Franco Volpi - Heidegger and Aristotle

Translated by Pete Ferreira


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.

A page from Franco Volpi's Heidegger and Aristotle