Collected Writings

Assessing How Heidegger Thinks Power Through the History of Being(1)

Michael Eldred

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    Table of contents

    1. Being as power and its genealogy in the history of being 

    2. The trace of power residing in Aristotelean du/namij 

      3. Rhetoric as a test case for power over the other 

      4. Heidegger's treatment of rhetoric in Summer Semester 1924 

      5. The powerlessness of being and powerlessness when faced with the other 


    1. Being as power and its genealogy in the history of being 

    How does Heidegger come to the following diagnosis of the times? 
    In Zeiten der schrankenlosen Planung, der nur rücksichtslose Maßnahmen genügen, ist die Berechenbarkeit alles Seienden diesem als Grundcharakter seiner Machsamkeit zugeschrieben. (69. Das Ungewöhnliche und das Unversehentliche GA69:84) 

    In times of unlimited planning in which only ruthless measures suffice, the calculability of all beings is ascribed to them as the basic character of their makeliness. (Note that the neologism 'makeliness' here renders Heidegger's neologism, 'Machsamkeit'.) 

    The answer is that Heidegger sees being as calculable power and machination as the consummation of Western history through their genealogy in the history of Western metaphysics itself. According to Heidegger, the trace of the historical ways in which being has opened to and propriated(2)  Western humankind can be followed through the key words and concepts in which metaphysics says how the being of beings is given to human being. The first of these words is fu/sij, which Heidegger interprets phenomenologically through Aristotle "in the sense of emergent presencing in unconcealment" (im Sinne des aufgehenden Anwesens im Unverborgenen Nietzsche II VIII Die Metaphysik als Geschichte des Seins (1941) S. 404). The trajectory of Western history which attains its consummation in being as power and machination starts with the Greek experience of fu/sij as standing presence in the "overfullness" (Überfülle, GA69:62) of the first beginning. 
    Das Sein als Macht ist das Unwesen des erstanfänglichen, ungegründeten Wesens des Seins als fu/sij. ... Die Stufen des seynsgeschichtlichen Denkens, das die Macht im Wesen zu denken versucht und in dessen eigener Geschichte das Wesen der Macht erfragt wird und allein erfragbar bleibt, lassen sich durch diese Folge anzeigen: 
    Sein als Wirklichkeit. 
    Wirklichkeit als Subjektität. 
    Die Subjektität als der Wille zur Macht. 
    Der Wille zur Macht als Sein. 
    Das Sein als Macht. 
    Die Macht als Machenschaft. 
    Die Machenschaft als Loslassung des Seienden an es selbst. 
    Die Loslassung des Seienden und die Verwüstung. (Die Geschichte des Seyns (1938/40) Die Geschichte des Seins. Teil I, VI. Der Austrag. Das Wesen der Macht. Das Notwendige GA69:62, 72f) 

    Being as power is the un-essence/havoc of the essencing of being as fu/sij [left] ungrounded in the first beginning. ... The stages in the thinking of the history of being which attempts to think power in its essence and in whose own history the essence of power is questioned and solely remains questionable can be indicated by the following sequence: 
    Being as actuality. 
    Actuality as subjecticity. 
    Subjecticity as will to power. 
    Will to power as being. 
    Being as power. 
    Power as machination. 
    Machination as letting beings loose on themselves. 
    The letting loose of beings and devastation. 

    For Heidegger, "being as power is the un-essencing of the essencing of being as fu/sij". Although fu/sij shows up in the first Greek beginning, it cannot be held onto and grounded in Western history. Instead, it is lost and only its un-essence, its out-of-joint, havocking other, namely power, comes to unfold itself historically. The tender shoots of being as emergence in the open wither in favour of unfurling being as power, and this power is understood first and foremost as the power of Herstellen, of bringing-forth into presence. 

    To those who regard the starting-point of the above sequence with being as actuality as "arbitrary" (willkürlich, GA69:73), Heidegger replies "that the history of being can be represented in a history of the concept of 'existence'" (daß die Geschichte des Seins in einer Geschichte des 'Existenz'-begriffes sich darstellen kann. ibid.) and that actuality "refers back to e)ne/rgeia and thus into the history of being in the first beginning" (die Wirklichkeit als actualitas in die e)ne/rgeia zurückweist und damit in die erstanfängliche Geschichte des Seins. ibid.) With this key concept, e)ne/rgeia, from Aristotle's metaphysics we have a touchstone and a foothold with which to assess Heidegger's conception of the history of being and its culmination in "being as power" and finally in the "devastation" (Verwüstung) of the oblivion to being. 

    We have to ask: How does Heidegger interpret e)ne/rgeia? How does this interpretation lay the ground ultimately for the pronouncement of thinking from the history of beyng that being finds its consummation in machination and devastation? Why, to cite another passage, is it that, starting with "being as actuality", the unfolding of being through Western history ends up as being as machination which "is determined by calculation and the calculable"? Why is it that this determination of being as machination "does not mean the addiction to 'profit'" but rather "the planning setting-up and involvement of 'interests' ... which perhaps exclude all self-interest"?(3)  Why is it here that the phenomena of profit and the striving to make profit under the drive of self-interest, i.e. genuinely social phenomena involving competition, are excluded from the essence of machination? Can Heidegger justifiably claim that genuinely social phenomena such as economic activity that involve social intercourse and exchange have to be traced back into a deeper-lying essence of calculability that is a unified, universalized "predetermined modification of the lo/goj"? Above all, does Heidegger's casting of being as power and machination from the history of being leave any room for a genuine, adequate concept of social power in his thinking? We will pursue these questions here only at a tangent by first recalling how the phenomenon of power was thought metaphysically in the first beginning and then by considering a specific instance of the phenomenon of social power, namely, that of rhetoric, with the aim of assessing whether the metaphysical concept of power is adequate to capturing the everyday phenomenon of rhetoric. 

    2. The trace of power residing in Aristotelean du/namij 

    Along with du/namij and e)ntele/xeia, e)ne/rgeia or Wirklichkeit, the first link in the chain of determinations of being cited above is one of the distinctive triad of concepts coined and thought through by Aristotle in his Metaphysics that represents his great contribution to grasping the being of beings at the culmination of the Greek beginning. These three concepts are needed to come to grips with the phenomenon of ki/nhsij, movement, in all its various forms, namely, change of qualitative state, growth and decay, locomotion and progeneration. In the tradition of metaphysics, 'actuality' is employed to render both e)ne/rgeia and e)ntele/xeia and, strictly speaking, better suits e)ntele/xeia. Why? Because e)ntele/xeia is that mode of being in which something has come to consummate, completed, perfect presence and stands in the open showing its well-defined look or i)de/a. This philosophical meaning of actuality resonates even today throughout everyday language. 

    "Actual being" is when something has come to presence and stands there in perfect, completed, finished presence. The completeness is signalled by the te/loj, the end or finish to which nothing further can be added to complete something's being, where being is understood in the sense of standing presence in unconcealment. The coming to presence of that which finally stands there, showing itself in presence, is captured by Aristotle's concept of e)ne/rgeia which signifies literally an at-work-ness, namely, that a du/namij or potential or power is at work in bringing a work or e)/rgon into presence so that it can finally stand well-defined in its look in presence and can be addressed by the lo/goj through the various kathgori/ai or categories defining its present predicament. 

    Beings in Aristotelean metaphysics fall into two ontological classes, namely, those fu/sij-like or natural beings that have du/namij within them that governs their various kinds of movement, and those made or produced beings that are brought into presence by a force or potential residing in another being. Although this conception of poi/hsij or production is won from the quotidian paradigm of making things or works such as beds and houses, Heidegger maintains that "the work is not a work in the sense of the achievement of a strenuous making...; it is a work in the sense of that which is set out into and exhibited in the unconcealedness of its look and tarries there as standing or lying thus" (ist das Werk nicht Werk im Sinne der Leistung eines angestrengten Machens...; es ist Werk im Sinne dessen, was in das Unverborgene seines Aussehens ausgestellt ist und als so Stehendes oder Liegendes verweilt, Nietzsche II VIII Die Metaphysik als Geschichte des Seins (1941) S. 404). Nevertheless, the quotidian paradigm from which the Greek understanding of coming to a stand in presence is derived leaves it open to being understood also as a making and producing in which one being, in which the du/namij or power resides, brings forth or causes another being to come into presence. In this sense, actuality, with its embedded etymological reference to an act, is a suitable rendering of e)ne/rgeia insofar as it is understood as a kind of doing and making. There is thus an ambiguity in the Aristotelean concept of a)rxh/ on which the understanding of du/namij as a mode of being is based that allows it to be used synonymously with ai)/tioj or cause, i.e. in a purely ontic way which 'forgets' the ontological aspect of 'coming to presence in the unconcealedness of a look'. With the translation of e)ne/rgeia into Latin 'actualitas', the way is open for the interpretation of actuality simply as 'being caused'. 

    According to Heidegger's phenomenology, the forgetting of being, that is, the oblivion to being, is initiated by beings coming to be explained through other beings which cause them, no matter whether these other beings are the supreme being or the human being as subject. This causal casting of the being of beings replaces the incipient Greek understanding of fu/sij as a gathering into a defined stand in presence. During the later course of metaphysics in the modern age, the cause comes to be cast metaphysically as inhering in a unity endowed with force (Leibniz), and this unity or monad is then understood as a subject endowed with will (German idealism), and will is finally understood as power (Nietzsche). The stage is set for the final act of Western metaphysics in which the being of beings comes to be cast as Machbarkeit, i.e. as feasibility, or more literally, as makeability. The more literal translation of Machbarkeit is to be preferred because Machbarkeit has to do with 'machen', 'making', and not simply with action and 'doing' (Fr. faire, L. facere). 

    Heidegger's sketch of the history of beyng stretching from fu/sij right through to Macht, Machenschaft und Machbarkeit, i.e. power, machination and makeability, thus depends crucially on the interpretation of e)ne/rgeia and du/namij and the scope of these fundamental metaphysical concepts in grasping the phenomena. The phenomena of power in its various manifestations must somehow be within the scope and grasp of these fundamental ontological concepts from Aristotelean metaphysics. This complies with Heidegger's procedure according to which: 

    Weise und Ausblick, nach denen hier das Wesen der Macht bestimmt wird, sind nicht aus der Enge einer historischen und politischen Betrachtungsweise genommen. Das Bestimmende kommt allein aus dem seynsgeschichtlichen Denken. Damit ist gesagt: die Fragestellung geht nicht aus von 'der Macht' als einer gerade hier und dort antreffbaren 'Erscheinung', um dann ihr Wesen zu umgrenzen. (58. Die Wesensbestimmung der Macht GA69:72) 

    The way and perspective according to which the essence of power is defined here are not taken from the narrowness of an historical and political way of viewing. The defining element comes solely from thinking from the history of beyng. This means that the problematic does not proceed from 'power' as a 'phenomenon' which happens to occur here and there in order then to delineate its essence. 

    Nevertheless, even according to Heidegger's own procedure, his thinking-through of power from the history of being does not in the least prevent him from dealing with concrete historical manifestations of power such as the Second World War, as he does in To\ Koino/n Aus der Geschichte des Seyns/From the History of Beyng (1939/40), or even with more specific manifestations of power such as "Power and Violence" (VI. Der Austrag. Das Wesen der Macht. Das Notwendige 60.) and "Power and Crime" (ibid. 61.). Thus we too are well justified in asking what the crucial metaphysical concepts of du/namij and e)ne/rgeia have to do with philosophical treatments of familiar phenomena in which power comes into play, albeit that we must not content ourselves merely with a history of ideas, but must undertake the exertion of trying to see how these phenomena are essentially moulded and perhaps even deformed by metaphysical thinking. 

    One such philosophical treatment of a phenomenon in which power comes into play is that of sophistry and rhetoric, which assume a prominent role in both Plato and Aristotle. One could even say that especially Plato's thinking grew out of his power struggle in his own time with the sophists. But Aristotle, too, engages with the phenomenon of rhetoric as it occurs naturally in everyday life of the Greek po/lij

    3. Rhetoric as a test case for power over the other 

    For both Plato and Aristotle, rhetoric is a du/namij, i.e. a power, force and capability, and as such a power it is also one of the te/xnai, i.e. the techniques or arts. Plato and Aristotle both employ the parallel to the art of medicine when dealing with the art of rhetoric. The essential character of rhetoric as a power comes to expression early on in Plato's dialogue Gorgias
    Gorgi/aj. to\ pei/qein e)/gwg' oi(=on t' ei)=nai toi=j lo/goij kai\ e)n dikasthri/% dikasta\j kai\ e)n bouleuthri/% bouleuta\j kai\ e)n e)kklhsi/# e)kklhsiasta\j kai\ e)n a)/ll% sullo/g% panti/, o(stij a)\n politiko\j su/llogoj gi/gnhtai. kai/toi e)n tau/tv tv= duna/mei dou=lon me\n e(/ceij to\n i)atro/n, dou=lon de\ to\n paidotri/bhn: o( de\ xrhmatisth\j ou(toj a)ll% a)nafanh/setai xrhmatizo/menoj kai\ ou)x au)t%=, a)lla\ soi\ t%= duname/n% le/gein kai\ pei/qein ta\ plh/qh. 452e 

    Gorgias: I call it the ability to persuade with words either judges in the law courts or councillors in the council-chamber or the commons in the assembly or an audience at any other meeting that may be held on public affairs. And by virtue of this power you will have the doctor as your slave, and the trainer as your slave; the money-maker will show himself to be making money for another and not for himself, but for you, who through this power are able to speak and persuade the multitude. 

    Rhetoric is a power that allows the one who has acquired and mastered it to persuade others, to win their confidence, to win them over to a certain view of a situation through the medium of words, i.e. through the lo/goj. Rhetoric is the power of talking others around, whether it be in a law court, in council meetings, in parliament, or in any other meeting, including those 'meetings' facilitated and mediated by the media. It can also be employed to talk individuals such as a doctor or businessman over to one's own advantage. It is apparent that the art of rhetoric occupies a site in social life, i.e. in Mitsein, where power is exercised and trust has to be engendered and won. Why it is that power in a political sense is married to the phenomenon of trust and confidence? We will touch on this question later. 

    In his Rhetoric, Aristotle investigates rhetoric as an art, a te/xnh, pointing out 

    o(ti ou) to\ pei=sai e)rgon au)th=j, a)lla\ to\ i)dei=n ta\ u(pa/rxonta piqana\ peri\ e(/kaston, kaqa/per kai\ e)n tai=j a)/llaij te/xnaij pa/saij: ou)de\ ga\r i)atrikh=j to\ u(gia= poih=sai, a)lla\ me/xri ou) e)nde/xetai, me/xri tou/tou proagagei=n: e)/sti ga\r kai\ tou\j a)duna/touj metalabei=n u(giei/aj o(/mwj qerapeu=sai kalw=j. pro\j de\ tou/toij o(/ti th=j au)th=j to/ te piqano\n kai\ to\ faino/menon i)dei=n piqano/n...  1355b10

    that its work is not so much to persuade, as to see in each case the existing means of persuasion, just as in all the other arts. For instance, it is not the work of medicine to make health, but only to promote this as far as possible; for even those patients for whom it is impossible to bring about a change to health may be properly treated. It is further evident that it belongs to rhetoric to see the real and apparent means of persuasion... 

    Rhetoric as an art of "seeing" ( i)dei=n) potential means of persuasion therefore investigates the arguments that speak in favour of something, i.e. the pi/steij (1255a5), and how they are employed in the peculiar rhetorical form of argument, namely, the e)nqu/mhma, i.e. the argument and form of demonstration that 'enters the heart and soul' (qumo/j), engenders trust, and brings about a change in mood in the audience. The task of the art of rhetoric is to "see" ( i)dei=n 1355b10) and "contemplate the possible means of persuasion" (qewrh=sai to\ e)ndexo/menon piqano/n 1355b20) for any given situation. Like all arts and sciences, the work performed is a seeing and a theorizing which can then be put into practice. Theorizing, from qewrei=n 'to look at, view, behold', is also a kind of seeing. The power's work is seeing, in this case, "possible means of persuasion" in any particular situation, that is, in developing a rhetorical argument suitable for a given situation in a given moment. Like in the art of medicine, the power of seeing an appropriate remedy or rhetorical argument may not be adequate and sufficient to bring about the desired change, but nevertheless, the art allows contemplation and consideration of possible appropriate means to an end. 

    As a technical art, rhetoric is an instance of those arts which serve as a paradigm for Aristotle's analysis of du/namij, e)ne/rgeia and e)ntele/xeia in Book Theta of his Metaphysics. A du/namij or power or force or potential or potency is a mode of being which Aristotle characterizes as a)rxh\ metabolh=j e)n a)/ll% h)\ v(= a)/llo (Met. Theta 1, 1046a9f), i.e. being "a point of origin governing a change in something else or in the same being insofar as it is regarded as something else". The standard illustrative example of this definition provided by Aristotle is that of the te/xnh or art of house-building. This know-how is a point of origin, or starting-point residing in a builder governing the change in wood, stone, tiles, etc. so that in the end or te/loj a finished house comes about, i.e. is brought forth into presence. The know-how is not the change in wood, stone, etc. itself, but rather the fore-seeing, and therefore fore-knowing, starting-point for such a change, albeit the starting-point governing such a change. Insofar as the know-how of house-building resides in the house-builder as a being other than the wood, stones, etc., he is able, i.e. has the power, to (potentially) bring forth finished houses. The know-how of house-building as a power grants the builder the status of mover able to knowingly move other things. The "insofar" qualification built into Aristotle's definition covers the case when a know-how residing in a being is applied not to another being but to itself, as in the case when a physician treats himself. In this case, the starting-point for bringing about the change consisting of a switch from sickness to health does not reside in another being, a doctor, but in the patient himself, but not insofar as he is a sick person, but insofar as he is a doctor. 

    In the case of rhetoric, this art is a power in the sense that it is the starting-point which potentially governs changes in an audience or a listener in the sense that the rhetorical arguments employed are able to bring about a switch of mood in which the audience or listener is won over to a point of view by talking. The power is a power to effect a metabolh/, a change, which in this case consists of a swing in mood and a switch-over in viewpoint, and rhetoric is a seeing and theorizing which foresees the possible means of effecting such a swing and switch in any particular given situation. As Plato's Gorgias points out, such an art, insofar as it works, places an enormous power in the hands of the rhetorician, the one skilled in developing rhetorical arguments. In Gorgias' description, rhetoric would be a kind of super-power because it is able to gain power over those who exercise other powers such as the art of medicine or the art of money-making. 

    Rhetoric is not only a du/namij meta\ lo/gou, i.e. a power which is guided by the lo/goj which allows it to see and foresee, like the art of house-building, but it is a du/namij e)n lo/g%, a power which is also at work in the very medium of the lo/goj insofar as rhetorical power at work, i.e. in e)nergei/#, is a talking which, in the end, aims at bringing an audience over to the speaker's point of view by gaining its confidence and swinging its mood. 

    As both Plato and Aristotle saw very clearly, the site for the exercise of the power of rhetoric is, above all, the political realm, i.e. that space in public life where the matters that concern the public as a whole in their shared social life are deliberated. The realm of politics moves in the medium of words which are put to work in swaying an audience to a particular point of view, to swinging its mood and bringing it around to a targeted favourable disposition. It is here that the distinctive difference of rhetoric from other arts such as house-building and medicine starts to become apparent, for swaying the mood in an audience is not like transforming bricks and timber into a house or administering medical treatment to a patient, even though a metabolh/ or change or swing in the situation is aimed at in each case. First of all, in political deliberations, there is not just one speaker but several or even many. The mood and viewpoint of the audience can be swayed this way and that, and to and fro, by successive speakers. This implies at the very least a multiplicity of competing rhetorical powers. 

    Second of all, and more essentially, effecting change to a mood by means of words is a power of a different kind from the know-how involved in building a house or healing a patient. In the case of house-building, the changes are effected in things such as wood and stone which offer only the passive power of resistance of these materials. Similarly, in medical treatment, the patient, as the very word says (L. pati 'to suffer' and Gr. pa/sxein), is passive, and it is above all his or her physical body that is treated actively by the medical practitioner in administering a remedy. (This holds true even when the patient is advised by the doctor to alter his or her behaviour, diet or way of living for the sake of his or her health, as for instance in the treatment of high blood pressure.) By contrast, in listening to rhetorical arguments which aim at entering the heart and soul in order to engender trust and bring the listener or listeners around to another viewpoint in swinging their mood, by gaining their confidence, it is the audience's soul which is aimed at, i.e. its openness to the unconcealedness of beings in their being in which the world shows itself either as it is or as it is not and is grasped thus by understanding. 

    The limitations of the power of rhetoric thus lie within the nature of the human soul. In other words, the limitations of the power of rhetoric lie in human being itself as ex-sistent exposure to the open clearing of the truth of being, which cannot be manipulated like a builder may manipulate a beam or a doctor a dislocated shoulder. The limitations are therefore metaphysical-ontological in nature, not merely ontic. There is no precalculable certainty with which a listener or an audience can be swayed in its mood and brought around to a given point of view through the employment of words for, how they see and understand the world lies at the core of the freedom of human being. The manipulability of an audience has its limits in the audience's very free otherness, which is an ontological otherness that essentially remains untouched by ontic manipulation. The words employed by a skilled speaker are not like the hammer employed by a builder in effecting ontic changes to nail and timber. Words are not ontic tools. Rather, they speak to the other revealingly or concealingly or distortingly and call a state of affairs to presence within the other's world and from within a certain mood and ontological pre-understanding. To win over an audience, to bring someone around by talking, to gain the trust of another person, depends on the other giving the speaker its trust and confidence, and this can be freely refused. 

    In other words, the rhetorical situation is not and can never be one-sided, but is always an exchange, even when only one person is doing the talking. The act of persuasion depends essentially also on a reciprocation in the listener or listeners giving the speaker their trust and confidence. In the art of rhetoric, the speaker does not simply effect a change in the audience's heart and soul through bringing it around with well-chosen words. Rather, there is an exchange, an interchange in which the audience reciprocates the speaker's rhetorical arguments with its attention and willingness or lack of willingness to go along with them and to allow its mooded view of the state of affairs under consideration to be swung. It should be noted that the very word for 'change' which Aristotle employs in his definition of du/namij, namely, metabolh/, also means an 'interchange' or 'exchange', as in the exchange of goods, which is always a reciprocal action involving at least two starting-points or a)rxai/, and not one, as in the unidirectional metaphysical definition of du/namij. The reciprocity of human interchange decisively defines what power in the realm of politics and social being in general can be, namely an interplay of free powers. 

    It also does not help to conceive of the rhetorical or social situation merely in terms of the traditional metaphysical notions of active and passive powers to get around the difficulty of reciprocity. One might want to say that the listener to an orator's arguments suffers the speech passively in his or her soul (yuxh/) which allows itself to be impressed by the arguments. This ability of the soul to be impressed by a speaker's speech could be called a passive power which corresponds to the speaker's active rhetorical power and that the reciprocity of the rhetorical situation could be captured in the distinction between active and passive du/namij which Aristotle indeed explicitly analyzes. But the listener's soul not only has passive power of being impressed by another's arguments directed at the listener's heart and soul, but may have a completely different view of the world in its truth and thus also an active power to counter the arguments presented and ward off the attempt to be persuaded. The listener's very listening is an activity of comprehension in the medium of the lo/goj and not merely a passive receiving of an impression. The listener's different view of the world depends on the listener's individual situation and the listener's individual cast of life and mind. The orator has no chance of developing rhetorical arguments without also listening to what his or her listeners have to say and how they view the world and from what situation. This 'listening' may not be literal, but rather is usually the speaker's attempt to feel his or her way into and surmise the audience's situation. The rhetorical situation thus reveals itself to be embedded more essentially in a dialogical situation of interchange in which there is a reciprocity between free human beings, each with a view of the world in its truth. The one-sided ontological structure of the power of rhetoric as a technique and art (te/xnh) breaks down and gives way to a situation of human exchange in which there are at least two pairs of active/passive powers, just as there is in the exchange of goods or any other social relation. The question of the ontological structure of metabolh/ in the sense of exchange cannot be pursued further here.(4)

    The audience's susceptibility to a skilled speaker's arguments depends also on the overall situation in which the audience momentarily finds itself. The rhetorician also must have the skill of assessing the audience's present mood in order to select the appropriate rhetorical arguments to slip into the audience's heart and soul. Such seeing of an audience's mood, the assessment of a given situation, is not certain, but a surmise. Although rhetoric as a te/xnh is necessarily thought from within Aristotle's casting of metaphysics as a (unidirectional) du/namij meta\ lo/gou, the lo/goj in question is unable to gather an audience's mooded view of the world into a fore-seeable, targeted sight or ei=doj that can be brought about by rhetorical manipulation. Even in correctly assessing the audience's momentary mood, which is an aspect of its being-in-the-world, there is no precalculable certainty about the speaker's power to bring the audience around to the viewpoint he or she is aiming at, for the audience's mood is how, as human being, it is momentarily cast in attunement with the world (including also the possibility of being out of tune and disaffected with the world). 

    Furthermore, as Aristotle explicitly points out and investigates, the rhetorical situation is defined not only by the arguments presented, but first and foremost by the standing and status of who presents them and how they are presented, i.e. in what 'melody' and with what verve they are played to the audience. The speaker can indeed study how he or she presents him- or herself, i.e. what kind of who-stance is put on display and shown off to the audience, but the speaker's status is also an aspect of reputation, and reputation always precedes the speaker and is not under the speaker's control. Reputation is the look or 'face' which a human being presents and shows off to others based on what has been heard about him or her. The speaker's who-standing within the ontological-existential dimension of whoness (Wersein) is the primary way in which a speaker gains an audience's confidence; it is the primary pi/stij. And the musical aspect of the speech's melody, its mode of delivery or le/cij, resonates with the audience's mood, independently of what is said. 

    The power of rhetoric is thus not a power which can reliably and calculatingly bring to presence the final state of affairs it aims at, namely, a changed mood and viewpoint on the part of the audience. Putting the power of rhetoric to work in talking, i.e. in the rhetorical argument presented by the speaker, may indeed be the e)ne/rgeia of the du/namij called the art of rhetoric, but such energy may well not achieve actuality in the sense of a finished perfect presence brought forth by the power at work. Rhetoric's effectiveness, its Wirksamkeit is essentially, i.e. ontologically, bounded by the free otherness of the audience as human beings who can listen. The audience itself has the du/namij of listening, of taking in and understanding what is said and how it is said by whom it is said. 

    This ontological boundary to the effectiveness of the technique of rhetoric is essentially different from the limitations of other arts such as house-building or medicine which may well have to correct for errors whilst being practised when confronted with the refractoriness of the material, whether it be wood or a patient whose illness is hard to diagnose and heal. But such practical correction, the process of trial and error, is a calculated adaptation only to the material's passive resistance, not to the other's freedom, and therefore can be performed under the guiding fore-sight of the lo/goj that fore-sees the final end-product. 

    4. Heidegger's treatment of rhetoric in Summer Semester 1924

    One may want to confront the above ontological analysis and destruction of rhetoric as a te/xnh with Heidegger's treatment of Aristotle's Rhetoric in his lectures of Summer Semester 1924 in which Heidegger explicitly denies that for Aristotle rhetoric could "properly" be called a te/xnh
    Aristoteles bestimmt die Rhetorik 1. Buch, Kapitel 2 als ein du/namij. Diese Bestimmung ist festzuhalten gegenüber der Tatsache, daß Aristoteles sie öfters als te/xnh bezeichnet. Diese Bezeichnung ist uneigentlich, während du/namij die eigentliche Definition ist. "R(htorikh/ ist die Möglichkeit, am jeweils Gegebenen zu sehen das, was für eine Sache, die Thema der Rede ist, spricht, jeweilig zu sehen das, was für eine Sache sprechen kann." (GA18:144 citing Rhet. A 2 1355b25) 

    Aristotele defines rhetoric in Book I, Chapter 2 as a du/namij. This definition must be adhered to vis-à-vis the fact that Aristotle often calls it a te/xnh. This latter designation is improper, whereas du/namij is the proper definition. "R(htorikh/ is the possibility of seeing in what is given in any situation that which speaks in favour of an issue that is the subject of the speech, to see in each specific case what can speak in favour of an issue." 

    Heidegger thus emphasizes the "possibility" in contradistinction to the attempt "to persuade others without fail" (andere unbedingt zu überzeugen, GA18:115) so that "attaining the te/loj of speaking is not included" (ist nicht eingeschlossen das Erreichen des te/loj des Sprechens, GA18:115). This Heidegger compares with Aristotle's comment on medicine at Rhet. A 1 1355b12 which likewise "does not as such make the patient healthy" but rather allows the possibilities of healing to be seen. But is this distinction between possibility and attaining the final aim convincing as the touchstone for distinguishing possibility from te/xnh? A look at the later lectures from Summer Semester 1931 on Book Theta of Aristotle's Metaphysics, as well as many other passages in Heidegger's texts, makes it clear it is not convincing because, following Aristotle, Heidegger himself always underscores that the essence of te/xnh poihtikh/ itself is not the (actual) producing, making, Herstellen, but rather the fore-sight that knowingly fore-sees how the product can be brought forth into presence. In other words, precisely as te/xnh, rhetoric is a possibility, just like the other te/xnai. Moreover, te/xnh is more than a mere possibility, but as a possibility already a potency or power to actually bring forth what it fore-sees. 
    Dieses vor-blickende Vor-stellen des e)rgon in seinem ei=doj ist gerade der eigentliche Anfang des Herstellens, nicht etwa erst die Verfertigung im engeren Sinne des Handanlegens. (GA33:142) 

    Precisely this pre-viewing re-presentation of the e)rgon in its ei=doj is the proper beginning of production, and not, say, the fabrication in the narrower sense of hands-on making. 

    The upshot is that rhetoric, according to both Aristotle and Heidegger, can indeed be regarded as a te/xnh, i.e. as a te/xnh poihtikh/, since this is the only kind of te/xnh that Aristotle closely analyzes in its ontological structure. The very parallel that Aristotle draws between the art of medicine and the art of rhetoric shows that they are both to be considered as productive te/xnai, just like the know-how of house-building or shoe-making. This implies that the bi-archic, dialogical situation of rhetoric which properly removes it from being considered as a te/xnh poihtikh/ like any other is seen clearly neither by Aristotle nor by Heidegger. 

    This remains so even when Aristotle and Heidegger come to consider the listener in the rhetorical situation and the listener's particular dia/qesij (Rhet. A 2 1356a3), Befindlichkeit (GA18:120) or mooded disposition. One path of persuasion is namely "how the listener is brought into a certain mooded disposition" (in der Weise, wie in eine bestimmte Befindlichkeit gebracht wird der Hörer, GA18:120 citing Rhet. A 2 1356a3: e)n t%= to\n a)kroath\n diaqei=nai pwj). It is the listener's mood that affects how he or she views the issue under consideration, thus affecting the final outcome or decision or judgement made. The skilled speaker is supposed to "himself fore-see in speaking how to put the a)kroath/j into a definite pa/qoj" (Der Redner selbst muß im Reden es darauf absehen den a)kroath/j in ein bestimmtes pa/qoj zu versetzen, GA18:121). But is there a lo/goj that can gather the listener's mooded disposition into such a fore-sight that the speaker is able to manipulate how the listeners feel about their momentary being-in-the-world in a particular situation, thus persuading them to see the issue in a favourable light, favourable, that is, to the speaker's aims? 

    As Aristotle himself points out, speaking is a communicative situation in which the speaker speakers pro\j o(/n, "to someone" (Rhet. A 3 1358a38 cited at GA18:123), the listener and that "the te/loj is with the listener" (Rhet. A 3 1358a38 cited at GA18:123). Nevertheless, the speaking itself is in the speaker, not the listener. In the rhetorical speaker resides the starting-point, the a)rxh/, namely, the rhetorical skill and know-how, that is supposed to attain its end, its te/loj, in the listener crucially by bringing forth a particular mooded disposition. This situation corresponds to how Aristotle otherwise treats te/xnh as a du/namij meta\ lo/gou, and neither in Summer Semester 1924 nor later does Heidegger put into question the basic metaphysical structure of du/namij meta\ lo/gou as applicable also to te/xnh r(htorikh/

    5. The powerlessness of being and powerlessness when faced with the other 

    This sketch of how Greek thinking thought through the phenomenon of rhetoric as a te/xnh, which, in turn, relies crucially on the principal metaphysical concepts of du/namij and e)ne/rgeia, should make it apparent that i) metaphysical concepts are totalizing in the sense that all phenonema come within the ambit of a total ontological casting of world, i.e. of beings as a whole in their being, and ii) the totalizing metaphysical casting may not be entirely appropriate to the phenomena in view, i.e. it may amount to a kind of 'tunnel vision' on the phenomena in question phenomenological violence. In the present instance of the phenomenon of rhetoric and the rhetorical situation, this would seem to be the case because rhetoric as an art and technique comes up against the phenomenon of the otherness of the other human being, whose view of the world and mooded situatedness in the world cannot be manipulated like passive materials or even like the human body. 

    What implications does this have for Heidegger's conception of power from the history of being, according to which the Greek concepts of fu/sij and e)ne/rgeia lie at the start of the trajectory of Western history which is consummated in being as power? From very early on, namely, since the famous "primal cell" of Sein und Zeit from 1922(5), Heidegger's thesis was that for the Greeks, being is experienced and thought as Hergestelltsein, i.e. as a bringing or coming into presence to stand within a defined  i)de/a or look. Heidegger's writings at the end of the thirties are an elaboration of this thesis thought from the history of being. Greek te/xnh now culminates in modern Technik, and 

    Technik ist die Herstellung des Seienden selbst (der Natur und der Geschichte) in die berechenbare Machbarkeit, die Machsamkeit durchmachtende Machenschaft. Aber die Machenschaft als Wesung des Seins zeitigt die Technik; ... Die Technik ist die ihrer selbst nicht gewisse 'Inständigkeit' in der Vergessenheit des Seins, das vom machenschaftlichen Seienden bis zur Unerfahrbarkeit überschattet bleibt. (Besinnung. 63. Die Technik GA66:173, 174) 

    Technology is the bringing-forth and placing of beings themselves (of nature and history) into calculable makeability, into machination permeated by the power of makeliness. But machination as essencing of being brings forth technology; ... Technology is an 'in-sistent standing' that is not certain of itself within the oblivion to being that remains overshadowed by machinating beings to the point of no longer being experienceable.

    These passages are predicated on Heidegger's insight that "te/xnh is a word of 'knowledge' and 'knowledge' [is to be conceived ME] as standing in truth, and truth [is to be understood ME] as the openness of beings out of the clearing of beyng" (...wenn wir wissen, daß te/xnh ein Wort des 'Wissens' ist und wenn wir 'Wissen' begreifen als das Innestehen in der Wahrheit und Wahrheit verstehen als Offenheit des Seienden aus der Lichtung des Seyns. GA66:173). From the beginning of the West in Greek thinking, te/xnh is a know-how, and, according to Heidegger, this know-how culminates in the power of "calculable makeability" whilst at the same time the openness of the truth of being, while quietly enabling this showing of beings as calculably makeable, becomes "overshadowed by machinating beings to the point of no longer being experienceable". The "other beginning" which Heidegger postulates and evokes as an historical possibility in Western history would consist of an historical decision in which human being would turn away from the "devastation" of the "oblivion to being" in favour of turning toward an historical grounding of the open clearing of truth itself in which being conceals itself. 

    But is it not the case that the totalization of te/xnh and its historical culmination in the machination of calculable makeability already reveal an implicit inherent limitation to the scope of the metaphysical casting in the first Greek beginning, quite apart from the oblivion to being? Is there not already a crack in the metaphysical casting of the being of beings as 'coming and bringing forth into a stand in presence', this crack being the interstice between human beings as such and their interplay? If fu/sij is to be conceived as 'coming forth into a stand in presence' and e)ne/rgeia is to be understood as 'bringing forth into a stand in presence', and te/xnh is to be conceived as a knowing fore-seeing of such bringing-forth, then the phenomenon of rhetoric as the art of persuasion or, according to Aristotle, as the seeing of possible means of persuasion, already shows up an essential, ontological limitation in the scope and reach of knowing, calculating foresight. Is there not a limitation to the totalizing scope and reach of the casting of the being of beings as makeable and manipulable and precalculable residing in the ontological otherness of the other human being, confronted with which the power of machination is powerless? Is not the concept of power in metaphysical thinking directed exclusively at beings in the third person, i.e. at thingly beings or at beings regarded as things, to the exclusion of beings in the second person? 

    And, if this is so, what does it imply for Heidegger's insight into the oblivion of being and the historical possibility of a grounding of the open truth of being itself in its self-concealment? Is the powerlessness of rhetoric as a technique of bringing the other around through talking, a powerlessness arising in the face of the ontological otherness of the other, itself related in essence to the powerlessness of being itself? That is to say, is it not the case that the other human being as an other individual site of the openness to being is beyond the reach of technically conceived power and machination? Does the merging of the openness of being as shared individually by two or more human beings require an essentially different approach to the question of specifically social and political power? Does the question concerning the possibility of constituting a We at all have to be posed from a perspective that remains wilfully occluded in Heidegger's thinking? 

    As Heidegger points out, powerlessness has to be distinguished from impotence. Powerlessness is situated outside the dimension of power altogether, whereas impotence is a lack, a deficiency of power. "Power-lessness is not im-potence that, lacking power and having to do without it, still remains related precisely to power." (Das Macht-lose ist nicht das Ohn-mächtige, das immer noch und gerade auf Macht sie entbehrend und sie missend bezogen bleibt. GA66:188) Even when an other human being is coerced through the threat of the use of physical force to obey a command, such subjection under duress does not impinge on the other's freedom, which remains essentially untouched by such subjection. Such subjection by the use of physical force or the threatened use of physical force is based on force directed physically, i.e. ontically, against the other's body or property or the bodies of persons close and dear to the other. The other's body or the other's property can be physically restrained and injured and even destroyed by a superior force, but the other as another human being is situated ontologically outside the realm of exercise of such violent power. Why is this? Because the other as another human being is an individual site of the open clearing of being. In other words, the other in his or her otherness is essentially ontological, free. 

    The individuality of this site means inter alia that the world opens in its truth individually on this site of the other. How the other holds the world to be in the openness of the clearing of the truth of being is essentially individual and therefore untouchable by means of violent force. Holding the world to be within the open clearing of the truth of being is constitutive of human freedom, which is always essentially and ultimately individual freedom, even when certain truths are necessarily shared or consensus has been attained. The truth of being is situated outside any possible exercise of power, which is directed at another being, but not another being in its being. That is why the means of rhetorical power are primarily words, and these means come up against and are faced with the essential limit of the other's very being in its freedom, i.e. the other human being's essential individuated situatedness within the openness of being in its truth. All the means of rhetorical persuasion, whether they reside in the arguments presented to enter the heart and soul of the audience, or in the reputation and charisma of who is speaking and how the speaker projects his character and standing to the audience, or in the way in which the arguments are presented through the tone and inflection and drama of the voice, have to win the confidence and trust of the audience to have their effect. Such winning of confidence and trust is always essentially a free reciprocation that depends on the willingness of the audience to go along with the speaker in an implicit exchange of views on how the issue at hand is to be seen. 

    From Heidegger we can learn that being and the truth of being needs human being as the open site of truth, the Da. Being and human being belong to each other. That is Ereignis or propriation, and such belonging is at the same time the exposure of humans to freedom. Only through being and human being belonging to each other does world open and beings as a whole and as such come to show their faces to human being. But the clearing of the truth of being is occupied existentially by human being individually, i.e. each human being ineluctably partakes individually and particularly of the open clearing of the truth of being so that the constitution of a We has to be approached as an explicit problem of how the truth of being, in its singularity, particularity and universality, comes to be shared. 

    At the same time, each individual participation of human being in the truth of being is also essentially shared, i.e. in being human beings, we essentially and necessarily share the openness of being with other human beings. But even more than that: each individual world only ever opens also through the other's opening to the world. Each individual experience of world is mediated essentially also through the experience of others, i.e. world opens for each of us also through the mediation of other human beings in their openness to being. This means that each individual truth, each individual point of view is also a shared truth with others within a shared historical world that has a universal casting. No matter what differences in individual, singular views exist, these differing individual views and how each individual holds the world to be (Dafürhalten) are all situated and are mediated with one another within a shared, universal historical world in historical time-space. My own individual view of the world is not possible without what I glean from the opening of world for other human beings with whom I therefore, to this extent, share a worldview. But more than this: the historical opening of world in a given universal casting is ontologically prior to the individual or any collectivity of human beings, but is rather an 'always already' universal given. 

    Nevertheless, this shared historical truth of the world in its particularity has to be appropriated individually. There is thus an essential intertwining of individual (particular, singular) and shared (universal) truth of being. The open clearing of the truth of being, although irrevocably individually existed, is essentially also irrevocably shared with and mediated by the other in the other's exposure to the open clearing of the truth of being. An individual opening of world in all its particularity is willy-nilly a shared opening of world mediated not only by the countless others, near and far, intimately close and anonymously average, present and past, together with whom we are cast into and share an historical world, but also by a universal casting of historical world that confronts humankind like an uncanny destiny. 

    The sharing of world with other human beings takes place essentially and primarily through language. The other's world is evoked primarily through language. Insofar as the stillness of the truth of being makes its way to human language, an historical world opens up and takes shape in language's casting definition which can be shared among humans through this language. The casting of an historical world is a shared human project in which individuals participate not only through listening to each other in dialogue, but also listening and being open to the silent sendings of being. And we can listen to each other because human being itself is first and foremost openness to and exposure to and a belonging to the openness of the truth of being in its stillness from which an historical world can emerge. The enpropriation of human being to the clearing of the self-concealment of being, i.e. Ereignis, is powerless. It is a possibility that cannot be denied or refused, since we are powerless to refuse our enpropriation to being and how an historical world shows up and shapes up for our understanding. There is no power which can either coerce or prevent such belonging, just as there is no power which can either coerce or prevent the oblivion to such belonging to the truth of being. 

    As Heidegger lays out copiously in his writings at the end of the thirties, the powerlessness of the truth of being was not thought and could not be thought within Western metaphysics. Instead, the openness of the truth of being withdrew into the refusal of the oblivion of being in favour of the metaphysical experience of being as the beingness of beings in which the existence of beings becomes a self-evidence no longing worthy of questioning. The metaphysics of the beingness of beings is encapsulated from the beginning in key metaphysical concepts such as ou)si/a, i)de/a, du/namij and e)ne/rgeia, and this metaphysics culminates historically in being as power. According to Heidegger, such a culmination of the history of metaphysics in power and machination consists in the total setting-up of beings in total planability and precalculability. But, as we have seen in the brief sketch I have provided, the phenomenon of human beings sharing the world in the medium of language, which occurs on an everyday basis in disputes, deliberations and meetings, already gives a significant indication of the limits of metaphysical power, for metaphysical power is always thought as a starting-point residing in one being governing a change, a metabolh/ in another being. Such power comes to be thought simply as causality. But, we must ask further, is the power of persuasion adequately conceived as a kind of causality? Does not the reciprocity of the free exchange (metabolh/ in its other sense) between human beings still have to find its appropriate language, unsubsumed under key metaphysical concepts from e)ne/rgeia through to the will to power? Because of the ontological peculiarity of human beings as free beings cast singularly out into the shared, universal, open truth of being, is not the exchange of worldviews between human beings which underlies all dialogical social situations and institutions situated essentially outside the reach of any metaphysically conceived power and therefore within a realm of powerlessness? Since the other human being as free is in essence irrepressible, doesn't the sharing of world by human beings ultimately have to be thought as interchange and free reciprocation rather than simply as the exercise of power over the other? Heidegger does not raise such questions. 

    Although Aristotle approaches the phenomenon of public speaking by employing, as he must, the key concepts of his metaphysics, namely, du/namij and e)ne/rgeia, this approach already implicitly bears within it from the start the limitation inherent in the ineluctable freedom of the other human being in belonging to the openness of being. Confronted with the freedom of the other, power is impotent, i.e. the power which is supposed to reside in rhetoric as a te/xnh is only a power of persuasion which consists in the attempt to bring the other around by talking, i.e. by employing arguments and ways of speaking and presenting oneself which aim at slipping into the heart and soul of the other and swinging the other's mooded assessment of the issue at hand with a given situation. Such a change of viewpoint or swing in mood is not 'caused' by the rhetorical argment but, if it happens at all, is the outcome of an exchange and interchange with the other. There is no certain calculability inherent in such an art of rhetoric, not even in a modern, mass media technology of rhetoric exemplified by political propaganda machines or skilful, manipulative advertising based on the social science of psychology. The other as a free human being, whose freedom resides unknowingly and fathomlessly in belonging to the open clearing of being in its truth, has always been a limit which metaphysics has come up against, more or less implicitly and unknowingly. Nevertheless, the metaphysical casting of being has persevered through Western history in totalizing itself, even to the point of developing techniques of domination over the other through psychological means in which the other human is regarded in the third person, i.e. as a thing. 

    Throughout its history, the apparatus of metaphysical thinking has always been directed toward beings conceived first and foremost in the third person vis-à-vis human beings. In the modern age, this becomes thought and experienced as the subject-object relation. Even human beings themselves have come to be subsumed in metaphysical thinking as kinds of elaborate things, and in the modern sciences such as psychology based on such metaphysical thinking, under categories thought through first of all for beings in the third person, and that means above all, for things, objects. Sein und Zeit already made a rupture in this metaphysics by introducing a clear distinction between categories for beings in the third person, i.e. Zeug, stuff, on the one hand, and existentials for beings in the way of human being, Dasein, on the other. But the realm of Mitsein and Mitdasein, i.e. the sharing of the openness of world by human beings, requires a twist in thinking that allows the phenomenon of the encounter and exchange with the other to make its way to its own, specific, thoughtful language. 

    Heidegger has left us with little more than a placeholder for the place called Mitsein. He consistently maintains from the twenties on that "selfhood is grounded in insistent standing [in the clearing of the truth of being ME]. The self is the ground of you-and-I, of we-and-I". (Die Selbstheit gründet in der Inständigkeit. Das Selbst ist der Grund von Du und Ich, von Wir und Ich. GA66:117) But if Dasein and Mitdasein are equiprimordial, it is not appropriate to give priority to selfhood over encounter and exchange with the other. Selfhood itself is mediated by otherness. The in-sistent standing-out in the clearing of the truth of being is originarily a shared exposure to the clearing, and the encounter and interchange with the other in the interstice of the between is abysmal, fathomless precisely because the other as human being is also exposed to and stands out in the open truth of being. Heidegger is one-sided in claiming a priority of selfhood over you-and-I-ness and we-and-I-ness. This shortcoming in Heidegger's thinking demands from us further questioning and thinking to unfold and explicate what is implicitly folded into the manifold question of being. Such a twist and turn toward the other human being in its otherness is the task of thinking social being from the truth of being itself. The social, political and economic phenomena of human being as shared being-in-the-world still call for thinking and demand their own, specific concepts. 

    (6) Diagram

      1. Revised and expanded version of a paper presented to the conference Heidegger and Nietzsche 26-29 May 2004 in Meßkirch, Germany. Back 

      3. "Der Beginn der Metaphysik offenbart sich so als ein Ereignis, das in einer Entscheidung über das Sein im Sinne des Hervorkommens der Unterscheidung in Was-sein und Daß-sein besteht." (Nietzsche II S. 401) "Doch dieses Gleichbleiben [der Einheit der tragenden Bestimmungen des Seins  i)de/a und e)ne/rgeia ME] ist nur ein Schein, unter dessen Schutz sich die Metaphyisk als Geschichte des Seins je anders ereignet." (ibid. S. 411) "Die wörtliche Übersetzung [von e)ne/rgeia in actualitas ME] täuscht. In Wahrheit bringt sie gerade eine andere, und zwar auch hier eine aus der Verschließung des Seins ereignete Versetztheit eines anderen Menschentums in das Ganze des Seienden zum Wort des Seins." (ibid. S. 412) "Daß die Wahrheit im Wesen zur Gewißheit wird, ist ein Ereignis, dessen Anfang aller Metaphysik unzugänglich bleibt." (ibid. S. 422) Back 

      5. "Wenn diese [Machenschaft ME] unter anderem durch die Rechnung und das Rechnerische bestimmt wird, dann meint das nicht die Sucht nach 'Profit' und das Schnappen nach Vorteilen. Rechnen ist hier der Name für eine wesentliche und somit vorbestimmte Abwandlung des lo/goj das planende Einrichten und Einbringen der 'Interessen', die Aufrichtung dieser als 'Hochziele', die vielleicht jeden Eigennutzen ausschließen." V. To\ Koino/n 40. Zum Begriff der Machenschaft GA69:46. Back

      7. Cf. my 'Heidegger's Restricted Interpretation of the Greek Conception of the Political' (2003). Back 

      9. Martin Heidegger 'Phänomenologische Interpretationen zu Aristoteles (Anzeige der hermeneutischen Situation)' edited by Hans-Ulrich Lessing (Bochum) Dilthey-Jahrbuch Band 6 1989 pp.237-274. Back 

      11.   Back 

      13.   Back 


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