100 • The Question of the Essence of Being

“actually present,” “constantly present at hand,” “take place,” “come from,” “consist of,” “stay,” “belong,” “succumb to,” “stand for,” “come about,” “prevail,” “have entered upon,” “come forth.” It is still difficult, and perhaps even impossible, because it goes against the essence of the matter, to extract a common meaning as a universal generic concept under which these modes of the “is” could be classified as species. However, a definite, unitary trait runs through all these meanings. It points our understanding of “to be” toward a definite horizon by which the understanding is fulfilled. The boundary drawn around the sense of “Being” stays within the sphere of presentness and presence <Gegenwärtigkeit und Anwesenheit>, persistence and subsistence <Bestehen und Bestand>, staying and coming forth. [70|98]

This all points in the direction of what we ran into when we first characterized the Greek experience and interpretation of Being. If we follow the usual explication of the infinitive, then the expression “to be” gets its sense from the unity and definiteness of the horizon that guides our understanding. In short, we thus understand the verbal noun “Being” on the basis of the infinitive, which in turn remains linked to the “is” and to the manifoldness we have pointed out in this “is.” The definite and particular verb form “is,” the third person singular of the present indicative, has a priority here. We do not understand “Being” with regard to the “thou art,” “you are,” “I am,” or “they would be,” although these all represent verbal inflections of “Being” that are just as good as “is.” We take “to be” as the infinitive of “is.” To put it the other way around, we involuntarily explain the infinitive “to be” to ourselves on the basis of the “is,” almost as if nothing else were possible.

Accordingly, “Being” has the meaning we have indicated, which recalls the Greek conception of the essence of Being—a definiteness, then, which has not come to us from just anywhere, but which has long ruled our historical Dasein.

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