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§12. The basic structure of λόγος

the what-as) and which comes back to a present thing and, in thus coming back, discloses this thing as being this or that.

This way of being—always already living ahead in the end-for-which as returning-to and disclosing—is an original, unified, fundamental comportment whose structure expresses the “as.” The “as” has the function of uncovering something in terms of something, of uncover something as—i.e., as this or that. The “as” is the structure of understanding. The understood is a ἑρμηνεία, that-which-is-understood in an understanding. We said that understanding is a basic comportment of existence. Therefore, the structure of the “as” is the fundamental hermeneutical structure of the being of that being which we call existence (human life). This fundamental hermeneutical structure can be apprehended in a relatively (and I emphasize relatively) original form of what we called “direct dealing-with-something.”

This basic, unified structure that is expressed in the “as” cannot be further broken down into pieces but is simply to be interpreted more originally as a whole in its wholeness. Later we shall see that where this structure is not yet adequately clarified, it is understood extrinsically in an indirect and formal way—determinations that are, in any case, possible.

In the primary understanding that goes with dealing-with-something, the thing that is understood or made sense of is disclosed. In this way understanding is able to take for itself the disclosure—the “result,” as it were, [of the sense-making]—and preserve it. The result of an act of sense-making is precisely sense or meaning—not what we usually call the “meaning of a word” but the primary meaning, to which words can then accrue.17 [151]

Only insofar as this capacity to understand—to make sense of—already belongs to existence, can existence express itself in sounds, such that these vocal sounds are words that now have meaning. Because existence, in its very being, is sense-making, it lives in meanings and can express itself in and as meanings. Only because there are such vocal sounds (i.e., words) that accrue to meanings, can there be individual words [Wörter],18 i.e., the linguistic forms that are stamped by meaning and can be detached from that meaning. We call such a whole of sounds in which existence’s capacity to understand has somehow evolved and become existential, language; and when I speak here of a whole of existence I do not mean an individual act of existence, but being-with-each-other qua historical.

The kind of being that pertains to the phenomenon we call language


17. [The abbreviated summary ends here.]
18. [That is, φωναί (Latin, voces), sounds uttered by the human voice, as contrasted with ψόφοι, the inarticulate sounds of an animal.]