Saturday, May 08, 2010

Halteman-Zwart, Megan. Review of Francisco J. Gonzalez, PLATO AND HEIDEGGER. NDPR (May 2010).

Gonzalez, Francisco J. Plato and Heidegger: a Question of Dialogue. University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 2009. There is broad consensus that Heidegger's 'relationship' with Plato is one of misrepresentation, caricature, and dismissal. Those unsympathetic to Heidegger point to his coercive readings of Plato's dialogues, his single-minded focus on Plato as prototypical metaphysician and his violent use of history of philosophy in general. Those with more sympathy for Heidegger, while acknowledging these points, allow themselves to wistfully imagine what might have been if Heidegger had had the good sense to undertake a meaningful dialogue with Plato's work, rather than merely to force Plato into a role that suited Heidegger's agenda. Few, if any, have devoted significant attention to the many points in Heidegger's lengthy career where Heidegger undertakes sympathetic and profitable engagements with Plato, largely because these charitable readings are hard to fit into the story of Heidegger's Plato as original metaphysician -- a story so forcefully and clearly laid out by Heidegger himself in the only work devoted to Plato which he choose to publish: the 1940 essay 'Platons Lehre von der Wahrheit'. Francisco J. Gonzalez's Plato and Heidegger: a Question of Dialogue makes many important contributions to our view of Heidegger's Plato, but none is more important than its success at complicating this consensus story that Heidegger is merely a bad reader of Plato. Gonzalez's avowed goal is to take the dialogue between Plato and Heidegger further than Heidegger himself was willing or able to go. By undertaking an exhaustive look at both Heidegger's sustained engagements with Plato and passing comments, Gonzalez rounds out our picture of Heidegger's Plato to include many surprising affinities between the two thinkers. In most cases, Gonzalez admirably resists the temptation to downplay the charitable elements of Heidegger's Plato even though attending to these elements calls for a more complicated story. Through the twists and turns of Heidegger's often contradictory accounts of Plato, Gonzalez leads us to a surprisingly clear and compelling conclusion: Heidegger's Plato is substantially more sympathetic than we have come to expect, but there is a deep and abiding difference between the two that presented a persistent road block to Heidegger's reading of Plato; as Gonzalez puts it, "there was something genuinely foreign to Heidegger's thought in Plato's texts, something that Heidegger could not appropriate without fundamentally changing the direction of his own thinking" (2). By the book's conclusion, this obstacle is clear:
While neither Plato nor Heidegger looks for the truth of beings in beings themselves, Plato turns to logoi and how the truth of being manifests itself therein, whereas Heidegger insists on attempting to see and say being directly in a way that bypasses both beings and logoi. (335)
Gonzalez characterizes this as a root difference in their very approaches to thinking being: Plato recognizes that our best efforts will remain 'dialectical/dialogical'; Heidegger persists in aiming towards a 'phenomenological/tautological' approach (345). Due to this fundamentally different orientation, Heidegger is never able to really do justice to Plato's thought. . . . Read the whole review here:

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