The dictum of Anaximander of Miletus [19-21]

ask about physis, but they are not interrogating “nature,” as if they were natural scientists. Instead, they are asking about beings, whose Being is φύσις—φύειν.

Have we not stressed throughout that for the Greeks the Being of beings means the same as appearance, remaining in apparentness or withdrawing from it, disappearing? Certainly; but that is not in the least contradicted by the characterization of this Being through φύειν and φύσις. On the contrary, here lies merely a quite decisive confirmation of our earlier interpretation of γένεσις and φθορά, provided we understand φύσις in the actual Greek way and do not read into it modern notions according to which what essentially counts in a natural process, thus even in growth, is the causal succession of states and properties. We would thereby miss the essential moment implicit in the Greek use of φύσις and φύειν: growth, coming forth—precisely out of the earth and thus emergence, self-unfolding, self-presentation in the open, self-showing—appearance.

χρόνος φύει—time lets the concealed emerge. It allows appearance. φύειν is the counter concept to κρύπτεσθαι, conceal. (On this basis we understand the pronouncement of Heraclitus (D 123): ἡ φύσις κρύπτεσθαι φιλεῖ—beings contain an intrinsic striving to self-concealment. That is possible only if beings as beings are at once appearance; only what appears and can appear, i.e., can show itself, can also conceal itself.)

What do we draw from the passage in Sophocles for the characterization of time? Time stands in relation to all beings and specifically to their Being; the office and essence of time is to let beings appear and disappear. (Cf. the connection between time and sun, light and darkness.) Time ever measures out to beings their Being, their appearing and disappearing. Time places before (present), takes back (past), and holds back (future); cf. in contrast the emptying and disempowering of the essence of time to a form of numerability. Time—here what measures out Being, time ever provides the “syntax”—τάσσω, “to allocate place”—time is the allocative in general, τάξις Being which a being possesses. Time: the giving of measure to Being; thus our translation: “according to the measure of time.” It is not a question of the order and sequence of succession and of its numerical calculation and stipulation.

Sophocles therefore also calls time ἀναρίθμητος; in the full context, that does not simply mean “innumerable,” as if to say that there is no end to counting and numbering time. Counting and numbering are not at issue here at all; instead, the meaning is: time is outside the realm of calculation. With regard to time, precisely as what brings and takes away beings, all human calculation and planning fail. Time is μακρός, not long in the sense of mere endless duration, but