4 • The Fundamental Question of Metaphysics

This why-question does not seek causes for beings, causes which are of the same kind and drawn from the same level as beings themselves. This why-question does not just skim the surface, but presses into the domains that lie “at the ground,” even pressing into the ultimate, to the limit; the question is [3|5] turned away from all surface and shallowness, striving for depth; as the broadest, it is at the same time the deepest of the deep questions.

Finally, as the broadest and deepest question, it is also the most originary. What do we mean by that? If we consider our question in the whole breadth of what it puts into question, beings as such and as a whole, then it strikes us right away that in the question, we keep ourselves completely removed from every particular, individual being as precisely this or that being. We do mean beings as a whole, but without any particular preference. Still, it is remarkable that one being always keeps coming to the fore in this questioning: the human beings who pose this question. And yet, the question should not be about some particular, individual being. Given the unrestricted range of the question, every being counts as much as any other. Some elephant in some jungle in India is in being just as much as some chemical oxidation process on the planet Mars, and whatever else you please.

Thus, if we properly pursue the question, “Why are there beings at all instead of nothing?” in its sense as a question, we must avoid emphasizing any particular, individual being, not even focusing on the human being. For what is this being, after all! Let us consider the earth within the dark immensity of space in the universe. We can compare it to a tiny grain of sand; more than a kilometer of emptiness extends between it and the next grain of its size; on the surface of this tiny grain of sand lives a stupefied swarm of supposedly clever animals, crawling all over each other, who for a brief moment have invented knowledge [cf. Nietzsche, “On Truth and Lie in the Extramoral Sense,” 1873, published posthumously].6

6. In parentheses in the 1953 edition. Nietzsche’s essay begins: “‘In some remote corner of the universe, glimmering diffusely into countless solar systems, there was once a planet upon which clever animals invented knowledge. It was the proudest and most mendacious minute in “world history”; but it was only a minute. After nature had taken a few breaths, the planet grew cold, and the clever animals had to die.’ Someone could invent a fable like that, and he still would not have adequately illustrated how wretched, how shadowlike and fleeting, how pointless and arbitrary the human intellect appears within nature.” Cf. The Portable Nietzsche, ed. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Viking, 1954), 42.