The Question of the Truth of the Essence [58-60] 54

means lineage, derivation, origin. Only by the prevailing domination of logic did γένος as origin become γένος as class in the sense of the higher universality of the "type."

The essence is that from which a particular thing, and indeed in what it is, has its origin, whence it derives. Therefore the essence of a thing, of any particular whatever, can be conceived as that which the thing already in a certain sense "was" before it became the singular thing it "is." For if there were not already—no matter how—something like table in general, then never could any particular table be fabricated; what the particular table is supposed to be as a table would be altogether lacking. Therefore Aristotle also conceived the essence as the Being (εἶναι) of the particular being, what it—the particular—already was (τί ἦν) before it became this particular. The essence was thus expressed accordingly: τὸ τί ἦν εἶναι.

All these determinations of the essentiality of the essence, τὸ καθόλου (the general), τὸ γένος (the origin), τὸ τί ἦν εἶναι (the Being it was) conceive the essence as that which lies in advance of particular things and so lies at their foundation—ὑποκείμενον.

We are now in a position to understand the statement by which Aristotle begins his own proper examination of the essence as such: λέγεται δ᾽ ἡ οὐσία, εἰ μὴ πλεοναχῶς, ἀλλ᾽ ἐν τέτταρσί γε μάλιστα:1 "The 'essence' {preliminary translation following the usual interpretation} is named (and represented) predominately in four ways, if not still more manifoldly." καὶ γὰρ τὸ τί ἦν εἶναι καὶ τὸ καθόλου καὶ τὸ γένος οὐσία δοκεῖ εἶναι ἑκάστου, καὶ τέταρτον τούτων τὸ ὑποκείμενον:2 "For the 'Being it was' and also the general and likewise the origin seem to form the essence of particular things, and similarly the fourth of the characterizations: the underlying foundation."

That Aristotle speaks here about δοκεῖ ("it seems so") indicates that he himself will not allow these four characterizations of the essence predelineated by Platonic philosophy as determinations of essentiality. How Aristotle specifically decides (eliminating καθόλου and γένος) will be shown in our discussion of that part of his treatise (Met. Z).

1. Aristotle, Metaphysica. Ed. W. Christ, Leipzig 1886. Z 3, 1028b 33ff.

2. Ibid.

Basic Questions of Philosophy (GA 45) by Martin Heidegger