Joseph S. O'Leary on what's good in Plato
When Antisthenes objected to Plato, ‘I see the real horse but I don’t see the idea of horseness,’ Plato replied: ‘You have what is required to see the real horse, but you do not yet have the eye to see the idea of horse.’ Heidegger wants to overcome this dualism between empirical and ideal by making the idea of horse the ontological pre-understanding that allows us to see and recognize actual horses. For Heidegger, what Antisthenes lacked was not dialectical ability, the capacity for abstract thought, but phenomenological sensitivity.
Heidegger in the 1930s was working his way to a more integral phenomenology of the togetherness of being and thinking, which he summed up in the idea of the Ereignis. The interrogation of beings in view of their being is continued in the interrogation of being itself in view of what one can call the phenomenological conditions of its possibility. If the eidê represent the breakthrough in Plato of a vision of being in its difference from beings, the Good, the idea of ideas, points to a more radical difference, that between being and the Ereignis, as that which ‘grants’ being: ‘Es gibt sein.’Thus for a while Heidegger seems to have caught a glimmer of the Ereignis in Plato’s thought of the Good. The Good, too, represents a step beyond being, not toward a transcendent non-being, but toward the innermost essentiality of being. It is possible that the nascent thought of the Ereignis inspires Heidegger’s interest in the theme of the Good and guides his exegetical steps.