From Angst to Astonishment 83
Indulging in a bit of myth making perhaps, he maintains that Parmenides and Heraclitus did not yet need to ‘yearn’ for the sophon because they were in fundamental harmony with the sophon, namely, the emerging of beings in Being. The need to rescue and preserve and protect ‘this most astonishing thing’ that ‘One (is) all’ from the superficiality of sophistical thinking – that is what gave rise to the striving for Being, namely philosophia, and this ‘was first accomplished by Socrates and Plato.’40 But despite falling away to some degree from the more originary thinking of Parmenides and Heraclitus, this philosophia of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle remained near the origin and, therefore, remained ‘tuned’ as astonishment.
Heidegger draws attention to how both Plato and Aristotle named the defining pathos of the philosopher thaumazein – ’astonishment.’ He reads Plato (Theaetetus 155d) to say: ‘This is indeed the pathos of a philosopher, astonishment [das Erstaunen translating to thaumazein]; for there is no other determining origin of philosophy than this.’41 And he reads Aristotle’s well-known words (Metaphysics A 2, 982b12) to mean: ‘Through astonishment human beings have reached in the present time, as well as at the beginning, the determining path of philosophizing (that from which philosophizing first proceeds and that which altogether determines the path of philosophizing).’42 As Heidegger sees it, the Greek philosophers understood the pathos of astonishment (wonder) to be the arche (beginning) of philosophy not in the ‘superficial’ sense of an efficient ‘cause’ that simply sets philosophizing into motion. Rather, astonishment is arche because it altogether ‘governs’ thinking and is never ‘left behind.’ In other words, philosophia begins – and ends – in ‘astonishment.’43
He also reminds us that the Greek word pathos ‘is related to paschein, to suffer, endure, undergo, carry out, to be borne along by, to be determined by.’ Consequently, the Greek understanding of pathos is far removed from the modern psychological understanding of inward subjective feelings and emotions. Pathos is more originarily understood as the way in which the human being is ‘attuned’ or ‘disposed’ by Being, and the pathos of ‘astonishment is the disposition in which and for which the Being of beings unfolds. Astonishment is the tuning [Stimmung] within which the Greek philosophers were granted the cor-respondence to the Being of beings.’44
In keeping with his understanding of the devolution of thinking from the Greeks to the present, Heidegger admits that the ‘tuning’ of thinking after the Greeks and into the modern period was different and not principally the mood of ‘astonishment’ that defined the dawn