Franco Volpi - Heidegger and Aristotle

Translated by Pete Ferreira


(2) In developing his own interpretation Heidegger dwells with particular insistence on some key terms of the Aristotelian treatment, whose meaning would be concealed and distorted by Latin translations. Therefore, he for example strives to remove the idea that ἐπαγωγή means induction, that αιτιον means cause, that ἀρχή can be translated as principle, that οὐσία is equivalent to substance, ἐνέργεια to act, δυνάμις to power, ὕλη to matter, and so on in the case of other fundamental concepts.

(3) Amongst the latter, a special importance in determining the Aristotelian conception of φύσις rests with the concept of στέρεσις, usually translated as 'deprivation'. For Heidegger the concept of στέρεσις is to be understood in close reference to the Aristotelian belief that nature is the process of coming to presence (Anwesung) and the subtracting from presence (Abwesung) of the entity (according to the fragment of Heraclitus, for whom "nature loves to hide", fr. 93).

(4) Finally, the fact that Aristotle considers φύσις as a γένος τοῦ ὄντος, reveals in Heidegger's eyes that in him it is no longer experienced as with the originary meaning of the being in its entirety, as it was in pre-Socratic thought, but in a way – with respect to the latter – derived, that is already obscured by the emergence of technology. And yet the greatness of Aristotle (even compared to Plato) lies in the fact that in him that way is not completely concealed, but is retained and reverberates, for example, where he says that the οὐσία is a φύσις τις (Met. IV, 3).

In light of these considerations, it can be seen that the importance of this essay in the development of Heidegger's thought rests on the fact that in Aristotelian reflection on φύσις Heidegger finds the understanding and determination of a being that has within itself the principle of movement and of life, and as such is different than the way of being of the products of technology; but in Aristotelian reflection there emerges and is also thought for the first time the essential connection of φύσις and τέχνη, and in such a way that, on the one hand, it keeps in itself the trace of the original pre-metaphysical opening and, on the other hand, instead marks a decisive start for the West.

A page from Franco Volpi's Heidegger and Aristotle