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§6 [28-29]


consequential and discardable. On the contrary, in the philosophical employment of the word ἀρχή we must hear its other meaning—precedence as sovereignty (“mon-archy”): source and sovereign for beings as such, i.e., for their Being. Here ἀρχή is precisely not terminus [boundary]. Even in Aristotle, who fixed the lexical meaning of the word, | the basic sense of sovereignty recurs: cf. Met. Λ, XII, at the end.2 His whole treatise on the ἀρχὴ τῆς οὐσίας concludes with a verse from Homer’s Iliad, B, 204: οὐκ ἀγαθὸν πολυκοιρανίη· εἷς κοίρανος ἔστω—shared sovereignty is not good; let one be sovereign, lord.3 After all this, it is hardly necessary to stress that the later meaning of cause must be kept at arm’s length—not merely because this meaning developed only subsequently, but because in the context of questioning Anaximander it would make no sense at all.

ἀρχή as the sovereign source remains present precisely in everything, shows itself first and last in all appearance and disappearance.


b) τὸ ἄπειρον as the empowering power of appearance


This ἀρχὴ τῶν ὄντων—indeed τῶν ὄντων and precisely as such, i.e., with respect to their Being (specifically including their whatness and thatness)— is τὸ ἄπειρον. πέρας—limit, but not so much in the merely negative sense as that by which and at which something stops and can go no further but, on the contrary, that which outlines something, its contours and inner delineation, that which in each case gives to all that appears, all beings, their closed peculiarity and security, their composure and their stance.

περαίνω—bring something into its limits, i.e., into its contours, produce, bring forth: let appear.

On the basis of πέρας arose the concept and meaning of τέλος, the determinate end in the foregoing sense. Later this basic notion of Greek philosophy was, for various reasons, misinterpreted and falsely transformed to mean purpose and goal. Teleology, purposiveness, that every Being has its τέλος—this means in the Greek understanding: every being as a being stands in contours. Later, it means: every thing has its purpose and goal and hidden, deeper function. That sense might be applicable in the biblical account of creation and in Christian dogmatics, but not in the basic propositions of ancient philosophy about beings.

Yet what is the meaning of τὸ ἄ-πειρον— the limitless, contourlessness? Grammatically, it is a privative expression: α-means “without,”



2 {Aristotelis Metaphysica. Recognovit W. Christ. Leipzig: Teubner, 1886.}

3 {Homeri Ilias. Edidit G. Dindorf. Editio quinta correctior quam curavit C. Hentze. Pars I. Leipzig: Teubner, 1896.}