THE ESSENCE OF TRUTH
what we perceive πρῶτον, before everything else; it is what we apprehend first, and not by chance but necessarily so.
The third step sets out from here, and asks (186 a 2 f.):
Ποτέρων οὖν τίθης τὴν οὐσίαν; τοῦτο γὰρ μάλιστα ἐπὶ πάντων παρέπεται.
'So then, to which of the two [the moments of the relationship of perceiving to the perceived] do you assign being? For this, more than anything else, already belongs to all things.'
In this concise characterization of being (which we shall encounter again later) every word is important. We already know that everything belonging to the excess is κοινόν, common to all the individual modes of sensory perception. The discussion is again introduced (as with the first step) by showing that being comes first, for all the other determinations such as sameness, difference, otherness etc. are already in themselves being-the-same, being-different, being-other. Among these κοινά, being has priority as always already assumed and present. Whatever we perceive by seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, shows itself to also have, somehow and above all, the character of a being [Seienden], in some sense of being [Sein]. Being is what is least not-there, i.e. it is what can never be gotten rid of so to speak, when we perceive something through the senses, and indeed ἐπὶ πάντων: the comprehensive function of being with regard to all regions of the perceivable. Whatever we imagine, perceive, think, posit, already has the character of a being.
This curious, comprehensive intrusiveness of being, over and into all regions of the given and perceivable, distinguishes it precisely as what belongs to the perceivable 'first of all' (πρῶτον), as there, παρά, i.e. present, as what 'presences' ['anwest'] whenever beings show themselves (not just when we apprehend them!). This, apparently, teaches us nothing about what being is as such, but only about how it behaves so to speak.
The question must now be answered as to whether being is perceived through a bodily organ or through an organ-free comportment, immediately by the soul itself. Theaetetus answers:
Ἐγὼ μὲν ὧν αὐτὴ ἡ ψυχὴ καθ᾽ αὑτὴν ἐπορέγεται.
'In my view, οὐσία belongs to what the soul, through and by itself, strives for.'
Schleiermacher translates ^opeyeiat in the wrong way, and misses the problem, when he says: it belongs to what the soul conceives [erfafit]8 through itself; the Greek word is not Xa^jidvei, but ^nopeyeiai.