Franco Volpi - Heidegger and Aristotle

Translated by Pete Ferreira


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

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