comes

to meet us.

Teacher: In this way, indeed, we would characterize the

region through its relation to us, just as we did a moment

ago with the horizon-whereas we are searching for the


Teacher: Waiting, all right; but never awaiting, for awaiting

already links itself with re-presenting and what is


Scholar: Waiting, however, lets go of that; or rather I

should say that waiting lets re-presenting entirely alone.

It really has no object.

Scientist: Yet if we wait we always wait for something.

Scholar: Certainly, but as soon as we re-present to ourselves

and fix upon that for which we wait, we really wait no


Teacher: In waiting we leave open what we are waiting for.

Scholar: Why?

Teacher: Because waiting releases itself into openness …

Scholar: … into the expanse of distance …

Teacher: … in whose nearness it finds the abiding in

which it remains.

Scientist: But remaining is a returning.

Scholar: Openness itself would be that for which we could

do nothing but wait.

Scientist: But openness itself is that-which-regions …

Teacher: … into which we are released by way of waiting,

when we think.

Scientist: Then thinking would be coming-into-the-near-

;::::: ness of distance.

Scholar: That is a daring definition of its nature, which

we have chanced upon.

Scientist: I only brought together that which we have

named, but without re-presenting anything to myself.

Teacher: Yet you have thought something.

Scientist: Or, really, waited for something without knowing

for what.

Scholar: But how come you suddenly could wait?


Scholar: By virtue of what kind of designation would it

have i ts name?

Teacher: Perhaps these names are not the result of designation.

They are owed to a naming in which the namable,

the name and the named occur altogether.

Scientist: What you just said about naming is unclear to me.

Scholar: Probably that is connected with the nature of


Scientist: However, what you noted about designation, and

about the fact that there is nothing nameless, is clearer

to me.

Scholar: Because we can test it in the case of the name


Teacher: Or have tested it already.

Scientist: How so?

Teacher: What is it that you designated by the name releasement?

Scientist: If I may say so, not I but you have used this name.

Teacher: I, as little as you, have done the designating.

Scholar: Then who did it? None of us?

Teacher: Presumably, for in the region in which we stay

ever.Y.thing is in the best order only if it has been no one’s


Scientist: A mysterious region where there is nothing for

which to be answerable.

Teacher: Because it is the .region of the word, which is

answerable to itself alone.

Scholar: For us it remains only to listen to the answer

proper to the word.

Teacher: That is enough; even when our telling is only

a retelling of the answer heard . . •


Scientist: . and when it doesn’t matter in this if there

is a first retelling or who does it; all the more since

one often doesn’t know whose tale he retells.

Scholar: So let’s not quarrel over who first introduced the

name, releasement, let us consider only what it is we

name by it.

Scientist: And that is waiting, as the experience I referred

to indicates.

Teacher: And so not something nameless, but what is

already designated. What is this waiting?

Scientist: Insofar as waiting relates to openness and openness

is that-which-regions, we can say that waiting is a

relation to that-which-regions.

Teacher: Perhaps it is even the relation to that-whichregions,

insofar as waiting releases itself to that-whichregions,

and in doing so lets that-which-regions reign

purely as such.

Scholar: Then a relation to something would be the true

relation if it were held in its own nature by that to which

it relates.

Teacher: The relation to that-which-regions is waiting.

And waiting means : to release oneself into the openness

of that-which-regions.

Scholar: Thus to go into that-which-regions.

Scientist: That sounds as if before then we had been outside


Teacher: That we were, and yet we were not. Insofar as

we as thinking beings (that is, beings who at the same

time re-present transcendentally) stay within the horizon

of transcendence, we are not and never could be

outside that-which-regions. Yet the horizon is but the


Scientist: Now I see what was meant. The _program of mathematics

and the experiment are grounded in the relation

-of man as ego to the thing as object.

Teacher: They even constitute this relation in part and unfold

its historical character.

Scientist: If any examination which focuses on what is a

part of history is called historical, then the methodological

analysis in physics is, indeed, historical.

Scholar: Here the concept of the historical signifies a mode

of knowing and is understood broadly.

Teacher: Understood, presumably, as focused upon a history

which does not consist in the happenings and deeds

of the world.

Scholar: Nor in the cultural achievements of man.

Scientist: But in what else?

Teacher: The historical rests in that-which-regions, and in

what occurs as that-which-regions. It rests in what, coming

to pass in man, regions him into his nature.

Scholar: A nature we have hardly experienced as yet, supposing

it has not yet been realized in the rationality

of the animal.

Scientist: In such a situation we can do nothing but wait for

man’s nature.

Teacher: Wait in a releasement through which we belong

to that-which-regions, which still conceals its own nature.

Scholar: We presage releasement to that-which-regions as

the sought-for nature of thinking.

Teacher: When we let ourselves into releasement to thatwhich-

regions, we will non-willing.

Scientist: Releasement is indeed the release of oneself from

transcendental re-presentation and so a relinquishing of

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