1. "What is metaphysics?" The question
awakens expectations of a discussion about
metaphysics. This we will forgo. Instead
we will take up a particular metaphysical
question. In this way it seems we will let
ourselves be transposed directly into metaphysics.
Only in this way will we provide metaphysics
the proper occasion to introduce itself.
Our plan begins with the unfolding of a metaphysical
inquiry, then tries to elaborate the question,
and concludes by answering it.
I. The Unfolding of a Metaphysical Inquiry
2. From the point of view of sound common
sense philosophy is in Hegel's words "the
inverted world." Hence the peculiar
nature of our undertaking requires a preliminary
sketch. This will take shape about a twofold
character of metaphysical interrogation.
3. First, every metaphysical question always
encompasses the whole range of metaphysical
problems. Each question is itself always
the whole. Therefore, second, every metaphysical
question can be asked only in such a way
that the questioner as such is present together
with the question, that is, is placed in
question. From this we conclude that metaphysical
inquiry must be posed as a whole and from
the essential position of the existence [Dasein]
that questions. We are questioning, here
and now, for ourselves. Our existence-in
the community of researchers, teachers, and
students-is determined by science. What happens
to us, essentially, in the grounds of our
existence, when science becomes our passion?
4. The scientific fields are quite diverse.
The ways they treat their objects of inquiry
differ fundamentally. Today only the technical
organization of universities and faculties
consolidates this burgeoning multiplicity
of disciplines; the practical establishment
of goals by each discipline provides the
only meaningful source of unity. Nonetheless,
the rootedness of the sciences in their essential
ground has atrophied.
5. Yet when we follow their most proper intention,
in all the sciences we relate ourselves to
beings themselves. Precisely from the point
of view of the sciences or disciplines no
field takes precedence over another, neither
nature over history nor vice versa. No particular
way of treating objects of inquiry dominates
the others. Mathematical knowledge is no
more rigorous than philological-historical
knowledge. It merely has the character of
"exactness," which does not coincide
with rigor. To demand exactness in the study
of history is to violate the idea of the
specific rigor of the humanities. The relation
to the world that pervades all the sciences
as such lets them - each according to its
particular content and mode of being - seek
beings themselves in order to make them objects
of investigation and to determine their grounds.
6. According to the idea behind them, in
the sciences we approach what is essential
in all things. This distinctive relation
to the world in which we turn toward beings
themselves is supported and guided by a freely
chosen attitude of human existence. To be
sure, man's prescientific and extrascientific
activities also are related to beings. But
science is exceptional in that, in a way
peculiar to it, it gives the matter itself
explicitly and solely the first and last
word. In such impartiality of inquiring,
determining, and grounding, a peculiarly
delineated submission to beings themselves
obtains, in order that they may reveal themselves.
This position of service in research and
theory evolves in such a way as to become
the ground of the possibility of a proper
though limited leadership in the whole of
human existence. The special relation science
sustains to the world and the attitude of
man that guides it can of course be fully
grasped only when we see and comprehend what
happens in the relation to the world so attained.
Man - one being among others - "pursues
science." In this "pursuit,"
nothing less transpires than the irruption
by one being called "man" into
the whole of beings, indeed in such a way
that in and through this irruption beings
break open and show what they are and how
they are. The irruption that breaks open
in its way helps beings above all to themselves.
7. This trinity-relation to the world, attitude,
and irruption-in its radical unity brings
a luminous simplicity and aptness of Dasein
to scientific existence. If we are to take
explicit possession of the Dasein illuminated
in this way for ourselves, then we must say:
That to which the relation to the world refers
are beings them selves-and nothing besides.
That from which every attitude takes its
guidance are beings themselves- and nothing
further. That with which the scientific confrontation
in the irruption oc curs are beings themselves-and
beyond that nothing. But what is remarkable
is that, precisely in the way scientific
man secures to himself what is most properly
his, he speaks of something different. What
should be examined are beings only, and besides
that - nothing; beings alone, and further
- nothing; solely beings, and beyond that
8. What about this nothing? The nothing is
rejected precisely by science, given up as
a nullity. But when we give up the nothing
in such a way don't we just concede it? Can
we, however, speak of concession when we
concede nothing? But perhaps our confused
talk already degenerates into an empty squabble
over words. Against it science must now reassert
its seriousness and soberness of mind, insisting
that it is concerned solely with beings.
The nothing - what else can it be for science
but an outrage and a phantasm? If science
is right, then only one thing is sure: science
wishes to know nothing of the nothing. Ultimately
this is the scientifically rigorous conception
of the nothing. We know it, the nothing,
in that we wish to know nothing about it.
9. Science wants to know nothing of the nothing.
But even so it is certain that when science
tries to express its proper essence it calls
upon the nothing for help. It has recourse
to what it rejects. What incongruous state
of affairs reveals itself here? With this
reflection on our contemporary existence
as one determined by science we find ourselves
enmeshed in a controversy. In the course
of this controversy a question has already
evolved. It only requires explicit formulation:
How is it with the nothing?
II. The Elaboration of the Question
10. The elaboration of the question of the
nothing must bring us to the point where
an answer becomes possible or the impossibility
of any answer becomes clear. The nothing
is conceded. With a studied indifference
science abandons it as what "there is
11. All the same, we shall try to ask about
the nothing. What is the nothing? Our very
first approach to this question has something
unusual about it. In our asking we posit
the nothing in advance as something that
"is" such and such; we posit it
as a being. But that is exactly what it is
distinguished from. Interrogating the nothing
- asking what and how it, the nothing, is
- turns what is interrogated into its opposite.
The question deprives itself of its own object.
Accordingly, every answer to this question
is also impossible from the start. For it
necessarily assumes the form: the nothing
"is" this or that. With regard
to the nothing question and answer alike
are inherently absurd.
12. But it is not science's rejection that
first of all teaches us this. The commonly
cited ground rule of all thinking, the proposition
that contradiction is to be avoided, universal
"logic" itself, lays low this question.
For thinking, which is always essentially
thinking about something, must act in a way
contrary to its own essence when it thinks
of the nothing. Since it remains wholly impossible
for us to make the nothing into an object
have we not already come to the end of our
inquiry into the nothing - assuming that
in this question "logic" is of
supreme importance, that the intellect is
the means, and thought the way, to conceive
the nothing originally and to decide about
its possible exposure?
13. But are we allowed to tamper with the
rule of "logic"? Isn't intellect
the taskmaster in this question of the nothing?
Only with its help can we at all define the
nothing and pose it as a problem - which,
it is true, only devours itself. For the
nothing is the negation of the totality of
beings; it is nonbeing pure and simple. But
with that we bring the nothing under the
higher determination of the negative, viewing
it as the negated. However, according to
the reigning and never challenged doctrine
of "logic," negation is a specific
act of the intellect. How then can we in
our question of the nothing, indeed in the
question of its questionability, wish to
brush the intellect aside? Are we altogether
sure about what we are presupposing in this
matter? Do not the "not," negatedness,
and thereby negation too represent the higher
determination under which the nothing falls
as a particular kind of negated matter? Is
the nothing given only because the "not,"
i. e., negation, is given? Or is it the other
way around? Are negation and the "not"
given only because the nothing is given?
That has not been decided; it has not even
been raised expressly as a question. We assert
that the nothing is more original than the
"not" and negation.
14. If this thesis is right, then the possibility
of negation as an act of the intellect, and
thereby the intellect itself, are somehow
dependent upon the nothing. Then how can
the intellect hope to decide about the nothing?
Does the ostensible absurdity of question
and answer with respect to the nothing in
the end rest solely in a blind conceit of
the far-ranging intellect? But if we do not
let ourselves be misled by the formal impossibility
of the question of the nothing; if we pose
the question in spite of this; then we must
at least satisfy what remains the basic demand
for the possible advancing of every question.
If the nothing itself is to be questioned
as we have been questioning it, then it must
be given beforehand. We must be able to encounter
15. Where shall we seek the nothing? Where
will we find the nothing? In order to find
something must we not already know in general
that it is there? Indeed! At first and for
the most part man can seek only when he has
anticipated the being at hand of what he
is looking for. Now the nothing is what we
are seeking. Is there ultimately such a thing
as a search without that anticipation, a
search to which pure discovery belongs?
16. Whatever we may make of it, we do know
the nothing, if only as a word we rattle
off every day. For this common nothing that
glides so inconspicuously through our chatter,
blanched with the anemic pallor of the obvious,
we can without hesitating furnish even a
"definition": The nothing is the
complete negation of the totality of beings.
Doesn't this characterization of the nothing
ultimately provide an indication of the direction
from which alone the nothing can come to
meet us? The totality of beings must be given
in advance so as to be able to fall prey
straightaway to negation - in which the nothing
itself would then be manifest.
17. But even if we ignore the questionableness
of the relation between negation and the
nothing, how should we who are essentially
finite make the whole of beings penetrable
in themselves and especially for us? We can
of course conjure up the whole of beings
in an "idea," then negate what
we have imagined in our thought, and thus
"think" it negated. In this way
we do attain the formal concept of the imagined
nothing but never the nothing itself. But
the nothing is nothing, and, if the nothing
represents total indistinguishability, no
distinction can obtain between the imagined
and the "genuine" nothing. And
the "genuine" nothing itself -
isn't this that camouflaged but absurd concept
of a nothing that is? For the last time now
the objections of the intellect would call
a halt to our search, whose legitimacy, however,
can be demonstrated only on the basis of
a fundamental experience of the nothing.
18. As surely as we can never comprehend
absolutely the ensemble of beings in themselves
we certainly do find ourselves stationed
in the midst of beings that are revealed
somehow as a whole. In the end an essential
distinction prevails between comprehending
the ensemble of beings in themselves and
finding oneself in the midst of beings as
a whole. The former is impossible in principle.
The latter happens all the time in our existence.
It does seem as though we cling to this or
that particular being, precisely in our everyday
preoccupations, as though we were completely
abandoned to this or that region of beings.
No matter how fragmented our everyday existence
may appear to be, however, it always deals
with beings in a unity of the "whole,"
if only in a shadowy way. Even and precisely
then when we are not actually busy with things
or ourselves this "as a whole"
overcomes us - for example in genuine boredom.
Boredom is still distant when it is only
this book or that play, that business or
this idleness, that drags on. It irrupts
when "one is bored." Profound boredom,
drifting here and there in the abysses of
our existence like a muffling fog, removes
all things and men and oneself along with
it into a remarkable indifference. This boredom
reveals beings as a whole.
19. Another possibility of such revelation
is concealed in our joy in the present existence
- and not simply in the person - of a human
being whom we love. Such being attuned, in
which we "are" one way or another
and which determines us through and through,
lets us find ourselves among beings as a
whole. The founding mode of attunement [die
Befiridlichkeit der Stimmung] not only reveals
beings as a whole in various ways, but this
revealing - far from being merely incidental
- is also the basic occurrence of our Dasein.
20. What we call a "feeling" is
neither a transitory epiphenomenon of our
thinking and willing behavior nor simply
an impulse that provokes such behavior nor
merely a present condition we have to put
up with somehow or other. But just when moods
of this sort bring us face to face with beings
as a whole they conceal from us the nothing
we are seeking. Now we come to share even
less in the opinion that the negation of
beings as a whole that are revealed to us
in mood places us before the nothing. Such
a thing could happen only in a correspondingly
original mood which in the most proper sense
of unveiling reveals the nothing.
21. Does such an attunement, in which man
is brought before the nothing itself, occur
in human existence? This can and does occur,
although rarely enough and only for a moment,
in the fundamental mood of anxiety. By this
anxiety we do not mean the quite common anxiousness,
ultimately reducible to fearfulness, which
all too readily comes over us. Anxiety is
basically different from fear. We become
afraid in the face of this or that particular
being that threatens us in this or that particular
respect. Fear in the face of something is
also in each case a fear for something in
particular. Because fear possesses this trait
of being "fear in the face of"
and "fear for," he who fears and
is afraid is captive to the mood in which
he finds himself. Striving to rescue himself
from this particular thing, he becomes unsure
of everything else and completely "loses
22. Anxiety does not let such confusion arise.
Much to the contrary, a peculiar calm pervades
it. Anxiety is indeed anxiety in the face
of... ,but not in the face of this or that
thing. Anxiety in the face of . . . is always
anxiety for . . . , but not for this or that.
The indeterminateness of that in the face
of which and for which we become anxious
is no mere lack of determination but rather
the essential impossibility of determining
it. In a familiar phrase this indeterminateness
comes to the fore.
23. In anxiety, we say, "one feels ill
at ease [es ist einem un heimlich]."
What is "it" that makes "one"
feel ill at ease? We cannot say what it is
before which one feels ill at ease. As a
whole it is so for him. All things and we
ourselves sink into indifference. This, however,
not in the sense of mere disappearance. Rather
in this very receding things turn toward
us. The receding of beings as a whole that
closes in on us in anxiety oppresses us.
We can get no hold on things. In the slipping
away of beings only this "no hold on
things" comes over us and remains. Anxiety
reveals the nothing.
24. We "hover" in anxiety. More
precisely, anxiety leaves us hanging because
it induces the slipping away of beings as
a whole. This implies that we ourselves -
we who are in being - in the midst of beings
slip away from ourselves. At bottom therefore
it is not as though "you" or "I"
feel ill at ease; rather it is this way for
some ''one.'' In the altogether unsettling
experience of this hovering where there is
nothing to hold onto, pure Dasein is all
that is still there.
25. Anxiety robs us of speech. Because beings
as a whole slip away, so that just the nothing
crowds round, in the face of anxiety all
utterance of the "is" falls silent.
That in the malaise of anxiety we often try
to shatter the vacant stillness with compulsive
talk only proves the presence of the nothing.
That anxiety reveals the nothing man himself
immediately demonstrates when anxiety has
dissolved. In the lucid vision sustained
by fresh remembrance we must say that that
in the face of which and for which we were
anxious was "really - nothing. Indeed:
the nothing itself - as such - was there.
26. With the fundamental mood of anxiety
we have arrived at that occurrence in human
existence in which the nothing is revealed
and from which it must be interrogated. How
is it with the nothing?
III. The Response to the Question
27. We have already won the answer which
for our purposes is at least at first the
only essential one when we take heed that
the question of the nothing remains actually
posed. This requires that we actively complete
that transformation of man into his Dasein
which every instance of anxiety occasions
in us, in order to get a grip on the nothing
revealed there as it makes itself known.
At the same time this demands that we expressly
hold at a distance those designations of
the nothing that do not result from its claims.
28. The nothing reveals itself in anxiety
- but not as a being. Just as little is it
given as an object. Anxiety is no kind of
grasping of the nothing. All the same, the
nothing reveals itself in and through anxiety,
although, to repeat, not in such a way that
the nothing becomes manifest in our malaise
quite apart from beings as a whole. Rather
we said that in anxiety the nothing is encountered
at one with beings as a whole. What does
this "at one with" mean?
29. In anxiety beings as a whole become superfluous.
In what sense does this happen? Beings are
not annihilated by anxiety, so that nothing
is left. How could they be, when anxiety
finds itself precisely in utter impotence
with regard to beings as a whole? Rather
the nothing makes itself known with beings
and in beings expressly as a slipping away
of the whole.
30. No kind of annihilation of the ensemble
of beings as such takes place in anxiety;
just as little do we produce a negation of
beings as a whole in order to attain the
nothing for the first time. Apart from the
consideration that the expressive function
of a negating assertion remains foreign to
anxiety as such, we also come always too
late with such a negation which should produce
the nothing. The nothing rises to meet us
already before that. We said it is encountered
"at one with" beings that are slipping
away as a whole.
31. In anxiety occurs a shrinking back before
. . . which is surely not any sort of flight
but rather a kind of bewildered calm. This
"back before" takes its departure
from the nothing. The nothing itself does
not attract; it is essentially repelling.
But this repulsion is itself as such a parting
gesture toward beings that are submerging
as a whole. This wholly repelling gesture
toward beings that are in retreat as a whole,
which is the action of the nothing that oppresses
Dasein in anxiety, is the essence of the
nothing: nihilation. It is neither an annihilation
of beings nor does it spring from a negation.
Nihilation will not submit to calculation
in terms of annihilation and negation. The
nothing itself nihilates.
32. Nihilation is not some fortuitous incident.
Rather, as the repelling gesture toward the
retreating whole of beings, it discloses
these beings in their full but heretofore
concealed strangeness as what is radically
other - with respect to the nothing. In the
clear night of the nothing of anxiety the
original openness of beings as such arises:
that they are beings - and not nothing. But
this "and not nothing" we add in
our talk is not some kind of appended clarification.
Rather it makes possible in advance the revelation
of beings in general. The essence of the
originally nihilating nothing lies in this,
that it brings Dasein for the first time
before beings as such.
33. Only on the ground of the original revelation
of the nothing can human existence approach
and penetrate beings. But since existence
in its essence relates itself to beings -
those which it is not and that which it is
- it emerges as such existence in each case
from the nothing already revealed. Dasein
means: being held out into the nothing.
34. Holding itself out into the nothing,
Dasein is in each case already beyond beings
as a whole. This being beyond beings we call
"transcendence." If in the ground
of its essence Dasein were not transcending,
which now means, if it were not in advance
holding itself out into the nothing, then
it could never be related to beings nor even
to itself. Without the original revelation
of the nothing, no selfhood and no freedom.
35. With that the answer to the question
of the nothing is gained. The nothing is
neither an object nor any being at all. The
nothing comes forward neither for itself
nor next to beings, to which it would, as
it were, adhere. For human existence the
nothing makes possible the openedness of
beings as such. The nothing does not merely
serve as the counterconcept of beings; rather
it originally belongs to their essential
unfolding as such. In the Being of beings
the nihilation of the nothing occurs.
36. But now a suspicion we have been suppressing
too long must finally find expression. If
Dasein can relate itself to beings only by
holding itself out into the nothing and can
exist only thus; and if the nothing is originally
disclosed only in anxiety; then must we not
hover in this anxiety constantly in order
to be able to exist at all? And have we not
ourselves confessed that this original anxiety
is rare? But above all else, we all do exist
and relate ourselves to beings which we may
or may not be - without this anxiety. Is
this not an arbitrary invention and the nothing
attributed to it a flight of fancy?
37. Yet what does it mean that this original
anxiety occurs only in rare moments? Nothing
else than that the nothing is at first and
for the most part distorted with respect
to its originality. How, then? In this way:
we usually lose ourselves altogether among
beings in a certain way. The more we turn
toward beings in our preoccupations the less
we let beings as a whole slip away as such
and the more we turn away from the nothing.
Just as surely do we hasten into the public
superficies of existence. And yet this constant
if ambiguous turning away from the nothing
accords, within certain limits, with the
most proper significance of the nothing.
In its nihilation the nothing directs us
precisely toward beings. The nothing nihilates
incessantly without our really knowing of
this occurrence in the manner of our everyday
38. What testifies to the constant and widespread
though distorted revelation of the nothing
in our existence more compellingly than negation?
But negation does not conjure the "not"
out of itself as a means for making distinctions
and oppositions in whatever is given, inserting
itself, as it were, in between what is given.
How could negation produce the not from itself
when it can make denials only when something
deniable is already granted to it? But how
could the deniable and what is to be denied
be viewed as something susceptible to the
not unless all thinking as such has caught
sight of the not already? But the not can
become manifest only when its origin, the
nihilation of the nothing in general, and
therewith the nothing itself, is disengaged
from concealment. The not does not originate
through negation; rather negation is grounded
in the not that springs from the nihilation
of the nothing. But negation is also only
one way of nihilating, that is, only one
sort of behavior that has been grounded beforehand
in the nihilation of the nothing.
39. In this way the above thesis in its main
features has been proven: the nothing is
the origin of negation, not vice versa. If
the power of the intellect in the field of
inquiry into the nothing and into Being is
thus shattered, then the destiny of the reign
of "logic" in philosophy is thereby
decided. The idea of "logic" itself
disintegrates in the turbulence of a more
40. No matter how much or in how many ways
negation, expressed or implied, permeates
all thought, it is by no means the sole authoritative
witness for the revelation of the nothing
belonging essentially to Dasein. For negation
cannot claim to be either the sole or the
leading nihilative behavior in which Dasein
remains shaken by the nihilation of the nothing.
Unyielding antagonism and stinging rebuke
have a more abysmal source than the measured
negation of thought. Galling failure and
merciless prohibition require some deeper
answer. Bitter privation is more burdensome.
41. These possibilities of nihilative behavior
- forces in which Dasein bears its thrownness
without mastering it - are not types of mere
negation. That does not prevent them, however,
from speaking out in the "no" and
in negation. Indeed here for the first time
the barrenness and range of negation betray
themselves. The saturation of existence by
nihilative behavior testifies to the constant
though doubtlessly obscured manifestation
of the nothing that only anxiety originally
reveals. But this implies that the original
anxiety in existence is usually repressed.
Anxiety is there. It is only sleeping. Its
breath quivers perpetually through Dasein,
only slightly in those who are jittery, imperceptibly
in the "Oh, yes" and the "Oh,
no" of men of affairs; but most readily
in the reserved, and most assuredly in those
who are basically daring. But those daring
ones are sustained by that on which they
expend themselves - in order thus to preserve
a final greatness in existence.
42. The anxiety of those who are daring cannot
be opposed to joy or even to the comfortable
enjoyment of tranquilized bustle. It stands
outside all such opposition - in secret alliance
with the cheerfulness and gentleness of creative
longing. Original anxiety can awaken in existence
at any moment. It needs no unusual event
to rouse it. Its sway is as thoroughgoing
as its possible occasionings are trivial.
It is always ready, though it only seldom
springs, and we are snatched away and left
43. Being held out into the nothing - as
Dasein is on the ground of concealed anxiety
makes man a place-holder of the nothing.
We are so finite that we cannot even bring
ourselves originally before the nothing through
our own decision and will. So profoundly
does finitude entrench itself in existence
that our most proper and deepest limitation
refuses to yield to our freedom. Being held
out into the nothing - as Dasein is
- on the ground of concealed anxiety is its
surpassing of beings as a whole. It is transcendence.
44. Our inquiry concerning the nothing should
bring us face to face with metaphysics itself.
The name "metaphysics" derives
from the Greek meta ta physika. This peculiar
title was later interpreted as characterizing
the inquiry, the meta or trans extending
out "over" beings as such. Metaphysics
is inquiry beyond or over beings which aims
to recover them as such and as a whole for
45. In the question concerning the nothing
such an inquiry beyond or over beings, as
being as a whole, takes place. It proves
thereby to be a "metaphysical"
question. At the outset we ascribed a two
fold character to such questions: first,
each metaphysical question always encompasses
the whole of metaphysics; second, every metaphysical
question implicates the interrogating Dasein
in each case in the question. To what extent
does the question concerning the nothing
permeate and embrace the whole of metaphysics?
46. For a long time metaphysics has expressed
the nothing in a proposition clearly susceptible
of more than one meaning: ex nihilo nihil
fit - from nothing, nothing comes to be.
Although in discussions of the proposition
the nothing itself never really becomes a
problem, the respective views of the nothing
nevertheless express the guiding fundamental
conception of beings. Ancient metaphysics
conceives the nothing in the sense of nonbeing,
that is, unformed matter, matter which cannot
take form as an informed being that would
offer an outward appearance or aspect (eidos).
To be in being is to be a self-forming form
that exhibits itself as such in an image
(as a spectacle). The origins, legitimacy,
and limits of this conception of Being are
as little discussed as the nothing itself.
On the other hand, Christian dogma denies
the truth of the proposition ex nihilo nihil
fit and thereby bestows on the nothing a
transformed significance, the sense of the
complete absence of beings apart from God:
ex nihilo fit - ens creatum [From nothing
comes-created being]. Now the nothing becomes
the counterconcept to being proper, the summum
ens, God as ens increatum. Here too the interpretation
of the nothing designates the basic conception
of beings. But the metaphysical discussion
of beings stays on the same level as the
question of the nothing. The questions of
Being and of the nothing as such are not
posed. Therefore no one is bothered by the
difficulty that if God creates out of nothing
precisely He must be able to relate Himself
to the nothing. But if God is God he cannot
know the nothing, assuming that the "Absolute"
excludes all nothingness.
47. This cursory historical review shows
the nothing as the counter-concept to being
proper, that is, as its negation. But if
the nothing becomes any problem at all, then
this opposition does not merely undergo a
somewhat more significant determination;
rather it awakens for the first time the
genuine formulation of the metaphysical question
concerning the Being of beings. The nothing
does not remain the indeterminate opposite
of beings but reveals itself as belonging
to the Being of beings.
48. "Pure Being and pure Nothing are
therefore the same." This proposition
of Hegel's (Science of Logic, vol. I, Werke
III, 74) is correct. Being and the nothing
do belong together, not because both - from
the point of view of the Hegelian concept
of thought - agree in their indeterminateness
and immediacy, but rather because Being itself
is essentially finite and reveals itself
only in the transcendence of Dasein which
is held out into the nothing.
49. Assuming that the question of Being as
such is the encompassing question of metaphysics,
then the question of the nothing proves to
be such that it embraces the whole of metaphysics.
But the question of the nothing at the same
time pervades the whole of metaphysics, since
it forces us to face the problem of the origin
of negation, that is, ultimately, to face
up to the decision concerning the legitimacy
of the rule of "logic" in metaphysics.
50. The old proposition ex nihilo nihil fit
is therefore found to contain another sense,
one appropriate to the problem of Being itself,
that runs: ex nihilo omne ens qua ens fit
[From the nothing all beings as beings come
to be]. Only in the nothing of Dasein do
beings as a whole, in accord with their most
proper possibility - that is, in a finite
way - come to themselves. To what extent
then has the question of the nothing, if
it is a metaphysical question, implicated
our questioning Dasein? We have characterized
our existence, experienced here and now,
as essentially determined by science. If
our existence so defined is posed in the
question of the nothing, then it must have
become questionable through this question.
51. Scientific existence possesses its simplicity
and aptness in that it relates to beings
themselves in a distinctive way and only
to them. Science would like to dismiss the
nothing with a lordly wave of the hand. But
in our inquiry concerning the nothing it
has by now become manifest that scientific
existence is possible only if in advance
it holds itself out into the nothing. It
understands itself for what it is only when
it does not give up the nothing. The presumed
soberness of mind and superiority of science
become laughable when it does not take the
nothing seriously. Only because the nothing
is manifest can science make beings themselves
objects of investigation. Only if science
exists on the base of metaphysics can it
advance further in its essential task, which
is not to amass and classify bits of knowledge
but to disclose in ever-renewed fashion the
entire region of truth in nature and history.
52. Only because the nothing is manifest
in the ground of Dasein can the total strangeness
of beings overwhelm us. Only when the strangeness
of beings oppresses us does it arouse and
evoke wonder. Only on the ground of wonder
- the revelation of the nothing - does the
"why?" loom before us. Only because
the "why" is possible as such can
we in a definite way inquire into grounds,
and ground them. Only because we can inquire
and ground is the destiny of our existence
placed in the hands of the researcher. The
question of the nothing puts us, the questioners,
in question. It is a metaphysical question.
53. Human existence can relate to beings
only if it holds itself out into the nothing.
Going beyond beings occurs in the essence
of Dasein. But this going beyond is metaphysics
itself. This implies that metaphysics belongs
to the "nature of man." It is neither
a division of academic philosophy nor a field
of arbitrary notions. Metaphysics is the
basic occurrence of Dasein. It is Dasein
itself. Because the truth of metaphysics
dwells in this groundless ground it stands
in closest proximity to the constantly lurking
possibility of deepest error. For this reason
no amount of scientific rigor attains to
the seriousness of metaphysics. Philosophy
can never be measured by the standard of
the idea of science.
54. If the question of the nothing unfolded
here has actually questioned us, then we
have not simply brought metaphysics before
us in an extrinsic manner. Nor have we merely
been "transposed" to it. We cannot
be transposed there at all, because insofar
as we exist we are always there already.
"For by nature, my friend, man's mind
dwells in philosophy" (Plato, Phaedrus,
279a). So long as man exists, philosophizing
of some sort occurs. Philosophy - what we
call philosophy - is metaphysics getting
under way, in which philosophy comes to itself
and to its explicit tasks. Philosophy gets
under way only by a peculiar insertion of
our own existence into the fundamental possibilities
of Dasein as a whole. For this insertion
it is of decisive importance, first, that
we allow space for beings as a whole; second,
that we release ourselves into the nothing,
which is to say, that we liberate ourselves
from those idols everyone has and to which
he is wont to go cringing; and finally, that
we let the sweep of our suspense take its
full course, so that it swings back into
the basic question of metaphysics which the
nothing itself compels: 'Why are there beings
at all, and why not rather nothing?.