- To Onta.
Ancient Greek neutral plural form of the noun 'being' = 'beings'
Not to be in any way confused [as Heidegger did] with the verb 'Being.'
One is mystified with Heidegger concerning his apparent total
misunderstanding of basic grammar.
The fact that he didn't have a clue about the meaning of the 'is' word is
well attested in the infamous passage from BT, and turned Heidegger into
something of a figure of fun amongst his critics.
To set the scene and give an insight into the man's total unknowingness of
the basics of grammar, [certainly where existential syntax and semantics
were concerned anyway.] Here he is admitting to his ignorance of the meaning
and function of the 'IS' word in his own words in Being and Time. Is bad
grammar a characteristic of Heideggerian exposition I wonder? Perhaps a
survey is called for?
"The leaf is green." I find the green of the leaf in the leaf itself. But
where is the "is"? I say, nevertheless, the leaf "is"- it itself, the leaf.
Consequently the "is" must belong to the visible leaf itself. But I do not
"see" the "is" in the leaf, for it would have to be coloured or spatially
formed. Where and what "is" the "is"?
"Now ask yourself this question: How can a man admit to a misunderstanding
of one conjugation of the verb 'BE,' [the third person singular present,]
and then have the cheek to go ahead and write a book about another
conjugation of the same 'verb' [the continuous present] of the 'BE' word -
i.e, 'Being?' It is mind-boggling, for it is like someone admitting to an
ignorance of the meaning of the word 'swims,' and then proceeding to write a
tome on 'swimming.'
To compound the matter, as if his nescience wasn't already enough, he
appears to have deliberately confused the meaning of the ancient Greek
version of 'Being' [noun] 'ta onta' - the neutral plural of the noun
'being' - thus= beings.' with the word that obsessed him for the rest of his
life - 'Being.' [gerundial verb.]
His confusion starts when he reads that Aristotle reports that there is a
science that studies 'being as being,' We can read it again in this
section from Metaphysics IV, I. I] Aristotle uses the Greek present
participle 'to on.' [Being - a noun]
"THERE is a science which investigates 'being as being' and the attributes
which belongs to this in virtue of its own nature."
This means that certain investigators are studying being [to onta = material
beings in the original Greek : see definition above]- in other words they
are studying 'the nature of the material' from which beings are constructed
"Now this is not the same as any of the so-called special sciences; for none
of these others treats universally of 'being as being.' They cut off a part
of being and investigate the attribute of this part; this is what the
mathematical sciences for instance do. Now since we are seeking the first
principles and the highest causes, clearly there must be some thing to which
these belong in virtue of its own nature. If then those who sought the
elements of existing things were seeking these same principles, it is
necessary that the elements must be elements of being not by accident but
just because it is being. Therefore it is of being as being that we also
must grasp the first causes."
It is absolutely crystal clear here in the above passage that Aristotle is
describing a general scientific branch of knowledge and that those people to
whom he refers are investigating 'the nature of existing matter' and in his
last paragraph he makes it plain that it is precisely the universal elements
of being [substance] that must be grasped.
It is evident that Aristotle is referring to the ' ultimate substratum,
which is no longer predicated of anything else," which he refers to later on
in Part VIII of the same work, when in the same section and at the same time
he alludes to: "that which, being a 'this', is also separable and of this
nature is the shape or form of each thing."
Remember in this passage that Aristotle is talking about the plural neuter
noun 'to onta' [beings] throughout, and is NOT using the term in the sense
of the so-called 'verb' ' 'Being' or even worse some ''gerundial verb'
dredged up by Heidegger as a contrivance to produce some quasi-existential
dimension, [we won't even mention dasein] which was in no way intended by
Aristotle. The illegitimate word 'Being' appears no less than 1,141 times
in BT, which represents almost 4% of the whole work, and peppers the
conversations of Heideggerians like the lead-filled dum-dum bullets from
some first world war clapped-out etymological machine-gun.
In BT Heidegger reluctantly concedes that: "Sometimes the Greeks simply
identified this with ta onta (beings)." But then goes onto to add: "Beings
can show themselves from themselves in various ways, depending on the mode
of access to them. The possibility even exists that they can show themselves
as they are not in themselves"
This transcendentalist jaw-jaw has got nothing at all do with what
Aristotle is saying, for he was simply reporting the fact that there were a
collection of people who got together to talk about 'being as being.'
In other words Heidegger is suggesting by these unwarranted comments and
spurious interpolations, that the old Greek philosopher was some kind of
proto-existential transcendentalist. God in Heaven Forbid!