Heidegger's abiding interest in Aristotle is perhaps best evidenced by the fact
that more pages of his 1924-25 lectures on the "Sophist" are devoted to the
Nicomachean Ethics and the Metaphysics than to Plato's dialogue (a rather masterful
feat of Socratic/Platonic indirection). These lectures fall in the chronological
gap between the 1922 introduction to the proposed book on Aristotle and Being
and Time in 1927, but they are in many ways continuous with the lectures on the
ancient Greeks that are generally considered to belong to the "later Heidegger."
They also provide a clear illustration of how Heidegger's thinking about consciousness
evolves. Furthermore, these lectures in conjunction with the later
ones on Parmenides allow us to see why Heidegger considered his philosophy
to be a natural outgrowth of the ancient Greeks' philosophies. They also suggest
why he pursued the two paths he did after the so-called Kehre. These paths were
a positive account he believes traces back to Aristotle and the pre-Socratic thinkers
and a correlative negative account of the technological age that developed as a
result of Roman/Christian appropriation, not to say corruption, of that tradition.
("Christianity is basically responsible for this phenomenon of the decline of philosophy,"
he tells us in the lectures on "Sophist" .)
These lectures are also linked to his concern with nothingness and not
being, which appear earlier but come to the forefront in the Kehre, because
"The Sophist" focuses in part on what it means to say something is or is not.
Flhe Stranger tells Theaetetus, "you yourself must clarify for us what you properly
mean when you utter this word ὃν" (244a), and Heidegger comments in his
lectures, "That is the genuinely central concern of this passage and of the whole
dialogue." He gives two "reasons" why "the forgetting of this question [of the
meaning of the ὃν] is easy for us today": (1) everyone already knows the meaning
of "Being" and (2) the word "Being" is so abstract it cannot be defined at
all (309; cf. 42). A few pages later, Heidegger
argues that for the ancient Greeks, "The meaning of Being implicitly guiding this
ontology is Being = presence" (323). What exists for the ancient
Greeks is what is present to them—that is, what comes to them from physis. Note
the implicit contrast here between this kind of presence and the present-at-hand
in the modern world. The presence of things is a given to the ancient Greeks;
things are encountered by them as already meaningful. The presence of things
is rarely, if ever, the bare, abstract contemplation of decontextualized sensory
perception characteristic of the present-at-hand.