Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

Heidegger's Kantian Reading of Aristotle's Theologike Episteme

Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

Heidegger's Kantian Reading of Aristotle's Theologike Episteme

Article excerpt

Aristotle's Metaphysics is probably further than we ourselves are today in philosophy.

--Martin Heidegger, Einleitung in die Phanomenologie der Religion

HEIDEGGER'S AFFINITY for Aristotle's and Kant's works is probably what best describes his trajectory during the 1920s. After a passionate dialogue with Augustine and before turning his attention towards Holderlin, these two philosophers served as privileged interlocutors in the elaboration of Sein und Zeit's fundamental ontology, as well as in the reformulation of this same project in what would be called a metaphysics of Dasein. The importance given to the two of them at that time is obviously tied to their respective reflections on the essence and the conditions of possibility of metaphysics.

Before initiating a discussion with the metaphysical tradition under the sign of an overcoming [Uberholung, Uberwindung] in the 1930s, Heidegger first tried to examine the possibility of metaphysics. In the 1920s, in fact, he spoke of a "retrieval" or a "repetition" [Wiederholung] of the ontological and metaphysical questionings. Guided by Aristotle's efforts to establish a first philosophy that would give an account of beings both in their universality and in their primacy, Heidegger also attached fundamental importance to Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, the sole, explicit attempt known to history to question metaphysically the possibility of metaphysics. However, Heidegger was not merely inspired by these philosophical attempts: he proposed to retrieve or repeat these two metaphysical investigations so that the questions that had been hidden under concealments brought about by tradition might come to light.

The great retrievals to which Heidegger then proceeds are well known: the first pages of Sein und Zeit evoked an "explicit retrieval [ausdruckliche Wiederholung] of the question of being," (1) while the fourth and last part of Kant und das Problem der Metaphysik spoke of a "laying of the ground for metaphysics in a retrieval [in einer Wiederholung]." (2) However, besides these two attempts, Heidegger retrieved other traditional problems. A retrieval exercise that is not so well known is that of Aristotle's problem of the divine [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], which Heidegger tried to interpret in a nonreligious sense, as an endeavor concerning the world. This paper will approach this peculiar retrieval, which disclosed a previously unknown bond between the metaphysical projects of Aristotle, Kant, and Heidegger.

Even though Kant's Critique of Pure Reason constitutes the principal model for Heidegger's Metaphysics of Dasein it would be impossible to understand this project without taking into account his interpretation of Aristotle's Metaphysics and the questions this text left open. (3) Confronted with the contemporaneous interpretations of Aristotle's works--those by Werner Jaeger and Paul Natorp-Heidegger proposed to revive Aristotle's questioning process. Convinced that the traditional readings of Aristotle's works concealed problems that Aristotle himself could not solve, Heidegger wanted to return to the source and try to read with new, phenomenological eyes the texts that gave birth to what would later be called "metaphysics." On this path, Kant was to give Heidegger a helpful hand. As this paper will show, Heidegger found arguments in Kant's Critique of Pure Reason to legitimize his interpretation of Aristotle's concept of the "divine."


If the Heideggerian endeavors of the 1920s can all be considered as retrieval attempts, the methodological implications of such an undertaking were rarely a subject of discussion in the published texts, (4) and this is quite problematic insofar as the concept played an essential role in the very structure of Sein und Zeit. (5) Not only does the retrieval concern the basic task of the essay--the "explicit retrieval of the question of being" (6)--it is also a basic methodological concept of "phenomenological destruction," which describes Heidegger's relation to the history of philosophy in the 1920s. …

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