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§13. Speaking-Being as Ability-to-Hear [108–109]

Protagoras’s principle: τὸν ἥττω λόγον κρείττω ποιεῖν14—to discuss geometry with a geometer, even if one understands nothing about geometry, to guide the conversation in such a way that I conquer the other without knowledge of the matter discussed. Sophistry is the proof that the Greeks fell prey to the language that Nietzsche once named “the most speakable of all languages.”15 And he had to know, ultimately, what the Greek world was. It must be noted that, in the fourth century BC, the Greeks were completely under the dominion of language.

We must take measure of what it means to retrieve speaking from this alienation of Greek being-there, from conversation and idle chatter, to bring speaking to that place in which Aristotle can say that λόγος is λόγος οὐσίας, “speaking about the matter as to what it is.” Aristotle stood in the most extreme opposition to that which was vital around him, to that which stood against him in the concrete world. One must not imagine that science had fallen into the laps of the Greeks. The Greeks were completely absorbed in the outward. At the time of Plato and Aristotle, being-there was so burdened with babble that it required the total efforts of them both to be serious about the possibility of science. What is decisive is that they did not take up a new possibility of existence from just anywhere, such as from India and thus from the outside, but rather from out of Greek living itself. They were serious about the possibility of speaking. That is the origin of logic, the doctrine of λόγος. The current interpretation is unsuitable for gaining an understanding of logic.

The current way of considering rhetoric is equally a hindrance to the understanding of the Aristotelian Rhetoric. In the Berlin Academy edition, the Rhetoric has been put at the end.16 They did not know what to do with it, so they put it at the end! It is a sign of complete helplessness. The tradition lost any understanding of rhetoric long ago, since it had become simply a school discipline even in the time of Hellenism and in the early Middle Ages. The original sense of rhetoric had long disappeared. Insofar as one forgot to inquire into the concrete function of Aristotelian logic, one gave up the basic possibility of interpreting this so that it would thereby become clear that rhetoric is nothing other than the discipline in which the self-interpretation of being-there is explicitly fulfilled. Rhetoric is nothing other than the interpretation of concrete being-there, the hermeneutic of being-there itself. That is the intended sense of Aristotle’s rhetoric. Speaking in the mode of speaking-in-discourse—in public meetings, before the court, at celebratory occasions—these possibilities of

14. Rhet. Β 24, 1402 a 23 sq.
15. Cf. F. Nietzsche, “Geschichte der griechischen Beredsamkeit,” in Nietzsche’s Werke, Volume 18, Part Three: Philologica. Second Volume: Unveröffentlichtes zur Litteraturgeschichte, edited by O. Crusius, Leibzig 1912, pp. 199–236: “Das Volk, das sich an solcher Sprache, der sprechbarsten aller, ausbildete, hat unersättlich viel gesprochen . . . ,” p. 202.
16. Aristotelis opera. Ed. Academia Regia Borussica. Volumen secundum: Aristotelis Graece ex recognitione I. Bekkeri volumen posterius. Berlin 1831. pp. 1354–1420.


Martin Heidegger (GA 18) Basic Concepts of Aristotelian Philosophy