Heidegger's tragic Greeks : the relation between presence and deinon
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Martin Heidegger's interpretation of the ancients was born out of something like a crisis in the interpretation of the Greeks, which can be characterized as nothing other than the realization of the idea that the Greek philosophers put a serious question mark over existence. This idea, which had its germination in Prussia with Jakob Burckhart and his teacher, but first came to be seriously cultivated in the Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, was the first in depth investigation into whether the Greeks, on the one hand, questioned existence or, on the other hand, put a question mark over existence. To question existence is rather innocuous, since it amounts to little more, in the end, than a child looking up at the stars and asking what it all means. To put a question mark over existence, however, is another business entirely. For the Greeks, as the life work of Martin Heidegger amply demonstrates, the nature of Greek thinking and the objects towards which it is directed follows so absolutely from the tragic view of the human person that, in a certain sense, philosophy is Greek and could only have developed in Greece. Perhaps stating it a little less categorically, philosophy could have developed elsewhere at least to the extent that something like they way the Greeks understood life was at the forefront: presence, in other words. This thesis deals with the problem ofHeidegger's relation to the Greeks, specifically in terms of his understanding of the Greeks and presence. It is the position of this dissertation that the Greek notion of presence is, as Heidegger understands it, the homeliness of the hearth that radiates through all the things that humans concern themselves with. This is thought by Heidegger, as the Greeks did, specifically in contrast with the uncanninesslunhomeliness of the hqrnan apart from his or her concern with things. Therefore, the thesis is an attempt at exposing the relation between presence and the unhomely by situating it withing Greek existence and the meaning of the Greek Philosopher. In order to support this position, the thesis has been divided into five parts. The first two chapters deal with Heidegger's explanation of the relation between Greek notion of physics (Phusis), metaphysics (specifically in relation to an analysis of time and motion in Greek thought), and what Heidegger calls the fundamental attunement of Dasein (boredom). More exactly, it deals with these issues only so far as they allow us to bring out something like the notion of 'presence' in relation to things and homelessness or restlessness in relation to the human being. The rationale for these two chapters in relation to the central problem of the paper is that in Heidegger's elucidation of physics and metaphysics, he conducts his analysis in such a way that he explicitly uncovers that dimension of human existence that he calls the fundamental attunement of Dasein. This fundamental attunement is, in tum, similar to what the Greeks understood as the deinon, the uncanninesslunhomeliness of the human. The third and fourth chapters take as their explicit themes the problem of the Greek understanding of the assertion and the ways in which the person can comport himlherself toward things, two issues which are not separable. The rationale for these two chapters in relation to the central theme of the paper is that Heidegger's analysis of these two areas in Greek thought brings out precisely why the philosopher and the philosophical way of life is the highest mode of existence for the Greeks and how this is thought specifically in tenns of the uncanniness of humans. The final cijapter gives a complete elucidation of presence as the homeliness of the hearth and shows specifically how this is thought of in contradistinction to the uncanny/unhomely for the Greeks. 1I1 This last chapter also explains Martin Heidegger's reaction to the Greek's interpretation of the highest mode of existence, and what he posited as a counter-thought. The essay as a whole is an attempt to fully concertize an important dimension of Heidegger' s understanding of the Greeks, that is, the relation between presence and the deinon or Greek notion ofunhomely, which, to my la)owledge, has not been offered anywhere in commentaries on Heidegger.