The Principle of Reason [205-207]

According to the assertion just made, this word of being is supposed to answer the question: what after all does "being" mean? But is this an answer when we are told: "being" means "ground/reason'? Instead of getting an answer, we once again run into a question. For we immediately ask: what, after all, does "ground/reason" mean? Now, the only answer to this is: "ground/reason" means "being". "Being" means "ground/reason"—"ground/reason" means "being": here everything goes around in a circle. We become dizzy. Thinking stumbles into perplexity. For we don't quite know what "being" or "ground/reason" mean. But if the word of being as ground/reason does answer the question of the meaning of being, this answer initially remains impenetrable to us. We are missing the key that would open it up so that we could have an insight into what the word of being says. It is already difficult and complicated enough just to seek out the missing key. Therefore, in this lecture we have chosen another path in order to at least open an outer gate. An entree to this path may possibly be given to us by the poet whose verse circumscribes that cognition which stands under the sway of the fundamental principle of rendering sufficient reason.

Goethe says of modern science:

But research strives and rings, never tiring,
After the law, the reason, why and how.

The "but" at the beginning of the first line sets research over against another attitude and demeanor that no longer tirelessly strive after the ground/reason for beings. Whenever we pursue the ground/reason of a being, we ask: why? Cognition stalks this interrogative word from one reason to another. The "why" allows no rest, offers no stop, gives no support. The "why" is the word for the tireless advance into an and-so-forth that research, in the event that it simply and blindly belabors itself, can take so far that it perforce can go too far with it.

The word of being says: being—itself ground/reason—remains without a ground/reason, which now means, without why. If we attempt to think being as ground/reason, then we must take the step back, back from the question: "why?".

But then what are we supposed to stick to?

In the "Collected Sayings" from 18 15 Goethe says:55

How? When? and Where?-The gods remain mute!
You stick to the because and ask not why?[61]

The "why" unfolds itself in the questions: How? When? Where? It asks about the law, the time, the site of what happens. Questioning the space-time-law-regulated course of movement is how research pursues the "why" of beings. But Goethe says: