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The Principle of Reason [21-22]

from which we cannot escape. The principle says something unconditional. The principle articulates, as we are wont to say, something fundamental The principle of reason is a fundamental principle. Perhaps we may even assert something further and say that the principle of reason is the fundamental principle of all fundamental principles. Saying this ushers us, with a hardly noticeable jolt, into something enigmatic about the principle, and that means about what it says.

The assertion that the principle of reason is the fundamental principle most immediately means that the principle of reason is not just one fundamental principle among many others. It is rather the highest, the one which ranks first among all fundamental principles. We may wish to ask straight away, Which fundamental principles? We adhere to fundamental principles in various realms of cognition, willing, and feeling. If the principle of reason is supposed to be the highest of all fundamental principles, then by this multitude of fundamental principles we mean the various first fundamental principles that are directive and normative for all human cognition. One is familiar with the principle of identity, the principle of difference, the principle of contradiction, and the principle of excluded middle as such first principles. The traditional doctrine of philosophy since Leibniz also explicitly ranks the principle of reason among these principles. However this principle does not count-not even for Leibniz-as the highest principle, much less as the fundamental principle, period. The principle of identity counts as the highest of all fundamental principles. One often formulates this principle as A = A. But equality is something other than identity. What identity really means is by no means univocally and unanimously determined. Identity can mean that something is the same and nothing more than the same: the self itself, the self-same. Instead of this, one often says, imprecisely, that "identical" means "being equal to itself. " But something is equal only where there is a multitude. However, every individual, every single thing, can be self-same with itself, for itself.

On the other hand, others define identity in another way. Identity may mean the belonging-together of distinct things in the same. More clearly: the belonging-together of distinct things on the basis [Grund] of the same. On the basis? Here the same plays the role of a reason or basis for belonging-together. In identity, reason shows itself to be the basis upon which and in which the belonging-together of distinct things rests.

Here we see, if only roughly, that the nature of identity cannot do without a reason. But the principle of reason deals 'With reasons. Thus the principle of identity could be grounded in the principle of reason. So the highest fundamental principle of all fundamental principles would not be the principle of identity, but the principle of reason.

Or perhaps the principle of reason is only the primus inter pares, the first among the first fundamental principles which among themselves are basically [im Grunde] of equal rank. In any case the assertion that the principle of reason


The Principle of Reason (GA 10) by Martin Heidegger