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Peter Blumsom



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PostPosted: Sat Feb 08, 2014 12:04 pm    Post subject: Aristotle's Metaphysics Book Theta; 1-3 Reply with quote

Joseph,
A few days ago I was reminded of an afternoon last Summer when we both sat in my garden, sipping tea, watching with delight the bees (as little bee-ings) flitting too and fro and alighting upon certain other beings we call flowers while discussing the possible project of putting Heidegger's commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics, Book Theta chapters 1-3 onto the Forum. It seemed an eminently good idea to me, and other meetings were loosely scheduled. But of course, as it so often does, fate intervened in both our lives, with you so unfortunately breaking your ankle, and my wife becoming ill and needing an operation. Well perhaps the time is ripe to begin again. I seem to have completely mislaid the notes I made at the time but maybe that's all for the best as it allows me to start from a clean sheet. Any understandings I did stumble upon should still be there in my memory, if not , they probably were misunderstandings. One thing I have done is to reread Aristotle's Book Theta, and I certainly do seem to have a better grasp now on what he is talking about, but can we between us try and find out what Heidegger saw as so important in the first three chapters that he wrote a whole book on the subject?

It often occurs to me that Heidegger's initial aim is to create a new space around the existing topics of philosophy, which have become seriously ossified over the millennia. So he looks at Book Theta and considering it of great importance makes the initial statement "the course confronts the task of interpreting philosophically a philosophical treatise of Greek philosophy" mentioning in a single sentence 'philosophy' three times. 'interpreting philosophically' seems to imply creating a new 'philosophical space' and, in doing so, bringing forth new vantage points from which we can approach a work that modern philosophers (at the time) thought pretty much done and dusted. ('O.K. We understand that - what's next?')

Part of this 'making space' is in the form of stretching language where it doesn't seem to want to be stretched: to 'interpret philosophically', for a mild example, in his first sentence. How else can you interpret philosophy? we might ask. Well you could juggle around with a dead terminology that philosophers feel that they know the meaning of, even though the terms are translations of translations, and as such, have little or no 'space' around them at all - such as the term Substance to which I remember you alerted me several years ago. But I don't particularly want to go on a crusade against terminology. Others (such as Joe Sachs) have done it far better than I ever could. I would like to follow a more positive course here, and talk of, for example, Aristotle's astonishment (thaumazein) on finding the simple yet pristine principles of what he called 'first philosophy' or the study of Being (ousia)itself.

This'll probably do for starters. You may respond as you wish in whatever way you want. I'm sure a format will arise as we go along. Part of my initial plan is to proceed through the book making comments page by page in a such a way (hopefully) that readers needn't feel they have to buy the book itself. This method, of course, might be difficult. If anyone wants to purchase the book or order it from the library, it is:

ARISTOTLES METAPHYSICS BOOK THETA [9] 1-3,
Martin Heidegger
Trans. Walter Brogan and Peter Warnek
Indiana University Press.

Although I see this as primarily a study of Aristotle and Heidegger I would like to bring Platonic points into play, and also to try and move the study onto a practical level, which I think is entirely possible. Heidegger himself always had the practical in mind.
Pete


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Joseph Milne



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PostPosted: Thu Feb 13, 2014 12:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Peter,

I am delighted that we may find an opportunity here to ponder further Aristotle’s Book Theta by way of Heidegger’s book on it.

Starting with Heidegger’s call to interpret philosophically, I recall he says elsewhere that no philosophy is done at universities in our age, only history of philosophy. This is largely true, so it raise the question of what it means to enquire philosophically into things as distinct from other types of enquiry, from example scientific enquiry.

For Heidegger this clearly means standing in a specific relation to things and ‘thinking’ about them with a special type of concern – a concern for the things themselves. For Heidegger this also means the activity of logos, of language, but of language that brings to light and manifests the truth of things – which is to say, the things as they are in themselves, not as an ‘explanation’ of them or as mere description. Heidegger suggests there is a link between logos and things, and he suggests further that the poets and the philosophers have forgotten this.

I feel this is very important when considering Aristotle. He is so different from Plato, and yet they are like philosophical brothers. I often feel when reading Aristotle he is making a response to what lies before him. If Plato is seeking the eternal beyond the temporal, Aristotle is allowing his mind to be moved by the immediate presence of things, and this allowing is a kind of intellectual virtue. This allowing presence to move the mind gives birth to language, and so speech of things comes out of dwelling with them in some way that Heidegger regards as philosophical.

In light of this, commenting on the opening of Theta he says:

Quote:
Legein means “to glean”, that is, to harvest, to gather, to add one to another, to include and connect one with the other. Such laying together is a laying open and laying forth (a placing alongside and presenting): a making something accessible in a gathered and unified way. And since such a gathering laying open and laying forth occurs above all in recounting and speaking (in trans-mitting and com-municating to others), logos comes to mean discourse that combines and explains. Logos as laying open is then at the same time evidence; finally it comes to mean laying something out in an interpretation, ermineia. The meaning of logos as relation (unified gathering, coherence, rule) is therefore “prior” to its meaning as discourse. Asking how logos also came to have the meaning of “relation” is therefore backwards; the order of things is quite the reverse.


All this is quite different from our general modern view of language. It is now taken to be signs that man invented and puts on things, and so it is believed that ‘primitive’ man began to speak by pointing a finger at some and grunting a noise which became a noun. This rather silly idea has led to the idea that speech is primarily “statements” or “assertions” about things, and that such statements may be true or false. This means that to wonder at things, to ponder, to apprehend or to grasp does not have a ‘truth’ or ‘falsehood’ status in modern thinking. As Heidegger observes, this is because we now suppose that discourse or statements about things is the beginning of language, while in fact it arises later, after something more profound has taken place in looking upon things – that they have shown themselves to be coherent, or gathered together. It is this that first gives rise to language, not by way of putting names on things, but name arsing from the order of things.

This kind of speaking of things, it seems to me, involves honouring them, and so embodies a way of being with things, or with the being of things as Heidegger suggests. Thus in other places Heidegger finds the etymological connection between ‘thinking’ and ‘thanking’. Thinking – in its real meaning – involves thanksgiving. Although Heidegger might not say so, it seems to me that ‘philosophical thinking’ involves a rejoicing in the being and truth of things. Is not Socrates often concerned with what ought to be praised? Justice, for example. Or with what ought not to be praised? Disorder, for example.

Further, if logos arises first as the coherence and order of things, in how being lays itself out, and if speaking this is also a way on honouring things, of paying homage to beings and all the ways of being, is this not also primordially ethical? The true and the good come before thought and language together.

This is perhaps going a bit beyond what Heidegger is saying. I suspect he feels he has to avoid speaking of the good in any direct way because of his concerns with the way he sees modern thought has got lost. Nevertheless, he brings to light the connection between thinking and thanking.

For now I will close there, but I feel something of this is necessary preparation for us to deal properly with Aristotle’s ‘categories’. If we take these to be mere classification we miss the whole point of discourse on them. I think Heidegger is intending to clear away a long history of misapprehending what Aristotle is doing here – what you have called “creating a new space” around well-worn topics. We may at least be sure that merely classifying things is not ‘interpreting philosophically’.

Joseph
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Peter Blumsom



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PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 9:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Joseph,
Your thoughts on language are very close to my own. It's as if 'the gathering' is the arche or dawn of language whereas as dull assertion is more the lunchtime by which time the primordial beauties of the day have been entirely forgotten.

I should imagine more on this subject will reveal itself during our deliberations. Thankfully my notes have appeared again and I feel a keen anticipation as we embark on this project even though there are, I believe, some format issues to be tackled. I thought of opening an ancillary topic in which we could deal with 'side issues' in as great a detail as we want without impeding the flow of the main thread.

It should not escape our attention that the old Pythagorean term kosmos means order. But there is more to it than that. In Phaedo Socrates heard someone reading aloud from a work by Anaxagoras in which the earlier philosopher was explaining how nous - intelligence, arranges all things but he was disillusioned to find that Anaxagoras lacked the courage to carry his assertion through to the end, and instead of intelligence fell back upon some physical cause for the universe such as earth, water etc. Socrates' point was: how could something physical be the cause of itself when the true cause would have to be "what is best for each and what is good for all in common."? So nous is not merely 'the orderer' - diakosmon, but his order is the best possible order. We have seen many catastrophes stemming from the wrong kind of order. The kosmos is therefore the best possible order and the relation between this and a logos which honours this order is the subject surely of first philosophy.

I think you're are right. The categories seem to loom ahead of us.
Pete


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Peter Blumsom



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PostPosted: Mon Feb 17, 2014 4:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Joseph,
I'm not going to be particularly systematic in my approach to the Categories. It occurs that you can get plenty of that on the net. This initial foray gives a fairly conventional view with the addition of a few 'open doors' necessary if we are to 'interpret philosophically'. In music we say 'learn the cliche' before you learn to turn it to your own advantage. Any gaping holes will I'm sure be plugged by you and interested others.

Conventionally the Categories refer to 'beings' or 'things'. Without such things as beings there would be nothing to categorise. 'Things' must be thought of in the widest possible sense, for example a 'point of grammar' in the mind can be categorised.

Aristotle is concerned from the beginning that we should differentiate between loose or equivocal thinking, and precise or univocal thinking. He cites the example of a real man and a man in a picture; both may be loosely called a man even though the actual man has a definition (rational animal) where the portrait is not even an animal but an inanimate object. The univocal view avoids assumptions.

Both of the above examples - real man and portrait - are what Aristotle calls onta or beings. He is interested to clear away the misconceptions of casual speech and find the logos or true speaking that underlies it.

You'll probably notice that the word 'thing' settles easily in our thoughts. We know 'things' casually but would be hard put to define exactly what is common to all. If we call a thing an 'object' we simply pass our query on to another word - and it doesn't sit easily to call a 'point of grammar in the mind' an object. In fact we have decided but strangely unclear ideas about all these things. For instance, in truth, an object is merely something having a subject which can perceive it or act upon, or even be acted upon by, it.

That last sentence shows us that there are all kinds of grammatical and even philosophical implications embedded in these everyday terms, and therefore it should not surprise us that an inquisitive mind such as Aristotle's would want to pursue what lies behind language and the way we speak.

The word 'being' takes us further down this road for it tells us that this 'whatever' has, or has had, or will have, a kind of existence. A Category of 'beings' then is a category of things that can exist in some form.

The Categories tell us that if a thing exists in a certain way it must have certain characteristics or attributes. The most useful example of a being is that of a physical being. This being must have certain qualities, such as colour and texture and the like. But there must also be something about it that can be measured quantitatively - how long is it?; how much does it weigh? Here we have, then, two of the alleged ten Categories: Quality - poion, and Quantity - poson.

Think of a carpenter with a piece of wood. He is concerned first of all with its quality: pine and oak have quite different qualities and, as you know, deal, a wood rather 'lacking in quality' would not be chosen for anything grand. Once chosen, he would need to accurately measure it for the job in hand - quantity. So we see that these two categories are vital and alive in our daily dealings.

Now I'd like to reconsider the position of that piece of wood. Is it possible that any piece of wood could lack either, or both, of these two categories of quality and quantity? It is here that a tinge of mystery enters the proceedings, because clearly it is impossible. Aristotle has shown us something about certain kinds of being. They must have particular attributes without which they cannot 'reveal' themselves. This is a mystery of the dawn which so easily disappears at lunchtime. To see it in as prosaic and everyday an object as a lump of wood is startling, until one realises that one is surrounded by such objects and they all exhibit this same mystery. What impedes this 'dawn-like' apprehension is the physicality of objects and the way that quality and quantity are so familiarly embedded in them.

It is the aim of philosophy to elevate the mind from, continuing my analogy, lunchtime perception towards the dawn light; a difficult reverse journey that is so unlikely that the world generally considers philosophers to be mad - at least so said Socrates.

Now we are back with our piece of wood again. Is it possible for us to think of it as not being anywhere? It must be somewhere, so another category reveals itself, that of Place; and wherever this place is located, is it alone, or with other beings? Clearly the latter, so it must have some kind of Relation to other beings. And Placed in such a Relation it must be Positioned in a certain way both towards or these other beings or to itself. This must be so. yes? The way it is fitted into the harmony of a table for instance or carelessly thrown into the wood yard. Everything has its own place but relation is a mode that involves the places of other beings also. There is no relation with nothing. With these categories - surprisingly few in total - we find everything we need to know about the being we call a piece of wood as it exists both in itself and in the fluxient universe.

But what if we stripped it of all its categories, one by one? Would it finally disappear? There is something about this being that has an existence not dependent upon these other categories. This being, shorn of a genus, species and all differentiae, is also a category, the one misleadingly called Substance. I would like to refer to it by the Greek original of ousia the Being of the being.

This notion of being is full of ambiguity as far as human thought is concerned and that is probably why people stopped thinking about it � that is, until Heidegger came along. However, to me, it still remains one of the mysterious beauties of the dawn.

This then nearly completes my initial sketch of the Categories, which no doubt you will wish to add to, query or disagree with. It is not as conventional an account as I had planned, In fact I think it begs some of the questions which will arise in Heidegger's commentary, probably due to a recent re-reading of the book in question.

I find a little coda arising in my mind that I would like to give expression to. The notion of ousia continues to plague me. I said earlier that when all the other categories were stripped it would still remain. However that is a deeply troubling concept to me. We do not conceive continuously in our minds that a thing has its full compliment of Categories all the time.I mean, we can think of a piece of wood without thinking of its quality, nor do we necessarily have it's length, weight, and position etc. at the forefront of our minds. This is the point I wish to make. This effigy or image in my mind of a lump of wood is free of the categories I have described until I get specific. Then I find they are there. They must be. If I went through the categories one by one, taking them out one at a time, and replacing them as I took out another, the piece of wood would remain in tact. But if, after dealing with all the other categories, I attempted to take away the category of ousia - being, there would be nothing for the other categories to refer to. How could 'nothing' have a place, a quality, a length etc. So the very thingness of the thing cannot be taken away, even as an abstraction. One reason is, that with the other categories we would know what we were taking away, but with 'the thing itself' we would not know because we only know it through its other categories. If we then judge this thingness to be nothing then immediately all its attendant categories disappear in a puff of smoke. So it must be there supporting those things that seem to be supporting it. A perfect paradox, perhaps. We shall see but it highlights the peculiar derivation of the word kategoria which means 'accusation'. The other categories point their fingers at the being, giving it everything it owns apart from itself. Rather flippantly I expect, I wonder whether this forms the origin of the accusative case in grammar, though there are serious objections to this.

What we can say is that logos 'gathers together' these categories and arranges them in such a way that they 'accuse' or rather, form a predicate which accuses the subject of the sentence. If it accuses definitively this predicate is said to form a definition from which the subject cannot escape. This was a great preoccupation in the dialectics of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.

From the above it can be seen that the Categories played an important role in both Philosophy and Logic. But here, in Book Theta of Metaphysics, we are concentrating not so much on Logos as underpinning the logical structure of language but as revealing the hidden nature of being itself.

So, I have put a stake in the ground here explaining my initial thoughts on the Categories, but Heidegger is going to go much further than this, and as far as I'm concerned we are ready to begin to examine his own thoughts at least regarding Logos and Kategoria.

Pete


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Joseph Milne



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PostPosted: Tue Feb 18, 2014 11:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Peter,

I need to catch up with you a bit here!

A couple of things strike me from your discussion of the relation of the categories to the being of a thing. When we speak of taking away any of the qualities that belong to something, this really is an exercise of distinction made abstractly in the reason. The fact that we can distinguish qualities from one another does not mean they exist separately in fact. For example, Aquinas says that the true and the good are the same, although we can conceptually distinguish them. This distinguishing would seem the work of logos.

Another point strikes me. The notion that we can get to the essence of things by stripping away attributes may lead in two opposite directions. One direction draws all into unity, the other reduces all to least. The second case is common in our age where it is held that all things may be reduced to matter. Thought, for example, may be reduced to ‘firing neurons’. The opposite way is to hold that thought brings about firing neurons, or that intelligence shapes the whole human form. Only the second ‘reduction’ really accounts for everything. This is what the medieval scholars understood by ‘reductio’.

I raise this partly just to be clear, but also partly because we might easily fall into the Cartesian error of supposing we can get to ‘the real’ by way of subtraction. His famous reduction to the cogito through removing all perception makes precisely the mistake Aristotle remarks his many predecessors made in trying to reduce everything to one of the elements and passing over that which is most evident, ousia. The mental exercise Descartes imagines has to begin from the knowledge that everything inside and outside is already present. Only then can he eliminate everything till left only with the cogito. In terms of our present discussion, he has theoretically eliminated logos. Here we have to keep in mind the distinctions that reason can make between things which in fact cannot be separated from one another. I do not think Descartes succeeds in his reduction, even abstractly as you say.

In terms of Aristotle as Heidegger is approaching him, logos is the gathering of all the attributes that emerge with the presence of being. If the ousia of things is to be known distinctly from the categories that logos gathers and asserts, what kind of knowing would that be? But Aristotle clearly states that the categories are themselves ‘beings’. For us, when beholding the piece of wood, ‘being’ and ‘beings’, or ‘being’ and ‘this being’ present themselves simultaneously. In this case, we could as well ask of the being of smoothness of the wood as of the being of the wood ‘in itself’.

Something tempts us to seek the wood ‘in itself’. Is it ousia itself that calls us to seek that? Is it logos? Or is it from a confusion in our minds? These are rhetorical questions just for thinking aloud. Anyway, I am going to throw in something which I feel is at work in Aristotle but which our modern way of thinking easily misses.

It is that these questions can progress only if they come from the right manner of concern. If Heidegger is right in saying we have forgotten the question of being and buried it under the dead weight of metaphysics, this suggests we are not seriously concerned with being, only with explanation, or systematization, for our own satisfaction. That is to say, the question of being can be a puzzle that excites our minds, or else it can be a philosophical question arising out of concern for being for itself – that is, a call to honour being.

A friend of mine always signs off his emails with ‘kind regards’. To ‘regard’ is to acknowledge, but it goes back to meaning ‘to watch’ and ‘to guard’. And friends do watch over and guard one another, whether or not they know the etymology. This act of regarding honours the being of the friend, it brings friendship and being together, and for this reason the friendship was regarded by the Greeks and the Romans as giving birth to the highest from of speech.

My point in this little digression is that the manner in which we are concerned with things determines our relation with their being. And where being is honoured it is most clearly known – not and an exercise in thinking but as an act of living – or ‘dwelling’ as Heidegger would say.

When the friend says ‘kind regards’ this is the gathering of logos – of logic in the sense Aristotle means. The loss of this proper meaning of logic and its reduction into mere calculation seems to run parallel with the modern loss of ‘thinking being’. It is this calculative logic that seeks to reduce things to mere matter, to atoms or genes. This kind of logic has no respect for the things themselves. They merely serve as material for making concepts. The philosopher, on the other hand, seeks to know for the sake of the thing known, and I strongly suspect that only this stance opens the way to true knowledge of things. I also suspect this is the place where being presents itself as a ‘mystery’ to us, as you say. Not as a puzzle, which needs solving, but as an unknown that calls for reverence at its threshold.

I know I am not saying anything new here, and just mulling over what you have written in different words. But I think it is good to draw out some of these reflections as a way of getting to grips with what Aristotle and Heidegger are saying.

Joseph
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Peter Blumsom



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PostPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2014 11:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Joseph,

Thank you for your reply and my apologies for not responding sooner (I have been wearing my musician’s hat for the past fortnight.)

There are still problems for me in the first few pages, and even Heidegger admits to things that cannot as yet be fully answered. For example, I’m not totally clear of how there is a link between his comments on Heraclitus and Plato on page p.3 although I have some theories. I know the passage in Sophist he refers to and I have a feeling that it may be useful later. I wonder if you have anything to say on any of this?

Apart from that, I think I’ve said all I want for the time being on the categories, though I expect they will crop up intermittently throughout this present exploration. I am mindful of the fact that Aristotle begins Theta by saying that he has already dealt with the Categories elsewhere in Metaphysics and that includes ousia – Being. So I think I’ll continue onto the real topic of Book Theta, an exploration of dunamis and energeia which seem to impinge upon beings in a different though equally intimate manner as the categories themselves. Aristotle is saying that whereas Katagoria is one way of dividing beings, another way is the manner of their arrival ‘on our doorstep' (you might say 'threshold'). So we have both a one-fold and a two-fold character to the division of beings and neither seem to interfere with the other. In fact it is a manifold because these are not the only divisions to be explored.

Sometimes the terminology seems to change. On page 6 Heidegger pairs dunamis with energeia and on the same page swaps the latter term for entelecheia saying that these two are going to take us in a different direction to the categories. I take entelecheia to be the highest form of activity (energeia) of a thing. This ultimate form of activity Aristotle will clearly explain in chapter six of Theta. But we are to realise that we are still deep in the field of beings, and what's more, the Kategoria are still present. You were right to remind us that dialectical divisions do not sever apart but simply lay things out in their correct order. Is that not the meaning of kosmos?

So it seems that even ultimate reality - entelecheia, is something that happens to a being. That is why on p.7 Heidegger asks whether dunamis and energeia belong to ousia. Until this leading question has been broached we are not yet 'genuinely philosophising'. Heidegger hopes that if we pay proper attention to Aristotle on this we will understand for ourselves what he is up to. What little Aristotle has tersely revealed is, Heidegger admits, “more than enough for us who have been trained in indiscriminate philosophical scholarship and who conceal our philosophical impotence in clever industry.” Well, that’s us told! My excuse is that I’ve never had any training - what’s yours?

Your passage on 'kind regards' was not lost on me, though I had never thought of it in that enlightening way. There is one more passage in your reply that I would like to respond to, but I'll do it on a separate post, as I need to think it through.

Kind Regards,

Pete
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Peter Blumsom



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PostPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2014 10:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm just clearing up what I've written here:

Quote:
Aristotle is saying that whereas Katagoria is one way of dividing beings, another way is the manner of their arrival ‘on our doorstep' (you might say 'threshold').


The second of the twofold is indeed dunamis and energeia which I don't think we should define until Heidegger defines them. This is the 'fold' that concerns how things come into being and how they are while they are in being. This doesn't seem to be the preoccupation of the categories directly though it occurs to me that there are cross overs. The 'walking' of a man walking can be a category but the second division sees the walking in terms of telos or kind of 'end' this activity is describing. So a whole new field is opened up including form, cause and the like.

This is of course where the text is heading but we are not quite there yet.
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Joseph Milne



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PostPosted: Tue Mar 04, 2014 11:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Peter,

Please forgive me also for being slow to reply. These things take time to ponder in any meaningful way – beyond simply being lost!

I need to read the passages mentioned on Heraclitus and Plato on page p.3 before making any response here.

I still feel a need to go right back to the relation of logos to things. I have the impression that Heidegger wishes us to understand that our only way to ‘being’ or ousia is in logos.

Normally we would think we grasp something and can afterwards assert what we grasp. We suppose that we ‘know’ and then put what we know in logos, into speaking it. But it seems Aristotle, at least in the way Heidegger is dealing with him, understands logos as the primary ‘knowing’, and that ‘knowing’ is saying. In his Politics Aristotle distinguishes man from the other species as having speech. Because he is the speaking being he is able to reflect upon the nature of things and have foresight in making things or in preparing for things. This capacity for foresight has its main purpose in making laws, since to make a good law means to know what consequences it will have.

To make a law is to assert or ‘enact’ a word, to pronounce a law, just as a judge pronounces a sentence. To make a law is to know the consequences of a naming. One cannot really separate the ‘essence’ of a law from its intended or foreseen act. Thus Aristotle believes that a person who lacks foresight cannot make laws, or is unfit to make laws.

Could we say that the consequences of a pronounced law is its revealing of itself? After all, a law is made in order to produce consequences, to bring acts into being. Could we say, taking this a bit further, that a good law brings justice into being? Or that a just law makes us assert the goodness of justice? Can one have any idea of the nature of justice without affirming it? To affirm it means knowing it rightly. Is not affirmation an act of speech, even if spoken silently?

This is just an example. But what I am trying to get hold of is that ‘knowing’ the being or truth of something cannot be separated from affirming it, and somehow affirmation is rooted in the very essence of speech or logos. Logos cannot be indifferent to what it says, and in this lies something of its meaning as revealing in asserting.

It seems to be that the ‘essence’ of a law and its ‘consequences’ is like the relation between primordial ousia and the katagoria. Thus after saying ousia is the ‘first among the categories’ Heidegger says on page 3:

Quote:
The other categories are not incidentally and subsequently connected with the first category by means of assertions, as though they could mean something independently; rather, they are always, in accord with their essence, co-saying the ousia. And to the extent that the categories are beings, they are co-being with ousia.


Heidegger suggests we still have got nowhere in saying this! But never mind. All I am trying to do is get a sense of the depth of logos in the act of knowing as Aristotle understands it. Our age has separated knowing from being so completely that we are now suspicious of any assertions of the truth of things. But this only shows we do not know the truth of logos. So to say something like “we cannot really know the truth of things” is itself an act of placing oneself in relation to ousia. But that consequence is invisible because we no longer see the relation of logos and ousia as Plato and Aristotle did. Yet once we consider the wider meaning of logos as the Greek philosophers saw it, as the ‘reason’ in things, or as the ‘order’ of things, as ‘cosmos’ as you note, it is clear we have reduced in our age the meaning of logos and of the act of speaking to very little. Yet our ignorant assertions still take effect! We only need to listen to the news.

If I am probing in the right direction, and not merely grasping at straws, it seems that what is going on with ousia belongs to logos, and so the question of ousia and the question of logos arise together. For man, logos is our comportment to ousia. This is what Kant no longer sees and why Heidegger dismisses Kant’s understanding of ‘logic’ on page 4 as not what Aristotle understands by logic. I feel it also throws some light on what Heidegger means when he says that for man “language is the house of being”.

I think this is enough for now and I need to ponder what you say about dunamis and energeia for a while before I have anything useful to say on them.

As for being among those “trained in indiscriminate philosophical scholarship and who conceal our philosophical impotence in clever industry,” I have had a dose of that but soon found only empty noise where logos should have been. But it is very easy to slip into it even without the necessary ‘training’! The old fox foresaw how ‘education’ was soon to be reduced to mere ‘training’.

Best wishes,
Joseph
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Peter Blumsom



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

PostPosted: Mon Mar 10, 2014 8:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Joseph,

Consider this as the first part of a longer post, the rest being prepared in my head and on scrawled sheets - but not yet typed. My follow up will also include comments on your last.

I have been asked to include the Greek script as well as English transcriptions which I will do my best to follow – thank you Michael, I promise I will include a word bank on my concluding post.

No, we mustn’t pass over logos, but I blench at the thought of tackling it. It is full of difficulty and I can only hope I am as patient in my philosophizing as you!

In Plato’s Sophist, which Heidegger references on page 3, we have the Western tradition’s first language lesson and there has never been another quite like it since. He began by investigating the elements of words, whether they were letters, syllables or anything else. He divided letters into consonants and vowels and concluded that the consonants on their own were soundless and therefore lacking in intelligibility whereas although the vowels could be sounded they lacked articulation. Only when the two were mixed together [συμμιγνυμι - summignumi] and the vowels were given articulation by the consonants was it possible for syllables to arise, and words to be formed from these.

Words were able to give a higher intelligibility than the elements from which they were formed because, in addition to the sounds [φωναι - phonai], they could bring a kind of picture or image of something [ειδωλον - eidolon] to the mind. But even this, said the Stranger, fell short of Logos – discourse.

After this first investigation, of the elements of language, he let the topic go. Later, however, it became necessary to deepen this investigation by studying Logos directly, this being the heart of man’s intelligence.

In his second investigation Plato begins the laying out of Logos using the same method i.e. by discussing the two types of words of which it is comprised Again there really is nothing unclear about his approach. Words come under the heading of όνομα - onoma and ῤημα - rhema which most translations anachronistically translate as ‘nouns’ and ‘verbs]. Heidegger warns, we shouldn’t be complacent about such a translation. It should not be forgotten that these were very early days in the study of language and such clear-cut terminology had yet to be formulated.

I’ll go into their meanings in more detail later but for now let’s simply say that, in Plato’s time onoma and rhema, stood for words as a whole, and as such brought to the mind images or pictures of things and actions - whereas, prepositions and the like, what we today also call words, were not considered so by him. This was because they did not give rise to visualisation - Plato's conception of them being rather in the style of ‘logical operators’ used in modern logic.

Plato made it clear that such pictures alone did not become Logos (statement, discourse or even sentence). A succession of onomata such as ‘lion stag horse’ or a similar succession of rhemata, “walks runs sleeps” produces no logos’ For a significant statement – the smallest complete unit of logos - to arise there had to be mixing of rhemata and onomata, similar to the method he used with vowels and consonants. (Indeed, though Plato doesn’t comment, there seems to be an analogy between the active rhemata and vowels and the inactive onomata and consonants.)

So, it is by mixing these two ‘elements’ that logos is allowed to arise. Plato gives the simple example of ‘Theaetetus sits’, demonstrating to us that although each word separately indicates a certain intelligible ‘something’ it is only by placing them next to each other that this intelligibility is allowed to flow from one to the other and something to ‘be said’.

Heidegger iwas clearly influenced by Plato’s investigations when laying out his own theories. I have found it useful to compare his notes on p.411 of his Sophist commentary with the section in his Introduction to Metaphysics [starting with The Grammar of the Word Being - his ref.42] which covers similar ground.

The term deloun [δηλουν] ‘emergent’ that he uses on p.3 of Theta 1-3 is very significant. It is deloun that makes logos ‘visible’. But I think he takes careful note of the subtle distinctions Plato uses. At 261c Plato makes a statement which I’m sure will become crucial as our investigation proceeds:

First, then, let us take up speech and opinion, as I said just now, in order to come to a clearer understanding whether not-being touches them, or they are both entirely true, and neither is ever false.

It’s not enough to find out what logos is ‘technically’ for we must also know how it is in terms of being and not being - and also, regarding both of these - how it is in terms of truth (unconcealment) and deception. These are two distinct notions as will become apparent, I’m sure, throughout this thread.

But these things cannot be tackled unless we look at how logos forms and the divisions Plato delineates in its formation. But in order to keep this thread ‘flowing’ I will post this and follow up shortly with the rest of my account.
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Joseph Milne



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PostPosted: Tue Mar 11, 2014 12:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Peter,

I am happy to follow where you wish to lead. But also I feel we have to get as clear as possible in what we are saying.

I think we agree, but it is worth bringing it out anyway, that ‘words’ as we find them in a dictionary are not logos, nor do they in any way give rise to logos. Nor either does the act of combining them give rise to logos. This is the case whether or not they make sense in some way. For example the proposition “The tree is green” is not logos, even though it appears as an intelligible statement. This is because it did not arise into speech from the unified presence of a tree. It is not a statement about any tree at all. It has no ground in ousia.

Heidegger points this out in his Sophist commentary on the page you direct us to (p. 411).

Quote:
“The order of the description, in which Plato begins with an isolated onoma and rhema, is not identical with the structure of the phenomena itself. It is not the case that words first flutter about in isolation and are then taken together, whence deloun arises. On the contrary, the deloun is primary. It is the fundamental phenomenon. And only with reference to it does there exist the possibility, as a deficient mode, of isolated, merely recited words. The deloun, which harbours the possibility of discourse, is a constitutive determination of Dasein itself, a determination I am wont to designate as Being-in-the-world or Being-in. Plato says nothing about this, but we must avoid misunderstanding it as a matter of a conjunction of representations. That idea of an extrinsic shoving together still dominates the entire traditional categorical material of the grammar of the Indo-Germanic languages.”


He goes on to say:

Quote:
If we wanted to see the original and phenomenal connection between the phenomenon of language and the Being of man, we would have to get rid, at the outset, of the proposition as the point of departure for our orientation toward language.


The kind of thinking about language as words put together to makes propositions, Heidegger explains, is possible only because the real arising of language from the unified presence of being reveals itself first, and then only through the Being of man. We might say that the prevailing view of language fits exactly with the flickering images on the wall in Plato’s cave, and debating the structure of sentences as if this were a path to truth resembles nothing else than juggling those shadows.

I am sure we agree on this since you say

Quote:
It is deloun that makes logos ‘visible’. But I think he takes careful note of the subtle distinctions Plato uses. At 261c Plato makes a statement which I’m sure will become crucial as our investigation proceeds:

First, then, let us take up speech and opinion, as I said just now, in order to come to a clearer understanding whether not-being touches them, or they are both entirely true, and neither is ever false.

So long as this means an enquiry into the truth of things themselves and how that comes to ‘speech and opinion’, and not merely an enquiry into how words or sentences may be true or opinion, that is fine. I sense that Heidegger is suspicious of Plato on this very point since Plato says nothing about the important distinction between the way speech arises from the primacy of deloun and how sentences may be abstractly analyzed. We may wonder if Plato takes for granted that language arises from the primary presence of things, or if he sees language as in some sense detached from actual things as a system of arbitrary signs – the prevailing modern view. Perhaps the Greek mind in general took as given a real relation between things and speech, and that is why the question does not arise in Plato. Or did he begin the idea that the enquiry into truth begins with enquiry into propositions?

Whatever the case, I am persuaded by Heidegger that logos arises out of the unified presence of things, from deloun.

Anyway, this is just a footnote to your exposition which you are continuing, so do not be distracted from your course by this.

Best wishes,
Joseph
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Peter Blumsom



Joined: 09 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 11, 2014 2:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good point, Joseph.
I’d like to make clear my thoughts on this. There are two facets to this study I believe. We are looking primarily at logos that is, shall we say, the unique gift of man. This gift has enabled him to ascend to the heights, to speak as Isaiah or Shakespeare or Plato himself, and must be the ultimate aim of any study of logos to embrace. But there is, and I’m not sure how we would describe it, perhaps the emergence of the forensic evidence of how this thing we call logos works. I think this is the preoccupation of Plato here in the Sophist because it is a work that wants to solve the problem of the sophists whose deception has become entangled with the genuine philosophical utterances of Parmenides. This is what fires his search and his aim is accomplished quite masterfully. For his more elevated thoughts on logos we have to go the Phaedrus where the authority of the oral tradition examined.

This is perhaps not the time to go into details but it's my belief Plato realised that for all the brilliance of the ‘middle period’ dialogues (Phaedrus, Republic, Symposium etc.), there was a vulnerability to his philosophy, a certain lack of account perhaps, that had to be addressed. This he tackled in the later works, especially Theaetetus and Sophist, which might be one long dialogue. I think in these Plato makes the journey that Socrates prophesied in the Cave allegory. These two dialogues are his re-entry back into the cave where two kinds of blindness meet each other. There is the darkness in the eyes of the cave dwellers looking up and that of a man who, with eyes full of light, suddenly finds himself in a darkened room. We’ve all experienced this - at least physically. That’s why in Meno Socrates, when accused of being a sting ray who makes people lose their minds in a kind of trance, says if a sting ray cannot sting itself, then I’m not that kind of fish (or words to that effect). He was not immune to aporia.

The reason I’m looking hard again at Sophist is because Heidegger himself has looked to hard at it. I think we should study Plato’s ‘forensic report’ closely for this reason alone. But I certainly should not want us to be limited by it. After all, in this thread we are interested primarily in Heidegger, and secondarily with Aristotle. Plato should only enter the situation when invited, as it were, by whom you call ‘the wily old fox’ himself.

I shall continue, as you suggest, with my analysis of Sophist and Heidegger’s comments on it. Some painstaking work here will save us a lot of trouble later, I’m sure of that.

Kind Regards,
Pete


Last edited by Peter Blumsom on Fri Apr 04, 2014 9:55 am; edited 1 time in total
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Joseph Milne



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PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2014 10:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Peter,

Fair enough. I follow the distinction you are making and will await your further elaboration. Meanwhile I will look again at the section in Heidegger's Introduction to Metaphysics you mention. I spent a good amount of time on that some three years or so ago and it will be good to refresh my memory.

It may be worth mentioning here that for those following our discussion who would welcome a good introduction to Heidegger, his Introduction to Metaphysics is probably the most accessible - and of moderate length. But Heidegger is never an easy read, and 'introduction' does not mean 'simplified'. This book is a sustained enquiry into the meaning of Being.

Best wishes,
Joseph
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Peter Blumsom



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PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2014 1:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Joseph,

Now that we are working from the same sources I think it might be better to have a more informal dialogue between us. I have more or less put my notes together - at least on logos - but would prefer to discuss points as they arise. This feels kind of natural to me and I hope it suits you also. One thing seems important. Now that we are talking of logos we shouldn’t think that we have left the categories behind, as if they belong to a different chapter, as it were. The little we have uncovered about them has shown me that we can’t understand Heidegger’s Logos without them being involved at every step of the way. Categories are ‘of beings’ and logos discloses beings and logos speaks the categories as clearly as is possible. I look at the bottom of p4 and I see Heidegger writing:

“In any case, the usual representation of the categories as ‘forms of thought’, as some sort of encasements into which we stuff beings, is there already repudiated for having mistaken the facts.”

which seems to testify to their intimate relationship with beings and Being itself. They are not extrinsic entities that have a life of their own apart from beings as if logos suddenly saw them and thought they would be useful. This is, I believe entirely relevant to the critique of Heidegger’s (on Sophist p.411) that we tend today to shove around the parts of speech and they are jostled into ‘sentence-shape'. For the onomata and rhemata, are no more separate from logos as categories are from beings. This is important to remember as we work our way though this formidable book.

Best regards,
Pete
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Peter Blumsom



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PostPosted: Mon Mar 17, 2014 7:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Joseph,

Just when I promised my exchanges would be short I believe this might be quite a longy. But most of it is a summary of things I feel should be laid down as ground to our investigation, especially for those who have not broached the subject seriously before now.

Heidegger on p.60 of his Metaphysics believes that the ‘inner bond' between rhemata and onomata is carried out in full clarity in Plato’s Sophist. As you inferred, these two elements do not self-exist. In Sophist they are plucked from ‘somewhere’ - shall we say a pre-existing logos – perhaps in the same sense as we might seize a carburettor and a piston head from car engine and expect to make sense of the engine by just holding them separately in our gaze. Indeed, using that rather insufficient analogy even the car engine would be inadequate. We would first have to look at what the car engine means to the car and what the car means to the workings of society before we have a sufficient analogy to all-embracing logos itself. For though it is, from one point of view, made up of words and sounds and underlying grammar none of these can, of itself, explain logos. We do eventually have to ask what logos means for the human being – the one who speaks: that is, the one who, unlike the angels or gods, has breath measured to the articulation of words.

So when Plato’s Stranger demonstrates that onomata ‘in succession’ and rhema in succession do not bring logos into the open the unwritten sub-text that Heidegger accesses is that they are meres – parts of a whole. That whole did not come from them, but they from it, and, as such, it cannot be constructed of, nor constricted by them.

But Plato also brings before us the fact that when these parts when placed like to unlike, verb to noun, if you like, something happens and the whole – i.e.the logos, is induced to act. Induced, that is, to move from dunamis (possibility) to energeia (actuality). That, of course, is an Aristotelian way of putting it.

Plato himself introduces this as a kind of unfolding order. I don’t want to labour this, but it might be important later to have this to reference. I haven’t checked it with Heidegger’s Metaphysics. I’ll do that later, though I expect you are re-acquainting yourself on that material this very moment (unless you are having a cup of tea!). I think it’s worth mentioning again that Plato, in Sophist, is not entertaining himself by writing a Greek grammar. His primary aim is to demonstrate that non-being (me on) in the form of not-being (eteros) can be expressed by logos, and, by showing this, he deprives the Sophist of his most potent argument:

“For this reason we must enquire into the nature of speech and opinion and fancy in order that when they are made clear we may perceive that they participate in non-being.” Sophist 260e (trans. Fowler)

Heidegger refers to this passage on p.402 of his Sophist Commentary.

At 261d The Stranger wonders (in a general way) whether words can ‘unite (Fowler) or, better, ‘fit together’ sunarmozo. Such a ‘harmony’ would be the genuine requirement of logos, but for it to occur first there must be words spoken ‘in order’ - ephexis. However, mere order isn’t to be confused with the well-ordered cosmos and is not sufficient for the participation of words in logos; because, as he explains to Theaetetus at 261e, if this succession expresses no significance the words will not ‘unite’. i.e. logos will not enter into them. As you said, logos is not merely a lexicon. As was said, names or actions on their own do not seem to exist except in lexicons and dictionaries (and perhaps Lewis Caroll!) They just ‘do not make discourse’ though Fowler’s translation does not seem to do justice to the Greek: apergazomai means ‘bring to perfection' 'complete’ and which are more in line with the dignity of the subject.

At 262a we are told that for names and actions to ‘mingle’ – kerannumi, will allow logos to make its discourse, and this discourse will be about things that exist and do not exist (but we should note that here existence and non-existence do not yet touch truth and falsity - we are still talking ‘technically’ about logos) for now words ‘combine’ or ‘intertwine – sumploke, and only if logos was present could this happen.

The preliminary view of logos as names and activities intertwining is still not yet sufficient for Plato’s own investigation: “There is another little point of having a subject.” - tinos, a ‘something’ or ‘anything’ or a ‘what’. The nature of the rhema is that it reaches out for a name which it must place as its subject. A subject is what a verb is directed towards in its active, passive or middle voice. Even dancing has dancers. Metaphysics however pushes this envelope a little in the form of the rhema ‘being’ (einai and ousia) The former is the infinitive ‘to be’ - a kind of activity that has yet to happen, and ousia is a participle, suggesting being qua existing.

I think this almost wraps up my 'technical survey' of logos, according to Plato’s Sophist. I think it provides the base from which we can extend to the view of logos ascribed to by Heidegger, and possibly Aristotle. This probably is as far as Plato can be taken down this path because his universal view is via soul as subsequent to nous. I do not see this view put forward by Aristotle. Even when he talks of soul it is in quite a different way to Plato and the Platonists. However, studying Aristotle in this intense way may throw more light on their relationship.

I say 'almost' because Plato says a little about 'subject' which might also be relevant.

Enough for now.

regards,
Pete
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Joseph Milne



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PostPosted: Thu Apr 03, 2014 9:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Peter,

Please forgive my long delay in responding.

I am content with what you say and think we are in agreement on these preparations. So if you would like to take us further, I will follow your path. Meanwhile I shall do the reading needed to stay with this rather subtle topic.

Best wishes,
Joseph
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