Lecture 7

Lecture 7

But it is not just things that present themselves in their looks to human being for their estimation as being valuable, estimable; human beings too present themselves to each other in the look (ei)=doj) of their worthiness which they mutually estimate. The dimension of human worth within which humans reveal themselves to each other could be called that of worthiness or esteem, which comprises all those aspects of regard, respect, honour, recognition, appraisal, appreciation related to human estimation including all the negations of these such as disregard, disrespect, contempt, lack of recognition, disparagement, depreciation. This dimension of esteem or second-person being is one of the manifold folds in the unfolding of the openness of being. Just as things do not present themselves in their being to human being simply in a neutral, 'value-free' way, so too, humans do not present themselves as human beings to each other outside the dimension of worthiness or esteem. Such 'value estimation' of others is not superadded to a neutral or 'objective', 'value-free' cognisance of the other, but rather, the being of human beings for each other is always and fundamentally estimable.

Truth in the second person: showing-off

What is estimated in the self-showing of human individuals to each other? How is such self-showing possible? Just as there is an a)pofa/nsij of beings as such to human being in which beings show themselves as what they are in their truth, so too is there an a)pofa/nsij of human beings for each other which is rather an a)pofai/nesqai in the middle or medium voice. A)))pofai/nesqai with respect to humans means 'to make a display of myself', 'to show off' myself in my abilities to others. Such showing-off is analogous to the self-showing of beings as such in what they are. The analogy is held together and brought to unity through the manifold openness of being itself within which beings can disclose themselves in either the third, second or first persons. The truth of being or a)lh/qeia is folded threefold into the first, second and third persons which we know from grammar, grammar itself being a Greek invention based implicitly on Aristotelean metaphysics, and thus itself a reflection of ontological structures first uncovered by Greek philosophy. Human beings as such ineluctably share the world within which beings disclose themselves, human beings show off for the gaze of others, and each individual is aware of itself as a self. Such a sharing of the openness of being is the condition of possibility for human beings also congregating around the pole of the po/lij and sharing a way of life in association with each other. The mark of human being as having the logos, i.e. to\ z%=on lo/gon e)/xon, and thus sharing the openness of being, is also the mark that makes and enables human beings to associate with each other in a shared way of life as z%=a politika/ in exchange and intercourse in the various senses of the word.

The a)pofa/nsij in which human beings engage as an a)pofai/nesqai, a showing-off, is a striving for recognition by others, a striving to stand high in their estimation rather than being disparaged. The individual is who it is not merely for itself or kaq" au(to, but first mediated through the reflection in others' regard. The individual comes to stand in its look of who it is for others and strives also to find itself in the reflection in their regard. Such a striving makes the individual lack a stand for itself, i.e. makes it unselbständig in its inclination toward others. For this reason, Aristotle says that esteem cannot be the final end of living well because esteem lies with the others, not with oneself:

dokei= ga\r e)n toi=j timw=si ma=llon ei)=nai h)\ e)n t% timwme/n%, ta)gaqo\n de\ oi)kei=o/n ti kai\ dusafai/reton ei)nai manteuo/meqa (Eth. Nic. Book I v. 1095b25).

It [esteem] seems to lie more in those esteeming than in the one esteemed, but we inkle that a good must be something proper to its owner and not easily taken away.

Just as the striving for (material) goods reveals a lack in human being, so too does the striving for esteem reveal a lack and a dependency on others. Philosophy itself, the striving for wise insight, could perhaps be regarded as the striving to overcome and make oneself independent of these human lacks in bringing to presence for the thinking gaze what always is as it is, to\ a)ei\ o)/n. This is the bio\j qewrhtiko/j, the life of thoughtful contemplation which has withdrawn into an independent stand for itself and no longer relies on recognition by others. The philosophical life does not feel the need to put itself on display in a showing-off in order to stand high in the estimation of others, but rather accords with Epicure's dictum: la/qh biw/saj, "lead your life out of the public eye in the hiddenness of privacy".

Whoness vs. whatness

As it is, however, life in society is at first and for the most part a life of showing-off who one is. Such showing-off in the second person for others has to be distinguished from the self-showing of beings in the third person which can be addressed by the logos. Things show themselves as what they are. Individual humans show themselves off to each other as who they are. The second fold in the truth of being is the dimension of whoness, as distinct from whatness, ou)si/a, which played the leading role in Aristotelean metaphysics. The self-showing as who is not simply a showing of oneself as a human being or as a specimen of a certain kind of human being such as a European or a wealthy person. Self-showing in the case of human beings is a showing-off of self, and the self is individual, always inseparably my own. Being a human in the first person means being ineluctably always my self as this unique individual for whom nobody else can stand proxy. In showing off, this individual uniqueness also has to be shown if I am to genuinely be in the eyes of others.

To be continued...

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