Being-with: A Heideggerian Reading of Sociality and Becoming in The Odyssey


Zinzi Edmundson

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In his recent work on Homer?s Iliad, Professor Damian Stocking suggests that the sorrow of Achilles stems from his inability to effectively and consistently ?be? in the world as a res agens , an effect-producing agent. By the opening of the Odyssey, however, Achilles? failures already seem self-evident, as Odysseus refuses the stagnant stability of immortality on Calypso?s island in favor of worldly ?becoming?. Whereas Achilles fails to achieve a stable existential foothold in the world, and ultimately chooses the stasis of Hades and to ?live on? through kleos, Odysseus embraces the flux, as a necessary condition of ?being in the world?. While the Iliad is largely a story of Achilles? desire for ?being?, the Odyssey is a story of constant change and ?becoming?. Yet, the notion of ?becoming? is ambiguous, for it could imply Aristotle?s idea of teleological change, the movement from an acorn to an oak tree. I would like to suggest, however, that the sense of ?becoming? found in the Odyssey is actually more like the more radical one suggested by Martin Heidegger in Being and Time. Whereas an Aristolean reading might describe Odysseus? changes over the narrative as a striving for an end, his own home, I would like to suggest that Odysseus? journey home is not an end in itself; it is motivated by his sense, as Dasein (there-being) of his own finitude, of his Being-in-the-world, of his openness to time and of his existence as a series of potentialities and projects. We find the Odyssey to be a story not merely of an archaic ancient hero?s fantastical adventures, but a negotiation of issues as relevant to us as to the ancient Greeks, that of Being-in-the-world.


Damian Stocking




Ford Research Endowment

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