Zur Bildung des Ausdrucks τὸ τί ἦν εἶναι durch Aristoteles

Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 65 (1):18-39 (1983)
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Abstract

This article shows the origin of the famous Aristotelian expression τὸ τί ἦν εἶναι in everyday language. The expression is analysable in τὸ εἶναι and τί ἦν, and this part is the core of the common language question τουτὶ τί ἦν; or τουτὶ τί ἦν τὸ πρᾶγμα; always in imperfect form. This question is often found in Aristophanes’ comedies, which represent common Attic language. The imperfect ἦν is noted as a common Attic form indicating the present already by early comentators of Aristotle as Alexander of Aphrodisias, the scholia to Aristophanes, later by Budaeus, but also in the modern Greek Lexikon of D. Demetrakos. Therefore not the imperfect is the problem, by mere embarrassement it was called "philosophic." The situations in the Aristophanean comedies, in which the question occurs, show that the thing about which somebody asks, is present, in front of the speaker, that it is an individual thing and something absolutly unexspected. The questioner will ask "What on the whole is this?" He asks about the first ground of being of the thing. The term τὸ τί ἦν εἶναι quotes only the use of εἶναι in this question in common language (like many other terms are quotations as τὸ τί ἐστίν; τὸ οὗ ἕνεκα etc.) and may be paraphrased by "Think of ’to be’ as you use it in the question ’What at all is this?’ " See also my article: Sonderegger (2001). Zur Sprachform des Ausdrucks to ti en einai. Rheinisches Museum Für Philologie 144:113–122. The consequences of this linguistic finding can be found in my comments on Metaphysik Z and Metaphysics Λ (English version from 2020).

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