2 INT. I
Being and Time

so by virtue of its obscurity has become obvious, clear as day, such that whoever persists in asking about it is accused of an error of method.

At the beginning of this inquiry the prejudices that constantly instill and repeatedly promote the idea that a questioning of being is [3] not needed cannot be discussed in detail. They are rooted in ancient ontology itself. That ontology can in tum only be interpreted adequately under the guidance of the question of being which has been clarified and answered beforehand. One must proceed with regard to the soil from which the fundamental ontological concepts grew and with reference to the suitable demonstration of the categories and their completeness. We therefore wish to discuss these prejudices only to the extent that the necessity of a repetition of the question of the meaning of being becomes evident. There are three such prejudices.

1. "Being"* is the most "universal" concept: τὸ ὄν ἐστι καθόλου μάλιστα πάντων.1 Illud quad primo cadit sub apprehensione, est ens, cuius intellectus includitur in omnibus, quaecumque quis apprehendit. "An understanding of being is always already contained in everything we apprehend in beings."2 But the "universality" of "being" is not that of genus. "Being" does not delimit the highest region of beings so far as they are conceptually articulated according to genus and species: οὔτε τὸ ὄν γένος ["being is not a genus"].3 The "universality" of being "surpasses" the universality of genus. According to the designation of medieval ontology, "being" is a transcendens. Aristotle himself understood the unity of this transcendental "universal," as opposed to the manifold of the highest generic concepts with material content, as the unity of analogy. Despite his dependence upon Plato's ontological position, Aristotle placed the problem of being on a fundamentally new basis with this discovery. To be sure, he too did not clarify the obscurity of these categorical connections. Medieval ontology discussed this problem in many ways, above all the Thomist and Scotist schools, without gaining fundamental clarity. And when Hegel finally defines ''being" as the "indeterminate immediate," and makes this definition the foundation of all the further categorial explications of his Logic, he remains within the perspective of ancient ontology—except that he gives up the problem, raised early on by Aristotle, of the unity of being in contrast to the manifold of "categories" with material content. If one says accordingly that "being" is the most universal concept, that cannot mean that it is the clearest and that it needs no further discussion. The concept of "being" is rather the most obscure of all.


* the being [das Seiend], beingness [Seiendheit].


1. Aristotle, Metaphysics, m.4.1001a21

2. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae II.1, qu. 94, a. 2.

3. Aristotle, Metaphysics III.3.998b22.


Martin Heidegger (GA 2) Being & Time (S&S)