§27 [192-193]

The manifold characterization of the sophist, which is indeed immediately striking, from the very first reading of the dialogue, and which is illustrated again and again from various sides, has the sense of bringing near to us, quite tangibly, the concrete existence of the sophist within the life of the Greeks. But from that, from the ineluctable factual existence of the comportment of the sophist, which indeed was a preeminent force within the spiritual world of the Greeks, from this unquestionably powerful Being of the comportment of the sophist, it becomes clear at the same time that what he comports himself to, what he as a sophist deals with, is involved in deception and trickery. But insofar as deception and trickery are things which basically are not, things which present non-being as being, the Being of non-beings becomes clear on the basis of the very existence of the sophist. Thus the concrete factual Being of the sophist, the very existence of something like a sophist, demonstrates (to be sure only for a consideration standing on a higher level) that non-beings—delusion, trickery—are.

This insight, that non-beings are, signifies at the same time a revolution in terms of the previous conception, in terms of the previous meaning of Being adhered to even by Plato himself. The interpretation of the mode of Being of the sophist ultimately counts as a demonstration of the Being of non-beings. This demonstration is nothing else than a more radical conception of the meaning of Being itself and of the character of the "not" enclosed therein. And that implies a more original appropriation of the theme of philosophical research. This is not merely set up in the sense of a program but is actually carried out in the course of the dialogue by way of an actual concrete elaboration of the question of Being. This more radical grasping and founding of research into Being entails at the same time a more fundamental interpretation of this research itself, i.e., of philosophizing. Thus the path of a thematic consideration of the Being of non-beings leads back to a consideration of a new, more proper, existence, that of the philosopher. It is telling that what is dealt with thereby is not a determinate type of man, a typology of the various sorts of men; instead, concrete research is carried out, from which the meaning of the philosopher will arise on its own, without Plato having to speak explicitly about it. To answer the question of the meaning of sophistical existence is to co-answer, indirectly, the question of the philosopher.

If we now shift the weight of the questioning to the thematic question of the concept of Being and the transformation of the previous concept of Being, then we face the task of appropriating the position of the consideration which makes present and evident for the first time the givenness of non-beings. It is a matter of demonstrating the states of affairs phenomenologically. We will have to inquire: in what way does the Being of non-beings beings become present and evident?