Plato's Sophist [208-209]

§30. Aristotle on philosophy, dialectic, sophistry (Met. IV, 1 -2).1

a) The idea of first philosophy. First philosophy as the
science of ὂν ᾗ ὄν. Delimitation of first philosophy versus
the special sciences. Being as φύσις τις. The ancients'
research into the στοιχεῖα. Further structures of Being. First
and second philosophy.

The fourth Book of the Metaphysics begins, apparently quite dogmatically, with the assertion: Ἔστιν ἐπιστήμη τις ἣ θεωρεῖ τὸ ὂν ᾗ ὄν καὶ τὰ τούτῳ ὑπάρχοντα καθ᾽ αὐτό (chapter 1, 1003a21f.). "There is a science which specifically θεωρεῖ, considers, τὸ ὂν ᾗ ὄν, beings as beings," i.e., beings precisely with regard to their Being, beings hence not as something else, as having this or that property, but simply as beings, insofar as they are. καὶ τὰ τούτῳ ὑπάρχοντα καθ᾽ αὐτό, and it considers "that which in these beings, namely in beings with regard to their Being, ὑπάρχει, is already there in advance" and which pertains to beings as to their Being, and indeed καθ᾽ αὐτό, "in themselves." There is hence a science which considers the characters of the Being of beings, to put it very succinctly. The traditional interpretation has found a difficulty here, since this proclamation of first philosophy calls it ἐπιστήμη, whereas in fact ἐπιστήμη, in contradistinction to σοφία, is not an original science. For ἐπιστήμη is a theoretical knowledge that presupposes definite principles, axioms, and basic concepts. Strictly taken, then, the very sense of ἐπιστήμη excludes its being able to grasp thematically something original in its very originality. Hence Aristotle should have said here: ἔστι σοφία τις. We can see immediately, however, that this is nonsense. Aristotle means, precisely without concern for terminology, that over and against the concrete specific sciences, there is, as we would say, one "science" which considers, θεωρεῖ, beings in their Being. Thus here ἐπιστήμη has the quite broad sense of θεωρεῖν. We should not press the expression in the sense of an epideictic idea. It is a matter here of a mode of knowledge whose character and type must precisely first be determined. The problem of σοφία corresponds to the ὂν ᾗ ὄν

Now this science, which considers beings in their Being, αὕτη δ᾽ ἐστὶν οὐδεμιᾷ τῶν ἐν μέρει λεγομένων ἡ αὐτή (a22f.), "is not the same as the others." It does not coincide with any other, i.e., it does not coincide with οὐδεμιᾷ τῶν ἐν μέρει λεγομένων ἡ αὐτή. The usual translation assumes λεγόμενον is related to ἐπιστητῶν. But the context and the final section (1003b17) of the second chapter make it clear that λεγόμενα means the matters themselves to which the sciences relate.

I. For the following interpretation of Met. IV, 1-2 (pp. 144-148), Heidegger's manuscript contains no notes, only an allusion : Met. Γ, 1 and 2. Cf. interpretation.