Post #24 of my commentary on Heidegger’s analysis of Plato’s Theaetetus, written in the lead up to my exhibition: The Aviary
Heidegger concludes his account of the Theaetetus by outlining what he calls Plato’s failure in interpreting the phenomenon of the pseudesdoxa in terms of speaking rather than seeing. This is because dianoia, inner reflection, is understood as a speaking to ourselves about what is before us, and as such founded on logos (discourse).
The mis-taking of pseudes doxa is therefore a failure of the intended predicate, i.e. what is said about the object before us. This leads Plato to grasp the essence of pseudos, un-truth, as the un-correctness of the proposition. Accordingly truth must also have its seat in the logos, rather than unhiddenness, it is thereby understood in terms of the correctness of the proposition. This leads to our present understanding of truth as the “correspondence, grounded in correctness, between the proposition and the thing.” (2)
This goes hand in hand with the conception of doxa as proposition, which means its original dual character as look and view recedes. Rather than being there in the uncertain duality of seeming, the truth and un-truth of what is seen now “simply stand alongside each other, indeed they have opposing directions, they even exclude one another.” (227)
Post #23 of my commentary on Heidegger’s analysis of Plato’s Theaetetus, written in the lead up to my exhibition: The Aviary
The similes of the wax mass and the aviary connect our inner and outer perceptions (dianoia and aisthesis) to 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 seenDoxa 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 memory 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, i.e. that which is; towards what is seen, that 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.
Post #22 of my commentary on Heidegger’s analysis of Plato’s Theaetetus, written in the lead up to my exhibition: The Aviary
The retaining of beings for making present in memory, as first encountered in the simile of the wax mass, is further elaborated through the simile of the aviary, as translated by Martin Heidegger in The Essence of Truth (215).
[Socrates] ‘Well, having and possessing seem different things. If a man buys a cloak and in this sense brings it under his power, but does not wear it, we should certainly say, not that he has it on, but that he possesses it’ [Theaetetus] ‘And rightly’ ‘Now see whether it is possible in the same way for someone who possesses knowledge not to have it, in like manner, for instance, to a man who catches wild birds – pigeons or the like – and sets up an aviary at home in which to keep them. Might we assert that in a certain way he always has the birds, because he possesses them?’ ‘Yes’ ‘And yet in another way he does not have any of the birds, but has acquired power over them, since he has brought them under his control within his own enclosure. He can take them and hold them whenever he likes, by catching whichsoever bird he pleases, and letting it go again; and he can do this as often as he likes.’ ‘That is true’ ‘And again, just as a while ago we contrived some sort of waxen figment in the soul, so now let us make in each soul an aviary stocked with all sorts of birds, some in flocks apart from the rest, others in small groups, and some solitary, flying hither and thither among all the others’ ‘Consider it done. What next?’ ‘We must assume that when we were children this receptacle was empty, and we must understand that the birds represent the varieties of knowledge. And whatsoever kind of knowledge a person acquires and shuts up within the enclosure, we must say that he has learned or discovered the thing of which this is the knowledge, and that precisely this is knowing’ ‘So be it’
The simile of the aviary
Heidegger’s Interpretation When we are born this container in our soul is empty, gradually it becomes filled with birds, i.e. we become familiar with beings and store them in the aviary. We have the birds stored there as possessions, they are left to their own devices. Thus we retain them but they are absent, but we can make them present by the action of grasping, taking up an active relationship towards them. Thus in the sphere of making present, memory, the same thing can be absent and present, we can have it as possession (ktesis) without expressly bringing it to mind. We can also select it by grasping it, taking an active relationship of being towards it (hexis).
Whoever possesses such an aviary possesses the doves in this cage, in this container, but does so in different ways. First, by sitting in a house, in a room, and having the doves under a roof. In this way, he can possess them and add to his possession. But he can also grasp a dove inside the container. There is the fundamental possibility of taking something out of this domain and having it in a stronger sense, taking on a relationship of Being with it. (Being and Truth, 198)
Post #21 of my commentary on Heidegger’s anaylsis of Plato’s Theaetetus, written in the lead up to my exhibition: The Aviary
Assume then, by way of simile, that our souls contain something like a wax mass, sometimes larger, sometimes smaller, sometimes purer, sometimes more impure, sometimes harder, sometimes softer, and sometimes of just the right quality. [Everything that we immediately perceive, and also everything that we take in and comprehend, is imprinted upon it] … This wax mass, we say, is a gift of the mother of the Muses. (210)
The simile of the wax mass
The soul contains a wax mass, into which all experiences are imprinted, its capacity to receive these impressions varies with the individual: “sometimes larger, sometimes smaller…” We can draw upon the impressions retained in this wax mass, in order to hold before ourselves that which is no longer present, or we are no longer with. We have a “connection of being” to what is absent, in the same way that an artist can “visualise and freely form their work in its entire fullness, prior to and without the help of any outline.” i.e. without a body being present. This capacity is the gift of the mother of the Muses, Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory, which belongs to the essence of the soul as a “primordial dowry.” (210)
Heidegger says this gift of Mnemosyne is not memory as recollection but as the faculty of mindfulness, the innate capacity of the soul to make-present that which is not physically there. In making-present that which is absent, we do not orient ourselves towards an inwardly stored image, but outwards towards the thing itself in its full appearance, which we betake ourselves to “without removing ourselves from our factual location.” (212) Since we do not have the thing itself before us from which to draw its eidos, its look, we orient ourselves to its eidolon, its look-alike [also simulacrum] retained in the wax mass inside the soul.
Thus our stance, through the soul, towards those beings retained for making-present, is that of mnemoneuein, the retaining of what is retainable, which Heidegger describes as a “faculty of the soul.” Yet what is retained is not unchanging, our relationship to it can change, we can forget, or the thing itself may change, so that our knowledge of it becomes distorted.
The making-present of the wax mass is essentially a passive having of what is retained. The simile of the aviary demonstrates a more active making-present of that which is retained.
Post #20 of my commentary on Heidegger’s anaylsis of Plato’s Theaetetus, written in the lead up to my exhibition: The Aviary
The failure of each of the three perspectives to explain the false view leads to their abandonment. In their stead the phenomenon of the pseudes doxa itself leads the way in what is now the main investigation, which seeks to clarify the nature of the “combined comportment” which the phenomenon of the false view demands.
The pseudes doxa is still approached in terms of knowledge, but rather than being thought as something we either know or do not know, what is looked for is what is in the middle of both, which Heidegger calls the “intermediate phenomena” of “coming-to-know.” This coming-to-know is explained through the process of learning; “in the learning process there is always something that one knows and as yet does not know.” (206) Thus, what lies in between knowing and not knowing, coming-to-know, combines the two. This allows a new perspective, the metasu, “what lies in between,” to be opened up, from which the phenomenon of the distorted view is now approached.
Through this new combined perspective, of coming-to-know, the complex duality of doxa is now better understood as requiring a comportment from ourselves “of knowing and at the same time not-knowing.” This in turn leads to the possibility of securing the essence of doxa, pseudes doxa and pseudos.
Rather than a philosophical impossibility, the false view is now understood as having an “intermediate character,” one which reflects the “condition and comportment of man wherein he is somehow related to beings, albeit distortedly.” (208) The phenomenon of the false view is thus intrinsic to our relationship to being, which was shown to belong to the soul. The soul is now revisited, in light of doxa’s combined duality, in a “new double characterisation,” given in the form of two similes.
These similes place us before two sensory images, the first a wax mass and the second an aviary, through which the soul’s capacity to make present what is not before us and its role in allowing us to see what is false are discussed. I shall describe each in turn.
Post #19 of my commentary on Heidegger’s anaylsis of Plato’s Theaetetus, written in the lead up to my exhibition: The Aviary
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.
Post #18 of my commentary on Heidegger’s anaylsis of Plato’s Theaetetus, written in the lead up to my exhibition: The Aviary
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.
Post #17 of my commentary on Heidegger’s anaylsis of Plato’s Theaetetus, written in the lead up to my exhibition: The Aviary
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.