10 • The Fundamental Question of Metaphysics

Philosophy, then, is not a kind of knowledge that one could acquire directly, like vocational and technical expertise, and which, like economic and professional knowledge in general, one could apply directly and evaluate according to its usefulness in each case.

But what is useless can nevertheless be a power—a power in the rightful sense. That which has no immediate resonance <Widerklang> in everydayness can stand in innermost harmony <Einklang> with the authentic happening in the history of a people. It can even be its prelude <Vorklang>. What is untimely will have its own times. This holds for philosophy. Therefore, we cannot determine what the task of philosophy in itself and in general is, and what must accordingly be demanded of philosophy. Every stage and every inception of its unfolding carries within it its own law. One can only say what philosophy cannot be and what it cannot achieve.

A question has been posed: “Why are there beings at all instead of nothing?” We have claimed that this question is the first. We have explained in what sense it is meant as the first.

Thus we have not yet asked this question; right away we turned aside into a discussion of it. This procedure is necessary, for the asking of this question cannot be compared with what is customary. There is no gradual transition from the customary by which the question could slowly become more familiar. This is why it must be posed in advance, pro-posed <vor-gestellt>, as it were. On the other hand, in this pro-posal of and talk about the question, we must not defer, or even forget, the questioning.

We therefore conclude the preliminary remarks with this session’s discussions.

Every essential form of spirit is open to ambiguity. The more this form resists comparison with others, the more it is misinterpreted.