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Heidegger and the Greeks: Interpretive Essays (review)
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Reviewed by
Drew A. Hyland and John Panteleimon Manoussakis, editors. Heidegger and the Greeks: Interpretive Essays. Bloomington-Indianapolis: University of Indiana Press, 2006. Pp. xiii + 194. Paper, $24.95.

Heidegger's troubled and over-determined interest in Greek philosophy is well known. In the 1933 rectoral address, he declared that genuine science would become possible only "if we again place ourselves under the power of the beginning of our spiritual-historical existence. This beginning is the departure, the setting out, of Greek philosophy." All of Western science, Heidegger concluded, "remains bound to that beginning of philosophy. From it science draws the strength of its essence, assuming that it still remains at all equal to this beginning." Such claims bear witness to his life-long interpretive confrontation with the dawning figures of Western philosophy: Aristotle, Plato, and the pre-Socratics.

Heidegger's attitude toward this "beginning" was notoriously complex. Indeed, his method of reading both Plato and Aristotle furnishes perhaps the best example for what he called an Auseinandersetzung: an exegetical confrontation that seeks not merely to comprehend the original texts, but to transform them and thereby to liberate what remains "unthought" in the otherwise ossified doctrines of the philosophical past. No slender volume of essays under the banner of 'Heidegger and the Greeks' could possibly do justice to the many facets of this confrontation. What is therefore so remarkable about this collection is that the authors do not rest content with summarizing Heidegger's views. They themselves engage in their own Auseinandersetzung with Heidegger's account of Greek philosophy: they contest his translations, question his interpretations, and (in several of the essays) set forth bold and thought-provoking philosophical alternatives. As is typical for the proceedings of a conference (some of these essays were first given as papers at a conference on the same topic at the American College of Greece in 2003), the collection covers an astonishing range of topics and perspectives. What holds the volume together is the unusual clarity and creativity each contributor brings to his or her task.

Drew Hyland's essay, "First of All Came Chaos," provides a philological and philosophical reading of key texts by Hesiod and Plato, and argues (against Heidegger) that something like the ontological difference remains a prominent theme in both of these authors: Hesiod presents Chaos as a "between," and Plato suggests that both eros and the good are "neither some logos, nor some epistemic knowledge" (Symposium 211a). Hyland concludes with the provocative suggestion that Heidegger was too rash when he charged Plato with "ontological oblivion." Claudia Baracchi's essay, "Contributions to the Coming-to-Be of Greek Beginnings: Heidegger's Inceptive Thinking," argues that Heidegger's larger narrative of a "unity and homogenous 'history of metaphysics' formulaically reduces the Greek beginning," and in particular, misses certain complexities in both Plato and Aristotle that would belie Heidegger's characterization. Walter Brogan's essay, "The Intractable Interrelationship of Physis and Techne," provides a close look at Aristotle's Metaphysics and deepens our appreciation of Heidegger's remarks in the Contributions to Philosophy on "technicity" in relation to nature. An importance consequence of Brogan's reading is to warn us off from any simple-minded belief that Heidegger wished to turn away from techne in favor of a pre-technological nature or physis. Rather, he wished us to understand the necessary if conflictual bond between them, which he summarized in The Origin of the Work of Art as the "strife" between "earth" and "world."

In "Translating Innigkeit: The Belonging Together of the Strange," Peter Warnek offers a long meditation on the difficulties of reading Heidegger on Hölderlin, suggesting that Hölderlin's themes of inwardness cannot remain the property of an exclusively German community, and that Heidegger's notion of a metaphysically distinctive conversation between only the Germans and the Greeks is impermissible even according to Heidegger's own logic, "whether Heidegger would admit it or not." Günther Figal's essay, "Heidegger's Philosophy of Language in an Aristotelian Context: Dynamic meta logou," seeks to show that Heidegger never truly abandoned his Aristotelian beginnings; on the contrary, he remained "as a thinker of language, an Aristotelian criticizing...