23 INT. I
Being and Time

So if it is said that 'Being' is the most universal concept, this cannot mean that it is the one which is clearest or that it needs no further discussion. It is rather the darkest of all.

2. It has been maintained secondly that the concept of 'Being' is [4] indefinable. This is deduced from its supreme universality,iv and rightly so, if definitio fit per genus proximum et differentiam specificam. 'Being' cannot indeed be conceived as an entity; enti non additur aliqua natura: nor can it acquire such a character as to have the term "entity" applied to it. "Being" cannot be derived from higher concepts by definition, nor can it be presented through lower ones. But does this imply that 'Being' no longer offers a problem? Not at all. We can infer only that 'Being' cannot have the character of an entity. Thus we cannot apply to Being the concept of 'definition' as presented in traditional logic, which itself has its foundations in ancient ontology and which, within certain limits, provides a quite justifiable way of defining "entities". The indefinability of Being does not eliminate the question of its meaning; it demands that we look that question in the face.

3. Thirdly, it is held that 'Being' is of all concepts the one that is self-evident. Whenever one cognizes anything or makes an assertion, whenever one comports oneself towards entities, even towards oneself,1 some use is made of 'Being'; and this expression is held to be intelligible 'without further ado', just as everyone understands "The sky is blue', 'I am merry', and the like. But here we have an average kind of intelligibility, which merely demonstrates that this is unintelligible. It makes manifest that in any way of comporting oneself towards entities as entities—even in any Being towards entities as entities—there lies a priori an enigma.2 The very fact that we already live in an understanding of Being and that the meaning of Being is still veiled in darkness proves that it is necessary in principle to raise this question again.

Within the range of basic philosophical concepts—especially when we come to the concept of 'Being'—it is a dubious procedure to invoke self-evidence, even if the 'self-evident' (Kant's 'covert judgments of the common reason')3 is to become the sole explicit and abiding theme for one's analytic—'the business of philosophers'.

1 '... in jedem Verhalten zu Seiendem, in jedem Sich-zu-sich-selbst-verhalten ...' The verb 'verhalten' can refer to any kind of behaviour or way of conducting oneself, even to the way in which one relates oneself to something else, or to the way one refrains or holds oneself back. We shall translate it in various ways

2 'Sie macht offenbar, dass in jedem Verhalten und Sein zu Seiendem als Seiendem a priori ein Rätsel liegt.' The phrase 'Sein zu Seiendem' is typical of many similar expressions in which the substantive 'Sein' is followed by the preposition 'zu'. In such expressions we shall usually translate 'zu' as 'towards': for example, 'Being-towards-death', 'Being towards Others', 'Being towards entities within-the-world'.

3 '"die geheimen Urteile der gemeinen Vernunft"'.