Plato's Sophist [177-178]

6.) Thus the mode of Being of pure onlooking is the only one which can be loved for its own sake. δόξαι τ' ἂν αὐτὴ μόνη δι' αὑτὴν ἀγαπᾶσθαι· οὐδὲν γὰρ ἀπ' αὐτῆς γίνεται παρὰ τὸ θεωρῆσαι, ἀπὸ δὲ τῶν πρακτικῶν ἢ πλεῖον ή ἔλαττον περιποιούμεθα παρὰ τὴν πρᾶξιν (b1ff.). For in this mode of Being of pure onlooking we do not produce anything else, and we do not look about for anything else, as we do in πρᾶξις, where there is always something else at stake. Hence this mode of Being is then characterized by the fact that it ἐν τῇ σχολῇ εἶναι (cf. b4), "it is in leisure," i.e., in pure tarrying and in genuine presence-to.

7.) This mode of human Dasein is a genuine one only if it λαβοῦσα μῆκος βίου τέλειον (b24): ἡ τελεία δὴ εὐδαιμονία αὕτη ἂν εἴη ἀνθρώπου, λαβοῦσα μῆκος βίου τέλειον (b24f.). It is a genuine one only "if it has been taken up in a complete course of life," i.e., only if it in fact extends over the whole duration of a human existence, hence only if this mode of comportment does not merely determine human existence occasionally but is continuously carried on as the proper one. For what always is, which is thematic in this comportment, is constantly predelineated in such a way that even the presence of Dasein to it is determined as constant and persevering. Herein resides the peculiar tendency of the accommodation of the temporality of human Dasein to the eternity of the world. The abiding with what is eternal, θεωρεῖν, is not supposed to be arbitrary and occasional but is to be maintained uninterruptedly throughout the duration of life. Therein resides for man a certain possibility of ἀθανατίζειν (1177b33), a mode of Being of man in which he has the highest possibility of not coming to an end. This is the extreme position to which the Greeks carried human Dasein.

Only from this point of view, from the wholly determined and clear domination of the meaning of Being as eternal Being, does the priority of σοφία become understandable. Now it is clear why the pure onlooking settles something for the existence of man and why it is the highest in the Greek sense. Our understanding of the ultimate meaning of human existence for the Greeks depends on our seeing how an ethical consideration was for them from the very outset outside of the points of view we know today from traditional philosophies. For the Greeks the consideration of human existence was oriented purely toward the meaning of Being itself, i.e., toward the extent to which it is possible for human Dasein to be everlasting. The Greeks gathered this meaning of Being, Being as absolute presence, from the Being of the world. Accordingly, one cannot force Greek ethics into the mode of questioning of modern ethics, i.e., into the alternatives of an ethics of consequences or an ethics of intentions. Dasein was simply seen there with regard to its possibility of Being as such, whereby neither intentions nor practical consequences play any role.