I have been reading Heidegger’s What is Called Thinking? and I am realizing very quickly that it is not the kind of book that can be read and then summarized after the fact, a problem that I encounter again and again with the more philosophical books that I read, but that I am feeling acutely now with respect to this particular book. So I will try to write a little differently about it as I am reading, as a kind of experiment. I will offer a quotation from the book, or perhaps a brief summary of a section, and then I will add my own questions and reflections, and I may write more than several times about the book over the course of a few weeks. Hopefully there will be those who are willing to think these things with me, or, as Heidegger might say, hopefully there will be those those who are willing to journey with me on the way to thinking.
Heidegger says, “What of itself gives us most to think about, what is most thought-provoking, is this – that we are still not thinking.”
If we are not yet thinking, what is it in us that recognizes this ‘still not”, this thinking that might be but is ‘still not’? What is it in us that recognizes that we are still not thinking, that we are perhaps not yet even on the way to thinking? What is it in us that undertakes, or perhaps does not undertake, the way to thinking? What is it in us that would make an ideal of thinking, that would desire to learn how to think?
This recognition of thinking, this desire for thinking, this will to thinking, cannot be said to belong essentially to all human being in the world, since there are many who refuse it and who are no less human for this refusal. It cannot even be said to belong potentially to all human being in the world, since there are many who are not even capable of thinking in this way and who are no less human for this lack. Yet there is something, something that appears only in relation to human being in the world, something that nevertheless, in some cases, perhaps only here and there, but again and again, recognizes, and desires, and wills thinking. What is this thing? Though I may not yet know how to think, though I may not yet even have undertaken the way to thinking, why is it that I desire to undertake it? Why do I want to know what is called thinking?