Franco Volpi - Heidegger and Aristotle

Translated by Pete Ferreira


He says that in Befindlichkeit being-there is disclosed in its having-to-be, is placed in front of its "that which is and has to be", and precisely in that way it hides "its whence and its where", and has what Heidegger designates as its being-thrown (Geworfenheit). In addition, Befindlichkeit opens being-there as being-in-the-world in its entirety (as Heidegger shows through the analysis of the phenomenon of depression). Finally, Befindlichkeit is "a disclosive submission to the world, out of which we can encounter something that matters to us".36

What Heidegger wants to highlight with this characterization of Befindlichkeit, is that human life is not explained and is not made up only of active moments and of pure spontaneity and rationality, but also in those troubled moments that are traditionally understood as anxiety and which he covers in terms of Befindlichkeit. And this self-explaining, self-recognizing and self-constituting of human life in the 'moods'[*] also confirms the discovery made by Heidegger with the aid of Aristotelian practical philosophy, and which is the discovery that the fundamental determination of being-there is an eminently practical determination. If one considers that in this context Heidegger refers to the Aristotelian doctrine of παθε37, it is safe to think that in the determination of Befindlichkeit as the fundamental question of being-there Heidegger appropriates this Aristotelian doctrine, pulling it out of the context in which Aristotle presents it in book II of Rhetoric and transforming it into its ontological sense. Finally, the fact that Befindlichkeit has its foundation in the structure of being-there as Sorge, and that in Aristotle παθε moves the human soul so long as it is appetitive, i.e. when it is structured as ὄρεξις, suggesting another unsuspected correspondence between the Sorge and ὄρεξις.

As regards the determination of understanding (Verstehen), it represents, as has been said, the spontaneous and active time of being-there, the productivity of its can-be. Heidegger says that "understanding is the existential Being of Dasein's own potentiality-for-Being; and it is so in such a way that this Being discloses in itself what its Being is capable of"38. This statement contains a twofold claim: it means first of all that understanding – despite what the term, especially in Italian, can make you think – is that spontaneous and productive time where being-there projects and acts its own being, i.e. it refers to that practical disposition that has been brought to light. Second, it then means that this moment is accompanied by a knowledge, in the sense that in practical self-referring being-there itself constitutes awareness of itself, its 'self'. Thus Heidegger says that being-there has in this practical determination its self-transparency (Durchsicht), it 'sees' through itself and constitutes this 'seeing' as identical. Even understanding itself should be understood as an eminently practical connotation of the being of being-there. In a passage of the course of summer semester 1927, in which Heidegger deals with the problem of Verstehen, he says very explicitly that it is "the authentic meaning of action."39 This allows us then to venture a guess that in Verstehen lies a renewed understanding of the Aristotelian determination of νοῦς πρακτικός. In fact, as in the Aristotelian theory of acting the νοῦς πρακτικός represents the complementary moment to ὄρεξις, also in Heidegger's understanding is the complementary determination of Befindlichkeit; as the pure and spontaneous projection which corresponds to the opaque and passive basis of situatatedness[†] from which it starts and by which it remains constrained.

36 GA 2, 183 (= Being and Time, § 29, It. trans., p. 230) [GA 2, 183 => SuZ, 137-8 => M&R, 177]. The original German: "In der Befindlichkeit liegt existenzial eine erschließende Angewiesenheit auf Welt, aus der her Angehendes begegnen kann" [M&R, 177: "Existentially, a state-of-mind implies a disclosive submission to the world, out of which we can encounter something that matters to us."]. It is interesting to note that Heidegger had previously used the term Befindlichkeit to translate the Augustinian concept of affectio (see Thomas Sheehan, "La stesura originale di 'Sein und Zeit': 'Der Begriff der Zeit' (1924) di Heidegger", L’uomo, un segno, 3, 1979, nr. 1-2, pp. 111-112, and "Heidegger e il suo corso sulla 'Fenomenologia della religione'", p. 441).

37 See Being and Time, §§ 29-30.

38 GA 2, 192 (= Being and Time, § 31, trans. It., pp. 238-239) [GA 2, 192 => SuZ, 144 => M&R, 184].

39 GA 24, 393. [The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, 277.]

[* Sheehan: affectively attuned; e.g., Twelve theses on Heidegger or what comes before the “after”?]

[† dispostion?]

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