- The Presocratics in the Thought of Martin Heidegger by Julian W. Korab-Karpowicz
The Presocratics in the Thought of Martin Heidegger presents a well-developed thesis that the Presocratics (especially Anaximander, Heraclitus, and Parmenides) had a substantial influence on the development of Heidegger's philosophy and that his understanding of the Presocratics evolved with his own philosophical evolution. The author convincingly argues that later Heidegger regarded the Presocratics as the "primordial" thinkers, that is, those who "think being" and who had not yet forgotten the fundamental distinction between being (sein) and beings. Since, in Heidegger's view, many ills of today's societies originate with forgetting the question of being, regaining access to the ideas of these thinkers could open up the possibility of a new beginning for philosophy and contribute to the revival of Western civilization.
Chapter 1 has an introductory character: it outlines Heidegger's conception of philosophy and history, and indicates the place of the Presocratics in his thought. It sketches Heidegger's debt to and departure from Husserlian phenomenology, his conception of human Dasein as essentially temporal and hence historical, and his conception of history as the "repetition of the possibilities for being." Further, the author argues that Heidegger's conception of philosophy is essentially historical because it requires that we engage in a "deconstruction" of concepts that we find in the history of philosophy, so as to return to their original meanings. It is by deconstructing the concepts introduced by the "primordial thinkers" that we "repeat" the possibilities for being that they supply for us.
Chapters 2 through 4 present Heidegger's interpretations of Anaximander, Heraclitus, and Parmenides, respectively. [End Page 143]
In chapter 2 the author argues that Heidegger's early lecture on the Presocratics resembles traditional scholarship. As Heidegger's thought evolves, he becomes preoccupied with the problem of translation and distinguishes between "thoughtful" and "literal" translation, trying to apply the former to the Anaximander fragment. But this preoccupation with translation is not, as some commentators suppose, for its own sake, and instead reflects Heidegger's overriding concern with the question of being. The main concepts that are analyzed—arche, apeiron, and chreon—are all, when thoughtfully translated, aspects of being for Heidegger. For example, arche, often translated as "principle," should rather be translated as the "ordering" that is the unlimited (apeiron) and that provides a limit to beings.
Chapter 3, devoted to Heraclitus, is divided into two parts: "The Physis Fragments" and "The Logos Fragments." An analysis of Heidegger's interpretation, based on a thoughtful translation of these concepts, reveals that physis and logos, as well as related concepts: harmonia, cosmos, hybris, gnome, even pyr, are all related to aspects of being.
In chapter 4, on Parmenides, the central concept is aletheia, normally translated as "truth." Heidegger deconstructs it into "a-letheia," which means "un-concealment" or "taking beings out of their hiddenness and letting them be seen in their unhiddenness." Thus it too refers to being, as does moira, which means "allotment," but must be understood as "the allotment, which allots by bestowing and so unfolds the twofold" of being and beings.
In the concluding chapter 5, the author describes Heidegger's aim of overcoming metaphysics by "repeating the possibilities of being" to be found in the Presocratics. According to Heidegger, all post-Presocratic attempts to ground beings in a being, be it idea, energia, the Cartesian subject, or the will to power, ends with being's oblivion. The same is the case with modern technology that has its source in a "Cartesian" philosophy of the subject and the Nietzschean idea of the unconditioned will. Thus overcoming metaphysics and bringing us back to being can have profound implications not just for philosophy but also for our lives and for the modern Western civilization.
The book is an innovative, enlightening, and highly condensed explanation of some very difficult Heideggerian concepts. The author does excellent clarification work and displays considerable scholarship. It will be required reading not only for Heidegger scholars and students of the Presocratics, but...