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Plato's Sophist [222-223]


It can be made understandable only on the basis of the meaning of Being for the Greeks.2 Beings are what is present in the proper sense. Theology considers beings according to what they are already in advance, i.e., according to what constitutes, in the most proper and highest sense, the presence of the world. The most proper and highest presence of beings is the theme of theology. The theme of ontology is beings insofar as they are present in all their determinations, not tailored to a definite region, not only the unmoved mover and the heavens, but also what is under the heavens, everything there is, mathematical beings as well as physical. Thus the theme of theology is the highest and most proper presence, and the theme of ontology is that which constitutes presence as such in genera.3 The development of Greek science is pursued in these two original dimensions of reflection on Being. The real difficulty of understanding these matters and their proper productive formation and appropriation does not reside in θεολογική, whose approach is relatively clear to us, as it was to the Greeks as well, but in ontology and more precisely in the question: what is the sense of the characters of Being which pertain universally to all beings insofar as they are, in relation to the individual concrete being? Later, in scholaticism, this question was expressed as follows: do the universal determinations ontology provides concerning beings in their Being, i.e., concerning beings in general, have the character of genuses? Is ontology in some sense the science of the highest genuses of everything that is, or do these characters of Being have a different structural relation to beings?

A survey of the development of this entire question, thus of the basic questioning of ontology, from Aristotle and the Greeks up to the present, shows that we have in fact not advanced one step forward; indeed, quite to the contrary, the position the Greeks attained has for us been lost and we therefore do not even understand these questions any longer. Hegel's entire Logic moves within a complete lack of understanding and misunderstanding of all these questions. Husserl was the first, in connection with his idea of logic, to rediscover, as it were, the question of the meaning of the formal determinations of Being, though he did so, to be sure, only in a first—admittedly very important—beginning. It is no accident that this question emerged in connection with a clarification of the idea of logic, because—and here we arrive at a concluding characteristic of the fundamental science of the Greeks, πρώτη φιλοσοφία—this science is ultimately oriented toward λόγος, or, more precisely, because its theme is beings insofar as they are ὃν λεγόμενον, hence beings as addressed in speech, beings insofar as they are themes for λόγος.4,5


2. See the appendix.

3. AΗ: Beings as a whole. Beings as such.

4. AH: Being and thinking.

5. See the appendix.