After all, how can being be more highly esteemed than through its express elevation into value? And yet, by being appreciated as a value, being is deprecated as a mere condition set by the will to power itself. For ages now, through having been esteemed at all and so appreciated, being has been robbed of the worth of its essence. When the being of beings is stamped as value and its essence is thereby sealed, then within this metaphysics (i.e., constantly within the truth of beings as such during this age) every path toward the experience of being itself is obliterated. In this manner of speaking, perhaps we are presuming what we must by no means presume: that such a path toward being ever existed and that a thinking about being has ever thought being as being.

Oblivious of being and of its own truth, Western thinking since its beginning has constantly thought beings as such. During that time, it has thought being only in the kind of truth that verbalizes the name "being" rather awkwardly and also ambiguously, since the multiplicity of its meaning is not known by experience. This thinking that has remained oblivious of being itself is the simple and all-bearing (and for that reason enigmatic and unexperienced) event of Western history, which meanwhile is about to expand itself into world-history. In the end, being has sunk down to a value in metaphysics. This shows that being is not permitted as being. What does that mean?

What is going on with being? With being nothing is going on. And what if it is only in that nothing that the formerly disguised essence of nihilism announces itself? Would thinking in values then be pure nihilism? But yet Nietzsche grasps the metaphysics of the will to power precisely as the overcoming of nihilism. And indeed, the metaphysics of the will to power is an overcoming of nihilism - provided that nihilism is understood only as the devaluation of the highest values and the will to power as the principle of the revaluation of all values on the basis of a new dispensation of values. However, in this overcoming of nihilism, value-thinking is elevated into a principle.

If, however, value docs not let being be being,a be that which it is as being itself, then what was supposed to be the overcoming is but the completion of nihilism. For metaphysics now not only fails to think being itself, but this failure is veiled under the guise of appearing to think being in the most worthy way, by esteeming it as value, with the result that all questions about being become and remain superfluous. If, however, the thinking that thinks

a First edition, 1950. What does "being" mean here?


Off the Beaten Track (GA 5) by Martin Heidegger