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  • Aristotle’s Rhetoric as Ontology: A Heideggerian Reading


With this essay, I take a rather radical approach to a fairly conventional question: In what sense might Aristotle’s Rhetoric be read as philosophy? Given the pragmatic depth at which it considers public life, the sense in which the Rhetoric is usually taken philosophically moves in the direction of the political. 1 Based on that same rigorous pragmatic orientation, I read the very concrete and down-to-earth Rhetoric as ontology. The inspiration for this reading is drawn from a series of courses and papers on Aristotelian ontology that were written by Martin Heidegger in the early twenties. 2 This phase of Heidegger’s project, which focuses on developing an ontology out of Aristotle, culminates in a little-known course on the Rhetoric, itself given in 1924. 3

In Heidegger’s view, it is the very concreteness of its focus that makes the Rhetoric the perfect site for the realization of certain key aspects of Aristotle’s ontology. This sense of the profound philosophical significance of the Rhetoric stayed with Heidegger beyond his direct encounter with the text in 1924 and is reflected in the tantalizingly suggestive, but protracted reference to the Rhetoric in Being and Time:

Contrary to the traditional orientation, according to which rhetoric is conceived as the kind of thing we learn in school, this work of Aristotle must be taken as the first systematic hermeneutic of everydayness of being with one another. . . . What has escaped notice is that the basic ontological Interpretation of the affective life in general [contained mainly in the discussion of the emotions in book 2] has been able to scarcely make one forward step worthy of mention since Aristotle.

(BT 178) 4

Within the context of Being and Time, Heidegger has little more to say about the forgotten hermeneutical ontology that has lain hidden within the [End Page 146] apparently mundane focus of the Rhetoric. After paying his short homage to Aristotle, Heidegger moves on to his own phenomenology of moods, as the basis for the existential analytic of Being and Time.

In this essay, I examine the ontological implications of the Rhetoric, which were dropped as a protracted allusion on this one page of Being and Time and, although developed more fully in the 1924 course “Grundbegriffe der aristotelischen Philosophie,” still were left very much a hint. This sort of hinting is not unlike Heidegger, even in his earlier readings of Aristotle. For example, he subtitles a 1922 essay outlining a phenomenological approach to reading Aristotle, “Anzeige der hermeneutischen Situation.” The word Anzeige here has the connotation of an indication, a pointer to something that lies beyond our power to express. 5 It seems that in order to get at the almost unspeakable connections between the mundane experience of human life and the meaning of Being, philosophy must be content with a suggestive pointing of the way. Perhaps this is why the somewhat incongrous philosophical introduction to the Rhetoric is never adequately connected to what follows, and why the ontological significance of the Rhetoric itself remains relatively unexplored. Our first task in further exploring that significance is to recover hints of the connection between ontology and rhetoric in Aristotle that were left by Heidegger along the path leading to his 1924 course.

Read through Heidegger’s eyes, Aristotle’s genius and value to philosophy lie in his ability to see and articulate the paradoxical process by which Being as such (the concern of ontology) shows itself in the life-movement of particular beings. At the core of that paradox, recognized by both Aristotle and Heidegger, is the fact that the very seeing and articulation of Being undertaken by ontology is itself a “basic movement of factical life”:

The basic direction of philosophical questioning is not added on and attached to factical life externally, rather it is to be understood as the explicit grasping of a basic movement of factical life. . . . Philosophical research itself constitutes a determinate how of factical life, and, as such, in its actualization, it co-temporalizes the concrete Being of life as it is in itself, and not first through some ‘application’ after the fact.

([1922] 1992, 359, 360–61)

The idea of philosophy, then, is to capture a basic movement of factical life from inside itself. With the objective rigor of the phenomenologist, Heidegger says a movement, but he clearly means to suggest that philosophy does best when it is able to join the movement most central to human life’s process of becoming itself. This most central movement of life he locates in our capacity to make our way through our given temporal moment, what Heidegger calls our “concerned dealings” with our particular [End Page 147] life-world (362). So the question—What does it mean to be?—comes down to the almost unbearably difficult yet at the same time simplest of questions: How do we as human beings meaningfully go about our everyday lives, or at least meaningfully enough to cope?

For Heidegger, the answer is obvious, so obvious as to be easily missed by most of those who take up the mantle of traditional philosophy: We are able to make our way in the world, day by day, minute by minute, because our world is already “there” for us, prepackaged in the meaningfulness of everyday speech. Thus the deepest of philosophical questions, the meaning of Being, comes to be located in the apparently most superficial of phenomena, the there-being of our everyday world. Here Heidegger finds his staunchest ally among the ancients in Aristotle, most particularly the Aristotle of the Rhetoric: “Rhetoric [as understood by Aristotle] is nothing other than the interpretation of concrete Dasein, the hermeneutic of Dasein itself” (1924, 42). Because the meaning of Being is contained within the understanding that underlies our everyday dealings with one another, it is to the phenomenon of rhetoric that true ontology must turn. And so Heidegger’s cycle of courses on Aristotle reaches its conclusion with his 1924 seminar on the Rhetoric.

Conceptualizing rhetoric through the definition in “Grundbegriffe der aristotelischen Philosophie

The necessity of locating ontology in the concrete hermeneutical situation of particular beings is reiterated by Heidegger very directly in the early pages of the 1924 lectures: “being itself [that is, being with a “small b”] is always experienced primarily, [that is,] before Being (Das Seinde selbst ist primär immer vor dem Sein erfahren)” (1924, 9). The difficulty in forging the link between phenomenology and ontology here is that this “before” experience of being must somehow be thematized in its “for-ness,” that is, en route to Being. As Jean Grodin puts it in his recent Introduction to Philosophical Hermeneutics, “Heidegger’s insight into the so-called fore-structure of understanding is very well known. Rarely [, however,] has anyone given much thought to the question of what this fore-structure is really ‘fore’ to, and so (to put it rather awkwardly) the ‘wherefore’ or ‘thereafter’ of the fore-structure has remained for the most part in the dark” (1994, 93). To extend Grodin’s observation a bit further, what is needed is a hermeneutics of the “thereafter of the fore-structure.” In terms of the basic argument of this essay, that hermeneutics, namely, the hermeneutics by which [End Page 148] the fore-structure of understanding is linked to everyday being-in-the-world, is precisely what Heidegger finds in Aristotle’s conception of rhetoric. But it is a specific embodiment of Aristotle’s concept that Heidegger has in mind here, namely, the definition in book 1.

Here we are left to follow hints again. Before getting to his discussion of book 2 and the emotions in “Grundbegriffe der aristotelischen Philosophie,” Heidegger engages in a lengthly excursus on the nature of Aristotle’s concepts and the relevance of definitions to their development. For Heidegger, Aristotle’s definitions hold the key to understanding his basic concepts “phenomenologically,” that is, in their development as concepts. He says early in the lectures: “In the definition, the concept comes to itself (In der Definition der Begriff zu sich selbst kommt)” (1924, 4). On the first day, he makes it utterly clear to the students that the objective of the course, formally entitled “Basic Concepts of Aristotle’s Philosophy,” is to understand, not the “content” of the basic concepts, but “the basis, out of which the basic concepts develop, and how they develop. That means the basic concepts will be considered in relationship to their specific conceptuality (Es handelt sich um das Verständnis von Grundbegriffen in ihrer Begrifflichkeit)” (1). That relationship, which is at the core of Heidegger’s phemonenological study of Aristotle, is built around the definitions of the basic concepts: “In the definition the concept is expressed, comes to appearance (In der Definition wird der Begriff ausdruecklich, kommt zum Vorschein)” (6).

Although Heidegger neither explicitly calls his reading of the Rhetoric an ontology nor specifically grounds his reading in Aristotle’s definition, the compelling indications leading up to his explicit discussion of the definition itself (which does not occur until almost halfway through the course) seem to ready the stage for the words of Aristotle’s definition of rhetoric to make the case. This sort of emergent hint at an almost too radical reading of a neglected or misunderstood text is very much in tune with Heidegger’s way. As with his readings of other “canonical texts,” especially those of the pre-Socratics and Nietzsche, Heidegger’s task here is merely to call attention to the deep significance of words that have been already uttered, so that the words can speak for themselves.

Here is Heidegger, just prior to his discussion of the definition, dramatically setting the stage by arguing for the philosophical importance of the “neglected discipline of rhetoric”:

The original sense of rhetoric had long ago disappeared. Insofar as one forgets to ask about the concrete function of Aristotelian rhetoric, one forgoes a basic possibility—that is, to understand rhetoric in such a way that it becomes [End Page 149] obvious that it is nothing other than the discipline in which the self interpretation of Dasein explicitly takes place. Rhetoric is nothing other than the intepretation of concrete Dasein, the hermeneutic of Dasein itself.

(1924, 42)

The echo of this phrasing in the later reference to Aristotle’s Rhetoric in Being and Time seems unmistakable. By connecting Heidegger’s brief later reference to the Rhetoric with this full-blown earlier discussion, we gain a clearer understanding of the philosophical significance Heidegger saw in Aristotle’s Rhetoric as “the first systematic hermeneutic of everydayness of being with one another” (BT 178).

Rhetoric, as conceptualized by Aristotle in his definition, provides, makes accessable to philosophy, the sytematic “how” of our everyday being-in-the-world (alltäglichen Seins-in-der-Welt), which at the same time is a being-with-one-another (Miteinanderseins) through speech (1924, 47). The dynamis of rhetoric represents our capacity to “see” our situatedness in the world (our hermeneutical situation, our Dasein) as a set of language possibities that constitute the raw materials out of which we construct our everyday life with one another. My argument here is that within that same rhetorical dynamis is also contained the dynamis of philosophy as a seeing of a seeing—that the “how” of the being of philosophy is located within the “how” of the being of rhetoric.

Borrowing Heidegger’s terminology, what we have in the Rhetoric, as epitomized in the definition, is transcendental phenomenology as fundamental ontology. 6 The ontology is “fundamental” because it is concerned with the meaning of Being as such. The phenomenology is “transcendental” in the Kantian sense of being a priori, that is, the process by which Being shows itself in the comings and goings of everyday speech is a necessary precondition of human existence. The methodological implications of this intimate connection between fundamental ontology and transcendental phenomenology are outlined by Heidegger early in Being and Time, in a section entitled “The Preliminary Conception of Phenomenology” (BT 58–63):

Because phenomena, as understood phenomenologically, are never anything but what goes to make up Being, while Being is in every case the Being of some entity, we must first bring forward the entities themselves if it is our aim that Being should be laid bare; and we must do this in the right way. These entities must likewise show themselves with the kind of access which genuinely belongs to them.

(BT 61)

I would argue that it is through rhetorical activity—what Heidegger called “everyday speech”—that human beings “show themselves with the kind of access which genuinely belongs to them.” And so rhetorical phenomenology [End Page 150] has a transcendental dimension. But how does this phenomenology of everyday speech achieve the status of an ontology? Here Heidegger’s notion of thrownness combines with his conceptualization of Aristotle’s fundamental ontology to form a crucial linkage.

Thrownness and ontology

Human beings come into the world rather ungently “thrown.” From the very start, we are bodies projected in motion. The direction of this projected movement is far from clear, but what is clear is that we somehow must fall in with it, must join the movement of our thownness, in order to continue the process of becoming ourselves so precipitously begun. Thus the world into which we are thrown is given to us—“already interpreted,” Heidegger would want to say—as a world in motion. As Heidegger puts it in his phenomenological reading of Aristotle in 1922, “Factical life always moves within a determinate interpretedness” (1922 [1992], 363).

This interpretedness within which life moves, our linguistic world in the process of construction, is itself in movement—in movement towards. It is not the objective towards which we are moving—our telos—that is given to us with language, but rather the “movement toward” that is itself our gift. It is this “towardsing” that moves us to interpret ourselves as the particular individuals we become. What is given to us as already interpreted, therefore, is a determinate set of possibilites, into which we are thrown or projected by our sense of being in motion toward becoming our individual selves. This movement toward particularity is the a priori condition of human existence and constitutes rhetoric as “the hermeneutic of everyday life.”

But if we understand our being-in-the-world as somehow contained in an individualizing movement toward particularity, how are we to think ontologically about this movement without mistaking our own particularity for what is universal? The key, according to Heidegger, is to keep ontological thinking in close touch with the basic movement of factical life—that is, of particular being—while at the same time maintaining a focus on the “form,” the movement toward, that that particular being takes on.

This focus on form is a crucial link between the phenomenological methods of Heidegger and Aristotle and their presumed relationship to ontology. For Aristotle, natural phenomena are characterized by their purposeful movement toward becoming themselves. This entelechial tendency may [End Page 151] be defined as the “form” of a phenomenon. 7 Form, for Aristotle, is thus not a preexisting static “idea” into which the world shapes itself. Rather, form is motion, the motion of natural phenomena from potentiality to actuality. The problem for phenomenology is how to capture the movement of form, from potential to actual, without mistaking a moment of potentiality for the actual essence of the object. The difficulty of the problem is immeasurably compounded, of course, when it comes to comprehending the nature of human beings by phenomenologically describing their form, for the form we are trying to describe, the movement of becoming we are trying to capture as it moves toward becoming what it is, is ourselves, our very own movement toward the particular persons we are.

What seems necessary for such an undertaking is a way of seeing the movement of life toward particularity, which at the same time can reflexively see itself in motion. (One may liken this view of philosophy to an attempt to snap a picture of oneself on the run, from the perspective of one actually being the run.) For Heidegger, hermeneutician to the core, this means positing, for the moment, a way of catching sight of ontological movement as a whole—the Being of human being, one might say—as at least a temporary vantage point from which to view the factical movement of a particular human being.

In his 1922 essay, Heidegger finds Aristotle setting the ontological foundation for such a view in the famous first sentence of the Metaphysics. Heidegger reads the first sentence of the Metaphysics thus: “The urge to live in seeing, the absorption in the visible, is constitutive of how the human being is” (translated in Kisiel 1993, 239). Whatever its philological merits, this reading fits with other crucial elements of Aristotle’s ontology and connects suggestively with his phenomenology.

The usual translation, of course, is “All human beings by nature desire to know.” But according to Aristotle, what it is that we might know, our sensible world, is made up of natural objects perceived in motion toward becoming themselves, what he calls their form. As a metonym for knowing, therefore, seeing is aptly suggestive of how our perceptions guide our moving about our world, from the most superficial “taking a look,” to the most profound contemplative “beholding.” Some people are distinguished by their impulse to see more deeply into the movement of certain natural phenomena, not just to see how they move, in order that they might appropriately use them (a kind of pragmatic seeing), but even to see more deeply into why they move as they do: This is the seeing characteristic of philosophy. But at whatever level, human seeing is carried on in the course of purposeful movement torward a particular-being-oneself. [End Page 152]

Thus we make our way toward individuality by a continuing process of seeing/interpreting, a process whose direction is intially set by the already-given-interpretedness of the existential situation in which we find ourselves, our Befindlichkeit. During the twenties, Heidegger characterized this originary situatedness, which grounds and propels understanding, as hermeneutical, 8 for human life proceeds toward its realization in the particular, by means of an ongoing process of interpretation, and this process of interpretation is itself already “interpreted.” That is, our possibilites for being-in-the-particular are given to us, already interpreted, as our life in movement toward becoming itself. It is this movement toward becoming the particular individuals we are that constitutes the given interpretedness of our world and is thus the a priori condition of human existence—a condition originarily “set in motion” by the dynamis of rhetoric.

Care: From the ontology of seeing to the phenomenology of speaking

Whatever one sees, even contemplatively, is seen in the course of one’s “getting around.” One’s seeing is in the service of one’s coping, and one copes, not just in order to survive, but in order to achieve excellence (arête) as the being one is, be one a farmer or a philosopher. The impulse that motivates one’s seeing, in the service of arête, as the being one is, is care. It is care that accounts for the absorption in seeing that characterizes our being. Indeed, Heidegger subsequently modifies his translation of the first sentence of the Metaphysics to read “The care for seeing belongs essentially in man’s being” (Kisiel 1993, 241).

In addition to being pragmatically concerned with doing what we do, our seeing is freighted with the care of circumspection (umsicht). “Caring is circumspecting,” says Heidegger, “and as circumspect it is at the same time concerned about the cultivation of circumspection and about safeguarding and increasing the familiarity one has with the object of the dealings” ([1922] 1992, 362). So even though this circumspection may be used for philosophical reflection, it is necessarily grounded in the pragmatic orientation of getting around, coping, “doing a life.”

This pragmatic aspect of care, which absorbs us in coping, in getting around, on our way to becoming our particular selves, also necessarily involves us in communication with others. This is because the coping of human beings in the world is accomplished in large part by the actions of the [End Page 153] group. These actions are induced by words—words uttered by individuals on their way to becoming individual selves through participation in a particular historical moment. Thus, there is something unavoidably duplistic about the speech that links individuals together in action, what Kenneth Burke calls consubstantiality (1969, 20). In Heidegger’s terms, the care that motivates our pragmatic seeing also absorbs us in actively joining with others in a historical moment constituted by discourse—a discourse Heidegger characterizes as representing “the averageness of the general public at any given time” ([1922] 1992, 365). This absorption, or falling into averageness, is accomplished by rhetoric, the everyday speaking with others in which we enact our seeing as coping.

There is a paradox here that would seem to doom Heidegger’s project of a philosophy that lives in everyday speech. In our movement toward particularity, we participate in a world by articulating our particular seeing in a form that is recognizable by a community. This participation, our being-with-others, as Heidegger puts it, necessarily involves merging one’s circumspect view of what is with an image of the world that is congruent with the “averageness of the general public at any given time.” And so our concern for realizing our particular selves in the world leads to our absorption into “the they.” This absorption into the they is even less than an inauthentic version of ourselves. It is “nobody.” In Heidegger’s words, “Factical life gets lived by the ‘nobody’ to which all life sacrifices its concern” ([1922] 1992, 365).

Does this mean that the philosophical enterprise is condemned to fall hopelessly into the rhetorical trap, mistaking the publicly verifiable version of a particular seeing for the “real thing”? Plato obviously thought so, and he insisted that the only way for the philosopher to maintain the purity of the beholding of Being is to steer clear of the temptations of the rhetorical situation altogether and rechannel hermeneutical inquiry into dialectic.

Heidegger strongly rejected this attempt to somehow set philosophy above the rhetorical situatedness of human being. As human beings, philosophers necessarily find themselves “with a world”—a world already made meaningful by the projective tendency toward particularity and the concomitant urge to articulate to others the seeing that comprises that particularity. The urge to articulate one’s particular seeing locates one’s being in the world as a being-with-others. And so the philosopher’s concern with the question of Being must somehow be carried out in the course of one’s falling toward particularity while necessarily taking on the accompanying weight of one’s being-with-others in language. Indeed, if human beings bear any knowable relationship to Being as such, that relationship can be [End Page 154] glimpsed only from inside language as we have it—language itself in movement toward a particular view of our life with others in a community—language as rhetoric.

Heidegger’s affinity for Aristotle at this point in the argument is striking. Imagine him, as he often did, zeroing in on a single sentence in a key text, which seems to capture the moment of shared insight. In this case, that key sentence is the definition: “Let rhetoric be [defined as] an ability (dynamis) in each [particular] case to see the available means of persuasion” (Rhetoric p. 36). In an attempt to emulate Heidegger’s deferral of his actual citation and discussion of the definition, 9 much of what I have been saying was articulated with the echo of that definitional sentence in the background. I will conclude by explicitly noting some of the ways the sentence might productively ground what has been said.

The definition

As noted earlier, Heidegger’s only explicit reference to the Rhetoric in Being and Time is his statement that, especially in its discussion of the emotions, the Rhetoric represents “the first systematic hermeneutic of everydayness with one another” (BT 178). That is, our construction of everyday life with one another is grounded in our emotional reactions to what befalls us—our “moods,” as Heidegger called them. Heidegger felt that Aristotle shared this phenomenological insight and, further, that he elaborated, with great precision and perspicacity, the ways in which our basic moods “give us” our already interpreted situatedness. In Heidegger’s view of Aristotle, the sections on the emotions phenomenologically describe the ongoing praxical operation of Dasein’s urge to see and understand. Life “happens” to us through our basic “moodiness.” It is our moods that give us the understanding that situates us, sometimes moving us to ecstasy and art, sometimes overwhelming us with despair and leaving us defeated.

On this view, we may say that the rhetorical situations in which we find ourselves are defined by an emotional urgency that calls for a response. 10 The emotional urgency that links us concernfully to the situation contains within it the possibilities for “being dealt with.” Those possibilities for coping show themselves by marking the salient speech that might serve as an appropriate response: Thus, for Heidegger’s Aristotle, the situations in which we find ourselves, which comprise the world in which we live, call us to live our particular lives by imposing themselves upon us as highly [End Page 155] charged emotional moods; and we move about in the world, becoming ourselves, by articulating responses to those moods that seem “appropriate” in our life with others.

So rhetoric becomes the ability to “see” the emotionally defined situations in which we find ourselves (our Befindlichkeit) on at least two interconnected levels: We are able to see a situation as worthy of our care through the urgency of the mood it arouses; and we are further able to see the linguistic resources available to us in the situation to cope appropriately with that mood. But the possibilities for seeing that rhetoric contains go deeper still. Rhetorical seeing can reflect on itself and observe “what is persuasive about the given” (Rhetoric p. 37)—how words move us through a given mood to a particular action. That is, rhetoric carries with it the capacity to see how we are led almost imperceptibly from life’s possibilities as they befall us to the life we make with others through speech.

Aristotle and Heidegger were both struck by the extraordinary (but also quite ordinary!) sifting process through which each human being moves from the possibilities they are given to the path chosen as somehow “true.” Aristotle directs attention to that sifting process in his definition: rhetoric is “the ability to see the available means of persuasion in the particular case.” “The available means of persuasion” hold for us the possibilities for action with others in the particular case. Those possibilities are “given” to us with mood, along with the different ways of reading/interpreting our moods in the words of an appropriate response.

Aristotle also hints at the possibility of philosophy within this rhetorical process; that is, the more perspicacious among us can see more deeply into how human beings make their choices amongst the possibilities. In Heidegger’s terms, one may behold a glimpse of the meaning of Being through the careful observation of one’s movement through the rhetorical process toward one’s “ownmost possibility for being.” In other words, the meaning of Being comes to human beings in a rhetorical form, and that rhetorical form lies in fragments, scattered amidst the available means of persuasion in the particular case. The philosopher’s gaze sees, not only how the fragments might fit together as a persuasive whole, but also how that very process of fitting defines us and reflects our relationship to Being as such.

For this reading of Aristotle, it is only in the lived experience of the rhetorical process that the meaning of Being may be glimpsed. Thus ontology becomes phenomenology through “the perspicacious seeing of one’s perspicacious seeing” in each particular case what are the available means of persuasion. That is, the philosopher carefully observes the process by [End Page 156] which he or she sifts through the given possibilities to find his or her ownmost possibility for being. The careful observation, by the philosopher, of the movement of the world-creating, self-defining rhetorical process is a function of the philosopher’s own comportment toward his or her rhetorical becoming through speech.

Of course, such delicate rhetorical positioning, and the seeing/articulating of this positioning, cannot itself be defined by an explicit set of principles. Again, what can be said about such matters must remain as eine Formale Anzeige, a formal indication, sign, or hint. 11 Such an indication as to the formal structure of that most perspicacious seeing of which philosophy is capable is suggestively made in the definitional passage of Aristotle’s Rhetoric, as read in the light of Heidegger’s own generous hints.

Allen Scult
Department of Rhetoric and Communication Studies
Drake University


1. The most recent work along these lines is Garver’s Aristotle’s Rhetoric (1994). In this erudite and enlightening work, Garver reads the Rhetoric along the philosophical lines of the Ethics and the Politics. Another impressive reading, which focuses on the political philosophy of the Rhetoric and has strong connections to Hannah Arendt, is Beiner’s Political Judgment (1983). Aristotle’s Rhetoric (Furley and Nehamas 1994), an anthology of essays whose authors read the Rhetoric as philosophy, includes a section on its implications for aesthetics and literary theory. However, reading the Rhetoric as ontology is, as far as I know, suggested only by Heidegger, and the development of that suggestion is unique to the present essay.

2. My approach essentially draws its perspective on Aristotle from two seminal works written during this period. The first, “Phänomenologische Interpretationen Zu Aristotles (Anzeige der hermeneutischen Situation),” written in 1922, brings together Heidegger’s thinking on Aristotle from earlier courses and develops it into a powerful case for a “phenomenological hermeneutics of facticity” as a basis for “fundamental ontology.” I also learned much from Kisiel’s version of the essay in his Genesis of Heidegger’s Being and Time (1993, 252–68). The other source is a course given in the Summer Semester 1924: “Grundbegriffe der aristotelischen Philosophie.”

3. This course, given in Summer Semester 1924, is entitled “Grundbegriffe der aristotelischen Philosophie,” though most of the last two-thirds of the course focuses exclusively on the Rhetoric, especially book 2. It is this focus, perhaps, that led Löwith to title his notes on the course “Aristotles: Rhetorik,” to which William Richardson added in his listing of Heidegger’s courses, “II” (Kisiel 1993, 558). In the present essay, the page citations from this course are from the Bröcker manuscript, which is housed in the Herbert Marcuse Archive at the Stadt und Universitätsbibliothek in Frankfurt. I wish to thank the Archive, especially Drs. Bernhard Tönnies, Jochen Stollberg, and Barbara Brick, for making the manuscript available to me, and Dr. Frithjof Rodi, Director of the Dilthey-Forschungsstelle in Bochum, for his support and cooperation regarding another manuscript of the course that is housed in Bochum. I especially want to thank Theodore Kisiel for helping me through the labyrinth and leading me to the “treasure” itself in the archives of Bochum and Frankfurt.

4. Michael Hyde originally called my attention to this passage and discussions with him about it have been important to the progress of my thinking about rhetoric and Heidegger. See also Hyde and Smith’s “Aristotle and Heidegger on Emotion and Rhetoric” (1993).

5. Indeed, Heidegger used this same word, Anzeige, to describe the suggestive, but not altogether explicit, character of his hermeneutical method in the twenties. See Dahlstom’s essay on the formale Anzeige: “Heidegger’s Method” (1994).

6. This particular phrasing is borrowed from Dostal (1993, 151ff.).

7. For a fuller discussion of Aristotle’s view of form that is very similar to the one suggested here, see Lear (1988, 16–22).

8. Kisiel presents an exceedingly helpful chronology of the different terms, Befindlichkeit, hermeneutische Situation, etc., that Heidegger uses to refer to Dasein’s basic situatedness (1993, Appendix D). A discussion of the interrelationship between these terms, while enlightening, would be beyond the scope of this essay.

9. Indeed, the definition enters only on page 44 of the Bröcker manuscript, almost halfway through the course. Heidegger’s introduction seems to serve as a “formal indication” of the significance of his discussion of the definition to follow. Here he is immediately before presenting the definition: “Was besagt Rhetorik überhaupt, in welchem Sinn hat die Rhetorik as mit legein zu tun (What is rhetoric after all? In what sense is rhetoric connected to Legein?).”

10. This, of course, is a paraphrase of Bitzer’s characterization of the “rhetorical situation” (1968).

11. Heidegger begins to develop this seminal concept in his “prototype” of the Aristotle introduction, the 1921–22 course, “Phänomenologische Interpretationen zu Aristotles” (27ff.). See also Dahlstrom (1994).

Works by Heidegger (as indicated in the text)

1921. “Phänomenologische Interpretationen zu Aristotles: Einführung in die Phänomenologische Furschung.” Freiburg course given in Winter Semester, 1921–22. Frankfurt: Vittorio Klostermann, 1985.
1922. “Phänomenologische Interpretationen Zu Aristotles (Anzeige der hermeneutischen Situation).” Edited, with a postscript, by Hans Ulrich Lessing. Dilthey-Jahrbuch 6 (1989): 235–74. English translation by Michael Baur. “Phenomenological Interpretations with respect to Aristotle (Indication of the Hermeneutical Situation).” Man and World 25 (1992): 355–93.
1924. “Grundbegriffe der aristotelischen Philosophie.” Marburg course given in the Summer Semester 1924. The Bröcker manuscript. Housed in the Herbert Marcuse Archive, Stadt und Universitätsbibliothek, Frankfurt.
BTBeing and Time. Trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1962.

Other works cited

Aristotle. On Rhetoric. Trans. George Kennedy. New York: Oxford UP, 1991.
Beiner, Ronald. 1983. Political Judgment. Chicago: U of Chicago P.
Bitzer, Lloyd F. 1968. “The Rhetorical Situation.” Philosophy and Rhetoric 1: 1–17.
Burke, Kenneth. 1969. The Rhetoric of Motives. Berkeley: U of California P.
Dahlstom, Daniel P. 1994. “Heidegger’s Method: Philosophical Concepts as Formal Indications.” Review of Metaphysics 47: 775–95.
Dostal, Robert. 1993. “Time and Phenomenology in Husserl and Heidegger.” In The Cambridge Companion to Heidegger, ed. Chartles B. Guignon, 141–69. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.
Furley, David J., and Alexander Nehamas, eds. 1994. Aristotle’s Rhetoric: Philosophical Essays. Princeton: Princeton UP.
Garver, Eugene. 1994. Aristotle’s Rhetoric: An Art of Character. Chicago: U of Chicago P.
Grodin, Jean. 1994. Introduction to Philosophical Hermeneutics. Trans. Joel Weinsheimer. New Haven: Yale UP.
Hyde, Michael, and Craig Smith. 1993. “Aristotle and Heidegger on Emotion and Rhetoric: Questions of Time and Space.” In The Critical Turn: Rhetoric and Philosophy in Postmodern Discourse, ed. Ian Angus and Lenore Langsdorf, 68–99. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois UP.
Kisiel, Theodore. 1993. Genesis of Heidegger’s Being and Time. Berkeley: U of California P.
Lear, Jonathon. 1988. Aristotle: The Desire to Understand. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.