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The Principle of Reason [38-39]

we rate it as a fundamental principle [Grundsatz] without discussing what a reason [Grund] is and what a principle [Satz] is?

The constant appeal to the principle of contradiction may be the most illuminating thing in the world for the sciences. But whoever knows the history of the principle of contradiction must concede that the interpretation of its content really remains questionable. Over and above that, for the last one hundred and fifty years there has been Hegel's Science of Logic. It shows that contradiction and conflict are not reasons against something being real. Rather, contradiction is the inner life of the reality of the real. This interpretation of the essence and effect of contradiction is the centerpiece of Hegel's metaphysics. Ever since Hegel's Logic it is no longer immediately certain that where a contradiction is present what contrad􀄿cts itself cannot be real. So within the context of our considerations of the fundamental principle of reason in many respects it remains an overhasty procedure if, without hesitation and without reflection, we appeal to the fundamental principle of contradiction and say that the principle of reason is without reason, that this contradicts itself and therefore is impossible. Of course—but what are we supposed to make of [vorstellen] this state of affairs: the principle of reason without reason? That is to say, as soon as we conceive [vorstellen] of something, we represent [vorstellen] it as this and as that. With this "as this, as that" we lodge what is represented somewhere; we deposit it there, so to speak; we give it a ground. Our cognition [Vorstellen] everywhere takes refuge in some reason. The principle of reason without reason—for us this is inconceivable. But what is inconceivable is by no means also unthinkable, given that thinking does not exhaust itself in conceiving.

If we nevertheless insist that the principle of reason—and it above all others—has a reason, then we are faced with the question: what reason is the reason for the principle of reason; what sort of reason is this most odd reason?

The principle of reason counts as a fundamental principle. We even assert it is the supreme fundamental principle; it is the ground/reason for all principles and that means for what a principle is per se. The following is imbedded in this assertion: the principle of reason—which means, that about which it speaks—is the ground/reason for what a principle is, for what a statement is, for what an utterance per se is. That about which the principle of reason speaks is the ground of the essence of language. A wide-ranging thought. Therefore, in order to follow it we must start with what is most obvious. If the principle of reason were the most supreme of all principles, then it would also be, in every case, the ground/reason for principles. The principle of reason is the ground/reason for principles. Here we fall into a vortex. But have we really gotten into this vortex? Or are we only making an assessment from afar: the principle as the ground/reason for principles—this looks like a whirlwind? It would be gratifying and useful if we could be swept up so swiftly into the whirlwind and especially


The Principle of Reason (GA 10) by Martin Heidegger