Thesis of Modern Ontology [213-214]

In a lecture on metaphysics he says: "No being except the creator alone can cognitively grasp the substance of another thing."7a If we take these two fundamental propositions together, they assert that a genuine cognitive grasp of a being in its being is available only to that being's creator. The primary and direct reference to the being of a being lies in the production of it. And this implies that being of a being means nothing but producedness. The advance to the true and proper being of beings is blocked to finite substances because finite intelligences do not and have not themselves produced the beings to be apprehended. Being of a being must be understood here as being-produced. if indeed the producer, the originator alone is supposed to be able to apprehend the substance, that which constitutes the being of the being. Only the creator is capable of a true and proper cognition of being; we finite beings get to know only what we ourselves make and only to the extent that we make it. But we ourselves are beings who do not simply by our own resources produce our own selves. Instead, we are ourselves produced and. therefore, as Kant says, we are creators only in part.8 The reason for the unknowability of the being of substances, of things extant in their proper being, is that they are produced. The being of finite entities, whether things or persons, is from the beginning conceived in the horizon of production as producedness, and certainly in a direction that does not directly coincide with that of ancient ontology but nevertheless belongs to it and descends from it.

We shall try to get clear on the point that ultimately the foundation of the Kantian interpretation of the moral person also lies in ancient-medieval ontology. To understand this it is necessary to comprehend the general definition of the person as finite substance and to determine what finitude means. Finitude is being referred necessarily to receptivity, that is, the impossibility of being oneself the creator and producer of another being. Only the creator of a being knows this being in its proper being. The being of things is understood as being-produced. In Kant this is present basically as a self-evident matter of course, but it does not receive explicit expression. The Kantian interpretation of finite substances and their interconnection also traces back to the same ontological horizon that we encountered in the

7a. Kant, Vorlesungen über die Metaphysik, ed. Pölitz (Erfurt, 1821), p. 97. [The reference here is to the original publication: Immanuel Kant's Vorlesungen über die Metaphysik, "prepared for the pres by the editor of Kant's Vorlesungen über die philosophische Religionslehre" (i.e. Karl H. L. Pölitz), with an introduction (Erfurt, Keysersche Buchhandlung, 1821). There is a second edition, following the 1821 edition, edited by K. H. Schmidt (Roswein: Pflugbeil, 1925).]

8. Reflection No. 1117.