Dwelling With the Fourfold

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Graham Harman has published an article on Heidegger’s concept of the fourfold (Geviert) in the August issue of Space and Culture, under the title “Dwelling With the Fourfold.” The abstract on the journal’s website doesn’t quite do justice to the article’s content, so let me copy in the introductory paragraph, which spells out its focus in more detail:

Heidegger’s concept of “dwelling” was first introduced in 1951 in the famous Darmstadt lecture “Bauen Wohnen Denken” (Heidegger, 1954). It is inseparable from his model of things as mysterious fourfold structures. The thing is a mirror-play of earth, sky, gods, and mortals; to dwell means simply to let this fourfold be what it is. While no major concept of Heidegger’s career has received less detailed treatment than the fourfold, I hold this to be a tragic mistake. The following article outlines the key features of Geviert and tries to show why Heidegger’s fourfold has great value for the near future of philosophy, despite the apparent opacity of its poetic terminology. We can start from the beginning, with Heidegger’s (1949/1994) reflections on “the thing” in Bremen, which later appeared as a spin-off essay of the same title.

It’s a clever title for a clever article, as Harman does exactly that: he lets the fourfold be what it is. Granted, it is still Harman’s interpretation of what Heidegger’s fourfold means, but it is a convincing one. Although one could also argue that if this interpretation arises out of dwelling with the fourfold, then it is not simply an interpretation but an outcome that is hardwired into the method of the fourfold. Which is not to suggest that ‘practicing the fourfold’ is a trivial matter. Far from it. As Harman suggests above, this still seems to be a rather neglected kata of Heideggerian martial arts.

Readers of Harman’s Tool-Being will recognise the article’s argument. For those who haven’t read Harman’s book yet or are not familiar with his work, this article could be a good way to enter this problem area. However, I would still recommend following it up with reading Harman’s chapter on the fourfold in Tool-Being, alongside Heidegger’s original essays, of course.

Nonetheless, Harman does move on from his argument in Tool-Being, and the article could be considered a speculative realist critique of Heidegger’s fourfold. This critique however seems to strengthen Heidegger’s original insights further, and can be understood as a retrieval of the essence of Heidegger’s argument. Interestingly the article also makes the connection with actor-network theory and Bruno Latour, although this link is not mentioned explicitly. However, the discussion of “infinite regress” and occasionalism in Heidegger will remind readers of Harman’s evaluation and critique of Latour’s metaphysics in Prince of Networks. Indeed this article could be thought of as the link between his interpretation of Heidegger’s fourfold in Tool-Being and Harman’s own fourfold structure presented in the final chapter of Prince of Networks.

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One Response to “Dwelling With the Fourfold”

  1. Intentional inexistence « ANTHEM Says:

    […] By Peter Erdélyi Another quote from Graham Harman’s “Dwelling With the Fourfold” paper (p.  299): The hammer in its tool-being, then, is not just simple. It is also a vast […]

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