The scope of our question is so broad that we can never exceed it. We are not interrogating this being or that being, nor all beings, each in turn; instead, we are asking from the start about the whole of what is, or as we say for reasons to be discussed later: beings as a whole and as such.
Just as it is the broadest question, the question is also the deepest: Why are there beings at all …? Why—that is, what is the ground? From what ground do beings come? On what ground do beings stand? To what ground do beings go?2 The question does not ask this or that about beings—what they are in each case, here and there, how they are put together, how they can be changed, what they can be used for, and so on. The questioning seeks the ground for what is, insofar as it is in being.3 To seek the ground: this means to get to the bottom <ergründen>. What is put into question comes into relation with a ground. But, because we are questioning, it remains an open question whether the ground is a truly grounding, foundation-effecting, originary ground; whether the ground refuses to provide a foundation, and so is an abyss; or whether the ground is neither one nor the other, but merely offers the perhaps necessary illusion of a foundation and is thus an un-ground.4 However this may be, the question seeks a decision with respect to the ground that grounds the fact that what is, is in being as the being that it is.5
2. Grund, like the English “ground,” can mean a foundation, earth, or soil, or a reason, cause, or explanation. Zu Grunde gehen (literally, “go to the ground”) is an idiom meaning “to be ruined.”
3. See seiend in German-English Glossary.
4. “Allein, weil gefragt wird, bleibt offen, ob der Grund ein wahrhaft gründender, Gründung erwirkender, Ur-grund ist; ob der Grund eine Gründung versagt, Ab-grund ist; ob der Grund weder das Eine noch das Andere ist, sondern nur einen vielleicht notwendigen Schein von Gründung vorgibt und so ein Un-grund ist.”
5. “… daß das Seiende seiend ist als ein solches, das es ist.”