Lecture Two [29-31]

he deals with what later is called the fundamental principle of contradiction and its foundation, Aristotle made the following remark: ἔστι γὰρ ἀπαιδευσία τὸ μὴ γιγνώσκειν τίνων δεῖ ζητεῖν ἀπόδειξιν καὶ τίνων οὐ δεῖ: "There is present a lack, namely of παιδεία, when one does not know for what one is to seek proof and for what not."5

The Greek word παιδεία—still half alive in our word "pedagogy," which is not of German origin—cannot be translated. What it means here is the circumspect and vigilant sense for what at any time is appropriate and inappropriate.

What do we learn from the words of Aristotle? Whoever sets out into the province of fundamental principles needs παιδεία in order not to overestimate or undervalue them; we could also say, what is needed is the gift of distinguishing between what is pertinent and impertinent when it comes to simple states of affairs.

If we were able to think about the words of Leibniz and Aristotle still more reflectively, we would have to consider the possibility that it is a commonplace but dubious opinion which alleges that the first fundamental principles and supreme Principles need be immediately illuminating, clear as day, and patently stabilizing for thinking.

Novalis, the poet who was also a great thinker, knew otherwise. In a fragment he says:

Should the highest principle contain the highest paradox in its task? Being a principle that allows absolutely no peace, that always attracts and repels, that always anew would become unintelligible as soon as one had understood it? That ceaselessly stirs up our activity—without ever exhausting it, without ever becoming familiar? According to old mystical sayings, God is something like this for the spirits.6

What do we learn from Navalis's words? We learn that in the province of the highest Principles, things apparently have a very different look than the widespread doctrine of the immediate evidence of the supreme fundamental principles would like to admit.

Everywhere we use the principle of reason and adhere to it as a prop for support. But it also immediately propels us into groundlessness without our hardly thinking about it in its genuine meaning.

So we already see that plenty of shadows are cast over the principle of reason. The shadows become darker as soon as we maintain that the principle of reason is not just any principle among others. It counts as a fundamental principle. According to our assertion, it is supposed to be the principle of all principles. Taken to its extreme, this means that the principle of reason is the ground/ reason of principles. The principle of reason is the ground/reason of the principle.[9]

The Principle of Reason (GA 10) by Martin Heidegger