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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 (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 Eastern Turkey under snow from above. Words fail to do our bidding in these realms - the ineffable offers another example. at all'. The Greeks worried about that no-yacht; about what nothing was. A lone pine between two karst hills. If we trace that tree's ancestry back, at what does it stop? Does it reach nothing? 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 Mud flats in the midnight sun in northern Iceland. This curiosity is part of what drives us to seek what is beyond the horizon. about being.

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). 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."

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.

Above hovering on blue introduces a link: click to go, move away to stay.


Saturday 4th May 2019

Murphy on duty to this site