A yacht on the Minch.

Being and Non-being

For manifestly you have long been aware of what you mean when you use the expression 'being'. We, however, who used to think we understood it, have now become perplexed. (Trans. Heidegger)

Plato  The Sophist (360 bce)

The dot is a yacht. Fifty miles beyond it and only just visible is the coast of Scotland. A small thing in a big space. Next to nothing in nothing much. In this case we know there is so much there; in the sea, in the distant land and in the very air. But we feel we can imagine it away: 'No yacht in the middle of nothing at all'. The Greeks worried about that no-yacht; about what nothing was. Heidegger in his book expands the worry. What does it mean for the yacht to exist? What is this existence? Can we make sense of the words 'to be'. He wants to help re-awaken a question which seems lost; to infect us with a profound curiosity about being.


The picture was taken from Barra's highest hill, Heaval, looking towards the Inner Hebrides with the Island of Rum 80 kilometres away on the horizon. The quote is from Plato's The Sophist (244a, and cf. 243b) a troublesome dialogue that is often passed over. It partly concerns what may appear as a classic 'Sophistry': what does it mean to not be? Heidegger uses the quote above (in Greek with a German gloss) to head his main work Being and Time. (1962 translation by Macquarrie & Robinson) Here is the Greek (without diacriticals) ...ςηλον γαρ ως νμεις μεν ταντα (τι ποτε βονλεσθε σημαινειν οποταν ον ǿθεγγησθε) παλαι γιγνωσκετε, ημεις δε προ τον μεν ωομεθα, νυν δ ηπορηκαμεν... And here is Cornford's better known translation: "We are completely puzzled, then, and you must clear up the question for us, what you do intend to signify when you use the word "real"....we, who formerly imagined we knew, are now at a loss."


Saturday 4th
May 2019

Murphy on duty

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