This selection is Chapter 1 of Early Greek Thought: Before the Dawn, published in 2011 by Bloomsbury.
Chapter One: The Motif of the Dawn, or, on Gossip
Where the Hesperides –
lovely nymphs of
the evening –
joyous play – light, darkness
on the street,
the coxswain beats his drum
beginning… ending –
cockcrow… deathknell –
transition – inexorable
faces of indefinite-ness –
Dawn is the beginning of the day …
journey to the end of the night –
Dawn is war peace, disease health, hate love…
Evening is the beginning of night, the end of days.
Day passes over into night, night into day.
The sun rises – it also sets.
Day is the place, event, happening of light –
Night is the place, event, happening of darkness –
Day night, dawn evening, indefinite return, spiral of light darkness –
The inexorable day night, place, light darkness, dawn evening.
(Being becoming, One Many, Aletheia)
There is no pure light or pure darkness in the play of light darkness.
Twilight is the place of – between light darkness.
Twilight – betwixt ascension descension of sun, light darkness.
Twilight precedes dawn, evening,
betwixt day night, night day –
Twilight descends into night,
ascends toward dawn.
Play of light darkness – with day, light rules – with night, darkness rules.
(The ‘grammar’ of light and darkness, the ‘game’ with inexorable ‘rules’).
Without darkness, light would not birth relief, perspective, space, body, place
In the Open, lightning needs a dark sky.
The Open is the place of day night, light darkness.
Darkness does not need light, but is never free of light –
Darkness surrounds, engulfs the light.
(There is only darkness for us in the deepest caves,
hidden from the light of day night).
The moon, stars inhabit a sky of darkness light, night day.
With the descent of the sun, eclipse of light,
Night returns in her recension to the eclipse.
Dawn, day nearly precedes the rise of the sun,
Beckons this return of light into the Open,
(although darkness is always there).
Evening, night is the eclipse of the sun,
return of moon and stars –
return – disclosure of darkness into the Open –
(We see the moon, stars during the day,
though they are eclipsed in obscurity).
The ‘West’ does not exist.
The motif of the ‘dawn’ is a saturated trope in the self-expression of life, (mortal, terrestrial) existence. I use the indication ‘motif’ – in the manner of Derrida in his essay ‘Diffẻrance’[i] – to intimate a figure of expression that is neither (or, is not to be considered primarily in the sense of) a word (in the procedure of etymological ‘essence’), or, a concept (whether Platonic or Kantian, etc.), but as an intimation of a diverse and dynamic, ‘contagious’ (Krell) context of significance or meaning. Indeed, while the ‘dawn’ can be approached as a linguistic sign (composed of morphemes) and as a concept that can be defined, signified (‘Dawn is the break of day’, ‘the lighting of a region of a planet in rotation’), it becomes, as a motif, a polyvalent indication of reference which inhabits a ‘nexus’ of defined meanings and associated (whether synonymous, complementary, or antonymous) motifs, such as Night, twilight, evening, or morning. To a significant extent, the ‘dawn’, in its allegorical or metaphorical significance, becomes a figuration of poetry, rhetoric, and thought, a motif which organises a context of meaning and expression in the event of a dissemination of perspective. In this light (another unnoticed metaphor), the motif is a malleable, makeshift expression, susceptible of myriad aspects, depending upon the contextual morphology of its expression. Nevertheless, despite the dispersion (deferral and differing) of the context of its significance, the motif, while not merely a substantive noun, nor a ‘time’ de-signation, expresses a persistent thematic, most notably that of ‘beginning’, or, perhaps, more appropriately (and, ambiguously), emergence, or, with Heidegger, unconcealment.
In this sense, the ‘dawn’ (and its translative ‘equivalents’ in any planetary language) could be regarded, with Heidegger, as a primordial ‘word’ of Muthos, one, which like an artwork, organises a context for the disclosure of that which is ‘there’. Of course, we could provisionally refer to the quasi-bedrock ‘meaning’ of the ‘dawn’ as the phenomenon of the ‘lighting up of the world’, as with the ‘rising of the sun’. Such expression pretends to the possibility of an ‘ideal language’ of verifiable material propositions. Yet, even this ‘system of propositions’ always remains ironically metaphorical, susceptible of further and seemingly indefinite mutations or transferences ‘across’ and ‘between’ contexts. For instance, we no sooner speak of dawn as the ‘lighting’ bestowed by the ‘rising sun’, than we speak of a ‘beginning’, or, of ‘emergence’. Moreover, beyond a merely ‘objectiving’ or descriptive discourse, we can speak of the ‘dawn’ as the emergence of thought and feeling, as such and such a notion or insight ‘dawns upon me’. In this way, the motif is susceptible of diverse aspects of meaning, each of which revolves around a primordial root meaning, the ultimate significance of which (the ‘for the sake of which’) is dependent upon the precise and specific morphology of the context of emergence of the articulation, or self-expression of existence.
Nietzsche already reminds us of the ultimate metaphorical character of language, of its fatal embedded-ness in lies – ‘forms of life’ and ‘language games’ (Wittgenstein echoing Nietzsche) of its ‘there’ (Heidegger). It is, in this way, that the significance of the motif is its play amidst its context of expression, one that it itself organises, though does not determine as to the precise significance of meaning that will temporarily emerge. (Indeed, it is possible that the very linguistic sign ‘dawn’ could, with Saussure, attain the essentially arbitrary meaning of ‘chair’ in some other context of significance.) There are other decisions and over-determinations which participate in the configuration of a context, one that itself is always subject to contestation (Foucault). In this light, not only is the motif of the dawn cast into dispersion across a metaphorical topos of significance (the motif is revealed as radically ambiguous and technically self-contradictory according to the usual, habitual, positivistic ‘definition’ of the dawn as unitary, as a discrete, precise and decidable event or meaning), but it is one that may be ‘put to use’ within specific ‘purposive’ contexts (for Derrida, the suppressions of diffẻrance in the establishment of ‘identity’ logic; for Wittgenstein, ‘bewitchment’, ‘captivation’ to an exclusive ‘grammar’; for Heidegger the un-worlded logistics of technical philosophy).
In this way, that which illuminates the significance of the motif is neither the sense of a material proposition, nor a logical reduction of meaning, but its context of emergence, one, as with the principle of individuation in Leibniz, the European (including the British) Romantics and Idealists, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, etc. in which the sense of the being that is is disclosed through the ‘totality’ of relations which simultaneously disclose the motif and the context of its significance. Such a principle, it is readily granted, itself undergoes a tragic dissolution between Leibniz and Derrida – though, whether as a self-contained onto-theology or an open ended dispersion of a semantic field, it is the ‘place’, the ‘context’ which serves, however tentatively, as the topos of orientation for the expression and dissemination of meaning or sense. For example, even amid such disseminal texts as Meister Eckhart – or Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, there arises myriad potentializing aspects and contexts of significance, even if only as makeshifts which dissolve with their very emergence.
The purpose of the preceding hyper-reflection upon the nature of the ‘motif’, in this case, that of the ‘dawn’ is to prepare the reader for the ‘method of meditation’ (Bataille) and strategy of hermeneutics and critical analysis that is underway across the pages of this text. For, prior to our consideration of the uses and abuses (Nietzsche) of the motif of the dawn amid the bland historicity of Western thought, we must become awakened to the very instability of the motif as such, not only regarding its overt contextualizing operations, but also its own simultaneous contextualization (Schlegel’s ‘reciprocal determination’[ii]) with respect to a vast array of aspect disclosures and embedded interpretive decisions.
The notional context in the present study is of course early Greek thought. As we will see in the following pages, however, even this alleged unitary phenomenon will have its own contexts of emergence amidst the dispersion of background horizons and semantic fields – the places of its ‘dawn’.
Yet, before we can even begin to consider ‘early Greek thought’, our gaze must turn back upon ourselves as the questioners, as the (finite) interpreters. Of course, the danger lies in the possibility that ‘we’ will merely dive into the Aetna of ‘idle chatter’, into the echo chambers of ideology and gossip (we are already there, though we do not admit it), of the cliché-matrices, which facilitate and guide our ‘everyday’ intercourse with the ‘life of the mind’ (Arendt), counting off the hours (Hölderlin on Empedocles).
Of course, I am speaking of the most massive elephant in the room, that the ‘Greeks’ were not only the dawn of ‘Western’ Philosophy, but also of the dawn of ‘Western’ civilisation itself. The ‘Greeks’, these eternal children celebrated by Plato in his Phaedrus, are those who lived the archetype of the ‘good life’ at the dawn of ‘our’ own existence – assuming, of course, the reader ‘identifies’ with such a ‘determination’ – or, consents to such an assignment within an ideological projection, one that is underpinned by a persuasive mythological meta-narrative. What is the meaning of this assertion, that the ‘Greeks’ – the existence of the ‘Greeks’ – constitute the dawn of ‘Western’ civilisation? While it will be quite a task to illustrate the specificities of this assertion in reference to the topography of ‘Western’ thought, and the myriad interpretations of the significance and meaning of this assertion – the very assertion itself takes us aback, if that is, ‘we’ are not necessarily in consent to the casual and seemingly ‘unconscious’ assent to the ‘we’, of the ideological mythology of ‘Western’ civilisation.
We need only think of the similar expression – the ‘dawn of civilisation’, or the ‘cradle of civilisation’, in this instance, the affinity of the motifs of ‘dawn’ and ‘birth’ being disclosed. Yet, ‘Greece’ is not regarded as the ‘dawn of civilisation’ in the meta-narratives which mortals share upon the earth at this moment. Indeed, as Plato testifies, and as the ‘Greeks’ were instructed by an Egyptian priest – they are children, timely, ultimately tragic.[iii] As we have heard in the savage, chattered narratives of our times, Babylon and Mesopotamia – contemporary Iraq – were (especially, perhaps, before the ongoing series of war crimes) the ‘cradle of civilization’ – this place of many names is also the more recent mythological topos of the land of Eden and the Fall, associated with the Jewish, Christian and Islamic ‘faiths’. But, what is the difference between the ‘dawn’ of ‘civilization’ and the ‘dawn’ of ‘Western’ ‘civilization’? Or, to put this question uneasily in the language of the ‘later’ Heidegger, why has the ‘land of evening’ situated its ‘origin’ in a topos which is not that of the ‘dawn’ of the eastern (or even Near Eastern) horizon, but one which is seemingly, and predictably, in-between (at least, geographically, or even mythologically, intellectually, culturally?) – if, that is, we cannot ever truly speak of ‘East’ or ‘West’, ‘up’ or ‘down’, etc. (Heraclitus)?
What is the meaning of the ‘breach’ between ‘East’ and ‘West’?
But, still inhabiting the ‘conceptual framework’ of gossip – idle chatter, ideology – we look around us and see that we inhabit a ‘tradition’ – an echo chamber – which testifies to its own ‘origin’ in ‘Greek’ civilisation and ‘Greek’ literature, philosophy and/or thought. We have already expressed our astonishment at such self-confident and self-assured assertions. Yet, our own parochial histories are circumscribed by such assertions concerning the ‘dawn’. It is possible that what we say about our ‘Greek’ origins has nothing at all to do with the ‘Greeks’. Nevertheless, everyone (except for our Post-structuralists, and Jewish, Radical Orthodox and Islamic theologians) says that the ‘Greeks’ are radical (as a root) not only to our ‘civilisation’, but also to our philosophical ‘epoch’ and ‘tradition’. At the same time, there is such intense disagreement concerning the meaning of the ‘dawn’ that we become engulfed in the war within this ‘tradition’ to the exclusion – in distraction from – the question as to the ‘mystical foundation’[iv] of its authority as a ‘tradition’. None of this is said – in the context of gossip – to suggest that the ‘Greeks’ are not indeed radical to an interpretation and expression of the ‘truth’ of mortal existence, but instead to call into question, to expose, the mythological basis (and, thus, the hypocrisy) of ‘our own’ contemporary meta-narratives regarding the ‘origins’ of ‘Western’, ‘Occidental’ philosophy.
The war over the ‘Greeks’ – specifically with regards to the early Greek thinkers – in the ‘Western’ ‘tradition’ can be cast into relief as both nuanced and oftentimes brutal variations of the distinction between the ‘primitive’ and the ‘primordial’. As I have already suggested, there is no dispute among the Canonists over the Greek origins of the Western philosophical, scientific and socio-political ‘order’. Such a notion already implies a specific conception of historicity and of its ‘development’. We are surrounded by many of these contesting and contested histories. Even with Hesiod of the Archaic period, there was the myth of the Five Ages of Man. Our manner of constructing a history, and one that expresses the notions of continuity amid development, is in truth a genealogy (Nietzsche) or with Foucault, a ‘history of the present’. All histories, however wrapped up in the trapping of ‘objective scientific method’ or ‘precise systematic retrieval’, are inexorably self-reflexive constructions guided by the intentional necessities of any particularized ‘present’. As war has jurisdiction over all things (Heraclitus), there is no History, but contesting and contested histories, stories, myths about ourselves and our own ‘origins’ and significance. Yet, since these likely stories are disseminated amidst a topos of contestation, of agonistic life upon the surface, there will be diverse stories each of which seeks to conjure forth a hegemonic perspective upon ‘that which is’ – as with an open-ended and undecided Wittgensteinian ‘language game’ or a ‘form of life’ that is merely a makeshift topography of contestation and mutability. In this way, our earlier distinction itself between ‘primitive’ and ‘primordial’ may seem to be equally reductive – though its significance, and its persistent refinement in the following will allow us to illuminate a workable perspective upon the interpretive significance of early Greek thought, one which will and must remain open and subject to continuous revision.
The field of contestation is the habitat for the surfacing of a myriad differentiation of perspectives. It should be mentioned at the outset that the survival of the fragments of the early Greeks in the writings of others, even in the early Church officials, testifies to their historical influence and significance. This is also the case with the extant writings of Plato and Aristotle with their exile among the Arabs, not to mention the very doxographic compilers and writers, such as Diogenes Laertius and Simplicius.
Yet, the tenor of the meta-perspective which regards the early Greeks as ‘primitive’ is perhaps set by Socrates in his criticism of Anaxagoras (but also, perhaps by the early Greeks themselves in light of Heraclitus and Xenophanes). It is said that Socrates, intrigued by what he heard about Anaxagoras’ notion of Mind, Nous, obtained a copy of the blasphemous philosopher’s book. Yet, upon consulting the text, Socrates, echoing the critical fervor of Xenophanes, expressed his astonishment that such a book, though it mentions Mind quite often, has such little Mind in it. Of course, this quip by Socrates is self-serving on Plato’s part as it begs the question of a Mind with specific ideas, an innovation, which, as we will see, is the essential meaning of Platonic philosophy. Indeed, it is this latter philosophy which itself constitutes the event by which early Greek thought has been regarded – or measured – throughout much of the epoch of ‘Occidental’ or ‘Western’ philosophy. This regard or measurement pertains moreover not only to the regard of Plato and Platonism – and later Aristotle and Aristotelianism – towards the early Greek thinkers, but also, and perhaps, most emphatically, to our own construction of meta-philosophical narratives within the so-called ‘history of philosophy’ or ‘history of ideas’. For, not only have Plato and Aristotle asserted themselves as the successors and surpassers (Hegel) of the early Greek philosophers, but we ourselves have also propagated a ‘history of philosophy’ in which we entitled an entire epoch of philosophy as ‘pre-socratic’ or ‘pre-platonic’. Why is this the case?
These designations themselves testify to the essential lack of ‘sovereignty’ (Bataille) given to these thinkers to be understood upon their own ‘ground’, amidst the horizons of their own contexts of emergence. Plato is utterly duplicitous – like a broken rib – he seizes hold of, appropriates primordial aspects of early Greek thought, especially the thought of Heraclitus, Parmenides and Pythagoras (Philolaus), but all at once, dismisses their ultimate significance as lovers of ‘truth, beauty and the good’. We have already recalled the sarcasm of Socrates with respect to Anaxagoras. Yet, it is perhaps the Platonic-Socratic rejection of tragedy and thought inspired by tragic insight that is most significant in our comprehension of the breach that is Platonism. A similar, and perhaps related breach takes place in the official calendar of Western ‘history’ with the alleged birth of Jesus of Nazareth, reputed to be the ‘Christ’ – the one who will save ‘us’ from the tragedy of mortal existence. Why is this the case?
In his repudiation of the poets, Plato disenfranchises most, if not all, of the early Greek thinkers (even the radical Xenophanes was a poet), but more importantly, he dispels the thought and poet- thinkers of the tragic myth – and thus, sabotages the very possibility of an indigenous self-interpretation of existence upon the topos of the ‘primordial word’, that of the Muthos (Heidegger), a primal temporal expression which allows thought to break out into the open, as food for thought. If philosophy arises in the tragic age, and is the thought of the tragic in light of the finitude of existence – then, what is Plato, as the nihilistic creator of the ‘theoretical man’ (Nietzsche), and the habitat of the latter in the restricted economy (Bataille) of the polis?
Though many have given answers to this question, we will focus not on Plato, for his own sake, but upon the complex relation that is articulated between the latter formal indicator and early Greek thought in our own persistent mythology of the meta-philosophical significance of ‘Western philosophy’. What is philosophy? Western philosophy? Can an account of the ‘origins’ aid us in our attempt to answer this question? But, for ‘reasons’ that are philosophically obvious, there can be no uncontestable ‘history of the present’ – and thus, neither of the so-called ‘bleeding’ past. Yet, as Bataille has poignantly suggested, the contention that there can be an ‘absence of myth’, of being and perspective – mortal, tragic interpretation – is indeed, the greatest of all myths. All self-reflection, as Hölderlin intimates, takes place in the ‘imagination’,[v] amidst temporality, the ‘energetic’ topos, tiger[vi] of the general economy of thought.
We can ascertain from overwhelming ‘evidence’ that there was a deliberate, resolved attempt on the Plato to distance himself and his ‘philosophical production’ from the ‘archaic’ thinkers and tragic poets of Greece. This ironic self-description as the ‘ideal’, though failed liberator – his ‘modernity’ – on the part of Plato has been echoed throughout a ‘network’ of historical repetitions, as the latter steps in for Aristotle, and vice versa, in the tag team event of the ‘history of philosophy.’ Whitehead declared that all philosophy is a footnote to Plato. Since Aristotle is a student of Plato, he is also subsumed under this footnote. The influence of each of these philosophers – and combinations and hybrids thereof – have been essentially determinate for the current epoch of philosophy, which as the history of being (Heidegger), is not only the only epoch of philosophy, but also one of irretrievable errancy (Nietzsche and Heidegger in light of the Anaximander fragment). For both Plato, in his own era – not to mention Aristotle for the moment – and for our own contemporaries, the thinkers before Plato are not properly philosophers, but pre-cursors to the ‘matheme’ of genuine truth (Badiou), of mathematics and intelligible ideas as the only access to Reality. Though they are the ‘dawn’, they are not the ‘sun’. The ‘pre-socratic’, ‘pre-platonic’ philosophers merely announce the rising of the sun, though this dawn, though essential, in this perspective, as a contestation of myth, is ultimately merely a period of transition to a genuine philosophical method.
While it may be possible that this primitive thought could indeed be an indication of the openness to the truth of Being and existence, it is also clear for Plato, such a perspective – tragic, pessimistic, romantic – can see only a tainted beauty, a ‘crack in everything’ (Leonard Cohen) that is enacted in the tragic destination of mortal life and singularity.
Such a mixed character, this impurity is expelled by Plato – indeed, it is why Socrates had sacrificed, a cockerel to Asclepius, the healing son of Apollo. Life, as Socrates tells his disciples, is a ‘sickness unto death’ (Kierkegaard), the body is the ‘prison house of the soul’ (Plato’s Republic [Politea], and later with Plotinus). There is health, soul, and life for Plato, beyond the world of phusis (conceived in distinction from Plato, with Heidegger, under the aspect of aletheia, truth as unconcealment), of the tragic meta-perspective of Muthus, words expressed amidst the topos of the ‘insurmountable’ horizons of mortal existence and the tragico-comic ‘eternal recurrence of the same’. Of course, it is questionable – as we will see in our interpretation of Nietzsche’s sense of tragedy, health and the ‘meaning’ of Apollo, whether such a sacrifice (or any sacrifice) would be at all acceptable to Asclepius or Apollo. Nevertheless, in the present context, we can see that the ‘groundwork’ has been laid for an ‘interpretation’ of early Greek philosophy as ‘primitive’. Indeed, if the ‘Greeks’ are children, as Plato instructs us in his Phaedrus, then the early Greeks are merely infants – perhaps, even enfants terrible (Cocteau).
(It may be possible that Plato glimpsed the possibility of the current interpretation of early Greek thought, but recoiled in horror).
It was Aristotle who ‘consolidated’ his master Plato’s coup d’état over ‘philosophy in the tragic age of the Greeks’. Despite the melodrama of conflict between Plato and Aristotle which seems to constitute the entirety of the history of philosophy in all of its variations, it is certain that this conflict is indeed an incestuous symbiosis that acts to exclude, conceal ‘possibilities’ of existence and truth which preceded (and, perhaps, post-date) the current epoch of the last man, of ‘theoretical man’. Aristotle almost seems to come from a later time, his editors and interpreters have made him anachronistic to himself. Quite a distance from the urgency of the ‘death of Socrates’ or even the ‘Pythagorean Riots’, Aristotle sits down to assemble fields of study, recorded as accounts, preserved in books – these themselves subject to massive and utter transformations, translations, appropriations… Nevertheless, in the current context, the text of Aristotle has had seminal implications for our understanding and misunderstanding of early Greek thought.
Aristotle, in his Physics, has constructed a histrionic ‘projection’ upon ‘events’, which lays out not only a ‘history of philosophy’ to date (himself, with Hegel, as the culmination of Spirit), but also establishes a beginning of philosophy in Thales, and, thus, articulates a meta-philosophical statement upon the meaning of ‘philosophy’. Thales is the first ‘physicist’, the first to break with mythology and engage in authentic philosophical, scientific thought. Yet, we already go too far into the modernist world of science and alleged secularism (we always stink of religion). Aristotle takes this beginning as a license to establish the ‘sciences’, those which Husserl would call ‘regional phenomenologies’, determined and contextualized by the ‘matters themselves’. In a similar manner to Abraham’s earlier composition of the ‘Myth of Eden’[vii], Aristotle is attempting to justify his own ‘phenomenology of existence’, and his own authority, posthumously, as ‘The Philosopher’. Aristotle treats the early Greeks thinkers with playful ridicule and authoritative dismissal. Truly, it is a wonder why he mentions them at all in his Physics, considering the facile dismissals to which each of them is subjected.
But, as with Plato, his relation to the early Greeks is also duplicitous (which reflects Alcibiades and Socrates), as with the ambiguous relationships of the succession of divinities in Hesiod’s Theogony. As with the alleged responses to Parmenides by Empedocles and Anaxagoras, Aristotle is critical of Plato’s hierarchy between the intelligible and sensible realms of existence, between the Idea and the existent being. What seems to follow from such a stark division is in effect the non-intelligibility of the sensible world. Aristotle’s doctrine of the Four Causes[viii], for instance, is designed to demonstrate the banal intelligibility of the sensible world. Divorced from the context of tragedy, however, he uses the growth of an acorn into an Oak tree as his example through which he will draw out his Causes. If it is the case that there can be no knowledge in the sensible world, it would seem that the growth of an Oak tree from and acorn would be inexplicable, or would be deemed to be merely the knowledge of mortals as revealed by the Goddess of Parmenides. Of course, we remember that She felt that this mortal knowing, as perhaps a showing, is also important, and that its very mention implies that such knowledge is possible – (Schürmann). Nevertheless, there remains an theoretical affinity between the Four Causes and the Divided Line, especially, if, with Socrates, we compare Aristotle’s doctrine of Causes with Anaxagoras’ notion of mixture – in its dismissive, authoritive interpretation – that everything is in everything, including hair, bone, etc. Aristotle learned the Socratic lesson of the ‘Mind’ and ‘Ideas’, but instead of keeping these apart, as did Plato in his Neo-Parmenidean doctrine of ‘Forms’, situated these ‘causes’ as the flux of ‘actuality’ itself. In this way, it could be argued that Aristotle is a further elaboration of Heraclitus’ notion of the logos as an intimate source of episteme. It was Aristotle’s innovation to appropriate this notion amid a non-tragic topography of ‘causes’ and a self-moved mover. For Heraclitus, knowledge of the world in flux is possible through the logos, the lightning bolt of Zeus which tragically steers all things – a radical notion which Aristotle surreptitiously adopts, though in a manner which re-contextualizes this insight into the practise of ‘scientific philosophy’.
Nevertheless, both Plato and Aristotle are both ‘theoretical men’ – their differences in this way pale in comparison to their departure, break from the thinkers of the tragic age. Yet, for these philosophers, such a ‘breach’ is regarded as a mark of maturation, of growth toward an apex, from out of the trough and immaturity of early Greek thought. Yet, can we ever be sure of even these interpretations of Plato and Aristotle, given the disseminal notion of a ‘context of emergence’? Surely – there may be a tragic Plato or Aristotle, even if such a possibility has remained unsaid?[ix]
We are engulfed on all sides by histrionics – the methodologies of story-telling from any particular motivated perspective. Perhaps, it will be with a glance at Aristotle’s rendition of tragedy in his Poetics – and in juxtaposition with Nietzsche’s own, in Chapter Three, that we may attempt to comprehend the precise influence of contexts of interpretation and of the pernicious suppressions of anachronistic erasures.
Of course, such a chiasmus of stories and meta-narratives, as temporal constructions, expressions, may and do undergo significant breaks – endings, new beginnings, substitutions, echoes and retrievals… not to mention survivals, translations, etc. For instance, ‘Greek’ learning itself is said to have disappeared from Europe for nearly 1000 years, between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance. While such a depiction is not absolutely the case – as references survived in popular works such as the condemned Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy (Hypatia has already been torn to pieces by the Christian mob) and in polemical and rhetorical statements not only in the bible but also in the texts of the early Church fathers, such as Clement of Alexandria and the ‘neo-Platonist’ Augustine (a beginner of his own, one that allows us to see him beyond his own alleged neo-platonism), the centre of Greek learning did in fact shift to the Near Eastern Arabs, not to be retrieved until the ‘cultural diffusion’ of the Crusades. Indeed, it is with the seminal work of translation by priestly scholars such as Marsilio Ficino that the Greeks were finally – established as the one of the ideological pillars of Western science, philosophy and culture. Of course, it could be readily argued, that as with the Islamic Arabs, the status of Greek philosophy and science were always held to be second to that of revealed Christian religion. This secondary status of Aristotle amongst the Islamics – ‘The Philosopher’ – could be seen moreover as a partial echo of the status of the Greeks in the Roman era, who were merely slaves to a ruling, ‘productive’ class.
In this way, the retrieval of Greek philosophy in the Renaissance had two determining effects upon its reception in Christian Europe, and later in regards to its meaning in early Modern and Modern philosophy, and which is an intense issue still in our current cultural era. On the one hand, the overriding significance of the ‘Greeks’, especially in the writings of Aristotle and Galen, Hippocrates – lay in physics – in ‘scientific’ learning. One may wish to counter such a contention with the example of Plato and neo-Platonism in their emphatic relevance to theology, religion and spirituality, but it must be recognized immediately that even such doctrines, while they maintained a mystical, pagan and occult existence in the underground of European cultural history, were themselves transformed in order to conform to the dominant Christian meta-narrative of Medieval, early Modern, and Modern Europe. (One could contend that the Inquisition has never left us, even in our hyper-relative world of post-modernity). Nevertheless, with the secondary status of philosophy to theology, we can ascertain a rival motif in the determination of the Greeks, if, indeed, this is only meant to refer to the cacophonous darkness of Greek polytheism (idolatry). To this extent, from the Christian testimony in its slogan that the Christ is the light of the world, it is with Christian salvation that the motif of the dawn becomes associated – the motif does not disappear, it is merely transferred to a novel complex of significations, operative within an emergent and evolving contextual, situational era, epochality. On the other hand, as we have alluded, it is the aura of the Renaissance to be the ‘rebirth’ of Greek learning, philosophy and science, of an awakening of wisdom into the light. Such emergent polysemy, difference itself expresses a contestation in the motif with reference to Christ as the light of the world. In this sense, the Dawn has come again, a new dawn, a re-birth or that which was already born – a complex motif attuned to the doctrine of transmigration as it was re-appropriated during the Renaissance from the recently translated (from Arabic) Platonic and Pythagorean texts. From this perspective, the most un-Greek of ages, that between the 7-10th centuries were re-cast as the ‘Dark Ages’ – for ‘good’ Christians, perhaps, the era of the greatest light.
In this light, this re-birth of another dawn was not without its birth pangs, and it took several centuries for the Renaissance ideal of science to come to fruition, but increasingly, given the hegemony of the Christianity (in each of its Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and protestant guises) prone to a non-religious meaning and significance – hence scientific ‘Enlightenment’. Of course, in the modern period, there are exceptions to those who, as with Descartes and Leibniz (and even down to Kant) capitulated to religious authority for the sake of the limited rights of philosophy and science. We need only mention Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake in Rome in 1600 for heresy. In this way, we could contend that our reception of the Greeks is still a work of incompletion, even from the perspective of the Enlightenment, which is the slogan for the Modernist era in philosophy and science. (Even Kant, concerned about the Enlightenment in his 1784 essay, bows to religious authority with his distinction between the ‘private’ and ‘public’ intellectual in the Preface to his Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone) Yet, again, the specific character of these disciplines, and ultimately of our reception of the ‘Greeks’, has been so thoroughly influenced by the context of assimilation of Christianity (and indeed, of all Judaic and post-Judaic revealed religions) that some have declared, as with Zizek, that we – even now – are inherently and irretrievably ‘Christian’.
Heidegger calls Nietzsche – amid his ongoing dialogue and confrontation with the latter from the beginning to the end of his career – the discoverer of the ‘Greeks’. Of course, this statement has no meaning as a substantive, material proposition as it is obvious that European civilisation, and indeed, much of the so-called civilised world, had for a long time contact with and knowledge of the ‘Greeks’. Needless to say, Heidegger’s meaning is that Nietzsche discovered a certain sense of what it means to be Greek in his retrieval of ‘philosophy in the tragic age’, that such a philosophy was not the product of ‘cheerfulness’, but the excession of an agonistic cultural world of conflict. It could be argued that Nietzsche had discovered the philosophy of the early Greeks, in distinction to that of Plato and Aristotle. It would then be Nietzsche’s philological talent of drawing fine distinctions that would earn our gratitude towards him. However, while this is the case, that Nietzsche explicitly seeks to unfold the topography of Greek thought into differing periods, and even to assert the priority of one period over the other, it must be to the former insight that we owe our gratitude – and these insights lie primarily in his early Birth of Tragedy and in his later Twilight of the Idols. Such an insight, as I will argue in the chapter three, is not radically disclosed in his early unpublished manuscript Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks. At the same time, although we can consent to the notion that Nietzsche discovered the agonistic abyss of the culture of early, archaic Greece – the age of tragedy – we can also locate the intimation of similar views in his precursors, not only his teachers Jacob Burkhardt and Wagner (Opera and Drama, in which he mentions the distinction between the Apollonian and the Dionysian), but also most prominently in his childhood hero Hölderlin and in the other early German Romantics.
Romantic hermeneutics, in the manner of Schlegel, Schliermacher and Herder engages intimately with the meaning of ‘texts’, not from the future, which is our present, but rather from the cultural horizon amidst which they occurred – their context of emergence.
The early philosophers enacted a sustained questioning with regard to the meaning and morphe of existence, but, we can only access this questioning through their context of significance. A guiding clue to the emergence of philosophy may come from Patôcka’s Plato and Europe,[x] on the difference between myth and philosophy. The latter is merely seen as the sedimentation of ‘time’, while the latter is conceived as a temporal criticism in the manner of an ‘event’ of questioning. Yet, is he ‘correct’ in his rather sharp distinction or can we trace a genealogy from myth to philosophy in which philosophy is comprehended as arising from out of the poetic and mythological traditions? Can mythology perhaps be philosophical, can philosophy be mythological? Can there be a compromise position in which the mythological context, and the deep structures of myth are preserved in the incipient philosophy, but that the inquiry itself is imbued with the spirit of questioning – of freedom and creative perspective?
In its most general meaning, philosophy, as this strange ‘thinking for oneself’, of the self-interpretation of existence, is a response to the predicament of existence, a response that is characterised by a desire to understand the ‘mystery’ of existence. In order to understand the emergence of philosophy, of tragic thought, we must retrieve the original, radical impetus of questioning, persisting in the awareness of its contextual horizons as these were originally disseminated through mythological poetics.
We could perhaps contend, with Heidegger, that the early Greek philosophers were themselves attempting to retrieve the original impetus of radical questioning from out of the traditional conventionalism of myth, to think for themselves in an appropriation of the often conflicting aspects of these myths (cf. Chapter Three). While we need not accept this scenario, the latter would still imply that the early Greek thinkers did not reject the old culture, they added to it, with an original attempt to reinterpret it. Philosophy, in this ‘view’, is nothing more than a historically and culturally situated discussion which develops along the lines of the individuals involved in the conversation. The way in which we understand these myriad ‘origins’ has a fundamental impact upon our entire interpretation. We have to ‘deconstruct’ the constructions around us so as to begin to clear a place for a hermeneutic exploration of early philosophy. We must become aware that our very way of looking at the world is based upon received assumptions, presuppositions and prejudices of preceding generations of thinkers. We must also understand that these constructed meanings can be taken apart.
Of course, once the floodgates are removed, as it is done with post-structuralism and in the contemporary emergence of apophatic theologies, it becomes increasingly difficult – or even impossible (irony) – to assert a ‘positivity’ without ‘violence’ or constraining limit, and the explicit exposure of such ‘violence’ in the moment of its emergence. In such an ‘identity in difference’, amidst the general economy of an epoch (which does not necessarily, or even ever did rely upon the bland ‘posit-ings’ and ‘positions’ of subjective consciousness in the modernist self-mythologization) – ‘anything goes’, as Feyerabend declares in his anarchist text upon the ‘philosophy of science’, Against Method.[xi] The deep sense of Feyerabend’s battle cry has two significant implications for our current exploration of early Greek thought. On the one hand, it is clear that we can never ‘get rid’ of gossip, as much as we can jump over our own shadow. On the other hand, there is, even with the banal persistence of idle chatter, the possibility of myriad discourses and approaches – sources, influences and styles – amidst our own exploration of truth. The upshot of Derrida’s Differance is that any attempt to exclude must be negotiated.
What is the criteria?
It is in this light that we can interpret the inexorable fog that has surrounded the early German romantic (not to mention the British romantic) attitude to the ‘Greeks’, and our very attitudes to romanticism or any other discourse that lies outside of the ‘curriculum’. The usual stereotypes abound, echo, of the Romantic, of brooding, eccentric, erratic intellectuals, poets, artists, musicians, thrown amid a dire ethos, ‘drugs’, an errant way of life, often, and almost prescriptively ‘tragic’. We know all the stories, all the gossip. Beyond the cultural aesthetic and literary interests of the romantic, re-played ever-recurrently in each generation, there is the ‘picture’ of the Romantic, one in common currency in Academia and scholarly circles and networks that the Romantics wished to return to the ‘Golden Age’ of Greece. This was the image of, for instance, Hölderlin, certainly Byron, Shelley, Keats, etc. and much later, in what some may argue are cases of stipulated neo-romanticism, Nietzsche and Heidegger. This would then be another instance and sense of the ‘dawn’, an ‘aesthetic’, as opposed to a ‘scientific’ ‘dawn’ – although this would be far too easy – and wrong.
While such characterizations may be ‘correct’ according to certain superficial criteria, our understanding of the specificities of the engagement of the Romantics with ‘Greece’ – and later with Nietzsche and Heidegger will only become manifest through a consideration of the context of their emergent expression. Pinkard has portrayed the sprawling decadence in ‘Germany’ amidst an era of revolutionary disruption in Europe. Not only France, but also Greece was a focus of such disruption as it sought its independence from the Ottoman Empire. In this light, Byron’s parlance in Greek poetry is not the immature imposture of a school boy, but is a re-awakening of a remembrance of the independence and greatness of Greece amidst a struggle for which he himself died. As Nietzsche writes in his Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks, men such as this once lived, they can live once more – de capo. Hölderlin was – and Shelley, Coleridge – inspired and agitated by the seminal events of revolutionary France. It is interesting that none of these three, in distinction for instance from Wordsworth and his sister, were ever truly disaffected by the revolution, even of the so-called ‘Terror’, but that each in his own way, learned to incorporate ‘strife’ and ‘violence’ into their poetics and philosophy. Shelley (not to mention his sister, Mary) moved increasingly toward the motif of strife, as we can see, for instance, from a juxtaposition of ‘Hymn to Intellectual Beauty’ to ‘The Mask of Anarchy’. Keats began with poems about flowers and ended up as the spokesman of the Lamia, by whom he was soon taken. Coleridge began with vague historical epics, but eventually began to engage with the works of the German romantic and idealist philosopher Schelling, who exalted ‘evil’ as the groundless ground of human freedom. Bryon, as we have said, died tragically in battle in Greece.
It is said that Hölderlin worshipped the Greek gods directly and intimately and that many of his poems should be regarded as prayers. Yet, such a statement barely ascends out of the vortex of gossip as it tells us nothing at all – regarding, for instance, the meaning of ‘gods’ versus ‘God’ or even the One (hen). Hölderlin – as Blake had already done – moves away from the ideal, dream, of beauty, of a Platonic harmony of the spheres, to one that is disrupted by the event of violence amid existence, across the terrain of individuation, of strife. Hölderlin, like the other Romantics, committed to revolution, moves toward an assimilation of violence, strife, into his poetic philosophy with a shift from the Plato and Neo-Platonism – and from the Spinoza’s ‘One and All’ – toward that of Empedocles, the poetic thinker of ‘Love’ and ‘Strife’. Hölderlin can serve to express this transfiguration of existence as expressed in his fragmentary tragedy, ‘The Death of Empedocles’, a text which is translated and given extended commentary by Foti and Krell. It will be in this way that we can avoid the chatter and gossip concerning romantic expressions of tainted beauty (Plato) or of a fragmentation of totality, a fracturing of the whole (Spinoza).
Nietzsche and Heidegger, as we can see, were not the only – or the first – to concern themselves with the early Greeks. Though, in the case of these thinkers, it seems that we always find the ‘beginning’ only when we have come to the very last … it could be argued that both, as did Hölderlin, Nietzsche and Heidegger developed philosophically in tandem with their own respective deeper and more mature appreciations of the early Greeks.
(Let us not forget that Marx wrote his Doctoral Dissertation on the late ‘outsiders’ of the Platonic polis, Democritus and Epicurus, showing his ‘irrational’ preference for the latter and his ‘swerve’ – theoretical violence contra self-organising ‘systems’ (Bakünin).
Nevertheless, without going too far into their interpretations of the early Greeks, it is clear, as we have suggested, that each of these thinkers sought to retrieve that which is essential from amid their own respective engagements with ‘Greece’. These are other senses of the ‘Dawn’. While it would not be exactly clear from his unpublished work Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks why we should wish to retrieve these men – other than their commonplace scientific acuity, progenitors, there is a more urgent suggestion concerning the ‘dawn’ in The Birth of Tragedy. In this context, and if we link this discussion to his The Genealogy of Morals (and perhaps Zarathustra, Twilight and the Anti-Christ, etc.), it is the extirpation of Dionysian life and wisdom – of music and the chorus, of poetry – under the knowledge and ‘truth regime’ of ‘theoretical man’ that calls us to the barricades. The ‘Dawn’ is not just that of the ‘Greeks’, but the early Greeks (as opposed to the ready identification of the ‘Greeks’ with Plato and Aristotle) – the Greeks of the tragic age, most notably exhibited, exemplified in tragic poetry, in Attic tragedy. It is in this way, for Nietzsche, that the early Greeks are ‘primordial’ – as opposed to ‘primitive’ – a perspective that flew and flies in the face of nearly the entire of philosophical history, since, at least, Plato.
Heidegger, in his own portrayal of the trajectories of historicity, who, while, as we will see, has many fundamental disagreements with Nietzsche, remains deeply in tune with inherent ‘Nietzschean’ meta-textures. Yet, as with Hegel, there seems to be a limit placed upon Nietzsche, upon his ‘excessive’ style and his ‘indefinite’ topography. There have been many ‘dawns’, each of which can be traced to its ‘events’.
Heidegger – inhabiting the same questionable space as Hegel in his Philosophy of History and his Lectures on Aesthetics (‘tragic’ ethicality as reconciliation) – lays out, not only an epochality of primordial historicity, but also, the prospect of another ‘dawn’, in the manner of Nietzsche.
Heidegger, as we will see, is highly critical and dismissive of ‘Nietzsche’ with respect to his interpretation of the early Greek thinkers. He states in his lectures on Parmenides that philosophy does not arise out of mythology. At the same time, it is asserted that primordial thought inhabits and expresses Muthos. What is being expressed, thought here? Perhaps, mythology – the ‘tablets’ of another ‘time’ (as with Patôcka) – that is fixated, bewitched by past thoughts/expressions of that which indefinitely is, but, it is with Muthos that thought can be open to and create narratives of being in the moment. But, is this not Zarathustra with his Old and New Law Tablets?
The question of a Heideggerian ‘dawn’ emerges with his assertion of the primacy of the early Greek moment to ‘Western history’, but also with his own retrieval of the topology of aletheia, of the ‘visible and the invisible’, of the concealed and the Open amidst the event of thought and being. Heidegger is concerned with the ‘West’, the dawn of the West and the beckoning death of the West in the figures of the early Greeks, Anaximander, Heraclitus and Parmenides. Heidegger – apart from his several cryptic references to Hegel – does not tell us ‘why’ the notion or motif of the ‘West’ is the proper horizon for our interpretation, though, we will attempt to divine such ‘reasons’, even if they strike us as surprisingly. Nor does he discuss the implications of his thought with respect to the historical divide between East and West, between the oriental and the occidental. Such considerations – to which we will return in his radical criticisms of Nietzsche’s ‘anthropology’ and ‘modernism’ – are put out of play for Heidegger. Philosophy (and let us assume that this means thought in this context) does not arise out of ‘mythology’, but ‘authentic’ thought is a saying, a logos, of the Muthos, of the myth as the Primordial Word.
Equally mysterious is Heidegger’s blunt insistence upon Anaximander, Heraclitus and Parmenides as the only primordial thinkers. How can this be that case in light of the incipient and intense relationship of Hölderlin with Empedocles, a figure who was not only significant for Nietzsche (who does not even deal with Empedocles in his Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks), but also, for Heidegger in light of his own engagement with poet-philosopher. Of course, we must attempt to understand Heidegger before we seek to criticise his thinking upon the Greeks. Nevertheless, we must be wary of his meta-philosophical schematism of ‘Western’ philosophy and civilisation, as he, as with the rest of the interpreters of early Greek thought, run the risk – or have already crossed the Rubicon – of the fatal flaw and fallacy of anachronism. For even if Heidegger interprets the early Greeks as ‘primordial’, as opposed to ‘primitive’, he is still in agreement with the rest of the interpreters in two regards. On the one hand, the Greeks are privileged, they are ‘originary’; on the other hand, their emergence as a cultural-political-linguistic ‘unity’ constituted a break with its own context of emergence – indeed, as the negation of its own context of emergence – this is why the Greeks are always children, are eternal…. they are the beginning of a ‘self-propelling wheel’. The details of the story are secondary to the assertion of primordial categories of differentiation, of joining and separation, of ‘identity and difference’.
Heidegger asserts that the ‘dawn’ occurs with the apprehension by the primordial thinkers of archaic Greece of Being as aletheia, an event that was that of an anti-mythological Muthos – which is one way to interpret Heidegger, and in this light, he would have strange bedfellows in light of the motif of the dawn. For Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine – as necessitated by the ‘logic’ of our own meta-narrative – the dawn can be nothing other than a reflection upon themselves, as they bask in the self-assured realisation of their own merely theoretical triumph over their ‘primitive’ precursors.
For the modernists and the scientists, the dawn is that of criticism (Patôcka) and experimentation (Bacon, Hawkings), of the ‘Enlightenment’ (Adorno and Horkheimer), of the world with critical reason (Popper, Habermas, Adorno); the ‘elimination of metaphysics’ through the logical (Carnap) and mathematical (Godel, Badiou) analysis of language (Wittgenstein), world (Heidegger) and Reality (Lacan); the Good as the first, the ethical as first philosophy (Plato, Levinas, Critichley). Hannah Arendt, in keeping with these various alibis for the ‘dawn’, stated in her Life of the Mind[xii] that the Greeks were exceptional in that they devised an abstract alphabet that was alone capable of ‘objectivity’, transcendence from the facticity of existence. Such a capacity stands in contrast to the alphabet/culture of the Egyptians (or the Chinese), for instance, who remained ‘at the level’ of mere pictographic or sensuous alphabets (although this is a clear misinterpretation as the Egyptian alphabet is alphabetic in the Greek sense and is not merely pictographic).
Each of these interpretations of the ‘dawn’, with respect to the meaning of the early Greeks, suffer from the fatal error of anachronism, one which supplies these precursors with a meaning, a significance which perhaps has little – or nothing – to do with ‘their’ own indigenous context of emergence. Indeed, as I have suggested concerning the mythical narrative of Eden and the authorship of Abraham, not only are the various ‘interpretations’, pictures of the early ‘Greeks’ anachronistic, but they are also merely redactions of the ‘origin’ – meta-philosophical in character and intention – which serve as the authorial pedigree of the legitimacy of contemporary (whatever con-tempus that may be) practices and their associated, though essentially arbitrary ideologies.
All the same, we are prone to tell stories, and as with Kant’s creative reason in his Transcendental Philosophy, we inexorably seek a ‘higher unity’ in our quest to answer unanswerable, though unavoidable, questions. But, none of these meta-positions are either determinative or normative with respect to our desire to understand early ‘Greek’ thinking in light of its own context of emergence and thus in the sense and meaning of its own radical or indigenous expression. Such a cautiously optimistic opening is encouraged by the work of post-structuralists, such as Bataille, Derrida and Krell, as we will see in Chapter Five, who offer insights into (or with serious repercussions for) early ‘Greek’ thought which allow us to forego the ‘anachronistic’ and ‘ideological’ interpretations of the ‘Dawn’ as a ‘beginning’, as a ‘mystical foundation of authority’ which hides its ‘origin’ of violence in the repetitive trauma of its own incessant and cybernetic re-enactment – that which, ‘what’ we call ‘civilisation’. For our investigation of early ‘Greek’ thinking must simultaneously be a radical exploration of ourselves as we live and affirm – perhaps resist – our own questionable ‘identity’, ‘identification’ in, amid the meta-narrative of the ‘origin’, whether that is with the ‘Greeks’ or, some other primordial nexus. In ‘our’ persistent case, it is our tainted desire for ‘presence’ and the ritual enactment of the metaphysics thereof, which is the mode of operation of the factical, existential repetition of the ‘logic’ of the fundamental apartheid – the ‘severance’ – of the ‘land of evening’ from the other.
[ii] Frank, Manfred (2004) The Philosophical Foundations of Early German Romanticism, translated by Elizabeth Millan-Zaibert, Albany: SUNY Press.
[iii] So far we have begun to explore various aspects of the context of emergence of early Greek philosophy. But, again, why Greek philosophy? Iraq, Babylonia, Egypt, etc were the real cradles of civilization. In addition to Burkert and Penglase, Martin Bernal, for instance, in his Black Athena traces significant Greek ideas back to Asia and Africa. The exclusive on ‘Greece’ is, thus, for Bernal, racist, and indeed, such exclusivity was used as propaganda for Aryan supremacy since the beginning of the 19th century. These questions should be considered by the student of ancient philosophy.
[iv] Derrida, J (1992) “Force of Law: ‘The Mystical Foundation of Authority’ “, Deconstruction and the Possibility of Justice, edited by Drucilla Cornell and Michael Rosenfeld, New York: Routlege.
[v] Holderlin, F. (1988) ‘On the Law of Freedom’, Essays and Letters on Theory, trans. by Thomas Pfau, Albany: SUNY, pp. 33-34.
[vi] Bataille, G. (1991) Accursed Share, Vol. I, trans. by Robert Hurley, New York: Zone Books.
[vii] The possibility of this redaction, following Miranda, is discussed in Luchte, J. (2009) ‘Zarathustra and the Children of Abraham,’ Pli, Volume 20, pp. 195-225 and The Agonist, Volume 2, Number 2.
[viii] Aristotle (like and unlike Goethe) lays out his phenomenology of plant grow as an investigation of the causes or conditions necessary for there to be such a phenomenon, and the phronesis of these causes will constitute knowledge in the ideational schema of aetiology. (Firstly, for there to be growth, there must be the stuff or material of growth, the material presence of the acorn, the soil in which it grows, and water. There materials conditions for the growth of the Oak tree are designated as the material cause. Secondly, there must also be the shape or morphe of the process of growth, the shaped of the acorn, the features of its germination, such as roots, leaves, and eventually stems, branches. Such morphological features are designated by Aristotle as the formal cause. Thirdly, in addition to these first two causes, or the matter and form, there must also be the motive force or the energia of the metamorphosis of the acorn into the Oak tree. Such a motive force, a feature of all early Greek philosophy, was designated by Aristotle as the efficient cause. And, finally, in addition to all of these causes, or conditions of possibility for the growth of the acorn into the Oak tree, there is also the necessity of a destination or telos for the process of growth. This destination or telos for the process was designated by Aristotle as the Final Cause, and in this case, it is the Oak tree itself in its mature state). In this manner, Aristotle demonstrates that the flux of existence or the transitory state of becoming can be made intelligible to mortal thinking.
[ix] This question is influenced by the notion of ‘epochal discordance (Foti, 2006), who, in her reading of Schürmann, intimated that ‘tragedy’ or the ‘tragic’ is not a ‘period of time’, an ‘age’ but is the persistent scintillation of temporal singularization, that is, of the human condition (Arendt). In this way, it would be possible to retrieve the tragic in Plato and Aristotle – and, perhaps, their own strategies of evading the terrible truth of the Dionysian.
[x] Patocka, J. (2002) Plato and Europe, Stanford.
[xi] Feyerabend, Paul (1975) Against Method: Outline of an Anarchist theory of Knowledge, Humanities Press.
[xii] Arendt, Hannah (1978) Life of the Mind, Ed. Mary McCarthy, 2 vols, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.