20 • The Fundamental Question of Metaphysics

If one is asking περὶ φύσεως, about the Being of beings, then the discussion of φύσις, “physics” in the ancient sense, is in itself already beyond τὰ φυσικά, on beyond beings, and is concerned with Being. “Physics” determines the essence and the history of metaphysics from the inception onward. Even in the doctrine of Being as actus purus (Thomas Aquinas), as absolute concept (Hegel), as eternal recurrence of the same will to power (Nietzsche), metaphysics steadfastly remains “physics.”

The question about Being as such, however, has a different essence and a different provenance.

To be sure, within the purview of metaphysics, and if one continues to think in its manner, one can regard the question about Being as such merely as a mechanical repetition of the question about beings as such. The question about Being as such is then just another transcendental question, albeit one of a higher order. This misconstrual of the question about Being as such blocks the way to unfolding it in a manner befitting the matter.

However, this misconstrual is all too easy, especially because Being and Time spoke of a “transcendental horizon.”16 But the “transcendental” meant there does not pertain to subjective consciousness; instead, it is determined by the existential-ecstatic temporality of Being-here. Nevertheless, the question about Being as such is misconstrued as coinciding with the question about beings as such; this misconstrual thrusts itself upon us above all because the essential provenance of the question about beings as such, and with it the essence of metaphysics, lies in obscurity. This drags into indeterminacy all questioning that concerns Being in any way.

16. Being and Time, 39 (according to the pagination of the later German editions).

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