(Conclusion) The Godlessness Of The Philosophers: From Beginning To End

I just wanted to conclude this small series of posts that began with movedness/presencing and provide a little ancient philosophical context.

“Being” for the Greeks basically means “presence,” and so Plato says with the beautiful thing beauty is “present.”  Similarly, with the piece of chalk materiality is co-present.  Before I said presence means presencing, and so Aristotle makes the point that with the beautiful mansion beauty is presencing through it, it is Beauty incarnate, the universal presences through the particular.  Heidegger, commenting on Aristotle’s Physics 193 a 31-b3, says

  • Aristotle begins the demonstration in a wholly extrinsic way with a reference to a way of speaking, one that in fact we still use. For example, we may say of a painting by Van Gogh, “This is art,” or, when we see a bird of prey circling above the forest, “That is nature.” In such “language use” we take a being that, properly considered, is something by virtue of and on the basis of art, and we call this very thing itself “art.” For after all, the painting is not art but a work of art, and the bird of prey is not nature but a natural being. Yet this manner of speaking manifests something essential.  When do we say so emphatically, “This is art”?  Not just when some piece of canvas hangs there smeared with dabs of color, not even when we have just any old “painting” there in front of us, but only when a being that we encounter steps forth preeminently into the appearance of a work of art, only when a being is insofar as it places itself into such an appearance. And the same holds when we say, “That is nature.” (Heidegger, 277).

So with the mansion being is experienced in terms of movement, presencing beautifully for one person, gawdy for the next, and mere presencing for the average house (houseness is merely present in the average house)..

Being allows beings to step forth as what they are, and so already having seen “quality” allows the being to step forward in its yellowness.  Similarly, the prior to production idea of “table” in the craftsman’s mind is what allows the final produced table to stand forth

Similarly, in order to be able to intelligibly encounter this being as the being it is, it must already be “recognized” generally and in advance as a being, i.e., with respect to the constitution of its Being.  Plato gives the example in the Sophist that the dog is not just a “this here,” but is already being made intelligible by an understanding of Einai, Being, choris, separate from, ton allown, the others, and kath auto, in itself.  I encounter the dog as a “not me,” for example.  To be particular is clearly a universal characteristic of things  Also, we could not have the experience of beings that we do unless we had in view such things as variation/equality by the mind’s eye in order to encounter various things; a view of sameness/contrariety to encounter ourselves as self-same in each case; a view of symmetry and harmoniousness allow us to arrange and construct things; etc.

Aristotle said the being-true of beings, the true beings (in the sense of “true-friend”), were of course the most proper beings (the on alethes are the kuriotata on).  We don’t usually intuit “houseness,” but rather understand it.  Similarly, when I go to the grocery store, I have grapeness invisibly before my mind’s eye, which is the basis of successfully completing the shopping trip.    What we have perceived is the range of possible appearing as such, or, more precisely, we have perceived that which cultivates this range, that which regulates [rules and regulations] and marks out how something in general must appear in order to be able, as a house, to offer the appropriate look.

The universal is what allows the particular to stand forth as what it is, so we never simply sense the individual “something” (a sound), but “something as some” (the sound as violin music).  Similarly, experience is a “taking-as,” in the sense we hear a living thing at our feet in the forest, only to look down and see dead leaves rustling in the wind.  This mis-taking shows regular experience is “taking-as,” “something as something,” of that which is presenting itself:

  • We are able to address a present thing as a house or a tree only insofar as we have already beforehand, and without words, addressed what we encounter i.e., have brought it into our open field of “vision” as something standing-on-its-own, a thing. Likewise, we can address a garment as “red” only if from the outset and without words it has already been addressed in terms of something like quality. Standing-on-its-own (“substance”) and quality (“of-what-sort-ness”) and the like constitute the being (beingness) of beings. (Heidegger, 252)

Work Cited

ON THE ESSENCE AND CONCEPT OF Physis IN ARISTOTLE’S PHYSICS B, 1English translation by Thomas Sheehan Published in Martin Heidegger, Pathmarks, ed. William McNeill Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998pp. 183-230.

For the previous 2 posts in this mini series, see