In What Is Called Thinking? Heidegger says, “What must be thought about turns away from man. It withdraws from him…. But – withdrawing is not nothing. Withdrawal is an event. In fact, what withdraws may even concern and claim man more essentially than anything present that strikes and touches him…. What withdraws from us draws us along by its very withdrawal, whether or not we become aware of it immediately, or at all…. To the extent that man is drawing that way, he points to what withdraws.”
In my last post on this book, I was asking about what it is in us that recognizes that we are still not thinking. The above quotation relates to this question, I think, in that it gives agency to what must be thought, to the question of why we are not yet thinking, rather than to we who would think it. The reason that we are not yet thinking is not solely because we fail to reach out to what must be thought, but also because what must be thought turns itself away from us, withdraws from us.
This withdrawal, however, is not nothing, and Heidegger is insistent on this point. Though the withdrawal of what needs to be thought means that we never encounter it as something present that strikes us or touches us, it nevertheless draws us along, makes us follow after it, pulls us in its wake, and we therefore point to it through our own motion in relation to it. We may not recognize that we are drawn in this way, but we are nevertheless drawn, and we point towards what draws us, for ourselves and for each other.
In a sense, this answers the questions of my previous post, because we are no longer required to recognize that we are not yet thinking despite the fact that we are not yet thinking. Rather, what must be thought, the question of why we are not yet thinking, is itself actively drawing us, and we need only to recognize that we are being drawn. Even so, at least this much is required of us: that we realize that we are being drawn, that this drawing must point toward something that withdraws, and Heidegger himself acknowledges that some do not ever make this realization. So what is it, to reformulate my previous question slightly, that causes some to make this realization and not others?
There is also the question of the agency that Heidegger ascribes to what must be thought. After all, in what sense can we speak of something to be thought as active, as withdrawing, as drawing us after it? What kind of agency can an object of thought actually exercise, especially when it is really only an object of thought in relation to the human capacity for thinking? If it is the question of why we are not yet thinking, and if it is what must be thought by us, then it is what it is only in relation to us. How, then, can it act upon us? How can it draw us after it?
Can we speak, perhaps, of a structure of human being in the world that itself produces what must be thought as an essential by-product of its being in the world, whether consciously or otherwise? Does the human mode of being in the world, in other words, somehow essentially and structurally presuppose the question of why we are not yet thinking? If so, do we cast this question ahead of ourselves, so to speak, setting in motion the very thing that will withdraw from us, that will draw us after it? Are we simultaneously driving this question before us and being drawn after its withdrawal?
How then would we understand thinking? What would our relation to it be? Is it this question itself that puts us on the way to thinking?