Franco Volpi - Heidegger and Aristotle

Translated by Pete Ferreira


Within the horizon of the metaphysical decision that looks away from the originality of being and stares exclusively at the entity, there is according to Heidegger the space to ask these questions. He notes that "Neither Aristotle nor those before or after him asked these questions, nor did they even seek a foundation for these questions as questions"; he adds that with a more profound concealment in subsequent philosophy and particularly in modern philosophy "only the various concepts of being and 'categories' would later be systematized in accordance with the mathematical idea of science".45 This latest development represents a regression in relation to Aristotle, because in the eyes of Heidegger Aristotle was at least tormented by the issue of the unity of the πολλαχώς λεγόμενον, so much so that "we find him attempting to respond to the question. And this attempt pressed against the very limit of what was at all possible on the basis of the ancient approach to the question of being."46

The solution Heidegger refers to here is that proposed in the form of the analogical unity of being, i.e. the unity that results from all categories referring to the first amongst them, namely to substance. It is the unity of being that belongs to it by reason of its homonym analog, which is halfway between the pure homonym and the synonym, between absolute equivocity and univocity. However, this solution is not satisfactory to Heidegger, it is – as has been said, too weak – because it explains the unity of being, at best, only in reference to the multiplicity of its categorical ways, but not in relation to the other extra-categorical senses, that is, being as truth (in the ontological sense) and being as ἐνέργεια. Heidegger says: "The analogy of being-this designation is not a solution to the being question, indeed not even an actual posing of the question, but the title for the most stringent aporia, the impasse in which ancient philosophy, and along with it all subsequent philosophy right up to today, is enmeshed."47

Now, in the course of our research we've noted that in confronting Aristotle Heidegger has from the beginning been looking for this unity and how he mulls alternately between the various fundamental meanings in relation to the possibility of grasping and obtaining from them the indication of that fundamental and originary unity to being itself. And what characterizes the evolution of Heidegger's attitude towards Aristotle – this is our thesis – is that he tries from time to time to consider how determinative each of the various meanings is, initially even that of substance, then that of truth and finally that of ἐνέργεια.

45 GA 33, 31. [Aristotle's Metaphysics Theta 1-3 On the Essence and Actuality of Force, 25.]

46 Ibid, 31. [Ibid, 25.]

47 Ibid, 46. [Ibid, 38.] On the medieval concept of analogy Heidegger notes: "the analogia entis–which nowadays has sunk again to the level of a catchword–played a role, not as a question of being but as a welcomed means of formulating a religious conviction in philosophical terms. The God of Christian belief, although the creator and preserver of the world, is altogether different and separate from it; but he is being [Seiende] in the highest sense, the summum ens; creatures--infinitely different from him--are nevertheless also being (seiend), ens finitum. How can ens infinitum and ens finitum both be named ens, both be thought in the same concept, "being"? Does the ens hold good only aequivoce or univoce, or even analogice? They rescued themselves from this dilemma with the help of analogy, which is not a solution but a formula. Meister Eckhart–the only one who sought a solution–says: "God 'is' not at all, because 'being' is a finite predicate and absolutely cannot be said of God." (This was admittedly only a beginning which disappeared in Eckhart's later development, although it remained alive in his thinking in another respect.) The problem of analogy had been handed down to the theology of the Middle Ages via Plotinus, who discussed it–already from that angle–in the sixth Ennead." (GA 33, 46-67).

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