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Reviewed by:
  • Basic Concepts of Aristotelian Philosophy
  • Shawn Loht
Martin Heidegger. Basic Concepts of Aristotelian Philosophy. Translated by Robert D. Metcalf and Mark B. Tanzer. Bloomington-Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2009. Pp. xii + 279. Cloth, $39.95.

Previously available as Volume 18 of the Gesamtausgabe [GA], this text contains a lecture course delivered by Heidegger at Marburg during the summer of 1924. Metcalf and Tanzer's translation is its first appearance in English. The editor of this volume in the Gesamtausgabe reports that only a fraction of Heidegger's original course material survives in manuscript form. As a result, much of the text does not originate from Heidegger's own hand. The bulk of it represents a transcription of the lecture course based on multiple independently-recorded, complete sets of student notes in conjunction with Heidegger's extant course papers. However, the resulting text reads as continuously as Heidegger's other better-preserved lecture courses from the 1920s, and should be regarded as a legitimate source for studying early Heidegger. Only the reproduction of Heidegger's notes for the course appears in rough outline form, comprising approximately 50 pages, so readers should not anticipate a text consisting entirely of abbreviated sketches as one sees, for instance, in the recently translated Basic Concepts of Ancient Philosophy (GA 22).

The content of the lecture course is not devoted to enumerating the basic Aristotelian concepts per se, but rather to accounting for the phenomenological dimensions of the Greek experience in which conceptuality as such could arise. However, Heidegger does treat most principal concepts of Aristotelian philosophy here, describing the ontological framework from which they originate and their interrelations with one another.

Heidegger engages with Kant in the early sections of the course in order to locate the historical solidification of the concept as a guiding idea in philosophy, but he moves to Aristotle quickly on the premise that the decisive germ of conceptuality is exhibited in the Greek discovery of the significance of definitions. In the text that follows, Heidegger takes up central themes in Aristotle in order to unfold Greek being-in-the-world as occurring through language and, particularly, oral discourse. Strong focus is placed on Greek being-there in its everydayness as the hermeneutic for understanding conceptuality.

Clear rudiments of the terminology of Being and Time emerge in the course of Heidegger's account of Aristotle. Themes appearing in that later work, including world, being-with-one-another, attunement, fear, and idle talk, inform Heidegger's reading of the Aristotelian account of human nature across the Nicomachean Ethics, Rhetoric, De Anima, and Parts of Animals. Key Aristotelian terms Heidegger develops within this framework include 'prohairesis', 'hexis', 'pathos', and 'nous'. Early formulations of Heidegger's conceptions of logos and aletheia and their fundamental role in Greek experience also permeate his reading. Traces of Heidegger's more mature phenomenology are evident in the lecture course's late sections, in which he takes up the Aristotelian account of motion in the Physics. Here, Heidegger emphasizes the roles of nous as constitutive of the human agent's openness to the world and of kinesis as the fundamental mode in which beings come into view for the Greeks.

Notable among the translation choices of Metcalf and Tanzer is their rendering of 'Dasein' and its variants. As they write in the Translators' Preface, Heidegger's use of this term in the lecture course reflects an understanding of Dasein in terms of its there-character. The result places less emphasis on the human subject as a dative agent of manifestation, as one sees in Being and Time, highlighting instead the manner in which Dasein finds itself in the world. This last is expressive of Heidegger's emphatic treatment in the course of conceptuality as tied up with human being-in-the-world.

This text will be of vital interest to scholars interested in the genesis of Being and Time and Heidegger's early formulations of its central arguments in the 1920s. The text will also be an important addition to Heidegger's works on Aristotle available in English. The lecture course offers penetrating and incisive accounts of themes in Aristotle that Heidegger neglects or treats only briefly...


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