Franco Volpi - Heidegger and Aristotle

Translated by Pete Ferreira


In the tenth chapter of book IX of Metaphysics, on being in the sense of truth, Aristotle says that being taken in this sense is τὸ κυριώτατα ὂν (1051 b 1), that is, being in the most proper sense, and that it refers to the things themselves (τοῦτο δ’ἐπὶ τῶν πραγμάτον, 1051 b 2). This poses problems of consistency, because in the early chapters of the same book Aristotle had said that the most proper being is that taken in the sense of ἐνέργεια; not only that, but in Met. VI, 4 he had also stated that being in the sense of truth is in thought, it is a certain affection of thought (τῆς διανοίας τι πάθος), and is therefore not related to things (ἀληθεύειν οὐκ ἐν τοῖς πράγμασιν). It is a difficulty that Aristotle's scholars quickly noticed and discussed, with mixed results, but at least arriving at the commonly accepted belief that the problem of this chapter does not connect properly with the rest of the book. Heidegger notes that here "the textual question of the correct positioning of this final chapter of Book Θ also raises the substantive problem of the meaning of being-true itself, or more precisely, the question of the relation between being qua being-true and being qua being-actual".29

Heidegger clashes here with the thesis supported by scholars of Aristotle, especially with those backed by Schwegler, by Jaeger and by Ross. Schwegler had observed that this chapter cannot belong to book IX, because its logical content (of being in the sense of true) isn't connected with the metaphysical content of the rest of the book.30 Jaeger, while sticking with Schwegler, believed that Aristotle had probably added the tenth chapter as an appendix to the book, despite the lack of a strictly systematic connection with it. As for the difficulty represented by the fact that in chapter ten being in the sense of truth is said τὸ κυριώτατα ὂν, while in the early chapters it was being as ἐνέργεια, Jaeger had resolved this by asserting that here κυριώτατα does not have the meaning of 'most authentic' or 'more proper', but of 'most common' and 'most usual'.31 Finally, precisely because of this difficulty, Ross had intervened on the text by proposing to elide κυριώτατα.32

29 GA 31, 81. [The Essence of Human Freedom, 57.]

30 See A. Schwegler, Die Metaphysik des Aristoteles, Grundtext, Übersetzung und Commentar nebst erläuternden Abhandlungen, 4 vols., Tübingen 1847-1848 (anastatic reprint, Minerva, Frankfurt a. M. 1960), vol. IV, p. 186).

31 See W. Jaeger, Studien zur Entwicklungsgeschichte der Metaphysik des Aristoteles, Weidmann, Berlin 1912, pp. 49-52.

32 See W. D. Ross, Aristotle’s Metaphysics. A Revised Text with Introduction and Commentary, 2 vols., O.U.P., London 1924, vol. II, p. 274.

A page from Franco Volpi's Heidegger and Aristotle