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Plato's Sophist [531-532]


"we could indeed deal with him more closely if we wished." That means a further consideration of the philosopher is left to our option; it is not required by the matters at issue themselves. But περὶ τοῦ σοφιστοῦ δῆλον ὡς οὐκ ἀνετέον πρὶν ἂν ἱκανῶς αὐτὸν θεασώμεθα. (cf. b4f.), "in the case of the sophist, we may not desist until we have got him in our sight in a wholly sufficient way."8 Here it is clear that the investigation of the place in which the sophist dwells, and what he himself is, has precedence over the investigation into the philosopher. For—this is the unexpressed thought—the philosopher clarifies himself from himself and does so uniquely in philosophical work itself. The sophist, on the contrary, must from the very outset be made thematic, because, as long as he is not understood, he condemns all philosophical research to impossibility. As the incarnation of non-being, he must be disposed of first, so that the philosopher's gaze upon the Being of beings and their manifoldness can become free. Thus we may not infer from this passage that Plato had planned another dialogue, as a sequel to the Sophist, namely one about the philosopher. This is so little true that it is rather quite the reverse; i.e., the corresponding thematic explication of the philosopher clearly has less urgency than that of the sophist. This entirely accords with Plato's Socratic attitude, which provides the positive only in actually carrying it out and not by making it the direct theme of reflection. Hence it is important to keep in mind that in the midst of the discussion of dialectic—and there is about to come a renewed characterization—Plato again refers to the sophist and his clarification, so that it becomes clear enough that the definitions of the sophist are not at all an empty game but have the positive sense of demonstrating the factuality of μὴ ὄν as the obstruction blocking the path of every philosophical investigation.

Before proceeding to the proper dialectical investigation, let us consider once more the result of the previous characterization of dialectic.


e) The result of the previous characterization of dialectic. The essential moments and basic presupposition of dialectic.


For Plato, the task of mastering dialectic requires one μετ᾽ ἐπιστήμης τινὸς διὰ τῶν λόγων πορεύεσθαι (cf. 253b9f.), "to run through the λόγοι—as λόγοι—with a certain know-how." The knowledge presupposed, in the sense of a παιδεία, i.e., a methodological disposition, concerns, first, an orientation toward the fact that this research is a matter of presentifying the λεγόμενον ὄν, as it is present in λόγος, and, secondly, an orientation


8. AH: to see through.


Martin Heidegger (GA 19) Plato's Sophist