Philip LeCuyer’s “Intellectual Sin”

This lecture is an examination of key passages in core texts by Descartes (TheMeditations), Kant (The Critique of Pure Reason), and Heidegger (Basic Concepts).

Three intellectual sins are defined: desire for certitude (Descartes), enthusiasm (Kant), and authenticity (Heidegger).  They are, respectively, sins against logic, rhetoric, and grammar.  “These sins are real, and they have real consequences.  To them we owe the toxic brew of contempt, naivety, and fanaticism that has pervaded our public discourse, and that disenables our thinking.  The corresponding virtues would be modesty, watchfulness, and gratitude.”  Aristotle is invoked as the exemplar of these virtues.

A few days after submitting the proposal for this lecture, entitled “Intellectual Sin,” it occurred to me that some people, perhaps some of you here tonight, might attend for the wrong reason. You might think that this will be about how the usual type of sin—murder, adultery, theft, etc.—can be done in a more “intellectual” way—something like French cinema as compared to Hollywood. If so, you have been, as Bogart’s character Rick says in Casablanca, misinformed.


On the morning of May 22, 1972, newspaper readers around the world were shocked to see on all front pages two photographs side-by-side. The first of was Michelangelo’s Pieta, damaged in three places. One hand and part of its arm were completely missing. The other photograph was of a man about thirty years old named Lazlo Toth. On May 21st he had walked into St. Peter’s Basilica with the same rock-splitting hammer he had used as a graduate student from Hungary doing field work in geology in Australia’s remotest outback—and attacked Michelangelo’s masterpiece. He hit the figure of Mary in the statue three times, in the eye, in the mouth, and in the hand, before a guard and onlookers could subdue him. By the time he was seized and almost killed on the spot, he had finished.

Lazlo Toth was never charged with a crime. Instead he was remitted to an asylum for the insane within Italy’s prison system. No country but Australia would accept him. Before he was deported, never to have any further contact with his wife and young son back in Hungary, he stated in an interview with the Pope’s personal envoy that he had hit the eye of Mary because it could not see, the mouth because it could not speak, and the hand because it could not act. (We hear in these remarks echoes of Isaiah and of Psalm 115—“They have eyes but do not see, they have mouths but can not speak, etc.”) Since 1974 Mr. Toth has lived in obscurity in Sydney, where he lingers on still today. A couple of years ago he was felled by a massive stroke which, with seeming Sophoclean irony, has left him nearly blind, unable to speak, and without the ability to do the simplest acts for himself let alone anyone else.

I mention the strange case of Lazlo Toth here at the outset of my lecture in order to distinguish myself from him. Six years before the Pieta was defaced, I stood in St. Peter’s Basilica three or four feet from it. It was ravishing. I asked a nearby guard if I could touch it. He said, “Yes—just be very, very careful.” I wanted to re-assure myself that the material was stone—cool, smooth, Carraran marble. A visitor to the Basilica can no longer do this. The Pieta, exquisitely restored, stands on the same spot, but now encased in bullet-proof plexi-glass. One can gaze, but one can no longer touch.

What I want to do today is to touch, carefully if only very briefly, three monuments of our Western civilization: Descartes’ argument in the Meditations for the existence of God; Kant’s assertion of the ultimate coherence, the unity, of the rational subject in the Critique of Pure Reason; and Heidegger’s “saying” of the essence of being in one of his well-known essays on the fragment of Anaximander. The existence of God, the coherence of the soul, and the essence of being are not issues that I have lost sleep over in the past month, and I would be surprised if many of you have. It is not the content of these arguments, but how they are conducted, that interests me tonight.

I promise that I will not break anything. But like the young man that I was back in 1966, I want to, as it were, touch these arguments with my mind, not just gaze admiringly at them through the plexi-glass of canonical greatness.

Part I: Let us now approach Descartes’ Fifth Meditation. In it he begins to articulate a bridge between thought, the ground of subjective existence, and external or objective reality. Listen:

“I find in myself an infinity of ideas of certain things

which cannot be assumed to be pure nothingness,

even though they may have no existence outside

of my thought. These things are not figments of my

imagination, even though it is within my power to

think of them or not to think of them; on the contrary,

they have their own true and immutable natures.

Thus, for example, when I imagine a triangle, even

though there may perhaps be no such figure anywhere

in the world outside of my thought, nor ever has been,

nevertheless the figure cannot help having a certain

nature, or form, or essence, which is immutable and

eternal, which I have not invented, and which does not

in any way depend upon my mind. This is evidenced

by the fact that we can demonstrate various properties

of this triangle, namely that its three angles are equal

to two right angles…. These properties must be wholly

true since I conceive them clearly. And thus they are

something, and not pure negation, since it is quite evident

that everything which is true is something, as truth is

the same as being.” ( LaFleur, pp. 119-120)

Well, now, the first piton in Descartes’ climb out of subjectivity has been placed. The ascent begins. The next staging area of the argument will be reached by using this first thought in the supporting part of an analogy. Descartes has already, in the Third Meditation, put forward an argument for the existence of God, which was that the idea of God as ultimate perfection could not have originated in his imperfect mind. It must have an author other than himself, namely God. In the Third Meditation this proof becomes the source of an expansive, effusive adoration. But even in an initial reading of this earlier passage, it is not quite clear if Descartes is worshiping a real God or only a deeper dimension of his own mind.

The question quietly survives his first major attempt at answering it. And in the Fifth Meditation he now re-visits it, writing (and thinking):

“Even if everything that I concluded in the preceding

meditations were (by chance) not true, the existence of

God should pass in my mind as at least as certain as I

have hitherto considered all the truths of mathematics….

I find it manifest that we can no more separate

the existence of God from his essence than we can

separate the essence of a rectilinear triangle from the

fact that the size of its three angles equals two right angles….”

(LaFleur, pp. 120-121)

A silent, odorless disaster lies immediately ahead. I am interested in Descartes’ response to it. After affirming that “it is not in [his] power to conceive of a God without existence,” (LaFleur, p. 121) whereas by contrast, it is in his power to imagine a horse with or without wings, he takes up once again, but not exactly in the same way, his analogy:

“…as soon as I come to recognize that existence is

a perfection, I conclude (L. 1642 very properly) that

this first and supreme Being (F. 1647 truly) exists, just

as it is not necessary that I should ever imagine any

triangle, but every time I wish to consider a rectilinear

figure containing three angles only, it is absolutely

necessary that I attribute to it everything that leads

to the conclusion that these three angles are not

greater than two right angles….” (LaFleur, p. 122)

Amazing. The phrase “not greater than” has replaced “equal to.” Descartes has here uncovered for himself the logical possibility of what we know at St. John’s College as Lobachevskian geometry. He does not explore here or anywhere in his work this unnerving possibility. Instead, on the very next page he reverses the roles of the two propositions in his analogy about angles and about God. Listen now, very carefully:

“Thus, … , when I consider the nature of the (F. 1647 rectilinear) triangle, I recognize (L. 1642 most) evidently,

I, who am somewhat skilled in geometry, that its three

angles are equal to two right angles…. But as soon

as I turn my attention away from the demonstration,

it can easily happen that I doubt its truth if I do not

know that there is a God.” (La Fleur, p. 124)

The supposed self-evidence of the proposition about the angularity in a triangle, which was to have supported the proposition about the existence of God, has dissolved. Now it is the existence of God which guarantees Euclidean geometry, as he “who is somewhat skilled in geometry” tells us. The argument from reason has devolved into an argument from authority.

This, I submit, is a sin of the intellect. What shall we call it? It manifests itself as the suppression of a new logical possibility in argument for the sake of preserving a previous certainty. Let us call it the sin of “desiring certitude.” It is not unavoidable. What is needed, as a preventative, is the distinction we find in chapter 9, Book II of Aristotle’s Physics. In that chapter Aristotle distinguishes hypothetical necessity from simple necessity. If a saw is to cut wood, it must then have teeth made of iron. And, interestingly, Aristotle adds: if a triangle is to have the sum of its angles equal to two right angles, then a straight line must be “such and such.” We must remember to use the word if when we are thinking in order to avoid the lapse into fundamentalism.

As I mentioned at the outset, it is not the content of Descartes’ argument that interests me, but the tone in it. Its tone, the feel of it, arising from and perhaps identical with the desire for certitude, I would describe as latently “contemptuous.”

Part II: The second case I will present for our consideration is found in the Critique of Pure Reason. It is Kant’s Table of Categories. The bit of textual history bearing on this case is as follows: Kant published the first edition of the Critique—the A text—in 1781. Two years later he published the Prolegomena, which apparently was intended to present an overview of the Critique. But it also touches new problems, of interest to us tonight, not mentioned in the Critique. Then in 1787 Kant published a second edition of the Critique—the B text—differing in some important passages from the first edition. So we have a “before” version—the A text– and an “after” version—the B text– of the argument with the Prolegomena in the middle.

In both versions of the Critique the argument moves onward and upward toward the Table of Categories, and then flowing directly from the Table come the famous deductions, the paralogisms, and the antinomies. The categories themselves are fundamental concepts—the deep structure of our minds. Referencing himself favorably to Aristotle, who as Kant writes, compiled his list of these basic concepts “on no principle” and “merely picked them up as they came his way,” (A 81, B 107, Smith p. 114) Kant then says of his own Table:

“It has not arisen rhapsodically, as a result of a haphazard search after pure concepts, the complete enumeration of which, as based on induction only, could never be guaranteed.

Nor could we if this were our procedure, discover

why just these concepts, and no others, have their seat

in the pure understanding.” (ibid.)

Aristotle gave us a list. Kant gives us a table, not just a mere map, but an arrangement which asserts organic and unique logical relationships between different categories—an internally self-symmetrical, self-reinforcing “Gliederbau” (B xxiii) —a structure with members organized as in a body.

  In the B Preface we also find this additional new assertion:

“For pure speculative reason has a structure wherein

everything is an organ, the whole being for the sake

of every part, and every part for the sake of all the

others, so that even the smallest imperfection, be it a

fault (error) or a deficiency, must betray itself in use.

This system will, as I [Kant] hope, maintain, throughout

the future, this unchangeableness. … Any attempt to

change even the smallest part at once gives rise to

contradictions, not merely in the system, but in human

reason in general.” (B xxxviii, Smith pp. 33-34)

This same newly heightened concern for an organic order is emphasized elsewhere in the second (1787) edition, namely in section 11. We should note that this and the immediately following section 12 are not revisions of passages or arguments found in the first edition, but major new insertions—the only such whole sections in the entire B text. Kant, then, inserting this new passage into the later edition of the Critique, writes:

“This table of categories suggests some nice [“artige”—

more on that word in a moment] points, which may have

important consequences in regard to the scientific form

of all modes of knowledge obtainable by reason. [It] is

indispensable to supply the complete plan of a whole

science. … The table contains all the elementary concepts

of the understanding in their completeness—even their

order….” (B 109-110, Smith pp. 115-116)

The sentence which introduces this inserted section 11 is highly unusual in its phrase “artige Betrachtungen.” “Artig” means well-behaved, pleasing, pretty, even neat—as in “that’s really neat.” It is this same very odd word found in an almost identical sentence, dealing with the exact same issues, which begins a strange footnote in the Prolegomena—#29 in the Carus translation. This footnote points out, as does section 11 inserted later in the B text, that in each group of three categories, the third arises as a synthesis of the first two, and arises from a distinct mental act—e.g. “unity,” then “plurality,” are synthesized by a separate act of the mind into the concept “totality.”

Then Kant mentions in this footnote another “artige” point, and this is where it happens:

“… in those categories of quantity and of quality there is merely a progress from unity to totality, or from something to nothing (for this purpose the categories of quality must stand thus: reality, limitation, total negation.” [“völlige Negation”– i.e. nihilism] (Carus, p. 67)

This is a change in the order of these three categories from the A text (see Appendix A), but it is not an innocent change. The crucial original order of the categories—reality, negation, limitation (i.e. definition) has been shifted so that now the synthesized result is no longer a defined thing, but “nothingness.” I regard this footnote as Nietzsche’s philosophical birth certificate. It is as if an arm is where a leg should be, and then, of a sudden, shapelessness is where the body should be.

Kant will not bring this change back into the 1787 Critique—the B text. Instead he there insists, in the newly inserted passages already cited, on an organism-like order in his original Table, but he knows that what is at stake is the distinction between something and nothing—between objective thought and nihilism. In the A text, and again later in the B text, he had concluded the first major division of the Critique with a one-page treatment of nihil and a sketch of the usual four tabular headings for nihil—for “the nothing.” Imagine that—a Table of Categories for nihilism. Kant could begin to imagine it, but he could not fill it out. Under each of the four headings—quantity, quality, relation, mode—stands the word “empty.” (A 291, B 347, Smith p. 295) Out of every opening Kant sees emptiness. He and we realize that, far from the table containing the emptiness, the emptiness engulfs the adumbrated table.

Kant had written in the earlier A text that the issue of nihilism, “although not in [itself] of special importance, might nevertheless be regarded as requisite for the completeness of the system.” (A 290, Smith p. 294) In the later B text, even after his discovery in the Prolegomena of category tectonics, he leaves standing without comment his statement that the issue of nihilism is “of no special importance.” (B 346, ibid.) But in the later B Preface he does now note that it would be absurd to conclude “that there can be appearance without anything that appears.” (B xxxvi-xxvii, Smith p. 27)

There it is. Descartes attempted to overcome, to vanquish, nihilism—to establish by argument, then by authority, that at least some of what is in our consciousness, individually and collectively, is “not pure nothingness.” Kant wishes only to play nihilism to a stalemate. By rendering the paralogisms and the antinomies, which are the easiest targets for refutation and for denial, harmless, taking them off the board so to speak, Kant does not attempt to win, but rather to not lose. His sin is, I think, deeper and more serious than that of Descartes. He acknowledges nihilism in the A text while denying its importance, then notes it leaking into his compartmentalized configuration of mind in footnote #29 in the Prolegomena, and then, a few years later in the B text, still denies its importance. The voyage of the Titanic comes to mind.

What shall we call this sin? Not suppression of argument, but rather deafness to the importance of an argument. Let us call it “enthusiasm.” What would be the antidote for it? Definitions are the antidote. Immediately after presenting his Table of Categories in section 10 (in both editions), Kant wrote: “In this treatise I purposely omit the definitions of the categories, although I may be in possession of them.” (A 82-83, B 108, Smith p. 115) This statement, when considered carefully, does not become less strange.

Aristotle is in possession of them. In chapter 26, Book V of the Metaphysics, Aristotle defines two kinds of wholes: one in which the positions of the parts with respect to each other matter (as in Kant’s Table), a whole (τὸ ‛όλον), and one in which position doesn’t matter, a totality (τὸ πα̃ν). Throughout his newly inserted section 11 in the B text Kant uses these two concepts, totality (Allheit) and whole (Ganze), interchangeably—revealing his profound unawareness of and confusion about this distinction. In the version of the table he included in the Prolegomena, under the heading “quantity,” he places the two sequences “unity-plurality-totality” on the one hand, and on the other “measure-size-whole” side by side as alternative, fully equivalent namings. There are other telling alterations in the Prolegomena’s table. They arise from the problem of how to accommodate negation. In footnote #29 Kant now refers to his Table as “a” table, not “the” table (Vorländer, p. 86), thereby quietly admitting the existence of another, as yet unarticulated paradigm. (Nietzsche will take on this task.) But for Kant the issue was, and I repeat as he tellingly repeated in the B text, “of no special importance.”

Part III: Descartes would require us, finally, to submit to his authority. Kant, regarding his achievement in the Critique as beyond controversy, places his argument about the structure and coherence of the mind almost out of our reach. In his second Preface he writes: “…the danger is not that of being refuted, but of not being understood.” (B xliii, Smith p. 36-37) Martin Heidegger, in the opening passage of his 1941 lecture on Anaximander’s fragment, which is the third of these case studies, goes further. He asserts that the “truth” (yes, in quotaton marks) of his translation from the Greek of these few oldest-known, all-important philosophic words can only be verified (“geprüft”) by abandoning our thought processes and turning the citadel, so to speak, over to him.

His lectures on the fragment were the culmination of a course given in the winter of 1941 called Grundbegriffe—foundational concepts. Heidegger presents the fragment as the ultimate source of our philosophical tradition. It antedates Aristotle by over two hundred fifty years, Simplicius, who preserved it for us, by a thousand years, and Heidegger himself by two and a half thousand years. It is, as Heidegger says, by listening directly to this fragment, these thirty-one words of ancient Greek, that we can cut through the accumulated wrongness of metaphysics and drink from the pure source. In and through this fragment we can encounter and “experience” the origin of being, the “saying of being.” (Aylesworth, p. 83)

Heidegger makes two preliminary moves to cue up his main point. The first of these happens quickly and without comment. The first two words, “out of which” (in the plural), are rendered as “whence” (von woheraus). (See Appendix B) The antecedents of the relative pronoun are thereby effaced, leaving the source entirely featureless. This would be like taking delivery of mail that was not sent by anyone or even by anything. …Like in a dream.

The second preliminary change is Heidegger’s re-translation of the two words for coming-to-be (‛η γένεσις) and passing-away (‛η φθορά). Kant’s translation of these two terms was the traditional “entstehen” (arising) and “vergehen” (perishing) (A 82, B 108). These are two different words for two different processes. Heidegger, undermining Kant’s usage, changes them to “going forth” (Herforgang) and “going away” (Entgängnis). They now have the same root, the same basic source of meaning, the only difference being one of lexical format. It is as if being born and dying were only a matter of syntax, not substance.

The crux of Heidegger’s translation of the fragment lies in the two-word phrase “ει̉ς ταυ̃τα.” The Greek means “into these things”—a normal plural demonstrative adjective used as a pronoun. Here Heidegger writes:

“Once we have recognized what is supposed to be

said, that the former from out of which emergence

presences, is just the latter, away into which evading

presences, then [watch carefully now] there is no

difficulty in finally reading this ταυ̃τα differently

from the previous understanding of the text—as

ταυ̉τά. Only in this way does the wording first

correspond to what the fragment intends to say.

…The ταυ̃τα, “this” in the sense of ταυ̉τά, “the

self-same” names … the self-sameness of the egress

of emergence and the ingress of elusion. [EA] Yet

does not all of this remain indeterminate?

What, then, is this Self-Same?” (Aylesworth, p. 91)

What indeed? It turns out to be undifferentiated nothingness. The undifferentiated source, the nihil, is the undifferentiated destination–the same nihil. Who knew—we appear at this very moment out of the same nothingness into which, in this same moment, we are receding. This is what some of us might have suspected on certain occasions—that we are indeed both coming and going at the same time—which is what Heidegger calls “presencing.” This is it—ground zero in every sense of the word. The singular eradicates the plural. Sameness overwhelms distinctions.

The final phrase of this first clause in the Anaximander fragment, κατὰ τὸ χρεών, meaning “through the necessity of it,” Heidegger tells us cannot be illuminated by citing just any necessity, for example, not by citing the law of cause and effect. It must be understood as “the compelling need” –sheer subjective intensity—being engulfed in pure subjectivity, in self-sameness. The German word is “Eigentlichkeit.” Its accepted translation into English is “authenticity.” (Stambaugh, pp. 42ff, Inwood, pp. 22ff)

Perhaps we should now read this whole first sentence of Heidegger’s translation of the Anaximander fragment:

“Whence emergence is for what respectively presences

also an eluding into this (as into the Same), emerges

accordingly the compelling need; ….” (Aylesworth, p. 81)

Aristotle in his small treatise on sophistical arguments includes as the last entries to his list of sophisms 1) changing the meaning of a word by changing its accent, and 2) solecism—using a word un- or anti-grammatically. In another venue, we would call this tampering with evidence and intimidating witnesses. ταυ̃τα does not mean “this” or “self-same.” It means “these things.” Heidegger’s re-write still leaves it meaning “the Sames.” It is the recalcitrance of this plural form in Anaximander’s text that stops Heidegger’s argument in its tracks. Speaking defensively, for us also and not just for himself, Heidegger writes: “We mistrust grammar and stick to the matter.” (Aylesworth, p. 95) (“Aber wir misstrauen der Grammatik und halten uns an die Sache.” Lecture 23 b). He thereby places the matter at hand before the form. This is the origin and essence of lawlessness. Let us call this sin of the intellect “authenticity.”


Aristotle, writing on this same subject in his later treatise On Coming- to-Be and Passing-Away (περὶ γενέσεως καὶ φθορα̃ς), and as it would appear, thinking about this exact same fragment, asks a question:

“What is the cause of the continuous process of

coming-to-be is a perplexing enough problem if

it is really true that what passes-away vanishes

into “what is not” and “what is not” is nothing;

…. Is it, then, because the passing-away of one

thing is the coming-to-be of another thing, and

the coming-to-be of one thing is the passing away

of another thing, that the process of change is

necessarily unceasing?” (Bk. I, chapter 3, p. 318a—

Loeb, pp. 189-191)

The fragment read in this way would mean that a cause does not merely precede its effect, or an antecedent its consequent, as David Hume thought, but that a cause perishes into its effect. There would be a fearful symmetry of “before” and “after”—an ordering of time itself. We would consider the world not as a compelling dreamlike sequence, but to be objectively real …and also unceasing ( ̉άπαυστος, ibid.)

Symmetry is not sameness simply. It is sameness and difference. In Anaximander’s fragment the grammar of its indirect statement in the first complex sentence casts “perishing” into the formal objective (i.e. accusative) case while it functions as a nominative subject in its own clause. This means, grammatically, that “perishing” is different from, not the same as, “emerging” (i.e. coming-to-be), and that it, “perishing,” is required to complete a whole rather than to assert or re-state an identity. For these reasons I would translate the first sentence of Anaximander’s fragment as follows:

As out of which (antecedents) is the emergence

for existing things, also the perishing (of antecedents)

into these (existing) things emerges through the necessity of it:

Continuing this way of understanding the fragment into its second sentence:

For they (antecedents and existing things) give

soundness and acknowledgement to each other

of unsoundness through the ordering of time.

Here there is symmetry, and where there is symmetry there is a law of conservation. Something is constant. Something is “always.”

This particular point—that ultimately there is something rather than nothing—is not just at the heart of the issue. It is the heart of the issue. This is what Heidegger would deny. He writes in this same 1941 lecture that the “always,” the “α̉εί” in Greek, what is continuous through the ordering of time, is the “unfit,” the α̉δικία in the second sentence of Anaximander’s fragment. It must be overcome, “aus der Verwindung,” by what is authentic. There is, according to Heidegger, only “transition,” (Übergang), which is the pure emerging of the Same. He concludes: “This Same is being itself.” (Aylesworth, p. 103) (“Dieses Selbe ist das Sein selbst.” Lecture 24, part a).

Kant meant to achieve a cessation of hostilities vis-à-vis nihilism. Heidegger, after his attempt at trans-millennial ventriloquism, invites us to follow him over and enlist: “It could be,” he writes provocatively, “that we—for a long time now– have understood the negative too negatively.” (Aylesworth, p. 96).


With a concluding allusion to Mr. Toth over there in Australia, we may say that Descartes’ argument about the existence of God cannot see because it is closed to its own logical possibilities. Kant’s argument, intended to be the adamantine foundation upon which the mind reposes, cannot speak because it is deaf to the importance, the rhetorical import, of his own discovery of category tectonics. Heidegger’s “saying of being” cannot lead to action because without grammar there is no action—only happenings, only “Ereignisse.”

Desire for certitude, …enthusiasm, …authenticity—these are intellectual sins, sins against logic, rhetoric, and grammar. They are real, and they have real consequences. To them we owe the toxic brew of contempt, naivety, and fanaticism that has pervaded our public discourse, and that disenables our thinking. The corresponding virtues would be modesty, watchfulness, and gratitude—gratitude toward those who have preceded us, our antecedents, who have made an occasion such as this possible, and gratitude that there are any who will in turn, in some other place at some later time, take up what we offer here and endow it with a better sound and a deeper soundness.


Kant’s Table of Categories as it appears in both editions of the Critique of Pure Reason (Smith, p. 113):


Of Quantity



II TotalityIII  Of QualityOf Relation

RealityOf Inherence and Subsistence

Negation (substantia et accidens)

Limitation [Einschränkung]Of Causality and Dependence

(cause and effect)

Of Community (reciprocity

IV between agent and patient)

Of Modality


Existence [Dasein]—Non-existence [Nichtsein]


Kant’s Table of Categories in the Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics:

I As to QuantityII As to Quality

Unity  (Measure) Reality

Plurality (Quantity) Negation

Totality (Whole) Limitation [Einschränkung]

III As to RelationIV As to Modality

Substance Possibility

Cause Existence [Dasein]

Community Necessity

Footnote #29 in the Prolegomena: “…neat observations [artige Anmerkungen]…(1) that the third arises from the first and the second, joined in one concept; (2) that in those of quantity and quality there is merely a progress from unity to totality or from something to nothing (for this purpose the categories of quality must stand thus: reality, limitation, total negation)….” [emphasis added]


The Anaximander fragment as preserved in Simplicius’ commentary:

ε̉ξ ‛ω̃ν δὲ ‛η γένεσίς ὲστι τοι̃ς ου̉̃σι, καὶ τὴν φθορὰν ει̉ς ταυ̃τα

  γίνεσθαι κατὰ τὸ χρεών: διδόναι γὰρ αυ̉τὰ δίκην καὶ τίσιν

α̉λλήλοις τη̃ς α̉δικίας κατὰ τὴν του̃ χρόνου τάξιν.

The Anaximander fragment as translated by Heidegger:

#1(ε̉ξ ‛ω̃ν) δὲ #2a(‛η γένεσίς) ὲστι τοι̃ς ου̉̃σι, καὶ #2b(τὴν φθορὰν) #3(ει̉ς ταυ̃τα) γίνεσθαι #4(κατὰ τὸ χρεών): διδόναι γὰρ #5(αυ̉τὰ) δίκην καὶ τίσιν α̉λλήλοις τη̃ς α̉δικίας κατὰ τὴν του̃ χρόνου τάξιν.

#1(Von woheraus) aber #2a(der Hervorgang) ist dem jeweilig

Anwesenden auch #2b( die Entgängnis) #3( in dieses (als in das Selbe)) geht hervor #4( entsprechend der nötigenden Not);

Es gibt nämlich #5( jedes Anwesende selbst (von sich aus)) Fug,

und auch Schätzung (Anerkennung) lässt eines dem anderen,

(all dies) aus der Verwindung des Unfugs entsprechend der

Zuweisung des Zeitigen durch die Zeit. (Lecture 20)

Whence emergence is for what respectively presences also an

eluding into this (as into the Same), emerges accordingly

the compelling need; there is namely what presences itself

(from itself), the fit, and each is respected (acknowledged)

by the other, (all of this) from overcoming the unfit according

to the allotment of temporalizing by time. (Aylesworth, p. 82)

A grammatical translation of the Anaximander fragment by the author:

As out of which (antecedents) is the emergence for existing things,

also the perishing (of antecedents) into these (existing) things

emerges through the necessity of it; for they (antecedents and

existing things) give soundness and acknowledgement to each

other of unsoundness through the ordering of time.


Aristotle, On Coming-to-Be and Passing-Away, trans. by E.S. Forster,  Loeb Classical Library, Aristotle vol. III, Harvard University Press, 1955.

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