Lecture Two [41-43]

into its eye. For in the eye of a hurricane, as they say, calm is supposed to prevail.

But for the time being the province of the principle of reason is not familiar to us, just as little is the course into this province. Take note: the course and province lie in shadows, and the light there is limited. It consists simply in the fact that one says the principle of reason is an illuminating principle. This—that such principles are immediately illuminating—holds for the fundamental principles that are also called Principles or axioms. Ultimately we see that this glib talk-superficially and off the cuff—of axioms, principia, and fundamental principles in a homologous sense is indeed precarious, for the three terms­—the Greek word a{iwpa, the Latin word principium, the German word Grundsatz—speak from out of completely disparate conceptual domains. To all appearances, behind this harmless disparity of word-meanings is concealed the basic trait of the history of Western thinking—history not as something bygone, rather history as the still pending Geschick[12] that determines us today as hardly ever before.

In the meantime people have become accustomed over the centuries to a trite way of speaking and thinking. In regard to other principles below them, axioms are the supreme fundamental principles found more worthy than all others. One pays no attention to the extent to which and the sense in which axioms are things found inherently worthy, things that find something worthy without looking to derivative principles—in Greek, that means to let something repose in its countenance and preserve it therein. Principia are the sort of things that occupy the first place, that stand first in line. Principia refer to a ranking and ordering. The term "principle-reasons" already implies that the ordering-realm (which according to popular opinion deals with axioms and Principles) is the realm of principles. We hold this to be self-evident and think nothing of it. But this comprehension of axioms apropos of principles has most recently developed into the notion of axioms according to which the sole role of axioms qua suppositions and stipulations is to secure the construction of a system of principles free of contradiction. The axiomatic character of axioms consists exclusively in this role of eliminating contradictions and safeguarding against them. What "axiom" could mean when taken on its own lacks objective meaning. The axiomatic form of scientific thinking that lacks an object in this sense today stands before unforeseeable possibilities. This axiomatic thinking already circulates without our noticing it or fathoming its import in so changing human thinking that it adapts itself to the essence of modern technology. Whoever meditates on this event will discern right away that the frequent talk of the human mastery of technology arises from a cognitive mode that still moves only on the fringes of that which now is. The assessment that contemporary humanity has become the slave of machines and mechanisms is also superficial. For it is one thing