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Aristotle's Metaphysics Book Theta; 1-3
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Peter Blumsom



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PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2014 7:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

OK. Joseph, I know you are snowed under with work at the moment, so I'll wend my way along the crazy paving while its still visible.

One of the things that arise from logos is Subject. The subject is given its position by the way the logos expresses itself, either in speech or writing. This is implied in Introduction To Metaphysics where Heidegger talks of Being which is, as yet, free of any position in an expression of logos, as ‘upright’. I believe the original meaning of ousia was of what we call ‘ a man of substance’ who in Greek eyes was someone who could take a great loss without keeling over i.e. a man of internal balance. That description would also befit anything of true existence. However, when a being is 'expressed' in the kind of sumploke (intertwining) that ‘speaking’ employs, such being may lose its uprightness (though only in the sumploke). The losing of its true status isn’t necessarily due to the significance of the utterance but is more due to the forms (morphai) that such utterances take.

When an onoma (noun type) takes up the role of subject it enters the sentence/statement as ‘upright’. That is, according to modern grammar, as yet undeclined, as it were.

Achilles slays Hector.

Achilles here in the nominative or subject case is ‘upright’. The ‘being’ Hector is not so upright, not because he has keeled over in the battle but because he is a) part of the predicate and b) in the accusative case. (I suppress at this point any interconnection between our word ‘accusative’ and the Aristotelian kategoria – which also means ‘accused’). As such Hector is the being acted upon, the slain, whereas Achilles is the actor, the slayer. Of course Hector was also attempting to ‘act’ in the same way upon Achilles but our sentence, a trifling event in the shadow of such greater events, does not need to disclose anything more than it does. In fact the sentence itself, at what I have called the technical level, has little to with these events. Its form is not governed by them. For, by transforming the voice of its rheima (action word –verb) Hector may be placed into the position of subject. In the sentence and the whole surface structure of the sentence transformed:

Hector is slain by Achilles.

Achilles is still doing the killing and Hector is still being slain. The passive voice of the verb allows this, by forcing Achilles to become the object, and the dead Hector in a strange ghost-like way is resurrected to the upright position..

Because English uses prepositions instead of inflections we have largely lost the idea of case, but here is a useful diagram from a Latin grammar:





What is the meaning of this declining or falling from ousia? It is exactly what Heidegger says on pp 62/3 of his Introduction to Metaphysics. He uses the original Greek terminology of ptosis and enklisis (falling, inclining). “This implies a dropping-off from an upright, straight stance. But this standing-there, this taking and maintaining a stand that stands high in itself, is what the Greeks understood as Being [ousia]".

Heidegger also tackles rheima or verbs in the same way but surprises us by dismissing the verb in the infinitive. I say ‘surprise’ because we might think this would be the verbs purest form and nearest to the uprightness of ousia. Not so. He considers the equivalent of the noun in the nominative to be the verb in its present indicative (the ever present) and in the first person singular, for example, lego – ‘I say’. What he wants to bring to our attention is the simple immediacy and presence of such a statement, and he does so by giving another example from the same verb, lexainto:

“They could be called and addressed [as traitors]”

He continues:

“This inflection consists more precisely in making manifest another person (the third), another number (not singular but plural), another voice (passive instead of active), another tense (aorist instead of active, another mood (optative instead of indicative). What is named in the word lexainto [‘the men’] is is not addressed as actually present but rather represented as only possibly in being.” P.69 I.M.

He says that it is the inflection on the verb that brings all this to our notice, but we can’t help also noticing how the immediacy has now been exchanged for a kind of hypothetical remoteness – not what is pertaining to self, but what possibly might have pertained or be pertaining to ‘them’.

This then is how we seem to be approaching Logos:

a) - First there is a successions of either onomata or rhemata from which no significance can arise.

b) - Then there is a mingling of onomata and rhemata from which significance may arise.

c) - Then we see the interplay of syntax which itself is both separate from significance and beings, though it couldn't exist without them.

d) - Then there is the significance behind the words.

I appreciate all this is not straight forward. It will need a few readings but I honestly don't think it could be made easier, unless some bright spark points out something I'm missing. Also there is still a little way to go before we can leave our summary of Logos and head for the main concern of Theta itself. We haven’t covered, for example, the truth or deception of the significance offered. But that will have to do for now as I’m bushed!
Regards,
Pete

PS Please forgive any typos. I'll clean up later.
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Joseph Milne



Joined: 17 Apr 2008
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PostPosted: Fri May 02, 2014 10:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Peter,

Although I have been rather busy of late, I keep coming back to what you have presented here, and then keep wondering what to say in response.

My feeling is that your move into the question of grammar is a move away from our discussion. It is true that Heidegger raises points about grammar here, yet only with the intention of discounting the Western tradition of grammar, or at least its decline into a system. It is quite usual for Heidegger to go over ground which is taken as the path to things in modern thought, only to dispense with it as inadequate.

The famous example is his The Question Concerning Technology. There he shows that neither 'science' nor 'technology' can disclose the essence of technology. With language the kind of difficulty takes on an even greater magnitude: How is logos to disclose logos? How can language discuss the essence of language?

For these reasons I feel we have already spoken of language more profoundly in taking up Heidegger's view that for man 'language is the house of being'. Logos discloses what is, and how we are comported to the world corresponds with our comportment to language. This view wholly discounts the 'instrumental' view of language which now prevails.

It is true that many scholars have taken Plato's Sophist to be essentially about grammar. Yet other scholars have found this misses the point of the dialogue.

However all this may be, I feel we stray rather far from Aristotle’s Book Theta. I feel we have to take on his way of encountering things. We cannot divorce his account of the nature of things from his very specific way of receiving them into the mind. In a sense we have to take on his anthropology, which is very distant from our modern notions of the mind or human nature. His way of being with the presence of things cannot be circumvented without losing his entire understanding of being and how things show their nature.

To me this is the 'philosophical' interest of Aristotle, and where Heidegger is most illuminating. The nature of mind as 'potentially all things', the nature of things as abiding in presence, and the nature of logos as disclosive and thus giving rise to thought and speech as the manner in which man lives in the world, these are the really essential things Aristotle brings to philosophical enquiry. And for some reason I have the feeling you wish to pass over these things and somehow shift the ground elsewhere. Or, perhaps more clearly, you are in dispute with Aristotle because you favour Plato.

It may simply be that these things which to me are of enormous interest and which provoke profound reflection do not touch you in the same way. Or maybe I am wholly missing what you are driving at! For whatever reasons, our discussion is pulling in two different directions.

Best wishes,
Joseph
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Peter Blumsom



Joined: 09 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Fri May 02, 2014 12:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for this contribution, Joseph, left to my own devices I will always tend towards Plato, for many reasons. I do not consciously want that to colour our discussion here.
My problem is simple: I do not know what you mean by phrases like this.

1) I feel we have to take on his way of encountering things.

2) We cannot divorce his account of the nature of things from his
very specific way of receiving them into the mind.

3) In a sense we have to take on his anthropology, which is very distant from our modern notions of the mind or human nature.

4) His way of being with the presence of things cannot be circumvented without losing his entire understanding of being and how things show their nature.

Each of these four sentences holds a problem for me, in that I get a vague impression of what they mean yet I don’t really understand them clearly, and, consequently, find it almost impossible to take anything forward from them regarding Logos. Are there examples which could help? Aristotle gives copious examples to clarify the difficulties arising from his deliberations, Heidegger less.

The difficulty is that I can understand quite clearly what I think Aristotle means in these first three chapters of Theta (and indeed the rest of the book -which I think is profound), but I want to get a clear notion of how Heidegger is interpreting them and thereby widen my appreciation of Aristotle.

This gets to the nub of what was in my mind when we suggested the thread. Without laying a burden on your shoulders I feel that to get someone who has, shall we say, an intuition for Heidegger, as you do, is a bonus for readers who find his thought confusing.

Regards,
Pete
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Peter Blumsom



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PostPosted: Fri May 02, 2014 4:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Joseph,

I’ve just looked at my note book and realised that I hadn't finished my survey of logos, so for the record I might as well do that now. My approach is that I like to know where my feet are planted - working from the bottom upwards. That way I feel that one doesn't miss any lessons along the way. I suppose I got that from reading Plato. I am fascinated by the surface movements as well as what might be hidden at greater depth for I believe that in some way they all reveal. It's for that reason that I find phrases like <<being with the presence of things >> vague and confusing until I have 'earned a vision of them'. So, for me, it felt necessary to complete the strand started by Heidegger himself in both Introd. to Metaphysics and Theta 1-3 - and I apologise for not doing so. I end the post you were commented on with four stratas in logos which are easily identifiable. The fourth is significance.

My mention of what you call grammar - passive and active, etc. - is, I feel important, and especially relevant to dunamis, which is one of the component terms of what Theta is about. In ‘grammar’ I have shown it to be something, shall we say, on the surface of logos. It doesn’t matter whether Achilles slays Hector or Hector is slain by Achilles, the Voice doesn’t affect the fourth strata of significance - which is anything but surface. (Here I am aware of Chomsky's work though am not particularly interested in it.)

I turn to my unposted notes.

Now although I call it Voice it really ties back into what I talk about below. Logos gives two surface views. The ‘actor’s’ and the ‘acted upon’s’. Aristotle and Socrates emphasize that a being in apt circumstances has the power to be both agent and patient. What I would call Soul is free of such illusory bondage.

Let’s, as Plotinus liked to say, play a little. What if, at a deeper level, we say, for example, “Treachery is revealed”. We have taken logos beyond these former, surface, constrictions by naming a being ‘treachery’, an onoma, which is free of the kategoria to some extent. However, invisible though it may be, treachery does not enter the world unbidden. “The slave stabbed his master in the back” gives this drama of soul actors and the extra kategoria also enter to give place, time etc – all brought forth from the hidden folds of logos. It is interesting that Duncan invites himself to Inverness, a mere happenchance which comes forth from logos, a little thing in itself without which the whole mighty drama of Macbeth may not have been revealed, even though treachery was potential in the balance of forces.

Is logos the act or the condition that permitted the act to take place – or is it beyond both? Consider, “The slave stabbed his master in the back.” is both cowardly and treacherous; but we do not think the same of “The lion leapt upon the hero’s back.” We don’t impute cowardice or treachery to a beast, especially if it has not been domesticated by man. It is 'just' nature.

Treachery begs Justice and this seems to bring the whole logos forth with man at its centre. It becomes the dramatist who provides the stage and dramatis personae, and also the hidden balances which (being a Platonist) I link back to the Forms themselves and (again as a Platonist) I consider beyond the logos of the soul.

This is where my notes ended so I’ll stop at this point, except to say that tied up in what you call grammar (did I call it that?) are crucial principles which I think I'm reluctant to pass over.

Your agreement or disagreement with what I have written will at least allow me to know whether we are truly 'pulling in two directions'. I wouldn't have thought so.

As ever,

Pete

P.S. I have suppressed mention of truth and deception as these, like power/ ability and fulfilment as later topics of Theta itself.
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Joseph Milne



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PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2014 11:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Peter,

Thank you for both your replies. I think they are very helpful because I begin to see where we are approaching Aristotle and Heidegger in different ways. It may well be that you desire to be faithful to the understanding you have derived from Plato, while I desire to be faithful to Heidegger's approach to Aristotle. I feel that Heidegger is correcting a long history of misunderstanding Aristotle, in particular reading Aristotle anachronistically through Descartes and Kant. Largely this means that Aristotle is read as seeking objective knowledge of things, or as making logical deductions about them. For Heidegger, as he makes plain early in the book, this is entirely misleading and an encumbrance to be overcome somehow.

It is therefore very helpful that you say you cannot understand what I mean by these things:

Quote:
1) I feel we have to take on his way of encountering things.

2) We cannot divorce his account of the nature of things from his very specific way of receiving them into the mind.

3) In a sense we have to take on his anthropology, which is very distant from our modern notions of the mind or human nature.

4) His way of being with the presence of things cannot be circumvented without losing his entire understanding of being and how things show their nature.

Each of these four sentences holds a problem for me, in that I get a vague impression of what they mean yet I don’t really understand them clearly, and, consequently, find it almost impossible to take anything forward from them regarding Logos. Are there examples which could help? Aristotle gives copious examples to clarify the difficulties arising from his deliberations, Heidegger less.


I do not know why these should amount to a 'vague impression', but it may well be that Aristotle is taking an entirely different starting-point than our modern age does. This is clear from the opening of his Metaphysics, where he states that all men naturally desire to know.

Sachs translates this as “All human beings by nature stretch themselves out towards knowing”. (990a. 21)

Straight away we have to ask what Aristotle means by this, since he does not mean that human beings are curious or wish to master things, as Bacon conceives man. What Aristotle means is that everything in nature seeks its own perfection, its proper end. Thus 'matter desires form', for example. This meaning was still understood in the Middle Ages, and Aquinas says of this passage:

Quote:
Therefore, since the intellect, by which man is what he is, considered in itself is all things potentially, and becomes them actually only through knowledge, because the intellect is none of the things that exist before it understands them, as is stated in Book III of The Soul [429a23]; so that each man naturally desires knowledge just as matter desires form.


This understating is further elaborated by saying

Quote:
“. . . each thing has a natural inclination to perform its proper operation, as something hot is naturally inclined to heat, and something heavy to be moved downwards. Now the proper operation of man is to understand, for by reason of this he differs from all other things”.


And further,

Quote:
“it is desirable for each thing to be united to its source, since it is in this that the perfection of each thing consists. . . Now it is only by means of his intellect that man is united to the separate substances, which are the source of the human intellect and that to which the human intellect is related as something imperfect to something perfect. It is for this reason, too, that the ultimate happiness of man consists in this union. Therefore man naturally desires to know”.


I have quoted Aquinas' Commentary here because he stands between our age and that of Aristotle, and also because we do not need Heidegger to show us how the presuppositions of Aristotle differ from that of modern philosophers or modern epistemological theory.

Our age is still caught in the Baconian ideal of knowledge is a means of conquering nature. The notion that man has a function within the whole order of nature has been entirely lost, and so the purpose of knowing has been entirely lost. So for Aristotle, and Aquinas, the proper operation of man within the order of nature is to understand truth.

This operation is not performed by assaulting things as 'objects', but rather through receptivity or contemplation. The mind or 'soul' is 'potentially all things'. That is to say, for Aristotle the act of 'knowing' things involves the coming into being of the mind, for mind or intellect is nothing other than the dwelling place of the truth of things. Just as the plants grow by the light of the sun, so intellect takes its existence from the coming to presence of things – potentially all things. The mind is “in-formed” by things.

Thus the 'truth' of things is the source of the mind, that from which it springs into being, and therefore that which it naturally inclines to unite with. Therefore the mind loves truth for itself.

This way of understanding the relation of human nature to truth his many ramifications through Western thought, especially in medieval theology, where it is said that through the human mind all things that have emanated into being find their way back to their source in God. Thus human knowing plays a part in fulfilment of all things coming into being. Human knowledge serves the common good.

The complement to the human orientation to truth is that things are oriented toward being known. This is bound up with Heidegger's insistence on employing the word 'unconcealment' instead of 'truth'. We no longer hear the word 'truth' as revealing what belongs to things. Rather 'truth' has come to mean an 'explanation' of things, as though it were a husk we could take from things and then discard the them in themselves. That is, the modern notion of 'truth' is only an abstraction of things which pays no further heed to their actual presence or purpose. Mind is no longer potentially all things, rather it projects its devices upon things. The whole of Being is thus no more than a recourse for man's manipulation and exploitation. Even human beings are now merely 'resources for industry'.

Forgive me emphasizing this. The contrast between our modern notion of 'truth' and that of Aristotle is enormous, but also largely invisible. Aristotle sees man as situated in things quite differently to our modern way. For him 'mind' is 'receptive' to the presence of things, of what they disclose of themselves. It is the truth of things that is active, not the mind, so to speak. Seen this way, it belongs to things to grant themselves to be known. This form of knowing is what Aristotle calls wisdom. Wisdom serves truth rather than subdues it.

All this means that as soon as we enquire into things we have already set ourselves before them in a certain manner. This manner of being with things enquired into is part of the act of being that is taking place, but which we so easily pass over. For example, if you gaze upon your cat your manner of being with it is that you love it and you desire no harm should come to it. This abiding with your cat belongs to you and your cat. But if you want to regard your cat as a mere object of investigation, then your concern for the being and the well-being of your cat vanishes. You may then offer your cat up for scientific experimentation.

This is what lies behind my 'vague' propositions:

Quote:
1) I feel we have to take on his way of encountering things.

2) We cannot divorce his account of the nature of things from his very specific way of receiving them into the mind.

3) In a sense we have to take on his anthropology, which is very distant from our modern notions of the mind or human nature.

4) His way of being with the presence of things cannot be circumvented without losing his entire understanding of being and how things show their nature.

In short, we cannot discuss truth or 'ousia' or 'logos' in their absence. For Aristotle there is not something to be taken away from things which is their being, or which is left over after everything else is removed. This is why we cannot get hold of 'ousia' as a concept left after stripping things down until nothing is left but Being. And this is why Heidegger calls 'logos' a 'gathering' as distinct from a mere labelling or classifying. So logos is not what we say and determine of things, rather it is what emerges spontaneously in abiding with them.

I know this is too long! But we have to back-track a bit, it seems to me, if we are to approach Aristotle in the manner he seeks to be heard, and which Heidegger is wishing to show us in his discussion. For if we read Aristotle merely as a proponent of a theory about things we already take a false step. That, at least, is what Heidegger warns us against. But I am not discounting what you say in your two previous messages and will return to that later.

With best wishes,
Joseph
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Peter Blumsom



Joined: 09 Mar 2007
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Location: Wembley, London, UK

PostPosted: Sun May 04, 2014 8:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Joseph,

I think we both know there are differences in our approaches. These came to light during our discussion on the forum a while back on Republic. But I believe it is an honorable difference. Even in The Academy there were, at times, fierce variances of views. I do feel that you shouldn’t ‘stitch’ me into the Enlightenment view of things. Nothing could be further from the truth. Like all of us born in the present era I have imbibed certain assumptions from birth, as is ever the way (even in Greek times) but I have little or no interest in what happened from Bacon onwards. However I do suppose that I come from a different tradition perhaps than you. Mine is the Pythagorean tradition, which was greatly influenced by Mesopotamia and, to a lesser extent, the Egyptians. This tradition found its way through Plato, Plotinus and Ficino. So I was ‘inwardly untouched by the empirical ‘uprising’ of the Enlightenment. Following this tradition I naturally bypassed Aristotle and it is only relatively recently that I have begun to take interest in him, and also, in the process, in Heidegger. You actually were the one to introduce Heidegger to me.

One of the reasons I was not turned on by Aristotle was his own seeming lack of sympathy for the Pythagoreans, which is ironic as he was a conduit for much of our knowledge of them. However, I do not believe he was a good conduit for their views. I realize that he probably suffered a little at the hands of the Neo-Pythagorean ‘tendency’ in the inner sanctum of the Academy, but I do hold him responsible for halting a line of thought and promoting another, which, to my mind was a downward spiral. I think Heidegger agrees at least with the downward spiral part though he didn’t impute the blame on Aristotle.

Your empathy with Heidegger seems to place you in a slightly different tradition to myself. Perhaps Heraclitus is its root and its path through Aristotle, and Scholasticism, an equally honorable tradition, I’m sure. I may be wrong in this but you could always put me right.

Over the last few years I have become more interested in Aristotle’s contributions to geometry and mathematics via certain modern authors. I don’t know if you have ever read David Fowler's ‘Mathematics of Plato’s Academy’ or any of the works of Jacob Klein. I have read all his books and of course he was Joe Sachs’ predecessor at St. John’s College and one of his great influences. He was reputed also to have been one of Heidegger’s star pupils, though he has his own strong voice, which strangely enough is not at all Heideggerian. (This actually was why I tried to prompt you to rephrase those four 'vague' statements. I was wondering how Klein would have phrased them.) Anyway, it was through these two authors that my interest in Aristotle began to flicker alight, and I am now interested also in how Heidegger interprets him.

You probably guessed some of this, but I think it does explain why our approaches are different. Knowing this however I’m sure that you cannot think that I consider The Sophist an essay on grammar. I nearly fell out of my chair when I read that! I took the Sophist reference from Heidegger and simply ‘ran with it’ as they say and as you were busy I just carried on running because I became genuinely interested in the way Plato un-packed his thesis. I think the way Voice, Mood, Person, Number etc is interesting in itself. It is part of the ‘channel by which’. Socrates touches on this elliptically in Philebus and elsewhere. You will find the same examination of ‘the means by which’ scattered all over Leonardo’s note books. They disappear in the ‘logos’ of his works but retain a kind of visibility in what marks his sketches and paintings out from all others. This is the approach I seem to have inherited and is natural to me. The means are important. One can apply the same examination of music without is ‘assaulting’ the spirit of the works.

This I suppose to be the Pythagorean approach, it is certainly mine, and it probably explains why we will always be slightly at variance. This shouldn't hinder a fruitful discourse though for as Socrates said, the sparks of comparison light the tinder of understanding, or summat like that.

Kind Regards

Pete
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Peter Blumsom



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PostPosted: Sun May 04, 2014 10:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

By the way, Joseph, I will respond to your last mail as soon as I have thought it through. I thought my last might be useful just to let you know where I am coming from. It was, of course, only a thumbnail sketch and you probably suspected most of it anyway but readers might also be interested in knowing reasons for our differences as well as for our agreements.
Readers might also be contributors. I live in hope.
Pete
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Joseph Milne



Joined: 17 Apr 2008
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Location: Herne Bay, Kent, UK

PostPosted: Sun May 04, 2014 10:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Peter,

Thank you for your most helpful replies. Our differences of approach are worth understanding since they touch on deep philosophical concerns, and I never meant to dishonour yours. Besides, Glaucon is not a particularly interesting person who rarely says more than "Yes, Socrates".

I am going to be busy the next few days, so will not be around to contribute much, but will be listening.

Best wishes,
Joseph
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