On the Grammar and Etymology of “Being” • 65

—not only in the doctrines of philosophy, but in the most everyday routines. Because of this, we want to characterize the Greek conception of Being in its first fundamental traits as we follow the Greek treatment of language.

This approach has been chosen intentionally in order to show, through an example from grammar, that and how the experience, conception and interpretation of language that set the standard for the West grew out of a very definite understanding of Being.

The terms πτῶσις and ἔγκλισις mean a falling, tipping, or inclining. [46|64] This implies a dropping-off from an upright, straight stance. But this standing-there, this taking and maintaining a stand that stands erected high in itself, is what the Greeks understood as Being. Whatever takes such a stand becomes constant in itself and thereby freely and on its own runs up against the necessity of its limit, πέρας. This πέρας is not something that first accrues to a being from outside. Much less is it some deficiency in the sense of a detrimental restriction. Instead, the self-restraining hold that comes from a limit, the having-of-itself wherein the constant holds itself, is the Being of beings; it is what first makes a being be a being as opposed to a nonbeing. For something to take such a stand therefore means for it to attain its limit, to de-limit itself. Thus a basic characteristic of a being is its τέλος, which does not mean goal or purpose, but end. Here “end” does not have any negative sense, as if “end” meant that something can go no further, that it breaks down and gives out. Instead, “end” means completion in the sense of coming to fulfillment <Vollendung>. Limit and end are that whereby beings first begin to be. This is the key to understanding the highest term that Aristotle used for Being: ἐντελέχεια, something’s holding-(or maintaining)-itself-in-its-completion-(or limit). What was done with the term “entelechy” by later philosophy (cf. Leibniz), not to mention biology, demonstrates the full extent of the decline from what is Greek.

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