Plato's Sophist [135-136]

The Dasein of man is not something ordained to be ἀεί, whereas the λευκόν or the εὐθύ is τὸ αὐτὸ ἀεί (a24), "always identical." These are ontological determinations which always are what they are; therefore they are σοφόν, an object of σοφία. If we say that σοφία is concerned with such beings, ones which are αὑτῷ ὠφέλιμον, then there would be many σοφίαι, one for man, one for animals, etc. The identification of φρόνησις and σοφία would be legitimate, provided man is ἄριστον τῶν ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ (a21f.), i.e., provided he is, "of all the beings in the world, a being in the most proper sense." The question whether φρόνησις itself is σοφία must in principle be oriented toward beings which are the concern of both φρόνησις and σοφία; it must be oriented toward the ἀκρότατον ἀγαθόν. εἰ δ' ὅτι βέλτιστον ἄνθρωπος τῶν ἄλλων ζώων, οὐδὲν διαφέρει (a33f.). "That man, compared to other living things, is the βέλτιστον does not matter in the least." For there are still other, much more divine beings ἓν τῷ κόσμῳ than human Dasein. καὶ γὰρ ἀνθρώπου ἄλλα πολὺ θειότερα τὴν φύσιν (a34f.). There are still θειότερα τὴν φύσιν—φύσις means here the same as οὐσία—there are beings other than human Dasein which are still more properly present, considered in terms of their mode of presence. Θεῖον denotes here simply the higher mode of Being of a being. It has nothing to do with religion or God or Aristotle's religiosity. As an expression for the higher mode of Being, θειότερον has a purely and formally ontological sense. This becomes clear from what Aristotle offers as evidence for the "more divine" Being: φανερώτατά γε ἐξ ὧν ὁ κόσμος συνέστηκεν (cf. b1f.), of all the things which make up the "world," that which is the most revealed and wholly uncovered: οὐρανός, ἥλιος, σελήνη, etc. To prove that Aristotle considered the sun a god might very well be difficult. ἐκ δὴ τῶν εἰρημένων δῆλον ὅτι ἡ σοφία ἐστὶ καὶ ἐπιστήμη καὶ νοῦς τῶν τιμιωτάτων τῇ φύσει (b2f.). Φύσις here means the same as οὐσία. Σοφία concerns the τιμιώτατα τῇ φύσει, i.e., that which, with regard to its mode of being present, has the priority and hence is what is most properly present. For Aristotle and the Greeks, as well as for the tradition, beings in the proper sense are what exists always, what is constantly already there. The Greeks made this clear to themselves; today it is simply believed. On the other hand, human Dasein, if it is an ἄριστον, is still not an ἄριστον ἁπλῶς, i.e. φύσει, but only an ἄριστον πρὸς ἡμᾶς. Human Dasein is not ἀεί, always; the Being of man arises and passes away; it has its determinate time, its αἰών.

Now we can begin to see where lies the basis for the privilege of σοφία over φρόνησις. Σοφία has the priority in relation to beings in themselves, insofar as the beings with which it is concerned have for the Greeks ontological priority. Beings come into view on the basis of what in themselves they always already are.

"Φύσις means the emerging sway, and the endurance over which it thoroughly holds sway. [Introduction to Metaphysics 16]"