Lecture 1

Lecture 1

The intention of the present lectures is to provide an introduction to the phenomenology of manliness. Phenomenology aims at showing up by means of discourse that which shows itself. That which shows itself can be so obvious and self-evident that it is hidden. The task of phenomenological thinking is then to make the obvious questionable.

Such is the case with the phenomenon of manliness. As the word says, manliness signifies the being of manly beings as such. A manly being can be a man, but the word 'man' is not univocal in its meanings. 'Man' can signify mankind in general, or within mankind it can differentiate among humans as in man as distinct from boy or woman. Moreover, a woman can be manly and a man can be womanly. Plainly then, a manly being cannot be identified simply as an adult human being of the male sex. Rather, a manly being is a human being in the mode of being called manliness. We are caught here in a hermeneutic circle. We cannot unambiguously identify the set of beings defined by the term 'manly beings' without knowing clearly what manliness is, but how can we know what manliness is without knowing to what distinct set of beings it applies?

Like all hermeneutic circles, the solution to this dilemma is to pass over the seeming logical difficulties and to simply enter the circle. A phenomenology of manliness asks the question concerning the mode of being of manly beings. Such an investigation is metaphysical or ontological in character. It investigates a certain sort of being in its being, to\ o)\)n $(= o/)/n. Without an understanding of what constitutes a metaphysical or ontological investigation, it is not possible to pursue the project of a phenomenology of manliness. In the present context, such an understanding will be acquired in a kind of learning by doing. By pursuing the question concerning manliness, the metaphysical nature of the exercise should also become clearer.

The approach to the phenomenon of manliness is metaphysical in a further sense that it is bound by the metaphysical tradition originating from Plato and Aristotle. The phenomenon of manliness was not only familiar to the ancient Greeks; it was explicitly investigated in Greek thinking on human being, and this thinking holds sway to the present day even when and especially when we are not aware of it. In Plato's thinking, manliness (a)ndrei/a) is one of the four principal virtues. The Greek word a)ndrei/a, however, is normally translated as 'courage' and set off from its opposite, 'cowardice' or deili/a, but it is formed from the Greek word for 'man', a)nh/r, as distinct from a)/nqrwpoj. A)ndrei/a is the abstract substantivization of a)nh/r, i.e. it means literally the being of man, man-ness. There is also something peculiar about the Latin translation 'virtue' for Greek a)reth/ since it is formed from the Latin word for man, 'vir'. Accordingly, manliness would be one of Plato's four principal 'manlinesses', a rather perplexing, if not to say at first a nonsensical statement.

Plato's thinking on manliness

In order to enter into a phenomenology of manliness, it will be best to return to the extant texts of Plato and Aristotle since this will also enable the phenomenon of manliness to be situated in the context of the metaphysics of human being. It should be said at the outset that the re-reading of Plato and Aristotle undertaken in these lectures with a view to the phenomenon of manliness would be impossible without Heidegger's ground-breaking resuscitation of these thinkers in the twenties of the last century, but explicit references to Heidegger's lectures will be only sparse.

Plato's Politeia or Republic offers a first approach to the phenomenon of a)ndrei/a (manliness). In the present context, the aim is not to offer an exposition of Plato, but rather to employ his text as an aid to getting the phenomenon of a)ndrei/a into view. Since Aristotle's thinking on the same subject matter is often clearer than Plato's, Aristotle's texts will also be drawn on to elucidate Plato. As is usual with fundamental phenomena, it is necessary to take a circuitous route to get the phenomenon of manliness into view. In the fourth book of the Politeia there is a discussion of the four basic 'virtues' (a)retai/) needed for a polis. It must be wise, manly, temperate and just (sofh/, a)ndrei/a, sw/frwn, dikai/a 427e) if the polis is to be "perfectly good" (tele/wj a)gaqh\n 427e). Plato also switches in his terminology between wisdom (sofi/a) and practical sense (phronesis, fro/nhsij 433b) during the course of the discussion in which the "virtue of the polis" (a)reth\n po/lewj) is also transferred to that of the individual.

To be continued...

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