Plato's Sophist [62-64]

Σοφία is carried out in pure knowledge, pure seeing, θεωρεῖν—in the βίος θεωρητικός. The word θεωρεῖν was already known prior to Aristotle. But Aristotle himself coined the term θεωρητικός. The word θεωρεῖν, θεωρία, comes from θεωρός, which is composed of θέα, "look," "sight," and ὀράω, "to see." Θέα, "sight," which allows the look of something to be seen, is similar in meaning to εἶδος. Θεωρός then means the one who looks upon something as it shows itself, who sees what is given to see. The θεωρός is the one who goes to the festival, the one who is present as a spectator at the great dramas and festivals-whence our word "theater." The word θεωρία expresses "seeing" in a twofold way. The history of the meaning of this expression cannot be exhibited here in more detail. Let us only refer to the fact that in the time immediately prior to Plotinus, in the second and third centuries, θεωρία was so interpreted that one could say: in θέω- resides the stem θεῖον, θεός; θεωρεῖν thus means: to look upon the divine. This is a specific Greek etymology, given, for example, by Alexander Aphrodisius. We have here a re-interpretation, which has its ground in certain statements of Aristotle, though it does not touch the genuine meaning of the word. The Latin translation of θεωρία is speculatio, which means pure onlooking; "speculative" thus means the same as "theoretical." The word θεωρία then played a large role in theology, where it was opposed to ἀλληγορία: θεωρία is that consideration which lays out the historiographical facts, just as they are, prior to all ἀλληγορία; θεωρία becomes identical with ἱστορία. Finally it becomes identical with biblical theology and with theology pure and simple. Later the translation of θεωρία as theologia speculativa presents the precise opposite of exegetical theology. That is one of those peculiar accidents which wry often arise in the history of meanings.

We will now attempt a concrete understanding of σοφία. Aristotle has dealt searchingly with σοφία in: 1.) Nicomachean Ethics, Book VI, chapters 6-13; 2.) Nicomachean Ethics X, chapters 6- 1 0 (in conjunction with εὐδαιμονία); and 3.) Metaphysics, Book I, chapters 1-2. We already stressed that Aristotle did not invent the conception of σοφία as the ultimate possibility of Dasein but only made it explicit out of the natural understanding of Greek Dasein itself. We want first to travel this path with Aristotle and to see how a tendency to σοφία and the preliminary stages of it are prepared in Greek Dasein itself. This consideration of the preliminary history of σοφία within natural Dasein is carried out in Aristotle's Metaphysics I, 1-2.3

3. See the appendix.