Franco Volpi - Heidegger and Aristotle

Translated by Pete Ferreira


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.

A page from Franco Volpi's Heidegger and Aristotle