Franco Volpi - Heidegger and Aristotle

Translated by Pete Ferreira


Just moving from a philosophical consideration of the Christian experience of the temporal character of existence – but trying, at least initially, to recover in a positive way the determination of καιρός that Aristotle provides in the context of his practical philosophy – Heidegger gradually develops the conviction that temporality itself is the fundamental unitary structure of human life.52 And with the maturing of this belief he thus steadily distances himself from those understandings of time that do not depend on the temporal nature of existence, but rather on factual determinations and natural time.

The first direct mention of the Aristotelian understanding of time found in Heidegger's texts published to date, becomes clear within this critical context. This mention is found in winter semester 1925/26, during which, as we have already pointed out, Heidegger interrupts the interpretation of Aristotle he had begun and dedicates himself to Kant, because he thinks Kant captures the connection between subjectivity and temporality (and consequently he also sees in Kant a thematization of the connection between being and time).53

In the context of this interpretation of Kant we find an initial critique of the Aristotelian conception of time. To illustrate the importance of the problem of time in the Critique of Pure Reason, Heidegger makes a digression on the understanding of time in Hegel and Bergson, to show how both remain substantially within the horizon outlined by Aristotle. But this horizon is for Heidegger the horizon of not an originary understanding of time, but of a naturalistic one. So, in comparison to Kant, which for Heidegger breaks this horizon and comes to understand the connection of temporality and subjectivity, i.e. the essentially temporal structure of the finite subject, Hegel and Bergson represent a step backwards, and precisely because they return to the Aristotelian understanding of time, which is a naturalistic understanding. This same criticism will resume and be re-stated by Heidegger in Being and Time, namely in § 82 and in a controversial note in this section, where he wants to precisely indicate Hegel's reliance on the Aristotelian conception of time even in his terminology.54

52 On the structure of being-there as original temporality, see G. Vattimo, Essere, storia e linguaggio in Heidegger, pp 37-74; V. Vitiello, Heidegger: il nulla e la fondazione della storicità, pp. 426-465. In general on the problem of time in Heidegger see H. Birault, Heidegger et l'experience de la pensée, Gallimard, Paris 1978, especially pp. 14-43, 531-621; V. Vitiello, ""Heidegger, Hegel e il problema del tempo", in Id., Dialettica ed ermeneutica: Hegel e Heidegger, Guida, Naples 1979, pp. 7-43; O. Pöggeler, "Zeit und Sein bei Heidegger", in E. W. Orth (Ed.), Zeit und Zeitlichkeit bei Husserl und Heidegger, pages 152-191; and E. W. Orth, "Heidegger und das Problem der Zeit", in L’héritage de Kant, Beauchesne, Paris 1982, pp. 287-307.

53 I discussed what Heidegger finds in Kant in this regard in my essay "Soggettività e temporalità: considerazioni sull’interpretazione heideggeriana di Kant alla luce delle lezioni di Marburgo, in Kant a due secoli dalla Critica", edited by G. Micheli and G. Santinello, La Scuola, Brescia 1984.

54 J. Derrida, "Ousia et gramme. Note sur une note de Sein und Zeit", in Marges de la philosophie, Editions de minuit, Paris 1972, pp. 31-78,[Margins of Philosophy, "Ousia and Gramme: Note on a Note from Being and Time"] he instead sought to show how Hegel frees himself from the naturalistic understanding of time and explicitly thematizes the connection between the subject and time.

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