ON THE QUESTION OF BEING


to presence (being) can be given. This nothing, which is not beings and which is nevertheless given [und das es gleichwohl gibt],8 is nothing negative. It belongs to presencing. Being and nothing are not given alongside one another. The one employs itself for the other in a kinship whose essential fullness we have as yet scarcely pondered. Nor can we ponder it so long as we fail to ask: What is "it" that does the "giving" here? In what kind of giving does it give? To what extent does there belong to this "giving of being and nothing" something that gives and entrusts itself to this gift in preserving it? We can easily say: There is a giving [es gibt]. Being no more "is" than nothing. But there is a giving of both.

Leonardo da Vinci writes: "The nothing has no middle, and its limits are the nothing." "Among the great things that are to be found among us, the being of nothing is the greatest" (Tagebücher und Aufzeichnungen, translated from the Italian manuscripts and edited by Theodor Lücke [1940], pp. 4f.). This word from one of the greats cannot, and is not meant to, prove anything; but it points to the questions: In what way is being, is nothing, given? From whence does such giving come to us? To what extent are we already given over to it, insofar as we are human beings?

Because the lecture "What Is Metaphysics?", in keeping with the occasion at hand, inquires in a deliberately restricted manner from the perspective of the surpassing, i.e., of the being of beings, and does so with regard to that nothing which initially presents itself to the scientific representation of beings, people have seized upon and extracted "the" nothing and made the lecture into a testament to nihilism. Now that a considerable time has passed, it might be permitted to ask the question: Where, in which sentence and in which tum of phrase, is it ever said that the nothing named in the lecture is a nothing in the sense of a negative nothing and as such the first and last goal of all representation and existing?

[248] The lecture closes with the question: "Why are there beings at all, and why not far rather Nothing [Nichts]?" Here, contrary to custom, the word Nichts, "Nothing," is deliberately capitalized. In terms of the wording, the question brought up here is indeed that posed by Leibniz and taken up by Schelling. Both thinkers understand it as the question concerning the supreme ground and primary existing cause of all beings. The contemporary attempts to restore metaphysics are fond of addressing the said question.

Yet the lecture "What Is Metaphysics?", in accordance with its differently construed path through another realm, also thinks this question in a transformed manner. The question now asked is: Why is it that everywhere


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Martin Heidegger (GA 9) Pathmarks