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I know in most cases only attributive adjectives have declension forms. However, when I am reading Heidegger's Sein und Zeit recently, I've found the following sentence:

Verloren haben kann es sich nur und noch nicht sich gewonnen haben kann es nur, sofern es seinem Wesen nach mögliches eigentliches, das heißt sich zueigen ist.

Here I think "mögliches eigentliches" should be the predicate of the "ist" at the end of the whole sentence, so they should be "möglich eigentlich". Does anyone know why they appear here in attributive form? Thanks very much!

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  • Could you add the sentence before that to the quote? What does "es" refer to? From the grammar, "mögliches eigentliches" might refer back to the same noun. And you're sure that "eigentliches" isn't capitalized in the original, right?
    – HalvarF
    Apr 1 at 7:51
  • The sentence before the quote is "Und weil Dasein wesenhaft je seine Möglichkeit ist, kann dieses Seiende in seinem Sein sich selbst »wählen«, gewinnen, es kann sich verlieren, bzw. nie und nur »scheinbar« gewinnen. ", the "es" in the quote should refer to "dieses Seiende". But according to the context, it seems that "mögliches eigentliches" does not refer to anything mentioned before, but more refers to some attributes that belong to "es". I am very sure that there is no capitalized letter in "mögliches eigentliches" in the original.
    – Levinist
    Apr 1 at 11:42

2 Answers 2

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From what I see in the typography of the original text, the spelling of "eigentliches" seems to be done on purpose. Since other terms were written with a capital letter, I assumed that "eigentliches" is an adjective of an omitted noun.

Here is a quote with the preceding and subsequent sentence:

Und weil Dasein wesenhaft je seine Möglichkeit ist, kann dieses Seiende in seinem Sein sich selbst »wählen«, gewinnen, es kann sich verlieren, bzw. nie und nur »scheinbar« gewinnen. Verloren haben kann es sich nur und noch nicht sich gewonnen haben kann es nur, sofern es seinem Wesen nach mögliches eigentliches, das heißt sich zueigen ist. Die beiden Seinsmodi der Eigentlichkeit und Uneigentlichkeit – diese Ausdrücke sind im strengen Wortsinne terminologisch gewählt — gründen darin, daß Dasein überhaupt durch Jemeinigkeit bestimmt ist.

In the preceding sentence, "Seiende" is the subject, so "es" in the following sentence refers to "Seiende".

We get:

[U]nd noch nicht sich gewonnen haben kann es nur, sofern es seinem Wesen nach mögliches eigentliches Seiendes […] ist.


Philosophers tend to write long sentences which make it difficult to keep track of the ideas. The grammar is rather simple, though. Here is an example:

  • Ich habe viele Autos. Das neue rote fahre ich heute.
  • Ich habe viele Autos. Das neue rote Auto fahre ich heute.
  • Ich habe viele Autos. Eines meiner Autos ist neu. Das neue Auto ist rot. Dieses neue rote Auto fahre ich heute.
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  • Yes, your reply has inspired me a lot. I have another idea which suggests that Heidegger has missed the noun after "mögliches eigentliches" on purpose, for he didn't know which word can be used correctly to express the philosophical meaning it should express. Here the "es" refers to "dieses Seiende" mentioned before, but "dieses Seiende" has its possibility to lose or win itself, this means that it can be a "Seiendes" or a "Sein" both possibly. If he says "mögliches eigentliches Seiendes" or "mögliches eigentliches Sein", he would dismiss another possibility.
    – Levinist
    Apr 1 at 15:02
  • For this reason, he has left the place empty for noun on purpose, leaving only two adjectives "mögliches eigentliches"
    – Levinist
    Apr 1 at 15:03
  • @Levinist, I doubt that Heidegger didn't know which word could be used as he spent a lot of time laying out his concept and establishing terms that express his ideas as precisely as possible. He would have been criticised if his logic was imcomplete, so if he didn't want to dismiss another possibility, he would have said so. Or did you see other examples of this idea in his text(s) that prove you right? If so, I would agree with you. Nevertheless, in terms of grammar, you are right. The rest is up for debate. ;)
    – Rottweiler
    Apr 1 at 15:21
  • When interpreting texts, we always have to keep the culture in mind. While leaving out nouns is possible in regards to the German grammar, we still culturally expect to hear/read the noun in advance. In other languages such as Korean, it is possible not to mention the subject at all assuming that people get it from the context. In German culture, this assumption is culturally wrong. So unless leaving out important information is part of Heideggers style, it is unlikely that it happened here.
    – Rottweiler
    Apr 1 at 15:39
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So your question is about the expression

Es ist mögliches eigentliches.

You isolated that correctly. For the sake of simplicity let's discuss a different adjective instead:

Es ist neu.

Es ist (etwas) Neues.

So the difference is that the first is an adjective while the second is a noun. We can only speculate why there isn't a capital on Eigentliches in Heidegger's text. Likely there was an ein … Ding in there originally which got edited out for brevity. Such mistakes with caps happen quite often during editing as they cannot sound wrong. Or it's a deliberate ellipsis of a different noun from a previous sentence. One way or the other, the predicative argument is a noun phrase in your example and that's why its adjectives are declined.

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