§4 [6-7]


Positive: ponere—"posit," "lay"; positurn—what has been "laid down," what already lies there. Positive sciences are those for which what they deal with, what can become their object and their theme, already lies there. Numbers are already there, spatial relations exist, nature is at hand, language is present, and so is literature. All this is positurn, it lies there. It is a being; everything uncovered in science is a being. Positive sciences are sciences of beings.

But is that not a determination pertaining essentially to every science, thus also to philosophy as critical science? Or is not that which philosophy makes its theme pre-given to it? Is its object-and that which is to become an object-first thought up, first posited, or even invented, in mere thought? Then again, are not the positive sciences also critical ones? Are they somehow uncritical, unmethodical? Does not critique pertain to every scientific method? Thus if philosophy, too, has a theme and is not capricious invention, is it indeed also a positive science? And conversely, is every non-philosophical positive science, as science, not uncritical but in fact critical science? What then happens to the distinction between positive and critical science?

If the distinction is justified, then "critical" must mean something other than "methodologically cautious and free from prejudice." And if philosophy, too, actually encounters its theme and does not invent it, then it must be possible for something to be made a theme that does not lie there, i.e., is not a being.

§4. The "critical" function of philosophy: to separate and
differentiate beings from Being.

Critical: κρίνειν—"to separate," "to differentiate," in differentiating something from something to make visible both what has been differentiated and what differentiates it. To differentiate: triangle from square, mammal from bird, epic from drama, noun from verb, one being from another—every science is constantly differentiating such things and thereby determining what has been differentiated.

Accordingly, if philosophy is critical science, such that it is preeminently "critical" in character, then there takes place in philosophy a differentiating in a preeminent sense. But what can be differentiated from beings other than beings? What can we still say of beings? They are, and only beings are. They are; they have Being. From beings and in beings what can be differentiated is Being. This differentiation does not concern beings and beings, but beings and Being. "Being"—under that term nothing can be represented. Indeed beings; but Being? In fact, the common understanding and common experience understand and seek only beings. To see and to grasp Being in beings, to differentiate

Basic Concepts of Ancient Philosophy (GA 22) by Martin Heidegger