The Question of the Essence of Being • 91

Only insofar as we deem this preeminence <Vorrang> of the understanding of Being worthy in its own rank <Rang> do we preserve this preeminence as rank. In what way can we deem this rank worthy, preserve it in its worth? This we cannot decide arbitrarily.

Because the understanding of Being fades away, at first and for the most part, in an indefinite meaning, and nonetheless remains certain and definite in this knowledge—because consequently the understanding of Being, despite all its rank, is dark, confused, covered over, and concealed—it must be illuminated, disentangled, and ripped away from concealment. That can happen only insofar as we inquire about this understanding of Being—which at first we simply treated as a fact—in order to put it into question.

Questioning is the genuine and the right and the only way of deeming worthy that which, by its highest rank, holds our Dasein in its power. This understanding of Being of ours, and Being itself altogether, is therefore what is most worthy of questioning in all questioning. We question all the more genuinely the more immediately and directly we hold on to what is most worthy of questioning, namely, that for us Being is what we understand in a completely indefinite and yet supremely definite way.

We understand the word “Being,” and hence all its inflections, even though it looks as if this understanding were indefinite. We say of what we thus understand, of whatever opens itself up to us somehow in understanding, that it has meaning <Sinn>. Being, [64|89] insofar as it is understood at all, has a meaning. To experience and conceive of Being as what is most worthy of questioning, to inquire especially about Being, then means nothing other than asking about the meaning of Being.

In the treatise Being and Time, the question of the meaning of Being is posed and developed explicitly as a question for the first time in the history of philosophy.

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