14 ● Heidegger and Aristotle

One of my purposes in using Heidegger’s 1922 outline for his Aristotle book as the framework for my own initial remarks is to show that the plan for his interpretation of the Physics and Metaphysics, though the actual courses and texts do not appear until the thirties, is already in place in the early twenties. There is a certain identifiable strategy that Heidegger employs in his reading of Aristotle, and a certain basic insight into Aristotle that governs all of his interpretations. This insight, as I previously stated, is simply that Aristotle thinks being as twofold. The capacity to reveal the twofold is the defining characteristic of human being, according to Aristotle. Thus, Heidegger says, in this 1922 essay, that the guiding question of his Aristotle interpretation will be: what is the sort of object and character of being that Aristotle had in mind in interpreting and experiencing human life? Is human life interpreted on its own terms or within the framework of a broader understanding of being that Aristotle brings to bear on his interpretation of human being?42 Heidegger’s claim is that the primordial sense of being for Aristotle—the field of beings and sense of being that govern his general understanding and interpretation of beings—is production.43 For the most part, beings are interpreted in their being as available for use in our dealings (Vorhandensein). Thus, according to Heidegger’s analysis, the idea that Aristotle employed a theoretical, impartial, and objective model of understanding the being of beings is false. Beings are understood in terms of how they appear (their look to us or εἶδος) and in terms of their being addressed and claimed in a λόγος oriented to and by its surroundings. Heidegger insists that Aristotle’s word for being—οὐσία—still resonates with its original sense of availability for use, in the sense of possessions or belongings.44 Heidegger insists further that Aristotle’s ontological structures arise from this preliminary way of grasping beings in general. The question is whether human being is also analyzed on the basis of this general conception of being in terms of production.

In saying that production governs the Aristotelian conception of being, Heidegger is not arguing that Aristotle understood all beings including human being on the basis of a model drawn from τέχνη. What is at issue, rather, is something like world, though Heidegger does not make this explicit in this essay. Beings from τέχνη, produced beings in the sense that their coming to be is handled and managed by a craftsperson, natural beings, and human beings all are produced differently, but all are interpreted (through τέχνη or ἐπιστήμη or φρόνησις) as ways of being produced or brought forth. In fact, when it comes to making explicit the ontological structure of beings, Aristotle’s field of research is not beings from τέχνη at