Franco Volpi - Heidegger and Aristotle

Translated by Pete Ferreira


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.]

A page from Franco Volpi's Heidegger and Aristotle