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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The First Answer Refuted

It is at this point that the question of whether aisthesis, perception, is the essence of knowledge, as claimed by Theaetetus in his first answer to Socrates, is “decided in the negative.”

Aisthesis “refers to what is given in the senses,” hearing, seeing etc, which, as we have seen, does not give us access to beings, and by extension unhiddenness. Knowledge on the other hand is understood as the possession of truth i.e. the unhiddenness of beings, aletheia, which is achieved through the soul. This leads Socrates to conclude that it is possible to possess being and unhiddenness in this latter way, but not in the former way, therefore “perception and knowledge could never be the same.” (174)

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The Excess Expanded

In order to get a clearer view of what is striven for in this striving Socrates asks Theaetetus:

“[There is contained in authentic striving] being-similar and being-dissimilar, being the same and being-different?”
“And what about being-beautiful and being-ugly, being-good and being-bad?”
“It [the soul] also appears to view the being of these, especially in their relation to one another, reckoning within and for itself, upon the past and present in relation to the future.” (157)

Here the characteristics of being, that which the soul strives for, are expanded to include “being-beautiful and being-ugly, being-good and being bad.” These new being-characteristics bring things closer to us as what they are for us, they account for how things make us feel, whether they elevate or depress us. We are attuned in advance to the delight and non-delight of beings, which is “part of the region of perceivability that surrounds us.” (159)

It is in this region of perceivability that the relationship between the soul and what it strives for, being, is maintained in a form of seeing that is similarly striving. This is the scopic a “goal-directed seeing” that looks towards the object of seeing, the skopos with a preformed intention. What is looked at is not viewed in order to see it, but in order to authorise the stance, the comportment we take towards what is before us.

Whether we see them as good, bad or indifferent, this scopic seeing of the many understandings of being we have in the excess is always seen for something. Returning to the meadow that Heidegger placed us in earlier, in order to perceive the blue of the sky and song of the lark; these are experienced in their togetherness. The soul in its scopic seeing goes back and forth between these connections, from what is there to what it is for; in this case “delight.” “We delight in the natural blue-existing sky and in the singing-existing bird.” (136) In this sense the soul’s striving has a further character, that of the analogical, “ana” to go back and forth, and “logos,” to gather, to collect something in its connections.

In the background of this activity is temporality, the soul’s striving relationship to being is “intrinsically a relationship to time.” (162)

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