Lecture Two [26-27]

to what we know, but our stay in this world, our sojourn on earth, is constantly under way to grounds and reason. We get to the bottom of what we encounter, often really only getting to the foreground; sometimes we even venture into the background, and seldom enough up to the edge of the abysses of thinking. Yet we require that the statements we make about what surrounds and concerns us be founded. Getting to the bottom and founding define our modus vivendi.

Why is this the case with us? Is it only a fact to which we need not turn? The world and life get along without our reflecting on the principle of reason. As things stand, our modus vivendi is motivated to somehow get to the bottom and found everything. Yet solely and precisely because our modus vivendi is thus motivated we can also ask: For what reason is our modus vivendi a getting to the bottom and a founding?

The principle of reason holds the answer to this question. It holds the answer but it does not give it, rather it conceals the answer in that about which it speaks. In its short formulation the principle of reason reads: Nihil est sine ratione; nothing is without reason. In the affirmative formulation this means: everything that in any manner is necessarily has a reason. One understands without further ado what the principle says. We agree with what it states, yet we do not do so just because we believe that so far the principle has proved true everywhere and from now on will always prove true. We agree with the principle of reason because we, as they say, feel sure that the principle itself must be true.

But does it suffice if we lend credence to the principle of reason in such a feeble manner? Or is this crediting, in truth, the grossest neglect of the principle itself? Indeed the principle of reason is, as a principle, not nothing. The principle is itself something. Therefore, according to what the principle itself tells us, it is the sort of thing that must have a reason. What is the reason for the principle of reason? The principle itself behooves us to ask this question. On the one hand we bristle at continuing to question in this way because it seems to be a twisted and cavilling question in contradistinction to the simple principle of reason. On the other hand we see that the principle of reason itself compels us, in a manner apropos of the principle of reason, to ask about reasons even in relation to the principle of reason. How do we save ourselves from this embarrassment?

We are faced by two possibilities, both of which equally provoke our thinking. Either the principle of reason is that principle, generally that "something," which alone is not affected by what the principle says: Every thing, which in any manner is, necessarily has a reason. In this case something most odd would follow, namely, that precisely the principle of reason—and it alone—would fall outside its own jurisdiction ; the principle of reason would remain without reason.

Or else, even the principle of reason has—and necessarily so—a reason. But if this is the case, then presumably this reason cannot be just one among many others. Rather, when it speaks in its full scope we might expect that the principle