Sophistes. Plato’s Dialogue and Heidegger’s Lectures in Marburg (1924-25)
Heidegger’s philosophy has an extraordinarily complex relationship to Plato. Heidegger sees Plato as the founder of that Western metaphysics which he claims should be overcome. However, his interpretation of Plato, upon which his reconstruction of the history of philosophy rests, is anything but incontestable from a philological point of view, and has generated much criticism. This criticism, however, has been hampered by the fact that the only example in Heidegger’s work of a detailed analysis of a Platonic dialogue, namely the Lectures on Plato’s Sophist held in Marburg in 1924–25, remained unpublished until 1992. Thus, only in the last twenty years have scholars been able to develop a more nuanced understanding of Heidegger’s interpretation of Plato. Even then, however, the focus has been primarily on the importance of the lectures for Heidegger’s own thought. The possible impact of Heidegger’s interpretation on the study of Platonic philosophy itself has been neglected. This volume, therefore, offers a critical re-evaluation of Heidegger as an interpreter of Plato.
A crucial question Plato poses in the Sophist is how it is possible to say falsehoods: it involves the assumption that non-being exists (τὸ μὴ ὂν εἶναι), for otherwise falsehood could not come into existence (236 e – 237 a). Plato’s solution to this problem has been explored mainly in terms of the modern philosophy of language with an emphasis on the meanings of the verb “to be” (existential / copulative / veridical), types of predication (ordinary / definitional), the character of false statements (affirmative / negative) etc. It has been generally acknowledged that to understand the solution Plato offers to the so called “falsehood paradox” we must focus mainly on the propositional dimension of λόγος, on its subject-predicate structure. In sharp contrast, Heidegger endeavours to “get rid of propositions” (GA 19, 594/411) while interpreting the Sophist, and this endeavour will be our topic in this paper.