Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics [469-71]

We shall initially let Aristotle himself provide us with an answer to the question of how the 'is' stands within the λόγος and what it properly means. Aristotle formulates this answer in his conclusion to Chapter 3 of the treatise De Interpretatione: Αὐτὰ μὲν οὖν καθ’ ἑαυτὰ λεγόμενα τὰ ῥήματα ὀνόματα ἐστι καὶ σημαίνει τι (ἵστησι γὰρ ὁ λέγων τὴν διάνοιαν, καὶ ὁ ἀκούσας ἠρέμησεν) ἀλλ’ εἰ ἔστιν ἢ μή, οὔπω σημαίνει· οὐδὲ γὰρ τὸ εἶναι ἢ μὴ εἶναι σημεῖόν ἐστι τοῦ πράγματος, οὐδ’ ἂν τὸ ὂν εἴπῃς αὐτὸ καθ’ ἑαυτὸ ψιλόν. αὐτὸ μὲν γὰρ οὐδέν ἐστι, προσσημαίνει δὲ σύνθεσίν τινα, ἣν ἄνευ τῶν συγκειμένων οὐκ ἔστι νοῆσαι.21 Translating, and at the same time elucidating, what Aristotle says here is: If we enunciate the time-words in and by themselves, i.e., if instead of "the bird flies" we merely say "flying," then they are nouns which name: 'flying', 'standing', and they mean something. For whoever says or speaks such words in and by themselves—flying—ἵστησι τὴν διάνοιαν, that person brings thought to a standstill, whereas thought is otherwise always a thinking through, is always in motion in the form of asserting: this or that is such and such. (This is why propositional and judgemental thinking is also called διανοεῖν by Aristotle: a thinking that passes through, that proceeds from one thing to another). In merely naming, I do not pass from one thing over to another, but rather thinking stops alongside something and remains standing there; it refers to whatever is named itself. Thinking does not run through. Correspondingly, whoever hears such words pauses (ἠρέμησεν), he rests by that which is named, he does not proceed to something else in the manner in which 'a is b' proceeds. Taken by themselves, therefore, these ways of naming are indeed not without meaning, and yet they do not yet mean, do not yet refer to the fact that what is named, 'flying', is or is not. The words, employed in these ways of naming, do not say that something flies or is flying. Yet what is it that is missing when the verb is used merely as an infinitive, as a name and noun, as it were: flying like a bird, as distinct from is flying? What is referred to by this 'is' that is added on or can be expressed in the form of a verb? Aristotle says negatively, to begin with, that the εἶναι and μὴ εἶναι, this being and not being, do not refer to πρᾶγμα at all, to beings that are such and such, to some matter or thing—not even if you say and name something as being a being [Seiend-sein] in itself and purely for itself. For being in itself is nothing (αύτὸ μὲν γὰρ οὐδέν ἐστι; being and nothing the same). This says that being is not a being, not a thing, nor any thingly property, nothing at hand. Yet it does mean something; when I say 'is' and 'is not', I understand something by it after all. Yet what does τὸ εἶναι mean? To begin with, meaning is also-meaning-in-addition, is σύνθεσίν τινα, a certain synthesis, connecting, uniting, unity. This unity, i.e., being, however, cannot be apprehended and

21. Ibid., 16b 19ff.

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