Tuesday, December 28, 2010
P. Christopher Smith on the 1924 lecture course on Aristotle’s Rhetoric.
In what follows I wish to comment critically on Heidegger's extraordinary lecture course at Marburg in the Summer semester of 1924. This course was entitled “Basic Concepts or Aristotelian Philosophy," which would seem to make the catalogue or concepts in Metaphysics Delta the center or its concerns. But instead it focuses for long stetches on Aristotle’s Rhetoric, and does so in a way unparalleled in any philosophical studies we have available. Indeed it is Heidegger’s special genius here to have recovered Aristotle’s Rhetoric for philosophy as such and to have gotten it back from the extreme periphery of Aristotle’s works Co which the tradition of philosophy, including Aristotle himself, had relegated it.

How was this recovery possible? And why was it possible for Heidegger but not for anyone else? In part the answer lies in Heidegger’s unique penetration behind the theoretical logos apophantikos, the proposition or declarative sentence (Aussagesatz), that had become philosophy's exclusive and unquestioned paradigm for all human discourse. Early on Heidegger saw what philosophy, even Aristotle's “more inceptive" philosophy, had largely forgotten, namely that theory's logos apophantikos was not the original and basic form utterance, but rather that it was somehow derivative and “multiply founded” (mehrfach fundiert). He saw, that is to say, that it was based in a layer or speaking that, in mm, was based in yet another layer of speaking which was its ultimate and original ground (Grund). This ground was the basis, the floor and soil at the bottom of it, as it were, der Boden not only on which it rested but in which it was embedded and from which it “grew." Thus Heidegger could reverse Aristotle’s own reduction and, with that, he reversed the priorities of all subsequent philosophy or language: the rhetorical enthymeme was not, as Aristotle had sought, to be based on the dialectical syllogism, which in turn was to be based on the demonstrative syllogism built of logoi apophanzikoi or propositions. On the contrary, as Heidegger saw it, theoretical speech’s detached propositions about an objectified reality merely lying on hand before us in static presence were an abstraction from what we say to each other in our engaged practical taking care of things (Besorgen) within in the world in which these things, and other people there with us in the world, meet up with us. As he saw it, science's apodeixis or demonstration was an abstraction from dialetic's dialegesthai or talking something through theoretically. And dialectic’s dialegesthai was, in turn, an abstraction from rhetoric's practical peithein or persuasion.

Accordingly, these lectures of 1924, in applying the method of Sein und Zeit's Destruktion, propose initially to take down the abstract conceptual talk of Aristotle’s metaphysics and to lay bare our original lived existence in the world in which his metaphysical concepts have their ground and basis. The movement here, the same as in Sein und Zeit, is back from a theoretical looking on and looking at things, and back to Dasein’s practical, concermed and worried being-there in the world among things. And as in Sein und Zeit the Areadnean thread to be followed in this “"step back" is our speech (Rede, logos). The logos ousias or conceptual definition of “what it was to be a thing,” arrived at in dialectic, its to ti en einai, is to be traced to the logos or argument we make to each other in getting things done in our every day existence, and it is precisely from Aristode's Rhetoric that we learn about this original logos. Hence we can say that even in 1924 it was Heidegger's project or a fundamental ontology - his project elaborated in Sein und Zeit of founding and grounding abstractions in original being as this meets up with us “in the world” - that allows him to penetrate the “obvious” primacy of theoretical language and to redeem the “obviously” inferior “mere” rhetoric.

Pp. 316-7
his project elaborated in Sein und Zeit of founding and grounding abstractions in original being as this meets up with us “in the world” -

Heidegger's attempt to ground logic, science, rhetoric,etc in ontological "original being" at times sounds something like constructivism. Haven't many philosophers asked what are the foundations of thought, language,existence so forth? Descartes' Meditations for one. The empiricists offered another type of foundation. Neither rationalists or emp. accepted Aristotelian categories, syllogistic, etc. as a starting point, however. As Hobbes realized, humans don't start with logic-chopping or asking what the ontological foundations of logic-chopping are, but by meeting economic and dare we say biological requirements: food, potable water, shelter, good employment, a mate, establishing contracts and civilization of a sort--that was constructivism, IMHE. Nietzsche hardly agrees with the empiricists politically, but he did sort of understand the formation of society was not an elegant thing, but something like Norsemen attacking ireland.

Metaphysics is a luxury. Marxian IM not but Marx also understood that, in a different sense: the German ideology, while not a PoMo fave, was all about the privilege and elitism of metaphysics, if not academia as a whole--and that was a legitimate question for the comrades at times--does Herr Doktor Profesor, even the one who has mastered ancient greek ontology, avoid the gulag when the dialectic of History swings in favor of the proletariat? .... not sure. Working people, whether PC or not still have a great deal of disdain for academics--pomo's included.
This morning I finished Get a Grip on Philosophy, which had sat on the cistern for over a year. It's conclusion was, my paraphrase: After what Heidegger, Marcuse, and Foucault, had to say about philosophy and where it finds itself historically, the only sensible response is some form of ethical constructivism and speculative openness to cope with life. That makes sense to me; constructivism as a response to the world.

But I don't find the constructivism in Heidegger. Maybe, simply because I'm not looking. Instead, I get understanding of how things work from him. And I'm always surprised other care about that too. It is a luxury in the sense that food and shelter come first. But once that's taken care of, I'm curious about some of the questions Heidegger is asking.
I agree sir to some extent and Heidegger probably deserves credit for upholding the Hellenic tradition, in opposition to the reductionists. Yet...reductionists and efficiency- minded managers want...techies, so that's what students specialize in--philosophy, whether analytical or continental, is considered one of the humanities and that's a negative for most career-minded types. In a sense TH Huxley won that battle (ie eliminating classics, greek, latin, Plato, etc)--at least in America. Im for students reading the Republic. But reading it and mastering it in ancient greek probably ain't going to happen for most, at least the non-wealthy. As you probably are aware. So...I imagine some would view the return to the greeks as.. elitist (Marcuse.. while not a fave of mine, may have suggested it)

Someone--Miss Jan?-- said Heid. was reading Wm James. At times there is a whiff of pragmatism to MH's foundational programme, though of a different sort than 'Merican. James didn't really accept any a priori-izing, did he? But maybe in terms of "process" there is some connection between "original Being" and James' prag. (tho he also claimed to be a radical empiricist).
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