καὶ δὴ καὶ τὸ πάλαι τε καὶ νῦν καὶ ἀεὶ ζητούμενον καὶ ἀεὶ ἀπορούμενον, τί τὸ ὄν, …2
And so the question that from antiquity has been, is now, and shall (before all else) remain the-sought-for—i.e., that which we (when we think it) continually cannot penetrate—is: what is the being?
τί τὸ ὄν—“What is the being?,” asks the thinker. In the above-articulated definition of what the to-be-thought of the thinker is, we encounter the word τὸ ὄν—“the being”—and so once again a word possessing the character of the participle. And once again we have taken this participle according to the meaning closest to that of conventional understanding—namely, as the substantive. According to the consideration of the wording of Aristotle’s quotation undertaken thus far, the to-be-thought of the thinker is τὸ ὄν. From this we can surely neither deduce if this participial word τὸ ὄν should be understood ‘substantively’ or ‘verbally,’ or indeed in some other way entirely. However, Aristotle himself helps us out with this dilemma. The first sentence of another among his treatises, which sketches an outline of the realm in which essential thinking should reside, begins with the following:
Ἔστιν ἐπιστήμη τις ἣ θεωρεῖ τὸ ὂν ᾗ ὂν καὶ τὰ τούτῳ ὑπάρχοντα καθ᾽αὐτό.3
 It is (by chance and by inner necessity) some kind of knowledge that takes into consideration the being, insofar as it is the being, (a knowledge, therefore, that) thus also (takes into consideration) that which belongs to it (i.e., to the being insofar as it is the being).
According to this sentence of Aristotle’s, essential thinking is some sort of knowledge. This knowledge is characterized by its consideration of what is to be known by it. What is considered is τὸ ὄν, the being, but it is considered ᾗ ὄν—this means that the consideration is in view of the fact that the being is a being. In regard to beings, it is not what lies nearest that should be gaped at—namely, that the being is a house or a tree, a donkey or a man, or something else entirely. Rather, the being should ‘only’ be considered in regard to what is seemingly distant, insofar as the being is determined as a being. But the being is only a being because it ‘is’: i.e., it is only a being by virtue of ‘being.’ τὸ ὄν, the being, is τὸ ζητούμενον, the sought-after; but what is sought-after in the thinking of the being is the being of beings, and whatever belongs to it.
2 Met. Z 1, 1028b2 ff.
3 Ibid., Γ 1, 1003a21–23.
44 The Inception of Occidental Thinking