Plato's Sophist [157-158]

§23. Φρόνησις and νοῦς1 (Nic. Eth. VI, 12).

a) Νοῦς in σοφία and in φρόνησις. The double direction of
νοῦς. Σοφία νοῦς → πρώτα; φρόνησις: νοῦς → ἔσχατα. The
practical syllogism. Practical νοῦς as αἴσθησις.

ἔστι δὲ τῶν καθ᾽ ἕκαστα καὶ τῶν ἐσχάτων ἅπαντα τὰ πρακτά· καὶ γὰρ τὸν φρόνιμον δεῖ γινώσκειν αὐτά (Nic. Eth. VI, 12, 1143a32ff.). Ἔσχατον literally means the outermost limit, and here more precisely it refers to the outermost limit of λογίζεσθαι, hence that in which discussion comes to an end, where in a certain sense it stands still. In Book VII of his Metaphysics, within a determination of ποίησις in the broadest sense, which includes πρᾶξις, Aristotle offers a brief illustration of the ἔσχατον, and we can carry it over without further ado to πρᾶξις. He describes there a deliberation within τέχνη, the διανοεῖν of the ἰατρός. γίγνεται δὲ τὸ ὑγιὲς νοήσαντος οὕτως: ἐπειδὴ τοδὶ ὐγίεια, ἀνάγκη εἰ ὑγιὲς ἔσται τοδὶ ὑπάρξαι, οἷον ὁμαλότητα, εἰ δὲ τοῦτο, θερμότητα: καὶ οὕτως ἀεὶ νοεῖ, ἕως ἂν ἀγάγῃ εἰς τοῦτο ὃ αὐτὸς δύναται ἔσχατον ποιεῖν. εἶτα ἤδη ἡ ἀπὸ τούτου κίνησις ποίησις καλεῖται, ἡ ἐπὶ τὸ ὑγιαίνειν (Met. VII, 7, 1032b5ff.). "Since such and such is the healthy state of a man or of an organ in question, then, insofar as the man or the organ is to become healthy, this and that must be present at the outset; and if this and that must be at hand, then so must these others, etc. And in this way the ἰατρός, keeps on deliberating until he leads the deliberation and himself to that which he himself can do as the outermost, i.e., to the point at which he can intervene with a treatment."2 The ἔσχατον is that moment of the Being of concrete beings with which the intervention of the doctor begins, and, conversely, it is that at which the deliberation and discussion come to a standstill. Then the further procedure will only be ποίησις, the treatment itself. The ἔσχατον is the outermost limit of the deliberation and in that way is the presentifying of the state of affairs with which the action begins.

We have seen that Aristotle calls even the πρακτά ἔσχατα. How are these ἔσχατα themselves grasped in the deliberation of φρόνησις? To what extent does there reside in φρόνησις, as a λογίζεσθαι, a grasping of beings, one which, as a grasping, transcends λόγος? To what extent is there in φρόνησις νοῦς, νοεῖν? Aristotle brings out this phenomenon by means of a comparison with σοφία. καὶ ὁ νοῦς τῶν ἐσχάτων ἐπ' ἀμφότερα· καὶ γὰρ τῶν πρώτων ὅρων καὶ τῶν ἐσχάτων νοῦς ἐστὶ καὶ οὐ λόγος (Nic. Eth. VI, 12, 1143a35ff.). The straightforward discernment of the ἔσχατα is possible from two sides; νοῦς can, in a double direction, grasp what is outermost.

1. Title in Heidegger's manuscript.

2. Heidegger's paraphrasing translation.