The Interpretation of the Being-There of Human Beings [107–108]

that was developed and propagated was that it referred to Aristotle’s dialogues since those writings were made public. This opinion did not last. The real sense of ἐξωτερικοὶ λόγοι was put forth for the first time by Diels in 1883, in the proceedings of the Berlin Academy.11 Jaeger adopted this meaning and made it fruitful for the determination of the literary character of Aristotle’s writings.12 Ἐξωτερικὸς λόγος is the mode of speaking outside of science, “how one carries on discourse,” and what is suppressed in this discoursing. Aristotle explicitly refers to this when he takes up the ἄλογον as the basic determination of human beings. That gives us an essential indication of the fact that, ultimately, if the determination of ζῷον λόγον ἔχον is so fundamental, then this investigation of Aristotle’s must have an actual basis. It is not accidental that, in their natural self-interpretation, the Greeks defined the being-there of human beings as ζῷον λόγον ἔχον.

We do not have a corresponding definition. At best, an approximately corresponding definition would be: the human being is a living thing that reads the newspaper. At first, that may sound strange to you, but it is what corresponds to the Greek definition. When the Greeks say that the human being is a living thing that speaks, they do not mean, in a physiological sense, that he utters definite sounds. Rather, the human being is a living thing that has its genuine being-there in conversation and in discourse. The Greeks existed in discourse. The orator is the one who has genuine power over being-there: Ῥητορικὴ πειθοῦς δημιουργός,13 the ability-to-discourse is that possibility in which I have genuine dominion over the persuasion of human beings in the way that they are with one another. In this basic Greek claim, the ground for the definition of the human being is to be sought. In addition, when the Greek reads, he also hears, and it is no accident that all of the texts that we have from Aristotle are lectures, the spoken word.

One must take fully into account that the Greeks lived in discourse, and one must note that if discourse is the genuine possibility of being-there, in which it plays itself out, that is, concretely and for the most part, then precisely this speaking is also the possibility in which being-there is ensnared. It is the possibility that being-there allow itself to be taken in a peculiar direction and become absorbed in the immediate, in fashions, in babble. For the Greeks themselves, this process of living in the world, to be absorbed in what is ordinary, to fall into the world in which it lives, became, through language, the basic danger of their being-there. The proof of this fact is the existence of sophistry. This predominant possibility of speaking is taken seriously by sophistry.

11. H. Diels, Über die exoterischen Reden des Aristoteles. In: Sitzungsberichte der Königlich Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin. Jahrgang 1883. Berlin 1883. pp. 477–494.
12. W. Jaeger, Studien zur Entstehungsgeschichte der Metaphysik des Aristoteles. Berlin 1912. p. 134 ff.
13. Cf. Plato, Gorgias 453 a 2.

Martin Heidegger (GA 18) Basic Concepts of Aristotelian Philosophy