In Being and Time and again in “The Question Concerning Technology,” Heidegger invokes
apophainesthai in his discussion of phenomenology. The word is a middle-voiced verb and, according to Liddell and Scott, means “to show off.” It is made of two parts, apo, meaning “away, out, off,” and phainesthai, meaning “to show” and connected, as Heidegger notes, with phôs, light. Interestingly enough, phós is a poetic word that means “man.” The accent mark distinguishes the two only when spoken, as the majority of early Greek texts did not include these diacritical marks.

Heidegger makes a great deal of the fact that apophainesthai is in the middle voice, neither active nor passive. The middle voice often denotes a reflexive verb, “I blank myself.” The middle voice also appears to have been gradually phased out so that by the time of written records we will often find a verb in the middle voice that carries a completely different (idiomatic and not necessarily reflexive) meaning than the active form of the same verb. Some* have therefore theorized that there was a point in which the middle voice was the only voice and that the active and passive were added (some would say divided) later.

With Heidegger’s erasure of the distinction between subject and object, we can understand his love of the middle voice. Objects are not “seen by” subjects, nor do subjects “see” objects, rather things show themselves. It is this showing with which Heidegger concerns himself. The phainesthai of apophainesthai becomes the pheno- of phenomenology. The very voice of the verb foreshadows Edmund Husserl’s immanent transcendence.

Heidegger often uses a noun derived from the verb, apophansis, which means “statement, declaration.” However, there is another noun that comes from apophainesthai: apophasis (note the missing n), which can mean a sentence, decree, or list. I bring this up because there are two Greek words spelled apophasis with two completely different meanings. This second word means “negation,” and is far more common than the apophasis  meaning “sentence.” I say that these are different words and not just different meanings because this second word is taken from apo and phemi, meaning “to speak.” We get the term apophatic discourse from this second word.

Apophasis: sentence and its negation. The two meanings are indistinguishable and therefore always already there when using either. Logos and thanatos. Eros and the death drive, undivided.

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* see Derrida, Margins 9; and Vitanza, “Threes” 207.

Energeic Rhetoric