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III. Definition according to Aristotle [13-14]

τιμιωτάτην δεῖ περὶ τὸ τιμιώτατον γένος εἶναι [it is clear that if the divine is present anywhere, it is present in this kind of entity: and also the most noble science must deal with the most noble type of being]; the highest science must be science of the highest, of the first. Τὸ θεῖον means simply beings—the heavens: the encompassing and overpowering, that under and upon which we are thrown, that which dazzles us and takes us by surprise, the overwhelming. θεολογεῖν is a contemplation of the κόσμος (cf. de mundo 391b 4). Let us keep in mind that philosophy, as first philosophy, has a twofold character: knowledge of being and knowledge of the overwhelming. (This twofold character corresponds to the twofold in Being and Time of existence and thrownness.)

Yet with this definition we have come to an initial orientation. For this science itself is not simply obvious. It is not a direct possession like everyday knowledge of things and of ourselves. The πρώτη φιλοσοφία is the ἐπιστήμη ζητοθμένη: the science sought after, the science that can never become a fixed possession and that, as such, would just have to be passed on. It is rather the knowledge that can be obtained only if it is each time sought anew. It is precisely a venture, an "inverted world:" That is, genuine understanding of being must itself always be first achieved.

It belongs to the essence of this science that it must be sought after. There is such knowing only if a search for and propensity toward it is alive, an inclination behind which there is effort and will. This knowledge is the voluntary leaning toward original understanding: φιλο-σοφία. Φιλεῖν means to love in the sense of to be concerned about something trustingly; σοφός means he who understands something, who can "under-stand" a matter, who surveys its possibilities, to whom the thing is transparent, who has grasped it; σοφία denotes the possibility of the correct conceptual understanding of what is essential. So in the Nicomachean Ethics (Z 7, 1141a 12) Aristotle defines σοφία as ἀρετή τέχνης, as the outstanding free disposition over knowing what one is about. "Wisdom," the usual translation, is in the main empty and misleading.

In the same passage it is said about the σοφός (Ibid., <α accesskey="https://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0053%3Abekker%20page%3D1141b">1141b 3ff.): διὸ Ἀναξαγόραν καὶ Θαλῆν καὶ τοὺς τοιούτους σοφοὺς μὲν φρονίμ ους δ᾽ οὔ φασιν εἶναι, ὅταν ἴδωσιν ἀγνοοῦντας τὰ συμφέροντα ἑαυτοῖς, καὶ περιττὰ μὲν καὶ θαυμαστὰ καὶ χαλεπὰ καὶ δαιμόνια εἰδέναι αὐτούς φασιν, ἄχρηστα δ᾽, ὅτι οὐ τὰ ἀνθρώπινα ἀγαθὰ ζητοῦσιν.*


*"This is why people say that men like Anaxagoras and Thales 'may be wise but are not prudent,' when they see them display ignorance of their own interests; and while admitting them to possess a knowledge that is rare, marvellous, difficult and even superhuman, they yet declare this knowledge to be useless, because these sages do not seek to know the things that are good for human beings,' Rackham translation.