The dictum of Anaximander of Miletus [19-21]

as causal generation and degeneration, but as stepping forth and receding, as we said: appearance. If Anaximander speaks of time, then he certainly does so with regard to its connection with this appearance. But then what is meant here by time and by the τάξις of time? This question has never been posed, because precisely this statement by Anaximander sounds so obvious—i.e., for thoughtlessness. It will be brought up that at issue here are indeed γένεσις and φθορά, coming to be and passing away, and precisely in their relation to time; for things come and go in time. Time is indeed precisely the transitory, the temporal in distinction to the eternal. Nothing could be more a matter of course than that Anaximander, when he speaks of γένεσις and φθορά, coming to be and passing away, must then also think of time. On the other hand, γένεσις does not mean “coming to be,” but arrival, appearance, and φθορά does not mean “passing away,” but disappearance, withdrawal from appearance. And time is perhaps then also not an unwinding cable on which each thing has a fixed position such that time would supply precisely the framework of the order of succession.

Indeed, the pronouncement is about nothing like that at all, but is instead concerned with beings as a whole and with the fact that beings bestow on one another compliance and correspondence in consideration of the noncompliance. It is with this that time is brought into connection—time and the noncompliance. Yet indeed we still do not know what that means at all: the noncompliance of beings as a whole. And so it will be difficult to make out what time means here and how its relation to beings as a whole should be grasped. Only one thing might have become clear: the facile bandying about of the contemporary notion of time, a notion that is in addition highly confused and, above all, ungrounded—this procedure leads nowhere and leaves us standing quite outside the content of the pronouncement.

b) Insight into χρόνος by appealing to Sophocles

How should we grasp χρόνος? A simple expedient offers itself. We will ask not Kant but the Greek philosophers themselves what they think about the essence of time. Aristotle has written a great treatise on time. But it will not be of use here, for this treatise articulates precisely that conception of time in which Western thinking about time in philosophy, in the sciences, and in everyday occupations has moved ever since. And Plato also tells us very little, even if it might seem to be much, for between Plato and Anaximander lie two centuries, and not just indifferent ones but ones in which Greek philosophy changed essentially. We will proceed much more surely if we go outside of