The Falsity of Doxa

Post #15 of my commentary on Heidegger’s anaylsis of Plato’s Theaetetus, written in the lead up to my exhibition: The Aviary

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 (pseudes doxa).

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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What is Doxa?

Post #14 of my commentary on Heidegger’s anaylsis of Plato’s Theaetetus, written in the lead up to my exhibition: The Aviary

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 Theaetetus, 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” which we have in aisthesis (perception), and the soul’s relationship to being, which we have in dianoia (inner perception). 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 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.

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The Second Answer

Post #13 of my commentary on Heidegger’s anaylsis of Plato’s Theaetetus, written in the lead up to my exhibition: The Aviary

The first part of my commentary on Martin Heidegger’s account of Plato’s Theaetetus, in The Essence of Truth, led 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?

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The First Answer Refuted

Post #12 of my commentary on Heidegger’s anaylsis of Plato’s Theaetetus, written in the lead up to my exhibition: The Aviary

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 Second Answer” posts 13 – 24 of my commentary on Heidegger’s analysis of Plato’s Theaetetus

The Learning of Being

Post #11 of my commentary on Heidegger’s anaylsis of Plato’s Theaetetus, written in the lead up to my exhibition: The Aviary

Towards the end of his enquiry into the nature of perception, Heidegger says a further understanding needs to be brought into focus, one which relates to us as the beings that perceive.

As we have seen perception is characterised as a duality, split between what strikes our senses, which is immediately and naturally given; and our understanding of what was previously called the excess, which is only achieved with effort over time. Similarly we are ourselves split, between our bodily relationship to that which we receive naturally, i.e. from nature, which conditions us; and our struggle to understand being over the course of the history of our being.

Heidegger characterises our being as Dasein, as “being-in-the-world,” this means we are not detached observers, but, from the moment of our birth, subject to the power of nature, experienced as “day and night, land and sea, generation, growth and decline, winter and summer, sky and earth.” We experience nature as something beyond our control, indeed as something which tunes us in our essence, i.e. in our striving for being. We experience this attunedness as “joy and cheerfulness, anxiety and misery.” Yet these moods do not control us, instead it is our Dasein as striving that seizes hold of our bodily being in its powerlessness in the face of nature, and directs it in its striving relationship with being, the ground of our essence. (170)

From this Heidegger says that our understanding of being as striving is not achieved through nature, but by the effort and patience of paideia (learning), a commitment of our authentic selves to striving itself, which is seldom achieved. “This is the reason we find it so difficult to grasp what this word (striving) refers to.” (171)

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The Excess Reversed

Post #10 of my commentary on Heidegger’s anaylsis of Plato’s Theaetetus, written in the lead up to my exhibition: The Aviary

What has already been said about the soul’s capacity to perceive being – through the senses, and as the excess – is returned to, in the form of a contraposition, opposites opposed, spoken by Heidegger in terms of “on the one hand…on the other hand.” (164)

On the one hand in the immediate self-losing perception of what is hard, coloured, audible etc. through our bodily organs, the being of the hard and the coloured; hardness, colouredness are already understood, in a non-regarding and non-conceptual way. On the other hand what has come into view can be looked at, and illuminated in its structure, in terms of its being, what-being, being-opposed etc.

Rather than opposites these operations of the soul belong together. Being, what-being and also colouredness, hardness are always already perceived and in play when we perceive things as coloured, audible. Both the soul’s non-conceptual grasping of being through the senses (aisthesis) and its conceptual perceiving of the excess (dianoia) are held in its striving comportment towards these things, making them “have-able” as coloured and hard.

As a result of this the characterisation of being as the excess is rejected as inadequate, in favour of being as the pregiven, what must already be understood in order that something sensory can be perceived and then further illuminated, extended in its structure, i.e. as being-different, being-one etc. This explains Plato’s understanding of the soul as: “what holds up a region of sight within which everything sensorily perceivable is extended.” (166)

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The Excess Expanded

Post #9 of my commentary on Heidegger’s anaylsis of Plato’s Theaetetus, written in the lead up to my exhibition: The Aviary

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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Striving for the Excess

Post #8 of my commentary on Heidegger’s anaylsis of Plato’s Theaetetus, written in the lead up to my exhibition: The Aviary

As we have seen being belongs to everything perceivable, it is what all perceptions have in common; the question now is, where is it perceived? Is being in the perceivedness of the object or does it belong in some way to the soul? Theaetetus’ answer to this question also gives the characteristic of how the excess is engaged with: “In my view, ousia [being] belongs to what the soul, through and by itself strives for.” (146) The soul has a direct relationship to the excess, which is one of striving.

This striving is the fundamental characteristic of the soul’s relationship to being, and implies an active reaching for something. This contrasts with perception, which Heidegger defines as something we lose ourselves in, in perceiving we accept and have beings. (148) Striving, by definition, does not have the object it strives for, as an activity it is essentially incomplete, never-ending; if we achieve the object of our striving then it comes to an end.

Our immediate perception of beings, things, is non-regarding and non-conceptual. We do not occupy ourselves with beings as such, i.e. their being-blue or being-audible, nor do we grasp their being conceptually, i.e. their being-different, one etc. From this it is clear that in a perception we have beings before us, but not being, the excess. Our connection to being is instead one of striving by the soul, which carries us along, in a relationship which is also called eros.

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The Excess

Post #7 of my commentary on Heidegger’s anaylsis of Plato’s Theaetetus, written in the lead up to my exhibition: The Aviary

The first step towards answering “what organ is in play when we perceive something in respect of both colour and sound?” is to show what is perceived in the situation in which we hear and see at the same time. To enable this Heidegger asks us to place ourselves in the imaginary situation of lying in a meadow, from which we can “see the blue of the sky, while simultaneously we hear the singing of the lark.” Asking how we perceive both together, the answer; we first of all perceive both as existing, i.e. as being, then that they are different from each other, “colour is one being, sound the other,” both the same as themselves, which also makes them countable. All that is thus perceived: “being, being one, different, both, the same, two, one, identity and non-identity,” is in addition to the colour and the sound, and are there as what Heidegger calls “an irremovable excess.” (135)

The identification of the excess, that which is there in addition to what is seen, heard etc. leads to the understanding that it is something that all our sensory perceptions, colours, sounds, tastes, touch have in common. Socrates then repeats his question: “with what sense-organs do you perceive this common element?” (138) This is asked because it has been shown that everything perceivable is perceived through a bodily organ. The excess, that which we perceive over and above what we see, hear etc, is common to all things, yet there is not a recognisable passageway to it, but there must be.

Dianoiein – inner perception
Theaetetus answers this question saying there is no special organ for perceiving the excess, the soul itself views the excess, while the sense organs give the soul access to colour, sound etc. Therefore the intrinsic duality of things, their physical properties and their being, are combined and seen in a unity by the soul, but which also has the capacity to separate them. This seeing of the excess by the soul is called dianoiein and is defined as the capacity “to look at a thing, thereby perceiving something about it,” a kind of inner perception. This seeing of the excess in dianoiein is “perceived so self-evidently and immediately that at first we do not pay the least attention to it.” (136)

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