Franco Volpi - Heidegger and Aristotle

Translated by Pete Ferreira


Heidegger can then repeat that for the Greeks "Τέχνη does not mean "technology" in the sense of the mechanical ordering of beings, nor does it mean art in the sense of mere skill and proficiency in procedures and operations. Τέχνη means knowledge: know-how in processes against beings ("and in the encounter with beings), i.e., against φύσις. (...) For that is what Τέχνη means: to grasp beings as emerging out of themselves in the way they show themselves, in their outward look, εἶδος, ἰδέα, and, in accord with this, to care for beings themselves and to let them grow, i.e., to order oneself within beings as a whole through productions and institutions."56 Heidegger points out though: "Τέχνη is a mode of proceeding against φύσις, though not yet in order to overpower it or exploit it, and above all not in order to turn use and calculation into principles, but, on the contrary, To retain the holding sway of φύσις in unconcealedness. Therefore, because the pure acknowledgment of beings as such, the perception of φύσις in its ἀλήθεια, is the disposing need in the basic disposition of wonder, Τέχνη and its carrying out become necessary as what is wholly other than φύσις—wholly other yet belonging to φύσις in the most essential way."57

For this modern technology must be distinguished from the Greek τέχνη, although in the latter it has its essential foundation. Heidegger says about the Greek word τέχνη "we must divorce this Greek word from our familiar term derived from it, "technology," and from all nexuses of meaning that are thought in the name of technology."58 He adds, however: "that modern and contemporary technology could emerge, and had to emerge, has its ground in the beginning and has its foundation in an unavoidable incapacity to hold fast to the beginning. That means that contemporary technology—as a form of "total mobilization" (Ernst Jünger)—can only be understood on the basis of the beginning of the basic Western position toward beings as such and as a whole, assuming that we are striving for a "metaphysical" understanding and are not satisfied with integrating technology into the goals of politics."59

56 GA 45, 179.[Basic Questions of Philosophy 154-155.] Hand in hand with the opening of 'technology' in the sense of φύσις comes the restriction of the original meaning of the latter. Already in the 1929/30 course Heidegger had observed how this restriction can be found in the Aristotelian handling of φύσις; in particular, he stressed the double meaning that it assumes in Aristotle, namely the significance of beings in themselves and at the same time as ways of being, that is the 'nature' of it (see GA 29/30, §8 d [The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics.]). He points out: "the expression φύσις develops into these two fundamental meanings: φύσις as φύσει ὄντα, beings as they are accessible in physics, in the investigation of nature in the narrower sense, and φύσις in its second meaning as nature, just as we use this expression today whenever we speak of the nature of the matter, of the essence of the matter. φύσις in the sense of that which constitutes the being and essence of a being is οὐσία. The separation of these two meanings of φύσις: beings themselves and the being of beings, and the history of these meanings and their development culminate in Aristotle, who precisely grasps questioning concerning the φύσει ὄντα as a whole (φύσις in the first sense) and the question concerning οὐσία, the being of beings (φύσις in the second sense), in one, and designates this questioning as πρώτη φιλοσοφία, prima philosophia, First Philosophy, philosophy in the proper sense." (GA 29/30, 51-52). [The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, 34.]

57 Ibid, 179.[Ibid, 155.] On this subject see H. Boeder, Topologia der Metaphysik, Alber, Freiburg-München 1980, pp. 53-165, U. Galimberti, Linguaggio e civiltà, Mursia, Milan 1977, pp. 67-91.

58 Ibid, 178-179. [Ibid, 154.]

59 Ibid, 179.[Ibid, 154.] On the problem of technology in Heidegger see especially J. Loscerbo, Being and Technology. A Study in the Philosophy of Martin Heidegger (Phaenomenologica, 82), Nijhoff, The Hague-Boston-London 1981. Among the most important Italian contributions see P. De Vitiis, Heidegger e la fine della filosofia, La Nuova Italia, Florence 1974, pages 129-142; F. Bosio, La filosofia, Dio, l’uomo e il mondo nell’età della tecnica secondo il pensiero di Martin Heidegger, Levante, Bari 1977, pp. 99-134 (from the same author see also Heidegger e il tramonto dell’Occidente, "Il Pensiero", n.s. 23, 1982, pp. 7-36); Vitiello, Heidegger: il nulla e la fondazione della storicità, pages 19-63; Ruggenini, Il soggetto e la tecnica, especially pp. 305-324; E. Maguire, Tecnica e metafisica. Saggio su Heidegger, Guida, Naples 1981, especially pp. 229-301; M. Cacciari, Salvezza che cade. Saggio sulla questione della Tecnica di Martin Heidegger, "Il Centauro", 1982, nr. 6, pp. 70-101.

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