PATHMARKS


essence of the nothing in its former kinship with "being" can arrive and be accommodated among us mortals.

From where does this essence come? Where must we seek it? What is the locale of the nothing? We shall not be asking too much in an unthinking manner if we search for the locale and in our discussion locate the essence of the line. Yet is this something other than the attempt to provide what you demand: "a good definition of nihilism"? It looks as though thinking is continually led around or even chased around the Same as though in a magical circle, yet without ever being able to approach this Same. But perhaps the circle is a concealed spiral. Perhaps this spiral has in the meantime become more constricted. This means: the manner and way in which we are approaching the essence of nihilism are being transformed. Whatever is good in the "good definition" that you rightfully demand will prove its worth in our giving up the desire to define, to the extent that this desire must become fixed in propositional statements in which thinking dies out. Yet it remains a slight, because merely negative, gain if we learn to heed the fact that no information can be provided concerning the nothing or being or nihilism, concerning their essence or concerning the essential (verbal) unfolding of such essence (nominal), that might lie ready before us in the form of propositional statements waiting to be seized.

This remains a gain to the extent that we come to experience the fact that what the "good definition" is supposed to be valid for, namely, the essence of nihilism, points us toward a realm that demands a different saying. If a turning belongs to "being," and indeed in such a way that the latter resides in the former, then "being" dissolves into the turning. The latter now becomes that which is worthy of question, that in terms of which we henceforth think being, which has returned and been taken up into its essence. Accordingly, a thoughtful look ahead into this realm can write "being" only in the following [239] way: being. The crossing out of this word initially has only a preventive role, namely, that of preventing the almost ineradicable habit of representing "being" as something standing somewhere on its own that then on occasion first comes face-to-face with human beings. In accordance with this way of representing matters, it appears as though the human being is excepted from "being." However, he is not only not excepted, i.e., not only included in "being," but "being," in needing the human being, is obliged to relinquish this appearance of independence. And this is why it is also other in essence than the representation of an inclusive concept might have it, one that embraces the subject-object relation.

From what has been said, the sign of this crossing through cannot, however, be the merely negative sign of a crossing out. It points, rather, toward


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Martin Heidegger (GA 9) On the Question of Being