Two modes of questioning which, as is only now becoming clearer, are worlds apart should not bear the [32|45] same name.
We ask the question—How does it stand with Being? What is the meaning of Being?—not in order to compose an ontology in the traditional style, much less to reckon up critically the mistakes of earlier attempts at ontology. We are concerned with something completely different. The point is to restore the historical Dasein of human beings—and this also always means our ownmost future Dasein, in the whole of the history that is allotted to us—back to the power of Being that is to be opened up originally; all this, to be sure, only within the limits of philosophy’s capability.
From the fundamental question of metaphysics, “Why are there beings at all instead of nothing?” we have extracted the prior question <Vor-frage>: How does it stand with Being? The relationship between these questions needs to be elucidated, for it is in a class of its own. Usually, a preliminary question <Vorfrage> is settled in advance and outside the main question, although with a view to it. But philosophical questions are in principle never settled as if some day one could set them aside. Here, the preliminary question does not stand outside the fundamental question at all, but is, as it were, the hearth-fire that glows in the asking of the fundamental question, the hearth at the heart of all questioning. That is to say: when we first ask the fundamental question, everything depends on our taking up the decisive fundamental position in asking its prior question, and winning and securing the attitude that is essential here. This is why we brought the question about Being into connection with the fate of Europe, where the fate of the earth is being decided, while for Europe itself our historical Dasein proves to be the center.