restricted access Chapter One. Preliminary Considerations on the Greek Concept of Knowledge
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Chapter One Preliminary Considerations on the Greek Concept of Knowledge§31. On the question of the essence of ἐπιστήμη In order to clarify the essence of untruth in the sense of falsehood, we will follow similes that Plato employs, as he does in all essential areas of questioning—two similes from the Theaetetus. We do this to evaluate how the concept of untruth has been passed over and how this has led to a situation in which the whole question about the essence of untruth and falsehood counts as a secondary one. We have no logic of error, no real clarification of its essence, because we always take error as negative. This is the fundamental error that dominates the entire history of the concept of truth. Theaetetus is taken to be the most important dialogue in the socalled theory of knowledge. One refers to this dialogue to demonstrate that the Greeks, too, were already busy with theory of knowledge. Through this conception, the interpretation of the dialogue is dragged off onto a completely false path. The Greek question is, τί ἐστιν ἐπιστήμη?—How should we translate it?1 The way we conceive of the content of the dialogue depends upon this translation. ἐπίσταμαι = I place myself in front of something, I step close to something, I engage myself with it in order to dominate it, to do right by it, to be a match for it. To understand how to deal with a thing—be it the preparation of a piece of equipment, be it the conduct of a military undertaking, or be it the performance of a task in teaching and 1. [A conventional translation would be: “What is knowledge?”] 177 learning—everything that in some sense requires that one know one’s way around a thing: this is what the Greeks designated as ἐπίσταμαι. So the word does not designate science. Science—for example, geometry , mathematics—is certainly one mode of this know-how, but it is not the mode of know-how pure and simple. In ἐπιστήμη is realized the whole multiplicity of all questions and levels of know-how in all regions of human Being. Therefore, because the concept has this broad meaning, the question arises: what is the inner, common core here that is ἐπιστήμη for human beings? This question does not pertain to theory of knowledge ; instead, what must be explained is what the genuine essence is in all these modes of comportment in know-how. If one makes the orientation of the question clear from the start, one is then also assured of steering the dialogue away from the sphere of science. Science is only one form of knowing, even if from one perspective it is perhaps the highest. The question seems to aim at presenting the features or properties that belong to every form of knowing. It is a question about the essence of knowing. If we are asking about the essence of knowing here, then the question about the essence of knowing is a question about human Being (about the essence of human beings). But this question has a completely different methodological character from questions such as: what is a house? a table? a book? These are things that lie before me as objects, things I can interrogate as something present at hand. By contrast, the question “What is knowing?” is a question about the human being himself as a being who is, who acts, who is historical. With this, the question is oriented to an answer that cannot be found in some statement. Rather, this question about the human being is at the same time a question about the measure, law, or rule that the human being, as one who knows, sets for himself. Behind the question “What is knowing?” is concealed another claim entirely, a quite definite attack by the person who questions on the very person questioned, that is, an attack on the human being inasmuch as he hunkers down in the familiarity of his views and opinions. This attack on the human being is nothing other than the essence of philosophy. With this, it is presumed methodologically that the answer does not consist in an enumeration of moments, but rather that the answer exposes itself only in the course of a confrontation, a struggle within which quite definite fundamental positions for man come to light. This is precisely why this dialogue has its particular agonistic character . That does not just mean testing oneself in the sense of proving that one is in the right. Instead...


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