An Introduction to Husserl's Phenomenology by Jan Patočka

By Jan Patočka

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Platonic speech is thus itself a strange speech, infected by the strangeness of Socrates, since it speaks only in order to enforce its own silence, to make apparent the necessity of that silence. It thus becomes possible to hear the silence of Plato, as his own text announces that silence. But have we therefore grasped the conditions of this silence? Do we know how it comes to be imposed upon him and thus upon us? Are we able to question the ground of this necessity? Achieving a perspective on what establishes the impossibility of this speech presupposes being able to question such a ground, for in no other way can it appear as a decision, as something contingent.

Yet Socrates is not just subjected to this operation, not merely an effect of it. He appears also as its originator, as one who withdraws in his own appearance. As this strange appearance, Socrates holds a placeless place, indicating an uncanny and tragic doubling of nature in human life. Attending to this doubling of nature in the figure of Socrates leads to a different way of reading Plato, just as this way of reading Plato proves to open up the doubling itself. Before pursuing this reading further, I want now to show briefly how the most traditional account of Socrates, far from denying this descent, can also be seen to consist in its continual confirmation, whether knowingly or not.

But if it is then assumed that poetry, like the ethical løgoq, also remains oriented toward the good, although in its own distinctive way, how then can poetry be persuasive by seeking to address what is general? The use of the proper name, according to this passage in the Poetics, does not pertain to the individual as a singularity at all, as an irreplaceable occurrence. It is as if the proper name would belong to nobody because it must pertain to everybody. This is what the tragedians are talking about when they present Oedipus and Antigone, Iphigenia and Orestes.

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