Four Seminars [65–67]

significant synonyms (Aristotle, Metaphysics A): τὰ φαινόμενα, τὰ ἀληθέα. For this reason, it gets us nowhere to translate τὰ ὄντα literally as “the beings.” In so doing, there is no understanding of what is being for the Greeks. It is authentically: τὰ ἀληθέα, what is revealed in unconcealment, what postpones concealment for a time; it is τὰ φαινόμενα, what here shows itself from itself.

A supplementary question regarding the ὑποκείμενον is then posed. How is the experience of a being different when it is understood as ὑποκείμενον from when it is understood as φαινόμενον? Suppose we look upon a particular being, for example a mountain in the Lubéron.66 If it is taken as ὑποκείμενον, then the ὑπὸ names a κατά, more precisely the κατά of a λέγειν τι κατὰ τινός. Of course, the Lubéron mountain does not actually disappear if it is spoken of as a ὑποκείμενον, but it no longer stands there as a phenomenon—no longer to be seen here as giving itself from itself. It no longer presences itself from itself. As ὑποκείμενον it is that about which we speak. Here it is crucial to make a fundamental distinction in regard to speaking, namely by distinguishing pure nomination (ὀνομάζειν) from the making of a proposition (λέγειν τι κατὰ τινός).

In simple nomination, I let what is present be what it is. Without a doubt naming includes the one who names—but what is proper to naming is precisely that the one who names intervenes only to step into the background before the being. The being then is pure phenomenon.

With a proposition, on the contrary, the one making the proposition takes part. He inserts himself into it—and he inserts himself into it as the one who ranges over the being in order to speak about it. As soon as that occurs, the being can now only be understood as ὑποκείμενον and the name only as a residue of the ἀπόφανσις.

Today, when all language is from the outset understood as proposition, it is very difficult for us to experience naming as pure nomination, outside of all κατάφασις and in such a way that it lets the being presence as pure phenomenon.

But what is “phenomenon” in the Greek sense? According to the modern way of speaking, “phenomenon” for the Greeks is precisely what cannot become a phenomenon for modernity; it is the thing itself, the thing in itself. Between Aristotle and Kant there lies an abyss. Here one must guard oneself against any retrospective interpretation. And thus the decisive question must be posed: in what way are τὰ ὄντα and τὰ φαινόμενον synonymous for the Greeks? Just how are what presences and what shows itself from itself (what appears) united? For Kant, such a unity is simply impossible.

For the Greeks, things appear.

For Kant, things appear to me.

66 Mountain range near Le Thor.