For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

Bremen and Freiburg Lectures: Insight Into That Which Is and Basic Principles of Thinking (Studies in Continental Thought)

by Heidegger, Martin; Mitchell, Andrew J J (2012)


This volume consists of two lecture series given by Heidegger in the 1940s and 1950s. The lectures given in Bremen constitute the first public lectures Heidegger delivered after World War II, when he was officially banned from teaching. Here, Heidegger openly resumes thinking that deeply engaged him with Hölderlin's poetry and themes developed in his earlier works. In the Freiburg lectures Heidegger ponders thought itself and freely engages with the German idealists and Greek thinkers who had provoked him in the past. Andrew J. Mitchell's translation allows English-speaking readers to explore important connections with Heidegger's earlier works on language, logic, and reality.

Key Passage

[Extract from 'Positionality']What does “to place, position, set” mean? Let us first consider it from production. The carpenter produces a table, but also a coffin. What is produced, set here, is not tantamount to the merely finished. What is set here stands in the purview of what concernfully approaches us. It is set here in a nearness. The carpenterin the village does not complete a box for a corpse. The coffin is from the outset placed in a privileged spot of the farmhouse where the dead peasant still lingers. There, a coffin is still called a “death-tree” [Totenbaum]. The death of the deceased flourishes in it. This flourishing determines the house and farmstead, the ones who dwell there, their kin, and the neighborhood. Everything is otherwise in the motorized burial industry of the big city. Here no death-trees are produced. A peasant positions his ox to drag fallen tree trunks out of the forest onto the path. He does not place the ox here just so that it would stand somewhere. He positions what is placed here in such a manner that it is directed toward application. Men and women must place themselves in a work service. They are ordered. They are met by a positioning that places them, i.e., commandeers them. One places the other. He retains him. He positions him. He requires information and an accounting from him. He challenges him forth. Let us now enter into the meaning of this word “to position, place, set” so as to experience what comes to pass in that requisitioning through which an inventory arises [der Bestand steht] and is thus a standing reserve.To place, position, set means here: to challenge forth, to demand, to compel toward self-positioning. This positioning occurs as a conscription [die Gestellung]. The demand for conscription is directed at the human. But within the whole of what presences, the human is not the only presence approached by conscription.A tract of land is imposed upon, namely for the coal and ore that subsists in it. The subsistence of stone is presumably already conceived within the horizon of such a positioning and even only conceivable in terms of this. The subsisting stone that, as such, is already evaluated for a self-positioning is challengedforth and subsequently expedited along. The earth’s soil is drawn into such a placing and is attacked by it. It is ordered, forced into conscription. This is how we understand the word “ordering” [bestellen] here and in what follows. Through such requisitioning [Bestellen] the land becomes a coal reserve, the soil an ore depository.1 This requisitioning is already of a different sort from that whereby the peasant had previously tended his field. Peasant activity does not challenge the farmland; rather it leaves the crops to the discretion of thegrowing forces; it protects them in their thriving. In the meantime, however, even the tending of the fields [die Feldbestellung] has gone over to the same requisitioning [Be-Stellen] that imposes upon the air for nitrogen, the soil for coal and ore, the ore for uranium, the uranium for atomic energy, and the latter for orderable destruction. Agriculture is now a mechanized food industry, in essence the same as the production of corpsesin the gas chambers and extermination camps, the same as the blockading and starving of countries, the same as the production of hydrogen bombs.But now what is it positioned toward, the coal that is positioned in the coal reserve, for example? It is not poised upon the table like the jug. The coal, for its part, is imposed upon ,i.e., challenged forth, for heat, just as the ground was for coal; this heat is already imposed upon to set in place steam, the pressure of which drives the turbines, which keep a factory industrious, which is itself imposed upon to set in place machines that produce tools through which once again machines are set to work and maintained. (p.25)


Heidegger, National Socialism, Twentieth Century, Production, Machination, Industrialisation


Heidegger Citations



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