Franco Volpi - Heidegger and Aristotle

Translated by Pete Ferreira


As has been shown earlier, being in the sense of truth is that determination on whose analysis Heidegger was working intensively in the confrontation with Aristotle in the 1920s, and is the fundamental meaning of being that – by antagonizing the traditional privileging of substance – Heidegger considers the significant guide in understanding the unity of being. Now, when he takes up the problem of truth again during summer semester 1930, with his perspective amended by the 'turn', Heidegger aims primarily to stress that ἀληθεύειν is founded in the manifestive structure of ἀληθές ον, at the same time concerning himself with apprehending the structure of manifestness in relation to Aristotle's and the Greek understanding of being.

Substantially there are two basic outcomes of this further analysis of the phenomenon of truth. (1) first of all it confirmed and strengthened the conviction he had faced before at the end of winter semester 1925/26, namely the belief that Aristotelian and Greek thought move broadly within the horizon of the metaphysically unconscious decision that assumes, without thematizing it, an understanding of being as presence (beständige Anwesenheit). (2) Secondly, the clarification of the structure of being as manifestness and as constant presence leads Heidegger to speculate that in Aristotle the way par excellence in which being exhibits both these features is being in the sense of ἐνέργεια. But understanding being as ἐνέργειᾳ means to Heidegger to understand it in the context of movement (Bewegtheit), and the being that is in this horizon is in a way more genuine, it is the one that has in it the principle of movement, that is, being as φύσις.

Still evident, at the same time, are the essential traces of the logical connection that binds the perspective of the confrontation with Aristotle in the twenties and his subsequent interpretation culminating in the essay on φύσις. To this must be added also the discovery of the Presocratics, or rather the emergence of references to pre-Socratic thinking as the determinant references, the first of which are chronologically dated to the early 1930s, and precisely in the 1932 course on The Beginnings of Western Philosophy [GA 35], and then in Introduction to Metaphysics [GA 40];23 and then the discovery of Nietzsche as the fulfillment of metaphysics24 and the poetry of Hölderlin as the lyric of the new beginning.25 Thorough this deeper questioning of the philosophical tradition in light of the Presocratics, Nietzsche, and Hölderlin, and in the attempt to grasp a pre-metaphysical dimension of thought, Heidegger comes to the conclusion that the Aristotelian concept of φύσις is not an originary determination, but is already overshadowed by a metaphysical decision within whose horizon being is understood as presence.

23 In fact, a early reference to pre-Socratic thought (specifically to Heraclitus, Parmenides, Zeno, Protagoras) appears in summer semester 1926 Grundbegriffe der antiken Philosophie (in the Nachschrift I know of pp. 24-43). But the real big confrontation with the Presocratics is what starts from the course in winter semester 1942/43 on Parmenides (= GA 54) and in those of the summer of 1943 and 1944 on Heraclitus (now both in GA 55). Among the published texts of the later Heidegger important in his confrontation with the Presocratics see especially Vortrage und Aufsätze, Neske, Pfullingen 1954 (trans. It. by G. Vattimo, Saggi e discorsi, Mursia, Milano, 1976), and in particular the essays collected in the third part.

24 The courses on Nietzsche from the mid-1930s, as is well known, were published by Heidegger himself (Nietzsche, 2 vols., Neske, Pfullingen 1961).

25 Erläuterungen zu Hölderlins Dichtung in (now on GA 4, trans. It. by L. Amoroso, Adelphi, Milano, in preparation), Heidegger confronts Hölderlin during winter semester 1934/35 in Hölderlins Hymnen "Germanien" und "Der Rhein" (= GA 39), during winter semester 1941/42 in Hölderlins Hymne "Andenken" (= GA 52) and during summer semester 1942 in Hölderlins Hymne "Der Ister" (= GA 53).

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