On the Essence of Grounda

Translated by William McNeill1


[21] The treatise "On the Essence of Ground" was written in 1928 at the same time as the lecture "What Is Metaphysics?" The lecture ponders the nothing, while the treatise names the ontological difference.

The nothing is the "not" of beings, and is thus being, experienced from the perspective of beings. The ontological difference is the "not" between beings and being. Yet just as being, as the "not" in relation to beings, is by no means a nothing in the sense of a nihil negativum, so too the difference, as the "not" between beings and being, is in no way merely the figment of a distinction made by our understanding (ens rationis).

That nihilative "not" of the nothing and this nihilative "not" of the difference are indeed not identical, yet they are the Same in the sense of belonging together in the essential prevailing of the being of beings.b The two essays - which were intentionally kept separate - attempt to determine more closely this Same as what is worthy of thought, without being equal to this task.

What if those who reflect on such matters were to begin at last to enter thoughtfully into this same issue that has been waiting for two decades?

a Wegmarken, first edition, 1967: Cf. the self-critique of this treatise in Der Satz vom Grund (1957), pp. 82ff. [Translated as The Principle of Reason by Reginald Lilly (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991).]

b Third edition, 1949: Within this genitive.