Capita selecta: Bildung and the limits of science

The word bilden [to form or cultivate] means first: to set up a preformed model [Vor-bild] and to set forth a preestablished rule [Vorschrift]. It means, further, to give form to inherent tendencies. Intellectual cultivation brings before man a model in the light of which he shapes and improves all that he does. Cultivating the intellect requires a guiding image rendered secure in advance, as well as a standing-ground fortified on all sides. The putting forward of a common ideal of culture and the rule of that ideal presuppose a situation and bearing of man that is not in question and that is secured in every direction. This presupposition, for its part, must be based on a belief in the invincible power of an immutable reason and its principles.


Nature, in its objectness for modern physical science, is only one way in which what presences – which from of old has been named physis – reveals itself and sets itself in position for the refining characteristic of science. Even if physics as an object-area is unitary and self-contained, this objectness can never embrace the fullness of the coming to presence of nature; for the objectness of nature is, antecedently, only one way in which nature exhibits itself. Nature thus remains for the science of physics that which cannot be gotten around. This phrase means two things here. First, nature is not to be “gotten around” inasmuch as theory never passes that which presences by, but rather remains directed toward it. Further, nature is not to be gotten around inasmuch as objectness as such prevents the representing and securing that correspond to it from ever being able to encompass the essential fullness of nature. (…) Scientific representation, for its part, can never decide whether nature, through its objectness, does not rather withdraw itself than bring to appearance the hidden fullness of its coming to presence. Science cannot even ask this question, for, as theory, it has already undertaken to deal with the area circumscribed by objectness.

(Martin Heidegger, in: Science and Reflection)

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