its beginning to its end, a task accessible neither to philosophy as metaphysics nor, and even less so, to the sciences stemming from philosophy. Therefore we ask:
What task is reserved for thinking at the end of philosophy?
The mere thought of such a task of thinking must sound strange to us. A thinking which can be neither metaphysics nor science?
A task which has concealed itself from philosophy since its very beginning, even in virtue of that beginning, and thus has withdrawn itself continually and increasingly in the times that followed?
A task of thinking which—so it seems—includes the assertion that philosophy has not been up to the matter of thinking and has thus become a history of mere decline?
Is there not an arrogance in these assertions which desires to put itself above the greatness of the thinkers of philosophy?
This suspicion easily suggests itself. But it can as easily be removed. For every attempt to gain insight into the supposed task of thinking finds itself moved to review the whole of the history of philosophy. Not only this, but it is even forced to think the historicity of that which grants a possible history to philosophy.
Because of this, that supposed thinking necessarily falls short of the greatness of the philosophers. It is less than philosophy. Less also because the direct or indirect effect of this thinking on the public in the industrial age, formed by technology and science, is decisively less possible to this thinking than it was in the case of philosophy.
But above all, the thinking in question remains slight because its task is only of a preparatory, not of a founding character. It is content with awakening a readiness in man for a possibility whose contour remains obscure, whose coming remains uncertain.
Thinking must first learn what remains reserved and in store for it, what it is to get involved in. It prepares its own transformation in this learning.