The Second Answer

The first part of the The Aviary Blog followed Martin Heidegger’s account of Plato’s Theaetetus, from Socrates’ statement of the dialogue’s main question: “what is knowledge?” up to the rejection of Theaetetus’ first answer: “knowledge is perception.”

It was shown that perception, that which is given through the senses does not give us access to beings, and therefore cannot have a relation to knowledge, understood as the possession of truth, and therefore to being.

Rather than through the senses, knowledge is to be found in the soul’s striving relationship to beings, which gives us the possibility of their unhiddenness as being. The question then becomes about the character of this relationship, in which the possession of truth and therefore knowledge is made possible. It is immediately seen that this relationship has what Heidegger calls a double claim, it is in the relationship to beings, but it is also that which gives beings in their presence, such that they show themselves from themselves – i.e. as appearance.

The task then becomes the discovery of the phenomenon that involves this duality, the self-showing of beings as well as the soul’s relationship to being. This leads to Theatetus’ second answer to Socrates’ question, that “knowledge resides in the region of doxa,” the question now is what does doxa mean?

Next post: What is Doxa?

What is Doxa?

Doxa is usually translated as “opinion,” but this only goes half-way to capturing the meaning of the word for the Greeks. As such it does not allow us to understand why Theatetus, after the refutation of his first answer, now appeals to doxa, in the same way he had first appealed to aisthesis, as that which immediately and unreflectively appears to constitute the essence of knowledge.

Heidegger points out that doxa has a double meaning, which reflects the previously seen dual determinations of knowledge as the “self-showing of the beings themselves” and the soul’s relationship to being. Doxa is both the look, the idea that something offers, and the image or picture that one makes of what shows itself. A thing’s doxa is what it appears as, what it shows itself as; towards which we take-up a stance, we are of the view, we have an opinion, this is our doxa. Both aspects are present in one word.

To illustrate how we experience doxa, Heidegger, in Introduction to Metaphysics (YUP, 2000), calls on the idea of a city and the variety of views it offers us; which we take up and use in the construction of our views, our opinions of it:

A city offers a grand vista. The view that a being has in itself, and so can offer from itself, lets itself then be apprehended at this or that time, from this or that viewpoint. The vista that offers itself alters with each new viewpoint. Thus this view is also one that we take and make for ourselves. In experiencing and busying ourselves with beings, we constantly construct views for ourselves from their look…We construct an opinion for ourselves about it. (109)

This construction of an opinion by ourselves often happens without our looking closely at that which shows itself. “Thus it can happen that the view we adopt has no support in the thing itself.” (ibid) Therefore “with doxa we are immediately in a region that is indifferent in respect of truth and falsity.” (ET, 184) This means the duality of doxa, as appearance and opinion, is further doubled. Socrates says “doxa has two faces” by this he means that doxa as appearance can present what the being itself is, but can also make it out to be what it is not, likewise doxa as our view, our opinion of what is seen can be correct or incorrect. Thus both aspects of doxa, look and view, have the capacity to be be pseudos, false, distorted.

This opens up the realm of untruth for the first time, the stated aim of Heidegger’s engagement with the Theatetus dialogue, and which only now, half way through the lecture course, makes an appearance.

Next post: The Falsity of Doxa           Previous post: The Second Answer

The Falsity of Doxa

The explication of doxa’s double character as both true and false, causes Theaetetus to adjust his second answer to Socrates’ question: “what is knowledge?”

“To say that knowledge is only view [doxa] is impossible, for a view can often be false. Only true view could be knowledge. Let that be my answer.” (184)

Here Theaetetus tries to steer the discussion away from the concept of false or distorted knowledge, towards knowledge as truth; because false knowledge, as given in the false view, appears to him be an impossible contradiction of terms. Yet experience tells us that it is an everyday occurrence. Heidegger gives an example, we see someone approaching and we think it is someone we know, but we are mistaken, it is not that person. Thus, in our initial sighting, we have a false view.

Socrates, rather than passing over the false view, expresses puzzlement; it appears to be part of everyday experience yet the guiding principle of knowledge, that we either know something or we do not know it, tells us the false view is impossible. This leads him to engage in an extended analysis of the pseudes doxa, in terms of this principle of knowledge looked at from three different perspectives.

Each of these perspectives demonstrate the impossibility of us having a false view, which will lead us in turn to decide which is true, the principles we apply to experience or the experience itself.

Next post: The Confusion of Doxa          Previous post: What is Doxa?

The Confusion of Doxa

The first perspective from which the pseudes doxa, the false view, is examined, is that of the guiding principle of knowledge, that we either know something or we do not know it. If you know something you do not not-know it and vice versa. In light of this the false view is at one and the same time a view and not a view. It is a view through which we think we know something, but at the same time we do not know it, because our view is false. An example of this state of affairs is given:

Someone who knows both Theaetetus and Socrates, sees a man, who is actually Theaetetus, coming towards him, but who he takes for Socrates. Thus he takes Theaetetus, whom he knows, as not he whom he knows, i.e. Theaetetus, but as someone else, i.e. as Socrates, but it is not Socrates.

The outcome of this is that someone who knows both Socrates and Theaetetus also simultaneously does not know them, in other words he confuses them. Therefore in the case of the false view, one knows, and does not know one and the same thing. (191) But the principle of knowledge that one either knows or does not know something makes this impossible – therefore the conclusion is reached that the pseudes doxa cannot exist.

Next post: Doxa’s View of Nothing         Previous post: False Doxa

Doxa’s View of Nothing

In the next account, pseudos is looked at from the perspective of being and non-being, that something either is or is not. Pseudos means distortion; “something looks like…but behind which there is nothing,” what is seen in the pseudes doxa is thus non-existing, in seeing something in the distorted view we see nothing. (194) The claim is made that we cannot direct ourselves towards nothing, therefore the false view is once again found to be impossible.

Heidegger notes Socrates’ reasoning is a deliberately false path. What is seen in doxa is being, that which is there as the pregiven for what is physically present. The claim that we must always see the concrete thing directs the analysis away from the seeing of being towards seeing as the operation of our eyes, which are incapable of registering the non-existent, they simply take in information.

Next post: Doxa as Substitution           Previous post: The Confusion of Doxa

Doxa as Substitution

In the final perspective from which pseudes doxa, the false view, is examined, the confusion of the first perspective is replaced by the proposal that what happens in the false view is a substitution. So the example of someone taking an approaching person to be Socrates, when he is actually Theaetetus, means that Theaetetus is replaced by Socrates. So being is affirmed for each, the interchangeables both exist. The double aspect of doxa, look and view, is maintained. Pseudos becomes what is missed, Socrates instead of Theaetetus. (198)

This appears to have the capacity to settle all previous counter arguments. But two objections are given. The first is that rather than the duality of substitution we see the singular being, one is taken for the other. The second objection to substitution is that if the one becomes the other, the one is the other. This leads to the absurdity of statements such as: “an ox is a horse or that two are one.” (200) Again proving the impossibility of the pseudes doxa.

Next post: The Three Perspectives Retracted          Previous post: Doxa’s View of Nothing

The Three Perspectives Retracted

The third perspective from which doxa is examined gets closest to solving the phenomenon of false belief by acknowledging doxa’s duality. But the pseudes doxa is then explained in an erroneous manner by ascribing to it a process of substitution, “if one thing is posited instead of the other, at bottom this means that just one thing is posited.” (201) In the end all three perspectives do not suffice as they all lead to the assertion of the impossibility of the distorted view – yet it exists. This means new perspectives are needed, derived from the phenomenon of the distorted view itself.

The claims of all three perspectives are retracted by Socrates. On the face of it a simple move, yet Heidegger claims it means “the entire foundation of previous philosophy becomes unstable.” (204) This is because the principle of the first perspective, “either we have knowledge of something, or we have no knowledge of it,” which underpins the other two perspectives, is founded on the “fundamental truth of western philosophy,” “that what is, is, that the non-existent is not.”

For Heidegger this gives us “an intimation of the power the phenomenon of pseudos (untruth) possesses to disturb and amaze.” He also notes that the overturning of these guiding principles means that rather than conforming the analysis to these principles the analysis must now be conformed to the phenomenon of the pseudes doxa, i.e. what is seen when we have a false view.

Next post: What Lies Between          Previous post: Doxa as Substitution