Franco Volpi - Heidegger and Aristotle

Translated by Pete Ferreira


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 νοεῖν 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 GA 20, 162. Emphasis mine. [History of the Concept of Time, 117]

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

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