Plato's Sophist [586-587]

We must see this context if we are to understand Plato's analysis. That is, the task of the interpretation is precisely to penetrate through to this foundational context of phenomena, one not explicitly investigated by Plato but still operative for him. Only in that way will we presentify the ground out of which his analyses are drawn; only in that way can we pursue which phenomena have the priority and how far Plato deals with them. That is why I showed earlier, not unadvisedly, with reference to the Phaedrus,11 what Plato had already acquired by way of insight into the context of disclosure, discourse, language, and writing, and I added a discussion of the "Seventh Letter,"12 where the problem of λόγος, stands connected to the innermost existence of man. We need to remember that. In the Sophist, these contexts are there in fact but are not treated explicitly. They are drawn in only to provide a methodological guideline for the treatment of ὀνόματα. In this regard, Plato says: φαίνεται γάρ πῃ ταύτῃ τὸ νῦν ζητούμενον (261d3), "it shows itself"—φαίνεται is stressed here and we should actually translate as follows: "what is now sought (namely the κοινωνία of ὀνόματα) can be brought to show itself," ταὐτῃ, "in the way" of inquiring we already employed regarding the structures and manifolds mentioned above. Φαίνεται does not here mean "to seem" but "to show itself," in a completely positive sense.

Today phenomenology uses the term "phenomenon" in this sense of φαίνεται, φαινόμενον. Phenomenology signifies nothing else than disclosing in speech, exhibiting beings, exhibiting the beings that show themselves, in their way of showing themselves, in the way they are "there." That is the formal idea of phenomenology, which to be sure includes a richly articulated and intricate methodology. This formal idea of phenomenology—which was emphatically an essential advance over the constructions of the tradition—is usually confused with the methodology of research, with genuine research and the concrete mode of carrying it out. Phenomenology then seems to be an easy science, where one, as it were, lies on a sofa smoking a pipe and intuiting essences. But things are not so simple; on the contrary, it is a question of demonstrating the matters at issue themselves. How the demonstration happens depends on the access, the content, and the ontological constitution of the realm under investigation. Even the Greeks, Plato and Aristotle, use φαίνεται in this sense, although, to be sure, it is often detached from this sense and means simply "it seems," "it merely appears to be so. " The terms "phenomenon" and "phenomenology" were used with this latter sense for the first time in the rationalism of the school of Wolff.

11. Cf. p. 214ff., especially p. 235ff.

12. Cf. p. 239f.

Martin Heidegger (GA 19) Plato's Sophist