The Fundamental Question of Metaphysics • 45

—the more indeterminate and empty is its content.

For every normally thinking human being—and we all want to be normal—such trains of thought are immediately and entirely convincing. But now the question is whether the assessment of Being as the most universal concept reaches the essence of Being, or whether it so misinterprets Being from the start that questioning becomes hopeless. The question is whether Being can count only as the most universal concept that is unavoidably involved in all particular concepts, or whether Being has a completely different essence, and thus is anything but the object of an “ontology,” if one takes this word in its established meaning.

The term “ontology” was first coined in the seventeenth century. It designates the development of the traditional doctrine of beings into a philosophical discipline and a branch of the philosophical system. But the traditional doctrine is the academic analysis and ordering of what for Plato and Aristotle, and again for Kant, was a question, though to be sure a question that was no longer originary. The word “ontology” is still used this way even today. Under this title, philosophy busies itself with the composition and exposition of a branch within its system. But one can also take the word “ontology” “in the broadest sense,” “without reference to ontological directions and tendencies” (cf. Being and Time, 1927, p. 11 top). In this case “ontology” means the effort to put Being into words, and to do so by passing through the question of how it stands with Being [not just with beings as such].31 But because until now this question has found neither an accord nor even a resonance, but instead it is explicitly rejected by the various circles of academic philosophical scholarship, which pursues an “ontology” in the traditional sense, it may be good in the future to forgo the use of the terms “ontology” and “ontological.”

31. In parentheses in the 1953 edition.

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