“The Highest Values as Categories”

Concerning Nietzsche 4, page 40.

How we encounter things is contingent upon how we orient ourselves towards them. Because we encounter things as existing for-themselves, as self-standing on their own, we can say of them that they are a “thing”, i.e. a door. The counterfactual implication being, if we did not encounter things as standing-on-their-own, we could not encounter a door as a door. But how could we then encounter it? E.g. if I encounter everything as the product of a world produced to fulfill psychological needs (i.e. the will to power), I encounter the door not as a thing but as a value.

The connection between category and judgment is one of priority. The categories are the modes of encounter, the modalities of engagement, that are presupposed in my comportment and my being concerned with external “things” as objects of concern for me. Because we already encounter the world categorically, which means in accord with how things are public- standing on their own out in the open – we can therefore make categorical assertions (universal judgments, the positing of ideals – the transcendence of the categories becomes the transcendental categories). In other words, the public-ness, or “agorality” of our assertional speech is possible only because we encounter things as public things, standing on their own, and out in the open.

(1) “Categories are ways of addressing the being with regard to its composition.”

We speak, we use categories to describe a being in the way that it appears to us, the way that it is made up – structured, composed. The “with regard to its composition” expresses the double sense of a) the sighting the thing in its essence (einai, ousia, morphe, energia), as it is ‘in itself’, as well as b) the regard as regard (point of view, particularity) determining the composition (as eidos, as it appears to me), determining its possibilities for being-composed in such and such a way, as having a ‘make up’ – its ‘for itself’ or ‘for me’. This instability between the category’s determination of the being’s for-itself as a particular mode of addressing the being, and its’ openness to the being as it is in its composition, in-itself, is the site for coming to grasp categoriality.

(2) “The categories are therefore expressly known as such ways of meditation on what has already been tacitly co-expressed and addressed in the usual modes of addressing and discussing beings”

Because we speak always-already categorically, the categories themselves, as philosophical concepts, are our way of coming to reflect, and reflexively recognize the particular manner that being is always already come-across in our everyday usual ways of speaking. Stilling the categories always has the structure of retrieve rather than derivation from principle because when we talk about ‘the categories’, we are articulating something already implicitly present in our comportment towards beings. Knowing the categories is therefore a “meditation” in which we can come to know the categoriality of our usual modes of address, and know it explicitly (“as such”).

We have here named two modes of comporting towards beings in language – addressing and discussing. These two moments of language – logos and dia-logos – are essential to man’s being for both Heidegger and Aristotle. For Heidegger, dasein’s being is always already a being-with-others; for Aristotle, man is always political – and even the highest form of life is that of shared philosophical activity. Both of these moments, assertion and discussion, are fundamental to the being of man in language. They can never be strictly separated – neither is sustained without the other: every assertion presumes a listener and the possibility of response. Even a strictly logical (as if de-humanized) proposition about a state of affairs has its truth outside of itself as a response to it, over against it. Even assertions made by a single person in a room, by themselves, only make sense as part of a reflexive personal dia-logue.

(3) “The basic forms of our everyday response to beings is assertion. Aristotle’s Logos Apophantikos, a saying that is capable of letting the being show itself for itself.”

What is ‘basic form’? Not the only form, or even the most common form. According to Heidegger’s own account of Des Interpretatione, Aristotle’s text in question, Logos Semantikos, not Logos Apophantikos is the basic form of logos – Logos Apophantikos is a derivative form. Heidegger emphasizes this in many of his early 20’s lecture courses, although by 1927 in Being and Time, much less emphasis is made on the importance of Logos Semantikos – and here, 1940, Logos Semantikos is not even mentioned – we might ask Why? The answer is not so difficult: because although we may not initially and for the most part explicitly speak in the logical form of assertion – such as in prayers, requests, expressions of happiness etc…(These are all semantike because they signify something, but not apophantikos because they don’t signify something in accordance with what it is but rather in accordance with the particularity of some relationship one bears towards the thing), Logos Apophantikos becomes the basic form of our response to beings. Again, what does ‘basic’ mean here? It means that it is on the basis of assertional speech that our response to beings as a whole is determined. Every utterance becomes self-construed as a statement. I.e. every expression of feeling becomes a factual report about one’s inner mental state, and every request becomes an assertion of the reality of an obligation. Thus, while logos apophantikos may appear as a special case in the sense that assertional statements are just one kind of utterances among many others, all of which signify something, it is the basic one because it expresses the tendency in history towards the positing of ideals, of universals. One might say that because language is public, it tends away from expressing things only with regards to a particular aspect, and towards addressing things “with regards to their composition”, i.e. their determinate presence which denies any particularity to the aspect from which they are addressed.

(4) “Guided by such Logos, Aristotle was the first to articulate the “categories,” which are not expressed in assertions but sustain all assertions.”

The categories are present in all assertions, not as the thing articulated but as the ground for assertional articulation. Their ‘presence’ as something to be retrieved makes assertion possible. So, for example, it is because we encounter beings as having place, quantity, quality, etc… that we can make assertions about their number, colour, location etc… The categoriality of our usual, initial ‘response’ to beings makes it possible to speak about them in an assertional, anti-particularistic manner. The public-ness of our response to being, the response’s ‘in-common’ makes the categories ‘universal’. Transcendence (over, beyond the particularity of my experience are the transcendent categories which are anterior to experience in the sense that they constitute the modality of my experience), becomes “the transcendental” – asserted as itself a determinate presence, reified as the world of forms, or as necessary psychological dispositions.

(5) “For Aristotle, it was not a question of a “system” of categories.”

The categories for Aristotle are not the a priori conditions of experience, but rather the retrieve of the many ways being is said. The essence (single nature) of being is something which is comprehensible only by retrieving what is in common to the many ways we already speak about it (ousia, eidos, energia).

(6) “Coming after Plato, he faced the most ennobling task of first showing that such categories belong to the domain (as prote philosophia) primarily and properly has to ponder.”

What is first philosophy for Aristotle? Metaphysics: the Science of being qua being. For Plato, being is hen, the one, and first philosophy contemplates eidos, appearance, as idea. Heidegger writes in this period (Essence and Concept of Physis in Aristotle) that Plato was overcome by the force of eidos and understood it as itself self-sustaining, existing on its own, i.e. the world of forms. Philosophy for Plato is thus the positing and defense of positions concerning “What are the things that are” (i.e. Plato same as Quine). But, for Aristotle, being is understood as most essentially energia – activity, and philosophy has the proper task of contemplating being through the way we can know it: the way we speak about it. Being is shown up for Aristotle in language – which is why for Aristotle every dismissal of a Platonic position has the conclusion, “we speak therefore this way about such matters, and those that speak otherwise contradict themselves”. For Aristotle, being is said in many ways, but not equivocally (i.e. without committing the fallacy of equivocation) because all of these ways relate to a single nature (Metaphysics 1003 a34). The ways in which being is said are called the categories (compare the list of categories at 1068a 9-12 with the account of the many ways being is said at 1003b 5-11).’

For Aristotle, we know being according to the many ways it is said: we know what it is in accordance with how it is said – categoriality is the accordance of an assertion (being is said) with its ground (being is). Therefore, inquiry into the categories is inquiry into the ground of being as being’s making itself available for us.

(7) “Assertion, ‘enuncio,’ is then understood as judgment.”

Refers back to the “basic-ness” of logos apophantikos: assertion need not always be understood as judgment – an assertion could be a request (“can I have some more please”) or a refusal (“no!”), but it becomes possible to understand any assertion (phasis) only as a judgement (kataphasis/apophasis), when what being is, is to be accessed through the ways it is said publically. Since being revealed in language, all language is about being, all language has content over against which it can be judged, so every assertion is taking a stand on a position. I.e. When you are asked “how are you feeling” your response is a judgment, a “take” on your current emotional state, about which you may be uncertain – so it becomes possible to response, “I don’t know how I am feeling” not only because you don’t have a grip on your emotions, but because making a judgment is the paradigmatic form of assertion, it does not occur to you to simply express emotional confusion as “how I am doing”. The proof of the pervasiveness of assertional judgment is that even if I were to express such confusion as my emotional state, this expression takes the form of a 2nd order report about some determinate chaos which I have a grip on as a determinate presence picked out by the category “confusion”, which is understood by everyone in public.

(8) “The difference modes of address – categories – lie hidden in the various modes of judgment.”

Because the categories are the anterior modes of response to being, that make categorical speech the kind of speech appropriate to the anterior address, these modes of anterior addressing are always present but not explicitly in language – and since judgment is simply me pointing out something as it is such that everyone could see it, the various ways in which we accomplish this pointing out are achievable on the basis of various shared modes of address. Without these shared modes of address, there would be no public.

(9) “Therefore, Kant, in his Critique of Pure Reason teaches that the table of categories must be acquired through the guidance of the table of judgments.”

Kant: “Aristotle’s search for these fundamental concepts was an effort worthy of an acute man. But since he had no principle, he rounded them up as he stumbled on them…”(A81/B107)

But although Kant has “a principle”, the principle is the same as Aristotle’s – judgment, or, how we speak about things – our way of speaking about them, the manner of language:

“The same function that gives unity to the different representations in a judgment also gives unity to the mere synthesis of different representations in an intuition.(A79/B104-105)

2 thoughts on ““The Highest Values as Categories”

  1. Why do you interpret “Will to Power” as “psychological needs”? Could you elaborate on your interpretation of Nietzsche by giving some textual evidence for this identification?

    Could you please repost the quote in question? My computer displays an html error in your post where I presume you tried to include the quote. I attempted to look up what I assume to be aphorism 4, on page 40 of Writings from the Late Notebooks, but the Google preview of WLN doesn’t include page 40.

    I’m hesitant to make a comment about where your post ends up, when I am at a loss as to where you began, but this appears to be an interpretation of Nietzsche that ends up in Kant.

    I don’t understand why you ascribe Hegelian language, and by extension the subject-object dialectic found in the Phenomenology of Spirit to Nietzsche, when it is clear that Nietzsche has moved towards Schopenhauer’s subject-object relation.

    “…when we talk about ‘the categories’, we are articulating something already implicitly present in our comportment towards beings.” This is a Kantian formulation. Even assuming I accept your account of the development of the categories, which runs from Aristotle to Kant, oddly enough going through Heidegger, it would be wrong to ascribe this as fundamental to Nietzsche’s thought. I think your account of the categories has value, including the insights about language.

    However, I’ll briefly interject with another minor point of disagreement. I don’t read Heidegger’s insight about our being historically situated, as a call for a specific set of pre-perceptive universal categories. Being is an aperture which particular relations of beings play out, which in turn effects the dialog we might have about Being, but your ascription of Kantian categories is too rigid. Heidegger can accept them as another historical moment, it can’t become transcendental in the sense that the thought and perception of different eras depends on it, because that the opposite of Heidegger’s insight into the epochical nature of Being.

    Returning to the main complaint – I don’t have a problem with your account of the development of the categories, but your post start by interpreting Nietzsche and we shouldn’t read him as Kantian. Part of the reason I accept your account is because it traces the inherent metaphysical bias of western thought that Heidegger sought to uncover, but Nietzsche is the reaction and cure to that thought. An aspect of his thinking cannot be dependent on it. I don’t understand how or why you are trying to relate Nietzsche to Kant, when Nietzsche is the (self-proclaimed) inversion of Kant and Socrates.

  2. “Concerning Nietzsche 4, page 40.”

    The post interprets, sentence by sentence, a paragraph from Heidegger’s lecture course on Nietzsche.

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