Volume 13, 1998
John M. Berry
The Reliability of Heidegger’s Reading of Plato’s Gigantomachia
At issue is the reliability of Heidegger’s contention that Greek thinking, especially Plato’s, was constricted by an unthought "pre-ontology." "The meaning of being" supposedly guiding and controlling Greek ontology is "Being = presence." This made "the question of the meaning of ousia itself" inaccessible to the Greeks. Heidegger’s Plato’s Sophist is his most extensive treatment of a single dialogue. To test his own reliability, he proposes "to demonstrate, by the success of an actual interpretation of [the Gigantomachia], that this sense of Being [as presence] in fact guided [Plato’s] ontological questioning . . .". I will show Heidegger’s strategy in connecting what he takes to be Plato’s naive pre-ontology — Being = Presence — to the ontology of the Gigantomachia — Being = Power. I will show that Heidegger blatantly misreads the text to make the connection: he completely misses the distinction between bodies and bodiless things. The text makes sense, I will show, if and only if its explicit ontology — Being = Power — is its implicit pre-ontology. Plato wrote his text not to discuss, but to exemplify, Heidegger’s ontology-preontology distinction. He wrote the Gigantomachia for Heidegger, but Heidegger missed it.