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§65 [446-447]


itself. In other words, Plato shows thereby that the answer δύο εἶναι τὰ πάντα does not at all touch the question of Being. I said the traditional interpretation, of Zeller, Bonitz,1 etc., misses the actual matter at issue. It is not at all necessary to analyze the rest of the substantive question here. For the proper theme of this investigation is made abundantly clear at 244a. Ἐπειδὴ τοίνυν ἡμεῖς ἠπορήκαμεν, ὐμεῖς αὐτά ἡμῖν ἐμφανίζετε ἰκανῶς, τί ποτε βούλεσθε σημαίνειν ὀπόταν ὃν φθέγγησθε (a4ff.). "Because we do not know any way out as regards what you are saying here, you yourself must clarify for us what you properly mean when you utter this word ὃν." That is the genuinely central concern of this passage and of the whole dialogue.

Today we witness an ostensible return to metaphysics and ontology. But the question Plato raises here and poses by means of the whole dialogue has, in all haste, been forgotten. This forgetting of the main question is easy for us today. For we can appeal, either explicitly or silently, to two things:

1.) The concept of Being is obvious; everyone uses it constantly and understands what he means by it.

2.) The concept of Being is the highest; therefore it cannot at all be defined.

As to the first, we must remark that apart from the question of whether the supposed universal obviousness of the meaning of Being may or may not be identified with the clarity of a philosophical concept, in any case it is precisely this obviousness, and nothing else, that is the theme of the fundamental science.

As to the second, we must remark that it has not been decided whether the conceptual elaboration of the fundamental concepts may be posed under the rules that determine a definition, which itself presents only one form of determination, the one originating in a certain propositional and assertorial "logic. " The "logic" of the determination of beings may not be invoked as the criterion for the explication of Being. Therefore the usual talk about the indefinability of Being means nothing. It merely manifests the common misunderstanding of what is at issue.

With regard to the primary task of any possible ontology, it must be said positively that it resides precisely in the preparation, in the preparation of a ground to ask about the meaning of Being in general. The question of the meaning of Being—what Being means in general, in the sense of the proposition from Plato cited above—is not somehow the final question of ontology, and this question cannot be answered by a summation of ontological results. On the contrary, the question of the meaning of Being stands at the beginning, because it must provide guidance as to the possible meaning in any concrete


1. Eduard Zeller, Die Philosophie der Griechen . Zweiter Teil, Erste Abteilung, 5. Aufl., Leipzig, 1922, pp. 648-49.

Herman Bonitz, Platonische Studien, 3. Aufl., Berlin, 1886, pp. 161-164.