A thought on Plato and Heidegger

May 23, 2013 — Leave a comment

Might Heidegger’s question of Being be a similar framework to Plato’s question of Forms?

Plato’s Forms:

equality: A concept like equality (in the sense of a set of logs of equal length, width etc) is an abstract concept. To see a set of logs with equal properties and then ascribe to them the concept equality is the step that Plato is focussing on. For instance, if the logs are equal in one way but not in another then equality is the wrong concept. It would be something more like similarity. The concept of equality once realized takes on a life of its own. You can remove the logs from the equation and still be left with the abstract ideal of equality. Plato thinks that the concept therefore must have always been there. He posits that the concept (Form) must have always been and that when we come into contact with it we are actually remembering it (remembering that Plato assumes eternal life and reincarnation as life models).

Heidegger’s Being:

Being: In the same way that Plato looks at equality as something other than the things that are equal, Heidegger looks at being (existing) as something other than the things that are being. Where conventionally linguistics and structuralism take the place of metaphysics, Heidegger is brushing aside linguistics (finding new words to escape the structures of inadequate language). Is he returning to Plato style metaphysics?

So if we took Plato’s ideal of Beauty and analyzed it:

Eternal: “it does not come to be or cease to be”
Unchanging: “it doesn’t increase or diminish”
Unqualified: “it isn’t attractive in one sense and repulsive in another”
Not Localized: “in itself and by itself”
The Source: “every other beautiful object somehow partakes of it”

(Symposium; 209e – 121a)

Heidegger’s Being could be understood in exactly the same way. Daesein therefore could mean the human performance of the ideal? (could the word ideal be appropriate for Heidegger’s Being?) So the concept is not simply that the human exists, but delves into further detail to examine the idea that somehow the human partakes in Being.

(The trick to getting a hold on Being is to read the concept over and over until the words start to separate away from the ‘vision’ that Heidegger is struggling to express. It is a matter of perceiving the concept almost visually. This is why he employs invented and ambiguous words.)


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