Heidegger on the Emotions in the Rhetoric of Aristotle

In BEING AND TIME, Heidegger famously notes that the analysis of the affects (pathe) has taken barely one step forward since book II of Aristotle’s RHETORIC (H139). This Hot Link is an essay on this subject published in Philosophy Today (Dec 2010) – click following here – AgostaHeideggerIssue4 2010-Agosta

Heidegger on Aristotle's Rhetoric

Heidegger on Aristotle’s Rhetoric

The occasion for this reengagement with the possibility of a ‘step forward’ is the availability of Heidegger’s lecture course at the University of Marburg in 1924 on the Basic Concepts of Aristotelian Philosophy. This course includes a detailed analysis of book II of the RHETORIC as volume 18 of Heidegger’s Gesamtausgabe (2002) just translated (2009). Here Heidegger’s penetrating but sparse remarks in BEING AND TIME on Befindlichkeit [‘affectivity’] are deepened and implemented in his reading of Aristotle’s RHETORIC.

The relevance of this reengagement is direct. The dominant view of the affects in contemporary philosophy is arguably the position that affects are an unclearly expressed proposition, including the cognitively articulated propositional attitude. The position of this short paper is that the modern propositional account of the affects is cleared away by and does not survive a reading of Heidegger’s volume 18 on book II of Aristotle’s RHETORIC.

Lest someone think this is a trivial matter, the long and distinguished tradition going back to the Stoics in which affects are indistinct cognitions that require clarification is well articulated in modern times by Anthony Kenny and then in Martha Nussbaum’s monumental Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions. Please click on the above-cited essay for further details. Let me know what you think. Thanks!

Categories: Emotions, Hermeneutics, Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, psychotherapy

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2 replies

  1. Dear Professor Acosta,

    I am a DPhil student researching on Heidegger and the Phenomenology of Moods. I just now discovered your work, which overlaps and anticipates certain themes of my research. (Let me also tell you that I am a former student of Larry Hatab, who is a good friend and mentor!). I shall incorporate your work in my bibliography and read your articles and recently published book on empathy very carefully. I am certain I will benefit from it.

    In the mean time, could you please email me so as to establish a more direct and personal channel?

    Many thanks!

    Best wishes,


    • Thank you for reaching out to me. And for the post.
      It is always a pleasure to honor the contribution of Larry Hatab!
      As requested, please find my contact data in my separately addressed email.
      Once you read the article, please let me know what you think.
      It sounds like we are “fellow travelers” in the matter of Befindlichkeit and empathy.
      Keep me posted on the progress of your work.

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