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Bulletin platonicien
Platon aujourd'hui

Hadrien France-Lanord, Heidegger, Aristote et Platon: Dialogue à trois voix

Francisco Gonzalez
p. 223-228
Référence(s) :

Hadrien France-Lanord, Heidegger, Aristote et Platon: Dialogue à trois voix, Les Éditions du Cerf, Paris, 2011, 116 p.

Texte intégral

1What the reader will find in this useful little book is a very faithful, nuanced, and well-documented account of Heidegger’s readings of Plato and Aristotle, not in their entirety (something that would of course far surpass the scope of the book), but focused, in the first case, on the phenomenon of everydayness and, in the second case, on the nature of dialogue. As such the book can be commended and recommended. One will find the book lacking, however, if one takes the subtitle as promising a genuine ‘dialogue à trois voix’. There is only one voice here: that of Heidegger as echoed by his faithful interpreter. Aristotle and Plato, in other words, are allowed to speak only through Heidegger. Not only are Heidegger’s readings of the Platonic and Aristotelian texts never questioned, not only are these texts never allowed to respond to and even contradict Heidegger’s reading, but France-Lanord’s hermeneutical assumptions appear to rule out the very possibility of such a dialogue. On the very few occasions that France-Lanord mentions critiques that have been made of Heidegger, he dismisses them with contempt as products only of the most obtuse misunderstanding. One is indeed by the end left wanting to ask the author: is it in your view possible to disagree with Heidegger, to critique what he says, without ceasing to think?

  • 1 In On the Way to Language, trans. Peter D. Hertz (Harper, 1971), p. 20.

2France-Lanord appears to make the faulty assumption often made by other Heideggerians: since Heidegger is not a mere historian of philosophy claiming to offer an ‘accurate’ and philologically defensible reading of the Ancients (against Goldschmidt’s critique that Heidegger does not interpret Plato in a Platonic manner, France-Lanord responds, “Ce qui échappe d’emblée à V. Goldschmidt, c’est que Heidegger n’est pas un historien de la philosophie” [p. 86, n. 2]), and since he is not ‘critiquing’, much less dismissing the Ancients (see p. 58 on the positive nature of ‘de-struction’), his reading of the Ancients cannot be criticized without the very point of this reading being misunderstood. The point is a creative reappropriation of the Ancients that explicitly seeks to go beyond them. France-Lanord writes that to find in Heidegger some kind of reproach against Plato, “c’est ignorer d’une part que jamais Heidegger n’a adressé le moindre reproche à aucun philosophe, avec qui il s’explique bien plutôt sur le mode de fond en comble historial du ‘dialogue pensant’ [denkendes Gespräch] . . . .” (79). But what France-Lanord and others like him seem to miss is that even such a reappropriation can fail, and not only in minor or trivial ways. In other words, the attempted dialogue with Plato and Aristotle can fail because it is not radical enough, and, yes, not faithful enough, to let them speak in a genuinely foreign voice, in a voice that challenges the interpreter. The appropriation, in other words, can fail when it becomes totalizing and violent domination. Heidegger, unlike so many of his interpreters, was perfectly aware of this possibility. In ‘A Dialogue on Language’, the Japanese interlocutor comments: “To us, at a distance, it had always seemed amazing that people never tired of imputing to you a negative attitude toward the history of previous thinking, while in fact you strive only for an original appropriation.” This is the point of which France-Lanord and other Heideggerians never tire of reminding us. What seems to go unheeded is Heidegger’s (the Inquirer’s) reply: “Whose success can and should be disputed.”1 It is therefore by no means a misunderstanding of Heidegger to dispute his reading of the Ancients. The problem is not that the success of Heidegger’s appropriation of Plato and Aristotle is not disputed in the work under review; France-Lanord is of course entitled to the view that this appropriation is successful. The problem is that we find nowhere so much as the acknowledgement that this appropriation can in principle be disputed. But where there is no possibility of such a ‘dispute’, where all critique and disagreement are a priori dismissed as mere misunderstanding, there can be no genuine dialogue, either for two or three voices.

3In what follows I will only indicate some of the ways in which France-Lanord ignores or quickly dismisses challenges to Heidegger’s reading that merited to be taken seriously. In so doing I cannot claim to give a detailed exposition of the content of the book. Instead, the focus will be on the question of what it means to read Heidegger reading the Ancients and on the kind of dialogue that is possible here.

  • 2 See my “Without Good and Evil: Heidegger’s Purification of Aristotle’s Ethics,” in Heidegger and th (...)

4In the chapter on Aristotle, France-Lanord expresses surprise that certain commentators have failed to see that being-together is one of the central axes of Being and Time (63). But who has failed to see this? What some have questioned is the lack not of an analysis of being-together, but of an analysis of being-together as an authentic mode of being in a political community rather than as the domination of an anonymous They-Self. France-Lanord‘s discussion of ‘everydayness’ is indeed strangely silent about the phenomenon of ‘das Man’ so central to Heidegger’s phenomenological description of everydayness. On p. 64 he dismisses the ‘contresens’ of those “auxquelles il a échappé que Heidegger n’a pas du tout effacé la dimension communautaire de la πρᾶξις aristotélicienne au profit d’un Dasein prétendument enfermé dans un solipsisme.” But again the objection is not that Heidegger’s Dasein is solipsistic, but rather that Heidegger’s account of authentic praxis abstracts from the concrete being-together in a concrete and specific context that is so central to Aristotle’s own account.2 France-Lanord indeed proceeds to tell us on p. 67 that Heidegger “affirme également en toutes lettres” that “même l’existence propre du Dasein se tient dans la préoccupation quotidienne.” Where does Heidegger say this? France-Lanord cites p. 352 of Sein und Zeit. There we in fact read: “Auch die eigentliche Existenz des Daseins hält sich in solchem Besorgen . . .” But then the sentence continues: “selbst dann, wenn es für sie ‘gleichgültig’ bleibt.” Now one can argue about the meaning of ‘indifferent’ here and why the word is in quotation marks. But is not this continuation of the sentence important and does it not at least raise the questions about authentic Dasein’s relation to the world of everyday care that France-Lanord wants to dismiss? Another slight of hand occurs on pp. 98-99. There France-Lanord thinks the following suffices to show that “la quotidienneté . . . ne désigne nullement une ‘déchéance facticielle’ ainsi que d’aucuns commentateurs mal avertis ont cru pouvoir à contresens l’expliquer” (99): in a passage from the Sophist Heidegger claims that Aristotle “allows for the λογος that is not theoretical, i.e., for speech not in service to διαλέγεσθαι, to receive a certain justification within the context of everyday Dasein.” (GA19, 338-9). But again France-Lanord in his quotation leaves out the important sentence that immediately follows: “For this everyday speaking (here we have Aristotle’s genuine discovery) has a certain justification even though it does not aim at ἀλήθεια, since it belongs to the sense of everyday Dasein to move within the realm of appearances.” Is not this movement in appearances, this divorce from the truth, which characterizes everyday existence according to Heidegger, a ‘déchéance facticielle’? Furthermore, if it is true, as France-Lanord insists in conclusion, that the relation between one human being and another ceases to be a problem for Heidegger because it is co-original with our very being-there, can we not still raise questions about how Heidegger characterizes this relation? In short, in pretending that Heidegger’s critics simply do not understand basic points of Being and Time such as the co-originality of being-with-others and being-there or everydayness as a positive and fundamental mode of being-there, France-Lanord undercuts from the outset the possibility of any Auseinandersetzung with Heidegger and therefore of any genuine dialogue between Heidegger and Aristotle.

  • 3 For an account of the evolution of Heidegger’s interpretation of truth in Plato, as well as a criti (...)

5In the chapter devoted to Heidegger’s reading of Plato, the central question to be examined is “ce que signifient pour Platon διαλέγεσθαι et Gespräch chez Heidegger” (89). France-Lanord makes it clear from the outset that the latter is to be understood as surpassing the former (‘outrepasse’) “pour le traduire en langue hespérique, dans cette langue à découvrir qui est celle de la modernité-occidentale” (89). There are a number of things to be applauded in France-Lanord’s treatment of Plato: for example, he rightly insists that Platonic dialectic, if a ‘way’, is not a ‘method’ (90) and that the eidos is not an atitia in the modern sense of ‘cause’ since it lacks ‘effectivité’. But p. 93 is very revealing of the limitations of France-Lanord’s reading. First, he treats Heidegger’s questionable thesis in the 1940 essay Plato’s Doctrine of Truth that in Plato alêtheia comes under the yoke of the idea as a simple observation, thereby placing it beyond question. Then he refers to the rather different thesis in the Parmenides course of 1942-43 (GA54) according to which the fundamental transformation in the essence of alêtheia took place with the Roman conception of truth as rectitudo. Then he goes back to the Sophist course of 1924/25 for the view that διαλἐγεσθαι has its site in “l’ἀλήθεια en tant qu’ouvert sans retrait” because its essence is to make appear.” In thus jumping so quickly between a course in which there is no suggestion of a transformation of the essence of truth in Plato, a much later essay in which such a transformation constitutes the central thesis, and a course in which this thesis receives at least an important modification if not correction, France-Lanord shows the contempt for chronology that he elsewhere explicitly expresses (59). Does such a contempt assume that Heidegger never changed his view on something like Plato’s dialectic or Plato’s conception of truth? Is it France-Lanord’s assumption that Heidegger cannot change his view because he has no views, that is, because everything he says is a manifestation of truth itself and therefore in principle cannot err? Even if Heidegger was himself loath ever to confess a change of view, does he not write to Elfride in the letter cited on p. 74 that “Concernant la transformation du λόγος chez Platon, je suis désormais parvenu à une découverte décisive . . .”
Even if we agree with Heidegger that the essence of truth is not any form of correctness, but rather dis-closure or un-conclealment—and should not this be open to debate?—can it not show itself differently to him at different times and—most importantly—can he not misperceive it? Is it not at least possible that with this thesis of a transformation of the essence of truth in Plato Heidegger was led astray, lost his way, both as an interpreter of Plato and as a thinker of the essence of truth?3 One must wonder why France-Lanord finds it necessary to treat Heidegger not as a thinker with a history, but rather as an oracle that always speaks true and always says the same thing, any errors and apparent changes being attributable solely to his interpreters.

  • 4 For a critique of Heidegger’s account of Platonic dialectic, see my “History of an Embarrassment: H (...)

6This tendency to treat Heidegger’s reading of Plato as simply self-evident is in evidence throughout the chapter. On p. 97 the highly questionable thesis (and one hardly defensible on the basis of the texts) that Plato eventually abandons the Idea of the Good because it is not a pure ontological determination is treated as an evidence that Heidegger need only ‘underline’. That dialectic is a ‘philosophical embarrassment’ because confined to “la saisie théoretico-catégoriale” is also treated as simply evident (98). France-Lanord acknowledges that the logos Plato puts to work in the writing of the dialogues cannot at all be characterized as a theoretical conception of logos, but he dogmatically affirms that there is here simply an ‘irreducible difference’ “entre la théorisation platonicienne et la pratique de la parole au fil de laquelle se fait cette théorisation” (p. 101, n. 1). Why not instead conclude that Plato’s practice shows that his conception of logos cannot be what Heidegger takes it to be? The dialectic that is actually practiced in the dialogues can hardly be characterized as a purely ‘theoretical’ and ‘objectifying’ grasp of the things it deals with and a principle of charity in interpretation would at the very least require that we interpret the brief, schematic, and ambiguous accounts of dialectic in the dialogues in light of this practice. If Heidegger’s interpretation produces an inconsistent Plato, why not see this as counting against Heidegger’s interpretation? Such questions never seem to cross France-Lanord’s mind.4

  • 5 See Wahrheit und Methode: Grundzüge einer philosophischen Hermeneutik, Gesammelte Werke 1 (Tübingen (...)
  • 6 For the attempt at such a confrontation, see chapter six of my A Question of Dialogue: Plato and He (...)

7When it comes to characterizing the difference between Platonic διαλέγεσθαι and Heideggerian Gespräch, France-Lanord claims that in the latter “le mouvement est tout autre, car il ne s’agit plus d’une parole qui parle de quelque chose au sens du λόγος τινός. . . . Le Gespräch, l’entretien de la parole, ne parle plus en énoncés, car l’énoncé—die Aussage—est une parole qui ne parle pas encore en tant que parole au sens où la parole y est hors d’elle-même, hors de son element propre—l’énoncé, die Aussage, si je peux me permettre ce jeu de mots, laisse en effet die Sage aus . . .” (106-7). Note that the opposition could not be more pronounced: if Platonic διαλέγεσθα moves within statements and the statement does not say anything, is opposed to any genuine saying, whereas Heideggerian Gespräch is a saying that does not state anything, that does not claim anything, then Platonic dialogue cannot be a genuine Gespräch in Heidegger’s sense. In the Heideggerian conversation, it is not really we who speak; it is rather being itself that speaks: “Estre vient à aître comme ce dialogue qui entre-tient les mortels dans la parole. Le Gespräch est la parole de l’estre . . .” (107). What is never asked here is why such a Heideggerian ‘dialogue’ ‘surpasses’ rather than falls short of the Platonic dialogue. For one thing, the element of Platonic dialectic is not the statement or proposition, but the question: and as Gadamer would observe in Truth and Method, the logic of question and answer that characterizes Platonic dialectic is quite different from the logic of the proposition.5 The question here is why a dialogue in which the truth comes to partial expression through interlocutors speaking with and against each other should need to be surpassed by a ‘dialogue’ in which the interlocutors must agree in both serving only as the bearers of the monologue of being. The question of what constitutes a genuine dialogue and what role such dialogue plays in the search for truth is an important and difficult one and the confrontation between Heidegger and Plato could make an important contribution to this question.6 But in simply and uncritically adopting the Heideggerian perspective, France-Lanord prevents such a confrontation from taking place.

8It is also worth noting that while Platonic dialogue is always firmly rooted in everyday discourse, the Heideggerian dialogue, especially in this French version with its talk of ‘estre’ and ‘aître’, is as far removed from everyday discourse as one can imagine. Whether this is a problem or a virtue is never allowed to become even a question since France-Lanord, as we have seen, insists that Heidegger too remains firmly rooted in everyday discourse. France-Lanord indeed goes so far as to attribute to Heidegger an “éthique du dialogue” (111). ‘Ethics’ is of course here meant in the Heideggerian sense of an ‘inhabiting’. France-Lanord even finds in a passage of Being and Time in which Heidegger explains that the preposition ‘in’ comes from the word ‘innan’ signifying ‘wohnen’ one of several “passages secrètement ‘éthiques’ d’Être et temps . . .” (113). Again there is no indication that such a conception of ethics is in the slightest degree questionable or debatable. It clearly is not the ‘ethics of dialogue’ one finds in Plato. Is it superior only because it comes later? Is it not at least possible that a ‘dialogue’ characterized as the ‘tautological’ and ‘monological’ word of being and an ‘ethics’ characterized as an ‘inhabiting’ miss something important to be found in Plato’s own ‘ethics of dialogue’?

  • 7 Erinnerung an Martin Heidegger, ed. Günther Neske (Günther Neske Pfullingen, 1977), 203.

9On p. 108 we are told that one of the major characteristics of Heidegger’s thought is “de n’avoir péché contre Platon en n’ayant jamais cessé de revenir à ce qui chez lui est digne de question” (108). But again, whether or not one wishes to characterize this as a sin, could not Heidegger have failed here? And is it not absurd to claim that “Heidegger est le penseur qui a pris le plus au sérieux le διαλἐγεσθαι platonicien” when he characterizes it from the beginning to the end of his career as a “philosophical embarrassment” and also must sometimes confess his own embarrassment in trying to come to terms with it? Georg Picht has reported how, after asking Heidegger some probing questions regarding his Plato interpretation—precisely what France-Lanord refuses to do—Heidegger confessed: “One thing I must confess to you: the structure of Plato’s thought is completely obscure to me” (Eines muß ich Ihnen zugeben: die Struktur des platonischen Denkens ist mir vollkommen dunkel7). If Heidegger doubtless gave the nature of Plato’s dialectic serious thought, could he not have failed to grasp its structure? What one sees in Heidegger’s account of Plato’s dialectic as it evolves throughout his career—and it does evolve—is a constant struggle that oscillates between dismissal of this dialectic as an ‘embarrassment’ incompatible with the genuinely phenomenological character of the thinking of being and the recognition in it of something more with the potential to think being in its unconcealment. But of all of this there is not the slightest indication in the present book. As far as France-Lanord is concerned, no one took more seriously Plato’s dialectic than did Heidegger and, presumably, no one understood it better.

10Again and again in this book the questions that would be able bring about a genuine dialogue between Heidegger, Plato and Aristotle are never even acknowledged as such. What one instead finds is an explication of the Heideggerian Plato and the Heideggerian Aristotle that, while doubtless valuable in itself given the influence of this particular reading of the Ancients, falls far short of the dialogue between three voices promised in the title. This should not surprise us, however, since in this respect as well France-Lanord is faithfully following Heidegger’s conception of dialogue: a dialogue in which there cannot be three voices asserting different things, arguing and disagreeing with each other, but only the one word of ‘being’.

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1 In On the Way to Language, trans. Peter D. Hertz (Harper, 1971), p. 20.

2 See my “Without Good and Evil: Heidegger’s Purification of Aristotle’s Ethics,” in Heidegger and the Greeks: Interpretative Essays, Drew Hyland and John Panteleimon Manoussakis (eds.), Indiana University Press, 2006, 127-156. It should be noted here that none of the recent and by now rather voluminous literature on Heidegger’s reading of Aristotle or Plato is cited by France-Lanord. The reason is presumably to be found in the disdain France-Lanord expresses on p. 87 for “cet appareillage scientifique” of extensive notes and bibliography that he finds in the Flammarion edition of Plato’s Banquet and that he claims to do more to obstruct the text than Heidegger could ever be accused of doing.

3 For an account of the evolution of Heidegger’s interpretation of truth in Plato, as well as a critique of this interpretation, see my A Question of Dialogue: Plato and Heidegger (Penn State University Press, 2009).

4 For a critique of Heidegger’s account of Platonic dialectic, see my “History of an Embarrassment: Heidegger’s Critique of Platonic Dialectic,” Journal of the History of Philosophy 40 (2002): 361-389.

5 See Wahrheit und Methode: Grundzüge einer philosophischen Hermeneutik, Gesammelte Werke 1 (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1990), 375.

6 For the attempt at such a confrontation, see chapter six of my A Question of Dialogue: Plato and Heidegger.

7 Erinnerung an Martin Heidegger, ed. Günther Neske (Günther Neske Pfullingen, 1977), 203.

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