Franco Volpi - Heidegger and Aristotle

Translated by Pete Ferreira



Finally Heidegger considers the thesis of classical logic, according to which being can be expressed as a plurivocal function of the copula. In reference to four exemplary conceptions of the copula, that of Aristotle, that of Hobbes, that of J.S. Mill and that of Lotze, Heidegger distinguishes the possible meanings of the copula and the understanding of being that they imply: "First. Being in the sense of the 'is' has no independent signification. This is the ancient Aristotelian thesis: προσμένῃ σύνθεσιν τινα-it signifies only something in a combinatory thinking. Second. According to Hobbes, this being signifies being-the-cause of the combinability of subject and predicate. Third. Being means whatness, esse essentiae. Fourth. Being is identical with signifying in so-called verbal propositions or else it is synonymous with existence in the sense of being extant, esse existentiae (Mill). Fifth. Being signifies the being-true or being-false that is asserted in the subsidiary thought of every judgment. Sixth. Being-true—and with this we return to Aristotle—is the expression of an entity that is only in thought but not in things."60

When addressing these four traditional theses on being, Heidegger's intent is to clear the ground for a radical repurposing of the problem of being. It puts on the mat what Heidegger considers the four fundamental ontological problems: "first, the problem of the ontological difference, the distinction between being and beings; secondly, the problem of the basic articulation of being, the essential content of a being and its mode of being; thirdly, The problem of the possible modifications of being and of the unity of the concept of being in its ambiguity; fourthly, the problem of the truth-character of being."61

Now, the discussion of these fundamental ontological problems – included in the set of questions that Heidegger would face in the unpublished parts of Being and Time – explicitly requires thematizing the connection of being with time. In particular, this thematization, with the introduction of the consideration of time, should lead to grasping the ontological difference, which is the most difficult problem and one that is dear to Heidegger. And this is possible, in the plan that Heidegger presents62, in a progression that foresees sequential steps. First it's a matter of examining time and temporality in their essential characterization in common understanding, that is in 'existential' understanding. In a further step it is then a matter of distinguishing temporality as a structure of being (Zeitlichkeit) from temporality as a condition of possibility for the understanding of being itself (Temporalität). A third step will then lead the analysis to connect being and temporality. Finally, by apprehending these connections, it will be possible to thematize the ontological difference.

60 GA 24, 290-291 [The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, 204.] (in general see §§ 16-18). In his interpretation of Aristotle, Heidegger resumes here his considerations from winter semester 1925/26, except that here (as indeed in Being and Time) he emphasizes the character of the apophantic λόγος.

61 Ibid, 321. [Ibid, 225.]

62 Ibid, 322-324.[Ibid, 227-228.] On the problem of ontological difference in early Heidegger see A. Rosales, Transzendenz und Differenz. Ein Beitrag zum Problem der ontologischen Differenz beim frühen Heidegger (Phaenomenologica, 33), Nijhoff, Den Haag 1970.

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