Franco Volpi - Heidegger and Aristotle

Translated by Pete Ferreira


It is precisely in the texts from the thirties where one can almost touch the solidifying consistency of the Heideggerian belief that the metaphysical decision, by which the original φύσις is captured and subdued by presence, is mediated by τέχνη.52 In general, we can say that the emergence in Heidegger of understanding technology as a decision characterizing the opening of meaning which conveys metaphysics, connects closely with the belief that the fundamental meaning of being assumed from the Greeks is that of constant presence. This understanding of being thus implies for Heidegger the privileging of a certain intentional attitude, namely the attitude that more than any other open the entity in its being and maintains it in presence, namely τέχνη.

We must, however, point out that, at least at first, and certainly in relation to the origins of Greek thought, the Heideggerian vision of the phenomenon of τέχνη has a connotation that is neither criticism nor negative. τέχνη is instead seen rather as the way to excellence through which the Greeks discover φύσις. In one of the first courses in which the Heideggerian meditation on the phenomenon of technology begins to emerge, that is summer semester 1930, Heidegger asserts that for the Greeks "τέχνη neither means technique as a practical activity nor is limited to craft knowledge, but it signifies all producing in the broadest sense, together with the guiding knowledge. It expresses the struggle around the presence of beings."53

During winter semester 1937/38, in yet another return to the problem of the truth of the λόγος – a return that assumes a documentary significance because it is conducted within the horizon of the speculative deepening that Heidegger turns to in his greatest work after the 'turn', namely in Beiträge zur Philosophie (1936-1938) –, this time Heidegger decisively thematizes the Greek understanding of being as presence in relation to the 'technical' opening of its meaning, while also providing the details on the relationship between φύσις and τέχνη that he had promised during 1935's Introduction to Metaphysics.54

Here Heidegger asserts that τέχνη was originally the attitude par excellence of the Greeks in confronting φύσις, it is the disposition by virtue of which, setting it up and understanding it as different from φύσις, Greek man unveils φύσις in its being and keeps it unveiled as such in its character of φύσις. He points out: "Accord with what is original is therefore precisely not an assimilation in the sense that man would simply be φύσις. On the contrary, he is to be distinguished from it, but in a way that accords with it, i.e., in a way that adheres to its measure (adheres to φύσις), comports itself accordingly, and orders this comportment. Even if man himself is precisely not beings as a whole, nevertheless he is the one who is displaced into the midst of beings as the preserver of their unconcealedness. So this perceiving and preserving cannot be determined as φύσις but must be other: in accord with φύσις, releasing it, and yet grasping it."55 And this attitude, that is other with respect to φύσις, but as the other itself can keep φύσις in its originary opening and in its revealing as φύσις, is τέχνη.

52 For the maturing of this belief in Heidegger the influence of an important book by E. Jünger, Der Arbeiter (1932), which – together with the other writing of Jünger Die total Mobilmachung (1930) – was immediately read and carefully studied by Heidegger, for the interpretation of technology and nihilism that it offered. See the signs of the same in Heidegger in Das Rektorat 1933/34. Tatsachen und Gedanken ["The Rectorate 1933/34: Facts and Thoughts", Martin Heidegger and National Socialism: Questions and Answers] (Most of Heidegger's account showed up in the autumn of 1945 along with the request for reinstatement in teaching), now published by H. Heidegger in an appendix to a new edition of M. Heidegger, Die Selbstbehauptung der deutschen Universität, Klostermann, Frankfurt a. M. 1983, pp. 21-43, especially pp. 24-25. The two writings by Jünger mentioned are now included in vols. 7 and 8 of E. Jünger, Sämtliche Schriften, Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1978 and ff.; on the debate between Jünger and Heidegger see E. Jünger, Über die Linie, Anteile. Martin Heidegger zum 60. Geburtstag, Klostermann, Frankfurt a. M. 1950, pp. 245-283, and the response of Heidegger Über Die Linie, Freundschaftliche Begegnungen. Ernst Jünger zum 60. Geburtstag, Klostermann, Frankfurt a. M. 1955, pp. 9-45 (now titled Zur Seinsfrage in GA 9, 385-426).

53 GA 31, 72 [The Essence of Human Freedom, 50]

54 GA 40, 19 (trans. It., p. 28) [Introduction to Metaphysics, 18-19]

55 GA 45, 178.[Basic Questions of Philosophy, 154.] These relations and challenges of φύσις and τέχνη correspond to, structured similarly, the pairing of earth and art work that Heidegger treats in "The Origin of the Work of Art", now in GA 5, 1-74 (trans. It. by P. Chiodi, La Nuova Italia, Firenze 1968, pp. 3-69). The importance of the philosophical thematization of the concept of 'earth' by Heidegger (concept that simply cannot be identified with that of φύσις) was highlighted by W. Welsch, "La ‘terra’ nella determinazione heideggeriana dell’opera d’arte", Rivista di estetica, 1981, nr. 7, pp. 24-65.

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