Heidegger: do Platona preko Aristotela?

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Heidegger se Platonom, i to dijalogom Sofist, bavio najprije u predavanjima zimskog semestra 1924.-25. Ta predavanja su objavljena (ovdje), a ja pratim engleski prijevod (ovdje) i, kao što najavih, interpretacije tih predavanja od Drewa Hylanda i Catherine H. Zuckert.

It is a remarkable and remarkably important text, both as one of Heidegger’s most thorough studies of Greek philosophy (certainly of a Platonic dialogue) and as an important precursor to Being and Time. (Drew Hyland, Questioning Platonism, 2004., str. 18.)

Bitak i vrijeme je objavljen 1927., i ova predavanja doista imaju sličan okus, mada su pitkija, barem po onome što sam dosad pročitao (sam početak knjige). Zašto uopće Heidegger, u to doba svoje pune kreativnosti dok priprema jednu od najčitanijih filosofskih knjiga svoga stoljeća, cijeli jedan semestar čita Platonovog Sofista?

When we seek to recapture the Greek origins of basic philosophical and scientific concepts that over time and with repetition have become self-evident and so empty for us, Heidegger emphasized, we are not seeking anything that is separate from us or simply past. As the source of concepts we continue to use, the Greek origins are still effective in our understanding of the world. An investigation of the origins of our philosophy and science is thus a way of our coming to a better selfunderstanding. (Catherine H. Zuckert, Postmodern Platos, 1996., str. 37.)

Pripremajući ono što je u SuZ nazvao ”destrukcijom” naslijeđene ontologije, Heidegger se okrenuo tekstu u kojem je ta ontologija, činilo se, početno uspostavljena. Pritom je presudna Heideggerova odluka da Platona čita preko Aristotela.


Tu odluku Hyland opširno obrazlaže i uvjerljivo preispituje.

From the very beginning, he makes it clear that he understands his own phenomenological procedure as science, and that the scientific spirit of phenomenology finds its roots in the Greeks. … Heidegger’s insistence, which he is about to announce, on reading Plato through Aristotle, is justified in part because Aristotle is more scientific than Plato. Heidegger assures us that “What Aristotle said is what Plato placed at his disposal, only it is said more radically and developed more scientifically” (PS, 9). … Later, preparing to turn to the Sophist itself, he adds, “Our considerations thus far have had the sense of a preparation for understanding a scientific dialogue of Plato. I expressly emphasize ‘a scientific dialogue’ in order to indicate that not all Platonic dialogues attain this height of scientific research, although all of them in a certain way aim at knowledge. There is no scientific understanding, i.e., historiographical return to Plato, without passage through Aristotle” (PS, 131; Heidegger’s emphases). And even later, in words of praise, he adds, “In other words, genuine existence resides in the idea of scientific philosophy, as Socrates first brought it to life and as Plato and Aristotle developed it concretely” (PS, 160). At this point, I want to emphasize in these passages Heidegger’s language. It is full of the appeal to “science,” “scientific philosophy,” “scientific research,” … Clearly, Heidegger is at this point deeply under the influence of the Husserlian notion of phenomenology as “rigorous science,” and he is interpreting the greatness of Greek philosophy precisely in terms of its proximity to his own conception of philosophy as science. This is crucial to understanding the interpretive decisions that Heidegger makes in this lecture course: his occasional praise of Plato is nearly always in terms of his movement toward scientific philosophy; his preference for Aristotle is that Aristotle is more scientific than Plato, etc. However much I shall presently contest these judgments, I think they must be understood as grounded in Heidegger’s own construal of phenomenological philosophy at the time.

This is particularly important in understanding the otherwise bizarre guiding insistence on Heidegger’s part that Plato must be read through the eyes of Aristotle. We must do so, first, he says, because Aristotle is “clearer” than Plato. … To say the least, many an astute student fails to find Aristotle clearer than Plato. What is the criterion, we must thus ask, by which Heidegger finds it so obvious that Aristotle is “clearer” and more “distinct” than Plato. The very juxtaposition of the terms offers us the clue. Heidegger is clearly thinking in a Cartesian, scientific mode: Aristotle is clearer than Plato precisely in so far as his writing is more scientific, more suggestive of scientific writing, than is Plato’s. And by this criterion, Heidegger is surely right. Undoubtedly, Aristotle is more scientific in this sense than Plato. … [W]e must ask: does this judgment of the greater clarity of Aristotle to Plato and the decision to read Plato by this standard of clarity itself clarify or obscure what is going on in the Platonic dialogues, and in the Sophist in particular? …

But let us move more carefully here. What about the claim, first, that one reason to read Plato through Aristotle is that we can presuppose that Aristotle understood Plato? Can we make that presupposition? Heidegger simply makes the assertion with, apparently, no sense that it needs support. “We will presuppose that Aristotle understood Plato.” (PS, 8). In one sense, the presupposition does seem obvious. Aristotle, one of the titanic geniuses of the history of thought, who studied with Plato in the latter’s Academy for almost twenty years, how could he not have understood Plato? Or if he did not, who possibly could? It would seem almost insulting to entertain the thesis that perhaps he did not.

At the risk of such an insult, I want to suggest that two features of Aristotle’s thought may have indeed made it impossible for him to understand Plato: that he was such a fundamentally different thinker than Plato, and that in any case, when he considered his predecessors, from the pre-Socratics through Plato, he tended to evaluate them almost exclusively in terms of the extent to which he saw that they paved the way for his own thinking. Let us consider each of these in turn.

One of the dangers of seeing Aristotle as culminating Greek philosophic thinking, and especially believing that he was a clearer version of what Plato was trying to say, is that seeing Plato as leading up to Aristotle involves a tendency to see only the similarities in their thinking; that is, the ways in which Plato does indeed lead up to Aristotle, and in so doing to overlook the great differences between them. We have already quoted the passages where Heidegger says that, “What Aristotle said is what Plato placed at his disposal, only it is said more radically and developed more scientifically” (PS, 8). Shortly thereafter, Heidegger is even more expansive on this assumption: “In order to be able to watch Plato at work and to repeat this work correctly, the proper standpoint is needed. We will look for information from Aristotle about which beings he himself, and hence Plato and the Greeks, had in view and what were for them the ways of access to beings” (PS, 9; my emphasis). Moreover, “What Aristotle conceives in a more precise way was already seen by Plato. . . . We see thereby that we will find in Plato the same orientation as Aristotle’s. We have to presuppose in them one and the same position with regard to the basic questions of Dasein” (PS, 16). Now, it is no doubt true that in many instances there are common themes, common questions raised by both Plato and Aristotle. But by focusing only on these similarities, by seeing as the differences only those ways in which Plato is less clear than Aristotle on the same or similar topics, one can easily overlook the deep and fundamental differences between them. And in many ways, Aristotle is a deeply and fundamentally different thinker than his teacher.

To begin to see this, one need only consider the way each organized his writing, indeed, even the titles of his works. For Aristotle has a “metaphysics,” “physics,” “psychology,” “ethics,” “politics,” and so on. That is, he explicitly organized his work into these different books, with their relatively carefully defined subject matters, methodologies, and first principles. Moreover, in addition to the explicit titles of his books, Aristotle draws a broad distinction between the theoretical, practical, and productive sciences, once again on the basis of distinctions in subject matters, methodologies, and first principles. This enables him both to organize or classify the subject matters in a relatively clear way, and to study each subject matter in isolation from the others, thus again, presumably, attaining greater clarity in each. To be sure, these divisions are not at all rigid, and there is much appropriate overlap among them. I am not at all claiming that Aristotle is a strict maintainer of rigid categorical distinctions between disciplines. But he does pave the way for that process by first making those distinctions, which become our disciplines, and writing his works in at least the partial light of those distinctions. … Lastly on this issue, after an apparent early dabbling in the writing of dialogues, he wrote all his work in a treatise format. Heidegger is so unimpressed by this difference from Plato that at least once in the Sophist course he refers to the Sophist as a “specifically ontological treatise” (PS, 160).

Now none of this is true of Plato. He writes dialogues, not treatises, the titles of which are not clearly delineated subject matters but usually the names of characters (sometimes, intriguingly, minor characters) in the dialogue. When they do take titles that indicate subjects, they are not names of disciplines but of specific topics: Sophist, Statesman, Republic, etc. Moreover, no Platonic dialogue can be designated as treating a single, specific subject matter, including the three named just above. To be sure, what after Aristotle will be called metaphysical issues, ethical issues, psychological issues, epistemological issues, etc., are raised in this or that dialogue. But typically, they are raised in something like the manner that they arise in human life: as intertwined in complex and sometimes confusing ways. What we could call the “existential complexity” in which philosophical issues are raised in the dialogues is of course the source of the presumed (by Heidegger at least) Platonic obscurity. Where is Plato’s metaphysics (if there is one at all)? His ethics, epistemology, politics, etc.? They are notoriously all over the place, buried here in one dialogue, there in another, and making it thus unendingly difficult to get a hold on what Plato’s position on this or that topic really is.

The crucial question to be raised here, in regard to Heidegger, is this: is this Platonic tendency to place issues in the complex and intertwined existential situations in which they actually arise, and the Aristotelean decision to divide them up into separate disciplines with relative clarity, to be interpreted as an advance on Aristotle’s part, as his seeing something clearly that Plato only saw obscurely? Or is it perhaps not that Plato had not yet thought of the idea of clearly dividing the sciences, but rather that he rejected the idea in favor of a presentation of issues as they arise in a concrete human life and situation? We need not here resolve this question in order to acknowledge that it is a question, one which indicates how utterly different these thinkers were. But the very raising of the question, and so of the issue of the fundamental differences between Aristotle and Plato, is obliterated if we simply assume that Aristotle was doing the same thing as Plato only clearer.

I have developed this line of thinking and questioning in order to allow to be raised as a serious—and not an insulting—question whether Aristotle might not have been such a fundamentally different thinker than Plato that he really couldn’t understand him in a deep sense. This hypothesis is made more plausible, I now want to suggest, by the second consideration mentioned above, Aristotle’s attitude toward his predecessors, including Plato.

Aristotle reads all his predecessors, from the pre-Socratics through Plato, with a very narrow focus: they seem to interest him primarily in terms of the extent to which they do or do not hold to some aspect of Aristotle’s own thinking. Thus the early pre-Socratics are insightful in so far as they see the “material” cause of things. They are criticized in so far as they fail to see the other of the “four causes.” Plato clearly sees the significance of formal cause, which is his great insight, but fails to adequately account for material cause. … But a brief look at Aristotle’s reading of his predecessors reveals that by interpreting and evaluating them within such a narrow focus, Aristotle obviously passes over, or fails to see, much of the richness of these thinkers. There is nothing in Aristotle’s evaluations of his predecessors, for example, that can match the richness and depth of the examination of Protagoras or the Heracliteans in the Theaetetus, or of Parmenides in the Sophist. It is instructive in this regard that although at this time, in 1924–25, Heidegger is insisting that Plato must be understood through Aristotle, less than a decade later he has begun his series of incomparably rich studies of a number of pre-Socratic philosophers that could not conceivably be understood as Aristotelean. Quite to the contrary. Those studies of the pre-Socratics think those figures in remarkably creative and unorthodox ways that are as far as possible from Aristotle’s rather professorial assessments of his predecessors in terms of their proximity to his own thought. As we shall see, it is odd that although Heidegger rather quickly and completely rejects the notion that the pre-Socratics should be read through Aristotle, he never can quite bring himself to reject that idea as applied to Plato, even in his later work.

If these considerations are plausible, they make altogether problematic the guiding interpretive decision that determines the entire course of Heidegger’s lecture course, that Plato must be understood through Aristotle and again and again assessed as a less clear version of the Stagirite. But if so, it must be immediately acknowledged that this tendency is not in the least a peculiarity of Heidegger’s. Everyone who speaks of Plato’s “metaphysics,” “ethics,” “psychology,” and the like—and that means virtually all of us—is doing precisely what Heidegger insists we must do, reading Plato through Aristotelian categories, except that we are too often not even aware of what we are doing. Heidegger makes his guiding assumptions explicit and thereby opens them to be criticized, as I have done here. But to call into question Heidegger’s Aristotelian reading of Plato is to call into question every standpoint that speaks of Plato’s metaphysics, ethics, epistemology, etc. And that means almost all of us. (Drew HylandQuestioning Platonism, 2004., str. 31.-37.)



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