The Principle of Reason [17-19]

possibility. But who can presume to oversee everything that is possible and possibly actual?

Nevertheless many will already have said to themselves that the principle of reason formulated as "Every being has a reason" is hardly a mere assessment, and therefore it does not need to be checked in the manner that is usual for assessments. If the principle of reason were merely a principle that makes an assessment, it would have to be given in the precise formulation: 􀗎􀗏Every being, so far as and as long as beings can be observed, has a reason." But the principle of reason intends to say more, namely, that generally, and that means as a rule, every being has some sort of reason for being, and for being the way it is. But to what extent is the rule valid? The validity of a rule isn't much easier to verify than the correctness of an assessment. And besides this, to the rule there belongs the exception. Nevertheless, the principle of reason simply says that every being has a reason. What the principle posits, it posits as being without exception. The principle of reason is neither an assessment nor a rule. It posits what it posits as something necessary. It articulates this as something unavoidable through the double negation "Nothing . . . without."

The negative form of the principle speaks more clearly than the affirmative form. Apropos of the matter at hand it must read: every being necessarily has a reason. Yet what kind of necessity is this? On what is it based? What reason is there for the principle of reason? Where does the principle of reason have its own ground? With these questions we touch upon what is insidious and enigmatic about this principle. In a single stroke one can of course set aside what is enigmatic about the principle of reason by decree. One can aver that what the principle states is immediately illuminating; it needs neither verification nor demonstration. When it comes to such principles philosophy is, of course, all too readily inclined to appeal to what is immediately illuminating. But no one will hazard that the principle of reason is unconditionally immediately illuminating in what it states. In order for something to be illuminating, and that means luminant, there must of course be a light that shines. The shining of this light is a decisive condition for what is said in the principle to luminate such that it occurs to us, enlightens us.[3]

In which light, then, is the principle of reason an illuminating principle? Which light does the principle need in order to luminate? Do we see this light? And in the event that we see it, is it not always dangerous to look into the light? Evidently we are able to find the light in which the principle of reason illuminates only if we first clarify to what kind of principles this principle of reason belongs.

A few thing; have already been mentioned about the principle-character of the principle of reason. We distinguished between the negative and affirmative forms of its formulation. Many will think that by now we have already said enough about the form of this principle, that it is high time to stop beating