The Question of the Essence of Being • 95

The sheer fact, apparently so unshakeable, to which metaphysics blindly appeals, has now been shaken.

Up to now, in the question of Being, we have mainly tried to grasp the word according to its linguistic form and its meaning. It has now become clear that the question of Being is not a matter of grammar and etymology. If in spite of this we now begin once again with the word, then language must be at stake, here and in general, in a special way.

Language, the word, is ordinarily taken as a derivative and incidental expression of experiences. Insofar as things and processes are experienced in these experiences, language is also, indirectly, an expression and, as it were, a reproduction of the experienced being. The word “clock,” for example, lends itself to the well-known threefold distinction: 1) the audible and visible word form; 2) the meaning of what one generally represents to oneself with the word form; 3) the thing—a clock, this individual clock. Here 1) is the sign for 2), and 2) indicates 3). So presumably we can also distinguish in the word “Being” the word form, the meaning of the word, and the thing. And one can easily see that as long as we dwell solely on the word form and its meaning, our question of Being has not reached the thing, has not gotten to the point.6 If we were to go so far as to intend to grasp the thing and the essence of the thing, in this case Being, through mere explications of the word and its meaning, then this would be an obvious error. We are hardly likely to fall prey to it—for our procedure would be like going about determining and investigating the motions of the ether or of matter, or atomic processes, by giving grammatical explications of the words “atom” and “ether,” instead of carrying out the necessary physical experiments.

6. Zur Sache kommen means “to get to the point,” but more literally “to come to the thing.”

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