Country Path Conversations

Country Path Conversations

Country Path Conversations

Country Path Conversations


First published in German in 1995, volume 77 of Heidegger's Complete Works consists of three imaginary conversations written as World War II was coming to an end. Composed at a crucial moment in history and in Heidegger's own thinking, these conversations present meditations on science and technology; the devastation of nature, the war, and evil; and the possibility of release from representational thinking into a more authentic relation with being and the world. The first conversation involves a scientist, a scholar, and a guide walking together on a country path; the second takes place between a teacher and a tower-warden, and the third features a younger man and an older man in a prisoner-of-war camp in Russia, where Heidegger's two sons were missing in action. Unique because of their conversational style, the lucid and precise translation of these texts offers insight into the issues that engaged Heidegger's wartime and postwar thinking.


SCHOLAR: This past autumn we met for the first time on this country path. That meeting was a splendid coincidence, for I owe a precious inspiration to it: an old Greek word occurred to me, which since then has seemed to me to be a very appropriate name for what we are seeking.

SCIENTIST: Our meeting was indeed splendid, but it was no coincidence. What we so name is always just the gap that still remains in our chain of explanations. So long as we have not ascertained the explanatory causes, we like to plug up the hole that remains with the name “coincidence.” Yet the cause of our encounter, which has in the meantime been repeated so fruitfully, lies close at hand. Each of us wished to free himself from his daily work by means of a distraction.

SCHOLAR: The similarity of our occupations also quickly brought us to the thematic object of our conversation at that time. We spoke about cognition.

SCIENTIST: Our discussions did, however, get easily lost in generalities that were difficult to grasp. It often seemed to me as if we were just talking about mere words. All the same, the conversation offered a distraction, which diverted me from the laborious experiments that I had begun at the time with the aim of investigating cosmic radiation.

SCHOLAR: It is true that the definitions of cognition, which we talked through in connection with Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, were indeed grasped quite “generally.” Is there anything that cannot be brought under the headings “intuition” [Anschauung] and “thinking” [Denken]—which, according to Kant, are what make up cognition? Hence the physicist among us demanded—rightly so,

1. According to Kant, “there are two stems of human [cognition], namely, sensibility and understanding, which perhaps spring from a common, but to us unknown

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