to Picot, who translated the Principia Philosophiae into French, observed:
"Thus the whole of philosophy is like a tree: the roots are metaphysics, the
trunk is physics, and the branches that issue from the trunk are all the other
sciences . . ."
Sticking to this
image, we ask: In what soil do the roots of the tree of philosophy have their
hold? Out of what ground do the roots-and through them the whole tree-receive
their nourishing juices and strength? What element, concealed in the ground,
enters and lives in the roots that support and nourish the tree? What is the
basis and element of metaphysics? What is metaphysics, viewed from its ground?
What is metaphysics itself, at bottom?
about beings as beings. Wherever the question is asked what beings are, beings
as such are in sight. Metaphysical representation owes this sight to tho light
of Being. The light itself, i.e., that which such thinking experiences as light,
does not come within the range of metaphysical thinking; for- metaphysics always
represents beings only as beings. Within this perspective, metaphysical thinking
does, of course, inquire about the being which is tho source and originator
of this light. But the light itself is considered sufficiently illuminated as
soon as we recognise that we look through it whenever we look at beings.
In whatever manner
beings are interpreted-whether as spirit, after tho fashion of spiritualism;
or as matter and force, after the fashion of materialism; or as becoming and
life, or idea, will, substance, subject, or energeia; or as the eternal
recurrence of the same event - every time, beings as beings appear in the light
of Being. Wherever metaphysics represents beings. Being has entered into the
light. Being has arrived in a state of unconcealedness. But whether and how
Being itself involves such unconcealedness, whether and how it manifests itself
in, and as, metaphysics, remains obscure. Being in its revelatory essence, i.
e. in its truth, is not recalled. Nevertheless, when metaphysics gives answers
to its question concerning beings as such, metaphysics speaks out of the unnoticed
revealedness of Being. The truth of Being may thus be called the ground in which
metaphysics, as the root of the tree of philosophy, is kept and from which it
inquires about beings as beings, it remains concerned with beings and does not
devote itself to Being as Being. As the root of the tree, it sends all nourishment
and all strength into the trunk and its branches. The root branches out in the
soil to enable the tree to grow out of the ground and thus to leave it. The
tree of philosophy grows out of the soil in which metaphysics is rooted. The
ground is the element in which the root of the tree lives, but the growth of
the tree is never able to absorb this soil in such a way that it disappears
in the tree as part of the tree. Instead, the roots, down to the subtlest tendrils,
lose themselves in the soil. The ground is ground for the roots, and in the
ground the roots forget themselves for the sake of the tree. The roots still
belong to the tree even when they abandon themselves, after a fashion, to the
element of the soil. They squander themselves and their element on the tree.
As roots, they do not devote themselves to the soil-at least not as if it were
their life to grow only into this element and to spread out in it. Presumably,
the element would not be the same element either if the roots did not live in
as it always represents only beings as beings, does not recall Being itself.
Philosophy does not concentrate on its ground. It always leaves its ground-leaves
it by means of metaphysics. And yet it never escapes its ground.
Insofar as a thinker
sets out to experience the ground of metaphysics, insofar as he attempts to
recall the truth of Being itself instead of merely representing beings as beings,
his thinking has in a sense left metaphysics. From the point of view of metaphysics,
such thinking goes back into tho ground of metaphysics. But what still appears
as ground from this point of view is presumably something else, once it is experienced
in its own terms - something as yet unsaid, according to which the essence of
metaphysics, too, is something else and not metaphysics.
which recalls the truth of Being, is no longer satisfied with mere metaphysics,
to be sure; but it does not oppose and think against metaphysics either. To
return to our image, it does not tear up the root of philosophy. It tills the
ground and ploughs the soil for this root. Metaphysics remains the basis of
philosophy. The basis of thinking, however, it does not reach. When we think
of the truth of Being, metaphysics is overcome. We can no longer accept the
claim of metaphysics that it takes care of the fundamental involvement in "Being"
and that it decisively determines all relations to beings as such. But this
"overcoming of metaphysics" does not abolish metaphysics. As long as man remains
the animal rationale he is also the animal metaphysicum. As long
as man understands himself as the rational animal, metaphysics belongs, as Kant
said, to the nature of man. But if our thinking should succeed in its efforts
to go back into the ground of metaphysics, it might well help to bring about
a change in human nature, accompanied by a transformation of metaphysics.
If, as we unfold
the question concerning the truth of Being, we speak of overcoming metaphysics,
this means: recalling Being itself. Such recalling goes beyond the tradition
of forgetting the ground of the root of philosophy. The thinking attempted in
Being and Time (1927) sets out on the way to prepare an overcoming of
metaphysics, so understood. That, however, which prompts such thinking can only
be that which is to be recalled. That Being itself and how Being itself concerns
our thinking does not depend upon our thinking alone. That Being itself, and
the manner in which Being itself, strikes a man's thinking, that rouses his
thinking and stirs it to rise from Being itself to respond and correspond to
Being as such.
Why, however, should
such an overcoming of metaphysics be necessary? Is the point merely to underpin
that discipline of philosophy which was the root hitherto, or to supplant it
with a yet more basic discipline? Is it a question of changing the philosophic
system of instruction? No. (?r are we trying to go back into the ground of metaphysics
in order to uncover a hitherto overlooked presupposition of philosophy, and
thereby to show that philosophy does not yet stand on an unshakeable foundation
and therefore cannot yet be the absolute science? No.
It is something
else that is at stake with the arrival of tho truth of Being or its failure
to arrive: it is neither the state of philosophy nor philosophy itself alone,
but rather the proximity or remoteness of that from which philosophy, insofar
as it means the representation of beings as such, receives its nature and its
necessity. What is to be decided u nothing less than this: can Being itself,
out of its own unique truth, bring about its involvement in human nature; or
shall metaphysics, which turns its back to its ground, prevent further that
the involvement of Being in man may generate a radiance out of the very essence
of this involvement itself radiance which might lead man to belong to Being?
In its answers
to the question concerning beings as such, metaphysics operates with a prior
conception of Being. It speaks of Being necessarily and hence continually. But
metaphysics does not induce Being itself to speak, for metaphysics does not
recall Being in its truth, nor does it recall truth as unconcealedness, nor
does it recall the nature of unconcealedness. To metaphysics the nature of truth
always appears only in the derivative form of the truth of knowledge and the
truth of propositions which formulate our knowledge. Unconcealedness, however,
might be prior to all truth in the sense of veritas. Alitheia might be
the word that offers a hitherto unnoticed hint concerning the nature of esse
which has not yet been recalled. If this should be so, then the representational
thinking of metaphysics could certainly never reach this nature of truth, however
zealously it might devote itself to historical studies of pre-Socratic philosophy;
for what is at stake here is not some renaissance of pre-Socratic thinking:
any such attempt would be vain and absurd. What is wanted is rather some regard
for the arrival of the hitherto unexpressed nature of unconcealedness, for it
is in this form that Being has announced itself. Meanwhile the truth of Being
has remained concealed from metaphysics during its long history from Anaximander
to Nietzsche. Who does metaphysics not recall it? Is the failure to recall it
merely a function of some kinds of metaphysical thinking? Or is it an essential
feature of the fate of metaphysics that it own ground eludes it because in the
rise of unconcealedness! its very core, namely concealedness, stays away in
favour of the unconcealed which appears in the form of beings?
speaks continually and in the most various ways of Being. Metaphysics gives,
and seems to confirm, the appearance that it asks and answers the question concerning
Being. In fact, metaphysics never answers the question concerning the truth
of Being, for it never asks this question. Metaphysics does not ask this question
because it thinks of Being only by representing beings as beings. It means all
beings as a whole, although it speaks of Being. It refers to Being and means
beings as beings. From its beginning to its completion, the propositions of
metaphysics have been strangely involved in a persistent confusion of beings
and Being. This confusion, to be sure, must be considered an event and not a
mere mistake. It cannot by any means be charged to a mere negligence of thought
or a carelessness of expression. Owing to this persistent confusion, the claim
that metaphysics poses the question of Being lands us in utter error.
Due to the manner
in which it thinks of beings, metaphysics almost seems to be, without knowing
it, the barrier which keeps man from the original involvement of Being in human
What if the absence
of this involvement and the oblivion of this absence determined the entire modern
age? What if the absence of Being abandoned man more and more exclusively to
beings, leaving him forsaken and far from any involvement of Being in his nature,
while this forsakenness itself remained veiled? What if this were the case and
had been the case for a long time now? What if there were signs that this oblivion
will become still more decisive in the future?
Would there still
be occasion for a thoughtful person to give himself arrogant airs in view of
this fateful withdrawal with which Being presents us? Would there still be occasion,
if this should be our situation, to deceive ourselves with pleasant phantasms
and to indulge, of all things, in an artificially induced elation? If the oblivion
of Being which has been described here should be real, would there not be occasion
enough for a thinker who recalls Being to experience a genuine horror? What
more can his thinking do than to t endure in dread this fateful withdrawal while
first of all facing up to the oblivion of Being? But how could thought achieve
this as long as its fatefully granted dread seems to it no more than a mood
of depression? What does such dread, which is fated by Being, have to do with
psychology or psychoanalysis?
Suppose that the
overcoming of metaphysics involved the endeavour to commence with a regard for
the oblivion of Being the attempt to learn to develop such a regard, in order
to experience this oblivion and to absorb this experience into the involvement
of Being in man, and to preserve it there: then, in the distress of the oblivion
of Being, the question "What is metaphysics?" might well become the most necessary
necessity for thought.
depends on this: that our thinking should become more thoughtful in its season.
This is achieved when our thinking, instead of implementing a higher degree
of exertion, is directed toward a different point of origin. The thinking which
is posited by beings as such, and therefore representational and illuminating
in that way, must be supplanted by a different kind of thinking which is brought
to pass by Being itself and, therefore, responsive to Being.
All attempts are
futile which seek to make representational thinking which remains metaphysical,
and only metaphysical, effective and useful for immediate action in everyday
public life. The more thoughtful our thinking becomes and the more adequate
it is to the involvement of Being in it, the purer our thinking will stand eo
ipso in the one action appropriate to it: recalling what is meant for it
and thus, in a sense, what is already meant.
But who still recalls
what is meant? One makes inventions. To lead our thinking on the way on which
it may find the involvement of the truth of Being in human nature, to open up
a path for our thinking on which it may recall Being itself in its truth-to
do that the thinking attempted in Being and Time is "on its way." On
this way-that is, in the service of the question concerning the truth of Being
- it becomes necessary to stop and think about human nature; for the experience
of the oblivion of Being, which is not specifically mentioned because it still
had to be demonstrated, involves the crucial conjecture that in view of the
unconcealedness of Being the involvement of Being in human nature is an essential
feature of Being. But how could this conjecture, which is experienced here,
become an explicit question before every attempt had been made to liberate the
determination of human nature from the concept of subjectivity and from the
concept of the animal rationale? To characterise with a single term both the
involvement of Being in human nature and the essential relation of man to the
openness ("there") of Being as such, the name of "being there [Dasein]" was
chosen for that sphere of being in which man stands as man. This term was employed,
even though in metaphysics it is used interchangeably with existentia, actuality,
reality, and objectivity, and although this metaphysical usage is further supported
by the common [German] expression "menschliches Dasein." Any attempt,
therefore, to re-think Being and Time is thwarted as long as one is satisfied
with the observation that, in this study, the term "being there" is used in
place of "consciousness." As if this were simply a matter of using different
words! As if it were not the one and only thing at stake here: namely, to get
men to think about the involvement of Being in human nature and thus, from our
point of view, to present first of all an experience of human nature which may
prove sufficient to direct our inquiry. The term "being there" neither takes
the place of the term "consciousness" nor does the "object" designated as "being
there" take the place of what we think of when we speak of "consciousness."
"Being there" names that which should first of all be experienced, and subsequently
thought of, as a place namely, the location of the truth of Being.
What the term "being
there" means throughout the treatise on Being and Time is indicated immediately
(page 42) by its introductory key sentence: "The 'essence' of being there lies
in its existence." [Das "Wesen" des Daseins liegt in seiner Existenz.]
To be sure, in
the language of metaphysics the word "existence" is a synonym of "being there":
both refer to the reality of anything at all that is real, from God to a grain
of sand. As long, therefore, as the quoted sentence is understood only superficially,
the difficulty is merely transferred from one word to another, from "being there"
to "existence." In B.&T. the term "existence" is used exclusively
for the being of man. Once "existence" is understood rightly, the "essence"
of being there can be recalled: in its openness, Being itself manifests and
conceals itself, yields itself and withdraws; at the same time, this truth of
Being does not exhaust itself in being there, nor can it by any means simply
be identified with it after the fashion of the metaphysical proposition: all
objectivity is as such also subjectivity.
What does "existence"
mean in B.&T.? The word designates a mode of Being; specifically,
the Being of those beings who stand open for the openness of Being in which
they stand, by standing it. This "standing it," this enduring, is experienced
under the name of "care." The ecstatic essence of being there is approached
by way of care, and, conversely, care is experienced adequately only in its
ecstatic essence. "Standing it, experienced in this manner, is the essence of
the ekstasis which must be grasped by thought. The ecstatic essence of
existence is therefore still understood inadequately as long as one thinks of
it as merely "standing out," while interpreting the "out" as meaning "away from"
the inside of an immanence of consciousness and spirit. For in this manner,
existence would still be understood in terms of "subjectivity" and "substance";
while, in fact, the "out" ought to be understood in terms of the openness of
Being itself. The stasis of the ecstatic consists, strange as it may sound-in
standing in the "out" and "there" of unconcealedness in which Being itself is
present. What is meant by "existence" in the context of an inquiry that is prompted
by, and directed toward, the truth of Being, can be most beautifully designated
by the word "instancy [Instandigkeit]." We must think at the same time,
however, of standing in the openness of Being, of enduring and outstanding this
standing-in (care), and of out-braving the utmost (Being toward death); for
it is only together that they constitute the full essence of existence.
The being that
exists is man. Man alone exists. Rocks are, but they do not exist. Trees are,
but they do not exist. Horses are, but they do not exist. Angels are, but they
do not exist. God is, but he does not exist. The proposition "man alone exists"
does not mean by any means that man alone is * real being while all other beings
are unreal and mere appearances or human ideas. The proposition "man exists"
means: man is that being whose Being is distinguished by the open-standing standing-in
in the unconcealedness of Being, from Being, in Being. The existential nature
of man is the reason why man can represent beings as such, and why ho can be
conscious of them. All consciousness presupposes ecstatically understood existence
as the essentia of man - essentia meaning that as which man is
present insofar as he is j man. But consciousness does not itself create the
openness of beings, nor is it consciousness that makes it possible for man to
stand open for beings. Whither and whence and in what free dimension could the
intentionality of consciousness move, if instancy were not the essence of man
in the first instance? What else could be the meaning if anybody has ever seriously
thought about this of the word sein in the [German] words Bewusstsein
["consciousness"; literally: "being conscious"] and Selbstbewusstsein
["self-consciousness"] if it did not designate the existential nature of that
which is in tho mode of existence? To be a self is admittedly one feature of
the nature of that being which exists; but existence does not consist in being
a self, nor can it be defined in such terms. We are faced with the fact that
metaphysical thinking understands man's selfhood in terms of substance or-and
at bottom this amounts to the same in terms of the subject. It is for this reason
that the first way which leads away from metaphysics to the ecstatic existential
nature of man must lead through the metaphysical conception of human selfhood
(B.&T., §§63 and 64).
The question concerning
existence, however, is always subservient to that question which is nothing
less than tho only question of thought. This question, yet to be unfolded, concerns
the truth of Being as the concealed ground of all metaphysics. For this reason
the treatise which sought to point the way back into the ground of metaphysics
did not bear the title "Existence and Time," nor "Consciousness and Time," but
Being and Time. Nor can this title be understood as if it were parallel
to the customary juxtapositions of Being and Becoming, Being and Seeming, Being
and Thinking, or Being and Ought. For in all these cases Being is limited, as
if Becoming, Seeming, Thinking, and Ought did not belong to Being, although
it is obvious that they are not nothing and thus belong to Being. In Being
and Time, Being is not something other than Time: "Time" is called the first
name of the truth of Being, and this truth is the presence of Being and thus
Being itself. But why "Time" and "Being"?
By recalling the
beginnings of history when Being unveiled itself in the thinking of the Greeks,
it can be shown that the Greeks from the very beginning experienced the Being
d beings as the presence of the present. When we translate einai as "being"
our translation is linguistically correct. Yet we merely substitute one set
of sounds for another. As soon as we examine ourselves it becomes obvious that
we neither think einai, as it were, in Greek nor have in mind a correspondingly
clear and univocal concept when we speak of "being." What, then, are we saying
when instead of einai we say "being," and instead of "being," einai
and esse? We are saying nothing. The Greek, Latin, and German word all
remain equally obtuse. As long as we adhere to the customary usage we merely
betray ourselves as the pacemakers of the greatest thoughtlessness which has
ever gained currency in human thought and which has remained dominant until
this moment. This einai, however, means: to be present [anwesen;
this verb form, in place of the idiomatic "anwesend sein," is Heidegger's
neology]. The true being of this being present [das Wesen dieses Anwesens]
is deeply concealed in the earliest names of Being. But for us einai
and ousia as par - and apousia means this first of all:
in being present there moves, unrecognised and concealed, present time and duration-in
one word, Time. Being as such is thus unconcealed owing to Time. Thus Time points
to unconcealedness, i. e., the truth of Being. But the Time of which we should
think here is not experienced through the changeful career of beings. Time is
evidently of an altogether different nature which neither has been recalled
by way of the time concept of metaphysics nor ever can be recalled in this way.
Thus Time becomes the first name, which is yet to be heeded, of the truth of
Being, which is yet to be experienced.
A concealed hint
of Time speaks not only out of the earliest metaphysical names of Being but
also out of its last name, which is "the eternal recurrence of the same events."
Through the entire epoch of metaphysics, Time is decisively present in the history
of Being, without being recognised or thought about. To this Time, space is
neither co-ordinated nor merely subordinated.
Suppose one attempts
to make a transition from the representation of beings as such to recalling
the truth of Being:. such an attempt, which starts from this representation,
must still represent, in a certain sense, the truth of Being, too;; and any
such representation must of necessity be heterogeneous and ultimately, insofar
as it is a representation, in-~~ adequate for that which is to be thought. This
relation, which comes out of metaphysics and tries to enter into the involvement
of the truth of Being in human nature, is called understanding. But here understanding
is viewed, at the same time, from the point of view of the unconcealedness of
Being. Understanding is a project thrust forth and ecstatic, which means that
it stands in the sphere of the open. The sphere which opens up as we project,
in order that something (Being in this case) may prove itself as something (in
this case, Being as itself in its unconcealedness), is called the sense. (Cf.
B.&T., p. 151) "The sense of Being" and "the truth of Being" mean
Let us suppose
that Time belongs to the truth of Being in a way that is still concealed: then
every project that holds open the truth of Being, representing a way of understanding
Being, must look out into Time as the horizon of any possible understanding
of Being. (Cf. B.&T., §§31-34 and 68.)
The preface to
Being and Time, on the first page of the treatise, ends with these sentences:
"To furnish a concrete elaboration of the question concerning the sense of 'Being'
is the intention of the following treatise. The interpretation of Time as the
horizon of every possible attempt to understand Being is its provisional goal."
has fallen into the oblivion of Being which has, at the same time, become and
remained the fateful demand on thought in B.&T.; and philosophy could
hardly have given a clearer demonstration of the power of this oblivion of Being
than it has furnished us by the somnambulistic assurance with which it has passed
by the real and only question of B.&T. What is at stake here is,
therefore, not a series of misunderstandings of a book but our abandonment by
what beings are as beings. It offers a logos (statement) about the outa
(beings). The later title "ontology" characterises its nature, provided, of
course, that we understand it in accordance with its true significance and not
through its narrow scholastic meaning. Metaphysics moves in the sphere of the
on i on: it deals with beings as beings. In this manner, metaphysics
always represents beings as such in their totality; it deals with the beingness
of beings (the ousia of the on). But metaphysics represents the
beingness of beings [die Seiendheit des Seienden] in a twofold manner:
in the first place, the totality of beings as such with an eye to their most
universal traits (ou katholou koinon;) but at the same time also the
totality of beings as such in the sense of the highest and therefore divine
being (on katholon, akrotaton, theiou). In the metaphysics of Aristotle,
the unconcealedness of beings as such has specifically developed in this twofold
represents beings as beings, it is, two-in-one, the truth of beings in their
universality and in the highest being. According to its nature, it is at the
same time ontology in the narrower sense and theology. This ontotheological
nature of philosophy proper (proti psilosopsia) is, no doubt, due to
the way in which the on opens up in it, namely as 8v. Thus the theological
character of ontology is not merely due to the fact that Greek metaphysics was
later taken up and transformed by the ecclesiastic theology of Christianity.
Rather it is due to the manner in which beings as beings have from the very
beginning disconcealed themselves. It was this unconcealedness of beings that
provided the possibility for Christian theology to take possession of Greek
philosophy- whether for better or for worse may be decided by the theologians,
on the basis of their experience of what is Christian; only they should keep
in mind what is written in the First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians:
"ouhi emoranen o theos tin sopsian tou kosmou; Has not God let the wisdom
of this world become foolishness?" (I Cor. 1:20) The sposia tou kosmou
[wisdom of this world], however, is that which, according to 1: 22, theEllines
zitousin, the Greeks seek. Aristotle even calls the proti psilosopsia
(philosophy proper) quite specifically zitoumeni - what is sought. Will
Christian theology make up its mind one day to take seriously the word of the
apostle and thus also the conception of philosophy as foolishness?
As the truth of
beings as such, metaphysics has a twofold character. The reason for this two-foldness,
however, let alone its origin, remains unknown to metaphysics; and this is no
accident, nor due to mere neglect. Metaphysics has this twofold character because
it is what it is: the representation of beings as beings. Metaphysics has no
choice. Being metaphysics, it is by its very nature excluded from the experience
of Being; for it always represents beings (on) only with an eye to what
of Being has already manifested itself as beings (i on). But metaphysics
never pays attention to what has concealed itself in this very on insofar
as it became unconcealed.
Thus the time came
when it became necessary to make a fresh attempt to grasp by thought what precisely
is said when we speak of on or use the word "being" [seiend].
Accordingly, the question concerning the on was reintroduced into human
thinking. (Cf. B.&T., Preface.) But this reintroduction is no mere
repetition of the Platonic-Aristotelian question; instead it asks about that
which conceals itself in the on.
founded upon that which conceals itself here as long as metaphysics studies
the on i on. The attempt to inquire back into what conceals itself here
seeks, from the point of view of metaphysics, the fundament of ontology. Therefore
this attempt is called, in Being and Time (page l3) "fundamental ontology"
[Fundamentalontologie]. Yet this title, like any title, is soon seen
to be inappropriate. From the point of view of metaphysics, to be sure, it says
something that is correct; but precisely for that reason it is misleading, for
what matters is success in the transition from metaphysics to recalling the
truth of Being. As long as this thinking calls itself "fundamental ontology"
it blocks and obscures its own way with this title. For what the title "fundamental
ontology" suggests is, of course, that the attempt to recall the truth of Being-and
not, like all ontology, the truth of beings-is itself (seeing that it is called
"fundamental ontology") still a kind of ontology. In fact, the attempt to recall
the truth of Being sets out on the way back into the ground of metaphysics,
and with its first step it immediately leaves the realm of all ontology. On
the other hand, every philosophy which revolves around an indirect or direct
conception of "transcendence" remains of necessity essentially an ontology,
whether it achieves a new foundation of ontology or whether it assures us that
it repudiates ontology as a conceptual freezing of experience.
Coming from the
ancient custom of representing beings as such, the very thinking that attempted
to recall the truth of Being became entangled in these customary conceptions.
Under these circumstances it would seem that both for a preliminary orientation
and in order to prepare the transition from representational thinking to a new
kind of thinking recalls [das andenkende Denken], that nothing could
be more necessary than the question: What is metaphysics?
The unfolding of
this question in the following Picture culminates in another question. This
is called the basic question of metaphysics: Why is there any being at all and
not rather Nothing? Meanwhile [since this lecture was first published in 1929],
to be sure, people have talked back and forth a great deal about dread and the
Nothing, both of which are spoken of in this lecture. But one has never yet
deigned to ask oneself why a lecture which moves from thinking of the truth
of Being to the Nothing, and then tries from there to think into the nature
of metaphysics, should claim that this question is the basic question of metaphysics.
How can an attentive reader help feeling on the tip of his tongue an objection
which is far more weighty than all protests against dread and the Nothing? The
final question provokes the objection that an inquiry which attempts to recall
Being by way of the Nothing returns in the end to a question concerning beings.
On top of that, the question even proceeds in the customary manner of metaphysics
by beginning with a causal "Why?" To this extent, then, the attempt to recall
Being is repudiated in favour of representational knowledge of beings on the
basis of beings. And to make matters still worse, the final question is obviously
the question which the metaphysician Leibniz posed in his Principes de la
nature et de la grace: "Pourquoi il y a plutot quelque chose que rien?"
Does the lecture,
then fall short of its intention? After all, this would be quite possible in
view of the difficulty of effecting a transition from metaphysics to another
kind of thinking. Does the lecture end up by asking Leibniz' metaphysical question
about the supreme cause of all things that have being? Why, then, is Leibniz'
name not mentioned, as decency would seem to require?
Or is the question
asked in an altogether different sense? If it does not concern itself with beings
and inquire about their first cause among all beings, then the question must
begin from that which is not a being. And this is precisely what the question
names, and it capitalises the word: the Nothing. This is the sole topic of the
lecture. The demand seems obvious that the end of the lecture should be thought
through, for once, in its own perspective which determines the whole lecture.
What has been called the basic question of metaphysics would then have to be
understood and asked in terms of fundamental ontology as the question that comes
out of the ground of metaphysics and as the question about this ground.
But if we grant
this lecture that in the end it thinks in tho direction of its own distinctive
concern, how are we to under- n stand this question?
The question is:
Why is there any being at all and not rather Nothing? Suppose that we do not
remain within metaphysics to ask metaphysically in the customary manner; suppose
we recall the truth of Being out of the nature and the truth of metaphysics;
then this might be asked as well: How did it come about that beings take precedence
everywhere and lay claim to every "is" while that which is not a being is understood
as Nothing, though it is Being itself, and remains forgotten? How did it come
about that with Being It really is nothing and that the Nothing really is not?
Is it perhaps from this that the as yet unshaken presumption has entered into
all metaphysics that "Being" may simply be taken for granted and that Nothing
is therefore made more easily than beings? That is indeed the situation regarding
Being and Nothing. If it were different, then Leibniz could wt have said in
the same place by way of an explanation: "Car le rien est plus simple et
plus facile que quelque chose". For the nothing is simpler and easier than
What is more enigmatic:
that beings are, or that Being is? Or does even this reflection fail to bring
us close to that enigma which has occurred with the Being of beings?
Whatever the answer
may be, the time should have ripened meanwhile for thinking through the lecture
"What is Metaphysics?" which has been subjected to so many attacks, from its
end, for once-from its end and not from an imaginary end.