76 • On the Grammar and Etymology of “Being”

But through the linguistic transformation of the infinitive into the verbal substantive, the emptiness that already lies in the infinitive, is, as it were, further fixed; sein is posed like a fixed, standing object <feststehender Gegenstand>. The substantive das Sein implies that what is so named, itself “is.” Being now itself becomes something that “is,” whereas obviously only beings are, and it is not the case that Being also is. If Being itself were something in being about beings, then it would have to be something that we find before us, all the more so because we encounter the Being-in-being <Seiendsein> of beings, even if we do not definitely grasp their particular characteristics in detail.

Can it still be any wonder to us now that Being is so empty a word when the word form itself is based on an emptying <of meaning> and the apparent fixation of this emptiness? This word “Being” serves as a warning to us. Let us not be lured away into the emptiest of forms, the verbal substantive. And let us not entangle ourselves in the abstraction of the infinitive “to be.” If we really want to arrive at the “to be” along the path of language, let us keep to forms like these: I am, you are, he, she, it is, we are, and so forth; I was, we were, they have been, and so forth. But then we gain no clearer understanding of what “to be” means here, or what its essence consists in. On the contrary! Let us simply make the attempt!

We say: “I am.” Each of us can speak of this sort of Being only in reference to oneself: my Being. What does it consist of, and where can it be found? It would seem that this should be what we can most easily bring to light, for there is no being to which we are closer than the one that we ourselves are. All other beings we ourselves are not. All other beings still “are” even when we ourselves are not. It seems we cannot be as close to any other being as we are to the being that we ourselves are. Actually, we cannot even say that we are close to the being that we ourselves in each case are, since after all we ourselves are this being.

Introduction to Metaphysics, 2nd ed. (GA 40) by Martin Heidegger

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