Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Continuing with P. Christopher Smith on the 1924 lecture course on Aristotle’s Rhetoric.
But there is another reason for Heidegger's revolutionary reevaluation or rhetoric that goes along with this one, namely that Heidegger, even in 1924, had seen that the divorce of logos from pathos, of the rational and cognitive from what supposedly is merely ancillary feeling and emotion, was not only an abstraction from our original experience, but also an illusion. For even the most detached and abstract theoretical logoi or propositions have their ineliminable setting in the feeling which alone makes them possible in the first place, namely rhastone and diagoge, the relief from being harried and the leisure just to linger with things as an impartial observer of them. And once this is seen, Aristotle’s detailed and incisive exposition of the pathe or feelings in his Rhetoric no longer appears to be just a concession to the orator's practical need to convince simple minded listeners who cannot follow an extended argument — as even Aristotle himself would have us believe. Rather, the pathe and the examination of them emerge as intrinsic and crucial to any account of human speech. For this reason too, then, Aristotle's Rhetoric can take on philosophical importance for Heidegger that even Aristotle himself seems to have denied it.

However, my task here is not only to reconstruct but also to deconstruct Heidegger's explication of Aristotle's Rhetoric in these lectures of 1924. This is to say that I will not only be concermed with mining some of their enormous wealth but also with probing some inherent inconsistencies and tensions in Heidegger's exposition. For despite Heidegger's brilliant radicality here there were, it seems to me, some presuppositions of modermity and traditional metaphysical philosophy that even he could not yet break through and that in the end diverted his thinking from insights he was on the verge of reaching.

Just what these presuppositions were will require specific elaboration as we go along. For now I will only propose the following theses: first, that as a phenomenologian dedicated to exposition or the phainesthai, the Sich-Zeigen or self-display or things, this early Heidegger could not penetrate behind the visual paradigm for knowledge and hence ultimately had to bypass the inherently acoustical character or the realm or rhetoric. Put another way, the fascination of the theoretical was at this time still too strong for him to abandon it and recover the practical dimension of our hearing what someone else exhorts us to do. Second, his emphasis on the single individual's recovery of himself or herself from fallenness to the public world of the “everybody” (das Man) inevitably prejudices his understanding of rhetoric’s public speech; the rhetorical word one hears from someone else is bound to come up short. It is certainly possible that the later Heidegger. who moved beyond bonh these tendencies might have read Aristotle’s Rhetoric in a new, even more disclosive way. We will never know for sure.

Pp. 317-8
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