What's the meaning of 'opposing' in the following sentence:

"We have long been accustomed to opposing x to y."

Edit: I deliberately eschewed the context and original reference, because its language is "strictly philosophical", in order to avoid the ambiguity. But anyway here it is:

Whatever has its essence in arrival and departure we would like to call becoming and perishing, which is to say, transience, and therefore not what has being (das Seiende); for we have long been accustomed to opposing being (Sein) to becoming, as if becoming were a nothingness and did not even belong to being, which one habitually understands only as sheer perdurance. If, though, becoming is, then we must think being so essentially that it not only comprises becoming in some empty concept, but that, rather, being ontologically (seinsmäßig) supports and characterizes becoming (genesis—phthora) in its essence.

The Hidden and the Manifest: Essays in Theology and Metaphysics by David Bentley Hart

  • 1
    Good question. Without more context, it's not at all clear. What do you think? May 19, 2022 at 19:57
  • 1
    I added the context.
    – Tayyab
    May 20, 2022 at 17:59
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    The original was in German, not English. Sein and Seiende are, respectively, the verb 'to be' (in infinitive form, which is a common nominalization in German), as opposed to a noun derived from the verb, 'being', another variety of nominalization. It says that "we are used to considering 'to be' as different from 'being'". I suppose that could be true for some people -- perhaps for everyone expected to read this paper. But it's hardly true for everyone. Most people wouldn't notice any difference, except that the words were used oddly. May 20, 2022 at 19:24
  • Seeing/regarding/treating X and Y as distinct. May 21, 2022 at 13:58
  • ... and not just distinct, but to regard as a dichotomy.
    – Phil Sweet
    May 22, 2022 at 0:02

1 Answer 1


A possible way of interpreting this construction is related to this definition of "oppose" from the OED:

II. Senses relating to opposition or opponency. 3. a. transitive. To set (something) against or in opposition to; to place or position as an obstacle. Also: to put forward (a person) as an antagonist. Chiefly with to; also (now rare) with against.

So, it could be that X and Y are being put in dialogue with each other, or being set up as two contrasting and oppositional positions. As John Lawler mentioned, it's difficult to be certain without context.

  • I added the context.
    – Tayyab
    May 20, 2022 at 18:00

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