Hegel und die Griechen

Hegel and the Greeks

Heidegger gave this lecture on 26 July 1958, at the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences. The title names the whole of the history of philosophy from its Greek beginning to its Hegelian culmination. Heidegger’s lecture is a meditation on the end of philosophy and the matter of thinking. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel gave the first philosophical interpretation of the whole history of philosophy. According to Hegel, the history of philosophy is the necessary progress of spirit toward truth as absolute knowing, in which the beginning is as important as the culmination. The three dialectical steps of this process determine also the history of philosophy. The first step, the positing of an object, is the immediate and undetermined consciousness of objectivity, which abstracts from the object’s relation to the subject. The unfolding of this beginning of philosophy is the history of Greek philosophy. The next step, or negation, is the reflection of the relation between subject and object in which we become conscious of the fact that the object is a representation of the subject. The unfolding of this new beginning is the history of modern philosophy from René Descartes to Johann Gottlieb Fichte. The third step, or negation of the negation, is the becoming conscious of the fact that the mediation of objectivity through the reflection of the subject is itself the inner movement of spirit. The movement determines the method of philosophy. Hegel’s “speculative” philosophy is the synthesis of the modern subjective philosophy of reflection (Reflexionsphilosophie) and the objective ontology of Greek philosophy.

Heidegger discusses Hegel’s interpretation of the four grounding words of Greek philosophy: (1) ἕν or the one of Parmenides; (2) λόγος or reason of Heraclitus; (3) ἰδέα or concept of Plato; and (4) ἐνέργεια or actuality of Aristotle. Because Greek philosophy is not grounded in subjectivity, it represents philosophy at the level of “not yet.” The goal of philosophy is truth as certainty. In Greek philosophy, spirit does not know itself as subject. The Greek concept of truth, ἀλήθεια, cannot therefore determine truth as certainty. Heidegger shows that ἀλήθεια as revealment does not have its place in the absolute subject; revealment is the place where a representing subject can be. According to Heidegger, metaphysics begins with the thinking of being as presence, οὐσία. The holding sway of ἀλήθεια is the condition of possibility of presencing. Ἀλήθεια, which is earlier than philosophy, and is, as such, the “not yet” of that which has not yet been thought and remains to be thought as the matter of thinking.