Where did "Become what you are!" come from?

Michael Eldred artefact at t-online.de
Tue Sep 17 16:07:58 EDT 2002

Cologne 17-Sep-2002

"Gary C. Moore" schrieb Tue, 17 Sep 2002 07:45:28 -0700 (PDT):

> To Tudor or Dr. Eldred or anyone who knows:
> The quotation "Become what you are!" comes from Pindar. But WHERE does
> it come from? What is the Greek? What is the context in Pindar? Is
> Heidegger's use of it on page 145 SuZ legitimate? Neither translation
> states who said it originally, much less where exactly it came from. I
> would appreciate any information.
> 'Sincerely'
> Gary C Moore


As far as I can make out, the quote is from the second Pythian Ode line
_genoi', hoios essi mathon_

Schadewaldt comments:
"...and finally the much-quoted and repeatedly misunderstood line 72:
'Become who you are in learning it' -- wrong! I translate, 'Be who you
are, as you have learnt'. There is no becoming intended through which an
inner essential form is fulfilled but rather, as Wilamowitz has already
correctly seen, 'become' means here 'put-into-effect', 'praesta te',
'present yourself as who you are, realize yourself, namely through your
actions'. The idea of an inner becoming is very strange in Greek and is,
properly speaking, very modern. I interpret the _mathon_ from the ethics
of nobility, just as Hector once said to Andromache that he had learnt
to be a noble. It's a pity that the four words cannot be translated
equally compactly." (Wolfgang Schadewaldt "Die fruehgriechische Lyrik:
Tuebinger Vorlesungen Band 3" Suhrkamp, Frankfurt/M. 1989 S.333)

In the scholium to "Become who you are!" on SuZ:145 Heidegger writes
"But who are 'you'? The one as whom you cast yourself _free_ -- as who
you _become_." Schadewaldt would presumably criticize Heidegger's
interpretation as "modern".

I personally find line 95 of the 8th Pythian Ode philosophically more
_ti de tis; ti d' ou tis;_
which I have translated as "Was ist Wer? Was nicht Wer?" (Eldred
"Phaenomenologie der Maennlichkeit" Roell, Dettelbach 1999 S.19)
or "What is who? What is not who?" or perhaps
"What is it to be who? What is it not to be who?"
"What is it to be somewho? What is it not to be somewho?"

OED says:
" somewho. Obs.1 In 4 somwho.
[f. some a.1 + who pron.]
Some one; somebody.
1390 Gower Conf. I. 15 Ofte is sen that mochel slowthe..Doth mochel
harm, whan fyr is uppe, Bot if somwho the flamme stanche."

The question of being who (whoness) is to be distinguished from the
famous Socratic/Platonic question of what (_ti estin...;_, whatness,
essentia), and it is situated within the manifold question concerning
the folds of being.

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