Doxa and Pseudos

The similes of the wax mass and the aviary connect our stances towards beings of dianoia (inner perception) and aisthesis (bodily perception) to mnemoneuein (making-present in memory). The effect of this is to broaden the domain of beings beyond those which we have in immediate presence to include those which are bodily absent but which we retain. Furthermore the retained can also be both absent and present, i.e. it can be made present or we have the awareness of the possibility of making it present. It is this “essential twofold possibility, pertaining to every accessible being” (i.e. whether present or absent) that leads to the clarification of the essence of doxa.

Doxa
As we have seen Doxa is ambiguous, it means both the look that something or someone offers and what the viewer makes of it in terms of opinion. What shows itself gives off an appearance, awakens an impression in the viewer, which is intrinsically unreliable. Doxa therefore can be either true or false. Thus the word doxa obtains its meaning from two opposed directions, from the object and from the stance we take towards it. Both are present in one word, they are not juxtaposed but have one meaning, one which “involves attending to the other.”

Both similes taken together demonstrate that a being can be perceived both in immediate bodily presence and through the activity of mnemoneuein, making-present that which is absent. Making-present lets something not present be represented in advance, prior to it again coming into bodily presence. This is reflected in Plato’s definition of doxa as “a combination of what is encountered in immediate having-present with what is made-present in advance.” (221)

Heidegger tests this definition by applying it to an instance of doxic seeing, in this case a true view, i.e. one that is not mistaken: “Theodorus takes somebody approaching from a distance, who is in fact Theaetetus, to be Theaetetus.” (220) Heidegger analyses:

[the distant figure] “presents a view, a look, indeed the look of Theaetetus: accordingly, on the basis of this look, we take him for Theaetetus. Another possibility: we know Theaetetus, we know in advance that at this time of day he usually comes along this road, we can already visualise him doing this, we can hold ourselves to him as this being who is not yet bodily present. And now a man appears in the distance, presenting a view to us, without our being able to see with sufficient clarity that it is Theaetetus: but we opine it must be him: we now take the approaching person to be Theaetetus, not because of the look (having-present) but because of prior making-present.” (221)

Thus we have two objects towards which doxic seeing is directed, both of which are at the same time known and unknown. There is the unidentified “somebody approaching” who is concretely present but not known, we do not yet know who it is. We also have Theaetetus who we make present in advance of his concrete presence, so we know him in memory but do not know him in bodily presence.

These are not two separate ways of seeing but one. Heidegger reflects Plato’s definition when he says that the seeing of doxa, “is a comportment that is unitarily directed both to what is bodily present and to what making-present re-presents in advance.” (222) This leads him to characterise doxa as “two-pronged or forked,” one prong aimed at what is present before us, the other towards that which we anticipate – both seen together. This clarifies the nature of the true doxa as a fork, which means it must also be important for understanding the pseudes doxa and therefore of pseudos.

Pseudos
The understanding of pseudos is now approached through an example of a false view: “someone takes the distant Theaetetus for Socrates.” The distant person seems, looks like both Theaetetus and Socrates. For this to happen we must know both Theaetetus and Socrates and they must be bodily absent but yet made-present. This means the seeing of the false view can only happen in mnemonic making-present, i.e. what is brought to mind in memory. The action of looking, that Heidegger ascribes to the false view, is one of looking past what is seen, which is; towards what is seen, which is not. “What is passed by is precisely there, is as such present.”

The seeing of the pseudes doxa mis-takes the seeing of something as something, one thing determines the look of the other by hiding it. Yet it is not completely hidden it shows itself to our doxa as seeming. One thing can seem like… and like … Heidegger defines seeming as a mode of unhiddenness (i.e truth) which is essentially hiddenness (i.e. untruth). This brings us back to the beginning of Heidegger’s account of his engagement with Plato, truth as aletheia is what is not hidden, therefore untruth is what is hidden.

Derek Hampson

Next Post: Plato’s Failure          Previous post: The Simile of the Aviary

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