we ask for something everybody knows. If there is someone who does not yet know what it calls for, we can teach him—it is a well-known matter. Not so with thinking. It only looks as though we knew what the question really asks. The question itself still remains unasked. The question "What is called thinking?," therefore, does not aim to establish an answer by which the question can be disposed of as quickly and conclusively as possible. On the contrary, one thing and one thing only matters with this question: to make the question problematical.

Even that is a long way off. Indeed it remains questionable whether we are now underway on that way. Perhaps we modern men are still not capable of such a thing. However, this supposition means more than merely an admission of our weakness.

Thinking—more precisely, the attempt and the duty to think—is now approaching an era when the high demands which traditional thinking believed it was meeting, and pretended it had to meet, become untenable. The way of the question "What is called thinking?" lies even now in the shadow of this weakness. The weakness can be described in four statements:

1. Thinking does not bring knowledge as do the sciences.

2. Thinking does not produce usable practical wisdom.

3. Thinking solves no cosmic riddles.

4. Thinking does not endow us directly with the power to act.

As long as we still subject thinking to these four demands, we shall overrate and overtax it. Both excesses prevent us from returning to a no longer customary modesty and to persist in it, amid the bustle of a civilization that clamors daily for a fresh supply of latest novelties, and daily chases after excitement. And yet the way of thinking, the way of the question "What is called thinking?," remains unavoidable as we go into the coming era. We can