Franco Volpi - Heidegger and Aristotle

Translated by Pete Ferreira


I. Introductory considerations

The critical engagement with Aristotle through the interpretation of some central texts of the Corpus Aristotelicum is a recurring motif in Heidegger's thought and signals decisive stages of its evolution. According to autobiographical accounts from Heidegger himself, his high school and university years had already been defined by confrontation with the Aristotelian problem of being. It is true that this first approach to Aristotle was filtered through the reading of Brentano (and Braig); but, in spite of the scarcity of available documents, one can still see the influence that the Brentanist interpretation of the Aristotelian doctrine of the 'plurivocity' of being – with its characteristic emphasis on the weight of the analogia entis and its singular attempt at a systematic deduction of categories starting from a διαίρεσις of being – may have had in alerting Heidegger to the problem of the fundamental unified sense that governs the multiplicity of ways of being.

Heidegger first took up his real confrontation with Aristotle during his first period at Freiburg, namely between 1915 and 1923 (with interruption due to war between 1917 and 1919). This confrontation, which develops especially after 1919, culminates with the drafting of a voluminous manuscript (still unpublished), whose basic results were published in the form of an article in Husserl's Jahrbuch für Philosophie und phänomenologische Forschung. Central to that work of interpretation were such Aristotelian texts as the sixth book of Nicomachean Ethics, the third book of De Anima, books I (1-2), VII-IX of Metaphysics and the first book of Physics, which remained Heidegger's primary texts even in his later confrontations with Aristotle.


In the particularly productive period of his teaching at Marburg (from winter semester 1923/24 to summer semester 1928), he again takes up and continues the confrontation with Aristotle, preparing some of Being and Time's decisive steps. There are at least three rich continuities: first, the course of summer semester 1924, dedicated to an interpretation of the Rhetoric, in which Heidegger pries the doctrine of passions from the context of speech and strives to show how it is an ontological theory of the states of the 'subject'; secondly, the course of winter semester 1925/26, in whose central part Heidegger takes on the problem of truth using as a connecting thread the discussion given it by Aristotle; finally, the course of summer semester 1927, dedicated to The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, in which, besides numerous cursory references to Aristotle, one finds a detailed interpretation of the Aristotelian conception of time.

Even in the second period at Freiburg (from the winter semester 1928/29 until near the end of the war), and especially in the years immediately following the call to Freiburg, Heidegger takes up and develops the comparison with the great Stagirite. This appears first in winter semester 1929/30, at the end of which (§ 72) Heidegger adopts a changed, or at least changing, perspective his own interpretation of the Aristotelian concept of truth; this is confirmed then in summer semester 1930, in the first part of which is an interpretation of Met. IX, 10; and he reiterates it definitively in summer semester 1931, entirely devoted to an interpretation of the first three chapters of book IX of Metaphysics.

This quick list impresses on us the insistence with which, until the early 1930s, Heidegger puts Aristotelian ontology at the center of his confrontation with the tradition. After the turn, instead, in parallel with the change in the overall tone that characterizes Heidegger's attitude in challenges to metaphysics and, thus, along with the transformation of the de-constructive intent to a need for overcoming, the focal point of the confrontation with the tradition also shifts. If in the project of fundamental ontology the confrontations with the densest moments of foundational metaphysics were central, with the shift to the later plan and then also with the fading of foundational purposes, the terms of reference change. Aristotle, Kant and Husserl are replaced by thinkers like Nietzsche, Hölderlin and the Presocratics. The essay on the concept of φύσις (written in 1939 and released in 1958) appears to be the last engagement with Aristotle.


To understand the terms of this confrontation in their authentic meaning, we must discover and highlight the speculative dynamics that connect all the points in Heidegger's interpretation of Aristotle into a single systematic route. This dynamic is expressed not only on the surface, so to speak, that is through a direct reading of Aristotelian texts by Heidegger. There is also another dimension of Heidegger's confrontation with Aristotle, a particularly significant and interesting one, that withdraws from a superficial check and requires rather, in order to be discovered, an in-depth survey. It is about that dimension of the confrontation -- regarding which Heidegger appears to have wanted to brush away the tracks, at least in his published works -- that is not found nor manifested in the exegesis of this or that Aristotelian text, but is instead a recovery and a radicalization, an appropriation of some fundamental Aristotelian determinations, which Heidegger uses in handling and solving some central problems of his speculations.

By way of illustration, we can anticipate some themes of this radical appropriation, which we'll examine during the course of our investigation. We will see, for example, that in presenting the proper ontological understanding of the phenomena of truth, Heidegger intends to validate it with the authority of Aristotle, by striving to show how already for Aristotle predication is not the only site of truth, but that it has its basis first in the "discovering" attitude of conscious life (ψῡχή ὡς ἀληθεύειν) and then in the verifying character of the entity itself (ὂν ὡς ἀληθές). Or, you can see how the distinction of the three fundamental modes of being proposed in Being and Time, namely being-there (Dasein), usability (Zuhandenheit) and the simple presence (Vorhandenheit), reprising tacitly the substance of Aristotelian determinations of πρᾶξις, of ποίησις and of θεωρία. In addition, you will see how in the determination of the fundamental way of being of conscious human life, understood as being-there, Heidegger appropriates fundamental practical determinations that Aristotle offers in Nicomachean Ethics Book VI. And finally, one can unearth unsuspected correspondences between "existentialist" Heideggerian vocabulary and some Aristotelian concepts, showing how Gewissen is the "translation" of φρόνησις, how Sorge recalls the Aristotelian ὄρεξις and perhaps Entschlossenheit is the German cast of προαίρεσις; similarly, you can see that in determining Befindlichkeit Heidegger ontologizes the Aristotelian doctrine of παθέ, and likewise he recovers some characteristics of νοῦς πρακτικός in the determination of Verstehen. In other words, one can basically show that his determination of being-there as the unity of active moments and factual determinations, of spontaneity and of passivity, Heidegger thinks of the Aristotelian characterization of man as σύνθεσις and as unity of νοῦς ορεκτικός and ὄρεξις διανοητική.


Before examining this fluent presence of Aristotle in Heidegger, it is appropriate to allow a preliminary clarification regarding the different approaches that from time to time characterize Heidegger's engagement with Aristotle. From a methodological point of view, assuming Heidegger's technical terminology, Heidegger's interpretation of Aristotle might generally be characterized as a first step, until the early 1930s, as 'destruction', while later, i.e. after turning (chronologically placeable precisely in the early 1930s), it is implemented as a localization of Aristotelian thought in the history of metaphysics, in turn as history of the forgetfulness of being. Now, these characterizations in Heideggerian terminology may appear to be somewhat ambiguous or trite, especially from their erosion by the Heidegger's huge bibliography, which has made them lose their bite. It is therefore appropriate to clarify the procedures that Heidegger follows in confronting the tradition in general, and Aristotle in particular. That's not to recall once again the sense of those well-known methodological clarifications, but rather to highlight the systematic horizon within which they assume consistency, and to lay out the ends they serve.

The so called 'phenomenological destruction' of traditional ontology – a term which until the late 1920s Heidegger shall designate as the proper methodological attitude, at the same time critical detachment and rapacious assimilation, towards the metaphysical tradition – is in fact the indispensable premise that is followed by a truly radical construction. And what is truly radical for Heidegger is that constructon that rests on fundamental ontology or – as he himself calls it – on the metaphysics of being-there, which would attain that foundation, which is precisely being-there, from which it will be possible to explain the connection of being and time in its complete articulation.


That the "phenomenological destruction" of traditional ontology pursues fundamental purposes can be seen clearly in a passage from summer semester 1927, which shows that Heidegger thinks of destruction as a integral moment of the phenomenological method of reduction. More precisely, after claiming to want to take up again the method of reduction formulated by Husserl – considering it though not in the transcendental sense, as "leading phenomenological vision from the natural attitude of the human being whose life is involved in the world of things and persons back to the transcendental life of consciousness and its noetic-noematic experiences"1, but in the ontological sense of a "leading phenomenological vision back from the apprehension of a being (...) to the understanding of the being of this being"2–, Heidegger asserts that it must be supplemented and completed by the instances of destruction and of construction. Reduction, destruction and construction are thought by Heidegger in their reciprocal connection as constitutive moments of the phenomenological method. So, the comparison with the history of philosophy in terms of "destruction" becomes a preliminary moment before phenomenological construction. As Heidegger himself states: "Construction in philosophy is necessarily destruction, that is to say, a de-constructing of traditional concepts carried out in a historical recursion to the tradition. And this is not a negation of the tradition or a condemnation of it as worthless: quite the reverse, it signifies precisely a positive appropriation of tradition. Because destruction belongs to construction, philosophical cognition is essentially at the same time, in a certain sense, historical cognition. "History of philosophy," as it is called, belongs to the concept of philosophy as science, to the concept of phenomenological investigation.3

The critical engagement with the tradition stays within the horizon of a fundamental finitude, represented by the metaphysics of being-there, within which Heidegger believes possible, and therefore pursues, fundamental purposes. The model paradigm and privileged point of reference for the implementation of this program is Aristotelian thought, in which, at least initially, Heidegger is convinced he will be able to detect a determination of the fundamental modes of being of conscious life, and a phenomenology of the natural attitudes of the latter, both free – even when placed in the context of the Greek understanding of being as presence – from the burden of the prejudices of modern theories of the subject.

1 M. Heidegger, Die Grundprobleme der Phänomenologie. Marburger Vorlesung Sommersemester 1927, ed. F.-W. von Herrmann 1975 (going forward, GA 24), 29. [The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, 21]

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid, 31 [Ibid, 23].


Starting instead from the early 1930s, during the elaboration of the turn, the confrontation with the metaphysical tradition develops ever more decisively in terms of a critical detachment from it, and it is considered as the history of forgetfulness of being, occurring in the event of being itself, Heidegger separates finitism itself from the attitude of foundational thought he'd assumed previously, gradually abandoning the fading foundational plans for fundamental ontology. And in keeping with this new provision in its confrontation with the metaphysical foundations of the tradition, we find within Heidegger's thinking a change of reference points: while in the foreground they emerge out of Nietzsche, Hölderlin and the Presocratics, in a different light one sees the central priority accorded to Aristotle. Despite the seminars that Heidegger keeps dictating on Aristotelian thought, the latter no longer seems to occupy a privileged position, nor is it an object of direct interpretation, nor is it a common thread in unraveling the plot of this speculation. The essay on the Aristotelian concept of φύσις, which seems to contradict this claim, in fact confirms it. Since the greatness that Heidegger gives to Aristotle is basically like the echo and reverberation of the original splendor of the Physis of the Presocratics. It belongs to the latter, then, and not so much to Aristotelian thought, to function as the determinative horizon.

Therefore, despite the almost constant presence of Aristotle within the horizon of Heidegger's speculative interests, differences in disposition and in importance cannot be suppressed. Even at a quick glance, the phase in which the confrontation reaches its maximum intensity stands out unambiguously. This is the moment in which Heidegger – addressing issues left open by Husserl and by searching for the solution through a progressive transformation and radicalization of the ontological structure of phenomenology – arrives at the idea and project of a fundamental ontology. And it is precisely the speculative horizon within which fundamental ontology gains consistency, that is the perspective Heidegger takes in the 1920s, and builds up to its extreme possibilities, which is linked to the predominant motivation that Heidegger's interest in Aristotle springs from.


The decade preceding the publication of Being and Time (1927), from the last years of the first period at Freiburg and the entire period in Marburg, is characterized in its speculative terrain by the strength with which, in engaging Aristotle, Heidegger puts into action this foundational intent. From a general point of view, it comes together as an urge for a truly radical philosophical knowledge, in the need to locate and determine the primary source from which it springs before it unfolds, and to which it later returns, the live wire of philosophizing.

Keeping this phase of Heidegger's confrontation with Aristotle firmly in place, we must now examine directly from where it springs, explains itself, and where it ends up. Before I start this review, however, it remains for me to make a brief comment about the studies on the subject. For sure, compared to other of Heidegger's interpretations of the classics of philosophy, that of Aristotle suffered relatively less of the skepticism with which the specialists have responded to Heidegger's bending of and violence on the texts. So much so, that in the vast sea of Aristotelian studies there has formed an interpretative current, represented by little known and established scholars, who are inspired by the more or less openly exegetical guidelines provided by Heidegger4. The same cannot be said, however, about studies of Heidegger with Aristotle in general, that is to say, about the role played by the interpretation of Aristotle in the evolution of Heidegger's thought. On this theme, the literature on Heidegger, otherwise superabundant, numbers but a few studies5. Helping to close this gap is one purpose of this research.

4 W. Bröcker, Aristoteles, Klostermann, Frankfurt a. M. 1935; H. Weiss, Kausalität und Zufall in der Philosophie des Aristoteles, Haus zum Falken, Basel 1942 (anastatic reprint, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1967); W. Szilasi, Macht und Ohnmacht des Geistes, Francke, Bern 1946 (especially the second part with interpretations of the Nicomachean Ethics, from books IX to XII of Metaphysics and from book II of De Anima); K. Ulmer, Wahrheit, Kunst und Natur bei Aristoteles. Ein Beitrag zur Aufklärung der metaphysischen Herkunft der modernen Technik, Niemeyer, Tübingen 1953; A. Guzzoni, Die Einheit des on πολλαχος λεγομενον bei Aristoteles, Phil. Diss., Freiburg i. Br. 1957; E. Tugendhat, Ti kata tinos. Eine Untersuchung zu Struktur und Ursprung aristotelischer Grundbegriffe, Alber, Freiburg-München 1958; R. Boehm, Das Grundlegende und das Wesentliche. Zu Aristoteles’ Abhandlung “Über das Sein und das Seiende” (Metaphysik Z), Nijhoff, Den Haag 1965; E. Vollrath, Studien zur Kategorienlehre des Aristoteles, Henn, Ratingen 1969; Id., Die These der Metaphysik. Zur Gestalt der Metaphysik bei Aristoteles, Kant und Hegel, Henn, Ratingen 1969 (specialmente pp. 15-92); F. Wiplinger, Physis und Logos. Zum Körperphänomen in seiner Bedeutung für den Ursprung der Metaphysik bei Aristoteles, Alber, Freiburg-München 1971; U. Guzzoni, Grund und Allgemeinheit. Untersuchung zum aristotelischen Verständnis der ontologischen Gründe, Hain, Meisenheim a. G. 1975; K. H. Volkmann-Schluck, Die Metaphysik des Aristoteles, Klostermann, Frankfurt a. M. 1979; I. Schüssler, Aristoteles. Philosophie und Wissenschaft. Das Problem der Verselbständigung der Wissenschaften, Klostermann, Frankfurt a. M. 1982.

5 So few, that the principals can be mentioned in the space of a note: W. Marx, Heidegger und die Tradition, Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1961, pp. 25-51 («Gestalt und Sinn der aristotelischen ousia»);[Heidegger and the Tradition.] K. H. Ilting, "Sein als Bewegtheit. Zu Heidegger, Vom Wesen und Begriff der Physis (Aristoteles, Physik B 1)", Philosophische Rundschau, 10, 1962, pp. 31-49; J. Richardson, "Heidegger and Aristotle", The Heythrop Journal, 5, 1964, pp. 58-64; O. Laffoucrière, "Le destin de la pensée et “la mort de Dieu” selon Heidegger" (Phaenomenologica, 24), Nijhoff, La Haye 1968, pp. 74-105; D. Lewis, Aristotle’s Theory of Time: Destructive Ontology from Heideggerian Principles, «Kinesis», 2, 1970, pp. 81-92; W.F. Hood, The Aristotelian Versus the Heideggerian Approach to the Problem of Technology , in Philosophy and Technology. Readings in the philosophical problems of technology, ed. with an introduction by C. Mitcham and R. Mackey, The Free Press, New York 1972, pp. 347-363; J. Beaufret, Dialogue avec Heidegger. Philosophie grecque, Editions de minuit, Paris 1973, pp. 93-121, 124-145;[Dialogue with Heidegger.] Thomas Sheehan, "Heidegger, Aristotle, and Phenomenology", Philosophy Today, 19, 1975, pp. 87-94; D. E. Starr, Entity and Existence. An Ontological Investigation of Aristotle and Heidegger, Burt Franklin, New York 1975; D. F. Krell, "On the Manifold Meaning of Aletheia: Brentano, Aristotle, Heidegger", Research in Phenomenology, 5, 1975, pp. 77-94; H. Seidl, "Zur Seinsfrage bei Aristoteles und Heidegger", Zeitschrift für philosophische Forschung, 30, 1976, pp. 203-226; W. G. Brown, An Inquiry Into the Question About Truth and Sense in the Thinking of Heidegger and Aristotle, Phil. Diss., Pennsylvania State University 1978; Thomas Sheehan, "Heidegger’s Philosophy of Mind", in Contemporary Philosophy. IV: Philosophy of Mind, ed. by G. Fløistad, Nijhoff The Hague-Boston-London 1983, pp. 287-318; Id., "On the Way to Ereignis: Heidegger’s Interpretation of Physis", in Continental Philosophy in America, ed. by H. J. Silverman, J. Sallis, Th. M. Seebohm, Duquesne University Press, Pittsburg 1983, pp. 131-164; F. Volpi, Heidegger in Marburg: Die Auseinandersetzung mit Aristoteles, «Philosophischer Literaturanzeiger», 37, 1984, pp. 172-188.


II. The presence of Aristotle at the origins of the Heideggerian conception of being

The ten-year silence that precedes the publication of Being and Time clearly separates Heidegger's juvenile writings, namely the texts published between 1912 and 19171, from the magnum opus and what he produced after 1927. To this chronological separation are added at least three other reasons which effectively isolated Heidegger's early studies from the rest of his work, and that have subtracted it, so to speak, from the interest notoriously enjoyed by Heideggerian speculation in philosophical historiography.

The first and most obvious of these reasons is the observation that Heidegger's actual thought lies in Being and Time, while in the early writings we especially find the influences of neo-Kantianism and of early Husserlian phenomenology, particularly the criticism of psychologism contained in book 1 of the Logical Investigations. A second reason is represented by the fact that, while the qualitative gap between the youthful production and Being and Time appears abysmal, it has lacked until now sufficient textual basis to locate and follow the generative connection between the two periods. Because of this impediment, and this is the third reason for failure, the discussion about the problems with the evolution of Heidegger's thought has beens absorbed almost entirely from the troubled issue of the 'turn'.

Only in more recent times has a certain interest in Heidegger's early works arisen, especially following the publication of some autobiographical indications from Heidegger himself2 and with the reprint in one volume of three major early works, namely the doctoral dissertation on The doctrine of judgment in psychologism (1913), the post-doc dissertation On the doctrine of the categories and meaning in Duns Scotus (1915) and the lectures for the venia legendi on The concept of time in the science of history (1916).3 Consequently, they have tried to grasp the significance of this first phase of his thought by looking for the hidden connections with the fundamental ontology of Being and Time, or even with Heidegger's thought as a whole.

1 These writings are: Das Realitätsproblem in der modernen Philosophie, «Philosophisches Jahrbuch», 25, 1912, pp. 353-363; Neuere Forschungen über Logik, «Literarische Rundschau für das katholische Deutschland», 38, 1912, pp. 465-472, 517-524, 565-570; by F. Ohmann, Kants Briefe in Auswahl, «Literarische Rundschau für das katholische Deutschland», 39, 1912, p. 74; by N. von Bubnoff, Zeitlichkeit und Zeitlosigkeit. Ein grundlegender theoretisch-philosophischer Gegensatz in seinen typischen Ausgestaltungen und in seiner Bedeutung für die modernen philosophischen Theorien , «Literarische Rundschau für das katholische Deutschland», 39, 1913, pp. 178-179; by F. Brentano, Von der Klassifikation psychischer Phänomene , «Literarische Rundschau für das katholische Deutschland», 40, 1914, pp. 233-234; by C. Sentroul, Kant und Aristoteles , «Literarische Rundschau für das katholische Deutschland», 40, 1914, pp. 330-332; by F. Gross, Kant-Laienbrevier, «Literarische Rundschau für das katholische Deutschland», 40, 1914, pp. 376-377; Die Lehre vom Urteil im Psychologismus. Ein kritischpositiver Beitrag zur Logik , J. A. Barth, Leipzig 1914; Die Kategorien- und Bedeutungslehre des Duns Scotus, J. C. Mohr (P. Siebeck), Tübingen 1916; Der Zeitbegriff in der Geschichtswissenschaft, «Zeitschrift für Philosophie und philosophische Kritik», 161, 1916, pp. 173-188; Selbstanzeige: Die Kategorienund Bedeutungslehre des Duns Scotus, «Kant-Studien», 21, 1917, pp. 467-468. All these writings are now included in GA 1. They were translated into Italian by A. Babolin: Scritti filosofici (1912-1917), La Garangola, Padova 1972 (volume comprising all the minor writings mentioned above and youthful poetry Abendgang auf der Reichenau); La dottrina del giudizio nello psicologismo, La Garangola, Padova 1972; La dottrina delle categorie e del significato in Duns Scoto, Laterza, Roma-Bari 1974.

2 These accounts, told by Heidegger on several occasions, are collected under the title Mein Weg in die Phänomenologie in M. Heidegger, Zur Sache des Denkens, Niemeyer, Tübingen 1969, pp. 81-90 (trans. It. by E. Mazzarella, Tempo ed essere, Guida, Napoli 1980, pp. 183-191). [GA 14, "My Way to Phenomenology".]

3 Collected in M. Heidegger, Frühe Schriften, Klostermann, Frankfurt a. M. 1972, and now republished in GA 1 with some marginal notes of Heidegger's.


There are several conclusions that scholars who have dealt with this problem have so far arrived at. This diversity is due both to different intentions and departure points from different methodological settings, it is in the fact that these interpretations of the meaning of his juvenile writings presuppose some interpretive pronouncement on Heidegger mature thought, and one knows that the multiplicity of exegetical approaches will further scramble the contexts and perspectives according to which we read the early Heideggerian writings.4

It is reasonable to assume, however, that despite the diversity of settings and results of this research, they have in common an implicit belief, namely the belief that, while there is no denying the huge gap that exists between the language and the thought of Being and Time and the still immature style of the juvenile writings, it is true also that an analysis of these papers makes it easier to discover any influences that have had a bearing on establishing and maturing Heidegger's thought proper, and this precisely because they are the product and expression of his training period. This consideration also suggests that underlying the interest in the young Heidegger we find not only a scholarly intent for a philological reconstruction of the genesis of his thought, but that it also assumes the need for a better understanding, by observing in the bud some of the knots and fundamental problems of Heideggerian speculation, foremost amongst these the problem of being.

Furthermore, the sense of these remarks matches with the reconstructed intellectual biography that Heidegger provides us. Measuring the significance of his early writings in connection with its mature thought, Heidegger said that "at the time of the drafting of these essays, both youthful, and in the literal sense of the word, helpless"" he did not know anything yet of the elements that would later develop in his thinking; however, despite their tentative character, they already indicate the lines of the future path, namely "in the form of the problem of the categories the question of being, in the form of the theory of meaning the question of language."5

4 Specific studies on the early Heidegger's writings are not many, so that you can list below the most important: M. Campo, "Psicologia, logica e ontologia nel primo Heidegger", Rivista di filosofia neoscolastica, 31, 1939, pp. 474-491; C. Baglietto, "La formazione del pensiero di M. Heidegger nei suoi scritti giovanili", Annali della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, 26, 1957, pp. 190-221; K. Lehmann, Vom Ursprung und Sinn der Seinsfrage im Denken Martin Heideggers, Phil. Diss., Roma 1962 (from this thesis come the next two articles by the same author Metaphysik, Transzendentalphilosophie und Phänomenologie in den ersten Schriften Martin Heideggers (1912-1916) and "Christliche Geschichtserfahrung und ontologische Frage beim jungen Heidegger, both in Philosophisches Jahrbuch, 71, 1963/64, pp. 331-357, and 74, 1966, pp. 126-153; I. Manzano, "La ‘Habilitationsschrift’ de Martin Heidegger sobre Escoto", Verdad y Vida, 24, 1966, pp. 305-325; E. Garulli, Problemi dell’Ur-Heidegger, Argalia, Urbino 1969; K. Hobe, Zwischen "Rickert und Heidegger", «Philosophisches Jahrbuch», 78, 1971, pp. 360-376 (especially the second part on the relationship between Lask and Heidegger); A. Babolin, "La ricerca filosofica del giovane Martin Heidegger nella critica d’oggi", in Heidegger, Scritti filosofici, pp. 9- 127; Th. Kisiel, "On the Dimension of a Phenomenology of Science in Husserl and the Young Dr. Heidegger", Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, 4, 1973, pp. 217-234; E. Morscher, "Von der Frage nach dem Sein von Sinn zur Frage nach dem Sinn von Sein. Der Denkweg des frühen Heidegger", Philosophisches Jahrbuch, 80, 1973, pp. 379-385; J.D. Caputo, "Phenomenology, Misticism and the 'Grammatica Speculativa': A Study of Heidegger’s ‘Habilitationsschrift’", Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, 5, 1974, pp. 101-117; Th.A. Fay, "Heidegger on Logic: A Genetic Study of His Thoughts on Logic", Journal of the History of Philosophy, 12, 1974, pp. 77-94; R. Gumppenberg, "Die transzendentalphilosophische Urteils- und Bedeutungsproblematik" in M. Heidegger's “Frühe Schriften”, in Akte des 4. Internationalen Kant-Kongresses, de Gruyter, Berlin 1974, vol. II/2, pp. 751-761; A. Savignano, Psicologismo e giudizio filosofico in M. Heidegger, X. Zubiri, J. Maréchal, La Garangola, Padova 1976, pp. 77-130; R.M. Stewart, Psychologism, Sinn and Urteil in the Early Writings of Heidegger, Phil. Diss., Syracuse University, New York 1977; E. Garulli, Heidegger e la storia della ontologia, Argalia, Urbino 1978, pp. 7-48; A. Palma, "Wo knüpft das Zeichen an die Welt an? Il giovane Heidegger (1912-1917)", Nuova corrente, nr. 76/77, 1978, pp. 266-277; J.D. Caputo, Heidegger and Aquinas, Fordham University Press, New York 1982; A. Marini, Introduzione storico-sistematica, in M. Heidegger, Il senso dell’essere e la svolta, editor A.M., La Nuova Italia, Firenze, 1982, pp. VII-XC; W.D. Gudopp, Der junge Heidegger. Realität und Wahrheit in der Vorgeschichte von “Sein und Zeit”, VMB, Frankfurt a. M. 1983 (packed with information, however, unfortunately, provided in a misleading interpretative horizon).

5 Frühe Schriften, 55. [GA 1]


In this way, by indicating in his early writings the presence in nuce of the fundamental problems of his mature speculation, Heidegger in this way circumscribes the questions about in his early writings and, by parceling out his reading, he can offer guidelines for interpreting his speculative path. Now of course, the publication of the Gesamtausgabe certainly makes available to scholars important materials with which to better understand this self-interpreting and to verify step by step the transition of the problematic from the youthful writings to Being and Time. They were already present in the Marburg lectures that have been published so far, but particularly relevant in this regard will be the publication of the first Freiburg lectures.6

For now, however, we can already make use of a series of autobiographical details that Heidegger furnished and which can be precious, directly or indirectly, for the reconstruction of the circumstances of his intellectual and philosophical education. Almost each of the directions that they suggest could be made the subject of further discussion and research: his reading of Brentano's dissertation On the manifold sense of being according to Aristotle, the study of treatise Vom Sein by theologian Carl Braig, the teachings of the art historian Wilhelm Vöge, his reading of Hölderlin (1908), the repeated reading of the Logical Investigations; in addition, his proximity and confrontation with Heinrich Rickert and with Emil Lask, his interest in the mystical Germany, prior to Protestantism, in Meister Eckhart, and especially in German mysticism7; finally, a number of catalysts that appear in German cultural life between 1910 and 1914, like the augmented 2nd edition of Nietzsche's Will to Power, the translations of Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky, the resurgence of interest in Hegel and Schelling, the Gesammelte Schriften publishing of Dilthey, and the poetry of Rilke and Trakl.

Among all these signs, it is obvious they take on special importance when referencing the rise in Heidegger of the need for a revival of the problem of being, which remains consistently present throughout Heidegger's thought and Heidegger himself claims as the unifying thematic horizon that embraces the different perspectives through which his speculative evolution passes. In this sense, then, the autobiographical incidents where Heidegger recalls his young reading of Brentano's On the Several Senses of Being in Aristotle and the treatise Vom Sein by Carl Braig are particularly important. It is then a matter of submitting these two texts to a rigorous examination in order to identify in the origins of the Heideggerian conception of being the emergence of Aristotle, filtered through the scholastic interpretations of Brentano and Braig.

6 In addition to Aristotle, the theme of these lectures were especially Husserl, early Christian thought, phenomenology of religion, and Augustine and Neoplatonism.

7 It is not unlikely that interest in mysticism had been aroused in the young Heidegger by Engelbert Krebs (Freiburg 4-10-1881 - pub. 11/29/1950), who was his friend and confidant, and early on he attended some of his seminars. Among his works we can mention: Meister Dietrich von Freiberg, Münster, 1906; Logos als der Heiland im ersten Jahrhundert, Freiburg i. Br. 1909; Theologie und Wissenschaft nach der Lehre der Hochscholastik, Münster 1912; Was kein Auge gesehen, Freiburg i. Br. 1918; Grundfragen der Komische Mystik, Freiburg i. Br. 1921; Dogma und Leben, 2 vols., Paderborn 1921-1925; St. Augustin. Der Mensch und Kirchenvater, Köln 1930.


1. Reading Brentano

As Heidegger himself asserts, reading Franz Brentano's dissertation was his first incentive to deal with Aristotelian ontology and challenge himself, motivated by Brentano's thesis, to ask further questions and to pose to himself the problem of the multiple senses of being. The question that Heidegger asks himself is this: If, as Brentano's survey stresses, being is said in many ways, what then is the ultimate foundation that holds up this 'plurivocity', what is the unified sense of being?8

Regarding the significance of this youthful reading and the influence that the Brentanian interpretation of Aristotle's had on Heidegger, I covered that in a previous investigation, highlighting the tendency present in the young Heidegger to ask himself the question of the uni(voci)ty of being and showing how it corresponds to a similar tendency in the Brentanian interpretation of Aristotle9. I refer the reader to the analysis of philosophical formation of Heidegger and his youthful writings developed in that work, and I will limit myself to only recalling the basic features and guidelines of his first encounter with the Aristotelian problem of being.

As is known, Brentano's dissertation on the multiplicity of senses of being in Aristotle (published in 1862)10 occupies an important place in the history of Aristotelian studies for both the original solutions that it proposes, as well as for the latter philosophical achievements of its author. It is one of the most enduring fruits of Aristotelian historiography in the second half of the last century, which began with Brentano's teacher, A. Trendelenburg. From the viewpoint of a philosophical understanding of the problems, particularly for solving the aporias of Aristotelian ontology (interpreted much like a doctrine of substance), it still preserves much of its value, especially among scholastically oriented scholars11.

8 Heidegger, Mein Weg in die Phänomenologie, p. 81 (trans. It., p. 183). [GA 14. "My Way to Phenomenology", 74.]

9 F. Volpi, Heidegger e Brentano. L’aristotelismo e il problema dell’univocità dell’essere nella formazione filosofica del giovane Martin Heidegger, Cedam, Padova 1976.

10 F. Brentano, Von der mannigfachen Bedeutung des Seienden nach Aristoteles, Herder, Freiburg i. Br. 1862 (anastatic reprint, Olms, Hildesheim 1960). [On the Several Senses of Being in Aristotle, edited and translated by Rolf George, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1975.]

11 For example J. Owens, The Doctrine of Being in the Aristotelian Metaphysics, Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, Toronto 1951, and G. Reale, Il concetto di filosofia prima e l’unità della metafisica di Aristotele, Vita e pensiero, Milano 1961. In contrast see P. Aubenque, Le problème de l’être chez Aristote, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris 1962, and above all W. Leszl, Logic and Metaphysics in Aristotle. Aristotle’s treatment of types of equivocity and its relevance to his metaphysical theories, Antenore, Padova 1970.


Brentano takes on Aristotle's doctrine of the plurivocity of the being from the four fundamental meanings of the latter: (1) the first meaning is that of being for itself (ὄν καθ’ αὑτό) and being by accident (ον κατά συμβεβηκός), this treatise – with particular attention to being by accident – occupies the second chapter. (2) the second meaning is that of being as true (ὂν ὡς ἀληθές), examined in chapter three. (3) The third meaning is that of being as potential or being in the act (ὄν δυνάμει και ἐνέργεια), the theme of the fourth chapter. (4) Finally, the fourth and final fundamental meaning is that according to the figures of the categories (ὂν κατὰ τὰ σχήματα τῶν κατηγοριῶν), analyzed in chapter five. For Brentano, who – as has been said – interprets Aristotelian ontology as a doctrine of substance (the first category), this last fundamental meaning of being is the most important of the four.

The key part of Brentano's dissertation is precisely that in which he examines the different meanings of being according to the figures of the categories. There he faces the problems of the analogical homonymy of being identical found between pure synonymy and homonymy ἀπὸ τύχης, proposing a solution that is distinguished by two questions. Above all, for Brentano, sticking with the scholastic doctrine of analogy of proportionality and of analogy with respect to its own ends, he interprets the analogical unity of being in Aristotle as important; secondly, Brentano, having interpreted the unity of analogy as important, considers it possible to deduce or "divide" the categories as a systematic criteria for their classification. So, they are not at all like that rhapsodic approach that Kant and then Hegel criticize, but arise from an honest and proper systematic διαίρεσις of being.

As regards the first of the two aspects, Brentano critically discusses three interpretations of the Aristotelian doctrine of the categories (chap. V, § 1). A first interpretation, supported with some variations by Ch. A. Brandis, by L. Strümpell and by E. Zeller, sees in the categories not concepts true and proper, but only the predicate structure within which all real concepts must be ordered. A second and a third interpretation, indicating that the categories are not forms of predication by concepts, claim that they are rather universal concepts. These last two interpretations are distinguished in highlighting different aspects. The second interpretation considers the categories as concepts not in the sense of conceptual representations, of concepts taken separately, but in the logical sense of concepts of judgment, i.e. as parts of this latter and, therefore, as predicates, indeed, as universal predicates. A. Trendelenburg, F. Biese and T. Waitz would be the biggest supporters in the nineteenth century, but along with their interpretation coinciding with Brentano's, they were also translators that rendered κατηγορίαι with praedicamenta (and according to Trendelenburg, like ancient commentators such as Alexander of Aphrodisias, Aegean Alexander and Porfirio). The third interpretation, supported by H. Bonitz and C. Ritter, but accepted also by Hegel, agrees with the second in believing, against the first, that the categories are not the property of the concepts, but the concepts themselves. But, unlike the latter, it does not accept concepts as referring to judgment, but as universals, as chief of the senses of being and not so much as predication. It therefore intends to deny that the categories are mere predicates and that their scheme is made from a consideration that is exclusively logico-grammatical.


In adopting his own position, Brentano shows his sympathy for the ontological vigor of the third thesis, although he appears to not share it entirely and he links it with many elements from the second. He claims that the categories are: (1) actual concepts, ὄντα καθ' αὑτό έξω τῆς δῐᾰνοίᾱς, (2) analogous meanings of being according to the analogy of proportionality and according to the analogy with respect to the same ends, (3) universal concepts as top kinds of being, different among themselves for their different relationships with substance and for the different ways in which they predicate about it.

As for their classification, as has been mentioned, Brentano feels it is possible to determine the criterion strictly, give it a "deductive proof" according to a division of being. This is the crucial point and at the same time the most original note of the Brentanian interpretation of Aristotle's doctrine of the categories, in which the stress on the analogical unity of the being and the attempt of a systematic deduction of the categories go hand in hand.

Brentano attributes to Aristotle himself both the strong interpretation of the analogy and the classification of the categories by division starting from the common concept of being, although he admits that Aristotle never mentions them. However, according to Brentano, Aristotle himself is likely to have carried out the systematic deduction he postulates for two reasons: first of all, because it is unthinkable that he has settled for a πίστις διά τῆς ἐπαγωγῆς, having the possibility of a πίστις διά συλλογισμού; secondly, because the expression αἱ διαιρεθείσαι κατηγορίαι, repeated several times (An. Pr. I, 37; Top. IV, 1; De An. I, 1, 401a 24; 5, 410a 14), makes one think of an act of division, and, more precisely, in that of the διαίρεσις τοῦ ὄντος from where the categories would result.


As to the manner in which this division operates, it starts with the common concept by dividing it in two basic ways, the being of substance (οὐσία) and the being of accident (συμβεβηκός). The first way, that of the substance, does not let itself be split further (although it is possible to distinguish different types of substance). The second, that of the accident, is analogical and can be divided into two classes, depending on whether they belong to the substance absolutely or only in relation to others: you have the absolute class of the accidents or feelings (παθέ) and class relationships (πρός τι). Finally, absolute accidents can be divided, depending on their relationship to substance, in three ways: absolute accidents inherent in the substance as ένυπαρχοντα (i.e. the πόσον and ποίον); absolute accidents are πρός τῷ ὑποκείμενοι and not ἐν τὸ ὑποκείμενον, and in general are κινήσεις (ποιεῖν and πάσχειν); finally the accidents with the absolute character of τα ἐν τινι (the που and ποτε). Brentano so derives the full table of categories (whose number is eight and not ten): οὐσία, πόσον, ποίον, ποιεῖν, πάσχειν, που, ποτε, πρός τι.

This solution, which aims to capture the unitary structure of being and its foundation, reveals obvious scholastic influences. They emerge mainly in the tendency to conceive of being – Brentano sticking with the Aristotle's firm ban on considering it a genus – as the common element starting from which the categories can be deduced by division. Moreover, in the attempt at a systematic deduction of the categories Brentano refers explicitly not only to Thomas (chap. V, § 14), in whose conception of being – as has been shown12 – are found influences of Neoplatonic origin – but also commentators with Neoplatonic orientation like Ammonius, Pseudo-Augustine and Isidore of Seville (chap. V, § 14).

It is probably this aspect of the Brentanist treatment of the problem of being in Aristotle that best thematically outlines Heidegger's philosophical formation. This influence reinforces the hypothesis that, even if the engagement with Aristotelian ontology that Brentano's reading requires is the source of Heidegger's thoughts on being, that engagement is driven by the desire, already present in Brentano, to grasp the unity of being, that is, to bring the multiplicity of its meanings to a unitary basis.

12 Cfr. K. Kremer, Die neuplatonische Seinsphilosophie und ihre Wirkung auf Thomas von Aquin, Brill, Leiden 1966; E. Berti, Aristotelismo e neoplatonismo nella dottrina tomistica di Dio come “ipsum esse”, in Id., Studi aristotelici, Japadre, L’Aquila 1975, pp. 347-351.


This basic need remains essentially present in the latter evolution of Heideggerian speculation. Even later, when Heidegger will tackle the problem of being in Aristotle independently of the Brentanist interpretation, his thoughts will remain firmly tied to the thread represented by the search for the fundamental unified sense of being. In particular, if you follow the route taken by Heidegger in dealing with this matter in the twenties and early thirties, one can see that in this period he tries alternately each of the four fundamental meanings in relation to its ability to act as a unitary basis of the others. And one can see how Heidegger quickly abandons the idea that this basic meaning is that of substance, that is, of being in the sense of the categories, as Brentano argued. He matures convinced that this meaning is that of being as true, and because of this belief he strives to show how already in Aristotle there is present an ontological understanding of the phenomenon of the truth (which in his thinking is then resumed and radicalized in the equation to being and ἀλήθεια). Finally, probably starting in the early 1930s (as can be seen on the basis of the course of summer semester 1931, dedicated to an interpretation of the first three chapters of the 9th book of Metaphysics), being in the sense of true is followed as the fundamental meaning being in the sense of ἐνέργεια, since in it Heidegger sees the reverberation of the original understanding of being as Φύσις (which after the "Turn", as is known, is the dimension that Heidegger wants to thematize as both preceding and different regarding metaphysics).

2. Reading Carl Braig

Returning now to his early training, it is possible to reconstruct the meaning of another juvenile reading that Heidegger himself specifically mentions along with the dissertation of Brentano, namely reading the treatise Vom Sein. Abriß der Ontologie by Carl Braig.


Braig had taught at the Faculty of Theology of the University of Freiburg a first time (from 1893 to 1897) as professor of philosophical-theological propedeutics and later (from 1897 to 1919) as professor of dogmatic theology. Heidegger, who from winter semester 1909/10 until summer semester 1911 had studied theology and had followed Braig's courses on introduction to dogmatics (1910/11) and theological cosmology (1911)13, remembered his teaching with praise: "After four semesters I gave up my theological studies and dedicated myself entirely to philosophy. I still attended theological lectures in the years following 1911, Carl Braig's lecture course on dogmatics. My interest in speculative theology, led me to do this, above all the penetrating kind of thinking that this teacher concretely demonstrated in every lecture hour. On the few walks when I was allowed to accompany him, I first heard of Schelling's and Hegel's significance for speculative theology as distinguished from the dogmatic system of Scholasticism. Thus the tension between ontology and speculative theology as the structure of metaphysics entered the field of my search."14

Heidegger's two references, one to the treatise Vom Sein and the other to Braig's theological teaching (with the discovery of Schelling and Hegel), shows us the extent of, and the thematic horizon within which to determine, Braig's importance to Heidegger's formation. The first reference is especially relevant to us given that what interests us are the ontological problems and the engagement with the Aristotelian tradition. Allow me then to touch briefly on the second reference, then move on to more detailed examination of the Vom Sein treatise.

As for Braig's theological teaching and his talks with him during his years studying at university, Heidegger underscores how thanks to Braig he came to discover for the first time the importance of Schelling and Hegel. In addition, Braig's revaluation that these thinkers using speculative theology as an alternative to Scholastic systems, would have stimulated him to think about the relationship between ontology and theology, that structural tension that connotes metaphysics itself. Given the importance of these reflections to Heidegger's work, it is certainly an important reference, yet, in truth, it sounds strange when one considers the character of Braig work as a theologian and philosopher as a whole15. The latter, can in fact be placed historically in the context of German neo-Scholasticism's response to the early-modernist controversy, and as a whole is presented as a systematic compendium of Catholic doctrine. Even while not inspired directly by the most rigorous orthodoxy, instead open to independent solutions and developments, Braig's works display an explicit apologetic intent, supporting their arguments not only against positivism and modernism (understood in a very peculiar way), but also against modern philosophy and especially against Kant and idealism.

13 See B. Casper, "Martin Heidegger und die Theologische Fakultät (1909-1923)", Freiburger Diözesan-Archiv, 32, 1980, pp. 534-541, which gives a detailed list of all courses taken by Heidegger at the Faculty of Theology in Freiburg.

14 Heidegger, Mein Weg in die Phänomenologie, p. 82 (trans. It., p. 184). [GA 14. "My Way to Phenomenology", 75.]

15 Carl Braig (Kanzach/Württemberg 10-2-1853-Freiburg 24-3-1923) was a keen apologist for the Catholic doctrine against positivism and modern philosophy. He wrote among other things: "Natürliche Gotteserkenntnis nach Thomas von Aquin", Theologische Quartalschrift, 63, 1881, pages 511-596; Die Zukunftsreligion des Unbewußten, Freiburg i. Br. 1882 (against E. von Hartmann); Das philosophische System von Lotze, Freiburg i. Br. 1884; Gottesbeweis oder Gottesbeweise?, Stuttgart 1888 (against K. Gutberlet); Die Freiheit der philosophischen Forschung, Freiburg i. Br. 1894 (inaugural academic lecture); Die Grundzüge der Philosophie, 3 vols., Freiburg i. Br. 1896-1897; Abriß der Christology, Freiburg i. Br. 1907; Modernstes Christentum und moderne Religionspsychologie, Freiburg i. Br. 1907; Was soll der Gebildete vom Modernismus wissen?, Freiburg i. Br. 1908; Der Modernismus und die Freiheit der Wissenschaft, Freiburg i. Br. 1911; Die Gotteslehre, Freiburg i. Br. 1912. For the location of Braig's work in the context of neo-Scholasticism see C. Fabro, "Il significato e i contenuti dell’enciclica 'Aeterni Patris'", in proceedings of the VIII Congresso Tomistico Internazionale, Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas, Vatican City 1981, pp. 66-88. On Braig's work in general see F. Träger, "Das empirische Denken Carl Braigs", Perspektiven der Philosophie, 5, 1979, pp. 341-356, and the relationship with Heidegger: R. Schaeffler, Frömmigkeit des Denkens? Martin Heidegger und die katholische Theologie, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1978, pp. 1-10.


Heidegger, however, remembers Braig precisely in regard to his discovery of Schelling and Hegel and, in another passage where he mentions it, talks about him as "the last exponent of the speculative tradition of Tübingen, which, through confrontation with Hegel and Schelling, conferred rank and breadth to Catholic Theology""16. Actually, Braig had published the most important of his writings, an essay on the natural knowledge of God according to Thomas Aquinas, in Theologische Quartalschrift, which was the magazine of the so-called "Catholic School of Tübingen". To fully assess and verify Heidegger's indications in their historical consistency, we would therefore determine to what extent it's influence was still present in the teaching of dogmatic theology in Freiburg, during the years in which Heidegger studied there. The influence of this school had spread from the middle of the 19th century even within Freiburg's environs, especially through the figure of Franz Anton Staudenmaier and the first and second generation of his students.

But let's deal with the other aspect mentioned by Heidegger, which interests us directly for the purposes of our research. That is to take a closer look to the treatise by Braig Vom Sein, to see, if only by way of hypothesis, if there are speculative tendencies or their prospects in the discussion of the problem of being which could have an impact on Heidegger's philosophical formation.

The treatise Vom Sein. Abriß der Ontologie (1896), that Heidegger claims to have started reading in the last year of high school (1908/9), constitutes the central volume of the three volume Die Grundzüge der Philosophie, that appeared in Freiburg published by Herder between 1896 and 1897 and including, in addition to the volume cited, a first volume Vom Denken. Abriß der Logik (1896) and a final volume Vom Erkennen. Abriß der Noetik (1897). This work, which is undoubtedly Braig's greatest systemic effort and marks the culmination of his work as a Catholic theologian, is an acute compendium of philosophy which exposes in an original way the basic doctrines of ontology, logic and epistemology, substantially in accordance with the Aristotelian-Thomistic doctrine, but with constant consideration of the Augustinian-Franciscan tradition. Also, in many spots Braig distances itself from the orthodox school and tries his own solutions.

16 GA 1 57.


The treatise is divided into the three volumes mentioned above, dedicated respectively to ontology, logic and the theory of knowledge. The middle volume, which deals with being, is itself divided into three parts, in accordance with the threefold articulation that, according to Braig, characterizes the different themes of ontology as a science of being in general; these themes: eidology, which is the doctrine of being that questions about the properties of entities ("Vom Wesen des Seienden", pp. 18-99), nomology, or the doctrine of the laws concerning the effects of entities on their existence and their movement ("Vom Wirken des Seienden", pp. 100-133,) and teleology, or the doctrine of the ends of entities ("Vom Zwecke des Seienden", pp. 134-158).

Within this framework, that in substance proposes to be nothing but a metaphysica generalis, the themes and key issues of the Aristotelian-Thomistic ontology are examined; above all the concepts of being, existence, nothing, substance and accident, space and time, of potential and activity, of reality and necessity, are all examined; and this repertoire is then completed at the end of each chapter with a selections of excerpts taken from the works of Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, and the doctrine of the Catholic Church (particularly in support and illustration, historical and systematic, of the thesis presented in the text).

Already from this general description, it can be said that Braig's treatise contributed – along with the Brentano's dissertation – to align the interests of the young Heidegger toward the problems of ontology, focusing his attention in particular on classics like Aristotle, Thomas and Suarez. And also the very fact, seemingly irrelevant, that at the end of chapters – in addition to reporting, as has been said, excerpts taken from classical texts of ontology – Braig offers incidental etymological reconstructions of the concepts examined, probably Heidegger's initiation to the etymologies that meander almost everywhere throughout his work, and in virtue of which he discovers in the originary etymology of key words of Western thought the seeds of deep metaphysical meanings.

These elements, which testify to Braig's importance in Heidegger development in a significant but indirect way, however, find their equal, and their confirmation too, in a more essential plan. Although it is somewhat risky, if not impossible, given the scarcity of accessible sources today, to go beyond ascertaining parallels and thematic correspondences, one can however propose some befitting hypotheses.


If we consider, for example, the way Braig conceives and determines the task of philosophizing, it would not appear wrong or arbitrary to see in it a repertory of themes and problems which Heidegger will adopt, even developing them with a completely different depth and radicalism. So, in his treatise Vom Sein Braig conceives of philosophy as the science that examines the assumptions of common consciousness and the principles of specific sciences, and culminates with the science of being. It then splits into metaphysics, theology and ontology: while seeking the foundation of being in sensible entities and not finding it, he looks in the meta-empirical and metaphysics; as long as it posits the ultimate foundation of all entities in the absolute being, i.e. in God, it is theology; and finally, to the extent it considers being as such, in its formal characteristics, it is ontology. And it is precisely the ontological investigation which Braig considers to be the task, par excellence, of philosophy, which, when it is ontology, he calls fundamental, principal or central science (Fundamentalwissenschaft, Prinzipalwissenschaft, or Zentralwissenschaft), in the dual sense of primary science and science of the foundations17.

If proclaimed from an intrinsically scholastic perspective, this programmatic instance of a science of being as such still sounds like a vigorous opposition to subjectivism and the gnoseology of modern philosophy and as resolute affirmation of the need for a revival of classical ontology. Now, as we know, even Heidegger will renew the demand for a science of being as being and call fundamental ontology the thought that takes charge of this instance of a radical renewal of ontology. With regard to the performance of the program of a fundamental ontology as thematization of the relationship of being and time, it is curious that even Braig, admitedly in a scholastic context and in a completely different way, considers decisive in the understanding of being its relationship with time, and devotes to the discussion of this problem the entire tail end of the eidology. There he addresses and discusses the common understanding of time, the philosophical concepts it explains and the psychological origins of metaphysical and ontological time determinations.

In connection with the problem of being, and particularly with regard to its relationship with the Aristotelian ontology, we must test more closely how Braig devises and determines being especially concerning the doctrine of its plurivocity or univocity. You can see that even in Braig, and precisely in his acceptance of the doctrine of God as the ipsum esse and in his latching on to the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition, and also to the Augustinian-Franciscan tradition, we find present the need to grasp the unity of being; furthermore, this requirement seems almost to lead then to an ontological differentiation between being in its unity and the multiplicity of entities.

17 Braig, Vom Sein, p. 6.


You have to first observe, then, that placing himself in the tradition of the Aristotelian-Thomistic ontology, Braig adheres basically to the doctrine of the plurivocity of being. He argues that the latter is always determined and manifold, and precisely that the determination and the multiplicity of its elements, namely the categories, are not only constant but also constitutive. He says that being is said in so many ways as there are "general, special, incidental and individual determinations of being."18 Always in accordance with the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition, he also points out that this plurivocity is not arbitrary, but is coordinated according to the analogic order. Indeed, he strengthens the unifying sense of the analogy, saying that the plurivocity of being does not prevent grasping the uniqueness of being, since the latter would be a plurivocal concept, but unique, and its fundamental determination would be the one-being in the being-different.19

Elsewhere, in a step early in Vom Erkennen, Braig defines being in general as a "collective concept" (Sammelbegriff): "being generally does not refer to the verb that combines subject and predicate in a judgment: 'God is good'. Nor is being designated as that which works as predicate in existential propositions: 'it is, God is'. Being as subject is a collective word [and in a note adds: ipsum esse, esse simpliciter, esse actuale s. formale, actus entis, τὸ εἶναι ἁπλώς, τὸ ὂν ᾗ ὂν , οὐσία, ἐνέργεια, ἐντελέχεια]."20 Also, when it comes to being in general, Braig denies that it can be hypothesized as existing separately from the entities, and says: "Es gibt kein bloßes und allgemeines Sein, es sind Seiende."21 And he denies the possibility of giving a real and proper definition of being, asserting that "attempts to give conceptual determinations of being are all fallacious and contradictory. Being is 'position', 'doing', 'energy', 'assertion', 'condition of possibility': definitions like this confuse the first cognitive notion of an entity with the essential description of being."22

18 Braig, Vom Sein, p. 23.

19 Ibid, p. 28.

20 Braig, Vom Erkennen, p. 1.

21 Braig, Vom Sein, p. 6.

22 Ibid, pp. 21-22.


Braig, however, intends to grasp and think the unity of being and, indeed, he sees it as one of the fundamental tasks of ontology. Right at the beginning of the treatise Vom Sein, he states that the question "what is being as such" must guide the search for an identical image (εἶδος) in all entities (and for this he designates the term 'eidology' the first part of ontological research)23. It is interesting now to consider how he thinks the unity of being compared to categorical differentiation. He says: "our universal judgment is: 'the entity is'. The meaning of that judgment is: every entity is a thing-substance with characteristics of substance, it is substance plus accidents. The categoria omnicomprensiva, which includes itself and all other possibilities underneath, is as much logical as ontological, the category of 'substance and accident'"24. Now, one can notice that in this attempt to think the common concept of being, the unity of substance and accident, is similar in structure to the one carried out by Brentano; since even Brentano, stressing the unifying strength of analogy, returns to the multiplicity of senses of being according to the categories, first to substance and accident, and then the concept of being.

In addition, Braig adheres to the conception of God as ipsum esse. This doctrine, developed – as is known – especially by Thomas Aquinas, contains a tendency to substantialize being, namely to conceive it as a hypostasis and identify it with God, though, especially in Thomas, this tendency toward the origin, probably Neoplatonic, is expertly combined with the doctrine of multiplicity of senses of creaturely being25. Now, Braig not only adhere to this doctrine, but at certain points it seems that he wants to introduce to it an ontological distinction between being and entities. Which, for the problem considered here, the genesis of being in Heidegger, is very significant.

So, just at the beginning of the treatise Vom Sein, instead of a preface Braig reports a large step in the Itinerarium mentis in Deum of Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, in which the ipsum esse is distinguished from individual entities " Ipsum esse adeo in se certissimum, quod non potest cogitari non esse, quia ipsum esse purissimum non occurrit nisi in plena fuga non-esse, sicut et nihil in plena fuga esse. (...) esse nominat ipsum purum actum entis: esse igitur est, quod primo cadit in intellectum (...)" 26. The passage then continues, illustrating the difficulties which this ontological difference leads to: " Mira est caecitas intellectus, qui non considerat illud, quod prius videt et sine quo nihil potest cognoscere. Sed sicut oculus, intentus in varias colorum differentias, lucem, per quam videt cetera, non videt, et si videt, non advertit: sic oculus mentis nostrae, intentus in entia particularia et universalia, ipsum esse extra omne genus, licet primo occurrat menti et per ipsum alia, tamen non advertit. Unde verissime apparet, quod, ‘sicut oculus vespertilionis se habet ad lucem, ita se habet oculus mentis nostrae ad manifestissima naturae’ [see Arist. Met. II, 1, 993 b 9-11]: quia assuefactus ad tenebras entium et phantasmata sensibilium, cum ipsam lucem summi esse intuetur, videtur sibi nihil videre, non intelligens, quod ipsa caligo summa est mentis nostrae illuminatio, sicut, quando videt oculus puram lucem, videtur sibi nihil videre ."27

23 Braig, Vom Sein, p. 18.

24 Ibid, p. 54.

25 See Kremer, Die neuplatonische Seinsphilosophie und ihre Wirkung auf Thomas von Aquin; Berti, Aristotelismo e neoplatonismo nella dottrina tomistica di Dio come “ipsum esse”. Also see on the problem of analogia entis, in connection with the problem of ipsum esse: P. Grenet, "Saint Thomas d’Aquin a-t-il trouvé dans Aristote l’analogia entis?", in L’attualità della problematica aristotelica, Antenore, Padova 1970, pp. 153-175; P. Aubenque, "Les origines de la doctrine de l’analogie de l’être", Les Etudes Philosophiques, nr. 1, 1978, pp. 1-12. (On analogia entis, in general, always valuable is the treatise of E. Przywara, Analogia entis, Johannes, Einsiedeln 1962).

26 Braig, Vom Sein, p. V (the passage is taken from Itinerarium mentis in Deum, V, 3).

27 Ibid, pp. V-VI (from Itinerarium mentis in Deum, V, 4).


Braig's adherence to the idea of an ontological difference between being and entities is later confirmed by what he claims in the final parts of his treatise. There, observing that the conclusions from ontology constitute the fundamental theme of theology and that, therefore, ontology has its own fulfillment in theology, Braig affirms the need to grasp a universal order of being, and also states that the principle of that order must be found in God as ipsum esse, of which he says "he who is by virtue of its essence", "the original basis of entities" and "an originary one"28. This confirms the suspicion that even in Braig the Aristotelian conception of plurivocity of being overlaps the scholastic tendency to hypostasize the concept of being in the conception of God as ipsum esse.

Now, seeing these trends present in the Braig's treatise and speculating on their possible impact on the formation of the problem of being in the young Heidegger, it should be said from the outset that the relevance of these observations should be calibrated with due caution. In fact, while from a thematic point of view there is no doubt that Braig, like Brentano, helped guide the search of being in the young Heidegger, it seems more difficult to decide how to measure its actual effect.

Considering, however, that the reading of Braig's treatise happens – nearly parallel to that of Brentano – at a very young age, and considering that at least until his doctorate, Heidegger's thought shows itself extremely pliable and receptive to confronting the speculative stimuli that are given him, it is not entirely unlikely that the Braig's Vom Sein treatise contributed above all, from a general point of view, to focus Heidegger's interests toward the ontological problem and, secondly, more specifically, to converge in a certain direction the burgeoning issue of being or, if you will, to confirm the direction he had taken after reading Brentano's dissertation: that is the tendency to focus his research mainly on the guiding meaning of being rather than on its many meanings, even though this tendency arises from the need to better understand the doctrine of the plurivocity of being29.

28 Braig, Vom Sein, pp. 149-158, especially pp. 156-157.

29 On this aspect of the problem of being in Heidegger in comparison with neoplatonic doctrine of being see W. Beierwaltes, Identität und Differenz, Klostermann, Frankfurt a. M. 1980, pp. 131-143, and in comparison with the Platonic theory of the principles H. Krämer, Platone e i fondamenti della metafisica, intro. and trans. by G. Reale, Vita e Pensiero, Milano 1972, pp. 307-310; finally, on the similarities and connections of Heideggerian understanding of being as ἀλήθεια with the tradition of metaphysics of light see K. Hedwig, Sphaera lucis. Studien zur Intelligibilität des Seienden im Kontext der mittelalterlichen Lichtspekulation, Aschendorff, Münster 1980, especially pp. 2-5.


Therefore, if we integrate the repertory of themes and issues that Braig's treatise poses in the eyes of the young Heidegger regarding the unified sense of being, which he got from his reading of Brentano, we then have the extremes and the essential coordinates to read the youthful writings from this perspective and in this light, that is, to capture in the presence of Aristotle the criterion that sorts the elements contained in these texts, and find the common thread to orient us in the decade of silence that precedes the publication of Being and Time.


III. Truth, subject, temporality: the presence of Aristotle in Marburg and in Being and Time

1. Setting the confrontation

The publication of the courses that Heidegger gave at Marburg from winter semester 1923/24 until summer semester 1928 allows us to elucidate the evolution of his thought in the years immediately preceding the publication of Being and Time, that is, in one of his most intense and fecund periods. In the context of the confrontation with the tradition that we are considering here, this period is of special interest, because Heidegger measures himself against of the great moments of traditional fundamental ontological thought, namely, (in the order in which he considers them), with Husserl, with Aristotle and with Kant (and also with Thomas Aquinas, with Suarez, Descartes, and Leibniz).

All these confrontations, and especially the confrontation with Aristotle, take place within the horizon of Heidegger's attempt to question the assumptions of traditional ontology and to pave the way for a radical re-foundation. This questioning and this re-foundation are carried out, on the one hand, by revealing the leveling effect of the metaphysical understanding of being as presence (linked to an understanding of time that privileges the present); and second, by identifying in the specific mode of being of human life, that is in the being-there, the structural foundation for a radical restating of the problem of being.


Therefore, there is a, not merely exoteric, connection linking together Heidegger's confrontations with the tradition, and with the three principals specifically, with Husserl, with Aristotle and with Kant. As to their ordering, one can say that Heidegger mainly confronts Husserlian phenomenology and later arrives at his interpretation of Aristotle starting with the questions that were left unanswered in the confrontation with Husserl. In the thought of the latter, in fact, he had come to see, accomplished and brought to its logical conclusions, the founding of a philosophy of the subject directed primarily towards scientific understanding and logico-theoretical categories. Turning to Aristotle, instead, he believes we can discern a complete repertoire of fundamental ontological determinations of human life and, most importantly, without the assumptions of modern philosophies of the subject. With Kant, finally, Heidegger strains to see an overcoming of the traditional forgetfulness of the connection between being and time, from the fact that Kant had attempted to think the unity of the fundamental determinations of human life, as identified by Aristotle, but in a rhapsodic approximation, without addressing the theme of their unity; and, even unknowingly, Kant would determine this unity as temporality, which led him to link temporality and subjectivity, and reach that foundation of finitude that – like the Heideggerian equation to being-there and originary temporality – allows reposing the problem of being and of time.

Coming now to the interpretation of Aristotle, the gap compared to the previous confrontations is immediately apparent, those conducted in his early years following the reading of Brentano and Braig, be it for the wider themes, as for the more mature and deeper speculative commitment, and also for the higher interpretative level it reaches. Notwithstanding the centrality and importance of the problem of being, a certain thematic shift is also evident. Since, although being remains the general horizon and the ultimate goal of the research, Heidegger now develops the confrontation with Aristotle along the themes that will later be more central in Being and Time; they are at least three: the problem of truth, the problem of the 'subject', and the problem of temporality.

To understand this thematic shift and the qualitative leap that accompanies it, it is helpful to consider that the years between the doctoral thesis and the call to Marburg, namely his first period teaching at Freiburg, are for Heidegger a time of reflections, crises and radical changes. There is a significant document, that is worth citing extensively, in which one can grasp the profound transformation in Heidegger in those years. This is a letter dated January 9, 1919, addressed to Engelbert Krebs1. Here's the text:

1 This letter is preserved in the Nachlaß of Engelbert Krebs at the Seminar of Dogmatic Theology at the University of Freiburg, and was published by B. Casper in Martin Heidegger und die Theologische Fakultät (1909-1923), «Freiburger Diözesan-Archiv», 32, 1980, pp. 534-541, in particular p. 541. On the task of Heidegger in these years see Thomas Sheehan, "Heidegger's Early Years: Fragments for a Philosophical Biography", in Heidegger. The Man and the Thinker, Precedent Publishing, Chicago, 1981, pages 3-19; on the relationship with Husserl see K. Schuhmann, Husserl-Chronik. Denk-und Lebensweg Edmund Husserls (Husserliana Dokumente, 1), Nijhoff, Den Haag 1977.


Dear Professor,
The past two years in which I struggled for a fundamental clarification of my philosophical position and put aside all specialized academic tasks have led to conclusions I would not be able to hold and teach freely, were I bound to a position outside of philosophy.
Epistemological insights extending to a theory of historical knowledge have made the system of Catholicism problematic and unacceptable to me, but not Christianity and metaphysics—these, though, in a new sense.
I firmly believe that I—perhaps more than your colleagues who officially work in this field—have experienced what the Catholic Middle Ages bears within itself regarding values and that we are still a long way off from a true appreciation of them. My investigations in the phenomenology of religion, which will draw heavily on the Middle Ages, should show beyond a doubt that in transforming my basic philosophical position I have not been driven to replacing objective appreciative judgment of and deep respect for the life-world of Catholicism with the angry and coarse polemics of an apostate.
Thus it will in the future be important for me to remain in contact with Catholic scholars who understand and acknowledge the problems in this field and are able to sympathize with those with different convictions.
It is therefore especially important to me that I not lose the benefit of your invaluable friendship—and I would like to thank you deeply for it. My wife, who first talked with you, and I too would like to keep the very special trust we have shared with you. It is difficult to live as a philosopher—inner truthfulness regarding oneself and in relation to those for whom one is supposed to be a teacher demands sacrifices, renunciation, and struggles which ever remain unknown to the academic technician.
I believe that I have the inner calling to philosophy and, through my research and teaching, to do what stands in my power for the sake of the eternal vocation of the inner man, and to do it for this alone, and so justify my existence [Dasein] and work ultimately before God.
Sincerely and gratefully yours, Martin Heidegger
[Translation by John Van Buren, from Supplements, pp. 69-70.]

As much as this document makes us perceive the radical nature with which the young Heidegger undertakes the task of philosophizing, the more we must regret not having writings of this period, in order that we might follow, as with the Marburg period, the maturing of his thought2. Fortunately, however, we know from several witnesses, at least in broad terms, the main themes of what Heidegger addresses during his first lessons at Freiburg3. And we know that in this period he pays great and repeated attention to Aristotelian thought. From the list of courses and seminars, we can deduce the frequency with which Heidegger returns on Aristotle: in summer semester 1916 he holds with Krebs a seminar on selected passages from Aristotle's logical writings; in summer semester 1921 (in parallel with a course on Augustine and Neoplatonism) he reads De Anima in a tutorial seminar; in winter semester 1921/22 he holds a course on the Physics (announced now for GA 61 with the title: Phänomenologische Interpretation zu Aristoteles); in summer semester 1922 again a whole course on selected passages of ontology and logic from Aristotle and also, in parallel, a seminar on the Nicomachean Ethics; finally, in winter semester 1922/23, a seminar on books IV-V of Physics4.

2 Not initially included in the Gesamtausgabe, publication of courses of the first teaching at Freiburg is now heralded as an appendix to the second section. Of the fifteen courses held by Heidegger, only seven have been announced. According to a communication from the chief editor of the edition (F.-W. von Herrmann), manuscripts relating to the other courses were destroyed by Heidegger himself (see F.-W. von Herrmann, "Die Edition der Vorlesungen Heideggers in seiner Gesamtausgabe letzter Hand", in Freiburger Universitätsblätter, 1982, nr. 78, pp. 85-102).

3 A complete list of courses and seminars by Heidegger appears in W. J. Richardson, Heidegger. Through Phenomenology to Thought (Phaenomenologica, 13), Nijhoff, The Hague 1963, pp. 663-671. Some guidance for the content of the courses of the first lesson of Freiburg is given by O. Pöggeler, Der Denkweg Martin Heideggers, Neske, Pfullingen 1963, 1983, 36-45 (also important the Afterword to the Second Edition, pp. 319-355);[Martin Heidegger's Path of Thinking.] in particular on the interpretation of Aristotle. H.-G. Gadamer, Heideggers Wege, Mohr, Tübingen 1983, pp. 31-32, 118, 131;[Heidegger's Ways.] finally, on the course of 1920/21 see Thomas Sheehan, "Heidegger e il suo corso sulla 'Fenomenologia della religione'", Philosophy, 31, 1980, pp. 431-446.

4 See Richardson, Heidegger, pp. 663-664. [Pages 671-672 of 2003 edition.]


The results of this intense engagement with Aristotle appears to have been elaborated by Heidegger in a large manuscript, whose essential contents were to be published in an article to be provided to Husserl's Jahrbuch für Philosophie und phänomenologische Forschung, but which never appeared. In it Heidegger would have treated Nicomachean Ethics book VI, the second book of De Anima, books I (1-2) and VII-IX of Metaphysics, and book I (8) of Physics. Namely all those texts of Aristotle that would later represent the main references of the confrontation5.

Heidegger recalls this moment of his confrontation with Aristotle as follows: "the clearer it became to me that the increasing familiarity with phenomenological seeing was fruitful for the interpretation of Aristotle's writing, the less I could separate myself from Aristotle and the other Greek thinkers. Of course I could not immediately see what decisive consequences my renewed occupation with Aristotle was to have. As I myself […] after 1919 […] tried out a transformed understanding of Aristotle in a seminar, my interest leaned anew toward the Logical Investigations, above all the sixth investigation of the first edition. The distinction which is worked out there between sensuous and categorical intuition revealed itself to me in its scope for the determination of the 'manifold meaning of being.'"6.

This important engagement with Aristotle in the years of the first Freiburg lessons is then taken up again in the Marburg courses, where the interpretation of Aristotle appears closely related to the elaboration of Heidegger's speculative program, namely the restating of the problem of being through analysis of being-there. For this reason, the Marburg interpretation of Aristotle differs from interpretations after the "turn". It is not a case of – as, for example, in his essay on the Aristotelian concept of φύσις – of interpreting within an already constituted horizon, that of the history of metaphysics as history of forgetfulness of being, an essential moment of that history (the Aristotelian point), to test the consistency of the big picture and the belonging of that moment to the picture. In Marburg, continuing the investigation already started in the last years at Freiburg, the question for Heidegger is to grasp in Aristotelian thought some determinations and some essential moments that, with opportune restructuring, serve him as an essential aid to pursue his own foundational goals.

5 See E. Husserl, Briefe an Roman Ingarden. Mit Erläuterungen und Erinnerungen an Husserl (Phaenomenologica, 25), Nijhoff, Den Haag 1968, pp. 25-27; see also Gadamer, Heideggers Wege, p. 118. [Heidegger's Ways]

6 Heidegger, Mein Weg in die Phänomenologie, p. 86 (trans. It., p. 187). Emphasis mine. [GA 14. "My Way to Phenomenology".]


In his chronology, this engagement reaches its peak in the early years of Marburg teaching. Starting from the mid-1920s, more specifically from about half way through the course in winter semester 1925/26, Heidegger's interest take on the figure of Kant.

Except for a course on the Rhetoric in summer semester 1924, we now have almost all Marburg courses relevant to the confrontation with Aristotle7. Moreover, even for the course on the Rhetoric one can assume its contents by taking into account passages from other Marburg courses and Being and Time, in which – most likely retouching considerations developed in that course – Heidegger takes on the doctrine of passions contained in book II of the Rhetoric. We know he uses it in the context of the analysis of being-there as "the first systematic hermeneutic of everydayness of Being", outlining its ontological reach and affirming that "the basic ontological interpretation of the affective life in general [doctrine of passions] has been able to make scarcely one forward step worthy of mention since Aristotle"8.

On the basis of the other published Marburg courses, it is now time to examine the central presence of Aristotle in the essential milestones of Heidegger's speculative development up to Being and Time; and not only at the decisive moments of the ontological transformation of phenomenology and his distancing from Husserl, but even in those passages in which, even when Aristotle is not at the heart of his efforts and attention, one still perceives that ontological tension developed and tempered in Heidegger's grappling with the Aristotelian texts. This examination will be conducted in the most convenient manner if we attune ourselves to the order of the three basic problems: the problem of truth, the problem of "subject" and the problem of temporality.

7 I say 'almost all', because – in addition to the course of 1924 on the Rhetoric – there remain to be published two Marburg courses that have a certain importance in his engagement with Aristotle. This is the course of the summer semester 1926 on Grundbegriffe der antiken Philosophie, whose Nachschrift, which I am aware of, deals with Aristotle on pp. 5-24 (especially on book I of the Metaphysics) and 76-102, and of course winter semester 1926/27 on Geschichte der Philosophie von Thomas von Aquin bis Kant.

8 GA 2, 184-185 (= Being and Time, § 29, trans. It., p. 231). Heidegger also expresses his appreciation of the Rhetoric in other contexts, for example, emphasizing the distinction between semantic and apophantic-predicative moments of the λόγος. So, in a passage from winter semester 1929/30 course he notes that in the Rhetoric Aristotle has identified and carried out for the first time "the mighty task of submitting the forms and formations of non-thetic discourse to interpretation" (GA 29/30, 439). [The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, 303.]


2. The problem of truth

To focus his attention on the problem of truth, Heidegger reaches for a fusion of Husserl and Aristotle, blending phenomenology and ontology, a combo whose traces are evident in the first of the Marburg courses available today, namely, that of the summer semester 1925, published as Prolegomena to a history of the concept of time9.

Heidegger's attention is here mainly concentrated on the critical confrontation with Husserl. Nevertheless, with a frequency that could not be casual, we find obvious signs of the previous Freiburg interpretation of Aristotle, accompanied often by the mission statement of the need to broaden the confrontation to all key areas of philosophical questioning and connect systematically the results of this broader engagement with the problems arising from the critical appropriation of phenomenology.

The introductory part of the course, which is dedicated to illustrating the sense and the tasks of phenomenology, makes some very significant steps in this regard. At first, in the context of a general explanation of the meaning and importance Husserl's discovery of categorial intuition, Heidegger touches on the problem of truth, and specifically on the question of the distinction and characterization of the ontological understanding of truth as opposed to the purely epistemological understanding. Now, in dealing with this problem, Heidegger notes that "phenomenology (...) breaks with the restriction of the concept of truth to relational acts (beziehende Akte), to conclusions", and too "Without being explicitly conscious of it, phenomenology returns to the broad concept of truth whereby the Greeks (Aristotle) could call true even perception as such and the simple perception of something."10.

This break and this return are for Heidegger the necessary consequence of the Husserlian thesis, according to which not only predicative acts (in Aristotelian language acts of synthesis and diahairesis), but also 'simple' acts, i.e. uni-directional or self-referencing (einstrahlig), such as the perception of a color, can be 'identified' (Ausweisung) and, therefore, can have the character of truth. In Heidegger's eyes this implies an ontological enlargement of the concept of truth opposed to the traditional epistemological understanding, according to which the truth would instead be only in the synthesis and separation of representations, as had been argued especially by Rickertian neo-Kantianism. Heidegger, then, wants to emphasize for Husserl's benefit the fact that he restores the idea of a pre-categorical, ante-predicative truth; and this is the idea of truth that Heidegger sees affirmed for the first time in Greek thought and, in particular, in Aristotle.

9 Prolegomena zur Geschichte des Zeitbegriffs. Marburger Vorlesung Sommersemester 1925 hg. von P. Jaeger, Klostermann, Frankfurt a. M. 1977 (= GA 20). On the matter of the course in general see W. Biemel, Heideggers Stellung zur Phänomenologie in der Marburger Zeit, in E.W. Orth (Hg.), Husserl, Scheler, Heidegger in der Sicht neuer Quellen (Phänomenologische Forschungen, 6/7), Alber, Freiburg-München 1978, pp. 141-223. On the Heideggerian terminology in this course see Th. Kisiel, Der Zeitbegriff beim früheren Heidegger, in E.W. Orth (Hg.), Zeit und Zeitlichkeit bei Husserl und Heidegger (Phänomenologische Forschungen, 14), Alber, Freiburg-München 1983, pp. 192-211.

10 GA 20, 85, 87. [The quote is from History of the Concept of Time, 55 (GA 20, p. 73)] On Heidegger's relationship with Husserl allow me to indicate my study "La trasformazione della fenomenologia da Husserl a Heidegger", in Theoria, 4, 1984, nr. 1, pp.125-165.


In the same way, in the Husserlian thesis – also developed, as the previous, in Logical Investigations – according to which categorical acts are "founded acts", those that are ultimately based on the basis of sensible intuition, Heidegger thinks he can discover a correspondence with the Aristotelian thesis, formulated in De Anima III, 431 a 16-17, according to which, as he translates, "The soul can presume nothing, apprehend nothing objective in its objectivity, if nothing at all has been shown to it beforehand." (διὸ οὐδέποτε νοεῖ ἄνευ φαντάσματος ἡ ψυχή).11

What Heidegger wants to emphasize by observing this correspondence, is the underlying assumption that the thought of Husserl and Aristotle have in common, and that this needs to be done by any philosophy that starts from the point of view of the finite, as a thinking that does not depend on the sensible, a thought "without fundamental sensibility", is a contradiction. This is a conviction that Heidegger will find confirmed and developed systematically in Kant, for whom, as is known, there are two sources of knowledge (of that finite being that is man), namely the senses and the intellect, the former blinds without the latter, and the latter is empty without the former. And this is the finitive fundamental belief that Heidegger will make his own by setting up the problem of cognitive access to being, basing it precisely on the ontological structure of being itself.

However, these correspondences that Heidegger sees between Husserlian phenomenology and Aristotle do not only apply in a positive way. Even there where Heidegger's development moves away from Husserl's unilateral orientation regarding the problems of θεωρία and scientific knowledge; even there where the fundamental critical observation appears, according to which Husserl would not sufficiently clarify the ontological horizon of his research and would remain chained to the philosophy of the subject and the metaphysics of presence, well, even in these cases Heidegger connects Husserl and Aristotle, since in his opinion it is in Husserl that the tradition which has its origin in Aristotle is carried to fulfillment.

Therefore, against Husserlian phenomenology he notes critically: "It thus follows that the starting point for the elaboration of pure consciousness is a theoretical one. At first, naturally, this in itself would not be an objection or a misfortune, but surely it is afterwards, when, on the basis of the pure consciousness derived from this theoretical basis, it is claimed that the entire field of comportments may also be determined".12 And the objection that towards the end of the course Heidegger advances in the confrontations with the Aristotelian categories goes clearly in the exact same direction: "the Aristotelian categories: οὐσία, ποίον, πόσον, που, ποτε, πρός τί (ὑποκείμενον-συμβεβηκότα: that which must always be together with extantness-the apriori possibilities of something as something), traditionally substance, quality, quantity, place, time, relation: these are all already obtained in this special dimension of merely apprehending a thing (Dingerfassen) and a particular kind of discourse about it, that of the theoretical assertion. But already for Aristotle, these categories became the categories of being pure and simple. They were at the same time the basis for the determination of the categories of objects in general, determinations which belong to every something, to the extent that it is something at all, whether it is in the world or is something thought."13

11 GA 20, 94. Interestingly here νοειν is rendered by Heidegger using the technical Husserlian term vermeinen, later he will translate νοεῖν and νοῦς with vernehmen and Vernunft respectively. [History of the Concept of Time, 69.]

12 Ibid, 162. Emphasis mine. [Ibid, 117]

13 Ibid., 301. [Ibid, 219-220]


In any case, despite this critical observation, at this time, Heidegger's confrontation with Aristotle is dominated by an effort to appropriate for himself in a positive sense the fundamental determinations of Aristotelian ontology, and in particular Aristotle's understanding of the phenomenon of truth, for use in the analysis of the structural features of being-there. The way in which Heidegger pulls off in a positive way this recovery and this re-appropriation of Aristotle emerges with particular clarity during the following semester (1925/26), now published as Logic. The Question of Truth14.

The first part of the course is the interpretation of Aristotle, in which Heidegger analyzes "the problem of truth at the decisive beginning of philosophical logic" and also "the roots of traditional logic." The basic aim, which guides the course of the research, is to grasp the original site of truth and to determine by virtue of this grasping the fundamental structure of the λόγος. As you know, this is a task to which Heidegger committed the central paragraphs of Being and Time (especially in §§ 7 B, 33, 44), where it is addressed and resolved in the context of the existential analytic. Whereas in the magnum opus, the direct interpretation of the Aristotelian texts is pushed into the background to make room for the development and treatment of the problem itself, during the 1925/26 course that proportion is reversed, and the confrontation with Aristotle is documented in its original amplitude.

14 Logik. Die Frage nach der Wahrheit. Marburger Vorlesung Wintersemester 1925/26, ed. W. Biemel, Klostermann, Frankfurt a. M. 1976 (GA 21). On the issues in this course, see M. Bonola, Verità e interpretazione nello Heidegger di “Essere e Tempo”, Filosofia, Torino 1983; G. Sagar, Fenomenologia ed ermeneutica tra Edmund Husserl e Martin Heidegger, Levante, Bari, 1983 pp. 141-178. See also A. Fabris, Logica ed ermeneutica. Interpretazione di Heidegger, Ets, Pisa 1982, pp. 25-68.


Heidegger here makes his move – like he will do later in Being and Time – with a problematization of the three traditional theses on truth: the first thesis states that the place of truth is the proposition; the second says that truth is adequacy or the coincidence of thought and being, of representation and thing; the third, finally, gives Aristotle the authorship of both previous assertions.

Heidegger questions these three theses by following a triple argumentative progression. (1) First he distinguishes in language the semantic factor from the apophantic factor expressed in assertion or predication. (2) He then examines the peculiar structure of predication, that is, its being true or false, with the intention of laying bare its basis. (3) The latter is finally apprehended by distinguishing the being-true (Wahrsein) of the predication of truth (Wahrheit) in a more originary, pre-predicative, and ontological sense, that is, from that truth that is the very nature of being.


Based on a reading of the first chapter of De Interpretatione, supplemented by references to the third book of De Anima, Heidegger captures and determines the character of the λόγος as that 'discovering' attitude of conscious human life, of being-there, by which in language and by words it accesses the entity and makes it manifest. Distinguished from simple inarticulate and the non-semantic sounds (ἀγράμματοί ψόφοι) of animals, proper semantic sounds (φωναί σημαντικαί) represent the elementary units of human language. They can be simple or they can be connected. If they are simple, you simply say (φάσις, dictio), expressing individual names (ὀνόματα, nomina) or individual verbs (ρήματα, verba). If you are connected, then we have in a real sense speech, that is discourse, the λόγος. In turn, the latter can be not apophantic – such as prayer (ευχή) or other forms of λόγοι analyzed in Poetics and Rhetoric – or apophantic. In ἀπόφανσις, predication, as a form of speech, you have the statement (κατάφασις, affirmatio) and denial (ἀπόφασις, negatio). And it is precisely in these last two forms that the λόγος takes on the character of the could-be-true or false. Schematically, this structuring of language can be depicted as follows:


ψόφοι non semantic: ἀγράμματοί ψόφοι semantic: φωναί σημαντικαί simple: φάσις connecting: λόγος ὀνόματα ρήματα non apophantic: ευχή apophantic: ἀπόφανσις κατάφασις ἀπόφασις true false true false

Heidegger aims to show that the can-be-true or false, characteristic of apophantic discourse, of predication, is not an originary determination of truth; it is based instead on an ontologically earlier factor, a phenomenon of discovery, and more precisely still, in the discovering attitude that belongs to the being-there when it is open to the world of entities. Apophantic speech is one of the ways through which being-there has access to the entity and discovers it. And so, as the λόγος ἀποφαντικός, is one of the ways of discovering the entity, just as the could-be-true or false is only a particular mode of the phenomenon of truth. This latter, thus, must be grasped in its in itself on a more originary dimension.


To understand this, we must first ask ourselves about the conditions of the possibility of being-true or false of predication, that is about that discovering attitude of being-there enacted in the discursive-predicative forms of λόγος. Now, developing these considerations always on the basis of the Aristotelian text, Heidegger identifies the condition of can-be-true or false of predication in the dual structure of the λόγος — in its being σύνθεσις or διαίρεσις, in its connecting or detaching. Once this is done, he wonders then what are the unifying structure and the foundation from whence this double determination springs.

The answer to this question runs through an interpretation of Metaphysics IV, 7 and VI, 4, as well as De Interpretatione 1, in which Heidegger identifies the fundamental unity sought in the structure of the 'whilst' (Als) that forms the basis of predication, and which in turn is based on that 'as' (hermeneutic) which is the structure of understanding as determination of being-there.15 This structure of 'whilst' in the original sense, Heidegger says that it "That phenomenon is the “as,” the structure that belongs to understanding as such. Here understanding must be understood as a basic form of being of our existence."16; he therefore concludes that " the structure of the “as” is the fundamental hermeneutical structure of the being of that being which we call existence (human life)."17 As a result, the true-being of predication refers to the structure that characterizes the being-there itself in her disposition for discovery, in its being unveiling (ἀληθεύειν). Thus, in determining the structure of being-there as a being-discovering or a being-unveiling. Heidegger re-thinks and re-formulates in an original way the sense of Aristotelian determination of the soul (ψῡχή) as a being in the true (ἀληθεύειν) in the sense of being unveiling.18

15 The distinction between apophantic 'as' and hermeneutical 'as' is not yet calibrated in the same terms that it will be in Being and Time. While in this course he firmly holds to the Aristotelian distinction between the semantics of the λόγος in general and the apophanticity of the λόγος regarding assertion, in § 7, and especially in § 33 of Being and Time he highlights the apophantic character of λόγος to thus place it in the originariness of the hermeneutic 'as'. The problem of the apophanticity of the λόγος is resumed, in a mutated perspective, during the winter semester 1929/30 (see GA 29/30, §§ 71-73). On the relationship between sign and λόγος, which it is not possible to cover here, see the observations of C. Sini, "Heidegger e il problema del segno", in L’uomo, un segno, 3, 1979, pp. 43-58.

16 GA 21, 150. [Logic: The Question of Truth, 126.]

17 Ibid. [Ibid, 127]

18 As is well known, in Being and Time the openness characteristic of being-there is designated by the technical term Erschlossenheit. In the Marburg courses, in particular in summer semester 1925, Heideggerian terminology is not yet defined in this sense; indeed, in this course, Heidegger speaks of "Erschlossenheit der Welt" and "Entdecktheit des Daseins". On the connection of openness and truth as constitutive characters of being-there see the crucial critical remarks of E. Tugendhat, Der Wahrheitsbegriff bei Husserl und Heidegger, 2nd ed., De Gruyter, Berlin 1970, especially pp. 256-362 (who already then could assess Heidegger's Marburg courses from Helene Weiss's Nachschriften); see also the equally important considerations of C.F. Gethmann, Verstehen und Auslegung. Das Methodenproblem in der Philosophie Martin Heideggers, Bouvier-Grundmann, Bonn 1974.



The determination of being-there as unveiling (ψῡχή ὡς ἀληθεύειν) has in turn its basis in determining the entity itself as truth in the sense of being-discovered (ὂν ὡς ἀληθές). In effect, the attitude of discovery of being-there is based on the fact that the entity itself can be discovered and unveiled, namely the fact that it has the character of manifestness and as such is accessible to being-there. That is: only if the truth in the sense of being-unveiled is a character of the entity itself and if this latter is then accessible to being-there, being-there can relate to the entity in the attitude of the discovering.

Now, with this ontological determination of truth as character of the entity itself, Heidegger intends to restore the original meaning of the Aristotelian understanding of ὂν ὡς ἀληθές, as it is formulated especially in Metaphysics IX, 10. For Heidegger, the tenth chapter of book IX of Metaphysics represents a condensed point in Aristotelian ontology, at which "we must develop the problem of truth historically, both backward to Parmenides and forward to the Stoics, Boethius, the Middle Ages, Descartes, and modern philosophy right up to Hegel."19

Polemicizing with the interpretations of the problem of truth in Aristotle dates from Schwegler, Jaeger and Ross, and ironizing on the contradictions on which their aurea mediocritas would end up snaring them, Heidegger reevaluates the most sensible interpretations to the philosophical problems such as those of Thomas Aquinas, Suarez and Bonitz. With these and against those, he highlights how in the tenth chapter of book IX of Metaphysics an essential connection between the problem of being and the problem of truth is thought through and, in addition, how in this context comes to light, in the Greek determination of knowing, the originariness and the fundamentality of intuition20. Heidegger's intention is to show how "being first attains its full and proper determination by being characterized in terms of the ἀληθές" and "to what extent the pinnacle of the investigation of being is thereby reached."21

19 GA 21, p. 171 [Logic: The Question of Truth, 143.]. The interpretation of the Metaphysics IX, 10 is extensively resurgence during summer semester 1930 (see GA 31, § 9, 66-109).

20 Ibid. [Ibid.]

21 Ibid, 179. [Ibid., 151.]


As is known, the Aristotelian text in question deals with the problem of the determination of being. The latter, having been previously analyzed in the sense of οὐσία and ἐνέργεια, is now being considered in the sense of real. Now, in considering being as real, we must distinguish two cases, which Aristotle addresses in the first (1051 a 34 — b 17) and the second part (b 17 - 1052 a 11) of the chapter respectively: the case of composite bodies (σύνθετα) and the case of entities not composed, that is simple, indivisible (ἀσύνθετα).

With composite entities, they can be such in one of two ways: (1) always (ἀεὶ ὂν, ἀδύνατα ἄλλως ἔχειν), and then the λόγος which connects them will either be always true, if you merge them when they are joined and separate them when they are separate, or always false, if they are merged when they are separate and separate them when they are joined; or (2) sometimes yes and sometimes no (τὰ ἐνδεχόμενα ἄλλως), and then the λόγος connecting them can be sometimes true and sometimes false.

As for the non-composite entities (ἀσύνθετα), they cannot be apprehended in speech that connects, in σύνθεσις or in διαίρεσις, that is, the predicate structure of something as something. Their truth is different from the being-true or false of predication. For Heidegger, Aristotle captures here the truth as a characteristic of the entity itself, as the example carried over ("real gold") illustrates. Truth in this sense can be captured in the apprehension of νοεῖν (vernehmen, Vernunft) that Aristotle designates as a 'touch' (θιγειν, θιγγανειν). Around it there is no error, as with predication, but simply a not getting it, a not knowing (αγνοειν), meaning it can be understood in its tangibility or not understood at all.


Now, summarizing Heidegger's considerations on the question of truth, we can say that through the interpretation of the Aristotelian texts he draws a 'topology' of the places of truth that can be reconstructed as follows: (1) true is first and foremost the entity itself as it has the character of being-discovered, of revealing (ὂν ὡς ἀληθές). (2) Then it is also true of being-there, the conscious life, as it has the character of being-discovering (ὡς ψῡχή ἀληθεύειν). But being-there may be discovering in two fundamental ways: (2.1) sensing, i.e. seizing directly, namely by αἲσθησις (which always refers to its ἴδιον and therefore is always true) or νοεῖν that captures its subject 'touching it' (θιγειν, θιγγανειν) and that cannot be faked, but it may simply not be acted on (αγνοειν); or (2.2) connecting, and precisely in non-linguistic discovering attitude, which can be practical (τέχνη, πρᾶξις) or theoretical (σοφία), or linguistic, whose most lofty form is predication (ἀποφαντικός λόγος).

If, on the one hand, with this differentiation of the concept of truth, Heidegger releases understanding from exclusively referencing predication, and makes it possible to achieve a wider ontological horizon from which it is possible to reconsider the issue, on the other hand, the question still remains open for him, the question of the foundations and of the assumptions on which it rests ultimately, even the very Aristotelian understanding of truth as a characteristic of being. The question Heidegger puts himself is: "What must being itself mean, and how does that let us understand uncoveredness as a characteristic of being, indeed as the most proper characteristic? And does it explain why beings must finally be interpreted, as regards their being, in terms of uncoveredness?".22

Now, the task of a radical philosophical reflection for Heidegger is first that of questioning around this identification of being and truth and to "explain it in terms of the unexpressed presuppositions—the unexpressed, implicit understanding of being—in Aristotle and the Greeks." 23 In laying bare the roots of this un-thematized understanding of being, Heidegger poses at the same time the basis for interpretation of the history of metaphysics itself.

In fact, so that truth in the sense of being discovered, of revealing, may be classified as a characteristic of being itself, a being must be understood in a certain way, namely how it presences (Anwesenheit). Since only what is first determined as something present, can be taken then as something discovered, unveiled, that is true in the sense that Heidegger finds in the etymology of the Greek word ἀ-λήθεια.

22 GA 21, p. 190. [Logic: The Question of Truth, 161.]

23 Ibid, p. 191. [Ibid.]


So, on the basis of the interpretation of the Aristotelian concept of truth, there takes hold in Heidegger the belief – which will be confirmed by interpretations of the renown Platonic myth of the cave24 – that at the beginning of Western metaphysics lies the fundamental assumption that causes being to be tacitly understood as presence. This in turn rests on an un-questioned connection between being and time, on the horizon of which it is assumed that the temporal dimension of the present is to be determinant. And an understanding of time in which the present is the fundamental determination, corresponds necessarily with an understanding of being as presence.

Towards the end of his interpretation of the problem of truth in Aristotle, Heidegger interprets metaphysics as thought of presence, that is as a thought that goes un-questioned regarding the relationship between being and time in its fullest expansion. During winter semester 1925/26 he says: "being is understood as presence, and presence (Anwesenheit) and presence-now (Gegenwart) are understood as presenting (Präsenz). To that extent, being can and must be determined, via truth, as presence (Anwesenheit), such that presence-now (Gegenwart) is the highest form of presence. Plato already characterizes being as presence-now. And the word οὐσία (which gets peddled around absurdly in the history of philosophy as “substance”) means nothing other than “presence” in a sense that we still have to specify. But in all this it is necessary to emphasize that, yes, the Greeks (Plato and Aristotle) do determine being as οὐσία, but they were very far from understanding what is really entailed in defining being as presence and as presence-now. Presence-now is a characteristic of time. To understand being as presence on the basis of presence-now means to understand being in terms of time."25

Moving on from this putting into question the un-asked assumptions of metaphysics – but not reducing them yet, as he will do next, to the happening of being – Heidegger can dedicate himself in a positive way with the task of a radical foundation for ontology in which he thematizes the relation between being and time. At the same time, starting from the understanding of the connection of being and time there unravels the thread that guides the interpretation of the history of metaphysics: "Once we have understood the internal coherence of understanding being in terms of time, we will have a light, as it were, to shine back over the history of the problem of being (and the history of philosophy in general) so that finally it acquires some sense."26

24 In this regard, it is interesting to note that during the course of the summer semester 1927 one finds a significant reference to the Platonic myth of the cave, to which Heidegger refers to in an attempt to clarify the relationship between the idea of good and the determinations of ποιεῖν, of πρᾶξις and of τέχνη (cf. GA 24, 400-405).

25 GA 21, p. 193. [Logic: The Question of Truth, 163.]

26 Ibid, p. 194. [Ibid.]


With the discovery and the determination of the theme of his thinking, namely the connection of being and time, Heidegger is placed in a position to critically call to account the great foundational events of ontology and successively distance himself from them. In particular, regarding Aristotle, the positive appropriation found in examining the question of truth crosses over progressively to an attitude of critical distancing. Decisive in this sense is the irruption in Heidegger thinking of the figure of Kant. During winter semester 1925/26, interrupting the interpretation of Aristotle and changing the advertised program of lectures, Heidegger goes to work entirely on Kant, in whom he believes he can see "the only philosopher who even suspected that the understanding of being and its characteristics is connected with time." 27

However, despite this distancing from Aristotle, the comparison with his thoughts in the Marburg courses proves crucial on at least two other problems, which we must examine, namely the problem of 'subject' and the problem of temporality.

3. The problem of ' subject '

As was the case with the question of truth, so it is also regarding to the question of the 'subject', i.e. in relation to the determination of the fundamental mode of being of conscious life, the nature of man, of being-there, Heidegger turns to Aristotle to find in him the solution to these problems that Husserlian phenomenology left open.

Indeed, in Heidegger's eyes the account that Husserl gave, of human subjectivity in terms of consciousness and the I, remained trapped in a fundamental aporia, namely in the aporia of the I belonging to the world and the simultaneous constitution of the world by work of the I. The solution proposed by Husserl, for which it was necessary to distinguish between the psychological I that belongs to the world and the transcendental I which constitutes it, that is, between the being-real of the first and the being-ideal of second, was not considered satisfactory by Heidegger.

27 GA 21, p. 194. [Logic: The Question of Truth, 163.]


While agreeing with Husserl on the fact that the constitution of the experience of the world cannot be explained by recourse to an entity which has the same characterization of being in the world, and thus while agreeing on the need to have recourse to an entity of a different ontological structure, Heidegger disagrees from the determination that Husserl gives of the latter in terms of transcendental subjectivity, consciousness or the I. Mainly, because Husserl had not sufficiently clarified the way of being of this entity, despite it being the Archimedean pivot of his theory of knowledge; but then also because the Husserlian determination of subjectivity had been taken up principally and unilaterally from the orientation implicit from theoretical and rationalistic determinations.

Now, as the topology of the loci of the truth reconstructed by Heidegger on the basis of the interpretation of Aristotle highlights, θεωρία and reason are only one of many possible ways of the attitude of discovering whereby man has access to things and grasps them. Next to θεωρία, and maybe before θεωρία, there are, for example, the practical-moral attitude (πρᾶξις) and the technical-practical attitude (ποίησις); they themselves represent ways in which being-there finds itself in relationship with the entity and discovers it.

We understand then why even regarding this problem Heidegger seeks recourse to Aristotle, finding in him the originary determinations of conscious life for those who look for them. In an interpretation of the Nicomachean Ethics Book VI dating back to the first lessons from Freiburg, but traces of which are there in the Marburg courses and in Being and Time, Heidegger believes he can locate in the Aristotelian treatment of dianoetic virtues the elaboration of several determinations of conscious human life, which Husserl had flattened into the single category of θεωρία.

Also contributing to his separation from Husserl let's add the circumstances that through the 'hermeneutics of facticity' elaborated during the first period at Freiburg and based on the interpretation of early Christian thought, Heidegger came to the conviction that in order to grasp human life in the original fullness of its given-ness it was necessary to have access to it before its leveling produced by the objectifying categories of θεωρία. In doing so, Heidegger had lept beyond Luther's criticism of Aristotelian terminology, recovering, nevertheless, the latter and highlighting, for example, the importance of the Aristotelian determinations of καιρός.28

28 A significant trace the importance of this determination is what Heidegger says about it towards the end of the course of summer semester 1927: "Aristotle already saw the phenomenon of the instant, the καιρός, and he defined it in the sixth book of his Nichomachean Ethics; but, again, he did it in such a way that he failed to bring the specific time character of the καιρός into connection with what he otherwise knows as time (νΰν)." (GA 24 , 409). – For importance of the young Luther to the Heideggerian hermeneutics of effectiveness see Pöggeler, Der Denkweg Martin Heideggers, 40-41.


From this perspective, characterized by the contrast between the theoretico-Husserlian determination of the subject and the productive appropriation of Aristotelian determinations, one must read and understand the analysis of the modes of being of human life that Heidegger elaborates in the Marburg courses and exposes in completed form in the existential analytic of Being and Time. Then one can understand how the main determinations of existence come to be made by Heidegger by means of re-purposing and radicalizing the determination of human life already conceived and elaborated by Aristotle.

Now, to the exclusion of all other aspects of the analytic of being presented in Being and Time, one can say that from an ontological point of view it should introduce the distinction of three fundamental modes of being, namely existence (Dasein), usability (Zuhandenheit) and simple presence (Vorhandenheit). As is well known, existence – connoted as a being-in-the-world opened up in confronting the entity and characterized in this opening (Erschlossenheit) by certain structures called 'existentiale' – is the proper way of being of human life. As such existence is radically distinct from the way of being of entities different from it (nichtdaseinsmäßiges Seiendes), that is, from the way of being of 'things'. These, depending on the disposition in which the being-there finds itself, may be encountered in the way of either usability (when they are used as instruments or tools in an operations environment) or as simply present (when they are the subject of mere observation).

With all the caution that such a comparison imposes, it is reasonable to see a correspondence, not only formal, between the Heideggerian distinction of these three modes of being (Dasein, Zuhandenheit, Vorhandenheit) and the Aristotelian determination of πρᾶξις, θεωρία and ποίησις (which, as has been seen, Heidegger interprets as ways of the being-discovering of the being-there in relation to the entity). The assertion of this correspondence however requires a justification. Because, while the parallel between ποίησις and Zuhandenheit and between θεωρία and Vorhandenheit is self-evident, the correspondence between πρᾶξις and Dasein is not entirely clear. Indeed, when considered in the light of contemporary interpretations of the analytic of being, this correspondence looks totally uncharacteristic. Let's try, then, to attempt an explanation.


First, though, we should take a further consideration. It must be noted that, even if the correspondence were full, what profoundly distinguishes the Heideggerian division from the Aristotelian is the hierarchy according to which the three modes of being are coordinated among themselves. In Aristotle, in fact, it is towards the character of the entity that are directed, respectively, the theoretical attitude, the practical attitude and the poetical attitude, to act as criteria for ordering the modes according to a scale of value; and it is precisely because of the nature of its objective that θεωρία is considered to be the exalted activity for man. For Heidegger, instead, the order of value between the three distinct modes of being is not directed towards the object, but is a reflection on the characteristics of the way of being of the human life, of being-there, and the assignment to the latter of ontic and ontological primacy. This peculiarity and that primacy are based, as we intend to show, on the practical determination of being-there. In other words: what one wants to show is that the Heideggerian characterization of human life in terms of being-there aims to capture the fundamental ontological determination on which rest all other determinations of being-there, and that this fundamental determination of being-there is instilled from an understanding on its way of being as a way of being-practical (moral).

With careful consideration, this appears already in the first and more general characterization of being that Heidegger introduces in § 4 and then develops in § 9 of Being and Time. Being-there is characterized in its essence as a having-to-be (Zusein), rather as the entity which goes always by its own being, in the sense that it, knowing it or not, refers, indeed, has to refer in all ways and always to its own being. Now, this referring by the being-there to its own being is not a referring where the latter is observed, identified and described in its truth, but it is a practical referring to, in the sense that the being has to assume itself in its own being, taking charge of it. This is not a reflective folding like inspectio sui, it is not a theoretical attitude, constative and veritable, which is addressed to being-there for it to apprehend characteristics and properties in the same way that it can turn to external reality. It is rather a reference that, while always requiring a decision about its own being, is of an eminently practical type.29

In the light of this understanding of the eminently practical character of being-there referencing its own being we can fully grasp the sense of the other fundamental determinations of being-there that Heidegger elaborates. It can be fully understood, before anything else, because Heidegger denotes the unitary determination of being-there as care (Sorge), which is the fundamental mode of disclosing (Erschlossenheit) of being-there in its being-in-the-world and the unity of existentials. But it also better understood because Heidegger in general denotes being-there referring to things as a taking care (Besorgen) – in which Zuhandenheit and Vorhandenheit have their unifying foundation – and the referring to others as a caring (Fürsorge); now it is better understood, because we now know that all these determinations of being-there have in common the practical character of 'care' because the very being of being-there has an eminently practical connotation.30

29 See E. Tugendhat, Selbstbewußtsein und Selbstbestimmung, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt a. M. 1979, pp. 164-244; also M. Bartels, Selbstbewußtsein und Unbewußtes, de Gruyter, Berlin-New York, 1976, pp. 132-189. However, it is important to point out that this practical (in the Aristotelian sense) connotation of being of being-there as having-to-be is maintained by Heidegger only until he tries to determine being-there from being itself in its almost transcendental purity. (Also on this M. Ruggenini, Il soggetto e la tecnica. Heidegger interprete inattuale dell’epoca presente, Bulzoni, Roma, 1977 pp. 41-70, speaks of a subjectivism of the 'first' Heidegger.) Subsequently, when it comes to understanding being-there starting from being, Heidegger will scrupulously wipe every trace of this practical determination and will turn the aperturale character of existence not to having-to-be, but the horizon of being itself. Hence the significant terminological correction – "being" instead of "have-to-be" — made to § 9 starting from the seventh edition of Being and Time. The renewed understanding of existence is no longer in reference to having-to-be plain and simple, but in reference to being itself, can be found in The Essence of Truth (particularly in § 4), dating back to 1930 but published in 1943, and in the introduction (1949) to the fifth edition of What is Metaphysics? (both texts are now in Wegmarken, 177-202, 365-383, GA 9, trans. It. U. Galimberti, Adelphi, Milano, in press). Even the handwritten notes of Heidegger at the so-called "Hüttenexemplar" of Being and Time (now published in GA 2) give an unequivocal testimony of this renewed understanding. It also manifests itself in the corrections that Heidegger brings to his interpretation of Aristotle, for example at the end of the course of the winter semester 1929/30 (Die Grundbegriffe der Metaphysik. Welt-Endlichkeit-Einsamkeit), where, resuming his own interpretation of the problem of truth in Aristotle from 1925/26, he did not connect truth to the discovering attitude of being-there, but to its being free (Freisein), that it is no longer due to the spontaneity of being-there, but in the ontological connotation of its situational horizon (the being-free of course) (cf. GA 29/30, §§ 72-73).

30 See Being and Time, §§ 41-42, 63-65, GA 20, § 31; GA 24, § 15. Rightly Ruggenini in Il soggetto e la tecnica, pp. 54-58, points out that the "project of the world" is an "original practice"; from our perspective, which highlights the reference to practical philosophy in Aristotle, it should be noted, however, that the character of original practice lies in being and not only in its referring to the world of things (i.e., in Besorgen), but also in its referring to itself, to its own being (i.e. as Zu-sein). The same observation may be made against the acute interpretation of Besorgen proposed by G. Prauss in "Erkennen und Handeln" in Heideggers "Sein und Zeit", Alber, Freiburg-München 1977. – To properly understand this, it is important to have in mind the interpretation of the concept of πρᾶξις that, particularly since the beginning of the 1920s, Heidegger gives on the basis of the Nicomachean Ethics Book VI. Using this interpretation, in fact, Heidegger believes he can grasp two uses of the concept of πρᾶξις in Aristotle. In the first sense, it designates the action of man that has its own end in itself and not in the production of works: in this meaning, the human πράξεις is alongside the ποίησεις, the έπιστήμαι and the μέθοδοι (see Nic. Eth. I, 1 1094 to 1). In a more radical and more profound sense, however, the πρᾶξις would be the form of movement (κινήσις) of man's life in general, and the ποίησεις and the έπιστήμαι would then be modes of actualizing this originary πρᾶξις, they would be actualizations of the specific movements of human life. The πρᾶξις, understood as the κινήσις proper to man, acquires the character of fundamental determination of the being of man, i.e. it becomes its ontological character. So the originary πρᾶξις becomes for Heidegger the structure of the being of being-there. – Of this interpretation, mainly developed in coursework and in manuscripts still unpublished, traces remain visible even in writings published in his lifetime, as in the courses on Nietzsche, where, for example, we find a significant step in which Heidegger explicitly states that "Man is the highest form of living creature. The basic type of self-movement for him is action, πρᾶξις" (see Nietzsche, Neske, Pfullingen 1961, vol. I, p. 67; emphasis mine. See also pp. 66-69).


Heidegger then asks further about the foundation of this practical connotation of being-there; he asks himself, then, what is the ontological nature of the basis on which being-there rests on. The answer he gives to this question is that the being of being-there is not something that's easily located and current, but it's a can-be that expands beyond the confines of its current-ness, both towards the future, in the design and actualization of its being, as well as in the direction of the past, in the sense that the latter is always the condition and horizon for its projection. The can-be is thus a 'suspended being' of being-there which is the ontological dimension of its freedom, of its being-free-for; it is because of this connotation that it is forced to shoulder the burden of deciding its own being, that is the burden that is manifested in the fundamental feeling of anguish.31

Harnessing systematically the ontological scope of the discovery of the eminently practical character of being-there in terms of having-to-be (which is opening, can-be and freedom), Heidegger can criticize the understanding of man's being put in place by metaphysics.

The latter, in fact, leaving aside the practical nature of human life, takes as privileged and determinate perspective in the knowing about of neutral observation, in the ascertainment and description of verifiable type; the objectifying cognitive function – linked to the ideal of visual engagement – is made absolute as a paradigm of knowledge. Now, the detailed and verifying attitude which so develops not only gives that entity that is man the ability to reflect in an un-subjective and perspective-less knowledge, and thus objective and universal, of all the other entities; but that assumes some cognitive mode both for the grasping and determination of the being of human life itself, which would then be reaped and observed by means of a reflection on itself. The metaphysical tradition founds the ontological primacy of man on the ability that human life has to cognitively reflect on all external reality as well as itself: human life is consciousness and self-consciousness.

31 See Being and Time, § 40. In the light of practical character of the determination of being-there as having-to-be and considering the productive appropriation of Aristotle's practical philosophy by Heidegger, one should also remove the consistent textual footholds that existentialist readings of Heidegger have found in these passages of Being and Time (see those of A. De Waelhens, La philosophie de Martin Heidegger, Nauwelaerts, Louvain-Paris. 1942, and those of P. Chiodi, L’esistenzialismo di Heidegger, Taylor, Torino 1965).


For Heidegger, the traditional assumptions of the theoretico-constative attitude as the originary and determinative cognitive mode means a double misunderstanding. It means above all a misunderstanding of the originary modality of the relations of being-there to things, of taking care of them (Besorgen), which at first and most often is what one has to do with being in the technico-practical disposition (Zuhandenheit) and only in second place comes observing them as mere presence (Vorhandenheit). But mostly it's a misunderstanding of the practical and moral character of being-there's referring to its own being, which does not let it grasp itself in its own peculiarity, when it is understood according to the objectifying categories of mere observation.

From his discovery Heidegger derives some fundamental consequences for ontology regarding the determination of the fundamental mode of being of human life. (1) In criticizing the insufficiently radical metaphysical distinctions of man and nature, subject and object, consciousness and world, Heidegger transplants their roots, on the basis of the practical determination of the being of being-there, its ontic and ontological primacy. He thus distinguishes radically the ontological constitution of being-there from that of other entities. (2) In characterizing this constitution as one temporally determined, against the primacy of the metaphysics of the presence, he sets up the priority of the future dimension, and precisely on the basis of this consideration that it is the future being that the practical disposition must take responsibility for, it is about this future being that one decides. (This being also has the character of being-always-mine, that is, the character that Heidegger designates with the term Jemeinigkeit.) (3) Finally, Heidegger declares the need to understand anew on the basis of this discovery all the fundamental determinations of human life in their articulation and in their unitary connection.

What we will show now, is that the structure of human life that Heidegger here highlights and enhances as the ontological constitution of being-there, is basically a return and a re-purposing of the substantive sense of the characterization of being and of the moral life of man that Aristotle elaborates in Nicomachean Ethics Book VI.


This may appear somewhat curious, considering that in presenting the work of the existential analytic Heidegger criticizes two traditional thesis whose original formulation are traced back to Aristotle, which are the argument that the primacy of man is based on the soul as cognitive reflection of the entity32, and the argument that man has his essential determination in being animal rationale.33

Nevertheless, beyond Heidegger's opposition to some Aristotelian theses, especially those that have become traditional Western metaphysical baggage, a reading of Being and Time that considers the Marburg courses confirms the hypothesis proffered. Heidegger himself, for that matter, admits to his positive appropriation of Aristotle. So, for example, in a footnote to § 42 of Being and Time, in the context of determining the being of being-there as care in light of an interpretation of the ancient fable of Cura, he declares that "The direction followed in our existential analytic of Dasein toward 'care' occurred to the author in connection with attempts at an interpretation of Augustinian, that is, Greek and Christian, anthropology with regard to the basic foundations attained in the ontology of Aristotle."34

The analyses carried out so far have already provided some elements to understand the means of Heidegger's appropriation of the "essential foundations" achieved in Aristotelian thought. From them, in fact, emerges how Heidegger returns to Aristotle in order to seek the fundamental determinations of human life as an alternative to the theoreticist connotations given by Husserl. And we've clarified the correspondence between the of Aristotelian determinations of πρᾶξις, ποίησις, and θεωρία, and the Heideggerian distinction of the three fundamental modes of being of Dasein, Zuhandenheit, and Vorhandenheit.

We can now make a further consideration, from which will emerge how Heidegger refers in particular to the Aristotelian determination of πρᾶξις as the way of being in the truth of the soul who has within itself its own end, and how he uses it in determining the structure of existence.

In fact, when you consider the radical distinction that Heidegger introduces with the practical determination of the being of being-there between the way of being of human life and the way of being of the other, you can see how it corresponds in substance to what Aristotle also observes in the context of his practical philosophy about human life. According to Aristotle, in the case of man's life it is not about living pure and simple (ζῆν), but about how to live, or live in a better way, of living well (εὖ ζῆν). And that means that man is that unique entity that has to decide about the manner and the form of its own life, choosing the best one. Similarly, for Heidegger being-there is that particular entity which is its own being, i.e. the entity that always has to take the burden of deciding its own being; indeed, the authentic actualization of existing occurs only where being-there recognizes itself in its having to decide, which reflects the practical structure of its being, and does not flee from it, but confronts it and takes care of it.

32 See Being and Time, § 4.

33 Cf. ibid., § 10.

34 GA 2, p. 264


With substantial agreement with Aristotle, Heidegger still manages a radical shift, which must be highlighted. Aristotle based his characteristic of human life on the basis of the determination of man as rational animal, namely as the living thing gifted with λόγος; when gifted with λόγος, man is able to assess and decide on its life and the ways and forms of its actualization. Heidegger instead, so to speak, overturns this relationship at its foundations, so that in his conception it is the λόγος that is founded on the peculiarity of the being of being-there and to be interpreted as a way of actualization of the latter, and not the other way around. The originary essential determination of man is therefore not in its being animale razionale, but rather in the disposition and practical connotation of its way of being.

Said differently: the Aristotelian conception gives a determination of man as animale razionale, derived from theoretical considerations of anthropological and metaphysical type, within the context of which the pratico-moral consideration then observes being and man's life in this aspect. In the Heideggerian conception, instead, each determination of a theoretical type, whether psychological, anthropological or metaphysical, is deemed not to be originary regarding the eminently practical connotation of the being of being-there, and is therefore bracketed and shelved when characterizing the latter. The result is that the practical disposition that connotes the being of being-there is made absolute and radicalized until it becomes a fundamental ontological determination.

Therefore, the practical-moral connotation of human life given by Heidegger, despite the substantial analogy presented, fits into a different ontological framework and consequently assumes different values.


Thus, in Aristotle, the practical consideration has to do with man as the subject of action and, as consideration of a matter determined in human life, it is next to many other possible considerations, which observe man in other respects. Therefore, as it examines the living by how they act, the practical philosophy of Aristotle does not exhaust consideration of the being of that entity which is man.

In Heidegger, on the other hand, practical-moral determination is not only one aspect given among many others, but it is the fundamental connotation of being-there. It thus becomes the ontological determination of being-there and therefore regarding the latter assumes a dimension that is so to speak about everything, in the sense that the practical-moral reference to one's own being is not only an act in certain determined actions or in pursuing specified purposes, but you do not have to do that much, both in following and in not following. It is chiefly concerned with living itself in its stark nakedness. As a result, life assumes for man the character of something necessary and inescapable, in the sense that it cannot be avoided, but should be taken up in all its gravity.

The can-be of being-there, which is at the foundation of his concrete project, doesn't explicate nor occur so much in choosing certain purposes nor deciding on particular actions, but before every decision and every choice, and precisely in the fact of not being able to not choose and not being able to not decide. Since the same evasion of choices and decisions is ultimately a way to choose and decide, that is one way in which the being of being-there is actualized.

Grounded on the practical determination of could-be, the concept of freedom also takes on a different significance in Heidegger. It doesn't mean so much that one could decide positively for this or that, but it becomes the fundamental structure that underlies every chance to decide. That is, said paradoxically: at the base of being able to decide is freedom, as a cannot not decide. Freedom is then for being-there that weight that, although weight of its own being and unlike any other weight, can be neither deposed nor relieved. Even in the absence of any action and of any virtue, it announces itself in the fundamental feeling of anguish, its true weight, that is, the weight that being-there, whether it likes it or not, has to take charge of and that is not so much that of each determined action, but that of its being and of its living in its entirety.


Here it is evident how the Heideggerian characterization of the structure of being-there as a having-to-be exposes itself to existentialistic interpretations. If we have before us both the reflections of Aristotle's practical philosophy, from which it originates, as well as the ontological direction in which it is headed, we can avoid the danger of this reductive reading even where it becomes more treacherous, namely where Heidegger enters the heart of the analysis of being and examines care in its three fundamental articulations. In considering this central point of the Heideggerian conception, we must grasp even more firmly the connecting thread that shows the link between this point and the Aristotelian consideration of the moral being of man.

It is known that the first connotation of being-there that Heidegger points to at the beginning of his analysis of existence is that of being-in-the-world; with such a determination he intends to understand the co-originality of being and the world, surpassing the Cartesian split of subject and object, of consciousness and world. Right when it is co-originary in the world, being-there is 'open', 'opened up' to the entities it meets in the world, and so it is designated by Heidegger as 'opening' or 'disclosing' (Erschlossenheit).

Now, through a series of analyses that here it is not necessary to recap in detail, Heidegger describes how this apertural structure, that connotes the being of being-there, configures itself. What needs to be carefully considered are the three fundamental moments of that structure, which are at the same time, the three most important existentials. They are Befindlichkeit, i.e. the emotional disposition or, perhaps we could translate it as, moodiness; Verstehen, that is understanding, and the Rede (or even Artikulation), that is, speech.35

The simple translation of these terms does not allow one to understand their meaning, rather it risks obscuring them. It will be clearer if you can see and seize the substance of several traditional determinations of man's being (especially as the subject of action), that Heidegger re-thinks and recasts, radically transforming them in the ontological framework he developed. Thus, Befindlichkeit can be made to match what traditionally is the moment of passivity and receptivity of the subject; in Verstehen can be seen the moment of spontaneity and activity; both are then articulated in the manner of speech (Rede). In addition, at least with respect to the first two determinations, you can find in them their remote Aristotelian roots. Let us see more closely how Heidegger conceives of them.

35 See Being and Time, § 28. The connection of these three existentials with the discovering character of being-there see Bonola, Verità e interpretazione nello Heidegger di “Essere e tempo”, pages 81-125. For an analysis of the Rede, not examined in detail here , see L. Amoroso, "Il discorso come struttura esistenziale e la dimensione pragmatica della comunicazione. Glosse al § 34 di 'Sein und Zeit' di M. Heidegger", Annali della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, series III, VI/4, 1976, pp. 1263-1275.


He says that in Befindlichkeit being-there is disclosed in its having-to-be, is placed in front of its "that which is and has to be", and precisely in that way it hides "its whence and its where", and has what Heidegger designates as its being-thrown (Geworfenheit). In addition, Befindlichkeit opens being-there as being-in-the-world in its entirety (as Heidegger shows through the analysis of the phenomenon of depression). Finally, Befindlichkeit is "a disclosive submission to the world, out of which we can encounter something that matters to us".36

What Heidegger wants to highlight with this characterization of Befindlichkeit, is that human life is not explained and is not made up only of active moments and of pure spontaneity and rationality, but also in those troubled moments that are traditionally understood as anxiety and which he covers in terms of Befindlichkeit. And this self-explaining, self-recognizing and self-constituting of human life in the 'moods'[*] also confirms the discovery made by Heidegger with the aid of Aristotelian practical philosophy, and which is the discovery that the fundamental determination of being-there is an eminently practical determination. If one considers that in this context Heidegger refers to the Aristotelian doctrine of παθέ,37 it is safe to think that in the determination of Befindlichkeit as the fundamental question of being-there Heidegger appropriates this Aristotelian doctrine, pulling it out of the context in which Aristotle presents it in book II of Rhetoric and transforming it into its ontological sense. Finally, the fact that Befindlichkeit has its foundation in the structure of being-there as Sorge, and that in Aristotle παθέ moves the human soul so long as it is appetitive, i.e. when it is structured as ὄρεξις, suggesting another unsuspected correspondence between the Sorge and ὄρεξις.

As regards the determination of understanding (Verstehen), it represents, as has been said, the spontaneous and active time of being-there, the productivity of its can-be. Heidegger says that "understanding is the existential Being of Dasein's own potentiality-for-Being; and it is so in such a way that this Being discloses in itself what its Being is capable of."38 This statement contains a twofold claim: it means first of all that understanding – despite what the term, especially in Italian, can make you think – is that spontaneous and productive time where being-there projects and acts its own being, i.e. it refers to that practical disposition that has been brought to light. Second, it then means that this moment is accompanied by a knowledge, in the sense that in practical self-referring being-there itself constitutes awareness of itself, its 'self'. Thus Heidegger says that being-there has in this practical determination its self-transparency (Durchsicht), it 'sees' through itself and constitutes this 'seeing' as identical. Even understanding itself should be understood as an eminently practical connotation of the being of being-there. In a passage of the course of summer semester 1927, in which Heidegger deals with the problem of Verstehen, he says very explicitly that it is "the authentic meaning of action."39 This allows us then to venture a guess that in Verstehen lies a renewed understanding of the Aristotelian determination of νοῦς πρακτικός. In fact, as in the Aristotelian theory of acting the νοῦς πρακτικός represents the complementary moment to ὄρεξις, also in Heidegger's understanding is the complementary determination of Befindlichkeit; as the pure and spontaneous projection which corresponds to the opaque and passive basis of situatedness[†] from which it starts and by which it remains constrained.

36 GA 2, 183 (= Being and Time, § 29, It. trans., p. 230) [GA 2, 183 => SuZ, 137-8 => M&R, 177]. The original German: "In der Befindlichkeit liegt existenzial eine erschließende Angewiesenheit auf Welt, aus der her Angehendes begegnen kann" [M&R, 177: "Existentially, a state-of-mind implies a disclosive submission to the world, out of which we can encounter something that matters to us."]. It is interesting to note that Heidegger had previously used the term Befindlichkeit to translate the Augustinian concept of affectio (see Thomas Sheehan, "La stesura originale di 'Sein und Zeit': 'Der Begriff der Zeit' (1924) di Heidegger", L’uomo, un segno, 3, 1979, nr. 1-2, pp. 111-112, and "Heidegger e il suo corso sulla 'Fenomenologia della religione'", p. 441).

37 See Being and Time, §§ 29-30.

38 GA 2, 192 (= Being and Time, § 31, trans. It., pp. 238-239) [GA 2, 192 => SuZ, 144 => M&R, 184].

39 GA 24, 393. [The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, 277.]

[* Sheehan: affectively attuned; e.g., Twelve theses on Heidegger or what comes before the “after”?]

[† dispostion?]


Heidegger also radicalizes Verstehen – which expresses and articulates itself as Besorgen when referring to things, as Fürsorge in reference to others and as Worumwillen in reference to itself – as the foundation of care, in the same way as formerly he had radicalized Befindlichkeit. Therefore, in care (Sorge) moments of Befindlichkeit and Verstehen are pulled down to their unitary basis, i.e. to the original practical determination that connotes the apertural character of being-there in its being-in-the-world.

Now, in determining how Sorge is that original unity of passive and active moments, moments of receptivity and spontaneity, of voracity and rationality, one can say that Heidegger is raising and rephrasing the same problem that Aristotle identified for first, where he says that man is both νοῦς πρακτικός and ὄρεξις διανοητική40. The correspondence between care as fundamental determination of the opening of being-there in its being-in-the-world and practical determination of man given by Aristotle is thus complete.

Heidegger, obviously, insists on the differences. He claims for his determination of care an ontological level deeper than that achieved by the Aristotelian categories, arguing that care is ontologically prior to the distinction of πρᾶξις and θεωρία. "Care, as a primordial structural totality, lies 'before' ["vor"] every factical 'attitude' and 'situation' of Dasein, and it does so existentially a priori; this means that it always lies in them. So this phenomenon by no means expresses a priority of the 'practical' attitude over the theoretical. When we ascertain something present-at-hand by merely beholding it, this activity has the character of care just as much as does a 'political action' or taking a rest and enjoying oneself. 'Theory' and 'practice' are possibilities of Being for an entity whose Being must be defined as 'care'."41

40 Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics VI, 2, 1139 b 4-5. See also the similar comment that Heidegger makes in Nietzsche, vol. I, pp. 66-68.

41 GA 2, 257 (= Being and Time, § 41, trans. It., p. 303). [B&T p. 238, SuZ p. 193]


Of course, Heidegger can claim this difference, from the fact that he does not see in care a certain attitude of being-there, be it of a theoretical, practical or poetical nature, but rather the unitary basis that enables these different attitudes. However, the fact remains that in specifying the basic features of this unitary basis that is care, he resorts to determinations derived substantially from the practical philosophy of Aristotle. And the fact that he warns repeatedly of the need to avoid an interpretation of care in that sense, rather than dissipating it, it ends up confirming the suspicion that this is the right direction in which to search.

So, when Heidegger tells us that "the phenomenon of care in its totality is essentially something that cannot be torn asunder; so any attempts to trace it back to special acts or drives like willing and wishing or urge and addiction, or to construct it out of these, will be unsuccessful"42, he actually provides the thematic coordinates for thinking in order to understand care. The same is true when he says: "Willing and wishing are rooted with ontological necessity in Dasein as care; they are not just ontologically undifferentiated Experiences occurring in a 'stream' which is completely indefinite with regard to the meaning of its Being. This is no less the case with urge and addiction. These too are grounded in care so far as they can be exhibited in Dasein at all."43 In saying this, Heidegger intends to clearly underline the increased radicalism of his conception and affirmation of the ontological priority of care compared to the other determinations named. But this distinction between the ontological level of care and that of the other determinations is rendered necessary precisely because of the fact that care is thematically homogeneous with respect to them. And, for that matter, this coherence in thematic substance causes it to be the unitary ontological basis of them.

This homogeneity between care and the traditional determinations ὄρεξις, of impulses and inclinations, is particularly evident in the discussion of the phenomenon of care that Heidegger roll out during summer semester 1925. There, in fact, Heidegger explains the phenomenon of care in relation to the moments of impulse (Drang) and inclination (Hang), presenting them for consideration as an explanation of the structure of Sorge itself. Regardless of the ontological distinction that Heidegger highlights, this reinforces the hypothesized correspondence between care (and its manifestation in the phenomena of Drang and the Hang) and articulation of ὄρεξις in the two moments of δίωξις and φυγή (Nicomachean Ethics VI, 2, in 1139 a 21-23).44

42 GA 2, 257. [B&T p. 238, SuZ p. 193-4]

43 Ibid. [Ibid, SuZ p. 194]

44 See GA 20, § 31, especially pp. 409-411. Further evidence of the correspondence of Sorge and ὄρεξις is in the same 1925 course, and precisely there Heidegger offers a tentative translation of the beginning of Aristotle's Metaphysics: πάντες ἄνθρωποι τοῦ εἰδέναι ὀρέγονται φύσει is rendered as "Im Sein des Menschen liegt wesenhaft die Sorge des Sehens" (GA 20, 380 [History of the Concept of Time, 275]), where the correspondence of ὀρέγονται and Sorge is notable. Previously, in particular during the course on the phenomenology of religion in 1920/21, instead of the term Sorge Heidegger had used the term Sichbekümmerung (Greek ἐπιμέλεια), also attested by the critique of Jaspers of 1919/21 (now at GA 9, 1-44). – In order to understand the full importance of this parallel between Sorge and ὄρεξις, it is interesting to finally point out that Heidegger believes he can find a match for these two determinations even in Kant, and specifically in the 'feeling of respect' (Gefühl der Achtung) that is the basis of the personalitas moralis (GA 24, 185-199); in particular, Heidegger here expressly indicates that the Kantian concept of Gefühl, by way of the analogy with the concepts of Neigung and Furcht, corresponds to the Aristotelian ὄρεξις with its two moments of δίωξις and φυγή (GA 24, 192-193).


In light of all these considerations that highlight the thematic connection and correspondence between the Heideggerian analysis of being-there and the Aristotelian consideration of man's moral action, one also understands then too why, as Gadamer recalled, faced with the difficulty of translating the term φρόνησις Heidegger could exclaim: "Das ist das Gewissen!"45. He was evidently thinking of his own determination of conscience (Gewissen), in which the having-to-be, i.e. the practical structural disposition of being-there, manifests itself to itself. A review from this perspective of §§ 54-60 of Being and Time, which is about "this attestation an authentic potentiality-for-Being-one's-Self is to be given us to understand", may shed light on how even in his own determination of conscience Heidegger orients himself by Aristotle, and precisely on that structure of practical knowledge that Aristotle designates by the term φρόνησις. Even here, however, it should be noted that while φρόνησις is about the being and moral action of man, conscience becomes for Heidegger an ontological connotation of being-there, a determination of its being.

Now, in that series of analyzes of everyday life that trendy existentialism has misunderstood, but at the same time made famous, Heidegger shows how it is so because of the structure of the having-to-be, in which in having to take charge of its own being, being-there is confused and tends mostly, in daily attitude, get rid of this burden; it thus acts out its being not for itself, but according to the ways of the common impersonality of the They (Man) foreshadow and provide, and which being-there assumes in an inauthentic manner. This disorientation (Unheimlichkeit) and this tendency that Heidegger calls fallenness (Verfallen) is unnatural to being-there, precisely because having to choose for oneself in practice puts it inside its own structure is something that cannot be avoided, but is the necessary consequence of his way of being.

45 See H.-G. Gadamer, "Heidegger und die Marburger Theologie", in O. Pöggeler (Ed.), Heidegger. Perspektiven zur Deutung seines Werks, Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Köln 1970, pp. 169-178, especially p. 171 (now in Gadamer, Heideggers Wege, pp. 29-40, especially p. 32).


Conscience, particularly the willingness to listen to conscience that Heidegger calls having-a-conscience, now represents for being-there the possibility of discarding with the impersonal and inauthentic forms of the They, since in conscience being-there is placed in front of its self-same. Heidegger says that "conscience reveals itself as an attestation belonging to the being of Dasein--an attestation in which conscience calls Dasein forth to its ownmost potential-of-Being".46 And if by virtue of the call of conscience being-there frees itself from the flattery of everyday impersonality and directly assumes the weight of determining it's being, it is then authentic. Conscience thus calls being-there to decide for its having-to-be, to opt for its authentic being, and orients it towards authenticity.

The correspondence between Gewissen and φρόνησις that Heidegger notes does not then appear completely unjustified. In fact, as the conscience directs the being-there towards the authenticity of choosing itself, so φρόνησις represents to Aristotle the practical knowledge that can guide the actions and choices of man in a morally good sense, directing it to live well, towards the best type of life. In addition, this correspondence is confirmed by the analysis of a further determination essentially connected to conscience, namely resoluteness.

Resoluteness (Entschlossenheit) is the structural arrangement in which being-there wants to have conscience, when it listens to the call of conscience and selects itself, taking charge of it's own being. We can now see that as conscience corresponds to φρόνησις, likewise resoluteness has its counterpart in the Aristotelian determination of προαίρεσις; because as with Aristotle having φρόνιμος, i.e. being φρόνησις, determines the morally good character of προαίρεσις, similarly in Heidegger the will-to-have-conscience disposes being-there to the decision for authenticity, in which it chooses to be itself. Moreover, Heidegger asserts that the decision is always relative to the existential phenomenon of the situation, as with Aristotle for whom practical wisdom is knowledge of καιρός.47

His fundamental difference with Aristotle is that Heidegger elevates these practical determinations to ontological overtones of man's being itself. For Heidegger, thus, Gewissen and Entschlossenheit are not so to speak the fruit of an ἕξις productively and positively achieved by a moral subject, but are ontological structures that imply the finiteness of the being of being-there, which only exists on the basis of a being-thrown that it didn't cast. For this reason Heidegger says of conscience that it is "an attestation which belongs to Dasein's Being—an attestation in which conscience calls Dasein itself face to face with its ownmost potentiality-for-Being."48 And for this reason he says of the decision that it is "the disclosedness of Dasein in wanting to have a conscience, is thus constituted by anxiety as state-of-mind, by understanding as a projection of oneself upon one's ownmost Being-guilty"49 For this reason, finally, Heidegger can insist on the difference between the ontological nature of their practical determinations and practical-moral character of the traditional determinations. He may as well say: "this phenomenon which we have exhibited as 'resoluteness' can hardly be confused with an empty 'habitus' or an indefinite 'velleity'. Resoluteness does not first take cognizance of a Situation and put that Situation before itself; it has put itself into that Situation already. As resolute, Dasein is already taking action. The term 'take action' is one which we are purposely avoiding. For in the first place this term must be taken so broadly that "activity" [Aktivitat] will also embrace the passivity of resistance. In the second place, it suggests a misunderstanding in the ontology of Dasein, as if resoluteness were a special way of behavior belonging to the practical faculty as contrasted with one that is theoretical. Care, however, as concernful solicitude, so primordially and wholly envelops Dasein's Being that it must already be presupposed as a whole when we distinguish between theoretical and practical behavior; (...)".50

46 GA 2, 382-383 (= Being and Time, § 58, trans. It., p. 427) [B&T, p. 334. SuZ, p. 288.]. On the problematic nature of the general framework for interpretation, on the subject of the ontological breadth of the phenomena of conscience (and on the determinations of being-there connected with it), the essential remarks are those of V. Vitiello, Heidegger: il nulla e la fondazione della storicità. Dalla Überwindung der Metaphysik alla Daseinsanalyse, Argalia, Urbino 1976, pp. 405-425 (but see also the entire 2nd part).

47 GA 24, 409. On the essential connection between the decision and the phenomenon of death, which here it is not possible nor relevant to examine with themes presented, see G. Vattimo, Essere, storia, linguaggio in Heidegger, Filosofia, Torino 1963, pp. 37-74, and U.M. Ugazio, Il problema della morte nella filosofia di Heidegger, Mursia, Milano, 1976, pp. 19-67. See also F. Costa, Heidegger e la teologia, Longo, Ravenna, 1974, pp. 89-179.

48 GA 2, 382-383 (= Being and Time, § 58, trans. It., p. 427) [B&T, p. 334. SuZ, p. 288.].

49 Ibid, 393 (= Ibid, § 60, trans. It., p. 438) [Ibid, p. 343. Ibid, p. 298.].

50 Ibid, 398 (= Ibid, § 60, trans. It., p. 443) [Ibid, p. 347-348. Ibid, p. 300.].


As before, here too Heidegger's clarification puts us on the right track. Because while it is true that it makes us understand the difference between the ontological level of Heideggerian analysis and the practical-moral Aristotelian investigation, it at the same time reveals in an unequivocally manner that the ontological determinations given by Heidegger are obtained from the radicalization and ontological absolutization of Aristotle's practical-moral determinations and that, therefore, there is a substantial homogeneity between the two themes.

In general, then, regarding the whole series of unsuspected correspondences that have been found and highlighted, one can observe the following: if, on the one hand, with the intention of opposing the unilateral Husserlian determination of the subject on the basis of categories taken from θεωρία, Heidegger found in Aristotle's practical philosophy the elaboration of the original determinations of human life, on the other hand he extrapolates these determinations from the context of the theory of moral action and absolutizes them, causing them to become fundamental ontological determinations.


Now, precisely because of this absolutizing, which leads him to conceive and to formulate in a clear and determined manner the central problem of his own philosophizing, Heidegger adopts in his confrontations with Aristotelian thought on the problem of the 'subject', a critical attitude that coincides with a distancing, necessary toward the end of his confrontation on the question of truth, and which then confirms it.

In fact, the absolutizing and radicalizing in an ontological sense of the practical determination of human life leads only to individualization and the thematic connotation of the different existentials, but comes closer to grasping the unitary ontological structure of being-there, which is the basis of being, i.e. on grasping the structure that is represented, as we know, in care in its temporal character, that is, by its originary temporality (so designated to distinguish it from temporality understood naturalistically). In Aristotelian thought, on the other hand, from which comes the eminently practical sense of awareness by which human life refers to itself, from the relationship of being-there to being itself, the problem of the unitary way of being of man would not be asked with sufficient radicalism. For Heidegger, then, Aristotle would have provided a genial 'phenomenology' of the fundamental determinations of human life (θεωρία, ποίησις, πρᾶξις, and all the others we have mentioned and that Heidegger appropriates), without yet however explicitly asking the question of their fundamental unity.

And the reason for this omission lies for Heidegger in the fundamental assumption that underlies Aristotelian thought and which had already influenced the interpretation that it gave the phenomenon of truth, namely the assumption of a certain understanding of time and a certain understanding of being, in which the connection of being and time is not captured in all its implications. And precisely because Aristotle would remain tied to a naturalistic conception of time, he would not persevere on to grasp originary temporality as the basic unity of the determinations of human life. Let us see, then, how Heidegger faces the problem of temporality.

4. The problem of temporality

To understand Heidegger's approach to the problem of temporality – in particular to correctly understand Heidegger's conception of originary temporality as a structure of human life itself in opposition to the naturalistic conception of time – it is important to note that already in the first Freiburg courses Heidegger had examined and pointed out the differences between the time of the Greeks' 'chronological' understanding and the 'kairological' experience of time typical of early Christianity. He had illustrated especially how in the latter, in relation to the expectation of the return of Christ and in connection with the fact that such a coming calls for being prepared (since, as St. Paul recalled, he will come "like a thief in the night"), it leads to a real breakthrough in understanding the temporal character of human existence.51

51 See O. Pöggeler, Der Denkweg Martin Heideggers, pp. 36-45; Sheehan, Heidegger e il suo corso sulla 'Fenomenologia della religione' (1920-21), op. cit., especially pp. 443 ff.


Just moving from a philosophical consideration of the Christian experience of the temporal character of existence – but trying, at least initially, to recover in a positive way the determination of καιρός that Aristotle provides in the context of his practical philosophy – Heidegger gradually develops the conviction that temporality itself is the fundamental unitary structure of human life.52 And with the maturing of this belief he thus steadily distances himself from those understandings of time that do not depend on the temporal nature of existence, but rather on factual determinations and natural time.

The first direct mention of the Aristotelian understanding of time found in Heidegger's texts published to date, becomes clear within this critical context. This mention is found in winter semester 1925/26, during which, as we have already pointed out, Heidegger interrupts the interpretation of Aristotle he had begun and dedicates himself to Kant, because he thinks Kant captures the connection between subjectivity and temporality (and consequently he also sees in Kant a thematization of the connection between being and time).53

In the context of this interpretation of Kant we find an initial critique of the Aristotelian conception of time. To illustrate the importance of the problem of time in the Critique of Pure Reason, Heidegger makes a digression on the understanding of time in Hegel and Bergson, to show how both remain substantially within the horizon outlined by Aristotle. But this horizon is for Heidegger the horizon of not an originary understanding of time, but of a naturalistic one. So, in comparison to Kant, which for Heidegger breaks this horizon and comes to understand the connection of temporality and subjectivity, i.e. the essentially temporal structure of the finite subject, Hegel and Bergson represent a step backwards, and precisely because they return to the Aristotelian understanding of time, which is a naturalistic understanding. This same criticism will resume and be re-stated by Heidegger in Being and Time, namely in § 82 and in a controversial note in this section, where he wants to precisely indicate Hegel's reliance on the Aristotelian conception of time even in his terminology.54

52 On the structure of being-there as original temporality, see G. Vattimo, Essere, storia e linguaggio in Heidegger, pp 37-74; V. Vitiello, Heidegger: il nulla e la fondazione della storicità, pp. 426-465. In general on the problem of time in Heidegger see H. Birault, Heidegger et l'experience de la pensée, Gallimard, Paris 1978, especially pp. 14-43, 531-621; V. Vitiello, ""Heidegger, Hegel e il problema del tempo", in Id., Dialettica ed ermeneutica: Hegel e Heidegger, Guida, Naples 1979, pp. 7-43; O. Pöggeler, "Zeit und Sein bei Heidegger", in E. W. Orth (Ed.), Zeit und Zeitlichkeit bei Husserl und Heidegger, pages 152-191; and E. W. Orth, "Heidegger und das Problem der Zeit", in L’héritage de Kant, Beauchesne, Paris 1982, pp. 287-307.

53 I discussed what Heidegger finds in Kant in this regard in my essay "Soggettività e temporalità: considerazioni sull’interpretazione heideggeriana di Kant alla luce delle lezioni di Marburgo, in Kant a due secoli dalla Critica", edited by G. Micheli and G. Santinello, La Scuola, Brescia 1984.

54 J. Derrida, "Ousia et gramme. Note sur une note de Sein und Zeit", in Marges de la philosophie, Editions de minuit, Paris 1972, pp. 31-78,[Margins of Philosophy, "Ousia and Gramme: Note on a Note from Being and Time"] he instead sought to show how Hegel frees himself from the naturalistic understanding of time and explicitly thematizes the connection between the subject and time.


But the most developed critical confrontation with the Aristotelian conception of time is during summer semester 1927, now published as The Basic Problems of Phenomenology.55 In this course, it is illuminating to compare Heidegger with the tradition, it contains a detailed interpretation of the five chapters of the Physics devoted to the problem of time. To embrace in all its fullness the horizon in which the problem of temporality and the interpretation of the Aristotelian conception are here discussed, consider how Heidegger in this course develops the problem of being and its connection with time by starting from an analysis of some traditional theses on being, which are those of Kant, that of medieval ontology (restarting from Aristotle), that of modern ontology and that of classical logic. In particular, Heidegger shows how each of these theses is connected with an interpretation of the basic attitudes of man in confronting the entity, and how the structure of the intentional attitude considered crucial in every case conditions their understanding.


Heidegger first considers the Kantian thesis according to which being (Sein) in the sense of existence (Dasein) is not a real predicate. This thesis, which as you know is one of the most discussed points of Kantian thought, is interpreted by Heidegger using the Kantian term real in the scholastic sense of realitas, as it is used especially in Suarez (which, as is known, has a big influence on German thought of the XVII and XVIII centuries). Realitas and Realität do not in this sense mean 'external reality', but instead mean the determination and characterization of the being of the res, meaning a Sachbestimmung; and according to Heidegger, for this very reason, namely because he intends Realität in the sense of realitas, Kant includes the category of Realität with categories of quality (Realität, Negation, Limitation) and not among those of modes (Möglichkeit, Wirklichkeit, Notwendigkeit).

55 Die Grundprobleme der Phänomenologie. Marburger Vorlesung Sommersemester 1927 ed. F.-W. von Herrmann, Klostermann, Frankfurt a. M. 1975 (= GA 24).


To say that being in the sense of existence is not a real predicate means, according to this interpretation, that by attributing an existence (an 'external reality') to something you do not add to it some qualitative determination. Now, this not only tells us what Kant means by reality, but also enlightens us about his understanding of the meaning of being in the sense of the existence of the 'outside world'. And through an interpretation of the Kantian concept of Wirklichkeit, of which it will here suffice to only report the outcome, Heidegger comes to the conclusion that for Kant being in the sense of the existence of external reality has the meaning of 'absolute position', precisely absolute position with respect to perception, which is to him the intentional attitude of the subject implicitly considered as determinant.56


Next, Heidegger discusses the argument usually put forward in medieval thought, but dating back to Aristotle, according to which the ontological constitution of the entity includes the two fundamental moments of essentia and existentia; in particular Heidegger examines the different meanings given to these two terms and the problem of their distinction (distinctio) and their connection (complicatio) in the ens creatum. There are three main concepts that Heidegger considers: that of Thomas Aquinas and the Thomistic school, according to which this distinction is to be understood in the sense of a distinctio realis; that of Duns Scotus and the Scotist school, which instead understands it as a distinctio modalis; finally that of Suarez, for whom the distinction is a distinctio rationis.

Starting from this discussion of these three concepts, Heidegger then goes back to the Greek origins of this distinction, to show the roots of ontology in Greek thought, and then advances up to Kant, to show how Kantian metaphysics depends on scholastic ontology.

Heidegger made this reconstruction, outlining the history of the distinction of essentia and existentia, by starting from medieval ontology, returning to the Greeks and arriving at Kant, with the intent of grasping what is the understanding of the being that underlies this distinction, and which is the intentional attitude of man that he presupposes to be the decisive attitude. The result which Heidegger arrives at – among other things through an interpretation of Plato which is a prelude to the later allegory of the cave57– is that the attitude to be considered as decisive is the productive attitude, the technical-practical attitude, which requests a preliminary distinction of essence (in the sense of form and model) from the moment of its realization, that is, of the granting to it of an existence in matter.58

56 See GA 24, §§ 7-9. On Kant's thesis that existence is not a real predicate, Heidegger returns briefly to it during winter semester 1929/30 in the context of an interpretation of the Aristotelian concept of λόγος. There he observes that the Kantian thesis coincides with the thesis that Aristotle enunciates at the end of the third chapter of the De interpretatione, that being or not being are not signs of the thing (οὐδὲ γαρ τὸ εἶναι, ή με εἶναι σημεῖον ἐστί τοϋ πραγματος, 16 b 22-23) (see GA 29/30, 469-473).

57 See GA 24, 400-405.

58 Ibid, § 10-12.



Third, Heidegger examines the thesis of modern ontology according to which the two fundamental ways of being are the being of nature (res extensa) and the being of the spirit (res cogitans). Heidegger's nexus in the discussion of the idea of being in modern ontology is again Kant because Kant is halfway between the start (Descartes) and the latter's fulfilment (Hegel) and represents the keystone of its development following rationalism and idealism. Now, taking that thesis as the fundamental determination within the horizon from which modern ontology understands the problem of being and that of subjectivity, Heidegger examines how Kant understands and determines the structure of the subject. In particular, he describes the Kantian determinations of personalitas transcendentalis (the I of perception), of personalitas empirica (the I of understanding) and personalitas moralis (the I as a person and as an end in itself), seeing in the Kantian understanding of the subject an implied and almost unaware understanding of the temporal structure of human life. While not going so far as to explicitly thematize in this sense the way of being of the subject, Kant does however give a determination, that of person and of end in itself, which is very close to capturing it in its specific ontological character. And yet, even the Kantian understanding remains unsatisfactory in the eyes of Heidegger, because it remains in the end the Cartesian split of res cogitans and res extensa. In addition, according to Heidegger the Kantian understanding of the subject as finite substance implicitly refers to an understanding of being in the sense of being-produced, as for Kant "finitude is being referred necessarily to receptivity, that is, the impossibility of being oneself the creator and producer of another being. Only the creator of a being knows this being in its proper being. The being of things is understood as being-produced".59

59 GA 24, 214 [The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, p. 151.] (and in general, for the interpretation of the thesis of modern ontology, see §§ 13-15).



Finally Heidegger considers the thesis of classical logic, according to which being can be expressed as a plurivocal function of the copula. In reference to four exemplary conceptions of the copula, that of Aristotle, that of Hobbes, that of J.S. Mill and that of Lotze, Heidegger distinguishes the possible meanings of the copula and the understanding of being that they imply: "First. Being in the sense of the "is" has no independent signification. This is the ancient Aristotelian thesis: προσμένῃ σύνθεσιν τινα-it signifies only something in a combinatory thinking. Second. According to Hobbes, this being signifies being-the-cause of the combinability of subject and predicate. Third. Being means whatness, esse essentiae. Fourth. Being is identical with signifying in so-called verbal propositions or else it is synonymous with existence in the sense of being extant, esse existentiae (Mill). Fifth. Being signifies the being-true or being-false that is asserted in the subsidiary thought of every judgment. Sixth. Being-true—and with this we return to Aristotle—is the expression of an entity that is only in thought but not in things."60

When addressing these four traditional theses on being, Heidegger's intent is to clear the ground for a radical repurposing of the problem of being. It puts on the mat what Heidegger considers the four fundamental ontological problems: "first, the problem of the ontological difference, the distinction between being and beings; secondly, the problem of the basic articulation of being, the essential content of a being and its mode of being; thirdly, The problem of the possible modifications of being and of the unity of the concept of being in its ambiguity; fourthly, the problem of the truth-character of being."61

Now, the discussion of these fundamental ontological problems – included in the set of questions that Heidegger would face in the unpublished parts of Being and Time – explicitly requires thematizing the connection of being with time. In particular, this thematization, with the introduction of the consideration of time, should lead to grasping the ontological difference, which is the most difficult problem and one that is dear to Heidegger. And this is possible, in the plan that Heidegger presents62, in a progression that foresees sequential steps. First it's a matter of examining time and temporality in their essential characterization in common understanding, that is in 'existential' understanding. In a further step it is then a matter of distinguishing temporality as a structure of being (Zeitlichkeit) from temporality as a condition of possibility for the understanding of being itself (Temporalität). A third step will then lead the analysis to connect being and temporality. Finally, by apprehending these connections, it will be possible to thematize the ontological difference.

60 GA 24, 290-291 [The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, 204.] (in general see §§ 16-18). In his interpretation of Aristotle, Heidegger resumes here his considerations from winter semester 1925/26, except that here (as indeed in Being and Time) he emphasizes the character of the apophantic λόγος.

61 Ibid, 321. [Ibid, 225.]

62 Ibid, 322-324.[Ibid, 227-228.] On the problem of ontological difference in early Heidegger see A. Rosales, Transzendenz und Differenz. Ein Beitrag zum Problem der ontologischen Differenz beim frühen Heidegger (Phaenomenologica, 33), Nijhoff, Den Haag 1970.


What interests us here and must be taken into consideration is the detailed interpretation of the Aristotelian conception of time that Heidegger carries out in the first step of this program, which is in the context of the analysis of the common understanding of time and temporality. Heidegger's intent is to move "forward through the common understanding of time toward temporality, in which the Dasein's ontological constitution is rooted and to which time as commonly understood belongs".63

Now, in the analysis of the common understanding of time, Heidegger focuses on the Aristotelian treatment, because, as he explicitly points out, the latter represents the first and most radical philosophical codification of the common experience of time, and on it depend almost all the major philosophical treatises of the phenomenon (Plotinus, Simplicius, Augustine, Suarez, Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, Bergson). As Heidegger himself asserts, "it can be said that subsequent times did not get essentially beyond the stage of Aristotle's treatment of the problem—apart from a few exceptions in Augustine and Kant, who nevertheless retain in principle the Aristotelian concept of time".64

So, at the beginning of the second part of summer semester 1927, Heidegger sticks to an interpretation of those five chapters of Physics (IV, 10, 217 b 29-14, 224 b 17), in which Aristotle reveals his conception of time.65 Since Heidegger first summarizes the content of each chapter of the Aristotelian text, taking care to focus on each aporia as it is presented, it is interesting to see first – based on these synopses – the problems that Heidegger believes important and discusses.


In the first chapter of Aristotle's discussion of time (Phys. IV, 10), the problem is set in two fundamental directions, on the one hand towards the understanding of the way of being of time, and on the other towards the determination of its essence, to which correspond two basic aporias: (a) the first is whether time belongs to the entity or to the non-entity (πότερον τῶν ὄντον ἐστίν ἢ τῶν μὴ ὄντον, 217 b 31), if it presents itself as such in itself, or if it appears instead as owned by another entity; (b) the second aporia concerns its nature (τίς ἡ φύσις αὐτοῦ, 217 b 32).

63 GA 24, 324. [The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, 229]

64 Ibid, 336. [Ibid, 237]

65 Ibid., 327-361 (§ 19). [Ibid, 231-256.] On the problem of time in Aristotle see P. F. Conen, Die Zeittheorie des Aristoteles, Beck, München 1964; J. Moreau, L'espace et le temps selon Aristote, Antenor, Padova 1965; L. Ruggiu, Tempo coscienza e essere nella filosofia di Aristotele, Paideia, Brescia 1970; J. Hintikka, Time and Necessity, O.U.P., Oxford 1973; V. Goldschmidt, Temps physique et temps tragique chez Aristote. Commentaire sur le Quatrième livre de la "Physique" (10-14) et sur la "Poétique", Vrin, Paris 1982; R. Sorabji, Time, Creation and Continuum, Duckworth, London 1983.


Regarding the first question, Heidegger argues that Aristotle presents the aporia in such a way that the answer should appear at first negative; because time cannot appear as entity in the sense of substance, since its constituent parts are not: the past is no more and the future is not yet. On the other hand, not even the present appears able to be regarded as an entity: it cannot contain multiple instants, of 'now' (νυν), which should make it up, because each instant is always determined in its singularity as 'this one here' (and the instant that preceded it is a now-no-longer, and what will follow a now-not-yet). In addition, the instant that it is present is never the same, but different.

Heidegger then goes on to examine Aristotle's discussion of the opinions of his predecessors, emphasizing the importance that Aristotle places on the historiographical debate in his theoretical discussion of aporias. The two opinions remember are principally those that identify time with the movement of the universe (τὴν τοῦ ὅλου κίνησιν, 218 a 33), namely — as Heidegger translates — "Seienden, das sich das Ganze des bewegt"66, and then those who believe that time is the sphere itself (τὴν σφαιραν αὐτὴν, 218 b 1).

Despite the assessment Aristotle makes of these opinions, Heidegger seeks to put in play the basis of their meaning. So, he points out that the idea that time is the movement of the universe is not arbitrary, but has its roots in myth. And he points out that the opinion that time is the celestial sphere itself, is founded on the consideration that because all things are in time and are only within the celestial sphere, then the celestial sphere and time coincide.

In addition, apart from their basic meaning in myth, what is important about these opinions is the idea that they have in common, that time is a certain movement (κίνησις τις) or a certain change (μεταβολή τις). But while the movement and change are always in the same body that is in motion or change (ἐν αὐτοί τῷ κινούμενοι), time is the same way everywhere and in all things (ὁ δὲ χρόνος ὁμοίως και πανταχοῦ και παρὰ πᾶσιν, 218 b 13). This consideration establishes the fundamental distinction of time and movement: time is not movement, even if it doesn't exist without movement (οὔτε κίνησις οὔτ' ἄνευ κινήσεως, 219 a 1). Time is therefore something closely connected with movement, it is something of movement, a property of movement; and the problem then is to know which property, what about movement is time (τί τῆς κινήσεως ἐστίν, 219 a 3).

66 GA 24, p. 331. [The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, p. 234.]



Regardless of the many questions that Aristotle tackles in the second chapter (Phys. IV, 11) of his discussion of time, Heidegger focuses especially on the fundamental assertion of all Aristotelian theories of time, namely the famous definition, according to which time is the number of the movement according to before and after (τοῦτο γάρ ἐστίν ὁ χρόνος, ἀριθμὸς κινήσεως κατὰ τὸ πρότερον και ὕστερον, 219, b 1-2). Among the problems that this definition raises, and which Heidegger points out, is first that of showing how the experience of movement implies that of time, and also that of determining the concept of number and instant.


In the next chapter (Phys. IV, 12) a concept is introduced and determined that is fundamental in Heidegger's eyes, namely the concept of being-in-time (τὸ ἐν χρόνῳ εἶναι), translated with the German term Innerzeitigkeit. The explanation given by Aristotle, saying that it is in time what their existence is measured with time, it is critical to understanding the connection between movement and time, given that not only the movement, which is in time, is measured by time, but also the very same time is measured according to movement. In connection with the determination of the concept of 'intratemporality' other fundamental questions are posed, with which Heidegger mainly emphasizes the relationship between number and time, between time and stillness, and finally the relationship between time in its three dimensions and what is outside of it, that is the extra-temporal.


According to Heidegger the central problem of the penultimate chapter (Phys. IV, 13) is that of the unity of time in the multiplicity of the succession of moments, of 'nows', the problem of showing how the instant, the now (τὸ νῦν), as the basic unit which all temporal determinations must be attributed, constitutes the basis of the continuity (συνέχεια) of time. It is in this context that determinations of ἤδη, ἄρτι, πάλαι and ἐξαίφνης are laid out.



From among the problems in the last chapter of Aristotle's discussion of time (Phys. IV, 14), Heidegger first tackles that of determining the earlier (πρότερον) and the latter (ὕστερον), whose function in the definition of time is crucial. Then comes the question of where is time and in what way it is (a question that is reprised in book VIII, where time is associated with celestial movement and with the νοῦς). And in answering this question one gets to a further problem, which for Heidegger is fundamental, namely the problem of the dependence of time on the soul in the sense that, as you'll see, if time is the number of movement, it can only exist if we admit the existence of a numbering, and doing that numbering is the soul; and for Heidegger it is a matter of grasping the fundamental ontological determination of the soul, on the basis of which you can understand what it means that time is in the soul. The solution to these problems is closely related, according to Heidegger, with the determination of the concept of intratemporality (Innerzeitigkeit) and with the response given by the aporia already raised in chapter X on the ontological placement of time. And given that for Aristotle time is a certain property of movement and it is measured by motion, in order to resolve the issue of ontological 'place' of time, you need to find that movement on which time is originally measured. And this movement is the revolution (κυκλοφορία) of the first celestial sphere.

Having laid out the main problems presented by the Aristotelian treatment of time, Heidegger focuses on the interpretation of the definition according to which time and number is the number of the movement according to before and after. In doing so, he strives to bring out the profound speculative dynamic that animates the Aristotelian discussion of the problem and which unites in a single connecting thread the various issues raised. Heidegger's interpretive strategy unfolds at various ways, of which it is appropriate here to give the sequence: (1) it is first of all to determine the phenomenon of time in relation to the phenomena with which it is tightly connected to in a link with Ἀκολούθειν, and which are movement (κινήσις or μεταβολή), dimensionality (μεγέθος) and continuity (συνέχεια). (2) Next, consider the analogies and dis-analogies between time and space, distinguishing in particular the instant (νυν) from point (Στύγα) by the character of passing (ἐκ τινός εἰς τι) the first does and the second does not, and for the character of limit that instead the second has, but not the first. (3) It is then necessary to understand the determining of number and to distinguish between numbered and numbering, while considering that while the point as a limit belongs to the being of what it delimits (i.e. it has the same characters), the instant — through which movement is measured by obtaining its time — when it is not a limit, it isn't part of the being in movement. Consequently, time as the number of movement can only be experienced based on movement, but it doesn't have the being of movement. (4) Lastly it remains to clarify the relationship between numbered and numbering, and more specifically between time as movement numbered and the soul as what numbers it.


But let us proceed by following the path of Heidegger's interpretation. It is now above all a matter of figuring out what it means to say that time is something about motion and that we experience it when we follow a moving body; since, at first glance, this doesn't seem very clear. Just consider, as noted by Heidegger, a concrete example, a pointer that moves from left to right by turning on one of its ends.

If in observing this body that moves we wonder where it is and where can time be found, we must note at the outset that time is certainly not a property of the pointer, nor its color, nor its size, nor its corporeality, nor its position (which we think of as a line). And, indeed, Aristotle does not say that time is a property of the moving body, but rather a property of the movement itself. And it is in looking to the latter as such that we can apprehend time as such.

However, Heidegger continues, the difficulty does not appear to be overcome, because we can follow the movement of the pointer — which is a local movement — observing its passage from one location to another, without however yet grasping time. If then we halt the movement of the pointer, we say that the pointer is stopped, but that time continues to elapse. And it would seem then that time is not related to the movement and does not depend on it.

Aristotle, in fact, does not say that time is movement (κινήσις), but instead something of movement (κινήσεως τι). And you have to see how and according to which modality time manifests itself in movement, of which it must be a property. Now, noting that in its movement the pointer passes through each of the places in its path in a given time, we can say that the movement happens over time, meaning that it is intra-temporal. But — Heidegger asks himself — if time is manifested in the movement while movement happens within time, what then is time? Perhaps some sort of container that encompasses the movement and that movement so to speak always brings time with it? And if the pointer stops, if it stops the movement, does time then also stop? In still moments what is time?


If one firmly holds onto the idea that time is a property of the movement, as Aristotle says, it would seem that with the end of movement the passage of time would also cease. And yet we say that the pointer remained unchanged for a given time. But, again, Aristotle does not say only, in an indeterminate way, that time is something of movement, but indicates precisely what it is of movement; the number.

But even this precision doesn't appear to clear the field of all the difficulties. It is strange, in fact, says Heidegger, that time is determined by number, which as such is considered as something that is beyond time, something timeless, independent of time. It is true that Aristotle says that time is number in the sense of the numbered (αριθμούμενον); but, taking the example of the pointer, what is it of its movement that is numbered? Since the pointer moves according to a local movement, we can clearly number the individual places, the individual points, through which it passes in its moving.

However, even by numbering all the places and points that it passes in its movement, not even now can we grasp time, because the sum of these places or points doesn't result in time, but rather the route taken by the pointer, neither does it give a temporal determination, but rather a spatial determination.

We could then count the speed of the pointer according to the formula that physics tells us (s = d/t), namely dividing the route taken for the time taken to traverse it. But even doing that we'll at most find that in the determining velocity time is somehow involved, yet despite this time cannot be determined any more precisely. Indeed, Heidegger notes that the physics formula, rather than dissipating, seems to aggravate the difficulties; since it is curious that movements take time, without the time being consumed by such use: if we in fact think that in a certain period of time there are a certain number of movements, and if we think that at the same time another number of movements, the time 'taken' will not be changed, but will remain the same, as if, contrary to what has been said so far, time did not depend on the number of movements.


We don't find what time is — Heidegger asserts — even if we mark each point in the path of the pointer with a number and in the pointer's passing we find there the numbering of its movement. Yet — Heidegger continues — when we look at our watch, on whose face the path of the second hand is marked by numbers, and we follow the movement of the second hand, we say that the second hand indicates the time. We say we read the time from the movement of the hand on the clock and the numbers underneath. We say that the clock measures time and that it indicates it.

But beyond the everyday use we make of it, not even the measurement of time using clocks actually says what time itself is, it doesn't tell us where it is, what is its ontological status. Of course, you say, this location is not on the clock, although the common everyday attitude is that it is from the clock that we know the time, as in the past — before there were clocks — it was obtained by measuring the movement of the Sun. But where is time then? Where's its 'place', if it appears and is always experienced where we follow the movement of a body, without it ever being where the body itself is in motion?

If in saying that time is the number of movement Aristotle takes a basic truth of the common experience of time, the brilliance of his definition for Heidegger lies in the fact that it also defines the horizon within which we can derive, from the numbering of movement, an indication of a temporal character; the Aristotelian definition of time indicates what is the foreknowledge within which we have to consider the movement (of the Sun or of the clock hands), if we want to extract the indication of time. This horizon we seek is defined by the determinations of the before and the after: we experience time when we follow a movement and we number it in relationship to the before and after.

However, even Heidegger objects, before and after are already time determinations. To say then that time is the number of movement according to before and after, amounts to saying that time is time. And the Aristotelian definition seems to be undermined by a petitio principii, it seems to be a tautology.


However, the tautology and the petitio principii are merely apparent, and once such appearances are dissolved the Aristotelian definition's depth becomes clear again. The solution of the tautology is for Heidegger in the fact that the determinations of before and after, used in this definition, designates a time dimension different from that indicated by the time that is the subject of the definition; in fact the temporality that before and after recall is something more original about the time which must be defined. The apparent tautology, then, would indicate that the phenomenon of time (subject to be defined) can only be understood from the determination of a more original temporality (indicated by what came before and what came after). Now, according to Heidegger, this more original temporality, which founded on the common experience of time, is the temporality of the soul, is the original temporal structure of being-there.

In this way, the apparent tautology that threatens with inconsistency the Aristotelian definition of time, is revealed to be actually an indicator of a fundamental instance, and so indicates the search for the principle, the petere principium in a positive sense, so that the phenomenon of time, as it is commonly understood, can be properly established and interpreted with reference to the principle that the original temporality represents. And also in general the apparent putting into question, point by point, the Aristotelian determination of time that Heidegger works with, not so much as a criticism, but to highlight how in its brilliance and depth the Aristotelian definition responds to fundamental aporias that emerge from the common understanding of time and leads by their solution to a philosophical understanding of the phenomenon.

Now, before moving on to the analysis of originary temporality, it is appropriate to dwell on some aspects not yet sufficiently clarified about the Aristotelian conception of time, namely the determination of time in connection with motion, its continuity and its dimensionality.

Since time is related to movement, it is important to bear in mind that movement (as much as κινήσις and as μεταβολή) is understood by Aristotle in a broad sense, not only as a local move, loco-motion (φορά), but also as qualitative change (ἀλλοίωσις), and as growth or decrease (αὔξησις or φθίσις); and the common characteristic of all these species of movement is to be moving from something to something else (ἐκ τινός εἰς τι). This feature should not be understood in a spatial sense, but rather in the sense of a structural determination of movement.67 That causes movement to have a dimensionality, which Aristotle designates by the term μέγεθος (size, extension); and passing (ἐκ τινός εἰς τι) which takes place according to that dimensionality is co-essential with continuity (συνέχεια).

67 According to Heidegger, Bergson had misunderstood this character of dimensionality of time in Aristotle, conceiving it simply, by analogy with space, like spatial extent (see ibid., 343-344). A more extended criticism toward the Bergsonian understanding of time is during winter semester 1925/26 (GA 21, § 21) and in Being and Time (§ 82). On the problem of time in Bergson see R. W. Meyer, Bergson in Deutschland. Unter besonderer Berücksichtigung seiner Zeitauffassung, E. W. Orth (Ed.), Studien zum Zeitproblem in der Philosophie des 20. Jahrhunderts (Phänomenologische Forschungen, 13), Alber, Freiburg-München 1982, pages 10-64; also E. Lisciani Petrini, Memoria e poesia. Bergson, Jankélévitch, Heidegger, Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane, Naples 1983, pp. 15-65.


Movement is thus structurally associated with dimensionality (and with continuity), and Aristotle expresses this connection saying that "movement is dependent on magnitude" (ἀκολουθεῖ τῷ μεγέθει ἡ κινήσις, 219 a 11). For Heidegger this Άκολουθεΐν expresses nothing less than an "a priori founding connection (apriorischer Fundierungszusammenhang)"68, which must be understand correctly, since Aristotle uses it to express the relationship between time and movement, where he says that "time follows movement" (ὁ χρόνος τῇ κινήσει, 219 b 23). This means that along with time movement or the limit case of movement, namely stillness, is always assumed; and as movement assumes dimensionality and continuity, even the experience of time requires in its turn movement, dimensionality and continuity.

As regards the determination of continuity, it is important to understand how the continuous comes about and how it is made up of its parts, i.e. points. Now, with the experience of movement we are aware of the body in motion, not the movement itself (τόδε γαρ τι τὸ φερομενον, ἡ δὲ κινήσις οὔ, 219 b 30), also in the matter of the continuous we are not aware of continuity as such, but only the individual elements that make it, i.e. the points (experienced in a particular horizon and a certain succession). The movement of the pointer, for example, we are aware of it when we perceive its move from a point to the next point, from this point here to that point there, from here to there. The move is always a move that takes place between two determined points, and the two points to which the move relates are not any two points, but are determined by a precise sequence, that of before and then. We grasp the move if we take the first step as a before and, holding it firm as such, we expect the next point coming as an after. We experience the move holding on to the first and expecting the latter. Following the movement of the pointer we say, now here, now there, and so within the context of before and after we experience time.

It is true that following the motion of the pointer from one point to another we follow in fact a movement and not yet time; but just to signal the various points through which the hour hand passes, we say now-here and now-there, and saying this now we attribute time to motion, we anticipate the temporal determination and impose it on particular movement (that of the pointer or that of the Sun). So, when we look at the clock and say, 'now it's nine' , we impose time to the clock, we read a number and we mean that number as a timestamp. The time is not in the clock, but when we say "now", it tells us a number that within the horizon of this now becomes time. Time flows from the fact that we read the number of the movement within the horizon of the temporal determination of now. But from where did we get this now? For Heidegger, we draw it out – so to speak – from ourselves, we derive it from the time dilation that characterizes our very being as finite being. The source before the experience of time is the very structure of the soul, of human life, of being-there, which has the fundamental character of temporality.

68 Heidegger captures here the importance of the term Άκολουθεΐν in Aristotle, subsequently studied primarily by J. Hintikka, Time and Necessity, chap. III (but see also E. P. Brandon, Hintikka on akolouthein "Phronesis", 23, 1978, pp. 173-177, and W. Rehder, Über Hintikkas Interpretation von akolouthein in De interpretatione 12-13, «Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie», 62, 1980, pp. 58-66).


But let us look more closely at the nature of the now, as the moment, that – as Aristotle says – is what is counted according to movement based on its before and after (ᾗ δ’αριθμητον το πρότερον και ὕστερον, το νυν ἐστίν, 219 b 25). To understand the nature of the moment, you must be clear about the character of the before and the after; that is, you have to keep in mind that if their determination seems to be primarily a determination of local character, since each indicates the succession from one place to another, in fact it is a temporal determination, as the temporal sense of before and after must be assumed to understand the local sense; as Aristotle says, before and after have a πρὸς τὸ νῦν ἀπόστασιν (223 a 5-6).

The instant, the now, then has the particular character of establishing the identity and otherness of time, i.e. both of setting up time and of dividing it into a now-no-longer and a now-not-yet, in a before and after (καὶ συνεχής τε δὴ ὁ χρόνος τῷ νυν, καὶ διῄρηται κατὰ τὸ νῦν, 220 a 5). This is because the instant in a certain way is always the same and in some other not (τὸ δὲ νῦν ἔστί μὲν ὡς τὸ αὐτό, ἔστί δ’ὡς οὐ τὸ αὐτό, 219 b 12-13), since – as explained by Aristotle – it is τὸ γαρ νῦν τὸ αὐτὸ ὅ ποτ’ἦν — τὸ δ’εἶναι αὐτῷ ἕτερον (219 b 10-11). Against the current interpretation, according to which it means that the instant is the same as far as existing and always different in its essence, Heidegger interprets this expression in the opposite direction, so that the instant would be the same in terms of essence and always other in terms of existence.


Another essential feature of the instant is that it is not to be understood only as a point, as if the temporal continuity had to be understood in analogy to the line, with the instant which marks a time-span corresponding to the point that marks a line; the instant has rather the character of horizon, given that its constituent moments include the start and the finish as well as the character of dimensionality and extensionality.69 Moreover, whereas the instant has the character of passing (ἐκ τινός εἰς τι), it is never as a point next to another point, it is never limit (when not accidentally referring to another and not as such); regarding passing and dimensionality, it is open and widens to the dimension of the no longer and the not yet; with the instant you can mark the boundaries, but it is never in itself limit.70

The instant is not limit (περας), but it is number (αριθμός). Aristotle clearly distinguished the two moments, in the sense that while the limit belongs to be what is bounded, the number can determine anything (numbering and measuring) without being part of what is numbered or measured and without having any way of being. Saying then that time is the number of movement, Aristotle tells us we experience it by numbering and measuring movement, but this time – precisely as number – is part of the movement or body moved.71

Regarding number, the instant – and thus also the time that consists of moments – is measurement (μέτρον). And the measuring of a moving body with respect to its movement is its being-in-time, its intratemporality (τὸ ἐν χρόνῳ εἶναι, 221 a 4). That things are in time, means that in their motion they are measured in time in relation with the dimensional character of the latter. But they are not measured as such, but rather only in the specific character of being-in-motion, only in so far as they are in motion or at rest (μετρήσει δ’ὁ χρόνος τὸ κινουμενον και τὸ ἠρεμούν, ᾗ τὸ μὲν κινούμενον τὸ δὲ ἠρεμοῦν, 221 b 16-18). Obviously, things are in time in a way other than how moments are in time, which are in time by constituting it. Things moving are included in time as the number is contained in the numbering. To express the way that time holds things, Aristotle uses the verb περιεχεσθαι, and with it wants to indicate that time embraces moving things without being part of them. And it is because of this particular rapport that, without time being motion, whenever we experience movement we experience with it the time that embraces it (ἅμα γὰρ κινήσεως αἰσθανόμεθα καὶ χρόνου, 219 a 3).

69 So Heidegger stresses here, while in a footnote to § 82 of Being and Time he says that "Aristotle means the νῦν as στιγμή" (GA 2, 570; It. trans., p. 613).

70 Footnote to § 82 of Being and Time, Heidegger had said "Aristotle conceives νῦν as ὅρος" (GA 2, 570; It. trans., p. 613).

71 In this respect Heidegger observes: "this is a peculiar character of time which would be later interpreted by Kant in some sense as a form of intuition" (GA 24, 353). [The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, p. 250]


Now, given the fact that we experience time where we experience movement, a decisive aporia surges, one on which Heidegger pushes to give his interpretation of the Aristotelian text a turn in the direction of his equation of being-there and temporality. The aporia arises from the fact that we can think of situations, such as that of darkness, in which our experience of the motion of bodies is interrupted. And one must then ask whether the experience of interrupted movement also interrupt our experience of time. Apparently not, because, as Aristotle explains (219 a 4-6), we still experience the movement of our mental states; that is, since the soul manifests itself as something that is moving, with it time is always manifested. Hence the additional aporia: If there were no soul, would time exist or not? (πότερον δὲ μὴ οὔσης ψυχῆς εἴη ἂν ὁ χρόνος ἢ οὔ, 224 a 21). Apparently not, because, as we have said, if time is the number of the movement, the soul is the entity that numbers it (223 a 25). The ontological place of time, Heidegger concludes his interpretation, is the soul.

This assigning of time to the soul as its ontological place might make it seem that time is something subjective. And this is contrary to what emerged from the interpretation of the phenomenon of intratemporality, in which we saw that time 'contains' and 'hugs' natural entities and things, and as such is objective, indeed the most objective of all the 'objects'. So, on the one hand it seems to be objectively present everywhere, in the heavens (ἐν οὐρᾰνῷ), at sea (ἐν θαλάσσῃ) and land (ἐν γῇ), that is everywhere (ἐν παντὶ), on the other hand it seems to be something of the soul (ψῡχή). In observing this (223 a 16-18), Aristotle captures an aporia from which comes the dichotomy between the subjective and the objective understanding of time, which was destined to cross the entire history of Western philosophy.

Now, leveraging this fundamental aporia, Heidegger grafts onto the interpretation of the Aristotelian treatise on time his analysis of the ontological structure of being-there. In fact, from Heidegger's perspective, the problem of subjectivity or objectivity of time can be solved only clarifying the fundamental mode of being of that entity which numbers movement and that therefore it is the home of the experience of time, namely for Aristotle the soul (ψῡχή), for Heidegger being-there (Dasein).


Aristotle's discussion of time, while capturing the essential connection of time and soul, does not reach far enough, according to Heidegger, to explicitly pose the problem of the fundamental way of being specific to human life, of being-there, and therefore does not even grasp the unitary temporal structure; in short, it doesn't reach originary temporality. In any case, in Heidegger's eyes it is the primary and the most rigorous philosophical understanding of the common experience of time. However, thanks to its own profundity, and by showing itself paradoxically in the appearance of a tautology and a petitio principii, it refers by its own dynamic to the originary dimension of temporality that Heidegger aims to thematize.

As is known, the apprehension of temporality as a unitary ontological structure of being-there is the point of the analysis of existence conducted in Being and Time. Like Husserl – albeit then within the horizon of a metaphysics of presence and directed by the primacy of θεωρία – he had arrived through the analysis of the internal consciousness of time to grasp the connection of the intentionality of consciousness with temporality, so Heidegger had arrived, through the analysis of the common experience of time and its philosophical codification in Aristotle, to understand the fundamental problem of the temporal structure of being-there.72

Within the horizon of understanding this structure, the three dimensions of time, as they are distinguished in common experience, are rooted for Heidegger in three fundamental attitudes, namely to be waiting (Gewärtigen) that makes it possible to experience the future, to be presenting (Gegenwärtigen) which forms the basis of the experience of the present, and finally the preserving (Behalten) and, as its limiting case, forgetting (Vergessen) which both make possible the experience of the past. The basis of these attitudes is originary temporality. The latter, in turn, rests on a fundamental ontological determination of being-there as the could-be, which, as has been shown, opens itself and is determined in reference to itself, in reference to the world and in reference to others in a fundamentally practical way. And the determination of being-there as original temporality must therefore be as seen and understood in connection with the eminently practical connotation of being-there. And, conversely, it is in originary temporality that the practical determinations previously highlighted, such as Befindlichkeit or Verstehen or Sorge, have their ontological basis.

72 With the basic difference, also, that for Heidegger temporality is more original than intentionality and constitutes the foundation; as Heidegger himself observes: "Intentionality–being directed toward something and the intimate connection of intentio and intentum present in it–which is commonly spoken of in phenomenology as the ultimate primal phenomenon has the condition of its possibility in temporality and temporality's ecstatic horizonal character."(GA 24, 378-379 [The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, 268]). On this problem, see H. Rombach, Phänomenologie des gegenwärtigen Bewußtseins, Alber, Freiburg-München 1980, pp. 66-113. For an illustration of the differences between Husserl's and Heidegger's understanding of temporality and subjectivity I suggest my essay "Soggettività e temporalità: congetture sul problema del tempo nella filosofia del Novecento", Bollettino del Centro internazionale di storia dello spazio e del tempo, 1984, nr. 3, and its bibliography.


From this connection of temporality and the practical structure of being-there spring two consequences relevant to the Heideggerian understanding of time and of being-there. First, as has already been pointed out, because of the practical connotation of the being of being-there, the decisive time dimension becomes the future, since it is future being that is addressed in practical decisions. And this enables Heidegger to counteract the traditional primacy of the present in Western thought from Aristotle to Husserl. Secondly, as soon as being-there takes upon itself the weight of its own practical determination or unloads it by taking refuge in impersonal forms of Being, temporality will be implemented in an authentic or inauthentic manner. When implementing authentically the could-be, being-there is always ahead of itself (vorweg), it is ex-static, it ex-sists, and so develops that authentic dimension of the future that Heidegger designates as anticipation (Vorlaufen). To it corresponds the authentic temporalization of the present as instant (Augenblick) and the authentic realization of the past as repetition (Wiederholung).

These authentic realizations of temporality undergo an inauthentic deformation due to the unnatural tendency in being-there towards dejection, the tendency to get rid of the weight that having to decide about its own being involves. In removing the need to confront its own being, that is, to suppress the call of conscience to assume the burden of decision about its own being, being-there also removes the future as determinant of the temporality of its being. In the inauthentic attitude, which subtracts itself from having to decide about its own being (which, while it is not yet decided, is the future), the decisive dimension becomes the present, the entity in a restricted sense becomes the entity that is present, in which being-there loses itself forgetting itself. Accordingly, both the future and the past will suffer in their realization of inauthentic deformations.

The result of the interconnection of the temporal structure and practical structure of being-there can now be summarized in the following schema (tiles marked in bold indicate the respectively determining time dimension).



FUTURE anticipation
PRESENT moment
PAST repetition

This articulation of temporality, which Heidegger describes extensively in Being and Time (§§ 65-71), is intrinsically linked with the practical determination of being-there regarding care, whose original temporality is the unitary ontological sense. Bearing in mind the observations made about the practical connotations of the being of being-there, even this connection can be seen in new light, which Heidegger vocabulary describes thus: care is the unity of existentiality, facticity and abandonment; but existentiality is a being-ahead-of-oneself (Sich-vorweg-sein) that corresponds to the future dimension, facticity is a being-already-in-the-world (Schon-sein-in-der-Welt) that matches the past dimension, and abandonment is a being-ahead-of-itself­-in-already-being-in-a-world (Sein-bei-innerweltlich-begegnendem-Seienden) that matches the present dimension. Therefore, temporality corresponds in its threefold articulation with the articulation of care and represents its unitary ontological basis. And because care is the character of the being of being-there, it also represents the unitary ontological structure of this being. This connection can also be illustrated with a diagram.

CARE existentiality facticity abandonment being-ahead-of-oneself already-being-in-the-world ahead-of-itself in-already-being-in-a-world future past present TEMPORALITY

From these details about the Heideggerian interpretation of the Aristotelian conception of time, it is clear that Heidegger reaches, by starting from Aristotle, to grasp the issue that is at the center of his speculative concerns, and that is the problem of determining the fundamental mode of being-there. And as before, through the analysis of the phenomenon of the truth, he had come to grasp in the being-discovering a primal characteristic of the being of being-there, as before, on facing the problem of the 'subject', he had identified the eminently practical connotations of this being, so now, in light of the interpretation of the Aristotelian understanding of time, he comes to establish the ontological equation of being-there and originary temporality.


Because of this ontological radicalization of temporality, Heidegger ripens the reasons for his detachment from the traditional beliefs of time, which, the Aristotelian included, would remain tied to a naturalistic orientation that prevents them from understanding the temporal structure of existence.

As he explains in a significant step in the course of summer semester 1928 – where he adopts a position critical of the concept of time expounded by Husserl in his On the phenomenology of the consciousness of internal time, whose publication Heidegger attended to during those years73 – the things to note about the traditional understanding of time are as follows: "1) Time is itself something extant somewhere and somehow, and it is in motion, and it flows away; as we say, "it passes." 2) As transient (to a certain extent the paradigm of transience in general), time is something "in the soul," in the subject, inside consciousness; thus to have time requires an internal consciousness. Consequently, the possibilities of conceiving and interpreting time are essentially dependent on the particular conception of soul, subject, consciousness, Dasein. 3) Time is something passing, which transpires in the soul but does not yet really belong in the center of the soul. For time has long been seen in connection with space. In space, the spatial is what we experience with our senses. This is likewise true of time. Time belongs to our sensibility (...). 4) Since Plato, time is frequently distinguished by contrasting it with eternity, and the latter is itself conceived more or less theologically. The temporal then becomes the earthly vis-a-vis the heavenly."74

Within the horizon of this naturalistic understanding of time it is impossible, according to Heidegger, to arrive at an understanding of the ontological connection of being-there and temporality. But precisely because this understanding – as he tries to show in light of his interpretation of Aristotle – cannot completely hide the dynamics of the problem, it opens up to a radical problematization and "by its own phenomenological content common time points back to an original time, temporality."75 For Heidegger the point is precisely to seize the temporality of being-there in its originality, which means for him, no longer filtering it by objectifying the categories of θεωρία, but grasping it in relation to the specific nature of its eminently practical connotation.

73 E. Husserl, Vorlesungen zur Phänomenologie des inneren Zeitbewußtseins, hg. von M. Heidegger, Niemeyer, Halle 1928, now with supplementary texts and critical appendices by R. Boehm: E. Husserl, Zur Phänomenologie des inneren Zeitbewußtseins (1893-1917) (Husserliana X), Nijhoff, Den Haag 1966 (trans. It. edited by A. Marini, Per la fenomenologia della coscienza interna del tempo (1893-1917), Angeli, Milano 1981) [E. Husserl, On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time (1893–1917), Springer, 2012].

74 GA 26, 254-255. [The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic, 197.]

75 GA 24, 362. [The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, p. 257.]


The essential features of the 'existential' understanding of time that results, are: "1) The essence of time has an ecstatic character. 2) Together with this ecstatic structure there is a horizonal character which belongs to time. 3) Time neither passes nor remains but it temporalizes itself. Temporalization is the primal phenomenon of "motion". 4) Time is not relative to sensibility but is more primordial than sensibility and than mind and reason (...). 5) Methodologically we should note that, because it constitutes the metaphysical continuity of Dasein, time is not intelligible if Dasein is construed in some sort of theoretical scheme, whether it be as a psychical whole, as cognitive-volitional subject, as self-awareness, or as the unity of body, soul, and mind. Moreover, the analysis of Dasein must select for its guiding horizon the horizon which, in factic existence, continually guides Dasein's being-toward-itself in its being-with with others and in its relation to beings unlike Dasein prior to, outside of, and despite all theory."76

This enumeration of the salient features of the Heideggerian understanding of time, particularly the conclusion it anticipates, sufficiently shows how the determination of originary temporality engages deeply in the practical determination of the mode of being of being-there previously stated. Thus, the interpretation of Aristotle's treatment of time, which leads towards individualization of temporality as ontological structure of being-there, connects closely with the discussion of the problem of truth and the problem of the 'subject', showing how the critical confrontation with Aristotle, conducted by Heidegger in the Marburg courses and in Being and Time, embraces in all its breadth all three fundamental issues that occupy the Heidegger's thought at this stage in his evolution. In fact, the interpretation of Aristotle on questions of truth, the 'subject' and temporality animates the Heidegger's project in a radical reinterpretation of the fundamental structure of human life in terms of being-there, and through this new understanding it will be possible for Heidegger, distancing himself from the tradition, to reach the radically secure foundation on which to rest his metaphysics of finitude.

76 GA 26, 256. [The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic, 198.]


5. the results of the confrontation

In rebuilding Aristotle's presence along Heidegger's path in the Marburg lessons and in Being and Time, we have seen above all how by interpreting in light of the Aristotelian texts the different levels of the giving of the phenomenon of truth, Heidegger puts in question the theories that see in judgment and in asserting the originary place of its occurrence and how he shows instead that only in a wider ontological horizon can the phenomenon of truth can be nursed and understood in its originality. Now, if the arrival point of this ontological study of the problem of truth is in understanding the equation of being and truth, which even after the turn remains at the center of Heideggerian reflection on being, the decisive aspect here is with the equation that Heidegger arrives at, at this stage of his thought, through the placement of the phenomenon of truth in the discovering attitude of being-there, in relation to which the very being is a being-discovered (by being-there), that is, a being-true in an ontological sense. The being-there (ψῡχή) is so determined as that entity whose peculiar character is to be in the truth (ἀληθεύειν), that is, the unveiling and the being-discovering.

We have seen then how the result of this interpretation of the phenomenon of truth in Aristotle constitutes for Heidegger a confirmation of the correctness of the direction in which he was calling into question the horizon of Husserlian phenomenology. If on the one hand, Heidegger takes charge of the fundamental problem of phenomenology, namely the problem of understanding the subjectivity of the subject, on the other he persuades himself gradually of the insufficiently radical ontology of the Husserlian approach to the problem, to the extent that Husserl mainly directs his understanding to an analysis of cognitive acts, and in particular those of scientific knowledge, thus tacitly assuming as horizon of his understanding the traditional primacy of θεωρία.

This is why, as we have tried to bring out, already since the early 1920s, Heidegger turns to Aristotle, seeing, or thinking he can see in him, a full analysis of the practical, poetic and theoretical attitudes of human life in its being-in-the-truth, namely – as Heidegger interprets it – in its being discovering. In particular Nicomachean Ethics Book VI provides in Heidegger's eyes a phenomenological analysis of the fundamental ways of being in the truth of being-there in its relating to itself, to others and to the world of things. In this phenomenology of human life would be understood and determined for the first time the structural moments of θεωρία, πρᾶξις and ποίησις, with which Heidegger orients himself in tracing the distinction of the three modes of being, of Dasein, Zuhandenheit and Vorhandenheit, which represent the ontological framework of the analytics of existence.


As we tried to show, precisely in the determination of the mode of being specific to being-there, and more precisely in defining the character of the connection that being-there has always had in confronting its being as having-to-be, Heidegger takes as the connecting thread of his analysis, the Aristotelian thematization of acts as πρᾶξις and of virtue in action as φρόνησις. In the horizon opened by this consideration, we are tempted to read in this light, some fundamental determinations of being-there, such as the Zu-sein, Sorge, Befindlichkeit, Verstehen, Gewissen and Entschlossenheit, and to suggest the hypothesis that in them are reprised and recast in an ontological framework the meaning of an equal number of Aristotelian determinations, such as πρᾶξις, ὄρεξις, νοῦς πρακτικός, φρόνησις and προαίρεσις.

However, this attitude of productive appropriation is progressively incorporated into a stance critical of the tradition in general and Aristotle in particular. This progressive detachment evolves, as we have seen, in conjunction with another thorough interpretation of Aristotle, namely in concomitance with the interpretation of the Aristotelian understanding of the phenomenon of time, through which Heidegger comes to the belief that the Aristotelian thematization of human life captures its fundamental attitudes, especially the theoretical, practical, and poetic, but he doesn't yet explicitly set himself the problem of the deep unitary connection on which they are based. In other words, Aristotle would not have explicitly posed himself the problem of determining what is the mode of being specific to human life, of the soul, which makes possible the plurality of other ways in which it is in the truth.


Through the interpretation of the Aristotelian understanding of the phenomenon of time, Heidegger believes he can find the determinant reason of this omission in the fact that Aristotle remains within the horizon of a naturalistic understanding time, which focused mainly on the observation of natural entities, and so would be unsuitable for grasping the specificity of the originary temporal structure of human existence.

The interpretation of Aristotle conducted in terms of the three fundamental problems that are truth, the 'subject' and temporality thus leads Heidegger to critically distance himself from the setting in which they are traditionally addressed and resolved, and to show how these problems require, by their own intrinsic dynamics, a more radical ontological understanding and, in particular, an explicit thematization of the unitary ontological structure of being-there as finite being.

For the development of this position, as we have mentioned, the determining factor is the great confrontation with Kant which succeeded the confrontation with Aristotle and which Heidegger develops mainly in the second half of the 1920s. In Kant, indeed, at least at first, Heidegger sees the person who first comes to grasp the problem of the unitary ontological determination of the being of humans, trying a radical solution, namely by establishing the two branches of our knowledge (sensitivity and intellect) in the common root of the transcendental imagination (interpreted by Heidegger as temporality). And against the neo-Kantian interpretation he sees in the Critique of Pure Reason, not a theory of knowledge nor a scientific theory of knowledge, but rather a metaphysical clarification of the structure of the finite subject. In Kant, therefore, he sees the planting of the problem which he assumes as its own.

This affinity is then confirmed by the fact that even in Kant's determination of the subject as subject of the action, and specifically in distinction of person and thing, the entity that I am (ichliches Seiendes) and the entity I am not (nichtichliches Seiendes), Heidegger sees neither more nor less than an anticipation of his radical distinction between the ways of being of being-there (daseinsmäßiges Seiendes) and the way of being of entities that are not (nichtdaseinsmäßiges Seiendes). In this respect, he can then assert that the Kantian determination of man as a person and as an end in itself – by virtue of which there appears in the feeling of respect (in front of the moral law and freedom) the personalitas moralis – refers to the same problem he treats in terms of Sorge.77 And in the same sense, at the end of the course of winter semester 1927/28, entirely devoted to an interpretation of the Critique of Pure Reason, he says of his own discovery of Kant: "When some years ago [presumably in the winter semester 1925/26] I studied the Critique of Pure Reason anew and read it, as it were, against the background of Husserl's phenomenology, it opened my eyes; and Kant became for me a crucial confirmation of the accuracy of the path which I took in my search"78

77 See GA 20, 220, 380; GA 24, 190-194 (see also above, note 44 [Page 50]).

78 GA 25 431. [Phenomenological Interpretation of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, 292.]


However, as with the confrontation with Aristotle, the confrontation with Kant will also arrive at the critical conclusion that Kant's attempt to determine the ontological structure of subjectivity is not set in a sufficiently radical manner; that is, remaining substantially within the Cartesian horizon of a dichotomous understanding of being that separates thought and extension, and remaining in the end bound to a naturalistic understanding of time, Kant would not arrive at determining in a radical manner what is the unitary ontological structure on which rests the theoretical determinations and practical determinations of the subject.79

This task of determining the ontological unity of human life, precisely as originary temporality, is taken up and addressed explicitly by Heidegger in the analytic of existence, on which rests his metaphysics of finitude.

We can say then that the fundamental outcome of the confrontation with Aristotle (and then with Kant) arrives at, is the systematic development, radicalization and solution of the problem from which Heidegger had made his move in the horizon of Husserlian phenomenology, that is, the problem of the ontological determination of the way of being of human life. Seizing the structure of the finite being in its character as being discovering (truth), having-been and temporality, Heidegger thinks with those he has the Archimedean point on the basis of which he can pursue radically the basic intentions which from the beginning had inspired his confrontation with tradition, and thus, through the de(con)struction of traditional ontology, to that metaphysics of being-there or basic ontology that he presents in Being and Time (and whose project he continues to work on until the end of the 1920s).

79 See GA 25, 207. On Heidegger's appropriation of Kant and the critique of the Kantian determination of the subject see I. Görland, Transzendenz und Selbst. Eine Phase in Heideggers Denken, Klostermann, Frankfurt a. M. 1981, and also my Soggettività e temporalità: considerazioni sull’interpretazione heideggeriana di Kant alla luce delle lezioni di Marburgo (see footnote 53).


The search for the presence of Aristotle in the Marburg courses and in Being and Time concludes with an unexpected outcome, namely with the tangible evidence that this presence – which in Heidegger studies has rarely been detected and even more rarely been assessed as to its real importance80 – is a central and decisive presence. As we tried to show, this presence fits fruitfully – in the form of a review of the scope of the fundamental meanings of being, in particular of being as truth – in its reconsideration, in its radicalization and in its ontological transformation of Husserlian phenomenology which Heidegger carries out, and particularly in the crucial task that he sets himself, namely the ontological clarification of the way of being of the 'subject', of human life, of being-there.

Finally, to conclude, there remains one final consideration. It remains for us to consider whether ascertaining a consistent and quasi-generalized presence of Aristotle in the Heidegger of Marburg and of Being and Time permanently removes the existentialistic blindness of the ontological issues present in Heidegger's analysis of existence, whether this is to be considered only a result, so to speak, of the research conducted. In the first place, especially emphasizing the meaning of Heidegger's reference to Aristotle's practical philosophy, we aim to point out – in addition to a generic ontological removal of Existentialist misunderstanding — that the presence of Aristotle in Heidegger until the turn does not indicate so much the generic presence of the ontological problem of being as ultimate goal of the investigation, but rather of the realization of an analysis of the character of the being of being-there, that is an analysis of its temporality, its practical connotation and of its finitude as ontological determinations, the ontological determinations only under which – in fundamental ontology – you can pose the problem of being.

80 The main studies on Heidegger and Aristotle were mentioned in footnote 5 of p. 7. It is significant that despite numerous interpretations of Aristotle inspired by Heidegger (especially from the essay on the concept of φύσις) like those of W. Bröcker, H. Weiß, K. Ulmer, A. Guzzoni, E. Tugendhat, R. Boehm, E. Vollrath, F. Wiplinger (see note 4 of p. 7), among the essays dedicated to the Heideggerian interpretations of the classics of philosophy collected in the Festschrift for the 80th birthday (Durchblicke. Martin Heidegger zum 80. Geburtstag, Klostermann, Frankfurt a. M. 1970) there are none on his interpretation of Aristotle.


IV. The presence of Aristotle after the 'turn'

1. The radicalization of the critique of metaphysics

To highlight the presence of Aristotle in Heidegger's thought at those stages where it has not been fully assessed or evaluated, i.e. during the period of young learning, the first teachings at Freiburg and those at Marburg, while conducting our investigation we purposely set aside Heidegger's best known interpretation of Aristotle, namely the essay "On the Essence and Concept of φύσις in Aristotle's Physics B, 1", which was written in 1939, but published only in 1958 in the magazine "Il Pensiero".1 Actually, this essay has so far been Aristotle's only appearance in Heidegger that has been explicitly considered and studied; and it is in reading it that many of the studies of Aristotle that we've discussed were inspired.2

Even at first glance you notice immediately the difference of perspective, the different tone that supports the approach that Heidegger puts in place here, compared to the process of productive assimilation that was evident through the analysis of the writings of the 1920s. How can this profound diversity be explained? What are the reasons for this evident variation of tone that keeps us from grasping the connection and continuity between the two periods, and which threatens to obscure the real deep objectives according to which the essay on φύσις can be understood?

1 M. Heidegger, Vom Wesen und Begriff der Φύσις. Aristoteles, Physik B 1, "Il Pensiero", 3, 131-156, 1958, pp. 265-290 (trans. It. G. Guzzoni), now in GA 9, 239-301. [Pathmarks, "On the Essence and Concept of φύσις in Aristotle's Physics B, 1".]

2 Despite their common inspiration by Heidegger, these studies have a number of differences and divergences, both in their understanding of this inspiration and in the themes they consider. So, for example, the book by W. Bröcker (Aristoteles, 1935) clearly within the horizon of interpretation that Heidegger opens in the early 1930s, conceiving the Aristotelian concept of being as 'motility' (Bewegtheit). The survey of H. Weiss (Kausalität und Zufall in der Philosophie des Aristoteles, 1942) when dealing with the concept of φύσις takes into account ulterior developments in Heideggerian reflection; in addition, it is in my view also important because in Chapter 3 (pp. 99-153) it closely refashions Heidegger's interpretation of πρᾶξις (Nic. Eth. VI) as being fundamental for human life, confirming the argument put forward in our survey (see III, 3). From within the orbit of Freiburg and Heidegger's school, thus being able to consider previously unpublished texts and courses, comes the work of K. Ulmer (Wahrheit, Kunst und Natur bei Aristoteles, 1953), of E. Tugendhat (Ti kata tinos, 1958), and from A. Guzzoni (Die Einheit des pollachos legomenon bei Aristoteles, 1957), which takes into account the perspective of the later Heidegger. It follows closely, given the particular closeness of its author to Heidegger, the survey of F. Wiplinger (Phusis und Logos, 1971). A reference to a much freer Heidegger interpretation, criticizing it on some fundamental points, occurs in another more recent investigation from the Freiburg environment, namely U. Guzzoni (Grund und Allgemeinheit, 1975). Finally harking back to Heidegger pretty much directly are other works conceived in different environments apart from Freiburg, such as the monograph by R. Boehm (Das Grundlegende und das Wesentliche, 1965) or the studies produced in Cologne: E. Vollrath (Studien zur Kategorienlehre des Aristoteles, 1969), K.-H. Volkmann-Schluck (Die Metaphysik des Aristoteles, 1979), I. Schüssler (Aristoteles. Philosophie und Wissenschaft, 1982). (For complete references for these studies see footnote 4 of p. 17.)


So far, by bracketing this text, we intended to highlight more strongly the character of appropriation and assimilation that the confrontation with Aristotle takes on before the 'turn', and precisely, in a context in which Heidegger, even when he questions the insufficient radicalism on which he bases his metaphysics, deconstructs and reconstructs it on a truly radical basis. Without examining in detail the contents of the essay on φύσις – be it because it is already widely known to scholars, be it because such an examination would entail a series of philological corrections – let us try to understand, by Aristotle's light, what philosophical problem this essay reposes and how this problem connects with different intentions and purposes from the previous confrontation.

It is all too easy to observe that in between the first positive appropriation and the later Heidegger's critical assessment, in order to explain the differences, we depend on the so-called 'turn', meaning that deeper inquiry and its change in vocabulary, be it regarding the possibility of discussing being, be it regarding the Western history of its (failed) discussion. In fact, as is known, (1) the 'turn' results in a change in starting point, such that it is no longer a matter of getting at the problem of being by starting from the clarification of the ontological structure of that entity that can pose to itself the problem but it is rather that of thematizing the structure of the happening of being itself; (2) secondly, the 'turn' results in the need to re-envision and to 'deepen' the understanding of being-there itself, whose fundamental mode of being is seen as no longer starting from its pure, quasi-transcendental, structure but rather from within the horizon of the historical-epochal happening of being, within which being is situated; (3) finally, the 'turn' goes in tandem with a radicalization of the critique of metaphysics: in fact it results in Heidegger's abandonment of the foundational intentions pursued in his fundamental ontology, since these intentions had been based on the analysis the structure of being-there, whereas now that structure no longer acts as an Archimedean pivot, but is within the horizon of the happening of being; this abandonment also changes Heidegger's attitude in regard to Western philosophy, which is no longer seen as a forgetfulness of being due to an insufficiently radical approach of the problem, an approach that can be corrected, radicalized and re-grounded, but as a forgetfulness that is due to the structure of the very happening of being.

If we compare now the appropriation of Aristotle, as it emerged in the course of our investigation, with the confrontation that then takes place in the essay on φύσις, you can see the differences in the ends pursued, in the themes tackled and even in the language used. While until the 'turn' the confrontation with Aristotle takes place essentially in the context of the attempt of a radical re-founding of ontology, and at the same time, therefore, before the 'turn', the confrontation with Aristotle – in combination with confronting Kant – is the focus of a great effort of critical re-appropriation of the tradition, in the essay on φύσις Heidegger has already gained an attitude of radical and decisive distancing from metaphysics, in the sense that, after having crossed and after having grasped in this crossing the essential connection of Greek metaphysics and modern technology, he aims now at its overcoming. Similarly, after the 'turn' the major founding moments of metaphysics are no longer those that Heidegger is attuned to, but rather those thinkers who support his attempt at overcoming, in the sense that they precede the metaphysical decision (the Presocratics) or who put in question carrying it to completion (Nietzsche) or pushing beyond it (Hölderlin).


The essay on the Aristotelian concept of φύσις fits into this horizon of decisive detachment from metaphysics, and it is in this context that Aristotle is assigned a decisive role within metaphysics. Without giving the Heideggerian analysis of Aristotle after the 'turn' a detailed interpretation, we will highlight the connection with the preceding instance, which was the focus of our inquiry, and to understand the internal logic that leads the development of Heideggerian thought in this evolution of its relationship with Aristotle.

We now have some texts that are halfway between the first positive appropriation and the essay on φύσις and therefore provide useful documentation in this regard. These are the courses taught by Heidegger between the late 1920s and early 1930s, namely in the years when the 'turn' brewed; following them, you can take in the gradual development of the Heideggerian perspective in the deepening and the radicalization of his criticism of the tradition. In particular, the course of winter semester 1929/30, that of summer semester 1930 and finally that of summer semester 1931, in which Heidegger returns several times to Aristotle, give us the opportunity to follow step by step the modification of the Heideggerian interpretation in relation with the development of the new perspective.


2. The placement of the λόγος in the happening of the truth (1929/30)

Towards the end of the course of winter semester 1929/30 we find a comprehensive recovery of the interpretation of the phenomenon of λόγος and the character of truth in Aristotle.3 The same issue had already been addressed by Heidegger over and over again, with significant frequency, and it would resume over the 1930s.4 On the reworking of Aristotle's interpretation that Heidegger offers here, what is worth noting is the change of perspective through which he interprets the apophantic character of the λόγος and its being-true or false, since this change clearly indicates the direction in which he develops, and is aware of developing,5 the Heideggerian way of thinking, and with it his interpretation of Aristotle.

While previously Heidegger had reassigned the possibility of truth or falsity from assertive discourse to the discovering attitude of being-there, now, in the changed interpretation, he places it in its being-free to discover. The variation, seemingly irrelevant, which replaces 'attitude' with 'being-free' really indicates a movement essential in the Heideggerian setting of the problem in the direction of what will be its subsequent development. In fact, while saying that the foundation of the apophantic λόγος is in the discovering attitude of being-there he emphasized as it were the active, productive and foundational function of being-there itself, saying that this foundation lies in the being-free for discovering of being-there, and it highlights the ontological horizon in which the unveiling takes place and by which it is thus conditioned; it connotes the situated-ness of being-there as a finite entity, with an emphasis on the happening in which the unveiling of being-there takes place, which is not for the being-there to ask, but where it is always placed as free to discover.

The structure of the unveiling that takes place in the λόγος is thus seen as a whole in an essential connection with the structure of the world co-originary with being-there, where, again, what is to be stressed is not being-there's agency, but rather the manifestness of the entity that appears to being-there within the horizon of the world. Let us now look more closely at how this happens.

As before, Heidegger moves from a distinction between the semantics of the λόγος in general and the apophantic of the assertive λόγος, noting that while the theory of the λόγος promulgated in the Western tradition privileges the significance of the apophantic, Aristotle still clearly distinguishes the semantics that belong to each λόγος from the apophantic that characterizes instead predication, i.e. that speech which can be true or false.

3 GA 29/30, §§ 71-73.

4 It was already addressed during winter semester 1925/26 (Logik. Die Frage nach der Wahrheit) [GA 21], in Being and Time (§§ 7 B, 33, 44), Kant and the problem of metaphysics [GA 3] (§§ 7, 22, section III) (trans. It. by M. E. Reina, edited by V. Verra, Laterza, Roma-Bari 1981) and in "On the Essence of Ground" [GA 9] (section I). During the 1930s it was later reprised and deepened several times, and in that sense this problem constitutes a privileged theme for following the evolution of the Heideggerian position.

5 GA 29/30, 441, where Heidegger explicitly asserts he will address the problem of the λόγος "in a form which differs from the previous one." [The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, 305.]


Compared to previous interpretations of the semantic character of the λόγος, given for example in Being and Time (§§ 7 B, 33), the way in which Heidegger uses the Aristotelian thesis here is indicative of the direction in which his thoughts are evolving. Observing in reference to the first chapters of De interpretatione that the semantic nature of the λόγος is not by nature (φΰσει), but by agreement (κατά σύνθεκην), and it is connected to the genesis of a symbol (ὅταν γένηται σύμβολον), Heidegger means to use 'agreement' and 'genesis of a symbol' not in the traditional and common sense that these expressions have, but rather seeing in them an essentially ontological sense, namely stating that the agreements that generate a symbol means nothing more than the common opening of a horizon for understanding of the entity: "Words, discourse, occur in and out of such agreement with whatever can be referred to from the beginning and can be grasped as such, with something that several people can and must simultaneously agree with one another on, a s that which is meant to be referred to in discourse. Because the λόγος is grounded in the γένεσις of the σύμβολον, it is κατά σύνθεκην: by agreement."6 Not only that, but Heidegger also says that the character of this opening that the symbol produces is transcendence, understood of course in the particular sense that he attributes to the term: "What Aristotle sees quite obscurely under the title σύμβολον, sees only approximately, and without any explication, in looking at it quite ingeniously, is nothing other than what we today call transcendence. There is language only in the case of a being that by its essence transcends. This is the sense of Aristotle's thesis that a λόγος is κατά σύνθεκην."7

Against the traditional interpretation of this thesis Heidegger notes critically: "I have no inclination to recall what people have made of this Aristotelian thesis when astray here, because in thoughts on the essence of the λόγος prior to Aristotle there indeed arose two theories or theses that make it look as though Aristotle took one side of this debate. Aristotle states: The λόγος is not φύσει, is not some product of a physical event or process; it is not anything like digestion or the circulation of the blood, but has its γένεσις in something quite different: not φύσει, but κατά σύνθεκην. Corresponding to this is that part of the earlier theory of the λόγος which says that language is θέσει: Words do not grow, they do not occur and form like organic processes, but are what they are on the basis of reaching an agreement. Since Aristotle also says κατά σύνθεκην, it looks as though he were of the opinion that language formed in this way, that sounds are produced and humans reach an agreement: we will understand such and such by this. This does happen, but it does not reach the inner essence of the γένεσις of language itself, which Aristotle saw much more profoundly by indeed starting from these theories in a certain way, yet by taking decisive new steps to overcome them."8

6 GA 29/30, 446-447. [The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, 308.]

7 Ibid, 447.[Ibid.] On the modifications that the term 'transcendence' undergoes at a gallop in Heidegger in the 1920s and 1930s see I. Görland, Transzendenz und Selbst, edp. pp. 26-100. On the Heideggerian concept of 'symbol' see J. E. Doherty, Sein, Mensch und Symbol. Heidegger und die Auseinandersetzung mit dem neukantianischen Symbolbegriff, Bouvier-Grundmann, Bonn 1972.

8 Ibid, 447. [Ibid, 308-309.]


The fundamental novelty that Aristotle had introduced was precisely the ontological consideration of the genesis of language, which Heidegger, summing up his interpretation, thus intends as: "Words emerge from that essential agreement of human beings with one another, in accordance with which they are open in their being with one another for the beings around them, which they can then individually agree about-and this also means fail to agree about."9 And it is essential to emphasize that this agreement does not depend on the will of individuals participating in the agreement, but it is the horizon within which their participation happens.

This aspect of language, which precedes and influences participation in it, is stressed by Heidegger as well in the interpretation of the semanticity of the λόγος in general, also too as the ontological basis of the apophanticity of assertive discourse, and precisely in showing the interconnections of the structure of the λόγος to the structure of the world. Here, too, Heidegger recalls that the be-true or false of the λόγος comes from its σύνθεσις or διαίρεσις character expressed in the copula, which is here defined as the indifference of Was-sein, Daß-sein and Wahr-sein10; and even here, that character is based ontologically in man's discovering attitude (Verhalten)11, indeed it is in the power (Vermögen) that man has to discover the entity and to establish a world,12 here is the establishment of the world and the "ground of the inner possibility of the λόγος".13 However, while previously Heidegger had seen the basis of the discovering attitude in the structure of the hermeneutic as-long-as which connotes being-there itself as understanding, here he asserts that the structure of the as-long-as is, even before the structure of understanding, the essential determination of the world itself in the sense of the manifestness of the entity in itself. In this way the structure of the as-long-as is connected to a common root not only and not so much with being-there, but also and especially with being itself.

9 GA 29/30, 447. [The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, P. 308-309.]

10 See GA 29/30, 456-483. [Ibid, 315-333.]

11 Ibid, 486. [Ibid, 335.]

12 Ibid, 489. [Ibid, 337.]

13 Ibid, 486. [Ibid, 335.]


This is why Heidegger can definitely assert that "the λόγος is not independent, but is grounded in something more originary",14 i.e. it is rooted in the dimension that precedes it ontologically and that Heidegger is here plumbing. To this he adds that "the λόγος does not first produce a relation toward beings as such, but for its part is grounded in such a relation".15 For this, in a way that already heralds the interpretation of λόγος delivered in Introduction to Metaphysics (1935) [GA 40], he concludes that "not only does the λόγος ἀποφαντικός, not produce our relation to beings, it does not even produce this manifestness of beings. It always already merely makes use of both that relation and this manifestness in order to fulfill its potential as a revealing or concealing that points out. (...) The λόγος ἀποφαντικός merely takes apart, in the assertion, what is already manifest. It does not, however, first form the manifestness of beings in general".16

The shift that Heidegger makes here is, if we look carefully, twofold. The attention and the thematic focus moves not only from the assertive λόγος to the pre-predicative dimension that precedes it and on which it is based, but also from λόγος as a modality of active unveiling by being-there in the ontological happening of truth in the sense of the unveiling of the entity in which the λόγος is placed. In the text, the first shift is worded as follows: "the λόγος ἀποφαντικός certainly has the possibility of being true or being false, but this manner of being true, of becoming manifest, is grounded in a manifestness which, because it lies prior to predication and the assertion, we designate as pre-predicative manifestness, or better, as pre-logical truth. 'Logical' is here to be taken in a quite rigorous sense, namely having to do with the λόγος ἀποφαντικός, in the form we have interpreted it. With respect to the latter, there is a manifestness that lies prior to it, prior to it in the distinct sense that this original manifestness grounds the possibility of the λόγος being true and being false, grounds it in preceding it".17 The second shift occurs instead when Heidegger says: "if the λόγος ἀποφαντικός leads back to something more originary in respect of its inner possibility, and if whatever is more originary is somehow connected with what we call world and world-formation, then judgments and statements are not primarily world-forming in themselves, even though they belong to world-formation. (...) A being open for those beings themselves which the judgment is in each case concerned with must therefore already be possible in man, as the one who makes assertions, prior to the accomplishment and for the accomplishment of every assertion".18 And this being open is placed in a happening that is not determined by man: "Not only must a pre-predicative manifestness in general constantly already occur and have occurred, however, if the assertion as pointing out is to be accomplished in whatever way, but this pre-predicative manifestness must itself be this occurrence in which a particular letting oneself be bound occurs (Sichbindenlassen)."19 This fundamental event that precedes the discovering attitude of being-there in relation to the entity's manifestness is what Heidegger calls the being-free or freedom. It, however, is no longer understood in the sense and with the eminently practical connotations that it had in the 1920s; freedom is no longer that not being able to not decide what is the ontological basis of the projecting of being-there, but rather that it is that being-free of the entity that is thrown in the happening of the world project and in dominating the world (Walten der Welt).20

14 See GA 29/30, 491. [The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, 338.]

15 Ibid, 492. [Ibid, 339.]

16 Ibid, 494. [Ibid, 339-340.]

17 Ibid. [Ibid, 340-341.]

18 Ibid, 494-496. [Ibid, 341-342.]

19 Ibid, 497.[Ibid, 342] Although not specifically related to this step, but more generally to the meaning of the movements advertised with the 'turn', consider the observations of S. Natoli, Ermeneutica e genealogia, Feltrinelli, Milano 1981, pp. 111-134, for which even in the 'second' Heidegger "being remains an essential figure and his key method in accessing being", as he grants that in Being and Time Heidegger focuses "more intensively on ways suggesting access to the fundamental ontological dimension that, on the other hand, being-there already belongs to" (ibid., p. 127). So he remarks: "the ever increasing emergence of this appearance gives Dasein its definitive key; being-there doesn't stop being the fundamental occurrence, but it is 'occurrence of being ' (...). The ontological development does not destroy the specific characters of Dasein, but makes it complementary and blurs them it with respect to the ontological essence that constitutes it "(ibid.).

19 Ibid, 507. [Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, 349.]


It is now obvious that here, in conjunction with the evolution of his speculative position, Heidegger changes his way of understanding the ontological foundation of the λόγος, and specifically pointing out in the co-originary-ness of the plexus of being-there and world, of openedness and being-open, it is no longer the active configuring of the open on the part of being-there, but rather its situating in a happening that embraces and understands it. This clearly foreshadows the outcome which Heidegger arrives at for example during summer semester 1935 in Introduction to Metaphysics, in which, attempting to illustrate the pre-metaphysical dimension of thought, Heidegger resumes his λόγος theory and reformulates it proposing to replace the metaphysical definition of man as ζῷον λόγον ἔχων with an understanding of Φύσις as λόγος ἄνθρωπον ἔχων.21

3. Being as presence and as truth (1930)

Parallel to this thematization of the unveiling of being-there within the horizon of the happening of being understood as manifestness, Heidegger develops the need for a fundamental clarification of the determination of truth as manifestness in relation to the metaphysical understanding of being as presence and as manifestativum sui. The dense point of the discussion of being as presence and as truth, and of the mutual inherence of these two determinations, is found in an interpretation of book IX of Metaphysics which Heidegger resumes (which he had already begun in winter semester 1925/26)22 and develops in the early 1930s, interpreting Met. IX, 10 in summer semester 1930 and Met. IX, 1-3 in summer semester 1931.

21 See GA 40, § 54 (trans. It. by G. Masi and preface by G. Vattimo, Introduzione alla metafisica, Mursia, Milano 1968, p. 181). [Introduction to Metaphysics.]

22 See GA 21, 170-182. [Logic: The Question of Truth, 143-154.]


As has been shown earlier, being in the sense of truth is that determination on whose analysis Heidegger was working intensively in the confrontation with Aristotle in the 1920s, and is the fundamental meaning of being that – by antagonizing the traditional privileging of substance – Heidegger considers the significant guide in understanding the unity of being. Now, when he takes up the problem of truth again during summer semester 1930, with his perspective amended by the 'turn', Heidegger aims primarily to stress that ἀληθεύειν is founded in the manifestive structure of αληθές ον, at the same time concerning himself with apprehending the structure of manifestness in relation to Aristotle's and the Greek understanding of being.

Substantially there are two basic outcomes of this further analysis of the phenomenon of truth. (1) first of all it confirmed and strengthened the conviction he had faced before at the end of winter semester 1925/26, namely the belief that Aristotelian and Greek thought move broadly within the horizon of the metaphysically unconscious decision that assumes, without thematizing it, an understanding of being as presence (beständige Anwesenheit). (2) Secondly, the clarification of the structure of being as manifestness and as constant presence leads Heidegger to speculate that in Aristotle the way par excellence in which being exhibits both these features is being in the sense of ἐνέργεια. But understanding being as ἐνέργειᾳ means to Heidegger to understand it in the context of movement (Bewegtheit), and the being that is in this horizon is in a way more genuine, it is the one that has in it the principle of movement, that is, being as φύσις.

Still evident, at the same time, are the essential traces of the logical connection that binds the perspective of the confrontation with Aristotle in the twenties and his subsequent interpretation culminating in the essay on φύσις. To this must be added also the discovery of the Presocratics, or rather the emergence of references to pre-Socratic thinking as the determinant references, the first of which are chronologically dated to the early 1930s, and precisely in the 1932 course on The Beginnings of Western Philosophy [GA 35], and then in Introduction to Metaphysics [GA 40];23 and then the discovery of Nietzsche as the fulfillment of metaphysics24 and the poetry of Hölderlin as the lyric of the new beginning.25 Thorough this deeper questioning of the philosophical tradition in light of the Presocratics, Nietzsche, and Hölderlin, and in the attempt to grasp a pre-metaphysical dimension of thought, Heidegger comes to the conclusion that the Aristotelian concept of φύσις is not an originary determination, but is already overshadowed by a metaphysical decision within whose horizon being is understood as presence.

23 In fact, a early reference to pre-Socratic thought (specifically to Heraclitus, Parmenides, Zeno, Protagoras) appears in summer semester 1926 Grundbegriffe der antiken Philosophie (in the Nachschrift I know of pp. 24-43). But the real big confrontation with the Presocratics is what starts from the course in winter semester 1942/43 on Parmenides (= GA 54) and in those of the summer of 1943 and 1944 on Heraclitus (now both in GA 55). Among the published texts of the later Heidegger important in his confrontation with the Presocratics see especially Vortrage und Aufsätze, Neske, Pfullingen 1954 (trans. It. by G. Vattimo, Saggi e discorsi, Mursia, Milano, 1976), and in particular the essays collected in the third part.

24 The courses on Nietzsche from the mid-1930s, as is well known, were published by Heidegger himself (Nietzsche, 2 vols., Neske, Pfullingen 1961).

25 Erläuterungen zu Hölderlins Dichtung in (now on GA 4, trans. It. by L. Amoroso, Adelphi, Milano, in preparation), Heidegger confronts Hölderlin during winter semester 1934/35 in Hölderlins Hymnen "Germanien" und "Der Rhein" (= GA 39), during winter semester 1941/42 in Hölderlins Hymne "Andenken" (= GA 52) and during summer semester 1942 in Hölderlins Hymne "Der Ister" (= GA 53).


Within these essential coordinates, which allow us to more fully assess the presence of Aristotle in the so-called 'second' Heidegger, it now remains for us to look more closely at how Heidegger interprets being in the sense of true in light of Met. IX, 10 and then being in the sense of ἐνέργεια in light of the Met. IX, 1-3.

The digression on Met. IX, 10, made in the first part of summer semester 1930,26 begins with an illustration of the Greek understanding of being as presence, which for Heidegger is the horizon within which all Greek thought moves. In a form that already appears substantially like that he would use in subsequent writings, Heidegger argues here that the Greeks implicitly understood being as constant presence, orienting themselves under the constant presence of what to them underlies and lingers (ὑπομενον) in the movement of the coming to presence (παρουσία, Anwesung) and subtracts itself in the presence (ἀπουσία, Abwesung) of the entity. This something that remains is what is considered by the Greeks as the entity itself and is designated as οὐσία. Heidegger says: "1) The interpretation of movement as a fundamental characteristic of beings is oriented to ἀπουσία and παρουσία, absence and presence. 2) The attempt to clarify the what-being of beings, e.g. beautiful things as such, is oriented to παρουσία. 3) The traditional conception of οὐσία as substance likewise involves the primordial meaning of οὐσία qua παρουσία".27 From this point on, Heidegger will argue that because the lingering is such in relation to a happening and a movement, specifically in relation to the movement of the overcoming (μεταβολή) from ἀπουσία to παρουσία, the happening of being has the characteristic of 'motility' (Bewegtheit), and the movement par excellence is what Aristotle conceives as passage and progression from δύναμις to ἐνέργεια.28

Now, it is in this context of the Greek understanding of being as presence that Heidegger again tackles the problem of the four fundamental meanings (in the sense of the categories, in the sense of true and false, in the sense of acting and potency and in the sense of accident), to see if and how they connect with this basic meaning of constant presence. In particular, he intends to test here if they connect with the meaning of being as truth (Met. IX, 10) and then the meaning of being as ἐνέργεια (Met. IX, 1-3).

26 See GA 31, §§ 6-9. [The Essence of Human Freedom]

27 Ibid, 66. [Ibid, p. 46]

28 This thematic and interpretative horizon was developed in the already cited interpretation of Bröcker, Aristoteles (1935). But this is also the horizon within which moves Marcuse's first interpretation of Hegelian thought (see H. Marcuse, Hegels Ontologie und die Grundlegung einer Theorie der Geschichtlichkeit, Klostermann, Frankfurt a. M., 1932, 1968, transl. It. E. Arnaud, preface by M. Dal Pra, L’ontologia di Hegel e la fondazione di una teoria della storicità, La Nuova Italia, Florence, 1969).


In the tenth chapter of book IX of Metaphysics, on being in the sense of truth, Aristotle says that being taken in this sense is τὸ κυριώτατα ὂν (1051 b 1), that is, being in the most proper sense, and that it refers to the things themselves (τοῦτο δ’ἐπὶ τῶν πραγμάτον, 1051 b 2). This poses problems of consistency, because in the early chapters of the same book Aristotle had said that the most proper being is that taken in the sense of ἐνέργεια; not only that, but in Met. VI, 4 he had also stated that being in the sense of truth is in thought, it is a certain affection of thought (τῆς διανοίας τι πάθος), and is therefore not related to things (ἀληθεύειν οὐκ ἐν τοῖς πράγμασιν). It is a difficulty that Aristotle's scholars quickly noticed and discussed, with mixed results, but at least arriving at the commonly accepted belief that the problem of this chapter does not connect properly with the rest of the book. Heidegger notes that here "the textual question of the correct positioning of this final chapter of Book Θ also raises the substantive problem of the meaning of being-true itself, or more precisely, the question of the relation between being qua being-true and being qua being-actual".29

Heidegger clashes here with the thesis supported by scholars of Aristotle, especially with those backed by Schwegler, by Jaeger and by Ross. Schwegler had observed that this chapter cannot belong to book IX, because its logical content (of being in the sense of true) isn't connected with the metaphysical content of the rest of the book.30 Jaeger, while sticking with Schwegler, believed that Aristotle had probably added the tenth chapter as an appendix to the book, despite the lack of a strictly systematic connection with it. As for the difficulty represented by the fact that in chapter ten being in the sense of truth is said τὸ κυριώτατα ὂν, while in the early chapters it was being as ἐνέργεια, Jaeger had resolved this by asserting that here κυριώτατα does not have the meaning of 'most authentic' or 'more proper', but of 'most common' and 'most usual'.31 Finally, precisely because of this difficulty, Ross had intervened on the text by proposing to elide κυριώτατα.32

29 GA 31, 81. [The Essence of Human Freedom, 57.]

30 See A. Schwegler, Die Metaphysik des Aristoteles, Grundtext, Übersetzung und Commentar nebst erläuternden Abhandlungen, 4 vols., Tübingen 1847-1848 (anastatic reprint, Minerva, Frankfurt a. M. 1960), vol. IV, p. 186).

31 See W. Jaeger, Studien zur Entwicklungsgeschichte der Metaphysik des Aristoteles, Weidmann, Berlin 1912, pp. 49-52.

32 See W. D. Ross, Aristotle’s Metaphysics. A Revised Text with Introduction and Commentary, 2 vols., O.U.P., London 1924, vol. II, p. 274.


For Heidegger all three of these solutions come from misunderstandings of the philosophical issue of the book, namely misunderstanding the connection of truth with ἐνέργεια. Against Ross he argues: "There is not the slightest justification for such a violent intervention in the text, which is completely in order at this point. It is just that the κυριώτατα is anomalous vis-a-vis the presupposed content of the chapter."33

Against Jaeger he observes: "If, like Jaeger, one adopts Schwegler's view that a chapter on logic could not substantively belong in the Metaphysics, then for the sake of consistency one should not attribute the addition of this chapter to Aristotle himself, especially considering the manner in which Aristotle's chapters and books are composed and constructed."34 With regard to the Jaegerian interpretation of κυριώτατα, Heidegger rejects it, noting: "Jaeger's opinion becomes all the more curious when, to justify the rejection of chapter 10's placement in Θ, he goes even further than Schwegler. Jaeger sees the main 'external' hindrance to accepting 10 in the fact that the ὂν ἀληθές not only supposedly relates to the principal theme, but that this ὂν is taken as κυριώτατα, i.e. that beings as being-true are understood as the most proper beings. 'To me this is very improbable, and it will strike everyone else likewise.' 'If anyone were to support the placement of Θ 10 on the ground that only here is the κυριώτατα ὂν attained, he would misunderstand the wording, and besides, he would be thinking in an un-Aristotelian way. Jaeger wants to say that whoever maintains that Aristotle in Θ 10 conceives being-true as the most proper being does not understand what κυριώτατα means, moreover has a concept of being quite foreign to Aristotle. I maintain, by contrast, that anyone who conceives Θ 10 as belonging to Θ, and sees it as the genuine culmination of Θ and of Aristotle's Metaphysics as such, thinks not just in properly Aristotelian terms, but simply in Greek terms." 35

Finally, against Schwegler and generally against the blindness to the philosophical problem in the chapter, Heidegger concludes: "But how could the real theme of the chapter be so crudely and stubbornly overlooked? The commentators and those who cite them have, to be sure, also read the chapter and interpreted it. Certainly, but there is reading and reading. The question is whether we read in the right way, i.e. whether we are adequately prepared for seeing what is in front of us, whether we measure up to the problematic or not, whether we understand the problems of being and truth and their interconnection in a sufficiently primordial manner, whether we are thus able to move within the horizon of the philosophy of Aristotle and Plato. Or whether we rush at the philosophical tradition with worn-out philosophical concepts and their pseudo-problems, expecting that with such miserable qualifications we can decide which additions the text requires, and what Aristotle must have thought. This is what happens in the case of Schwegler. The problem of truth is known to belong to logic. Being is in any case self-evident and does not need to be placed in question. So if Aristotle includes, in the main book of his Metaphysics, a chapter which treats of truth from the very first sentence, this cannot properly belong here. Irrespective of its crudity or refinement, overall or in detail, nothing changes the fundamental untenability of such a procedure."36

33 GA 31, 83. [The Essence of Human Freedom, 59.]

34 Ibid, 82. [Ibid, 58.]

35 Ibid. [Ibid.]

36 Ibid, 89. [Ibid, 63]


Therefore, against Schwegler, against Jaeger and against Ross (and instead adopting the theses of Thomas, Suarez and Bonitz),37 Heidegger not only supports the membership of Chapter 10 in book IX, but also affirms that it represents the pinnacle of the Aristotelian treatment of the problem of being: "The fact that Aristotle closes with Θ 10, interpreting being-true as proper being, indicates that Greek metaphysics' fundamental conception of being here comes to its first and ultimate radical expression."38 Indeed, for Heidegger, Aristotle is here dealing with truth taken in its ontological sense and as such relative to the things themselves (while the truth handled in Metaphysics VI, 4 is the being-true of propositions, i.e. of that connecting and separating that takes place in thought).

Heidegger also intends to show that the priority of being as true in the ontological sense which results from Met. IX, 10, and that is basically the priority of ἀληθές ὂν against the ἀληθεύειν of the connecting and separating of the soul, is closely linked to the Greek and Aristotelian understanding of being as constant presence. To the truth of predication, in fact, you cannot assign as the first-most because predication can discover but can also hide, and because if this characteristic the truth of being that it manifests it cannot guarantee a constant presence. This presence is greater than being itself, which as such cannot be true or false, but it is always true; and then it will ultimately be in that being that cannot be otherwise than it is and whose truth and presence are consistent in the highest degree. This is the case of the simple and indivisible. The character of truth, interpreted in connection with the idea of being as constant presence, ultimately belongs to – in decreasing order of importance – to the simple (ἁπλᾶ), to the disorderly (ασυνθετα) and to the indivisible (αδιαίρετα), and to a lesser extent – again in decreasing gradation – to the composites such as συνκειμενα and as συμβεβηκότα. Ἁπλᾶ, ασυνθετα, αδιαίρετα, συνκειμενα and συμβεβηκότα represent the gradations of being in relation to its function as constant presence and truth.

37 GA 21, 170 ff. [Logic.]

38 GA 31, 82. [The Essence of Human Freedom, 58.]


Heidegger observes, "When does truth exist and when does it not, i.e. when are beings such that they can be true? How must the being of beings be, such that beings can be true, i.e. deconcealed? When can beings be properly true as Such? Answer: when every possibility of the untruth of beings is in every respect excluded. When is that, and what does truth thereby mean? Answer: when truth belongs to being. How is that possible? Answer: when being-true constitutes what is most proper about being as such. But what is being? Answer: constant presence. Thus, when truth is nothing but the highest possible and most proper presence, then truth exists. This is a metaphysical question of the purest kind and has nothing to do with so-called epistemology."39

The same argument is repeated and reposed from a different angle: "First, that which properly exists is the ὂν ἐνέργειᾳ. ἐνέργεια is proper being in the sense of self-holding in constant presence. Secondly, truth is the deconcealment of beings, and only on the basis of and in relation to this deconcealment can truth apply, in a derivative sense, to that which determines and conceives beings: ἀληθεύειν, the φάναι or καταφαναι τὸ ἀληθές. Thirdly, it is precisely because the essence of truth is the deconcealment of beings that the various kinds of truth are determined by the various kinds of beings, i.e. in accordance with the being of these beings."40

Heidegger can then conclude that in the tenth chapter of book Θ of Metaphysics the connection and essential interdependence of being and truth is thought through, in such a way that truth in the sense of revealing is the most proper to being, which is thought in turn as presence. Returning finally to the textual question in the light of these considerations, he can sort it resolutely, noting: "We do say, however, that in Θ 10 discusses (...) the ever more comprehensive exclusion of the possibility of untruth from truth. In Θ 10 there is concentrated the most radical conception of the basic problems of Θ. In a word: Θ 10 is not a foreign appendix, but rather the keystone of book Θ, which itself is the center of the entire Metaphysics."41

39 GA 31, 92. [The Essence of Human Freedom, 65.]

40 Ibid, 93-94. [Ibid, 66.]

41 Ibid, 107. [Ibid, 75.]


4. The unity of being and being as ἐνέργεια (1931)

Capturing in this way the determination of being as truth in relation to the Greek understanding of being as presence, Heidegger then has to establish how it connects with the determination of ἐνέργεια (Met. IX, 1-3). The interpretation of these three chapters of book IX of Metaphysics occupies the entire course of the summer semester 1931. Beyond the details of this interpretation, it should be noted in general that this is an important course for at least two reasons. (1) First of all it is important because Heidegger delivers the interpretation of Met. IX, 1-3 in an overall reappraisal of Aristotelian ontology, and this reconsideration represents an essential reference when assessing the evolution of Heidegger's exegetical attitude. (2) But it is also important because through the interpretation of Met. IX, 1-3 Heidegger comes to understand that the determination of being as ἐνέργεια is not only closely connected with the determination of being as truth, but also contains a decisive trace for finding what is before and beyond metaphysics, a search that Heidegger undertakes in an ever more thorough manner.

The introductory part of the course (§§ 1-6) very clearly confirms the hypothesis presented in the investigation we're carrying out here, that the general horizon of Heidegger's confrontation with Aristotle is that of the problem of the four fundamental meanings of being, namely that horizon that had been looming since its seeds were planted by reading Brentano and Braig, and were tested with various surveys and studies during the 1920s. Here, at the beginning of the 1931 course, after having examined in the preceding semesters the meaning of being as truth, and approaching the examination of the ultimate fundamental meaning of being, Heidegger takes stock of the situation and in a concise but illuminating context presents the entire issue of being as πολλαχώς λεγόμενον. Beyond the restatement of the problem, what it is necessary to now underline is that here Heidegger's questioning is concentrated and converges towards its focal point; that is say in an unequivocal manner toward grasping the fundamental unity of being; toward which end it had been heading from the very start.


So, the issue of the four fundamental meanings is here rethought and reworked by Heidegger in clear reference to the problem of grasping the ultimate unity that rules that plurivocity. The scheme within which Heidegger synoptically summarizes the problem of being as πολλαχώς λεγόμενον indicates clearly the direction towards which, thinking with Aristotle against Aristotle, the Heideggerian investigation orients itself.42

τὸ ὂν τὸ εἶναι κατὰ τὰ σχήματα κατὰ δύναμιν ὡς αληθές κατὰ τῆς κατηγορίας ἢ ἐνέργειαν ἢ ψεῦδος συμβεβηκός οὐσία ποιόν ποσόν ποῦ ποτέ λόγος ? ? ? ?

Heidegger sees in the Aristotelian doctrine both the planting of the problem of the unity of the multiple meanings of being as well as an attempt to think it through to its solution, precisely in the theory of analogy and in the reflections on the convertibility of the entity and oneself. Still, the Aristotelian way of thinking the unity of being is in the Heidegger's eyes too weak. He notes: "It is certainly true, one might say, that Aristotle maintained the primordial affinity of being and oneness; certainly, one may further acknowledge, Aristotle also constantly refers at the same time to the πολλαχώς. But nothing is thereby accomplished toward resolving the decisive question: How then is ὂν (εἶναι) ᾗ πολλαχώς λεγόμενον, being as said in many ways, κοινον τί, somehow held in common for the many?"43

Instead Heidegger explicitly asks himself the question of the unity of being in the strong sense, as attested by the overlap of the questions that worry him: "Is this one being [Sein] something before all unfolding, that is, something that exists for itself, whose independence is the true essence of being? Or is being in its essence never not unfolded so that the manifold and its foldings constitute precisely the peculiar oneness of that which is intrinsically gathered up? Is being imparted to the individual modes in such a way that by this imparting it in fact parts itself out, although in this parting out it is not partitioned in such a way that, as divided, it falls apart and loses its authentic essence, its unity? Might the unity of being lie precisely in this imparting parting out? And if so, how would and could something like that happen? What holds sway in this happening? (These are questions concerning Being and Time!)"44

42 See GA 33, 17 [Aristotle's Metaphysics Theta 1-3 On the Essence and Actuality of Force, 14]. It is interesting to compare this scheme with that proposed by Brentano, Von der mannigfachen Bedeutung des Seienden nach Aristoteles, pp. 175-177. Brentano tries in his scheme to connect the categorical plurivocity of being with the common concept of being; for Heidegger it is not only about explaining the plurivocity according to the categories, but also according to other fundamental determinations; the question marks indicate at once both the difficulty of the solution of the problem and the direction in which his demand tend towards.

43 Ibid, 30-31. [Ibid, 25.]

44 Ibid, 31. In parentheses Heidegger then adds significantly: "those are questions after Being and Time." [Ibid]


Within the horizon of the metaphysical decision that looks away from the originality of being and stares exclusively at the entity, there is according to Heidegger the space to ask these questions. He notes that "Neither Aristotle nor those before or after him asked these questions, nor did they even seek a foundation for these questions as questions"; he adds that with a more profound concealment in subsequent philosophy and particularly in modern philosophy "only the various concepts of being and 'categories' would later be systematized in accordance with the mathematical idea of science".45 This latest development represents a regression in relation to Aristotle, because in the eyes of Heidegger Aristotle was at least tormented by the issue of the unity of the πολλαχώς λεγόμενον, so much so that "we find him attempting to respond to the question. And this attempt pressed against the very limit of what was at all possible on the basis of the ancient approach to the question of being."46

The solution Heidegger refers to here is that proposed in the form of the analogical unity of being, i.e. the unity that results from all categories referring to the first amongst them, namely to substance. It is the unity of being that belongs to it by reason of its homonym analog, which is halfway between the pure homonym and the synonym, between absolute equivocity and univocity. However, this solution is not satisfactory to Heidegger, it is – as has been said, too weak – because it explains the unity of being, at best, only in reference to the multiplicity of its categorical ways, but not in relation to the other extra-categorical senses, that is, being as truth (in the ontological sense) and being as ἐνέργεια. Heidegger says: "The analogy of being-this designation is not a solution to the being question, indeed not even an actual posing of the question, but the title for the most stringent aporia, the impasse in which ancient philosophy, and along with it all subsequent philosophy right up to today, is enmeshed."47

Now, in the course of our research we've noted that in confronting Aristotle Heidegger has from the beginning been looking for this unity and how he mulls alternately between the various fundamental meanings in relation to the possibility of grasping and obtaining from them the indication of that fundamental and originary unity to being itself. And what characterizes the evolution of Heidegger's attitude towards Aristotle – this is our thesis – is that he tries from time to time to consider how determinative each of the various meanings is, initially even that of substance, then that of truth and finally that of ἐνέργεια.

45 GA 33, 31. [Aristotle's Metaphysics Theta 1-3 On the Essence and Actuality of Force, 25.]

46 Ibid, 31. [Ibid, 25.]

47 Ibid, 46. [Ibid, 38.] On the medieval concept of analogy Heidegger notes: "the analogia entis–which nowadays has sunk again to the level of a catchword–played a role, not as a question of being but as a welcomed means of formulating a religious conviction in philosophical terms. The God of Christian belief, although the creator and preserver of the world, is altogether different and separate from it; but he is being [Seiende] in the highest sense, the summum ens; creatures--infinitely different from him--are nevertheless also being (seiend), ens finitum. How can ens infinitum and ens finitum both be named ens, both be thought in the same concept, "being"? Does the ens hold good only aequivoce or univoce, or even analogice? They rescued themselves from this dilemma with the help of analogy, which is not a solution but a formula. Meister Eckhart–the only one who sought a solution–says: "God 'is' not at all, because 'being' is a finite predicate and absolutely cannot be said of God." (This was admittedly only a beginning which disappeared in Eckhart's later development, although it remained alive in his thinking in another respect.) The problem of analogy had been handed down to the theology of the Middle Ages via Plotinus, who discussed it–already from that angle–in the sixth Ennead." (GA 33, 46-67).


As to the meaning of substance, the meaning traditionally considered as fundamental and also regarded as so by Brentano, it can be assumed that Heidegger convinces himself right away of its inadequacy to enact the fundamental meaning of being, given that, beyond giving an account of all of its senses, he restricts them to the metaphysical-scholastic horizon of presence and of θεωρία. Here, against the reduction of ontology to ousiology, Heidegger notes: "Already in the Middle Ages, on the basis of the above sentence from the beginning of Met. Θ 1, it was concluded that the first guiding fundamental meaning of being in general–for the four ways together as well. not only for the one and its multiplicity–was οὐσία, which is usually translated as 'substance.' As if being possible and actual and true also had to be led back to being in the sense of substance. They were even more inclined to conclude this in the nineteenth century (especially Brentano), since in the meantime, being, being possible, and being actual had come to be perceived as categories. Hence it is a generally accepted opinion that the Aristotelian doctrine of being is a 'substance doctrine.' This is an error, in part resulting from the inadequate interpretation of the πολλαχῶς; more precisely: it was overlooked that only a question is here first of all being prepared. (W. Jaeger's reconstruction of Aristotle is built upon the basis of this fundamental error.)"48

As for the meaning of being as truth, as we have seen in the 1920s, Heidegger thoroughly validated the ontological scope, returning to it several times on the problem and the discussion of it given by Aristotle. We have seen then how Heidegger distinguished truth, as the character of the happening of being itself, from the being-true that distinguishes the discovering attitude of being-there when it is co-originator in relation to the entity that manifests. We have seen as well how through this interpretation Heidegger develops his conviction that the Greek understanding of being was closely linked to the idea of constant presence (which would have prevented the explicit thematization of the whole temporal extent of being).

Here, finally, in 1931's lecture course, Heidegger achieves the breakthrough which – together with his thorough confrontation with the Presocratics, Nietzsche and Hölderlin, and along with reading of Ernst Jünger – profoundly affects the development of his philosophical perspective and his critical-assimilative disposition towards Aristotle: we mean the discovery, or better, the emergence in a decisive way of the meaning of being as ἐνέργεια, which not only provides Heidegger with a decisive means to understand the unity of being, but also refers to that un-thought of metaphysics, that precedes and conditions it as a remote possibility; it is the source meaning, the total and originary meaning of being as φύσις.49

48 GA 33, 45-46. [Aristotle's Metaphysics Theta 1-3 On the Essence and Actuality of Force, 37.]

49 An initial discussion of the Aristotelian concept of φύσις, that preludes the theses revealed in the celebrated 1939 essay (1958), is located at the beginning of the winter semester course 1929/30 in the context of a discussion of the meaning of the term meta-physics (GA 29/30 [The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics.], § 8 d). The importance of Aristotle in Heidegger's way of thinking has been highlighted in numerous studies from Thomas Sheehan, in particular in "On the Way to Ereignis: Heidegger’s Interpretation of Φύσις", in Continental Philosophy in America, ed. by H. J. Silverman, J. Sallis, Th. M. Seebohm, Duquesne University Press, Pittsburg 1983, pp. 131-164.


So, if through the interpretation of the four fundamental meanings Heidegger becomes convinced that they presuppose an idea of being as presence, and if then he examines the connection between this idea with those four fundamental meanings, here, in the examination of being as ἐνέργεια (where the manifestness of being reaches its highest expression), he is sent back to what is before ἐνέργεια, before truth and all other meanings, he is sent back their common source. This source is being in its original happening, whose foundation is the structure of appearance (Ἀλήθεια) and having in itself the principle of movement (Φύσις).

In short, in retracing the spectrum of the four fundamental meanings, Heidegger finds in the Aristotelian determinations of truth and of ἐνέργεια a fundamental and illuminating indication: it not only allows him to think of the unity of being as presence within the horizon of an already made metaphysical decision, but also refers to that still unprejudiced and indecisive understanding of being that Heidegger believes he can grasp from the Presocratic experience of Φύσις.50

Next to this point, with the deepening of Heidegger's commitment in the overcoming and abandonment of metaphysics, the centrality of the confrontation with Aristotle (as well as the other major founding moments of Western thought) fades progressively and in its place a major investigation of the Presocratics takes over, particularly of Anaximander, Parmenides and Heraclitus. The 1939 essay about the essence and the concept of φύσις in Aristotle, Heidegger's last confrontation with the Aristotelian text, clearly stands in the context of his reading of the Presocratics.

50 This at least until the retraction Heidegger made, Zur Sache des Denkens, pp. 77-78 (trans. It., pp. 177-178). [On Time and Being, p. 52 ???]


5. Being as 'Φύσις' and its capture in 'Τέχνη'

To fully understand the changed perspective in which we place the essay on Aristotle's concept of φύσις, we must consider an additional element, namely the emergence in Heidegger's thought on the problem of technology. In fact, Φύσις occurs to Heidegger as the original meaning of being in conjunction with the gelling in him of the belief that metaphysics, which conceals its origins, is essentially connected with the phenomenon of technology, and indeed that it comes to its realization, namely its complete explanation and its fulfillment, only where the technical disposition that it describes reaches its fullest and perfect actualization, and that is the essence of modern technology.

In Being and Time Heidegger is certainly not yet the critic of technology he would become later. Lexicographic analysis of the text proves it, because, as the computer tells us, the word 'technology' appears in Being and Time only twice.51 But there is a structural reason why in Being and Time Heidegger cannot criticize technology in the way that he will later. In this work, in fact, only that fundamental attitude towards things which corresponds substantially to the technical arrangement is described in an essentially positive way, namely the attitude of taking care that is first and foremost a dealing with things as a way of using them in operational contexts (Zuhandenheit), and only secondarily simply observing them in their presence (Vorhandenheit). But the use of things in operational contexts is exactly that attitude that modern technology has raised to a power and made absolute in order to master entities; it is precisely that attitude that the later Heidegger questions radically.

As far back as the analysis of the phenomenon of truth done by Heidegger in the 1920s, we showed how Heidegger interprets τέχνη as one of the ways in which being-there is discovering, i.e., it accesses the entity and is in relationship with it; and how such access and relating is characterized precisely by Heidegger, who appropriates from the determinations given by Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics Book VI, as an ἀληθεύειν, that is, with an essentially positive power.

How is it then that Heidegger arrives at that critical attitude towards technology, in whose essence he sees a complement to metaphysics as the fulfillment of the destiny of the present age haunted by the travails of nihilism?

51 See R.A. Bast — H.P. Delfosse, Handbuch zum Textstudium von Martin Heideggers “Sein und Zeit”.1, Frommann-Holzboog, Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt 1980, p. 262.


It is precisely in the texts from the thirties where one can almost touch the solidifying consistency of the Heideggerian belief that the metaphysical decision, by which the original φύσις is captured and subdued by presence, is mediated by τέχνη.52 In general, we can say that the emergence in Heidegger of understanding technology as a decision characterizing the opening of meaning which conveys metaphysics, connects closely with the belief that the fundamental meaning of being assumed from the Greeks is that of constant presence. This understanding of being thus implies for Heidegger the privileging of a certain intentional attitude, namely the attitude that more than any other open the entity in its being and maintains it in presence, namely τέχνη.

We must, however, point out that, at least at first, and certainly in relation to the origins of Greek thought, the Heideggerian vision of the phenomenon of τέχνη has a connotation that is neither criticism nor negative. τέχνη is instead seen rather as the way to excellence through which the Greeks discover φύσις. In one of the first courses in which the Heideggerian meditation on the phenomenon of technology begins to emerge, that is summer semester 1930, Heidegger asserts that for the Greeks "τέχνη neither means technique as a practical activity nor is limited to craft knowledge, but it signifies all producing in the broadest sense, together with the guiding knowledge. It expresses the struggle around the presence of beings."53

During winter semester 1937/38, in yet another return to the problem of the truth of the λόγος – a return that assumes a documentary significance because it is conducted within the horizon of the speculative deepening that Heidegger turns to in his greatest work after the 'turn', namely in Beiträge zur Philosophie (1936-1938) –, this time Heidegger decisively thematizes the Greek understanding of being as presence in relation to the 'technical' opening of its meaning, while also providing the details on the relationship between φύσις and τέχνη that he had promised during 1935's Introduction to Metaphysics.54

Here Heidegger asserts that τέχνη was originally the attitude par excellence of the Greeks in confronting φύσις, it is the disposition by virtue of which, setting it up and understanding it as different from φύσις, Greek man unveils φύσις in its being and keeps it unveiled as such in its character of φύσις. He points out: "Accord with what is original is therefore precisely not an assimilation in the sense that man would simply be φύσις. On the contrary, he is to be distinguished from it, but in a way that accords with it, i.e., in a way that adheres to its measure (adheres to φύσις), comports itself accordingly, and orders this comportment. Even if man himself is precisely not beings as a whole, nevertheless he is the one who is displaced into the midst of beings as the preserver of their unconcealedness. So this perceiving and preserving cannot be determined as φύσις but must be other: in accord with φύσις, releasing it, and yet grasping it."55 And this attitude, that is other with respect to φύσις, but as the other itself can keep φύσις in its originary opening and in its revealing as φύσις, is τέχνη.

52 For the maturing of this belief in Heidegger the influence of an important book by E. Jünger, Der Arbeiter (1932), which – together with the other writing of Jünger Die total Mobilmachung (1930) – was immediately read and carefully studied by Heidegger, for the interpretation of technology and nihilism that it offered. See the signs of the same in Heidegger in Das Rektorat 1933/34. Tatsachen und Gedanken ["The Rectorate 1933/34: Facts and Thoughts", Martin Heidegger and National Socialism: Questions and Answers] (Most of Heidegger's account showed up in the autumn of 1945 along with the request for reinstatement in teaching), now published by H. Heidegger in an appendix to a new edition of M. Heidegger, Die Selbstbehauptung der deutschen Universität, Klostermann, Frankfurt a. M. 1983, pp. 21-43, especially pp. 24-25. The two writings by Jünger mentioned are now included in vols. 7 and 8 of E. Jünger, Sämtliche Schriften, Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1978 and ff.; on the debate between Jünger and Heidegger see E. Jünger, Über die Linie, Anteile. Martin Heidegger zum 60. Geburtstag, Klostermann, Frankfurt a. M. 1950, pp. 245-283, and the response of Heidegger Über Die Linie, Freundschaftliche Begegnungen. Ernst Jünger zum 60. Geburtstag, Klostermann, Frankfurt a. M. 1955, pp. 9-45 (now titled Zur Seinsfrage in GA 9, 385-426).

53 GA 31, 72 [The Essence of Human Freedom, 50]

54 GA 40, 19 (trans. It., p. 28) [Introduction to Metaphysics, 18-19]

55 GA 45, 178.[Basic Questions of Philosophy, 154.] These relations and challenges of φύσις and τέχνη correspond to, structured similarly, the pairing of earth and art work that Heidegger treats in "The Origin of the Work of Art", now in GA 5, 1-74 (trans. It. by P. Chiodi, La Nuova Italia, Firenze 1968, pp. 3-69). The importance of the philosophical thematization of the concept of 'earth' by Heidegger (concept that simply cannot be identified with that of φύσις) was highlighted by W. Welsch, "La ‘terra’ nella determinazione heideggeriana dell’opera d’arte", Rivista di estetica, 1981, nr. 7, pp. 24-65.


Heidegger can then repeat that for the Greeks "Τέχνη does not mean "technology" in the sense of the mechanical ordering of beings, nor does it mean art in the sense of mere skill and proficiency in procedures and operations. Τέχνη means knowledge: know-how in processes against beings ("and in the encounter with beings), i.e., against φύσις. (...) For that is what Τέχνη means: to grasp beings as emerging out of themselves in the way they show themselves, in their outward look, εἶδος, ἰδέα, and, in accord with this, to care for beings themselves and to let them grow, i.e., to order oneself within beings as a whole through productions and institutions."56 Heidegger points out though: "Τέχνη is a mode of proceeding against φύσις, though not yet in order to overpower it or exploit it, and above all not in order to turn use and calculation into principles, but, on the contrary, To retain the holding sway of φύσις in unconcealedness. Therefore, because the pure acknowledgment of beings as such, the perception of φύσις in its ἀλήθεια, is the disposing need in the basic disposition of wonder, Τέχνη and its carrying out become necessary as what is wholly other than φύσις—wholly other yet belonging to φύσις in the most essential way."57

For this modern technology must be distinguished from the Greek τέχνη, although in the latter it has its essential foundation. Heidegger says about the Greek word τέχνη "we must divorce this Greek word from our familiar term derived from it, "technology," and from all nexuses of meaning that are thought in the name of technology."58 He adds, however: "that modern and contemporary technology could emerge, and had to emerge, has its ground in the beginning and has its foundation in an unavoidable incapacity to hold fast to the beginning. That means that contemporary technology—as a form of "total mobilization" (Ernst Jünger)—can only be understood on the basis of the beginning of the basic Western position toward beings as such and as a whole, assuming that we are striving for a "metaphysical" understanding and are not satisfied with integrating technology into the goals of politics."59

56 GA 45, 179.[Basic Questions of Philosophy 154-155.] Hand in hand with the opening of 'technology' in the sense of φύσις comes the restriction of the original meaning of the latter. Already in the 1929/30 course Heidegger had observed how this restriction can be found in the Aristotelian handling of φύσις; in particular, he stressed the double meaning that it assumes in Aristotle, namely the significance of beings in themselves and at the same time as ways of being, that is the 'nature' of it (see GA 29/30, §8 d [The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics.]). He points out: "the expression φύσις develops into these two fundamental meanings: φύσις as φύσει ὄντα, beings as they are accessible in physics, in the investigation of nature in the narrower sense, and φύσις in its second meaning as nature, just as we use this expression today whenever we speak of the nature of the matter, of the essence of the matter. φύσις in the sense of that which constitutes the being and essence of a being is οὐσία. The separation of these two meanings of φύσις: beings themselves and the being of beings, and the history of these meanings and their development culminate in Aristotle, who precisely grasps questioning concerning the φύσει ὄντα as a whole (φύσις in the first sense) and the question concerning οὐσία, the being of beings (φύσις in the second sense), in one, and designates this questioning as πρώτη φιλοσοφία, prima philosophia, First Philosophy, philosophy in the proper sense." (GA 29/30, 51-52). [The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, 34.]

57 Ibid, 179.[Ibid, 155.] On this subject see H. Boeder, Topologia der Metaphysik, Alber, Freiburg-München 1980, pp. 53-165, U. Galimberti, Linguaggio e civiltà, Mursia, Milan 1977, pp. 67-91.

58 Ibid, 178-179. [Ibid, 154.]

59 Ibid, 179.[Ibid, 154.] On the problem of technology in Heidegger see especially J. Loscerbo, Being and Technology. A Study in the Philosophy of Martin Heidegger (Phaenomenologica, 82), Nijhoff, The Hague-Boston-London 1981. Among the most important Italian contributions see P. De Vitiis, Heidegger e la fine della filosofia, La Nuova Italia, Florence 1974, pages 129-142; F. Bosio, La filosofia, Dio, l’uomo e il mondo nell’età della tecnica secondo il pensiero di Martin Heidegger, Levante, Bari 1977, pp. 99-134 (from the same author see also Heidegger e il tramonto dell’Occidente, "Il Pensiero", n.s. 23, 1982, pp. 7-36); Vitiello, Heidegger: il nulla e la fondazione della storicità, pages 19-63; Ruggenini, Il soggetto e la tecnica, especially pp. 305-324; E. Maguire, Tecnica e metafisica. Saggio su Heidegger, Guida, Naples 1981, especially pp. 229-301; M. Cacciari, Salvezza che cade. Saggio sulla questione della Tecnica di Martin Heidegger, "Il Centauro", 1982, nr. 6, pp. 70-101.


The 'metaphysical' understanding of the phenomenon of technology that Heidegger alludes to here, is obviously the one he develops within the horizon of his earlier discovery of the Presocratics, in the vigorous confrontation with Nietzsche and in his affinity for Hölderlin's crepuscular theophany; it is the understanding in which, as we know, technology is interpreted as the essential fulfillment of the originary motivations of Greek metaphysics. Heidegger here confirms his belief that in classical Greek philosophy, Plato and Aristotle, the original experience of being as Φύσις and as Ἀλήθεια was concealed by a fundamental and progressive ambiguity, which is the ambiguity of τέχνη as the attitude that liberates and uncovers φύσις, but at the same time chases and captures it. τέχνη, in whose understanding this second sense is progressively affirmed, thus represents the terrain suitable for that essential change that marks the beginning of metaphysics. The original experience of being as Φύσις and as Ἀλήθεια becomes restricted, especially beginning with Plato, to determinations of ἰδέα and ὀρθότης, that is, it is carried out only within the circumscribed metaphysical horizon of the problem of the adequacy this understanding, and it is no longer in the fullness of its manifestness, which, particularly in Aristotle, still shines through.

Let us now see how, immediately following the writing of the essay on the Aristotelian concept of φύσις, there appears the horizon of understanding within which the essay was designed and in relation to which the hermeticism that conceals that sense can be dissolved.

The interpretation of the Aristotelian concept of φύσις, that Heidegger conducts in close textual reference to the first chapter of the second book of Physics, is presented as the 'translation' of the text into a language that brings to light the vibrancy of the philosophical problems that bring the text alive and that millennia of conceptual encrustations have concealed. This is actually an attempt to shake the obviousness that numb the understanding of Aristotelian determinations, to bring out the crucial importance of Physics for the development of all subsequent Western metaphysics.

At least briefly, we should recall the principal thematic points on which Heidegger focuses his attention and which at the same time, punctuate the rhythms of his interpretation of Phys. B, 1. They are:


1) first of all, the distinction between entities as natural (τὰ φύσει ὄντα) and as artifacts (τὰ ποιούμενα), which is mainly based on the observation that the first have in them the principle of movement and stillness (φύσις), while the latter have not in themselves, but rather in another, the principle of their production (τέχνη) (192 b 8-32);

2) the feature of natural entities of being a substance (οὐσία), since they are substrate (ὑποκείμενον) and nature is always in a substrate (192 b 33-34);

3) the indemonstrability of natural entities in the sense of their being immediately accessible to experience much as colors are to the eye (193 a 3-8);

4) the characteristic nature of being raw material, which acts as a substrate to each entity that has in it the principle of the movement (ἡ πρώτη ἑκάστῳ ὑποκειμένη ὕλη) and shape (ἡ μορφὴ καὶ τὸ εἶδος τὸ κατὰ τὸν λόγον) (193 a 28-31); Heidegger sees the novelty of these determinations in the fact that they are decisions of the way of being of φύσις, not simple determinations of the entity as those of ρυθμός and of το πρώτον ενυπάρχον εκάστω αρρυθμιστον that are used in the understanding of nature of his predecessors (193 a 9-28);

5) the fundamental difference of nature and technology with regard to generation (that man is born from man, while bed is not born from bed, 193 b 8-9);

6) the fact that regarding generation Aristotle considers nature as a path to the same nature (ὁδός εἰς φύσιν) (193 b 12-13);

7) the fact that form and nature are told in a twofold way, since even deprivation (στέρεσις) is in a sense form (193 b 18-21).

Without going into the details of the Heideggerian interpretation here, it will suffice to set the basic outcomes which it entails.

(1) Heidegger think above all of the peculiarity of the Aristotelian determination of nature, which consists in its being for natural entities both the principle of the movement (ἀρχή κινήσεως τοῦ κινουμένου καθ᾽ αὑτό) and figure and form (μορφὴ καὶ εἶδος) at the same time, and precisely as γένεσις and as κίνησις. From the unity of these two determinations results the essential connotation of nature according to Aristotle, which Heidegger interprets as a connotation of being, that is, as determination of the being of natural entities, and not as being a character of the entity; it is also very different from the way of being of the products of τέχνη, a difference that decisively affects the development of Heidegger's critical attitude towards modern technology.


(2) In developing his own interpretation Heidegger dwells with particular insistence on some key terms of the Aristotelian treatment, whose meaning would be concealed and distorted by Latin translations. Therefore, he for example strives to remove the idea that ἐπαγωγή means induction, that αιτιον means cause, that ἀρχή can be translated as principle, that οὐσία is equivalent to substance, ἐνέργεια to act, δύναμις to power, ὕλη to matter, and so on in the case of other fundamental concepts.

(3) Amongst the latter, a special importance in determining the Aristotelian conception of φύσις rests with the concept of στέρεσις, usually translated as 'deprivation'. For Heidegger the concept of στέρεσις is to be understood in close reference to the Aristotelian belief that nature is the process of coming to presence (Anwesung) and the subtracting from presence (Abwesung) of the entity (according to the fragment of Heraclitus, for whom "nature loves to hide", fr. 93).

(4) Finally, the fact that Aristotle considers φύσις as a γένος τοῦ ὄντος, reveals in Heidegger's eyes that in him it is no longer experienced as with the originary meaning of the being in its entirety, as it was in pre-Socratic thought, but in a way – with respect to the latter – derived, that is already obscured by the emergence of technology. And yet the greatness of Aristotle (even compared to Plato) lies in the fact that in him that way is not completely concealed, but is retained and reverberates, for example, where he says that the οὐσία is a φύσις τις (Met. IV, 3).

In light of these considerations, it can be seen that the importance of this essay in the development of Heidegger's thought rests on the fact that in Aristotelian reflection on φύσις Heidegger finds the understanding and determination of a being that has within itself the principle of movement and of life, and as such is different than the way of being of the products of technology; but in Aristotelian reflection there emerges and is also thought for the first time the essential connection of φύσις and τέχνη, and in such a way that, on the one hand, it keeps in itself the trace of the original pre-metaphysical opening and, on the other hand, instead marks a decisive start for the West.


When you consider that the contemporary period as a whole is understood by Heidegger as the era of the implementation of technology, which is the total forgetfulness of Φύσις, i.e. of that being that is not produced and made by man nor is on man dependent, we understand now the importance of the interpretation of the Aristotelian concept of φύσις not only in light of the confrontation with Aristotle, but in the general putting in question of metaphysics and the desire to overcome the line of its happening, to examine its before and after, and then connecting Φύσις and Τέχνη as beginning and carrying-out of an essential event that has its foundation in the structure of being itself.

Regarding the importance that Aristotle has on the framework within which Heidegger radicalizes his critique of metaphysics, it should be noted that in reality the importance for Heidegger is that in Aristotle the original pre-Socratic sense of φύσις still echoes and that, therefore, through his thought we can trace back to that sense. The fact is that in Aristotle there appears the consideration of τέχνη, and the decisive conceptual determinations for all of Western thought are also captured, signaling the greatness of Aristotle within the horizon of metaphysics; so that greatness is basically preceded, especially in view of the later Heidegger, by a negative sign.

The general horizon of Heideggerian speculation is no longer characterized here by the desire to appropriate radically the foundational intentions of the great philosophical tradition (Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Husserl), but it is the abandonment of these foundations and the turn to the experience of a new thinking that matures through the reading of the Presocratics (as virgin and auroral thought), Nietzsche (as an experience of the completion of metaphysics), and Hölderlin (as a 'hermetic' thinker carrying the message of a new beginning). The gradual wane of the presence of Aristotle in the writings of the later Heidegger, despite numerous scattered references60, confirms this shift of perspective and purpose.

In a certain sense we can however note that even here the thematic horizon of ontology, i.e. the horizon that Heidegger gains through confrontation with Aristotle, remains crucial. This is because the search for what is before and beyond the metaphysical decision is also conducted, basically, from the beginning, and essentially without end, from the thematic horizon of the problem of being; it is precisely within this horizon that Heidegger implements his understanding, his anamnesis and his critique of the metaphysical disease and therefore even his pursuit of the un-thought in Western philosophy. But also the horizon of the problem of being is a given; it is precisely that horizon that identifies the original motivation of philosophy with the ontological problem and that it comes about for the first time with Aristotle.61

60 Among the main references to Aristotle of the 'later' Heidegger to remember: GA 5 (= Holzwege),80-81, 322-325, 351 (trans. It., pp. 77, 300-302, 327); Vorträge und Aufsätze, pp. 9-13, 41 ff, 68 (tran. It., pp. 8-10, 31 ff, 49); Was heißt Denken?, Niemeyer, Tübingen 1954, pp. 40-41, 47, 128, 134-135 (tran. It. by U. Ugazio and G. Vattimo, preface by G. Vattimo, Che cosa significa pensare?, Sugarco, Milano 1978-1979, pp. 92-94, 101, 83-84, 92-93); Was ist das — die Philosophie?, Neske, Pfullingen 1956 (trans. It. by C. Angelino, Che cos’è la filosofia?, Il Melangolo, Genova 1981); Der Satz vom Grund, Neske, Pfullingen 1957, pp. 29- 30, 110-114, 120-121, 135-136; Nietzsche, vol. I, pp. 66-69, 76-78, 160, 595, 597, 599-604; vol. II, pp. 73-77, 111-112, 131-132, 167, 237-238, 403-411, 416, 430; GA 9, 437-438 (trans. It. by F. Volpi, Hegel e i Greci, Verifiche, Trento 1977, pp. 103-104).

61 See K. Held, Heideggers These vom Ende der Metaphysik, «Zeitschrift für philosophische Forschung», 34, 1980, pp. 535-560.


We can say that Heidegger remains within the Aristotelian horizon of the ontological question not only where he reconnects the foundations of modern times with Greek thought, interpreting modern technology as the most radical response to the Greeks on the question of being. He remains substantially bound to this horizon even where his critique of Western philosophy becomes more determined because such criticism is essentially founded only on a difference in intensity when inquiring, just on the different radicalness that the thematization of the relationship of being and time or the introduction of ontological difference imply, but not by the abandonment of the thematic horizon of metaphysical questions, nor by leaving behind ontological issues, which from Aristotle on becomes the original motivation and the central theme of philosophy.


V. Final comments

Regarding now the matter with which we had introduced the topic of our research, it seem appropriate to bring up some considerations that again take up the thread along which the survey traveled and illuminate a vision of its overall meaning.

The presence of Aristotle in Heidegger's thought has emerged in initially unsuspected proportions and we featured the main stages of its emergence and its influence on the formation of Heidegger's philosophical perspective. The problem of being and of its unity in the juvenile stage, the successive verifications of its four fundamental meanings, and the assimilative appropriation of ontology and the Aristotelian practical philosophy in the 1920s, finally the careful auscultation of determinations as ἀλήθεια, ἐνέργεια and φύσις in the search for the un-thought in metaphysics after the 'turn': these are the fundamental stages of the analysis which has allowed us to make plausible our hypothesis and shows Heidegger challenging Aristotle in the act.

In addition to the massive and widespread character of Aristotle's presence in Heidegger, and beyond the fundamentality of the themes that characterize it, what we intended to bring to light, which in conclusion should be stressed once again, is the particular horizon in which this presence manifests itself, i.e. the tension and speculative disposition that characterize Heidegger's confrontation with the Aristotelian texts, so that – as we said in the opening – Heidegger's thought represents a dense stitching of Aristotle's presence in our century. It does not give us a simple interpretation of Aristotle, but enacts a radical attempt at renewal with an invigorating understanding of the fundamental problems which for the first time are grasped in Aristotle's text and shown to Western thought.


The most interesting motives for the confrontation appear when we consider them from this perspective. First, if we don't stop at the first contact with the hermeticism of the exegesis of Phys. B 1, but if we keep in mind the entire development of Heidegger's interpretation of Aristotle reconstructed here, it is easier to understand and accept the fact that what Heidegger seeks is not so much the historical truth about Aristotle, but the speculative emphasis presented in the Aristotelian text. And it's easier, therefore, to set aside for a moment the historical-philological compulsion rooted in us, it would be a shame if they ill-disposed us against the speculative passages which cannot but appear as forced and violent if we measure them with parameters and a finality that is not theirs, that is with historical truth and its ascertainments. And then we can open ourselves up, more willing to consider the confrontation by focusing on the philosophical issues that it raises and which need to be addressed.

Secondly, detecting the presence of Aristotle, especially in those central nodes of the reflections carried out by Heidegger in Being and Time, where so far it had been unsuspected, documents how when setting up and developing his philosophical project Heidegger knew how to readopt and rethink in new forms the problems and fundamental determinations of ontology and of Aristotelian practical philosophy, giving them new relevance and renewal. This allows us to highlight another important dimension of Heidegger's work, capturing in it not so much the highest expression of existentialism and not just the radical will to overcome metaphysics, but also and above all the most vigorous contemporary attempt to rethink the fundamental problems of philosophy that were asked for the first time in Greece.

Finally, in connection with this engagement with Greek thought, Heidegger's confrontation with Aristotle provides several points to consider in the analysis of the crisis of the meaning of modernity, even as it offers an understanding of our times that, problematic as they may appear, the sometimes prophetic tones of his discourse still indicate a way to call into question the '-isms ' of modernity and to grasp them more deeply in their connections with the fundamental thinking of the West, namely with Greek thought. In that sense you could say that, in reviving the broken link with Greece, Heidegger represents in our century what Hegel had represented to the nineteenth century.


However, in this research engaging with Greek thought, research that the confrontation with Aristotle exemplifies and demonstrates in the best way possible, there emerges a problematic aspect that cannot be concealed, and which differentiates Heidegger's approach to Greeks from Hegel's, instead bringing him closer to the Nietzschean criticism of Greek metaphysics. I mean that in Heidegger's confrontation with Aristotle and with Greek thought one can in general note a fundamental ambivalence that manifests itself in the methodological oxymorons to which Heidegger is inclined – destruction as radical appropriation, crossing over as overcoming and passing beyond, 'Überwindung' as 'Verwindung' – and that call for there to be clarification. On the one hand, in fact, Heidegger points out that the Greeks, and especially Aristotle, represent the radical dimension of the West, so that an understanding of the present age that does not take account of these roots is unfounded and contradictory. Although, on the other hand, he implements this return to the Greeks in the form of a radical questioning of Western thought in which the same Greek philosophy is intertwined.

So, we have seen that the radical appropriation of Aristotelian ontology and practical philosophy enables Heidegger to solve the problems that strand modern philosophies of the subject, in particular Husserlian phenomenology, but later he finally comes to discover, and has to put in question the assumptions on which rests, the same Aristotelian understanding of being (which, indeed, is precisely why it is critical to the West). The ontological depth that Heidegger enacts, first as 'destruction' and later as 'step back' and overcoming, is not a turning back and it fulfills itself with a near complete consumption of the traditional space of philosophy and with an approach to thinking that no longer wants to be philosophy, but the radical putting into question of philosophy, and that takes shape in the manner of a 'commemorative thinking' or a 'poetic thinking'.

Therefore, while Hegel in the previous century still thought of power resuming and bringing to fruition from the absolute point of view the original motivation of philosophy, which occurs for the first time in the Greek ideal of λόγος and ἐπιστήμη, Heidegger represents in our century the radical dismissal of all those forms of thinking which are based on the traditional ways of the λόγος and of the ratio. And in this sense he gathers and makes his own the legacy of Nietzsche's finitude and nihilism.


This imposes, before concluding, some critical comments. The abandonment of metaphysics and the renunciation of the onto-theological forms of thought that emerge in the later Heidegger, based primarily on a diagnosis and a criticism of the present age, in which the essence of modern technology is interpreted as the fullest and most complete implementation of the originary motivation from which were born Greek philosophy and ἐπιστήμη. Heidegger's argument is known: technology represents the comprehensive epochal horizon that denotes our modernity. Its basis resides in the fundamental metaphysical decision that occurred with the Greeks, with the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, and which consisted in looking away from the original opening of being and turning to the entity, interpreted as what is present and what is retained as presence by τέχνη. With this incipient oblivion of being in favor of the entity in the sense of the present entity the foundations were laid, on which subsequent Western history could develop as a history of the conquest, and cognitive and operational domination of, the entity by man, who in turn increasingly asserts itself as subject of the entity it bends and subdues as object. And this project of domination would arrive at its realization in modern technology. The essence of modern technology would thus be the complete forgetfulness of being (as Ἀλήθεια and as Φύσις), and precisely in the double sense of the forgetfulness of being and the forgetting this forgetting.

Without going into the details of Heidegger's interpretation of modern technology, allow us to fix that aspect of it that seems more relevant in relation to our investigation. It consists in the fact that Heidegger thinks he can seize an essential connection between the essence of the modern technology and the Greek ideal of philosophy and of ἐπιστήμη, namely in the sense that modern technology would be the establishment and fulfillment of the original motivations of philosophic and epistemic understanding. Metaphysics and all its forms, from Greek ἐπιστήμη until the Nietzschean will to power, is interpreted as a figure in a single story, seeing all entities in the character of their presence and in the final instance is driven by the will to dominate through knowing and doing. The essence of modern technology, in which this attitude in dealing with entities becomes total and absolute, thus representing the ultimate form of metaphysics, the form in which the latter would be at its peak, at its completion and at its end. Furthermore, in the later Heidegger this destiny in the metaphysical oblivion of being and subjectivity is not seen as man's machination, as a conscious and voluntary decision, but belongs to the happening of being itself, and is thus interpreted as an event that you subtract from the dispositions of man.


A consequence of this diagnosis is the re-establishment of the disease of metaphysics and technology, which in the present age has become acute, and can no longer be achieved on the basis of traditional forces. The use of traditional Archimedian points such as the λόγος or ratio is negated by the Heideggerian conviction that they represent the prehistory of technology and that, as such, they may not be able to unburden nor emancipate us from it. Indeed, such an action would implicate us even more inextricable in the vicious cycle of metaphysics and technology.

Renunciation, self-sacrifice, abandonment would then be alternative commandments. They would be the only ways to reawaken conscience from the oblivion of being. And Heidegger waits for the preparations for such an awakening with a meditation on the history of metaphysics as history of the forgetfulness of being and a search for what is other with respect to this story, for something else, like repressed possibility, accompanies it in its deepest unconscious. Stressing his not having universal panaceas to offer, Heidegger appeals rather, in the steel shell that oppresses the disenchanted world of nihilism and technology, to that heroic attitude of thought that should allow us to stay upright in the whirlwind of nihilism; that should open the road to a new beginning; which would placate, in the rediscovered origin, the destiny of Τέχνη.

Now, this diagnosis of the modern disease, that connects technology with metaphysics and Greek thought, threatens to tarnish the positive sense of the confrontation with Aristotle and the Greeks that our survey aimed to highlight, supporting the need for the overcoming and abandonment of metaphysics. Nor is the pretext of the sometimes apocalyptic and messianic tones that characterize this diagnosis, enough to justify the refusal to consider it seriously. Above all because Heidegger captures with great clarity this essential aspect of the modern age, which by some parties is perceived as problematic.


Allow me then to advance a critical hypothesis, which would permit retrieving the substantive sense of that connection with the Greeks that Heidegger himself has taught us to look for. In short, this hypothesis could be formulated thus: as relevant and focused as the Heideggerian diagnosis of the pathologies of the modern world might appear, its diagnosis of the disease appears equally problematic. Precisely because he reconnects the pathological condition of modernity to the original motivation of philosophy and he interprets it in the framework the very happening of the subtraction of being by human disposition, because of this Heidegger must renounce any concrete indication and especially any reference to traditional forms of therapy. Neither reason nor intellect can any longer provide the necessary guidance and support. After the experience of the disenchantment of the world, neither virtue nor morals are possible. Catharsis is given as a last resort to Gelassenheit, that is to say, to that heroic disposition of the thought that withstands the test of nihilism and technology. But this heroism, which can no longer even be like what the old Husserl called for, a heroism of reason, risks creating around him a will and a vacuum in which restorative or utopian reactions might easily get a footing.

Heidegger is fully aware of this, as he shows unequivocally, for example, in his response to Ernst Jünger. Faced with the problem of overcoming of nihilism that, like Nietzsche perceives in a famous fragment on "the will to power" (nr. 23), threatens to become the normal condition, Heidegger does not fall for the ingenuity of those attempts that think they can crossover the line of nihilism without asking and thinking deeply the problem that is metaphysics, either of the living God or of the dead God, removed in the forgetfulness, namely the problem of being. He notes, "Today we are especially tempted to evaluate the thoughtfulness of thinking according to the tempo of reckoning and planning, which justifies its technical inventions directly for everyone by its economic successes. This evaluation of thinking puts excessive demands on it through standards that are alien to such thinking. At the same time, one subjects thinking to the presumptuous demand of knowing the solution to riddles and bringing the salutary."1 By contrast, Heidegger takes account of the need to gather the intact forces and the possible aids for standing upright in the "wake of nihilism".2

1 GA 9, 406. [Pathmarks, "On the Question of Being", pp. 306-307.]

2 Ibid. [Ibid, p. 307.]


But where are these forces intact? and how to recall and gather them? After having interpreted the λόγος and ratio as prehistory of technology and having therefore waived them, Heidegger tries to find these forces intact in the combination of thought with the experience of poetry, namely in that experiment of thinking poetically in which he sees the alternative to calculative thinking and the thinking representative of technology.

Choosing – for the best reasons – this attitude, Heidegger rightly drew focused attention on the problem of the one-dimensional development of λόγος, which in modern times is understood and reduced more and more to the sense of axiomatization, of calculation and of instrumentality; but this choice represents at the same time, plainly put, a renouncing of the achievements of Western rationalism that cannot but appear problematic. If only because – to paraphrase Heraclitus – the λόγος is exactly what men have in common and which enables them to establish a common world (fr. 2), while those who sleep or dream have their own world (fr. 89).

For this, while acknowledging the depth and clarity of Heidegger's analysis, one should question its abandonment of the Greek tradition of philosophy and of ἐπιστήμη; for this we should investigate the deepest motivations of his search of their 'other'. Allow me to nominate here at least two of these assumptions, which seem to me to be relevant to this investigation.

First, I think we should call into question the Heideggerian conviction that the essence of the modern technology completes the original motivation of philosophy and Greek ἐπιστήμη. Here one should ask if the development of the λόγος, which animates the Greek philosophy, in the modern sense of calculating, axiomatic, and instrumental reasoning, really represents its complete realization, or not instead a reductive and unilateral development.

The second assumption, resulting from the Heideggerian thematization of the connection between being and time, seems to me to consist in the overcoming of the traditional thesis according to which the λόγος stands above time. If for Greek thought the λόγος represents the Archimedean pivot on its foundation, freeing itself from the dross of temporality, man is able to rise above the particularities and the perspectivalness of his knowing, and achieving the universal and the ideal, for Heidegger instead – what contaminates the Hegelian thesis temporal kernel of truth with the Nietzschean affirmation of the perspectivalness of knowledge – it is no longer λόγος which stands above time, but it is time that always conditions the epochal forms and manifestations of the λόγος.


As regards this latter point, it is certainly hard to think we can really put into question the reasons that Heidegger so forcefully posed for his finitism. Since today, actually, there doesn't seem to be any privileged perspective, there no loger seems to be an Archimedean pivot on the basis of which everything lets itself be understood and described. If at one time this function was assigned to the λόγος, and if ever again we tried looking for a factor for everything, myth and religion, art or philosophy, politics or morals, in order to represent everything, nowadays all these attempts look set from the start to failure. The nihilistic disillusionment has consumed them. Modernity seems to have led to a situation that could be described as a crisis of self-description. Because neither religion nor myth, nor art or philosophy, nor moral nor politics are more able to understand everything and to speak on its behalf. Today's widespread negative terminology – crisis of values, crises of meaning, negative thinking, nihilism – seems to me to provide clear testimony of the situation.

Still, even sharing Heidegger's finitism, his diagnosis of the disease of contemporary times still appears problematic. Thus we return to the first point questioned, namely the belief that the condition of technology today is the necessary consequence of the original motivations of Greek philosophy and ἐπιστήμη. If in fact we understand the Greek λόγος of philosophical and epistemic knowledge not in the ontological horizon of the problem of being as a tool for capturing the entity, but rather, as opposed to dogmatic knowledge, as an ideal of the deperspectivalization and the desubjectivism of perspective and natural subjectivity of life, that is, as the need to achieve a point of view which is not itself a subjective point of view, but the need to get rid of any subjectivity and any particularity, then technology as an implementation of dominion over the entity and as the fulfillment of modern subjectivity is not the realization of the original motivation of the Greek ideal of philosophy and ἐπιστήμη, but instead its loss and then its betrayal. That is: only a one sided and reductive understanding of the λόγος in the sense of calculating, axiomatic and instrumental reason has led to the essence of modern technology, not the λόγος as such.


If one accepts this hypothesis, then one is allowed to think that next to the λόγος of τέχνη it is also possible to have a λόγος of πρᾶξις in the sense of φρόνησις and a λόγος of θεωρεῖν in the sense of asking, that is to ask for reasons and to put in question which is proper to philosophizing. If you follow this differentiation and this 'plurivocality' of the λόγος, you may think then that the essence of the modern technology is not so much forgetfulness of being, but rather the oblivion of λόγος. Oblivion of a λόγος that has its basis in the multivocity of being and in the plurality of worlds and life forms. Oblivion of a λόγος in which Aristotle had his best historical understanding.

One of the most urgent tasks of post-nihilistic thought, that is a thought that can reclaim the fullness of the λόγος and its versatility, would be to show how the λόγος in this comprehensive sense can make transparent the cultural semantics of myth and religion, of art and philosophy, of morals and politics, and not only in their rational components, that is according to the λόγος, but also in their own specificity. With this, you could probably match the requirement that revives the confrontation of Heidegger with Aristotle, namely the need for a recovery and a productive appropriation of the Aristotelian heritage in order to discern actuality and historicity; with this, one could probably retrieve the original motivation for the λόγος; with this, one would prepare the ground on which, perhaps, one day, a post-nihilistic future will be able to overcome our crisis of self-description.