Franco Volpi - Heidegger and Aristotle

Translated by Pete Ferreira


Regarding the first question, Heidegger argues that Aristotle presents the aporia in such a way that the answer should appear at first negative; because time cannot appear as entity in the sense of substance, since its constituent parts are not: the past is no more and the future is not yet. On the other hand, not even the present appears able to be regarded as an entity: it cannot contain multiple instants, of 'now' (νυν), which should make it up, because each instant is always determined in its singularity as 'this one here' (and the instant that preceded it is a now-no-longer, and what will follow a now-not-yet). In addition, the instant that it is present is never the same, but different.

Heidegger then goes on to examine Aristotle's discussion of the opinions of his predecessors, emphasizing the importance that Aristotle places on the historiographical debate in his theoretical discussion of aporias. The two opinions remember are principally those that identify time with the movement of the universe (τὴν τοϋ ὁλου κίνησις, 218a 33), namely — as Heidegger translates — "Seienden, das sich das Ganze des bewegt"66, and then those who believe that time is the sphere itself (τὴν σφαιραν αὐτὴν, 218b 1).

Despite the assessment Aristotle makes of these opinions, Heidegger seeks to put in play the basis of their meaning. So, he points out that the idea that time is the movement of the universe is not arbitrary, but has its roots in myth. And he points out that the opinion that time is the celestial sphere itself, is founded on the consideration that because all things are in time and are only within the celestial sphere, then the celestial sphere and time coincide.

In addition, apart from their basic meaning in myth, what is important about these opinions is the idea that they have in common, that time is a certain movement (κίνησις τις) or a certain change (μεταβολε τις). But while the movement and change are always in the same body that is in motion or change (ἐν αὐτοι τῷ κινούμενοι), time is the same way everywhere and in all things (ὁ δὲ χρόνος ὁμοίως καὶ πανταχοῦ καὶ παρὰ πᾶσιν, 218b 13). This consideration establishes the fundamental distinction of time and movement: time is not movement, even if it doesn't exist without movement (ούτε κίνησις, ούτ'ανευ κίνησις, 219a 1). Time is therefore something closely connected with movement, it is something of movement, a property of movement; and the problem then is to know which property, what about movement is time (τί τῆς κινήσεως ἐστίν, 219a 3).

66 GA 24, p. 331. [The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, p. 234.]

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