The Fundamental Question of Metaphysics • 35

The first meaning of τὸ ὄν designates τὰ ὄντα (entia), the second means τὸ εἶναι (esse). We have catalogued what the being is in the piece of chalk. We were able to find this out relatively easily. We could also easily see that the chalk can also not be, that this chalk ultimately need not be here and need not be at all. But then, as distinguished from that which can stand in Being or fall back into not-Being, as distinguished from the being—what is Being? Is it the same as the being? We ask this once again. But we did not include Being in our earlier catalogue of attributes—we listed only material mass, grayish-white, light, formed in such and such a manner, breakable. Now, where is Being to be found? It must after all belong to the chalk, for this chalk itself is.

We encounter beings everywhere; they surround us, carry and control us, enchant and fulfill us, elevate and disappoint us, but where in all this is the Being of beings, and what does it consist in? One could answer: this distinction between beings and their Being may at times have some linguistic importance, perhaps even some meaning; one can make this distinction in mere thought, that is, in re-presentation and opinion, without this distinction’s corresponding to anything that is. But even this distinction made only in thought is questionable; for it remains unclear what we are supposed to think under the name “Being.” Meanwhile, it is enough to be familiar with beings and to secure mastery over them. Distinguishing Being on top of this is artificial and leads to nothing.

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