understood, in order to illustrate the failure of ordinary understanding, but rather to sharpen our attention to the difficulty and the inner requirements of a correct understanding.
I shall merely propose the example in a rough and ready way here. Amongst other things Dasein means: comporting oneself in being toward beings as such, and indeed doing so in such a way that this comportment also constitutes Dasein's being a being [das Seiend-sein des Daseins], and such being we designate as existence. What Dasein is consists in how it is, namely in how it exists. The what-being of Dasein, its essence, lies in its existence (Being and Time, p. 42). All human comportment toward beings as such is only intrinsically possible if such comportment is capable of understanding what is not as such. What is not and nothingness can only be understood if Dasein in understanding holds itself from the outset and fundamentally toward the nothing, is held out into the nothing. The task is to understand the innermost power of the nothing, precisely in order to let beings be as beings, in order to have and to be beings in all their powerfulness as beings. Now if ordinary understanding encounters this clarification of the fundamental relations of Dasein and its existence, and hears talk of the nothing and the fact that Dasein is supposedly held out into this nothing, then it hears only the nothing—which is somehow present at hand—and it also knows Dasein only as something present at hand. Thus it concludes that man is present at hand in the nothing, properly speaking he has nothing and consequently is himself nothing. Any philosophy which asserts such a thing is pure nihilism and the enemy of all culture. And this is all perfectly correct if we understand things the way in which they appear in the newspaper. For here the nothing is isolated and Dasein is placed into the nothing as something present at hand, instead of seeing that being held into the nothing is not some present at hand property of Dasein as compared with something else equally present at hand, but is rather a fundamental way in which Da-sein as such brings forth its ability to be. The nothing is not an empty nothingness that allows nothing to be present at hand, but is that power which constantly thrusts us back, which alone thrusts us into being and lets us assume power over our Dasein.
Now if intelligent and even inwardly gifted individuals inevitably fall victim to such an interpretation, utterly reversing its true meaning, this only shows once again that the most sharp-sighted conception, and even the most penetrating presentation of the problem, remains ineffectual until and unless a transformation of Dasein occurs; and this not through the apron strings of instruction, but from out of a free ability to hearken to things. But this is also to say that in this misunderstanding on the part of ordinary understanding we are not remotely concerned with the situation of opponents or reviewers of my work, but rather with a situation that each of us must constantly