Being and Time: A "Translation" of the Nicomachean Ethics?

Franco Volpi


1. If Aristotle Were Alive Today

A respected scholar of ancient philosophy, Jonathan Barnes, once said—indeed wrote—that if Aristotle were alive today he would undoubtedly live in Oxford, taking a few side trips to Louvain perhaps. A no less respected Italian specialist in Greek philosophy retorted that, if Aristotle were to have lived in our century, he would have at least spent his vacations in Padua. Overworking the anachronism, I would add: had Aristotle lived in our century, he would not have lived in Oxford for the sake of discussion with Jonathan Barnes, nor would he have stayed over in Louvain or Padua; rather, he would have preferred philosophizing in the Black Forest with Heidegger.

What this bon mot is trying to convey is clear: Heidegger's work is the most significant philosophical confrontation of Aristotle in our century. To understand this claim, one must of course momentarily put aside an interest in the historical truth of the Greek world and instead pay attention to the unbiased and uninhibited way that Heidegger seeks to draw from Greek philosophy as the first and originary repertoire of philosophizing. He does not wish to determine the historical facts of the matter; rather, he seeks to appropriate—and this means for all of us and the entire century—the founding questions first thought by the Greeks and especially by Aristotle, in order thereby to obtain a fundamental doctrine. Thus Heidegger has not only restored to us a sense for the problems that Aristotle first set forth (and indeed Heidegger has done so with a radicality unmatched since Hegel), but he has also simultaneously shown us again, after the crisis of grand philosophy, what it means to philosophize in the grand style.

With this as my background, my reflections on Heidegger's confrontation of Aristotle will try to make my opening bon mot convincing in all its truth. In particular, I will examine this confrontation of Aristotle in the crucial ten-year silence preceding the publication of Being and Time.1 I intend thereby to show how the genesis of the terminology in Being and Time can be explained by paying attention to its zealous appropriation of Aristotle's practical philosophy. To put it in a nutshell, I will ask the following provocative question: is Being and Time a "translation" of the Nicomachean Ethics?


2. Methodological Access To and Thematic Focus of the Early Heidegger's Confrontation of Aristotle

A brief word is necessary at the outset to sketch the general context in which I see Heidegger's confrontation of Aristotle at this time playing itself out. This confrontation is methodologically and thematically determined in the following manner. 1) Methodologically, it is stamped by the critical comportment that generally characterizes Heidegger's mode of access to traditional philosophy up until his turn; termed "phenomenological destruction" in Being and Time, it is understood together with "reduction" and "construction" as one of the three essential components of phenomenological method. This term is thus to be used not in the trivial sense of everyday speech, but in the sense of de-construction, that is, as a dismantling [Abbau] and dissection of the essential elements of traditional philosophic constructions, in order to effect a truly radical reconstruction [Wiederaulbaul. 2) Thematically, Heidegger's confrontation of Aristotle up until Being and Time is oriented to the basic problems that also stand at the center of his magnum opus. These are at least three in number: the question of truth, the question of the mode of being of human being (Dasein), and the question of time. The unitary horizon within which these questions are treated is undoubtedly the horizon of the question of being, which is here still developed in the sense of the question of the being of beings and thus as the question of the determination of the fundamental modes of being.

Of these three major problems (truth, Dasein, time), I will primarily treat the one that is for me decisive, namely, the problem of Dasein, that is, the problem of the ontological constitution of human life (its fundamental and unitary manner of being). How does Heidegger come to pose this question, and indeed pose it in the horizon of the question of being that occupied him ever since he read Brentano's Von der mannigfachen Bedeutung des Seienden nach Aristoteles? My supposition, in which I consider Heidegger's autobiographical portrait "Mein Weg in die Phanomenologie" (SD 81-90/74-82) not as a self-stylized account of his school years but as a sincere testimony, is that he arrived at the three major problems of truth, Dasein, and time (and indeed in their systematic nexus) by investigating the ontological problematic of ον ως πολλαχώς λεγόμενον, "being as said in many ways." Overall, the leading threads of Heidegger's philosophical questioning in the twenties developed, as he himself explains, in the search for the unified basic sense of being sustaining the manifold meanings of beings; it may be supposed further that in pursuing this goal Heidegger tested each of the four basic meanings of beings as to their ability to function as the sustaining basic sense of being. Quickly dissatisfied with the ousiological solutions of the question offered by the Scholastic tradition (and by Brentano), Heidegger immersed himself during his ten-year silence before Being and Time in investigating the meaning of beings in the sense of the true (to which, by the way, Brentano had also directed his gaze). Here one can clearly see a pervasive intention to test whether this meaning can serve as the basic sense of being. Heidegger's 1922 introduction to a projected book on Aristotle, "Phanomenologische Interpretationen zu Aristoteles (Anzeige der hermeneutischen Situation)" (PIA), and his course of WS 1925-26, Logik. Die Frage nach der Wahrheit (GA21), as well as the conclusion to his course of WS 1929-30, Die Grundbegriffe der Metaphysik. Welt-Endlichkeit-Einsamkeit (GA29/30), and the first part of the course of the following semester, Vom Wesen der menschlichen Freiheit (GA31), make manifest just how decisive the equation of truth and being, worked out in interpreting Aristotle, was for Heidegger. With the same intention of discovering the unitary basic sense of being, Heidegger later also sounded out-so goes my supposition-the basic meaning of beings in the sense of δύναμις and ἐνέργεια, potency and act, as one can see in the course of SS 1931, an interpretation of Metaphysics Theta, 1-3.2

I will now pursue the way that Heidegger, starting from his interest in the problematic of the manifold meaning of beings, arrives at a reconstruction of Aristotle's practical philosophy, in particular, of the questioning in Book Zeta of the Nicomachean Ethics. One should consider at the outset the circumstance that Heidegger's access to Aristotle's practical philosophy takes place in the context of an investigation of beings in the sense of the true, and that this investigation was determined by Heidegger's in-depth confrontation of Husserl's Logical Investigations. This confrontation can now be followed in all its details in the course of SS 1925, Prolegomena zur Geschichte des Zeitbegriffs (GA20).


3. The Phenomenological Treatment of the Phenomenon of Truth and the Locus of Truth in Aristotle

In critically examining the theory of truth developed by Husserl in the Logical Investigations, Heidegger comes to the conviction that, as is also already clear in Husserl's own work, the judgment, the assertion, a σύνθεσις or διαίρεσις of representations, is not, as is traditionally maintained, the original locus of the appearance of truth, but merely a localization that, compared with the ontological depth of the happening of truth, constricts the phenomenon. For this reason he wants to place in question the three traditional theses on the essence of truth, which maintain that: 1) truth is an adaequatio intellectus et rei, an adequation of intellect and things; 2) the original locus of its appearance is the judgment as a combining or separating of representations; and 3) the authorship of these two propositions is to be attributed to Aristotle.

With his thesis that not only relational and synthetic acts, but also monothetic acts of simple apprehension can be true, Husserl had already put in question the traditional concept of truth as an adequatio occurring in a judgment; consequently, he distinguished propositional from intuitional truth, assigning the latter a founding and more original role. Moreover, Husserl had introduced a decisive innovation, namely, the idea of a categorial intuition; in analogy with sensory intuition, it was to explain the cognitive apprehension of the elements of a judgment, which traditionally belong in the sphere of the categorial. Their identification therefore exceeds sensory intuition. These reflections in the sixth of Husserl's Logische Untersuchungen provide Heidegger with clues to push ahead in the direction indicated here. Thus he comes to distinguish terminologically the pure logical meaning of "being-true" from the more original, ontological meaning of "truth." He is here convinced that this distinction can be found prefigured in Aristotle. In Heidegger's eyes, the originary ontological depth of the phenomenon of truth is in fact the determining one for Aristotle, even though the latter surely also knew the more limited meaning of being-true belonging to assertion. Heidegger's questioning of the traditional concept of truth, set in motion by Husserl's phenomenology, thus proceeds by way of a strongly ontologizing interpretation of certain key texts of Aristotle, such as De interpretatione 1, Metaphysics Theta 10, and Nicomachean Ethics Zeta, which he seeks to restore to their full ontological force.

Heidegger thus arrives at something like a topology of the loci of truth. In drawing it up, he assimilates certain basic determinations of the Aristotelian concept of truth and restores their validity through an ontologizing refiguration. In broad outlines this topology can be summarized in the following manner: 1) Beings themselves [das Seiende selbst] are primarily true in the sense of their being-manifest, being-uncovered, being-unconcealed. Here Heidegger re-establishes the Aristotelian determination of ὃν ὡς ἀληθές, being as true. 2) In addition, then, Dasein, human life, is true in the sense of its being-uncovering, that is, on the basis of its comportment that uncovers beings. Here Heidegger assimilates the Aristotelian determination of the ψυχή ὡς ἀληθεύειν, the soul as being-in-truth. Furthermore, Heidegger believes he can with some justification draw from Aristotle, especially from the 6th Book of the Nicomachean Ethics, a complete phenomenology of the uncovering comportments, of being-in-the-truth, belonging to human life. These comportments can be detailed as follows. The human ψυχή, Dasein, can in the first place be uncovering through its specific capacity of combining that belongs to λόγος; this occurs in the five ways of being-in-truth, of the ἀληθεύειν of ψυχή that are named in Nicomachean Ethics Zeta: τέχνη, technique; ἐπιστήμη, science; φρόνησις, prudence; σοφία, wisdom; νοῦς, reason. But the human ψυχή, Dasein, can also be "intuitively" uncovering in immediate apprehension; it can be this in αἴσθησις, sensation (which is related to its ἴδιον, its proper object, and is thus ἀεί ἀληθές, always true) or in νόησις, reason (which apprehends its object through as it were a θιγγανειν, θιγειν, a touching, and thus cannot be false, but rather only actualized [vollzogen] or, on the other hand, absent in ἀγνοειν, ignorance). The above-named combining comportments are grounded in the immediately uncovering ones. 3) Finally, what is true is the explicit form of λόγος, namely, the λόγος ἀποφαντικός, the predicative assertion in its two forms of κατάφασις and ἀπόφασις, affirmation and denial. The being-true of the assertion is, however, a derivative mode of the originary happening of truth in which it is grounded.

By means of this ontologizing reconstruction of Aristotle's theory of truth, Heidegger disengages the understanding of the phenomenon of truth from the structure of the assertion and opens up the ontological horizon in which he unfolds the problem of beings in the sense of the true. It is in the context of the analysis of this basic meaning of beings in the sense of the true that Heidegger devotes himself in the twenties to determining the basic ontological structure of human life, Dasein, the ψυχή, and indeed in its specific character of being-uncovering. It is thus in the context of the typical phenomenological question of the basic constitution of "subjectivity" that Heidegger interprets the Aristotelian determination of ψυχή as ἀληθεύειν, being-in-truth, and it is with this combination of a phenomenological mode of access and Aristotelian components that he gets the existential analysis of Being and Time going.

But why and whence the central significance of the Nicomachean Ethics and the concept of πρᾶξις, action, as I have announced this in the title of this chapter? There are to my mind more than enough indications that lend weight to the thesis that Heidegger had recourse to the Nicomachean Ethics and the Aristotelian determination of πρᾶξις in order to extricate himself from the problems into which he must have been necessarily led by Husserl's concept of transcendental subjectivity.


4. The central character of the signification of being qua true and the topology of the loci of the truth

In Heidegger's eyes, Husserl's determination of subjectivity actually leads into a real dead end, namely, into the aporia of the I belonging to the world and the simultaneous constitution of the world by the I. Heidegger could not subscribe to Husserl's proposed solution that sharply distinguished between the I that psychologically belongs to the world and the I that transcendentally constitutes it, between the reality of the one and the ideality of the other. Certainly, Heidegger agreed with Husserl that the constitution of the world could not be explained by recourse to beings that have the same manner of being, the same ontological status, as the world. Nevertheless, he distanced himself from Husserl's determination of transcendental subjectivity, since he thought this was acquired primarily and one-sidedly within the horizon of a privileging of rationalistic and theorizing determinations.

As is clear from his analysis of the phenomenon of truth and from his topology of the loci of truth, Heidegger was convinced that theory is only one of the manifold uncovering comportments in which human beings have access to and grasp beings. Next to and before θεωρία, theory, stand, for example, πρᾶξις and ποίησις, action and production, which are likewise modes of the comportment of human being to beings. Consequently, Heidegger went back anew to Aristotle who, according to Heidegger, remained open to the multiplicity of Dasein's uncovering comportments and was in fact able to describe them on human life's own terms. In an interpretation of Aristotle on which he had worked since 1919 and wὡςe traces can be seen in the Marburg courses and in Being and Time, Heidegger interprets Book Zeta of the Nicomachean Ethics in this direction. He thereby discovers in Aristotle's treatment of the intellectual virtues just so many determinations of human life, which Husserl had never recognized or thematized in its full richness. It is precisely in the horizon marked out by the resistance to Husserl's theorizing concept of the subject and by the productive assimilation of the wealth of Aristotle's thought that the existential analysis of Being and Time is to be understood. So I think one has a good chance of understanding Heidegger's philosophical work in the twenties if one rereads the Dasein-analysis anew in the light of the phenomenological interpretation of Aristotle, especially of the Nicomachean Ethics, and if one here pays attention to the fact that the fruits of Heidegger's eager assimilation of Aristotle often turn up in places where there is no mention of Aristotle. I would like to highlight just this Aristotelian horizon of some basic determinations that can be unearthed and singled out in the existential analysis. I do this by showing correspondences that reveal how Heidegger, in several basic terms of his analysis, reappropriates, reformulates, and reactivates the substantial sense of just as many basic concepts of Aristotle's practical philosophy.

The first and in itself fairly conspicuous correspondence is that between the three ways of the being of beings differentiated in Being and Time (namely, readiness-to-hand, presence-at-hand, and Dasein) and the Aristotelian determinations of ποίησις, θεωρία, and πρᾶξις. 1) Θεωρία, theory, is the comportment of an observing and describing knowing, which sets itself the goal of apprehending the truth of beings, and whose specific knowing is σοφία, wisdom. When Dasein holds itself in this disposition, it encounters beings in the manner of being that is presence-at-hand (a term with which Heidegger recovers in an ontologized translation the Aristotelian determination of τὰ πρόχειρα, what is close at hand; see Metaphysics Alpha 2, 982b 12-13: διὰ γὰρ τὸ θαυμάζειν οἱ ἄνθρωποι καὶ νῦν καὶ τὸ πρῶτον ἤρξαντο φιλοσοφεῖν, ἐξ ἀρχῆς μὲν τὰ πρόχειρα τῶν ἀτόπων θαυμάσαντες, "for it was astonishment that now and at first led human beings to philosophize; at the start they were astonished at strange things close at hand.") 2) Ποίησις, production, is the comportment of productive, manipulative activity, whose goal is the production of things made, artifacts. The corresponding disposition is τέχνη, technique, whereby we encounter beings in the manner of being that is readiness-to-hand. 3) Finally, πρᾶξις is action that occurs for its own sake and whose goal is a unique type of success, namely, εὖ πράττειν, acting well. Φρόνησις, prudentia, prudence, is the knowing that belongs to and orients it. With Heidegger, the uncovering comportment of πρᾶξις is enlisted, according to my thesis, to serve as the distinguishing mark of the manner of being belonging to Dasein.

Before we consider this last correspondence, which seems to me to be the most significant but at the same time also the most thought -provoking one, a general remark on the nature and style of Heidegger's reappropriation of Aristotelian concepts is necessary. It is obvious that Heidegger not only re-establishes the above-named determinations, but also at the same time reinterprets and transforms them to a great extent. The most noticeable alteration seems to me to be the emphasizing and indeed absolutizing of the ontological feature of the determinations, that is, their interpretation as ways of being in the strict sense, such that all ontic meaning is excluded in principle. What interests Heidegger is manifestly not the individual πράξεις (actions), ποιησεις (producings), and θεωρίαi (theorizings), but rather only the ontological potential of these determinations. Certainly, one can find points of contact in the Aristotelian text on which to fix this ontologizing interpretation. For instance, if one were to read the differentiation between ποιησεις and πράξεις in Book Zeta of the Nicomachean Ethics in conjunction with Metaphysics, Theta 6, one would clearly recognize that an ontic differentiation is not at issue, that is, a differentiation with reference to individual actualizations of action, where there are ποιησεις on the one hand and πράξεις on the other. Rather, this differentiation has an ontological character; it distinguishes two different ways of being that do not ontically stand out from one another. For example, giving a speech can have the way of being of a ποίησις (in the sense of the production of λόγοι, statements, by an orator), but it can also have the way of being of πρᾶξις (in the sense of a political speech); on the ontic level this difference does not appear. It is thus exclusively this ontological content of the Aristotelian concepts that Heidegger extrapolates and absolutizes in distinguishing the modes of being of Dasein, readiness-to-hand, and presence-at-hand.

Another decisive transformation is the displacement of the hierarchy in which the three determinations stand to one another. Among the possible ways of being-uncovering belonging to ψυχή, θεωρία is no longer viewed as the highest vocation that is to be preferred for human being. Rather, in the context of Heidegger's ontologizing, πρᾶξις in each of its components is elevated to serve as the basic determination of the way of being belonging to the human being, that is, as its ontological structure. On the basis of this structural shift, the relation of πρᾶξις to the other two determinations is altered as well: readiness-to-hand (in which the determination of ποίησις is taken up) and presence-at-hand (which corresponds to θεωρία) characterize the ways of the being of beings not of the order of Dasein; these are conditioned by the ways in which Dasein comports itself to beings, either in an observational and veridical or in a manipulative and productive manner. Still another hierarchic structuring ensues. Ποίησις and θεωρία are now both understood as two ways of a comportment that Heidegger names "concern." With this move Heidegger arrives at two things: on the one hand, he exhibits a unitary connection between readiness- to-hand and presence-at-hand, ποίησις and θεωρία (and between these two and Dasein); on the other, he makes it possible for himself to maintain that θεωρία is not an originary comportment, but merely a derivative mode of ποίησις.

Ontologizing, hierarchical displacement, and unitary ordering are thus the decisive refigurations that underlie Heidegger's assimilation of Aristotle's concepts of πρᾶξις, ποίησις, and θεωρία. There still remains the question, however, why I interpret πρᾶξις as the determination that forms the basis for characterizing the manner of being belonging to Dasein. I do so because it seems to me that the characterization of Dasein and its basic structure is conducted in an eminently practical horizon obtained from an ontologically reinterpreted concept of πρᾶξις.


5. Dasein as Πρᾶξις: Aristotle's Practical Philosophy as the Watermark of the Existential Analysis

It seems to me that the characterization of the manner of being of Dasein as a to-be [Zu-seinJ, which Heidegger introduces at the beginning of the existential analysis (Being and Time, §§4 and 9), can in the first place be interpreted in a practical sense. With this characterization Heidegger wants to say that Dasein, human life, originally comports itself to its being not in a contemplative, observational, and veridical attitude, that is, in a theorizing, reflexive introspection of itself, in an inspectio sui; rather, it comports itself to its being in a practical-moral attitude, in which its being is itself in each case at issue in the sense that it has to decide about this its being and, before its willing or non-willing, take on the burden of this decision. This means that Dasein primarily relates itself to its being not in order to fix and describe it in its essential traits (e.g., as animal rationale), but rather in order to decide what is to be made out of it, to choose and actualize [voliziehen] its own possibility from among a variety of possibilities. Here Dasein cannot bypass the burden of this decision, this choice, and this actualization. In this sense Dasein has to take upon itself the unbearable lightness of its being.

Only the insight into the basic practical-moral structure of Dasein makes it possible to apprehend the unifying context of the other determinations of Dasein that Heidegger discovers. For example, only in this way can one understand why Heidegger designates the mode of "disclosedness" by a determination drawn from practical philosophy, namely, care. Care, with which Heidegger is able to comprehend more primordially the phenomenon that Husserl had characterized as intentionality, is in my view the ontologizing of the basic trait of human life that Aristotle designated with the concept ὄρεξις διανοητική, noetic desire. The proof for this claim? It would suffice to collate the places in those Aristotelian texts commented upon by Heidegger in which the term ὄρεξις or the verb ὀρέγομαι appears so as to be able to establish the important point that Heidegger translates them each time with his term "care." The most conspicuous passage in this regard is the beginning of the Metaphysics, whose first sentence, πάντες ἄνθρωποι τοῦ εἰδέναι ὀρέγονται φύσει, reads in Heidegger's translation: "the care for seeing is essentially inherent in the being of human being" (GA20 380/275; SZ 171/215). What should be noted here is, of course, the correspondence between ὄρεξις and "care," but also the ontologizing of πάντες ἄνθρωποι, all human beings, with the phrase, "in the being of human being."

Heidegger draws several fundamental conclusions from the ontologizing of πρᾶξις and the practical determination of the manner of being belonging to Dasein: 1) Against the metaphysical privilege of the present and presence, Heidegger advocates the priority of the future. Precisely because Dasein comports itself to itself in a practical sense by deciding about its being, this being that is at stake is in each case futural. For, as Aristotle teaches in the Nicomachean Ethics, deliberation (βούλευσις) and decision (προαίρεσις) always have to do with something futural. 2) The being to which Dasein comports itself is Dasein's own being that is in each case proper to it; Heidegger therefore ascribes to it the character of "mineness." I suspect that through this determination he takes up and ontologizes the sense of a basic trait belonging to the types of knowing appropriate to φρόνησις, which is characterized by Aristotle as an αὑτό εἰδέναι, a knowing of oneself, and thus as a knowing about τὰ αυτό αγαθα και συμφόβοντα, one's own goods and expediencies (Nicomachean Ethics Zeta, 1140a 26-27, 1141b 34). 3) In view of all these findings Heidegger advocates a radical differentiation between the ontological constitution of Dasein and that of beings not of the order of Dasein, for only Dasein is constituted as a to-be, only Dasein comports itself to itself in an eminently practical-moral sense. On the basis of this differentiation Heidegger can then criticize the insufficient radicality of the metaphysical distinctions between human being and nature, subject and object, consciousness and world, above all because they are not based on insight into the originary ontological constitution of Dasein. 4) Finally, the practical determination of the manner of being of Dasein implies a critique of the traditional theory of self-consciousness as an observational and reflexive self-knowledge accomplished by the inward turning of human being into itself. According to Heidegger, the identity of Dasein is rather constituted by recovering itself in its to-be, in its action as well as in its knowing, and this occurs not merely in the transparency of the rational, but just as much in the opacity of moods.

My thesis has now acquired precise contours: the understanding of the practical structure of human life, which Heidegger claims to be the ontological constitution of Dasein, originates from a type of speculative sedimentation—in the starting point and indeed in the terminology of Being and Time—of the substantial determination of the moral life and being of human being carried out in the Nicomachean Ethics. We now can see more clearly what else, in addition to the treatment above, comes to the fore regarding Aristotle. To begin with, the general horizon of the Aristotelian problematic is reconstituted. In the context of ἐπιστήμη πρακτική, practical science—a term that Heidegger, I would like to emphasize, translates with "ontology of human Dasein"—Aristotle deals with human life as πρᾶξις, and this in turn as the type of movement (κίνησις) that is specific to human being. Πρᾶξις is not simple ζῆν, that is, mere life and self-preservation of life, but rather βίος, that is, a life-project that is unfolded beyond the self-preservation of life with a view to the problematic choice of a form of life and indeed the good and best possible life (εὖ ζῆν, living well) and of the appropriate means to such a life. This means: as ζῷον πολιτικόν λόγον ἔχον, the social-political living being having λόγος, human being is supposed to deliberate (through βούλευσις), choose, and decide (through προαίρεσις) which ways and means of its life are to be taken hold of with a view to the best possible form of life for it. As is known, it is the prudent, wise human being, the φρόνιμος, to whom deliberating well (εὐβουλία), deciding well, and acting well (εὖ πράττειν) belong, and who thus attains happiness (εὐδαιμονία).

This fundamental intuition is taken up and reactivated by Heidegger through a reinterpretation in which its basic sense undergoes an onto logization. In fact, Dasein is also for Heidegger the exceptional being to whom its being (in Aristotle's ontic expression: fa haufo agatha kai sumpheronla, one's own goods and expediencies) is in each case an issue, and indeed in the sense that it must decide about the possibilities and ways of its actualization, even in the extreme case where this decision is a willing-not-to-decide and an evasion of its having to decide. The actualization of existence can take place authentically only when, hearing the call of conscience, Dasein recognizes this having to decide, and thereby its to-be, and takes this upon itself in the projection of its possibilities, thus accepting the difficult weight of its being as its ownmost without relinquishing this with the help of the "they."

To be sure, the Heideggerian ontologizing of πρᾶξις in each of its determinations necessarily leads to fundamental alterations and displacements. I do not, of course, want to suppress or indeed to dispute this onfologizing, but neither do I want, so to speak, to turn it against myself as an objection. Thus, in laying out the correspondences that, despite all the differences, stand out between Aristotle and Heidegger, I would like to push on and show how, in the determination of the disclosedness of Dasein, Heidegger again goes back to the Aristotelian understanding of the moral being of human being.

As the basic trait of Dasein's way of being, disclosedness obviously arises from the originary unity of Dasein and world. The unitary sense of disclosedness inclusive of the existentials is care, whose three major determinations are moodfully finding oneself [Befindlichkeit], understanding, and discourse. To comprehend these concepts one should consider that Heidegger here reappropriates several fundamental determinations of the human being as an acting being and, ontologically deepening them, radicalizes them in the context of fundamental ontology. With Befindlichkeit he magnifies in an ontological-transcendental sense that determination of the actor which has been thought in the traditional theory of affects as the moment of the passivity, receptivity, finitude, and corporeality of the actor. A significant piece of evidence for this association I am suggesting is the fact that in his interpretation of Augustine the young Heidegger translates the term affectio precisely with Befindlichkeit (BZ 11). Analogously, then, Heidegger-so goes my further assumption-ontologizes in "understanding" the active, projective moment of productivity and spontaneity.

Without examining at this time the third equiprimordial moment of discourse, I would like to suggest that the two moments of Befindlichkeit and understanding correspond to two central determinations of Aristotle's theory of action. Befindlichkeit represents for Heidegger the ontological ground for the possibility of ontic moods [Stimmungen]; in it Dasein opens itself up with regard to its to-be, is placed before its "that it is and has to be" (as one reads in §29), and indeed in such a way that its whence and whither remain hidden from it; this is its thrownness. What Heidegger wants to indicate here is that to the structure of Dasein belongs not merely the pure, transparent, and rational moments of spontaneity and self-determination, but equally a murky and opaque side that has been understood traditionally as the affective, and whose ontological condition of possibility Heidegger seeks to determine with the concept of Befindlichkeit. In other words, the identity of human life is actualized, according to Heidegger, not simply in the transparence of purely rational self-presentation and self-determination, but equally in the inaccessible opacity of its moods. Telling for my thesis concerning Heidegger's relation to Aristotle is the fact that his discussion of Befindlichkeit (§29) explicitly refers to the doctrine of pathe, affects, expounded in the second book of the Rhetoric. Heidegger extricates this doctrine from the context of oratory in which it stands for Aristotle, and voices the conviction that it is "the first systematic hermeneutic of the everydayness of being-with-one-another," after which no progress was made in the ontological interpretation of the affects until phenomenology (SZ 138/178).

The determination of understanding (§31) is in my view the complementary moment to Befindlichkeit, that is, it is the ontological ground for the possibility of the active and spontaneous ontic determinations of Dasein. It is the determination that expresses the productivity of the can-be of Dasein. In contrast to the commonplace meaning of the word in which understanding is a specific type of knowledge, Heidegger has this term characterize the basic ontological constitution of Dasein, insofar as Dasein is activity and self-determination, that is, has the character of projection and thus anticipates and shapes its own being in an eminently practical stance. That Heidegger determines understanding as an ontological mode of the can-be in its existentiality, that he ascribes to it the structure of projection, that he defines its meaning as "being able to do something" or "being able to manage something" -all this shows that the Heideggerian determination of understanding is to be interpreted in relation to a practical horizon. Certainly, as a rigorously ontological determination it precedes the distinction between theory and practice. But this by no means prevents Heidegger's characterization of it from being oriented to a specific frame of reference, and this is surely not that of θεωρία, but rather precisely that of πρᾶξις. So it is no wonder that practical elements nevertheless slip through Heidegger's ontological filter. If one consults, for instance, the discussion of understanding in the SS 1927 course Die Grundprobleme der Phanomenologie, in which the filter of Heidegger's repression of the ontic is even more encompassing than in Being and Time, one finds there the statement-very telling for my thesis-that understanding "is the authentic sense of action" (GA24 393/277). And in light of my thesis one then also understands why Heidegger is so anxious to shield the determination of understanding from any epistemological misinterpretation in the sense of a type of knowledge opposed to explanation. It is obviously intended to safeguard the practical character of understanding.

The practical horizon of Heidegger's concept of understanding is also clearly visible in the determination of the knowing that accompanies and guides understanding. Understanding has the structure not only of a projection, but also of a knowing, a "sight" that orients the projection. This is the knowledge and sight of one's self in which Dasein achieves self-transparency or, as Heidegger puts it, "perspicuity" [Durchsichtigkeit]. Heidegger has recourse to this term, as he himself explains, in order to avoid the misinterpretation of the selfhood of Dasein within the horizon of perception, apprehension, inspection, intuition, that is, within the context of the theorizing type of understanding that defines traditional theories of self-consciousness.

Without wishing to overlook or indeed deny the obvious and deep differences involved, I want to point out here another correspondence, which should be taken cum grana salis. In the background of Heidegger's determination of understanding stands the substantial sense of that which is conceived in Aristotle's theory of action as νοῦς πρακτικός, practical reason. Just as this functions as the complement to ὄρεξις, desire, and is essentially bound up with it, so understanding is the determination that complements Befindlichkeit. Certainly, understanding is not confined to a theory of action, but concerns Dasein in its entirety; thus it is developed as "concern" (encompassing theoretical as well as poietic comportments) in relation to the things of the environing world, as "solicitude" in relation to the with-world of others, and in relation to itself as the "for-the-sake-of-which" (an ontologizing of the Aristotelian οὗ ἕνεκα, for the sake 00. Understanding has its unitary roots in care, and is thus seated in a completely different way than νοῦς πρακτικός. And yet, in thematizing the complementarity and equiprimordiality of Befindlichkeit and understanding, of passivity and activity, receptivity and spontaneity, of thrownness and projection, relucence and prestructuring, Heidegger has again raised in an ontologically radicalized context the same problem that Aristotle took up in the sixth book of the Nicomachean Ethics when he stated that human being is the ἀρχή, the origin, which is simultaneously ὄρεξις dianoetike and νοῦς orektikos, noetic desire and desiderative mind (1139b 4-5). And just as Aristotle sees the bond of ὄρεξις and νοῦς as always occurring in the medium of specifically human λόγος, so Heidegger maintains the equiprimordiality of discourse with Befindlichkeit and understanding.

Heidegger of course insists on the deep ontological radicality of his problematic and thus on the differences between Aristotle and himself; for instance, he declares that care precedes any differentiation of theory and πρᾶξις (§41) and therefore cannot be explained on the basis of a return to traditional concepts such as will, craving, and inclination. But the fact that he finds this declaration necessary betrays that in the end a thematic relationship between care and the Aristotelian concept of ὄρεξις persists; exactly this is what makes necessary the distinction he sets forth.

In the context of these correspondences one then understands also why Heidegger, as Gadamer has reported, could exclaim regarding the difficulty in translating the term φρόνησις: "it's the conscience!"3 He was obviously thinking of the proper determination of conscience as the locus in Dasein at which its to-be, its practical-moral determination, announces itself to Dasein. (Heidegger also believes he can see the same problem in the Kantian determination of the "feeling of respect.") In Being and Time (§§54-60) conscience is characterized as the locus of an "attestation on the part of Dasein to its authentic can-be"; this attestation takes place when, in the attitude of wanting-to-have-a-conscience, Dasein hears the call of conscience and thus authentically exists. Analogously, φρόνησις for Aristotle forms the horizon within which good action, εὖ πράττειν, becomes possible. And thus just as in Aristotle φρόνησις requires an acquaintance with the καιρός, so in Heidegger conscience is constantly related to the Augenblick, the moment.

There are thus good grounds for saying that conscience in Heidegger corresponds to φρόνησις, that it is indeed the ontologizing of φρόνησις. In fact, one can even cite the passage in the Nicomachean Ethics that offers a decisive motive for ontologizing φρόνησις. It is found in the conclusion of the fifth chapter of Book Zeta: after having defined φρόνησις as ἕξις μετὰ λόγου ἀληθῆ, a true habit involving λόγος, Aristotle explains that even this definition is insufficient for fully comprehending the essence of φρόνησις, for it is more than a ἕξις, a habit. Remarkably, Aristotle does not say what it is supposed to be then, but merely offers evidence for his assertion: one can forget every ἕξις, but φρόνησις can never be forgotten. In interpreting this passage-so goes my surmise-Heidegger must have attended to precisely the question as to what "more" φρόνησις might genuinely be. If it is more than a ἕξις and cannot be forgotten, then it must be a characteristic of ψυχή itself; it has to be ontologically understood.

One can persist in laying out such correspondences and show how Heidegger also performs a similar ontologizing of other determinations of Aristotle's practical philosophy. But I have to be content here with simply enumerating them. With the term "mineness" Heidegger ontologizes, as I have previously indicated, the determination of φρόνησις as an αὑτό εἰδέναι, a knowing of oneself. Furthermore, the characterization of Dasein as the "for-the-sake-of-which" represents in my view the ontologizing of the οὗ ἕνεκα (for the sake of which) of πρᾶξις; it is proper to πρᾶξις not to be for the sake of something else (ἕνεκα τίνος), but rather to have its principle and goal (οὗ ἕνεκα) in its own self, and since Dasein is ontologized πρᾶξις, it must have the character of the οὗ ἕνεκα in a special manner. For this reason Heidegger characterizes Dasein as the for-the-sake-of-which. Finally, the determination of "resoluteness," which is often interpreted in connection with contemporary decision-theory, is in my view the ontologizing of the substantial sense of Aristotle's προαίρεσις, decision, with the difference that the latter designates a specific act in Aristotle's theory of action, while resoluteness amounts to a basic trait of the very constitution of Dasein. This correspondence is also confirmed by the fact that Heidegger translates προαίρεσις with "resoluteness." Here I can merely refer to a significant passage in the SS 1926 course Grundbegriffe der antiken Philosophie (GA22) where Heidegger interprets the passage from the second chapter of Book Gamma of the Metaphysics in which Aristotle distinguishes the philosopher from both the dialectician and the sophist. Heidegger translates: "Dialectic and sophistry have in a certain manner put on the same clothes as philosophy, but they are fundamentally not the same; sophistry only appears to be such. Dialectic is differentiated by its type of possibility: it has only limited possibilities, it can only experiment; philosophy, on the other hand, gives understanding. Sophists are differentiated by the nature of resoluteness to scientific research: they are not serious." One should notice that with "resoluteness to scientific research" Heidegger translates the Greek προαίρεσις τοῦ βίου, a choice of life.


6. From Heidegger to Aristotle and From Aristotle to Us

I hope that if the correspondences indicated above have not in fact proven my general thesis about Heidegger's re-establishment of basic questions and determinations of Aristotle's practical philosophy, then they have at least indeed rendered it plausible. But seeing that I have concentrated almost exclusively on, as it were, the pieces of the puzzle, that is, on the individual correspondences between specific concepts and terms, I would like in conclusion to come back to the general correspondence between the understanding of human being in Aristotle's practical philosophy and Heidegger's analysis of Dasein. I want to do this in the form of a citation that very clearly shows Heidegger's attempt to return to a proximity with Aristotle and also to bring Aristotle closer to himself. Near the end of the SS 1926 course Grundbegriffe der antiken Philosophie Heidegger concludes his discussion of the five ways of being-true belonging to ψυχή with this definition of human being: "ἄνθρωπος [human being] is the ζῷον [living being] to which πρᾶξις and moreover λόγος is fitting. These three determinations go together: ζωὴ πρακτική τοῦ λόγον ἔχοντος [the practical living being that has λόγος] is the essence of human being. The human being is the living being that has, in accord with its type of being, the possibility to act." The continuation of the text is likewise very significant: "This very same determination of human being turns up again in Kant: the human being that can speak, that is, act with grounds." The equation of "speak" and "act with grounds" should be noted here-a hint for interpreting the existential called "discourse"?

In re-establishing the Aristotelian determinations, Heidegger certainly radicalizes them from an ontological point of view, but having completed this ontologizing, he takes a critical distance from Aristotle, maintaining that Aristotle did not get as far as comprehending the unitary ontological nexus of the basic uncovering comportments belonging to human ψυχή (Le., θεωρία, πρᾶξις, and ποίησις), that he was unable to see the basic ontological constitution of human life, and that this was because he remained captive to the horizon of a naturalistic, chronological, and thus non-kairological understanding of time that denied him insight into originary temporality as the ontological ground of human ψυχή. Even the celebrated aporia of the relation of time and the soul that Aristotle after all explicitly posed as a problem, and of which Heidegger offers us a magisterial interpretation, does not suffice in Heidegger's eyes for reinterpreting Aristotle beyond the naturalistic metaphysical understanding of time. And yet even here there is again something that counts, namely, that it is precisely Aristotle who, at least on an ontic level, anticipates-so it may once again be surmised-the intuition that Heidegger later magnifies ontologically with the equation of Dasein and temporality. One sees this in a truly controversial passage from De anima Gamma 10 where Aristotle seems to ascribe to human being, in distinction from other living beings, the characteristic of αἴσθησις χρόνου, the sensation of time. The reason and occasion for my surmise is the fact that Heidegger knew this passage well and commented upon it in the following manner in the context of his interpretation of πρᾶξις as the basic trait of human life: "The opposition of drives and authentically resolute, reasonable action is a possibility only for living beings who have the possibility of understanding time. Insofar as that which is alive is abandoned to drives, it is related to το ήδη ηδυ, that which immediately is there and stimulates; drives strive uninhibitedly towards this, toward the present, the available. However, since αἴσθησις χρόνου, the sensation of time, is found in human being, the latter has the possibility of presenting τὸ μέλλον, the future, as something possible for the sake of which it acts."

Heideggerians will say: in this manner Heidegger is simplified and leveled down to Aristotle such that in Aristotle a correspondence, indeed even an anticipation, is found for Heidegger's decisive philosophic discovery in Being and Time, namely, the identification of the unitary ontological structure of Dasein with originary temporality. Conversely, non-Ηeideggerians will perhaps protest that what is passed off as Aristotelian has really little to do with him and appears more like speculation scraped together with an Aristotelian implement.

To these objections I would answer: I was clear about this risk, but still had to take it. If I have given the impression of leveling Heidegger down to Aristotle or vice versa, this entails merely a perspectival distortion. Contrary both to the old existentialist interpretation and to the new interpretation that somewhat carelessly would like to see in Heidegger's thought only the overcoming of metaphysics, I simply wanted to show, in the example of his early confrontation of Aristotle, how intensely Heidegger thought through the metaphysical tradition, confronted its decisive and founding moments, and thereby restored to our century a sense for the fundamentality of a confrontation of the Greeks.


1. See especially Heidegger's lecture courses of WS 1921-22 (GA61), SS 1922 (GA62), SS 1924 (GA18), WS 1924-25 (GA19), WS 1925-26 (GA21), and SS 1926 (GA22), as well as his 1922 essay on Aristotle (PIA).

2. Aristoteles: Metaphysik IX, GA33.

3. Hans-Georg Gadamer, Heideggers Wege: Studium zum Spätwerk (Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1983), p. 32.