Let that suffice for us as an explication of what philosophy is not.
At the outset we spoke of a question: “Why are there beings at all instead of nothing?” We asserted that to ask this question is to philosophize. Whenever we set out in the direction of this question, thinking and gazing ahead, then right away we forgo any sojourn in any of the usual regions of beings. We pass over and surpass what belongs to the order of the day. We ask beyond the usual, beyond the ordinary that is ordered in the everyday. Nietzsche once said (VII, 269): “A philosopher: that is a human being who constantly experiences, sees, hears, suspects, hopes, dreams extraordinary things … .”8
Philosophizing is questioning about the extra-ordinary. Yet, as we merely intimated at first, this questioning recoils upon itself, and thus not only what is asked about is extraordinary, but also the questioning itself. This means that this questioning does not lie along our way, so that one day we stumble into it blindly or even by mistake. Nor does it stand in the familiar order of the everyday, so that we could be compelled to it on the ground of some requirements or even regulations. Nor does this questioning lie in the sphere of urgent concern and the satisfaction of dominant needs. The questioning itself is out-of-order. It is completely voluntary, fully and expressly based on the mysterious ground of freedom, on what we have called the leap. The same Nietzsche says: “Philosophy … means living voluntarily amid ice and mountain ranges” (XV, 2).9 Philosophizing, we can now say, is extra-ordinary questioning about the extra-ordinary.
8. Beyond Good and Evil, §292. Heidegger’s references to Nietzsche cite the large octavo edition of his works, published in Leipzig first by C. G. Naumann and then by Alfred Kröner, 1894–1913.
9. §3 of the Preface to Ecce Homo.