Date: Thu, 15 Jun 2000 08:39:47 +0100
From: Michael David Pennamacoor
Subject: Heidegger’s Basic Concepts”

hi lis­ters

this is the promised text for those that are in­ter­ested… A lec­ture course around the year of 1941, dur­ing the pe­riod of Heideger, re­ferred to as The Turn (Kehre)… here it com­prises the Introduction and the 2 or of 3 Divisions of the First Part… so a torso but a good one :-) also for­give the ty­pos and the un­read­able Greek phrases (will try to ren­der them later but the main one (Anaximander) can be translit­er­ated as meleta to pan” — “take care be­ings as a whole”… happy read­ing :-)


INTRODUCTION The Internal Connection be­tween Ground-Being-Inception ß1. Elucidation of the ti­tle of the lec­ture Basic Concepts” a) Basic con­cepts are ground-con­cepts

Basic Concepts” [Grundbegriffe]-of what? The ti­tle of this lec­ture does not say. Hence what is sup­posed to be grasped by these con­cepts re­mains un­clear Concepts” are said to be rep­re­sen­ta­tions [Vorstellungen] in which we bring be­fore our­selves an ob­ject or en­tire re­gions of ob­jects in gen­eral. Basic Concepts” [Grundbegriffe], then, are more gen­eral rep­re­sen­ta­tions of the most pos­si­bly en­com­pass­ing re­gions. Such re­gions are na­ture, his­tory, the” state, the” law, hu­man­ity, an­i­mal, or what­ever else. However, in the lec­ture’s ti­tle there is no talk of the ba­sic con­cepts of na­ture, of art, and other re­gions. The ti­tle does not spec­ify any­thing of the kind for which the Basic Concepts” are sup­posed to be such ba­sic con­cepts, whether for the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of art his­tory or ju­rispru­dence, for chem­istry or me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing, or for any other subject area” or field of hu­man prac­tice. Perhaps the un­sup­ple­mented ti­tle Basic Concepts” means this: that it does not treat of par­tic­u­lar re­gions of be­ings, nor of the cor­re­spond­ing sci­ences that in­ves­ti­gate them in­di­vid­u­ally.

Since, how­ever, the lec­ture is listed un­der the rubric” philosophy, naturally’ the ba­sic con­cepts of phi­los­o­phy” are meant. But if these were meant it would have been stated. Instead, the ti­tle only says Basic Concepts, not The Basic Concepts” nor the” ba­sic con­cepts of phi­los­o­phy.

According to the tra­di­tional and also cor­rect view, phi­los­o­phy in­deed thinks some­thing more gen­eral than the par­tic­u­lar re­gions of na­ture, his­tory, state, art, na­tion, liv­ing thing. If we do not in­tend to mean the ba­sic con­cepts of phi­los­o­phy, then the un­sup­ple­mented ti­tle must have some­thing even more gen­eral in mind than what is thought in philosophy.” This most-gen­eral-of-all sup­pos­edly does not al­low it­self to be said di­rectly. Perhaps there are no words with suff­fi­cient nam­ing power to do so; per­haps the appropriate” words are so used up they do not say any­thing any­more. Hence such an in­def­i­nite ti­tle is per­haps well suited, for thus we do not com­mit our­selves to any­thing in ad­vance.

On the other hand, this non­de­script ti­tle has a pe­cu­liar de­ci­sive­ness about it. Evidently noth­ing ar­bi­trary or pe­riph­eral is spo­ken of here, but only what is nec­es­sary and per­tains to the main is­sue. But why is­n’t this said di­rectly? Well, it is. We only have to lis­ten in the right way. With the first ap­pre­hen­sion of the ti­tle, we must im­me­di­ately be­gin to prac­tice what will be de­manded of us from now on: re­lin­quish­ing the cus­tom­ary, which is at the same time the com­fort­able. We have to as­sume an at­ti­tude whose achieve­ment re­quires no spe­cial knowl­edge in ad­vance, nei­ther sci­en­tific nor philo­soph­i­cal. The lat­ter may be use­ful for other pur­poses, but here such knowl­edge would only be a hin­drance. For here only one thing is re­quired: readi­ness to put the essence of man at risk in think­ing that which grounds this essence, and, fore­most, that which grounds every­thing that man takes for be­ing. Whatever grounds every­thing and gives ground to every­thing is it­self the ground.

Thus the ti­tle tells us some­thing about what is to be com­pre­hended there af­ter all. We only have to write the word dif­fer­ently: GroundConcepts [Grund-Begriffe]. Now the ti­tle says the ground” is to be con­ceived, grasped, seized, in­deed first reached, in­deed first only an­tic­i­pated. We think to­ward the ground of every­thing.

We are not, as it might ap­pear, deal­ing with concepts” as such-with much­ma­ligned mere con­cepts, from which we eas­ily re­coil, though we as­sure our­selves at the same time that they are noth­ing con­crete and lead nowhere.

b) The claim of the ground-con­cepts

Ground-Gncepts” calls for us to grasp the ground, reach the foun­da­tion. This ti­tle calls us to come to stand where a foot­ing and a per­ma­nence are granted, where all de­ci­sions are made, but also from where all in­de­ci­sive­ness bor­rows its hid­ing places. Grasping the ground means reach­ing the ground of every­thing in an un­der­stand­ing that not only takes no­tice of some­thing but is, as a know­ing, a stand­ing and a stance. Knowing the ground is more orig­i­nary, that is, more far­reach­ing than com­mon un­der­stand­ing. But more orig­i­nary also means more de­ci­sive than every usual willing, and more in­ti­mate than every fa­mil­iar feeling.” Therefore know­ing the ground does not first need a character” in or­der to have sta­bil­ity. This know­ing is char­ac­ter it­self. It is that stamp of man with­out which all firm­ness of will re­mains blind stub­born­ness, all deeds mere fleet­ing suc­cesses, all ac­tion a self-con­sum­ing busy­ness, and all experiences” self-delu­sions.

Ground-Concepts, that sounds more like a claim [Anspruch] upon us. We are ex­horted [angesprochen] to set our think­ing upon the path of re­flec­tion. From the time when the es­sen­tial con­fig­u­ra­tion of Western his­tory (and not the mere suc­ces­sion of events) be­gins to un­fold, a say­ing is handed down to us that goes p£~£Ta TO R~V, Take into care be­ings as a whole” [das Seiende im Ganzen]-that means, con­sider that every­thing de­pends upon the whole of be­ings, upon what ad­dresses [anspricht] hu­man­ity from there. Always con­sider the es­sen­tial, first and last, and as­sume the at­ti­tude that ma­tures us for such re­flec­tion. Like every­thing es­sen­tial, this at­ti­tude must be sim­ple, and the sug­ges­tion that in­ti­mates this at­ti­tude (which is a know­ing) to us must be sim­ple as well. It suf­fices for this sug­ges­tion to dis­tin­guish what hu­man­ity, hav­ing come to it­self, must at­tend to.

c) The dif­fer­ence of claims upon man u) The claim of re­quire­ments: Needing

We at­tend ei­ther to what we need or to what we can do with­out.

We mea­sure what we need ac­cord­ing to our re­quire­ments, ac­cord­ing to de­sires left to them­selves and their crav­ings, ac­cord­ing to what we count with and count upon. Behind these de­sires and crav­ings stands the press of that un­rest for which every enough” is just as soon a never enough.” This un­rest of con­tin­u­ously new need­ing, of self-in­creas­ing and ex­pand­ing interests, does not orig­i­nate from any­thing like an ar­ti­fi­cially cul­ti­vated avarice. Rather, this avid­ity is al­ready the re­sult of that un­rest within which the surge of mere life, of the merely liv­ing, re­veals it­self. To re­main thrust and forced into its own crav­ing be­longs to the essence of the liv­ing. Indeed, the liv­ing, which we know as plants and an­i­mals, al­ways seems to find and main­tain its fixed shape pre­cisely in this crav­ing, whereas man can ex­pressly el­e­vate the liv­ing and its crav­ings into a guid­ing mea­sure and make of it the principle” of progress.” If we at­tend only to what we need, we are yoked into the com­pul­sive un­rest of mere life. This form of life arouses the ap­pear­ance of the moved and the self-mov­ing, and there­fore of the free. Thus the ap­pear­ance of free­dom ex­ists pre­cisely where man at­tends only to what he needs. For man’s cal­cu­lat­ing and plan­ning move within a field of play whose lim­its he him­self can ad­just to his par­tic­u­lar wants.

However, this way man is only free, i.e., mo­bile, within the com­pul­sion of his lifeinterests.” He is, in cer­tain re­spects, un­fet­tered within the cir­cuit of com­pul­sion, which de­ter­mines it­self from the premise that every­thing is a mat­ter of util­ity. Servitude un­der the do­min­ion of the con­stantly needed, i.e., of util­ity, looks like the free­dom and mag­nif­i­cence of con­sump­tion [Nutzniessung] and its in­crease.

p) The claim upon the essence of his­tor­i­cal man

Man at­tends ei­ther to what he needs or to what he can do with­out.

In this other at­ti­tude, he does not cal­cu­late un­der the com­pul­sion of util­ity and from the un­rest of con­sump­tion. He does not cal­cu­late at all, but con­sid­ers every­thing from a stand­point that is lim­ited to the es­sen­tial. This lim­i­ta­tion is only an ap­par­ent re­stric­tion, in truth it is a re­lease into the ex­panse of those de­mands that be­fit man’s essence. Attending to the dis­pens­able brings man into the sim­plic­ity and un­equiv­o­cal­ness of an en­tirely dif­fer­ent do­main. Here speak claims that do not de­rive from his needs and do not per­tain to the prospect of the well­be­ing of the in­di­vid­ual and the many. This do­main alone is the site in which a realm” [Reich] can be founded. For here alone his­tor­i­cal man can stand out into an open­ness while sub­or­di­nat­ing every­thing need­ful and use­ful to him­self, thereby first be­com­ing ca­pa­ble of rul­ing in an es­sen­tial sense.

Man, in his essence, is ad­dressed by claims that de­mand an an­swer. But these claims, which we bet­ter name ex­hor­ta­tions [An-sprechungen], can­not be dis­played like mat­ters of fact, nor enu­mer­ated like pri­or­i­ties. Historical man must be struck by them, and for that he must al­low him­self to be struck in the first place. Perhaps the old say­ing pS\£Ta TO ~av puts some­thing into words that strikes his­tor­i­cal man in his essence, such that all that is merely hu­man is not suf­fi­cient to sat­isfy the claim.

Perhaps the at­tempt to think Ground-Concepts, to reach the ground of every­thing, comes to a know­ing that can­not be added up from knowl­edge about life, nor from the re­sults of sci­ence, nor from the doc­trines of a faith.” Presumably, also, an in­di­vid­ual can never in­vent such a know­ing from the for­tu­itous­ness of his abil­i­ties and en­dow­ments. He can foist such knowl­edge nei­ther upon him­self nor upon oth­ers by de­cree. The re­la­tion to the es­sen­tial, wherein his­tor­i­cal man be­comes free, can have its ori­gin only within the es­sen­tial it­self.

d) Readiness for the orig­i­nary, the in­cip­i­ent, and the knowing bet­ter” of his­to­ri­o­log­i­cal con­scious­ness

Man is ei­ther ready for what is al­ways orig­i­nal, or he knows bet­ter.

Knowing bet­ter also reigns where man seems to sub­ju­gate him­self to a di­vine world­plan. This know­ing bet­ter be­gins in Western his­tory with the ad­vent of the age of his­to­ri­o­log­i­cal [historischen] con­scious­ness. The rise and uni­ver­sal cur­rency of his­to­ri­o­log­i­cal sci­ence and its var­ied uti­liza­tion and ex­ploita­tion, how­ever, are al­ready the late de­vel­op­ment of man’s cal­cu­lat­ing attitude” to­ward his­tory. This at­ti­tude be­gins with the as­cen­dancy of Christianity as a prin­ci­ple for shap­ing the world.” Since man has be­come ever more in­ge­nious and clever in the last cen­turies so that noth­ing es­capes him, the re­la­tion to the es­sen­tial is more and more cov­ered over, or, what is even more por­ten­tous, is reck­oned into the oth­er­wise cal­cu­la­ble. There arises a con­di­tion in which every­thing is gauged ac­cord­ing to whether it is new or old. In gen­eral, what counts for un­lim­ited his­to­ri­o­log­i­cal cal­cu­la­tion as new” is not only the hith­erto un­fa­mil­iar and un­prece­dented, but also every­thing that con­tin­ues and pro­motes what­ever pro­gres­sion hap­pens to be un­der way. What is use­less in re­la­tion to the pro­mo­tion of progress counts as old.” The old is then the an­ti­quated. Thus in each epoch his­to­ri­ol­ogy and his­to­ri­o­log­i­cal re­search en­deavor, al­ways un­der dif­fer­ent catch­words, to paint” over the old and the by­gone with the gloss of the re­spec­tive pre­sent, and so to jus­tify his­to­ri­o­log­i­cal ac­tiv­ity it­self as in­dis­pens­able.

However, the es­sen­tial has its own his­tory [Geschichte] and is not cal­cu­la­ble ac­cord­ing to the ci­phers new” and old.” Where such cal­cu­la­tion nev­er­the­less oc­curs, re­la­tions to the es­sen­tial are most cov­ered over. There man stub­bornly sets him­self against the de­mand that he reach the es­sen­tial upon the path of re­mem­brance [Erinnerung] and that he grasp the ground. According to the view of the merely cal­cu­lat­ing man, re­mem­brance fixes it­self to some­thing ear­lier, hence older, hence old, hence an­ti­quated, and there­fore at best at­tain­able through ex­tant his­to­ri­o­log­i­cal re­search. Yet the ear­lier, as­sum­ing it is es­sen­tial, re­mains out­side that util­ity to which every­thing new” and old” in the con­ven­tional sense must sub­ject it­self.

e) The mean­ing of rel­lec­tion upon the in­cep­tion of his­tory

According to the his­to­ri­o­log­i­cal reck­on­ing of time the ear­li­est is in­deed the old­est, and, in the es­ti­ma­tion of or­di­nary un­der­stand­ing, also the most an­ti­quated. The ear­li­est, how­ever, can also be the first ac­cord­ing to rank and wealth, ac­cord­ing to orig­i­nal­ity and bind­ing­ness for our his­tory [Geschichte] and im­pend­ing his­tor­i­cal [geschichtliche] de­ci­sions. The first in this es­sen­tial sense for us is the Greeks. We name this earliest” the in­cip­i­ent [das Anfangliche]. From it comes an ex­hor­ta­tion, in re­la­tion to which the opin­ing of the in­di­vid­ual and the many fails to hear, and mis­con­strues its es­sen­tial power, un­aware of the unique op­por­tu­nity: that re­mem­brance of the in­cep­tion can trans­port us into the es­sen­tial.

We can fail to hear the claim of the in­cip­i­ent. That it comes to this seems to al­ter noth­ing in the course of our his­tory. Thus the dis­pens­abil­ity of re­mem­ber­ing the in­cep­tion is practically” demon­strated. Indeed, we can not only fail to hear the claim of the in­cip­i­ent, but even drive our­selves to the self-delu­sion that we do not have to lis­ten to it in the first place, since we al­ready know” about it. The whole world talks about the ex­tra­or­di­nary cultural” sig­nif­i­cance of the an­cient Greeks. But no one who speaks like this has the slight­est knowl­edge that, and how, an in­cep­tion oc­curs there.

Those who evince a some­what be­lated en­thu­si­asm for classical an­tiq­uity, and like­wise those who en­cour­age and pro­mote the humanistic gym­na­sium, demon­strate a no more es­sen­tial stance to­ward the in­cip­i­ent, so long as their ef­forts are de­voted only to sal­vaging what has been hith­erto; so long as they fall back upon an in­her­ited and very ques­tion­ably arranged cul­tural trea­sure, and in so do­ing con­sider them­selves su­pe­rior to the en­thu­si­asts of the tech­no­log­i­cal age. Familiarity with the an­cient Greek lan­guage is cer­tainly in­dis­pens­able for the en­deavor, ex­pressly un­der­stood as a task, to awaken, de­velop, and se­cure re­mem­brance of the in­cip­i­ent. The ed­u­ca­tion of those who must bring about re­mem­brance of the in­cip­i­ent can­not forgo in­struc­tion in the lan­guage of the an­cient Greeks. But one should not in­fer from this the er­ro­neous opin­ion that those who, for what­ever rea­sons and in­ten­tions, pos­sess knowl­edge of the Greek lan­guage and pur­sue a humanistic school­ing” would also be in pos­ses­sion of the an­cient Greek world. Not all of those who study at a hu­man­is­tic gym­na­sium, nor all of those who teach there, nor all who train these teach­ers at the uni­ver­sity, have al­ready, by rea­son of that fact, a knowl­edge of the in­cep­tion of the es­sen­tial in Western his­tory, and that means of its fu­ture.

How many Germans live” who speak their mother tongue ef­fort­lessly and yet are un­able to un­der­stand Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason or one of Holderlin’s hymns! Hence who­ever has mas­tered the Greek lan­guage, or has some ac­quain­tance with it by ac­ci­dent or choice, pos­sesses not the least proof thereby that he is able t, o think ac­cord­ing to the thought of a Greek thinker. For it could be that he does not let him­self get in­volved with ques­tions in the first place, since he imag­ines him­self, per­haps as an ad­her­ent of a re­li­gious faith, to be in pos­ses­sion of the truth. In such cases, which are not at all rare, pas­sion for the classical” and for humanism” is even more fate­ful than naked ig­no­rance of this cultural trea­sure.” Love of an­tiq­uity is then a pre­text for striv­ing to evade every de­ci­sive re­flec­tion.

Readiness to con­front the in­cep­tion of our his­tory thus re­mains more vi­tal than any knowl­edge of lan­guages. This means readi­ness to con­front the es­sen­tial, which, as a de­ci­sion, is pro­jected ahead of this his­tory at its in­cep­tion, and is its ground.

Readiness to con­front the in­cep­tion can orig­i­nate as gen­uine only from the ne­ces­si­ties of the his­tory into which we our­selves are placed. When we cast aside re­flec­tion upon the nec­es­sary and in­sist we are in pos­ses­sion of the truth, all re­mem­brance of the in­cep­tion is im­pos­si­ble. And where such re­mem­brance does seem to be fos­tered, it is only an eva­sion of what is wor­thy of ques­tion and a flight into the past.

The mea­sure of whether re­mem­brance of the in­cep­tion is gen­uine can never be de­ter­mined from an in­ter­est in re­viv­ing clas­si­cal an­tiq­uity, but only from a re­solve to at­tain an es­sen­tial know­ing that holds for what is to come. This know­ing need not even con­cern the in­cep­tion of our his­tory at first.

The test, how­ever, of whether we are merely col­lect­ing in­for­ma­tion, whether we are merely tak­ing by­gone cul­tural aims as a pre­text for thought­less­ness, or whether we are will­ing to set out upon the path to re­flec­tion, this test we must put to our­selves. To this be­longs in­ner free­dom, but also the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence first of all how such re­flec­tion pro­ceeds and what it en­tails.

f) The goal of the lec­ture: Reflection as prepa­ra­tion for con­fronting the in­cep­tion of our his­tory

This lec­ture aims to pro­vide the op­por­tu­nity for such re­flec­tion or ex­pe­ri­ence. You should think ac­cord­ing to and along with what is here thought forth. This think­ing is not pre­scribed in any ex­am­i­na­tion pro­to­col, and for­tu­nately can­not be so pre­scribed. Such think­ing does not be­long to any required course of study.” Indeed, it does not be­long to any course of study” at all. It also does not serve to fur­ther general ed­u­ca­tion.” It can­not pro­vide en­ter­tain­ment for stu­dents of all de­part­ments. The think­ing in which we re­flect and do noth­ing but re­flect does not yield any util­ity what­so­ever, for it al­lows us to rec­og­nize that there is some­thing that does not have to be effective” or use­ful in or­der to be. Therefore in this think­ing we are left to our own free­dom.

The pos­si­bil­i­ties for pro­fes­sional train­ing, the ap­pro­pri­a­tion of the skills nec­es­sary for this, in­struc­tion in ar­eas of knowl­edge not di­rectly rel­e­vant to pro­fes­sional train­ing, these can al­ways be sub­se­quently ob­tained and im­proved upon where needed. By con­trast, the mo­ments for es­sen­tial re­flec­tion are rare and un­re­peat­able. That holds above all for those mo­ments that oc­cur once in a life­time that ei­ther awaken, bury, or waste one’s fun­da­men­tal abil­i­ties for the en­tire fu­ture.

Ground-Concepts”-this ti­tle in­volves the readi­ness to reach the ground and not to let it go again. If this readi­ness is not to re­main an empty cu­rios­ity, it must im­me­di­ately be­gin prac­tic­ing what it is ready for. It must be­gin with re­flec­tion.

It is now time to ac­tu­ally carry out a sim­ple re­flec­tion, in which we shall pre­pare to con­front the in­cep­tion of our his­tory. From such re­mem­brance of this in­cep­tion we can come to an­tic­i­pate that his­tory is mov­ing to­ward de­ci­sions that will sur­pass every­thing oth­er­wise fa­mil­iar to mod­ern man in his ob­jec­tives. If this is the case, then it is nec­es­sary at this mo­ment of the world for the Germans to know what could be de­manded of them in the fu­ture, when the spirit of their fa­ther­land” must be a holy heart of na­tions” [Volker].

Recapitulation 1. Our un­der­stand­ing of basic con­cepts” and our re­la­tion to them as an an­tic­i­pa­tor, v know­ing

By basic con­cepts” one usu­ally un­der­stands those no­tions that de­limit a re­gion of ob­jects as a whole, or ac­cord­ing to sin­gle, lead­ing as­pects. Thus the con­cept of force” is a ba­sic con­cept of nat­ural sci­ence, the con­cept of culture” is a ba­sic con­cept of his­to­ri­ol­ogy, the con­cept law” is a ba­sic con­cept of ju­rispru­dence-in an­other way also a ba­sic con­cept of nat­ural sci­ence-, the con­cept of style” is a ba­sic con­cept of re­search

in art his­tory, but also in philology.” Indeed, it orig­i­nates from here, as it first means the mode of writ­ing and then of say­ing and speak­ing, and fi­nally per­tains to the formal lan­guage” of each work, which con­cerns the his­to­ri­ans of plas­tic art and paint­ing, in­deed all aesthetics.”

So un­der­stood, ba­sic con­cepts as­sist the par­tic­u­lar sci­ences with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of their re­gions as guide­lines for ques­tion­ing, an­swer­ing, and pre­sent­ing.

We now take more lit­er­ally the ti­tle of this lec­ture, ac­cord­ing to which the first elu­ci­da­tion was given. We write it cor­re­spond­ingly: GroundConcepts. The ti­tle ex­presses the de­mand to reach the ground of all that is, of what can there­fore be called be­ings, or to an­tic­i­pate it and not to let what is an­tic­i­pated go again.

We are thus con­cerned solely with at­tain­ing the ground and the re­la­tion to the ground, not with be­com­ing ac­quainted with concepts” as mere cas­ings of rep­re­sen­ta­tions. The re­la­tion to the ground is also al­ready a know­ing, even where it is a mat­ter of es­sen­tial an­tic­i­pa­tion [Ahnen]. And an­hci­pa­tion of the es­sen­tial [Wesenhaft] al­ways re­mains more vi­tal [wesentlich] than any cer­tainty in cal­cu­lat­ing what is with­out essence [ Wesenlos] .

If we are talk­ing here about an­tic­i­pa­tion, we should not sub­sti­tute a ram­bling feel­ing of in­ci­den­tal states of mind for the con­cept and its rigor. The word an­tic­i­pa­tion should show us the way to con­sider that what should be brought to know­ing here can­not be pro­duced from man by his own choice. Anticipation means grasp­ing some­thing that comes upon us, whose com­ing has long held sway, ex­cept that we over­look it. And in­deed we over­look it sim­ply be­cause our know­ing at­ti­tude as a whole re­mains con­fused and does not rec­og­nize the sim­plest dif­fer­ences, or mis­takes or ig­nores the im­port of dif­fer­ences that are known. Thinking in an­tic­i­pa­tion and for an­tic­i­pa­tion is es­sen­tially more rig­or­ous and ex­act­ing than any for­mal-con­cep­tual clev­er­ness in what­ever sec­tor of the cal­cu­la­ble.

To at­tain an­tic­i­pa­tory know­ing we must prac­tice such know­ing. The fun­da­men­tal con­di­tion for such prac­tice is not a prior fa­mil­iar­ity, for ex­am­ple, in the form of philo­soph­i­cal opin­ions ac­quired through read­ing. The fun­da­men­tal con­di­tion is readi­ness to make our­selves free for the es­sen­tial. Mere fa­mil­iar­ity, whether nar­row or wide, is ca­pa­ble of noth­ing by it­self. However, that does not mean we can do with­out fa­mil­iar­ity every­where and com­pletely, es­pe­cially ma­ture and care­fully cul­ti­vated fa­mil­iar­ity. Nor that its pos­ses­sion be­longs to the long elapsed ideals of an intellectualistic” era. Thinking that merely looks to the use­ful first no­tices gaps and mis­takes only when it comes to harm, when lack of those who are ca­pa­ble and knowl­edge­able en­dan­gers the mas­tery of pre­sent and fu­ture tasks.

2. The de­cay of know­ing in the pre­sent age: The de­ci­sion in fa­vor of the use­ful over what we can do with­out

The store of knowl­edge that to­day’s youth bring with them cor­re­sponds nei­ther to the great­ness nor to the se­ri­ous­ness of the task. Knowing is equal to the task of the age” in only one re­spect: its de­cay and its task are equally enor­mous.

But these de­fi­cien­cies will not be elim­i­nated by sud­denly be­gin­ning to learn more and faster. We must first be­gin again to learn learning” and to know stan­dards of mea­sure. Cultural dis­so­lu­tion will not be abated by the mere in­tro­duc­tion of newer and more con­ve­nient textbooks.” The youth must not wait un­til more fun­da­men­tal ac­quain­tance and ac­tual con­tem­pla­tion are de­manded of them from above, for it is pre­cisely the other way around. It is the pre­rog­a­tive of a true and wake­ful youth to de­velop ex­hor­ta­tions to knowl­edge from out of it­self, and to cling to these ex­hor­ta­tions for it­self, in or­der to con­struct the fu­ture. Whether one oc­ca­sion­ally reads a book” is a mea­sure for the pe­tite bour­geoisie. It does not ask whether to­day’s man, who gets his education” from charts” and magazines, from ra­dio re­ports and movie the­aters, whether such a con­fused, dizzy, and purely American man still knows, or can know, what … … reaalng means.

Nor will the de­gen­er­a­tion of know­ing be over­come when one merely de­clares how much bet­ter it was in the old days. For even the for­mer school and ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem of the last decades was al­ready no longer able to awaken and keep awake the bind­ing power of spirit and the bind­ing­ness of the es­sen­tial, and thus no longer able to force us into re­flec­tion. In times of es­sen­tial de­ci­sions a com­fort­able re­treat to what has been up

to now helps as lit­tle as the hur­ried re­stric­tion to daily needs. Here only re­flec­tion saves us, and the in­ner choice as to whether we want to be ex­posed to the claim the es­sen­tial makes upon us or not. The de­ci­sion as to whether we are ca­pa­ble of mak­ing de­ci­sions about our­selves comes be­fore every­thing. If we are, then the de­ci­sion is whether we ad­here to what we need or at­tend to what we can do with­out.

If we ad­here to what we need, that means, in your pre­sent case, chas­ing af­ter what is nec­es­sary for the most con­ve­nient pos­si­ble arrange­ment of pro­fes­sional train­ing.

By com­par­i­son, if we at­tend at the same time to what we can do with­out, when, as for many of our young friends at the front, it comes to the most ex­treme, then what alone re­mains es­sen­tial comes into view al­most of it­self.

The mark of what we de­cide here does not con­sist in the fact that some en­roll in a phi­los­o­phy course and oth­ers do not. How the afore­men­tioned de­ci­sion is made, and if it is made, no one can es­tab­lish im­me­di­ately from any kind of mark or cer­tifi­cate. Here each per­son is re­spon­si­ble for him­self, for his own delu­sions, and that for which he holds him­self ready.

Thus one can note this ref­er­ence to the cri­sis of know­ing, grounded ac­tu­ally in the essence of mod­ern his­tory and not pro­duced by the pre­sent emer­gency, with a cer­tain sat­is­fac­tion that such a thing is said. Such a one takes his mis­placed smirk over this crit­i­cism al­ready for an ac­com­plish­ment. However, one then leaves every­thing the way it was, not wish­ing to know that what is at risk here is not the or­ga­ni­za­tion of the teach­ing sys­tem, but the most proper con­cern of youth: that it must take things into its own hands, that the best or­ga­ni­za­tion and the best cur­ric­ula do not help here, be­cause be­hind all of these stand de­ci­sions about what is es­sen­tial. Whoever thinks he can find con­fir­ma­tions of his own de­ci­sion­less dis­con­tent here is liv­ing in an il­lu­sion.

3. The in­cep­tion as a de­ci­sion about what is es­sen­tial in Western his­tory (in mod­ern times: un­con­di­tional will and tech­nol­ogy)

Of course it is es­pe­cially dif­fi­cult for mod­ern man to find his way into the es­sen­tial, be­cause in an­other re­spect he is fa­mil­iar with too much and

in­deed be­lieves he is fa­mil­iar with every­thing. For him every­thing ear­lier is some­thing past, by means of which he can il­lu­mi­nate what comes later and what per­tains to him ac­cord­ing to his needs. Here the ear­lier has no power of de­ci­sion be­cause it is no longer ex­pe­ri­enced as the in­cip­i­ent in his­tory. The in­cep­tion, how­ever, can only be ex­pe­ri­enced as an in­cep­tion when we our­selves think in­cep­tively and es­sen­tially. This in­cep­tion is not the past, but rather, be­cause it has de­cided in ad­vance every­thing to come, it is con­stantly of the fu­ture. We must think about the in­cep­tion this way.

By in­cep­tion we un­der­stand the orig­i­nary de­ci­sions that sus­tain in ad­vance what is es­sen­tial in Western his­tory. To the es­sen­tial first be­longs the de­ter­mi­na­tion of the essence of truth, in whose light Western man seeks, finds, se­cures, and trans­forms what is true.

The in­cep­tion as the in­cep­tion of his­tory is only where there is free­dom, that means where a hu­man­ity de­ci­sively com­ports it­self to­ward be­ings and their truth. Nations and races can per­haps live with­out his­tory if it is a mat­ter of mere life.” The mere pas­sage of life” is not yet his­tory, not even when much happens, i.e., tran­spires, in it.

The in­cep­tion of our his­tory is the Greeks. We see here some­thing es­sen­tial that har­bors still un­com­pleted de­ci­sions within it­self. For us this in­cep­tion is not antiquity, and re­flec­tion upon it is not an ac­tiv­ity aimed merely at sal­vaging a handed-down cul­tural trea­sure. The thinker of his­tory Jakob Burckhardt (who, hap­pily, was never a historian”) said decades ago: Occupation with an­tiq­uity is treated here and there like a poor old rel­a­tive, who, for de­cen­cy’s sake, one may not al­low to go un­der.”i

The equip­ment needed for re­flec­tion upon the in­cep­tion is, for the pur­pose of this lec­ture, di­rectly nec­es­sary only for the per­son who is at­tempt­ing to pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity for re­flec­tion for the first time here. Where it is nec­es­sary for us to hear the Greek word of an­cient say­ings, trans­la­tion can be suf­fi­cient-to be sure, un­der the con­di­tion that the elu­ci­da­tion of what the word says to us is not lack­ing, that it is thought through within the hori­zon of our own ex­pe­ri­enc­ing and know­ing. Besides, the German lan­guage is suited like no other for trans­lat­ing the an­cient Greek word, es­pe­cially when the Greek word is not merely trans­lated into a cur­rent German us­age, but when this too is re­newed at the same time and be­comes in­cip­i­ent it­self.

But what ac­tu­ally dis­tances mod­ern man from the in­cep­tion of his his­tory is not only and not pri­mar­ily the other language, but the changed mode of world­in­ter­pre­ta­tion and the ba­sic po­si­tion in the midst of be­ings. The mod­ern po­si­tion is the technological.” It is not tech­no­log­i­cal be­cause there are steam en­gines and then the com­bus­tion mo­tor, but there are these things be­cause the epoch is tech­no­log­i­cal. What we call mod­ern tech­nol­ogy is not only a tool and a means, over and against which to­day’s man can be a mas­ter or ser­vant. Before and be­yond these pos­si­ble at­ti­tudes, tech­nol­ogy is an al­ready de­cided mode of world­in­ter­pre­ta­tion, which de­ter­mines not only the means of trans­porta­tion, sub­sis­tence, and recre­ation but also the pos­si­bil­i­ties for any hu­man at­ti­tude what­so­ever. It pre­forms them ac­cord­ing to their ca­pac­ity for im­ple­men­ta­tion. That is why tech­nol­ogy is mas­tered only where it is af­firmed from the out­set and with­out reser­va­tion. That means the prac­ti­cal mas­tery of tech­nol­ogy in its un­con­di­tional de­vel­op­ment al­ready pre­sup­poses a meta­phys­i­cal sub­ju­ga­tion to tech­nol­ogy. Accompanying this sub­ju­ga­tion within us is an at­ti­tude that grasps every­thing ac­cord­ing to plan and cal­cu­la­tion, and does so with a view to vast times­pans in or­der will­fully and know­ingly to se­cure what can last for the longest pos­si­ble du­ra­tion.

It is one thing when em­pires en­dure for mil­len­nia be­cause of their con­tin­u­ing sta­bil­ity. It is some­thing else when world do­min­ions are know­ingly planned to last mil­len­nia and the as­sur­ance of their ex­is­tence is un­der­taken by that will whose es­sen­tial goal is the great­est pos­si­ble du­ra­tion of the great­est pos­si­ble or­der of the largest pos­si­ble masses. This will has been the con­cealed meta­phys­i­cal essence of moder­nity for the last three cen­turies. It ap­pears in var­i­ous pre­de­ces­sors and guises that are not sure of them­selves and their essence. That in the twen­ti­eth cen­tury this will would at­tain the shape of the un­con­di­tional, Nietzsche had clearly thought through in ad­vance. Participation in this will to man’s un­con­di­tional mas­tery over the earth, and the ex­e­cu­tion of this will, har­bor within them­selves that sub­ju­ga­tion to tech­nol­ogy that does not ap­pear as re­sis­tance and re­sent­ment. That sub­jec­tion ap­pears as will, and that means it is also ef­fec­tive here.

However, where one in­ter­prets the ex­e­cu­tion of this meta­phys­i­cal will as a product” of self­ish­ness and the caprice of dictators” and authoritarian states, there speak only po­lit­i­cal cal­cu­la­tion and pro­pa­ganda, or the meta­phys­i­cal naivete of a think­ing that ran aground cen­turies ago, or both. Political cir­cum­stances, eco­nomic sit­u­a­tions, pop­u­la­tion growth, and the like, can be the prox­i­mate causes and hori­zons for car­ry­ing out this meta­phys­i­cal will of mod­ern world-his­tory. But they are never the ground of this his­tory and there­fore never its end.” The will to preser­va­tion, and that al­ways means the will to en­hance life and its last­ing­ness, works es­sen­tially against de­cline and sees de­fi­ciency and pow­er­less­ness in what lasts only a short while.

On the con­trary, for the in­cep­tion of our his­tory, for the Greeks, de­cline was unique, mo­men­tary, laud­able, and great. Clearly, we have to dis­tin­guish here be­tween de­cline while en­ter­ing into some­thing unique, and per­ish­ing while cling­ing fast to the or­di­nary. What is im­per­ish­able in the in­cep­tion does not con­sist in the longest pos­si­ble du­ra­tion of its con­se­quences nor in the fur­thest pos­si­ble ex­ten­sion and breadth of its ef­fects, but in the rar­ity and sin­gu­lar­ity of each var­ied re­turn of what is orig­i­nary within it. Hence we can­not ex­pe­ri­ence the in­cep­tion through mere his­to­ri­o­log­i­cal fa­mil­iar­ity with what was be­fore, but only in re­al­iz­ing what es­sen­tially came to be known at the in­cep­tion it­self.

4. Practicing the re­la­tion to what is thought-worthy” by con­sid­er­ing the ground

If now and then we hear a brief say­ing of the in­cip­i­ent Greek thinkers of the West, the im­por­tant thing at first is that we hear, and we think about the fact that every­thing has to do with us. But in or­der to con­sider this, we must ac­tu­ally be­come prac­ticed in think­ing. The worst way to prac­tice think­ing, how­ever, would be an aca­d­e­mic course in logic.” The usual, or­tho­dox logic thinks, at best (if it thinks at all), about” think­ing. But we do not learn to think orig­i­nar­ily when some­one shows us how to think, in an in­fe­rior and long-since im­pos­si­ble man­ner, about” think­ing. Rather, we learn to think only when we try to at­tain an es­sen­tial and gen­uine re­la­tion to what above all else is thought-wor­thy. And what is thought­wor­thy is cer­tainly not thinking” but what chal­lenges think­ing, what places think­ing in its ser­vice and thus be­stows rank and value upon it. We do not learn this es­sen­tial think­ing by means of any logic.”

Ground-Concepts” means to say: grasp­ing the ground of every­thing, and that means to at­tain a re­la­tion to the ground” of every­thing. What ground” means here must be clar­i­fied step by step, along with what the re­la­tion to the ground con­sists in, to what ex­tent a know­ing be­longs to this re­la­tion, and to what ex­tent this re­la­tion is even it­self a know­ing. Thus it would be pre­ma­ture if we wanted to equate ground” with cause” of every­thing, and wanted fur­ther­more to in­ter­pret this cause as a first cause in the sense of a cre­ator ac­cord­ing to the Bible and Christian dogma. It would also be pre­ma­ture to be­lieve that with these concepts” it is solely a mat­ter of rep­re­sent­ing the ground. It is rather a ques­tion of ex­tend­ing our think­ing to­ward the man­ner in which the ground in­cludes us in its essence, not the man­ner in which we take the ground to be merely an object” and use it for an explanation of the world.”

However the essence of the ground, but also the con­cepts, i.e., the re­la­tion to the ground, might ex­plain and con­firm them­selves to us, one thing re­mains clear in ad­vance: no in­di­vid­ual with a worked-out doc­trine and view­point can ar­bi­trar­ily, at any par­tic­u­lar time, ex­pound some­thing and de­cide it by de­cree. It is also easy to see that an ex­am­i­na­tion of pre­vi­ous view­points and doc­trines con­cern­ing the ground” and the relation” to the ground” at best pro­vides a historiological” fa­mil­iar­ity and avoids pre­cisely what is all-im­por­tant: the re­la­tion through which we our­selves come into prox­im­ity with what strikes us es­sen­tially and makes a claim upon us. We do not wish to dis­cuss doc­trines. Rather, we want to be­come aware of the es­sen­tial, in which we stand, or within which we are per­haps still dri­ven to and fro with­out a foot­ing and with­out un­der­stand­ing.

5. The es­sen­tial ad­mit­tance of his­tor­i­cal man into the in­cep­tion, into the essence” of ground

We must lis­ten our way into that place where we our­selves be­long. With this, re­flec­tion leads us through the ques­tion as to whether we still be­long any­where at all. Even to merely an­tic­i­pate where we could be­long it is nec­es­sary to ex­pe­ri­ence our­selves. This means ourselves” not ac­cord­ing to an his­to­ri­o­log­i­cally given con­di­tion, ourselves” not ac­cord­ing to a cur­rently ex­ist­ing sit­u­a­tion, ourselves” not ac­cord­ing to the in­di­vid­u­ally oc­cur­ring spec­i­mens of hu­man­ity, but ourselves” in re­spect to what de­ter­mines us and is other than us, which nev­er­the­less gov­erns our essence. We call this, ar­bi­trar­ily at first, the in­cep­tion of our his­tory. By this we do not mean his­tory as a se­ries of events in terms of a causal nexus, of which what oc­curs later and to­day is an ef­fect. History means, again at first ap­pear­ance ar­bi­trar­ily, the hap­pen­ing [Ereignis] of a de­ci­sion about the essence of truth. The man­ner in which the whole of be­ings is re­vealed, in which man is al­lowed to stand in the midst of this rev­e­la­tion, is grounded and trans­formed in such a de­ci­sion. Such a hap­pen­ing is ex­cep­tional, and this ex­cep­tional his­tory is so sim­ple when it hap­pens and pre­pares it­self that man at first and for a long time there­after fails to see it and fails to rec­og­nize it. This is be­cause his vi­sion is con­fused by ha­bit­u­a­tion to the mul­ti­plic­ity of the or­di­nary.

The sim­ple is the most dif­fi­cult, and can only be ex­pe­ri­enced af­ter long en­deavor. Remembrance of the in­cep­tion of our his­tory is the awak­en­ing of know­ing about the de­ci­sion that, even now, and in the fu­ture, de­ter­mines Western hu­man­ity. Remembrance of the in­cep­tion is there­fore not a flight into the past but readi­ness for what is to come.

In such re­mem­brance we our­selves stand every­where at risk, for in re­mem­brance we al­ways re­main unim­por­tant as ex­tant hu­man spec­i­mens and cur­rently ex­ist­ing hu­man groups. Historical man mat­ters only when and in­so­far as he stands in re­la­tion to the essence of his­tory and hears a claim from this essence ac­cord­ing to which what mat­ters is dis­tin­guished from what does­n’t mat­ter, i.e., the ground­less. Above all we our­selves stand at risk, and that means the truth that de­ter­mines us and has per­haps long since be­come un­rec­og­niz­able. But we do not find our­selves by be­com­ing self­ish and fol­low­ing the im­pulse of those in­ter­ests that merely drive us along. We are most likely to find our­selves when we suc­ceed in look­ing away from what is self-seek­ing and pe­cu­liar to our­selves and bring into re­lief some­thing long over­looked. Let us al­low our­selves, then, to be struck by the in­cip­i­ent, and come to hear an an­cient say­ing.

Simply said, Ground-Concepts” [Grundbegriffe] means for us here: grasp­ing [begreifen] the ground of be­ings as a whole. To grasp, how­ever, does not mean that we merely per­mit our­selves to rep­re­sent the ground and to have thoughts about it. When we have grasped some­thing we also say some­thing has opened up to us. This means for the most part that we have been trans­ported into what has opened up and re­main de­ter­mined by it from now on. Thus to grasp” [Be-greifen] the ground means above all that the essence” of the ground em­braces us into it­self [ein-begriffen], and that it speaks to us in our know­ing about it. Grasping an­nounces it­self to us as be­ing-em­braced-into the essence” of the ground. This beingem­braced-into does not con­sist ex­clu­sively in a knowing, al­though it has the es­sen­tial char­ac­ter­is­tic of a know­ing. This know­ing, how­ever, can re­main con­cealed from it­self for a long time, and can block the way to it­self. Nevertheless, even so veiled, this know­ing per­me­ates the his­tory of mankind and is the bedrock in the moun­tain range of his­tory. Man does not oc­ca­sion this know­ing of the ground through mere flashes of in­sight, nor can he force it through the art of mere clev­er­ness. What he can do, and con­stantly does in one way or an­other, is only to re­main within this know­ing or for­get it, to be­come aware of it (remembrance) or evade it.

FIRST DIVISION Discussion of the Is,” of Beings as a Whole ß 2. Beings as a whole are ac­tual, pos­si­ble, r~ec­es­sary

Let us fol­low the an­cient say­ing:

1ls~a ~o ~r~av

Take into care be­ings as a whole.” And if we at­tempt to think the whole of be­ings at once, then we think, roughly enough, this: that the whole of be­ings is, and we con­sider what it is.” We think the whole of be­ings, every­thing that is, in its be­ing. In so do­ing we think at first some­thing in­de­ter­mi­nate and fleet­ing, and yet we also mean some­thing for which we find noth­ing com­pa­ra­ble, some­thing sin­gu­lar. For the whole of be­ings does not oc­cur twice, oth­er­wise it would­n’t be what we mean.

To what is” be­longs not only the cur­rently ac­tual, which af­fects us and which we stum­ble upon: the hap­pen­ings, the des­tinies and do­ings of man, na­ture in its reg­u­lar­ity and its cat­a­stro­phes, the barely fath­omable pow­ers that are al­ready pre­sent in all mo­tives and aims, in all val­u­a­tions and at­ti­tudes of be­lief. To what is” be­longs also the pos­si­ble, which we ex­pect, hope for, and fear, which we only an­tic­i­pate, be­fore which we re­coil and yet do not let go. To be sure, the pos­si­ble is the not yet ac­tual, but this not-ac­tual is nev­er­the­less no mere nul­lity. The pos­si­ble also is, its be­ing sim­ply has an­other char­ac­ter than the ac­tual.

Different yet again from what hap­pens to be ac­tual and the pos­si­ble is the nec­es­sary. Thus be­ings do not ex­haust them­selves in the ac­tual. To be­ings be­long the wealth of the pos­si­ble and the strin­gency of the nec­es­sary. The realm of be­ings is not iden­ti­cal to the do­main of the ac­tual.

In terms of num­ber, but above all in terms of modal­ity, we mean more than the actual” when we say beings.” Indeed, the ac­tual is per­haps not at all the stan­dard for be­ings. And when­ever one de­mands close­ness to the ac­tual for hu­man life, the actuality” that is re­ally meant is not what is sim­ply pre­sent, but what is planned, not what is mas­tered, but an un­spo­ken claim to power. The oft-men­tioned actual” is not the ac­tual, but the pos­si­ble. Thus we never think beings” as a whole as long as we only mean the ac­tual. Henceforth, if we earnestly think be­ings as a whole, if we think their be­ing com­pletely, then the ac­tu­al­ity of the ac­tual is con­tained in be­ing, but also the pos­si­bil­ity of the pos­si­ble and the ne­ces­sity of the nec­es­sary.

It re­mains to be asked why pre­cisely these three (possibility, ac­tu­al­ity, ne­ces­sity) be­long to be­ing, whether they alone ex­haust its essence. For meta­physics (ontology) it is clearly de­cided, be­fore­hand and with­out any con­sid­er­a­tion, that these three types of be­ings, also sim­ply called the” modalities” (actuality, pos­si­bil­ity, ne­ces­sity), ex­haust the essence of be­ing. That a be­ing is ei­ther ac­tual, pos­si­ble, or nec­es­sary strikes or­di­nary un­der­stand­ing as a tru­ism. However, this is per­haps a mis­un­der­stand­ing of the other tru­ism that be­ings are ac­tual and the ac­tual is the ef­fec­tive and what counts at any par­tic­u­lar time.

ß3. Nonconsideration of the es­sen­tial dis­tinc­tion be­tween be­ing and be­ings

But what passes it­self off as even more self-ev­i­dent is just that be­ings are, or, as we say, are de­ter­mined by be­ing.” When we say beings are, we dis­tin­guish each time be­tween be­ings and their be­ing, with­out notic­ing this dis­tinc­tion at all. Thus we also do not ask what this dis­tinc­tion con­sists in, from whence it orig­i­nates, how it re­mains so ob­vi­ous, and where it gets the right to this ob­vi­ous­ness. We also do not find the slight­est rea­son to con­cern our­selves with this dis­tinc­tion be­tween be­ing and be­ings in the first place.

When we con­sider the whole of be­ings, or even just at­tempt to think about it in a vague way, we leave what we en­vis­age for the most part in­de­ter­mi­nate and in­dis­tinct, whether be­ings or be­ing, or both of them al­ter­nately and in­def­i­nitely, or each sep­a­rately but in a barely com­pre­hended re­la­tion. From here orig­i­nates an old con­fu­sion of speech. We say being” and re­ally mean be­ings. We talk about be­ings as such and mean, at bot­tom, be­ing. The dis­tinc­tion be­tween be­ings and be­ing seems not to ob­tain at all. If it does ob­tain, ig­nor­ing it seems not to cause any par­tic­u­lar harm.

Things take their course. However, we do not first hold our­selves within the above­men­tioned dis­tinc­tion be­tween be­ings and be­ing when we re­flect upon the whole of be­ings and ac­tu­ally con­sider its be­ing. The dis­tinc­tion per­vades all of our speak­ing about be­ings, in­deed, it per­vades every com­port­ment to­ward be­ings what­ever they might be, whether to­ward be­ings that we our­selves are not (stone, plant, an­i­mal) or be­ings that we our­selves are.

When we say, for ex­am­ple, com­pletely out­side sci­en­tific de­lib­er­a­tion and far from all philo­soph­i­cal con­tem­pla­tion, the weather is fine, and then by weather” we mean some­thing ac­tual and ex­ist­ing, and we mean with fine” the ac­tual con­di­tion, and we mean with the in­con­spic­u­ous is” the man­ner in which this be­ing, the weather, thus and so ex­ists. Hence we mean the be­ing of the be­ing that is called weather.” The is” does not thereby name a be­ing, un­like the weather” and fine.” Conversely, the weather” and fine” name a be­ing, un­like the is.”

The weather is de­ter­mined by the warmth of the sun, by the ra­di­a­tion of the earth and by its soil con­di­tions, by wind (air cur­rent), by rel­a­tive hu­mid­ity, by the elec­tri­cal con­di­tions of the at­mos­phere, and more of the same. We can di­rectly ob­serve and, with the ap­pro­pri­ate ap­pa­ra­tus, as­sess the weather and what is rel­e­vant to it. We can de­cide if the weather is good or bad or doubtful.” What is good or bad or doubf­ful about the weather, we can see, sense. We can en­counter the weather and its con­di­tion. But wherein lies the is”? What does it mean, what does it con­sist in, that the weather is” and that it is” fine? The fine weather-that we can be glad about, but the is”? What are we to make of it? We can read from the hy­grom­e­ter whether the air is more or less hu­mid, but there are no in­stru­ments to mea­sure and com­pre­hend the is” of what we mean by is.” Thus we say with com­plete clum­si­ness: there are hy­grom­e­ters, wind gauges, barom­e­ters that in­di­cate how the weather is, but there are no is”-gauges, no in­stru­ment that could mea­sure and take hold of the is.” And yet we say the weather-it­self, namely, -is thus and so. We al­ways mean by this what a be­ing is, whether it is, and the way it is.” We mean the be­ing of be­ings. While we mean some­thing like this, namely be­ing, we nev­er­the­less at­tend only to par­tic­u­lar be­ings.

In the case above we are in­ter­ested only in the weather con­di­tions, only in the weather, but not in the is.” How many times a day do we use this in­con­spic­u­ous word is, and not only in re­la­tion to the weather? But what would come of our tak­ing care of daily busi­ness if each time, or even only one time, we were to gen­uinely think of the is” and al­low our­selves to linger over it, in­stead of im­me­di­ately and ex­clu­sively in­volv­ing our­selves with the re­spec­tive be­ings that af­fect our in­ten­tions, our work, our amuse­ments, our hopes and fears? We are fa­mil­iar with what is, be­ings them­selves, and we ex­pe­ri­ence that they are. But the is”-where in all the world are we sup­posed to find it, where are we sup­posed to look for some­thing like this in the first place?

ß4. The nondis­cov­er­abil­ity of the is”

The leaf is green.” We find the green of the leaf in the leaf it­self. But where is the is”? We say, nev­er­the­less, the leaf is”-it it­self, the leaf. Consequently the is” must be­long to the vis­i­ble leaf it­self. But we do not see” the is” in the leaf, for it would have to be col­ored or spa­tially formed. Where and what is” the is”?

The ques­tion re­mains strange enough. It seems to lead to an empty hair­split­ting, a hair­split­ting about some­thing that does not and need not trou­ble us. The cul­ti­va­tion of fruit trees takes its course with­out think­ing about the is, and botany ac­quires in­for­ma­tion about the leaves of plants with­out oth­er­wise know­ing any­thing else about the is.” It is enough that be­ings are. Let’s stay with be­ings; want­ing to think about the is” is” mere quib­bling. Or in­stead we in­ten­tion­ally steer clear of a sim­ple an­swer to the ques­tion as to where the is” can be found.

Let’s stay with the last ex­am­ple. The leaf is green.” Here we shall take the green leaf it­self, the des­ig­nated be­ing, as the object.” Now, in­so­far as the is” is not dis­cov­er­able in this ob­ject, it must be­long to the subject, that means to the per­son who judges and as­serts propo­si­tions. Each per­son can be re­garded as a subject” in re­la­tion to the objects” that they en­counter. But how does it stand with the sub­jects, of whom each can say I” about it­self, of whom many can say we” about them­selves? These subjects” also are” and must be.” To say that the is” in the propo­si­tion the leaf is green” lies in the subject” is only to de­fer the ques­tion. For the subject” is also a being, and thus the same ques­tion re­peats it­self. Indeed, it is per­haps still more dif­fi­cult to say just to what ex­tent being” be­longs to the sub­ject, and be­longs to it such that it would be trans­ferred from here, so to speak, to objects.” In ad­di­tion, when we un­der­stand the green leaf as an object, we grasp it im­me­di­ately and only in its re­la­tion to the sub­ject, and pre­cisely not as an in­de­pen­dent be­ing that we ad­dress in the is” and is green” in or­der to ar­tic­u­late what per­tains to the be­ing it­self.

The flight from ob­ject to sub­ject is in many re­spects a ques­tion­able way out. Thus we must reach still fur­ther and take no­tice for the first time of what we mean by the is.”

ß5. The un­ques­tioned char­ac­ter of the is” in its gram­mat­i­cal de­ter­mi­na­tion-empti­ness and rich­ness of mean­ing

When we take the is” as a word” we la­bel it, ac­cord­ing to gram­mar, as a de­riva­tion and form of the verb to be.” We can also el­e­vate this verb” into a noun: be­ing. We can eas­ily take no­tice of this gram­mat­i­cally de­ter­minable de­riva­tion, but it con­tributes noth­ing to our un­der

stand­ing of what is named by the words to be, being, is, are, was, shall be, has been.” Finally we shall find out that no spe­cial as­sis­tance is needed in or­der to un­der­stand these words.

We say the weather is fine.” We can ask whether it re­ally is fine, and whether it will last or is­n’t al­ready start­ing to change. There can be doubt as to the char­ac­ter­is­tics of this be­ing-the weather-but not about the is, that is to say, not about what the is” means here. Also when it be­comes ques­tion­able if the weather is good” or bad, and we ask Is the weather re­ally as bad as it looks from this cor­ner?”-then the is” it­self re­mains en­tirely un­ques­tioned in the ques­tion. There is noth­ing ques­tion­able about the is”-about what we mean by it. But how is it sup­posed to be­come ques­tion­able? For in­deed in the word is” some­thing is thought that has no spe­cial con­tent, no de­ter­mi­na­tion. The weather is fine, the win­dow is closed, the street is dark, here we con­stantly meet with the same empty mean­ing. The full­ness and vari­abil­ity of be­ings never comes from the is” and from be­ing, but from be­ings them­selves: weather, win­dow, street, bad, closed, dark. When we say about be­ings that they are thus and so, we might dis­tin­guish be­tween be­ings and be­ing. But in this dis­tinc­tion be­ing and the is” re­mains con­tin­u­ally in­dif­fer­ent and uni­form, for it is empti­ness it­self. Indeed, per­haps we fall into a trap, so to speak, and at­tach to a lin­guis­tic form ques­tions that have no sup­port in what is ac­tual. Useless hair­split­ting in­stead of in­ves­ti­gat­ing the ac­tual!?

Suppose we say, to stay with the weather, it rains.” Here the is” does not pre­sent it­self at all, and yet we mean that some­thing ac­tu­ally is.” But what is the point of all this fuss over the empty lit­tle word is”? The in­de­ter­mi­nacy and empti­ness of the word is” is not elim­i­nated by putting a noun in place of the is” and pro­nounc­ing the name being.” At best, it is even in­creased.

It could ap­pear that some­thing im­por­tant is con­cealed in what is named by the noun being, some­thing im­por­tant and in this case es­pe­cially pro­found, even though the ti­tle being” nev­er­the­less re­mains just a nametag for empti­ness.

And yet, be­hind the uni­for­mity and empti­ness of the word is, a scarcely con­sid­ered rich­ness con­ceals it­self. We say: this man is from Swabia”; the book is yours”; the en­emy is in re­treat”; red is port”; God is”; there is a flood in China”; the gob­let is sil­ver”; the sol­dier is on the bat­tle­field”; the potato bee­tle is in the fields”; the lec­ture is in room 5”; the dog is in the gar­den”; this man is the dev­il’s own.” Above all sum­mits/​Is rest….

Each time, the is” has a dif­fer­ent mean­ing and im­port for speech. We do not want to avoid this com­plex­ity but rather to em­pha­size it, for such a sur­vey of the ob­vi­ous can serve as a pre­lim­i­nary ex­er­cise for some­thing else.

The man is from Swabia” says: he orig­i­nates from there; the book is yours” says: it be­longs to you; the en­emy is in re­treat” means: he has be­gun to with­draw; red is port” means: the red color is a sign for . . .; God is” is sup­posed to mean: God ex­ists, he is ac­tu­ally there; there is a flood in China” means: there some­thing pre­vails, spreads, and re­sults in de­struc­tion; the gob­let is sil­ver” means: ac­cord­ing to its ma­te­r­ial char­ac­ter­is­tics, it con­sists of . . .; the sol­dier is on the bat­tle­field” would say: he en­gages the en­emy; the potato bee­tle is in the fields” es­tab­lishes that: this an­i­mal causes dam­age there; the lec­ture is in room 5” means: the lec­ture takes place there; the dog is in the gar­den” means to say: the dog is lo­cated there, runs around there; this man is the dev­il’s own” means: he acts as if pos­sessed by evil. Above all sum­mits/​Is rest . . . means- yes, what does this mean? Above all sum­mits rest lo­cates it­self’? Or: takes place”? exists”? spreads”?-“Above all sum­mits/​Is rest.”- Here not one of the above­men­tioned elu­ci­da­tions of the is” fits. And when we col­lect them to­gether and add them up, their sum does not suf­fce ei­ther. Indeed, no para­phrase at all will do, so we sim­ply have to leave the is” to it­self. And thus the same is” re­mains, but sim­ple and ir­re­place­able at once, the same is” enun­ci­ated in those few words that Goethe wrote upon the mul­lions in a hut on the Kickelhahn at Ilmenau (cf. the let­ter to Zelter of Sept. 4, 1831).

How strange, that in re­sponse to Goethe’s word Above all sum­mits/​Is rest” we vac­il­late over an at­tempted elu­ci­da­tion of the fa­mil­iar is, and hes­i­tate to give any elu­ci­da­tion at all, so that we come to give up com­pletely and only say the same words over and again: Above all sum­mits/ Is rest. We forgo an elu­ci­da­tion of the is,” not be­cause its un­der­stand­ing could be too com­pli­cated, too dif­fi­cult, even hope­less, but be­cause here the is” is said as if for the first and only time. This is some­thing so unique and sim­ple that we don’t have to do any­thing on our part to be ad­dressed by it. Hence the intelligibility” of the is” that pre­cludes all elu­ci­da­tion, the intelligibility” that has per­haps a com­pletely dif­fer­ent mode than that fa­mil­iar­ity in which the is” oth­er­wise oc­curs to us, con­stantly un­thought, in every­day dis­course.

All the same, the sim­ple is” of Goethe’s poem holds it­self far away from the mere in­de­ter­mi­nacy and empti­ness that we in­deed eas­ily mas­ter, if only through the hasti­ness of our un­der­stand­ing. Here, on the con­trary, and de­spite its in­tel­li­gi­bil­ity, we are not at all equal to the ad­dress of this word, but are ad­mit­ted into some­thing in­ex­haustible.

Above all sum­mits/​Is rest . . . ; in this is” speaks the unique­ness of a gath­ered wealth. Not the empti­ness of the in­de­ter­mi­nate, but the full­ness of the overde­ter­mined pre­vents an im­me­di­ate de­lim­i­ta­tion and in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the is.” The in­signif­i­cant word is” thus be­gins to shine brightly. And the hasty judg­ment about the in­signif­i­cance of the is” starts to wa­ver.

We now rec­og­nize the wealth of what the is” has to say and is ca­pa­ble of say­ing, only in dif­fer­ent re­spects from the com­plex­ity of the enu­mer­ated propo­si­tions. If we at­tempt to trans­fer the mean­ing of the is” from any one of the above-cited propo­si­tions to the oth­ers, we im­me­di­ately fail. Thus the empti­ness and uni­for­mity of the is” shows it­self to be a clumsy pre­tense that clings to the same­ness of the sounds and the writ­ten char­ac­ters. But how, then, is the al­leged wealth sup­posed to lie in the is” it­self?

The word is, taken by it­self, re­mains help­less and poor in mean­ing. Why it is so with the is, in­deed why it must be so, is also easy to see. The com­plex­ity of the mean­ings of the is” has its in­tel­li­gi­ble ground in the fact that a dif­fer­ent be­ing is rep­re­sented each time in the above-cited propo­si­tions: the man from Swabia, the book, the en­emy, the color red, God, the flood, the gob­let, the sol­dier, the potato bee­tle, the lec­ture, the dog, the evil man, and fi­nally in Goethe’s poem-what? Rest”? Is rest” rep­re­sented there and some­thing about it as­cer­tained, that it is pre­sent above all sum­mits”?

Here again, we hes­i­tate over the in­ter­pre­ta­tion. And that is no won­der, since the propo­si­tions cited above are prosaic” ob­ser­va­tions and de­c­la­ra­tions, while in the last ex­am­ple pre­cisely a poetic” propo­si­tion was brought for­ward. In poetic propo­si­tions, if they may be called propositions” at all, things do not lie on the sur­face as much as they do in fa­mil­iar, every­day dis­course. The poetic” is the ex­cep­tion. The rule and the or­di­nary are not to be gath­ered from it, and that means what­ever can be dis­cerned of the is” com­monly and in gen­eral. Therefore we may hope to as­cend to the level of higher, poetic” ex­pres­sion, and to be able to at­tempt its clar­i­fi­ca­tion, only when the mean­ing of the is” is first clar­i­fied sat­is­fac­to­rily in the com­mon as­sertive propo­si­tion. Thus it is per­haps just as well that we do not al­low our­selves to be pre­ma­turely con­fused by the poetic” ex­am­ple that was merely tacked on to the end of the propo­si­tional se­quence.

The pre­vi­ously cited propo­si­tions suf­fice, then, to demon­strate that the is” de­rives its mean­ing each time from the be­ing that is re­spec­tively rep­re­sented, ad­dressed, and ar­tic­u­lated in the propo­si­tion. Only thus can it fill the empti­ness that is oth­er­wise, and in­deed char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally, in­her­ent in it from case to case, and pre­sent it­self in the ap­pear­ance of a ful­filled word.

a) The empti­ness and in­de­ter­mi­nacy of the is” as a pre­sup­po­si­tion for its be­ing a copula”

Citing the ex­am­ples above thus proves the ex­act op­po­site of what is sup­posed to be shown, not a rich­ness of the is” but pre­cisely its empti­ness. Hence the im­pres­sion af­forded at first by this much-used word is con­firmed, i.e., that of an in­de­ter­mi­nate and not fur­ther de­ter­minable word, which is the es­sen­tial mode of this word. Indeed, the al­leged empti­ness of this word, the is, can be prop­erly demon­strated as soon as we cease to deal with it in an ap­prox­i­mate way. Let us at­tend to the char­ac­ter of this word in­stead of the many ex­am­ples of its ap­pli­ca­tion, which can eas­ily be mul­ti­plied to in­fin­ity. Grammar in­forms us about this. According to gram­mar, the is” has the task of con­nect­ing the subject” with the predicate.” The is” is there­fore called the link” or copula.”

The con­nect­ing re­mains de­pen­dent upon what is sup­posed to be con­nected, and the mode of the bond is de­ter­mined by the mode of what is sup­posed to come into con­nec­tion. That the is” has the char­ac­ter of the cop­ula shows clearly enough the ex­tent to which its mean­ing must be char­ac­ter­ized by empti­ness and in­de­ter­mi­nacy. For only thus can the is” suf­fice for the var­i­ous uses that are con­stantly de­manded of it in dis­course. The is” re­mains not only ac­tu­ally an empty word, but due to its essence-as a con­nect­ing word-it may not be loaded down be­fore­hand with any par­tic­u­lar mean­ing. Its own mean­ing must there­fore be to­tally empty.

b) Being (“is”) as the gen­eral, the uni­ver­sal

The uni­for­mity of the is” there­fore can­not be passed off as a mere ap­pear­ance. It dis­tin­guishes this word and thus in­di­cates that the noun being, de­rived from its in­fini­tive to be, also only sig­ni­fies a per­haps in­dis­pens­able but fun­da­men­tally empty rep­re­sen­ta­tion. This uni­for­mity is won by turn­ing our view from be­ings and their re­spec­tive de­ter­mi­na­tions and re­tain­ing only the empty uni­ver­sal. For a long time now being” has there­fore been called the most com­mon, the general, the most gen­eral of all that is gen­eral. In this word, and in what it means, the so­lid­ity of each re­spec­tive be­ing evap­o­rates into the hazi­est haze of the most uni­ver­sal. Hence Nietzsche calls being” the last breath of a va­por­iz­ing re­al­ity.”

If, how­ever, be­ing thus va­por­izes and dis­ap­pears, what be­comes of the dif­fer­ence be­tween be­ing and be­ings?

In this dif­fer­ence, we have” be­fore us two dif­fer­en­tia: be­ings and be­ing. If, how­ever, one of the two dif­fer­en­tia in this dif­fer­ence, namely be­ing, is only the emp­ti­est uni­ver­sal­iza­tion of the other, owes its essence to the other, and if con­se­quently every­thing that has con­tent and en­dures shifts to the side of be­ings, and be­ing is in truth noth­ing, or at best an empty word-sound, then the dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion may not be taken as com­pletely valid. For it to be valid, each of the two sides” would have to be able to main­tain a gen­uine and rad­i­cal claim to essence from out of it­self.

If we are to con­sider the whole of be­ings, then we could cer­tainly give the most uni­ver­sal but also the emp­ti­est of be­ings the name being.” But we fall at once into er­ror when, fooled by the nam­ing and es­tab­lish­ing of the name being, we chase af­ter a so-called being it­self” in­stead of con­sid­er­ing only be­ings (is . . . to be-be­ing-be­ing it­self). Indeed, we do not sim­ply fall once more into er­ror, but into the mere empti­ness of the purely null, where in­quiry no longer finds any sup­port, where there is noth­ing to be in er­ror about. If we want to fol­low the say­ing p£~£1a TO 7rav, we there­fore do well to avoid the phan­tom of an abstract con­cept” named by the word being.”

ß6. The so­lu­tion of healthy com­mon sense: Acting and ef­fect­ing among be­ings in­stead of empty think­ing about be­ing (workers and sol­diers)

But an alert sense for the ac­tual and a healthy in­stinct for realities” do not need such far-rang­ing re­flec­tions. These are al­ready ab­stract enough, and ad­di­tion­ally, they at­tempt to demon­strate the empti­ness and ground­less­ness of the ab­stract. A forth­right man ex­pe­ri­ences the whole of be­ings not through the dis­lo­ca­tions of empty think­ing about being” but only by act­ing and ef­fect­ing among be­ings. Of course, not every ran­dom ac­tiv­ity guar­an­tees a co­a­les­cence with the ac­tual, and thus the con­crete, in dis­tinc­tion from the ab­stract. For this, par­tic­i­pa­tion in the in­ner law of the age is needed. But where this par­tic­i­pa­tion oc­curs, there awak­ens a height­ened knowl­edge which is de­liv­ered over to some­thing nec­es­sary, and that means in­dis­pens­able for it. Therein lies an au­then­tic con­cept of be­ing free and free­dom ar­tic­u­lated by Nietzsche (see Twilight of the Idols, 1888).

But who would deny that ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion in the ac­tual takes place in var­i­ous lev­els of know­ing and act­ing, and must do so com­pletely for an age in which the Will to Power” alone every­where de­ter­mines the fun­da­men­tal char­ac­ter­is­tic of act­ing, and even rules over the most ap­par­ently op­posed stand­points, so that noth­ing more re­mains of the pre­vi­ous world? Who would deny that here all hu­man plan­ning and ef­fect­ing dis­plays, in par­tic­u­lar clar­ity, the char­ac­ter of a great game, in which no in­di­vid­ual nor even every­one to­gether can muster the stakes at risk in this world-play”? Who could won­der that in such a time, when the world as we have known it is com­ing out of joint, the thought arises that now only the love of dan­ger and adventure” can be the way man se­cures the ac­tual for him­self?

Nietzsche says:  . . . every higher man feels him­self to be an ad­ven­turer. 2 In any case, it be­comes clear that all in­ter­pre­ta­tions of hu­man­ity and its de­ter­mi­na­tion, is­su­ing from pre­vi­ous ex­pla­na­tions of the world, lag be­hind what is. In the mean­time, it has been de­cided that the worker” and the sol­dier” com­pletely de­ter­mine the face of the ac­tual, all po­lit­i­cal sys­tems in the nar­row sense notwith­stand­ing. These names are not meant here as names for a so­cial class or pro­fes­sion. They in­di­cate, in a unique fu­sion, the type of hu­man­ity taken as mea­sure by the pre­sent world-con­vul­sion for its ful­fill­ment, that gives di­rec­tion and foun­da­tion to one’s re­la­tion to be­ings. The names worker” and soldier” are thus meta­phys­i­cal ti­tles and name that form of the hu­man ful­fill­ment of the be­ing of be­ings, now be­come man­i­fest, which Nietzsche pre­sciently grasped as the will to power.

This emerg­ing for­ma­tion of hu­man­ity was al­ready clear to Nietzsche in the eight­ies of the last cen­tury, not from ob­ser­va­tions of so­cial and po­lit­i­cal con­di­tions, but from meta­phys­i­cal knowl­edge about the self­ful­fill­ing and long-de­cided es­sen­tial form of be­ing as will to power.

Three sketches from the decade be­tween 1880 and 1890 might suf­fice to prove this. We must forgo a more ex­act in­ter­pre­ta­tion here.

In 1882 Nietzsche writes (Will to Power, 764): The work­ers shall live one day as the bour­geoisie do now-but above them, dis­tin­guished by their free­dom from wants, the higher caste: thus poorer and sim­pler, but in pos­ses­sion of power.

In 1885/86 Nietzsche writes (Will to Power, 757): Modern so­cial­ism wants to cre­ate the sec­u­lar coun­ter­part to Jesuitism: every­one a per­fect in­stru­ment. But the pur­pose, the where­fore? has not yet been found.”

In November 1887/March 1888 Nietzsche writes (Will to Power, 763):

From the­fu­ture of the worker-work­ers should learn to feel like sol­diers. An hon­o­rar­ium, an in­come, but no pay!

No re­la­tion be­tween pay­ment and achieve­ment! But to place the in­di­vid­ual, each ac­cord­ing to his kind, so that he can achieve the high­est that lies within his realm.”3

In these sketches by Nietzsche the names worker, soldier, and socialism” are al­ready ti­tles for the lead­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the main forms in which the will to power will be en­acted!

Workers” and soldiers” open the gates to the ac­tual. At the same time, they ex­e­cute a trans­for­ma­tion of hu­man pro­duc­tion in its ba­sic struc­ture; of what for­merly was called culture.” The lat­ter, ac­cord­ing to pre­vi­ous no­tions, is an in­stru­ment of cultural pol­i­tics.” Culture only ex­ists in­so­far as it is plugged into [eingeschaltet] the op­er­a­tions that se­cure a ba­sis for a form of dom­i­na­tion. That we use the term plug in” [einschalten] to name this con­nec­tion, an ex­pres­sion from ma­chine tech­nol­ogy and ma­chine uti­liza­tion, is like an au­to­matic proof of the ac­tu­al­ity that finds words here. Workers” and soldiers” re­main ob­vi­ously con­ven­tional names that nev­er­the­less can sig­nify, roughly and in out­line, the hu­man­ity now aris­ing upon the earth. If the peas­ant trans­forms him­self into a worker in the pro­vi­sions in­dus­try, then this is the same process by which a lead­ing scholar be­comes the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of a re­search in­sti­tute. But it would be back­ward and only half se­ri­ous, thus not at all se­ri­ously thought out, to try to char­ac­ter­ize these events in terms of past political” ideas, e.g., as a proletarianization, and to be­lieve thereby that we had grasped the slight­est thing. To in­ter­pret every­thing from what has been, and thus to ex­clude one­self from the realm of the al­ready ac­tual and its es­sen­tial be­ing, cor­re­sponds to nat­ural hu­man in­er­tia. Only a dreamer and a vi­sion­ary could want to deny that, in the age dawn­ing upon the en­tire earth, man ex­pe­ri­ences real be­ings as a worker and sol­dier does, and makes avail­able what alone is to count as a be­ing.

Only those who are per­ma­nently ill-tem­pered and an­gry on prin­ci­ple could pro­pose to stay es­sen­tial de­ci­sions by flight into what has been, to whose past for­ma­tion and preser­va­tion they have con­tributed noth­ing. Yet, gen­uine par­tic­i­pa­tion in the law of the age is also es­sen­tially other than the com­port­ment that ex­hausts it­self in ad­vo­cat­ing optimism.” For mere op­ti­mism is only a con­cealed pes­simism, a pes­simism that avoids it­self. In this age of the con­vul­sion of the en­tire world pes­simism and op­ti­mism re­main, in the same way, pow­er­less for what is nec­es­sary’ The so­bri­ety of know­ing and re­flec­tion upon what is are nec­es­sary above all. However, this so­bri­ety in­cludes rec­og­niz­ing the truth un­der which the his­tory of the age stands. Sobriety also in­cludes ask­ing whether the unique­ness of this world-age de­mands of Dasein an orig­i­nal­ity for which hav­ing in­tel­lec­tual in­ter­ests and at­tend­ing to so-called cul­tural con­cerns, in ad­di­tion to the life of ac­tion, do not suf­fice. For the gen­uine pas­sion of so­bri­ety the best op­ti­mism is too lame, every pes­simism too blind. All this should in­di­cate that the call to par­tic­i­pate in the ac­tual al­ways stands un­der a dif­fer­ent law; it does not each time guar­an­tee a straight­for­ward ex­pe­ri­ence of what is. Certainly, to­day, workers” and soldiers” ex­pe­ri­ence be­ings in help­ing to bring about their char­ac­ter­is­tic fea­tures.

ß7. Renouncing be­ing-deal­ing with be­ings

But do workers” and soldiers, in virtue of this ex­pe­ri­ence, also know the be­ing of be­ings? No. Yet per­haps they no longer need to know it. Perhaps the be­ing of be­ings has never been ex­pe­ri­enced by those who di­rectly shape, pro­duce, and rep­re­sent be­ings. Perhaps be­ing was al­ways brought to knowl­edge merely by the way, like some­thing ap­par­ently superfluous.

If it were so, then within the realm of his­tor­i­cal hu­man­ity, be­sides the bound­less com­plex­ity and full­ness of be­ings, this superfluity, be­ing, would still re­veal it­self. Then it would re­main to ask whether this superfluity” is also the gift of a sur­plus and a wealth, or whether it al­ways re­mains merely use­less, the poverty of empti­ness-the empti­ness that al­ready an­nounced it­self to us dis­tinctly enough in the con­nect­ing word is.”

Without notic­ing it, we are again con­sid­er­ing the dif­fer­ence be­tween be­ings and be­ing. Perhaps be­ing can­not be so con­ve­niently shoved aside, as the dis­cus­sion of the cop­ula seems to have suc­ceeded in do­ing. Even when it is es­tab­lished that man knows noth­ing of be­ing in all his ex­pe­ri­ences and deal­ings with be­ings, in­deed that he needs to know noth­ing of be­ing, then it is still by no means de­cided whether what he ex­pe­ri­ences be­fore all be­ings, ex­pe­ri­ences dif­fer­ently and more orig­i­nar­ily than any par­tic­u­lar be­ing, is what we call be­ing. The re­mark that the word is” means only an empty rep­re­sen­ta­tion of some­thing in­de­ter­mi­nate and not fur­ther de­ter­minable can no longer suf­fice to de­cide what be­ing is” apart from be­ings.

Meanwhile, we have only given voice to the un­de­ni­able fact” that the im­me­di­ate ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ings holds be­ings se­cure and therein finds con­tent­ment. One finds proof of actuality” in the ac­tual it­self, equates the one (the ac­tual) with the other (actuality), and, in case one still con­cedes a proper essence to actuality, it is in the role of cap­tur­ing the universal rep­re­sen­ta­tion” of the most uni­ver­sal-called be­ing-in a word’s sound. One is con­tent with be­ings, and re­nounces be­ing so de­ci­sively that one does not al­low this re­nun­ci­a­tion to count as such, but de­clares it to be a gain: the ad­van­tage, from now on, of not be­ing dis­turbed by the abstract” in deal­ing with be­ings. Where does this re­mark­able con­tent­ment come from?

Perhaps this com­pla­cency about the ex­pe­ri­ence and cul­ti­va­tion of be­ings stems from the fact that man, in the midst of be­ings, thinks only about what he needs. Why should he need a dis­cus­sion of the mean­ing of the word is”? Indeed-it is of no use. Discussions about the is” in the propo­si­tion there­fore also re­main use­less, even if it should turn out that we are not deal­ing with mere words and mere ver­bal mean­ings. This re­flec­tion is de­voted to some­thing su­per­flu­ous and per­haps even to an ex­cess.

For this rea­son alone, we do not pre­ma­turely cast aside dis­cus­sions of the is” in the propo­si­tion. Perhaps some­thing es­sen­tial con­ceals it­self here, es­pe­cially if every­thing es­sen­tial oc­curs despite” all that is nonessen­tial. Everything de­ci­sive is despite” the or­di­nary, for the or­di­nary and usual rec­og­nizes and wants only its own kind.

Perhaps the pre­vi­ous dis­cus­sion of the is, where the is” is un­der­stood as the cop­ula, was only an or­di­nary dis­cus­sion, made or­di­nary by our long be­ing ac­cus­tomed to think­ing of so-called grammar” as ap­pro­pri­ate for im­part­ing au­thor­i­ta­tive in­for­ma­tion about lan­guage and the word. Perhaps the or­di­nary must first of all be shaken, so that we re­ceive a first sense of the su­per­flu­ous. Thus, for­sak­ing the beaten path of for­mer opin­ion, we wish to take up anew the dis­cus­sion of the is” and being.

Recapitulation 1. Consideration of be­ings as a whole pre­sup­poses the es­sen­tial in­clu­sion of man in the dif­fer­ence be­tween be­ing and be­ings

We fol­low an an­cient say­ing, and in so do­ing cast off the hasty pre­sump­tion of a will­ful clev­er­ness that would per­haps like merely to con­trive a world­view or represent” a par­tic­u­lar stand­point. This say­ing goes:

p£~£T~ T0 ~V

Take into care be­ings as a whole.”

This say­ing in no way serves as a time­less rule, but de­mands that we fol­low it by re­turn­ing to the in­cep­tion to which it be­longs, and that we ex­pe­ri­ence in the in­cip­i­ent a unique de­ci­sion. Accordance with this de­ci­sion does not mean im­i­tat­ing and re­new­ing some­thing ear­lier, but be­gin­ning some­thing yet to come. Tofollow the say­ing means, at the same time and at once: re­mem­ber­ing what is in­cip­i­ent and de­cid­ing what is yet to come. All this im­plies that we must sin­gle out Greek thought as a first be­gin­ning, but we can never pre­scribe it, as the Classical, as a rule for our­selves.

Following the say­ing, we con­sider be­ings as a whole and see our­selves forced to ac­knowl­edge the pos­si­ble and the nec­es­sary as be­ings. We must there­fore give up the se­duc­tive iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of be­ings with the merely ac­tual. The ac­tual, to be sure, re­tains its pri­or­ity in our ex­pe­ri­ences, opin­ions, and plans. But this pri­or­ity does not nec­es­sar­ily en­tail the pre­em­i­nence of the ac­tual within the whole of be­ings. However, when we

ex­pe­ri­ence this whole in terms of its pos­si­bil­i­ties and ne­ces­si­ties, be­yond the merely ac­tual, it re­mains to be de­cided whether we have in­deed al­ready tra­versed its do­main.

Meanwhile, we have no­ticed that in think­ing be­ings we also thereby” think be­ing. The whole of be­ings is nei­ther merely the sum of all be­ings nor is it al­ready thought when we suc­ceed in rep­re­sent­ing its totality.” For if to­tal­ity is not sim­ply ad­ven­ti­tious to the whole, but pro­jects ahead of all be­ings as their de­ter­mi­na­tion (because it res­onates through the whole of be­ings as a be­ing”), then to­tal­ity it­self is only a satel­lite of what dis­tin­guishes be­ings as be­ings. We call this being.” In con­sid­er­ing be­ings as a whole we think the whole as a be­ing, and thus we al­ready think it from be­ing. We dif­fer­en­ti­ate each time, with­out know­ing how or why or where­fore, be­ings and be­ing.

Obviously we do not first make this dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion and carry it with us like a piece of in­for­ma­tion, like an ar­bi­trary dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion such as that be­tween red and green. Rather, we move within this dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion of be­ings and be­ing just as we stay, in ad­vance, within the dif­fer­ence be­tween right and left, where the dif­fer­en­tia are of the same kind and con­cern a par­tic­u­lar realm of the spa­tial.

If we need ev­i­dence that we al­ways re­main and en­counter our­selves within this dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion of be­ings and be­ing, it suf­fices to note that we con­tin­u­ally name be­ing in our com­port­ment to­ward be­ings when we say is.” Whether we ac­tu­ally as­sert propo­si­tions that con­tain this word is” or silently busy and con­cern our­selves with be­ings is all the same. That we must con­tin­u­ally say is” when­ever we speak in­di­cates that what we so” name, pre­cisely be­ing, wants to be put into a word, into a word that, ad­mit­tedly, we al­ways at the same time mis-hear. This fail­ure to rec­og­nize the is” re­sem­bles the all too fa­mil­iar and mo­not­o­nous tick of the clock within the usual sphere of every­day re­sid­ing. We first hear the mo­tion of the clock when it stands still. In just this way, we be­come aware of the is” and what it says when an in­ter­rup­tion in­trudes upon speak­ing. To be sure, we” can ex­pe­ri­ence this in­ter­rup­tion only hy­po­thet­i­cally, only as pos­si­ble, never as ac­tual. We can posit the case where we ut­terly fail to say or even merely think the is.” What would hap­pen then, each may work out at first for him­self. It suf­fices sim­ply to con­sider externally” any se­ries of ut­ter­ances what­so­ever in which we di­rectly and con­tin­u­ally say the in­signif­i­cant word is.”

We con­sider be­ings as a whole, and thereby think be­ing. Thus, in think­ing, we move within the dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion be­tween be­ings and be­ing. Not that we ap­ply this dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion and re­fer to it like a fa­mil­iar rule. We are in ac­cor­dance with it with­out ac­tu­ally know­ing of it or hav­ing a con­cept of its essence and es­sen­tial ground. Perhaps it is al­ready too much and in­ap­pro­pri­ate when we speak of the dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion be­tween be­ings and be­ing in the first place. For in this way a dif­fer­ence is al­ready ob­jec­ti­fied with­out our be­ing able to spec­ify where it be­longs, whether it only sub­sists be­cause we carry it out, or whether man car­ries it out be­cause some­thing es­sen­tial de­ter­mines him-to which we want to cling fast, so to speak, un­der the empty name of the dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion be­tween be­ings and be­ing. For oth­er­wise many things are dif­fer­en­ti­ated. What all is­n’t dis­tin­guish­able and ad­dressed as a dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion! Talk of the dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion is sup­posed to in­di­cate, how­ever, that this dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion is the ori­gin of all dif­fer­ences.

The dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion / beings and be­ing” / con­tains an in­di­ca­tion that af­ter all being” and beings” har­bor within them­selves the re­la­tion to be­ing. How ex­clu­sively we re­fer to be­ing in every at­ti­tude to­ward be­ings is ev­i­denced by our say­ing is.”

2. Wealth and poverty of mean­ing in the is”

A sur­vey of the quoted propo­si­tions made clear that the is” in a propo­si­tion means some­thing com­plex. A short pause at Goethe’s verse Above all sum­mits/​Is rest” showed be­yond this that the is” an­nounces, in all sim­plic­ity, the in­ex­haustibil­ity of a wealth to which we are not im­me­di­ately equal.

The noun and name being” names what we mean by the is.” In the wealth of mean­ing in the is, the es­sen­tial full­ness of be­ing shows it­self. But when we look closely, it ap­pears as if the is” does not de­rive its com­plex­ity of mean­ing from the full­ness of be­ing, but al­ways only from the fact that each time a dif­fer­ent be­ing, man, color, dog, etc., is named. Taken by it­self, the is, in fact, re­mains empty. Indeed, it must be empty

ac­cord­ing to its essence, like the word for the empty and in­de­ter­mi­nate it­self. For the is” has the ver­bal char­ac­ter of the copula” in the propo­si­tion. As this connection, it must for its part be un­bound and leave every­thing open and in­de­ter­mi­nate, in or­der to be able to con­join com­pletely dif­fer­ent be­ings. Thus the op­po­site of the pre­vi­ous con­clu­sion shows it­self: the is” does not dis­tin­guish it­self through full­ness of mean­ing, but through poverty of mean­ing. The same holds even more, and even more prop­erly, for the noun and name being.” Here empti­ness and in­de­ter­mi­nacy are made into a fetish. It looks as though be­ing is not only something” next to be­ings, but be­ing and what con­sti­tutes the be­ing of be­ings is the most real be­ing. Thus al­ready at the be­gin­ning of meta­physics Plato con­ceived the be­ing of be­ings as the au­then­tic be­ing of all be­ings (OVT035 OV). By con­trast, at the end of Western meta­physics, and that means Platonism, Nietzsche rec­og­nized be­ing not as the most real but as the most neg­a­tive. Nietzsche grasped be­ing as the last breath of a va­por­iz­ing re­al­ity.

This con­tra­dic­tory in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the be­ing of be­ings, ac­cord­ing to which be­ing is” first the most real and then the ut­most nul­lity, shows two con­trary ver­sions of be­ing. And yet it is a mat­ter of the same in­ter­pre­ta­tion. Its self-same­ness is ar­tic­u­lated in a fun­da­men­tal doc­trine of Western meta­physics. According to this, be­ing is the most uni­ver­sal of the uni­ver­sal (KOlVOTaTOV). The most uni­ver­sal, which does not per­mit any­thing more uni­ver­sal for its de­ter­mi­na­tion, is the most in­de­ter­mi­nate and emp­ti­est. If it is so with be­ing, then one side of the dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion, that of be­ing, loses weight against the other, that of be­ings. The one side be­comes su­per­flu­ous and there is no longer a dis­tinc­tion to be made.

3. Equating deal­ing with the ac­tual with con­sid­er­ing be­ings as a whole

If we are now still sup­posed to fol­low the say­ing and con­sider be­ings as a whole, then the task is clear and the di­rec­tion is firm: we can and must cling to be­ings. Take into care be­ings as a whole” now has a uni­vo­cal sense, which sug­gests it­self on its own and does not re­quire any spe­cial re­flec­tion: stick to facts, deal with the ac­tual and its ac­tu­al­iza­tion, and

se­cure its ef­fec­tive­ness. Equating deal­ing with the ac­tual with con­sid­er­ing be­ings as a whole com­pletely loses all ques­tion­abil­ity when we rec­og­nize, at the same time, that the cor­rect recog­ni­tion in­deed lies only in such deal­ings. Acting and ef­fect­ing bring to ex­pe­ri­ence what the ac­tual is, and thus what be­ings them­selves are. Acting, how­ever, is al­ways ac­com­pa­nied by the­free­dom from whence man com­ports him­self to­ward be­ings. Freedom is now par­tic­i­pa­tion in the law of the age. Nietzsche ex­pressed its more de­ter­mi­nate essence in the pas­sage cited from Twilight of the Idols:

For what is free­dom? That one has the will to self-re­spon­si­bil­ity.4

This an­swer of Nietzsche’s sounds like Kant’s an­swer to the same ques­tion. Freedom is self-leg­is­la­tion, is plac­ing one­self un­der the law of the self.

Nietzsche’s an­swer not only sounds Kantian, it also thinks (in the es­sen­tial sense) in a Kantian, i.e., mod­ern, way. And yet Nietzsche thinks dif­fer­ently than Kant. For every­thing de­pends upon what the self” means here, whose self-re­spon­si­bil­ity we are talk­ing about. Being as self is the essence of the subject.” In dis­tinc­tion from but in in­ter­nal con­nec­tion with Kant, Nietzsche con­ceives be­ing a self as the will to power. Freedom as will to self-re­spon­si­bil­ity then means: free­dom as will to ful­fill the will to power.” However, since ac­cord­ing to Nietzsche the will to power is not only the be­ing of man, but also the be­ing of atoms no less than the be­ing of an­i­mals, since it is no less the essence of the po­lit­i­cal than the essence of art, free­dom as the will to the will to power means the same as par­tic­i­pa­tion in the ac­tu­al­ity of the ac­tual.

4. The un­thought res­i­dence of man in the dis­tinc­tion be­tween be­ing and be­ings

We re­flect upon what the an­cient say­ing , u£~£Ta TO ~r~av says: Take into care be­ings as a whole.” The re­flec­tion leads us to rec­og­nize

some­thing that un­til now we ei­ther did not re­al­ize at all or ig­nored, namely, that we think being” every­where and al­ways, wher­ever and when­ever in the midst of be­ings we com­port our­selves to­ward be­ings, and are thereby be­ings our­selves, and thus com­port our­selves to­ward our­selves at the same time. Briefly: we have our res­i­dence in the dis­tinc­tion be­tween be­ings and be­ing.

This do­main of res­i­dence ap­pears to us at first like some­thing neg­a­tive when we con­sider that the home ground, the place of a peo­ple and sim­i­lar nar­rower or wider hori­zons, fi­nally the earth it­self, ac­tu­ally bear our re­sid­ing and grant all com­port­ment to­ward be­ings its ex­panse. But what would all of this, home and earth, be, if it did not re­veal it­self to us as be­ings, if be­ings as such and there­fore be­ings in their mode of be­ing did not per­me­ate and charge our at­tune­ment? That the dis­tinc­tion be­tween be­ings and be­ing looks to us (and that means to our or­di­nary, su­per­fi­cial opin­ing and hur­ried thinking”) like some­thing in­dif­fer­ent and neg­a­tive is in­deed not suff­fi­cient ev­i­dence that this dis­tinc­tion could not per­haps be some­thing en­tirely dif­fer­ent in its essence, whose dig­nity we could never over­es­ti­mate, but rather, at best, and to our own detri­ment, we must al­ways un­der­es­ti­mate.

This dis­tinc­tion be­tween be­ings and be­ing holds the dif­fer­en­tia apart from one an­other, and this apart­ness is in it­self an ex­ten­sion and an ex­panse that we must rec­og­nize as the space of all spaces-so far as we may still use this name space” at all here, which in­deed means only a par­tic­u­lar type of apart­ness.

At first, cer­tainly, we know noth­ing of this dis­tinc­tion. What it con­sists in re­mains hid­den. Whether what con­sti­tutes its essence is at all char­ac­ter­ized by means of the code word distinction” re­mains un­de­cided, in­deed, unasked. For distinction” is many things. Distinction is, for ex­am­ple, every­thing op­posed to some­thing that we en­counter among be­ings. Metaphysics also finds op­po­si­tion and dis­tinc­tion within be­ing and its essence (cf. German Idealism). What is here called the dis­tinc­tion” be­tween be­ings and be­ing is more es­sen­tial than all dif­fer­ences in be­ings and all op­po­si­tions in be­ing.

SECOND DIVISION Guidewords for Reflection upon Being ß8. Being is the emp­ti­est and at the same time a sur­plus

Adhering to what was said be­fore, when we con­sider afresh the is” as the con­nect­ing word in a propo­si­tion we must al­ready ac­knowl­edge two things. The is” in­di­cates an empti­ness in which re­flec­tion finds no sup­port. However, at the same time, the is” di­vulges a wealth within which the be­ing of be­ings pro­nounces it­self.

Let us think again upon Goethe’s verse, which, in terms of con­tent, speaks only of mountainpeaks” and above” and rest.” And yet, the is” names some­thing that can­not be de­ter­mined by what is named and name­able through this con­tent. Thus pre­cisely in the is” a pe­cu­liar claim is spo­ken, which flows from its own source and can­not be ex­hausted or drained by the nam­ing of var­i­ous be­ings. Therefore the very slight­ness of the verse says much, in­deed still more” than an ex­tended de­scrip­tion.

In the is” a sur­plus is put into words. If we re­place the is” with the name of the noun being, then, if we con­sider what is said in its unity, we stand be­fore the ques­tion: Is being” only the emp­ti­est, as mea­sured against each be­ing thus-and-thus de­ter­mined? Or is be­ing a sur­plus for all be­ings, which leaves each be­ing in­fi­nitely far be­hind? Or is be­ing per­haps yet both, the emp­ti­est as well as the sur­plus? Being would then be, in its very essence, its own op­po­site. We would then have to ac­knowl­edge some­thing like a dis­cord within be­ing it­self.

If, how­ever, this dis­cor­dant char­ac­ter be­longs to be­ing it­self, and con­sti­tutes its es­sen­tial char­ac­ter, then be­ing can­not be split in the sense of a de­struc­tion of its essence. What is dis­cor­dant must then be held to­gether in the unity of an essence. But we would be over­hasty to speak di­rectly about an es­sen­tial dis­cor­dance of be­ing, and to pre­sume to de­cide about the essence of be­ing solely on the grounds of the dou­ble char­ac­ter of the is” (that it an­nounces it­self at once as empti­ness and sur­plus). Above all, we re­sist the temp­ta­tion to take this emerg­ing dis­cor­dance within be­ing as the oc­ca­sion for a di­alec­ti­cal ac­count­ing of be­ing, and thus to choke off all re­flec­tion. We want at first only to carry out a re­flec­tion, and so to clar­ify our re­la­tion to the be­ing of be­ings. We con­cern our­selves with this clar­i­fi­ca­tion of our re­la­tion to the be­ing of be­ings in or­der first to come into po­si­tion to per­ceive, with a cer­tain clar­ity, the claim of that say­ing:

p£~£Ta TO ~OV.

From the just-com­pleted re­flec­tion, how­ever, we first dis­cern this about be­ing: Being is the emp­ti­est and at the same time a sur­plus, out of which all be­ings, those that are fa­mil­iar and ex­pe­ri­enced as well as those un­fa­mil­iar and yet to be ex­pe­ri­enced, are granted their re­spec­tive modes of be­ing.

ß9. Being is the most com­mon and at the same time unique

If we fol­low this in­di­ca­tion of be­ing in all be­ings, we im­me­di­ately find that be­ing is en­coun­tered in every be­ing uni­formly and with­out dif­fer­ence. Being is com­mon to all be­ings and thus is the most com­mon.

The most com­mon is with­out every dis­tinc­tion: the stone is, the tree is, the an­i­mal is, and man is, the world” is, and God is.” Against this thor­oughly uniform” is, and in con­trast to this uni­for­mity and lev­el­ing of be­ing, many lev­els and ranks show them­selves within be­ings, which them­selves al­low the most di­verse arrange­ments. We can progress from the life­less, from dust and sand and the mo­tion­less­ness of stone, to the living” of plants and an­i­mals, be­yond this to free men, and yet be­yond this to demigods and gods. We could also re­verse the or­der of rank among be­ings and de­clare what one or­di­nar­ily calls spirit” and the spiritual” to be only a dis­charge of elec­tri­cal phe­nom­ena and an ex­cre­tion of ma­te­ri­als whose com­po­si­tion, to be sure, chem­istry has not yet dis­cov­ered but will dis­cover one day. Or, we can ap­point those be­ings that we call living” to the high­est rank and hold life” to be the ac­tual and fig­ure every­thing ma­te­r­ial into it, and in­cor­po­rate into it the spiritual” as well, solely as a tool for life.” Nevertheless, be­ing is each time thor­oughly com­mon in all be­ings and thus the most com­mon. At the same time, how­ever, a cur­sory re­flec­tion just as soon en­coun­ters the op­po­site of this char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of be­ing. However one be­ing might sur­pass an­other, as a be­ing it re­mains equal to the other, hence it has in the other its own equiv­a­lent. Every be­ing has in every be­ing, in­so­far as it is a be­ing, its equal. The tree in front of the house is a dif­fer­ent be­ing than the house, but a be­ing; the house is other than a man, but a be­ing. All be­ings are thrown into the man­i­fold­ness of re­spec­tive be­ings, sep­a­rated from one an­other, and dis­persed into a vast mul­ti­plic­ity. In ex­pe­ri­enc­ing be­ings we pass through many kinds of things. And yet, every­where and with­out ex­cep­tion, be­ingsf~nd in each be­ing their equal. How does it stand, how­ever, with be­ing?

Being has its equal nowhere and no­how. Being is, over and against all be­ings, unique.

Nothing cor­re­sponds to be­ing. Being is not given a sec­ond time. There are cer­tainly dif­fer­ent modes of be­ing, but pre­cisely of be­ing, which is never re­spec­tively this and that and thus con­stantly a plu­ral­ity like be­ings. The unique­ness of be­ing has in­com­pa­ra­bil­ity as a con­se­quence. Beings can al­ways be com­pared with be­ings and placed into equiv­a­lence with one an­other. However, be­ing is never merely what is equiv­a­lent in the man­i­fold be­ings stone, plant, an­i­mal, man, God. For to be what is equiv­a­lent it would have to be mul­ti­ple. Being, by con­trast, is every­where the same, namely, it­self. In or­der to be equiv­a­lent, some­thing other and ad­di­tional is re­quired. To be the same, only unique­ness is needed. As the same and unique, be­ing is, of course, for­ever dif­fer­ent in and from it­self. But what is dif­fer­en­ti­ated is not dif­fer­ent in the sense that be­ing could be be­ing twice over and re­peat­edly, and would be split and di­vided into mul­ti­plic­ity. Being is dis­tin­guished by unique­ness in a unique way, in­com­pa­ra­ble with any other dis­tinc­tion. Being in its unique­ness-and in ad­di­tion to this, be­ings in their mul­ti­plic­ity.

But is there not a third thing, which we must dis­tin­guish in ad­di­tion to be­ing and be­ings-the Nothing?

One could cut off this ques­tion with the ob­ser­va­tion that the Nothing pre­cisely is not, and there­fore there is no sense or rea­son to speak of a third thing here. It is in­deed cor­rect that the Nothing is not a be­ing and can never and nowhere be made into a be­ing, for we think the Nothing as the nega­tion of be­ings purely and sim­ply. But the ques­tion re­mains whether the Nothing it­self con­sists in the nega­tion of be­ings, or whether the nega­tion of be­ings is sim­ply a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the Nothing, which the Nothing re­quires of us when we set out to think it. For the Nothing is cer­tainly no be­ing, but nev­er­the­less there is given” [es gibt] the Nothing. We say here there is given” the Nothing, but we can­not, at pre­sent, de­ter­mine more closely who or what gives the Nothing. We can also say the Nothing pres­ences [west], in or­der to in­di­cate that the Nothing is not merely the ab­sence and lack of be­ings. If the Nothing were only some­thing in­dif­fer­ently neg­a­tive, how could we un­der­stand, for ex­am­ple, hor­ror and ter­ror be­fore the Nothing and ni­hi­la­tion? Terror be­fore the Nothing-.

The Nothing does not first need be­ings and a be­ing in or­der to pres­ence, as if it would pres­ence only if be­ings were elim­i­nated in ad­vance. The Nothing is not the re­sult of such an elim­i­na­tion. There is given the Nothing in spite of the fact that be­ings are. And per­haps it is one of the great­est of hu­man er­rors to be­lieve one­self al­ways se­cure be­fore the Nothing so long as be­ings can be en­coun­tered and dealt with and re­tained. Perhaps the pre­dom­i­nance of this er­ror is a main rea­son for blind­ness visa-vis the Nothing, which can­not af­fect be­ings, and least of all when be­ings be­come more and more existant” [seiender]. Perhaps the be­lief that the Nothing is just nothing” is also the main sup­port for a pop­u­lar piece of in­tel­li­gence, namely: every re­flec­tion upon the Nothing leads to noth­ing­ness and en­dan­gers the le­git­i­mate trust in be­ings.

If, how­ever, the Nothing is ob­vi­ously not a be­ing, we can­not at all say that it is.” Nevertheless, there is given” the Nothing. We ask again: what does there is given” mean here? What is given is” yet some­how some­thing. But the Nothing is not something, jut noth­ing. Here we eas­ily fall into the dan­ger of play­ing with words. People make use of the

jus­ti­fi­able in­di­ca­tion of this dan­ger in or­der to ban­ish all thought about” the Nothing as fa­tal. But the dan­ger is no less that, be­cause we seem to be merely play­ing around with words, we take the Nothing too lightly and fail to rec­og­nize that there is given the Nothing. If this should be the case, we would in­deed have to say that the Nothing is. But if we say this we make the Nothing into a be­ing and twist it into the op­po­site of it­self. Or else the is” we use when we say the Nothing is” means some­thing other than when we say beings are.” Perhaps we merely cling ob­sti­nately to an untested every­day as­sump­tion when we in­sist that the is” is used in the same sense in the propo­si­tions beings are” and the Nothing is.” A more pen­e­trat­ing re­flec­tion might make us sud­denly re­al­ize that the Nothing does not need be­ings in or­der to be the Nothing as a re­sult of their elim­i­na­tion.

The Nothing does not need be­ings. Certainly, how­ever, the Nothing needs be­ing. That the Nothing needs pre­cisely be­ing, and with­out be­ing must re­main with­out essence, re­mains strange and shock­ing to the or­di­nary un­der­stand­ing. Indeed, per­haps the Nothing is even the same as be­ing. For the unique­ness of be­ing can never be en­dan­gered by the Nothing, be­cause the Nothing is” not some­thing other than be­ing, but this it­self. Does not what we said about be­ing also hold for the Nothing: that it is unique and in­com­pa­ra­ble? The in­con­tro­vert­ible in­com­pa­ra­bil­ity of the Nothing is ev­i­dence that its essence be­longs to be­ing and con­firms be­ing’s unique­ness.

That the Nothing is” the same as be­ing, that the Nothing is re­lated in its essence to be­ing, if not es­sen­tially one with it, we can also sur­mise from what has al­ready been said about be­ing: Being is the emp­ti­est.” Is the Nothing not the emp­ti­est empti­ness? The Nothing also shares unique­ness with be­ing in this re­spect.

Hence we dis­cern from our con­sid­er­a­tions so far: Being is the emp­ti­est and at the same time a sur­plus. Being is the most com­mon of all and at the same time unique.

What we say about be­ing in such propo­si­tions, here and in what fol­lows, can­not count as the suf­fi­ciently pre­sented and demon­strated truth” about be­ing. Certainly, how­ever, we take these propo­si­tions as

guide­words­for the ref­tec­tion upon be­ing, which we also think when­ever and how­ever we think back, in re­mem­ber­ing, to the an­cient say­ing.

ß10. Being is the most in­tel­li­gi­ble and at the same time con­ceal­ment

The very pre­lim­i­nary dis­cus­sions of be­ing in re­spect to the is” in a propo­si­tion have al­ready taught us that we un­der­stand the is” and being” every­where and im­me­di­ately. For this we do not need any spe­cial ex­pe­ri­ences and ra­ti­o­ci­na­tions. The in­tel­li­gi­bil­ity of the is” in a propo­si­tion re­mains for us so fa­mil­iar and cer­tain in ad­vance that at first we pay no spe­cial at­ten­tion to it at all. In ad­di­tion, where we ac­tu­ally con­cern our­selves with the ex­pla­na­tion of be­ings and must halt be­fore an unintelligible” be­ing, where our in­ves­ti­ga­tions among be­ings find their limit, even there the un­ex­plained be­ing re­mains for us em­bed­ded within a cir­cuit of the in­tel­li­gi­ble. This is ev­i­denced for the most part in that we arrange the un­in­tel­li­gi­ble be­ing im­me­di­ately within the in­tel­li­gi­ble, and most of­ten in an al­ready fa­mil­iar fash­ion.

When, for in­stance, in re­spect to a do­main of be­ings, e.g., na­ture, the con­fi­dence pre­vails that what is hith­erto un­ex­plained and un­ex­plain­able will yet be ex­plained with time and in the course of hu­man progress, be­hind this con­fi­dence al­ready stands the pro­ce­dure that as­sumes the in­tel­li­gi­bil­ity of be­ing and be­ings. In our time we can eas­ily give an es­pe­cially im­pres­sive ex­am­ple of the lim­it­less power of con­fi­dence in re­spect to the in­tel­li­gi­bil­ity of be­ings. (See the ar­ti­cle by Pascual Jordan, Am Rande der Welt.”s The ar­ti­cle is also a re­veal­ing ex­am­ple of the in­ner deca­dence of to­day’s science.” Take es­pe­cially the prac­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­tion at the con­clu­sion! By con­trast, take the se­ri­ous and care­ful es­say by C. F. v. Weizsacker, Die Physik der Gegenwart und das physikalis­che Weltbild.”)6

In the realm of atomic processes, mod­ern atomic and quan­tum physics have dis­cov­ered events where the dis­charges ob­serv­able in this realm as a statistical av­er­age” do con­form to cer­tain rules, yet in par­tic­u­lar are not foreseeable.” What is unforeseeable, i.e., what can­not be com­puted in ad­vance from within the purview of phys­i­cal cal­cu­la­tion, shows it­self each time as some­thing new and can­not be ex­plained by some­thing else. Whatever can­not be ex­plained as a con­se­quence of an an­tecedent other, as an­tecedent, lacks a cause. In the field of atomic physics, one says, the law of causal­ity is in­valid. This in­va­lid­ity of the law of causal­ity, one be­lieves, is es­tab­lished in a purely phys­i­cal way by re­search. However, one does not rest con­tent with this al­legedly enor­mous dis­cov­ery, which, fur­ther­more, serves to re­fute Kant and all pre­vi­ous phi­los­o­phy. One ap­plies the state­ment of the in­va­lid­ity of the causal law in the atomic realm im­me­di­ately to the positive” realm. When some­thing is uncaused” by some­thing else and is thus new, orig­i­nat­ing from it­self, it is then spontaneous, and if spon­ta­neous, free.” One speaks there­fore of the peculiar” free­dom of ac­tion be­long­ing to the mi­cro­phys­i­cal struc­ture.

(The dis­charge of atomic processes is, to be sure, not peculiar.” Only the physics is peculiar” which makes a thought­less fool of it­self with such as­ser­tions, and does not an­tic­i­pate how it must be­tray its es­sen­tial su­per­fi­cial­ity, the re­sult of which is that it can­not de­cide any­thing for” or against causal­ity. )

But with that, one might think physics has se­cured a do­main for phys­i­cal re­search in which the living” and the spiritual, and every­thing char­ac­ter­ized by freedom, fit in per­fectly. Thus opens the promising” vista that one day human free­dom” can also be proven by natural sci­ence” to be a natural-scientific fact.” I am not re­lat­ing fic­tional sto­ries, nor re­port­ing the fan­cies of a half-ed­u­cated dreamer who patches to­gether a worldview” from books” he has ar­bi­trar­ily picked up. I am re­port­ing the sci­en­tific con­vic­tion of to­day’s physi­cists, who as re­searchers place the exactness” of thought above every­thing, whose work is al­ready con­firmed by un­fore­seen tech­ni­cal suc­cess and pre­sum­ably will con­tinue to be con­firmed in ways none of us an­tic­i­pate. However, be­cause mere suc­cess is never a proof of truth but is al­ways the consequence” of a ground­ing prin­ci­ple whose truth must first be ques­tioned and which can never be de­cided by the con­tin­u­ally de­pen­dent re­sult, the suc­cess of to­day’s science” is no ar­gu­ment for its truth, and is not some­thing that could keep us from ask­ing a ques­tion.

What is hap­pen­ing here? What com­monly oc­curs to one in rep­re­sent­ing the atomic realm, and what is taken as the fun­da­men­tal de­ter­mi­na­tion of the be­ing of the phys­i­cal do­main, is held to be the in­tel­leg­i­ble per se, and one arranges un­der it every­thing else. One speaks, with­out think­ing, of actions” and freedom of ac­tion” in ref­er­ence to atoms, and be­lieves, there­fore, one has pen­e­trated into the do­main of the or­ganic. One al­ready dreams of a quantum bi­ol­ogy” grounded by quantum physics.” How un­ques­tioned these opin­ions of the re­searchers are is shown most clearly in that they be­lieve them­selves far su­pe­rior to the so­called ma­te­ri­al­ists with this type of re­search and ap­proach. In con­trast with the ma­te­ri­al­ists, one grants va­lid­ity to freedom.” However, one does not see that one equates free­dom with phys­i­cal un­pre­dictabil­ity, and there­fore phys­i­cally pre-in­ter­prets every­thing hu­man. Above all, one does not see that a pri­va­tion lies in the de­ter­mi­na­tion of the un­pre­dictable, and that this can­not be with­out the pos­i­tiv­ity of pre­dictabil­ity, that means of causal­ity. Causality is not cver­come. On the con­trary, it is con­firmed to the ut­most, only trans­formed, and, strictly speak­ing, as­cer­tain­able in the usual way.

One finds this pro­ce­dure to be in or­der. For one is of the opin­ion that nat­u­rally every­one knows, offthe street so to speak, what freedom” and spirit” and such things are, for one has and is these things one­self every day. Whereas, nat­u­rally, for ex­am­ple, an un­der­stand­ing of the math­e­mat­ics of wave me­chan­ics is ac­ces­si­ble to only a very few mor­tals, and re­quires a Herculean ef­fort and a cor­re­spond­ing tech­ni­cal prepa­ra­tion. But why should a physi­cist, who is also a hu­man be­ing, not know at the same time what is es­sen­tial to hu­man free­dom and every­thing else that con­cerns man, and what can be dis­cov­ered about it? Why should­n’t every­one be in­formed about all of this and about the be­ing of be­ings in gen­eral? This at­ti­tude of the sci­ences, and these claims that we con­stantly en­counter every­where in mod­i­fied forms, state un­equiv­o­cally that for us the be­ing of be­ings is the most in­tel­li­gi­ble thing of all. We do not re­mem­ber ever hav­ing re­ally learned what be­ing is” and means. To the con­trary, we must in­deed strive step by step for the cog­nizance of and ac­quain­tance with par­tic­u­lar be­ings. Whence stems as well the strange state of af­fairs wherein we re­quire the high­est ex­ac­ti­tude for the study of be­ings, and above all, of nature, and to that end set into mo­tion gi­gan­tic ap­pa­ra­tuses, whereas for the de­ter­mi­na­tion of be­ing any ar­bi­trary and ap­prox­i­mate no­tion may and does suf­fice. That sci­ence, e.g., must put into op­er­a­tion com­pli­cated in­ves­ti­ga­tions in or­der his­to­ri­o­log­i­cally to se­cure a his­tor­i­cal fact is un­der­stand­able. But it is no less un­der­stand­able that any vague no­tions, wher­ever they may come from, are suf­fi­cient for judg­ments to be made and agree­ment to be found about the fun­da­men­tal ap­pear­ances of his­tory, about hu­man free­dom, about the essence of power, about art, and about po­etry. Respect for facts and for the ex­act de­ter­mi­na­tions of be­ings must naturally” be re­quired. If, how­ever, what is es­sen­tial to be­ings, there­fore to be­ing, is aban­doned to the claims of ar­bi­trary no­tions, there is no oc­ca­sion for reser­va­tions. All of this, and many sim­i­lar things in hu­man com­port­ment, speak for the fact that be­ing, as dis­tin­guished from be­ings, is the most in­tel­li­gi­ble. The in­tel­li­gi­bil­ity of be­ing has, we do not know how and when, sim­ply come our way.

However, when we are sup­posed to say ex­pressly what we un­der­stand by such most in­tel­li­gi­ble” be­ing, and that means what we think with the word being, and that means what we grasp” be­ing as, then we are sud­denly at a loss. Suddenly it is shown to us that we not only have no con­cept for this most in­tel­li­gi­ble, for be­ing, we also do not see how we are still sup­posed to grasp something” here with re­spect to be­ing. Within be­ings, the task and the way out re­main for us to trace the given be­ing back to an­other be­ing that we take to be clearer and more fa­mil­iar, and through this re­duc­tion to ex­plain it, and to con­tent our­selves with such an ex­pla­na­tion. However, where it is a mat­ter of grasp­ing be­ing, the way out by means of a be­ing is de­nied to us if we earnestly stick to the ques­tion. For every be­ing is, as such, al­ready de­ter­mined by be­ing and lays claim to this for it­self. Next to (praeter) any one be­ing are, to be sure, al­ways var­i­ous other be­ings, but be­sides be­ing there is given” at most the Nothing. Should we not, then, at­tempt to de­ter­mine be­ing from the Nothing?

However, the Nothing is it­self the in­de­ter­mi­nate per se. How should it of­fer some­thing in terms of which we grasp be­ing? This way, as well, leads

to no es­sen­tial de­ter­mi­na­tion of be­ing. Being thus de­nies it­self every con­cept and every de­ter­mi­na­tion and il­lu­mi­na­tion, and does so in every re­spect and for every at­tempt at an ex­pla­na­tion. Being sim­ply with­holds it­self from any grasp­ing on the ba­sis of be­ings. If we say that be­ing sim­ply with­holds it­self, then, yet again, we are say­ing some­thing about be­ing. This essence be­longs to be­ing: to with­hold it­self from ex­plananon on the ba­sis of be­ings. Withholding it­sef, it re­moves it­self from de­ter­mi­nacy, from man­i­fest­ness. Withdrawing from man­i­fest­ness, it con­ceals it­self. Self-concealment be­longs to be­ing. If we wish to ac­knowl­edge this, then we must say: Being it­self is” con­ceal­ment. Therefore, we must ad­here to the fol­low­ing.

Being is the emp­ti­est and at the same time a sur­plus.

Being is the most com­mon of all and at the same time unique­ness. Being is the most in­tel­li­gi­ble and at the same time con­ceal­ment.

ß11. Beir~g is the most worn-out and at the same time the ori­gin

If we now con­sider that be­ing con­ceals it­self, in­deed that self­con­ceal­ment be­longs to be­ing’s essence, it might seem once again as if be­ing re­mains com­pletely and nec­es­sar­ily with­drawn from us. But again, it can only seem so. For we lay claim to be­ing every­where, wher­ever and when­ever we ex­pe­ri­ence be­ings, deal with them and in­ter­ro­gate them, or merely leave them alone. We need be­ing be­cause we need it in all re­la­tions to be­ings. In this con­stant and mul­ti­ple use, be­ing is in a cer­tain way ex­pended.

And yet we can­not say that be­ing is used up in this ex­pen­di­ture. Being re­mains con­stantly avail­able to us. Would we wish to main­tain, how­ever, that this use of be­ing, which we con­stantly rely upon, leaves be­ing so un­touched? Is not be­ing at least con­sumed in use? Does not the in­dif­fer­ence of the is, which oc­curs in all say­ing, at­test to the worn­ness of what we thus name?

Being is cer­tainly not grasped, but it is nev­er­the­less worn-out and thus also empty” and common.” Being is the most worn-out.

Being” stands every­where and at each mo­ment in our un­der­stand­ing as what is most self-un­der­stood. It is thus the most worn-out coin with which we con­stantly pay for every re­la­tion to be­ings, with­out which pay­ment no re­la­tion to be­ings as be­ings would be al­lot­ted us. Being, the most worn-out and the most in­dif­fer­ent! And yet: we do not throw the is” away; we also never be­come weary of the be­ing of be­ings. Even where one might some­times wish, one­self, no longer to be, en­nui per­tains only to one­self as this ex­ist­ing hu­man be­ing, but not to be­ing. Even in that most ex­treme sati­ety that se­cretly re­mains a wish­ing, and wishes there might be the Nothing in­stead of be­ings, even there be­ing re­mains the only thing called upon that re­sists ex­pen­di­ture and con­sump­tion. For also where we ex­pect that it would be prefer­able for the Nothing to be, the last sav­ing grasp is aimed at the most worn-out-at be­ing. Therefore be­ing can never be­come wornout to the point of com­plete ex­haus­tion and dis­par­age­ment. On the con­trary, in the ex­trem­ity of the de­sired an­ni­hi­la­tion of all be­ings, and pre­cisely here, be­ing must ap­pear. It ap­pears here as some­thing un­prece­dented and un­touched, from out of which stem all be­ings and even their pos­si­ble an­ni­hi­la­tion. Being first lets every be­ing be as such, that means to spring loose and away, to be a be­ing, and as such to be itself.” Being lets every be­ing as such orig­i­nate. Being is the ori­gin. Being is the emp­ti­est and at the same time a sur­plus.

Being is the most com­mon of all and at the same time unique­ness. Being is the most in­tel­li­gi­ble and at the same time con­ceal­ment.

Being is the most worn-out and at the same time the ori­gin.

ß12. Being is the most re­li­able and at the same time the non-ground

Whenever, whichever way, and to what­ever ex­tent be­ings be­come ques­tion­able and un­cer­tain to us, we do not doubt be­ing it­self. Whether this or that be­ing is, whether this be­ing is so or that be­ing is oth­er­wise, may re­main un­de­cided, in­deed un­de­cid­able in spe­cific cases. Through all of the wa­ver­ing un­cer­tainty of be­ings, be­ing, by con­trast, of­fers re­li­a­bil­ity. For how could we doubt be­ings in what­ever re­spect if we could not rely in the first place upon what is called being”?

Being is the most re­li­able, and so un­con­di­tion­ally re­li­able that, in all spheres of our com­port­ment to­ward be­ings, we do not ever be­come clear as to the trust we every­where place upon it.

Nevertheless, if we ever wanted to ground our plans and re­courses among be­ings-our us­ing and shap­ing of things-im­me­di­ately upon be­ing, if we wanted to as­sess the re­li­a­bil­ity of the every­day ac­cord­ing to how be­ing is grounded in its essence there, and how this essence is fa­mil­iar to us, then we must just as soon ex­pe­ri­ence that none of our in­ten­tions and at­ti­tudes can be built di­rectly upon be­ing. Being, oth­er­wise con­stantly used and called upon, of­fers us no foun­da­tion and no ground upon which we can im­me­di­ately place what­ever we erect, un­der­take, and bring about every day. Being thus ap­pears as the ground­less, as some­thing that con­tin­u­ally gives way, of­fers no sup­port, and de­nies every ground and ba­sis. Being is the re­fusal of every ex­pec­ta­tion that it could serve as a ground. Being every­where turns out to be the non-ground.

Being is the most worn-out and at the same time the ori­gin.

Being is the most re­li­able and at the same time the non-ground.

ß13. Being is the most said and at the same time a keep­ing silent

Because we first de­pend upon be­ing in­so­far as we are given over to be­ings and are re­leased into be­ings, this de­pen­dence con­stantly and every­where is put into word. And this not only in the per­va­sive and im­mea­sur­ably fre­quent use of its ex­plicit names, such as is” and are” and was” and shall be” and has been.” In each tense-word” of lan­guage we name be­ing.

If we say it rains, we mean that rain is” here and now. In ad­di­tion, we name be­ings in every noun and ad­jec­tive, and thus name the be­ing of be­ings along with them. The war”: the be­ing that is” now. It is suf­fi­cient to name a being, and we mean, in a merely ap­prox­i­mate yet por­ten­tous think­ing, the be­ing of this be­ing. We name be­ing along with it. Being is said along with every word and ver­bal ar­tic­u­la­tion, if not named each time with its own name. Speaking says be­ing along with, not as an ad­di­tion and a sup­ple­ment that could just as well be left out, but as the pre­giv­ing of what al­ways first per­mits the nam­ing of be­ings. Being is said” even where we silently act, where, among be­ings, we word­lessly de­cide about be­ings, and, with­out ac­tu­ally nam­ing them, com­port our­selves to­ward be­ings. In the same way, even where we are left completely speech­less, we say” be­ing. Being is the most said in all say­ing, be­cause every­thing sayable is only to be said in be­ing (and only truth” and its se­ri­ous­ness are sayable).

Must not be­ing, due to its mul­ti­ple and con­stant say­ing, be al­ready so ar­tic­u­lated and well-known that its essence lies un­cov­ered be­fore us in com­plete de­ter­mi­nacy? But what if the most said in say­ing kept its essence se­cret, if be­ing kept to it­self in the dis­clo­sure of its essence, and this not only oc­ca­sion­ally and in­ci­den­tally but ac­cord­ing to its essence? Then not only would con­ceal­ment be­long to be­ing, but con­ceal­ment would have a marked re­la­tion to saying” and would be si­lence. Then be­ing would con­sist in keep­ing its essence silent. Because be­ing re­mains the most said in every word, it would be si­lence per se, that es­sen­tial si­lence from out of which a word first is­sues and must is­sue in break­ing this si­lence. From this break, and as such a break, every word would have its own con­stel­la­tion, and fol­low­ing from this, the stamp of its sound and res­o­nance. As si­lence, be­ing would also be the ori­gin of lan­guage.

If this is ac­cu­rate, then we un­der­stand why an an­i­mal does not speak and no other living thing” can speak. The an­i­mal does not speak be­cause si­lence is im­pos­si­ble for it, and an an­i­mal can­not be silent be­cause it has no re­la­tion to what can be kept silent about, i.e., to keep­ing silent, i.e., to con­ceal­ment, i.e., to be­ing. For speaking, if the word comes from such an ori­gin, is not some ar­bi­trary ap­pear­ance and con­di­tion that we dis­cern in man as one ca­pa­bil­ity among oth­ers, like see­ing and hear­ing, grasp­ing and lo­co­mo­tion. For lan­guage stands in an es­sen­tial re­la­tion to the unique­ness of be­ing. Being it­self obliges us to the next guide­word: Being is the most re­li­able and at the same time the non-ground.

Being is the most said and at the same time a keep­ing silent.

ß14. Being is the most­for­got­ten and at the same time re­mem­brance

It be­comes clearer and clearer to us how be­ing every­where re­mains the clos­est in all re­la­tions to be­ings, and yet be­ing is en­tirely passed over in fa­vor of be­ings, in whom all will­ing and know­ing seeks its ful­fill­ment. No won­der we for­get be­ing on ac­count of be­ings and their mul­ti­tude, for­get

it as some­thing wor­thy of any con­sid­er­a­tion at all. Insofar as a claim upon be­ing is awak­ened and an in­quiry about it is made, the in­di­ca­tion im­me­di­ately comes forth that be­ing in­deed counts as the most in­tel­li­gi­ble, but be­yond this is not fur­ther de­ter­minable. Being is thus for­got­ten in re­spect to its ques­tion-wor­thi­ness and in­deed so fun­da­men­tally for­got­ten that we even for­get this for­get­ting. It per­tains to the essence of for­get­ting that it for­gets it­self, i.e., twists it­self more and more into its own vor­tex. Hence, we must ad­mit: Being is, among all that is wor­thy of in­ter­ro­ga­tion and con­sid­er­a­tion, the most­for­got­ten.

If we wanted to re­main ex­clu­sively with this ob­ser­va­tion, be­ing would ob­vi­ously never and nowhere have to con­cern us. But if we con­cede for one mo­ment the pos­si­bil­ity, if we once al­low the point that be­ing per se has sunk into the still con­cealed Nothing of for­get­ful­ness, if we se­ri­ously posit the case that be­ing has been com­pletely stricken from our know­ing, how could we then en­counter the small­est and most fleet­ing be­ing as a be­ing, how could we ever ex­pe­ri­ence our­selves as a be­ing?

We con­stantly com­port our­selves to­ward be­ings and are be­ings. We dis­cern not only about our­selves that we are be­ings, but about our be­ing that we are con­cerned, one way or an­other, with our­selves and how we are. Being con­cerns us, whether it is a mat­ter of the be­ing that we are our­selves or those be­ings that we are not and never can be. We are al­ways that be­ing that is con­cerned with be­ing, who, thus con­cerned and struck, finds in be­ing what is most re­li­able. Being re­mains every­where re­li­able, and yet, con­sid­ered in re­spect to its rank within what is wor­thy of re­flec­tion, it is the most for­got­ten. Despite this for­got­ten­ness, how­ever, it re­mains in every­day com­port­ment not only the re­li­able, but is, prior to that, al­ready some­thing that grants us aware­ness of be­ings and per­mits us to be be­ings in the midst of be­ings. Being al­lows us in every re­spect to be aware of be­ings and of each in its own way. Being re-mem­bers [Er-innert] us into be­ings and about be­ings, so that every­thing we en­counter, whether ex­pe­ri­enced as pre­sent or past or fu­ture, each time first be­comes and re­mains ev­i­dent as a be­ing through the re-mem­brance of be­ing. Being thus re­mem­bers es­sen­tially. Being is it­self what re-mem­bers, is the au­then­tic re­mem­brance.

We must in­deed con­sider that be­ing it­self is what re­mem­bers, not only some­thing about which we re­mem­ber, to which we can al­ways re­turn as some­thing al­ready fa­mil­iar in the sense of Plato’s avor­llv~6l6. Plato’s doc­trine says only how we com­port our­selves to­ward the be­ing of be­ings, when we as­sess this com­port­ment ac­cord­ing to the re­la­tion in which we oth­er­wise stand to beings.” Now, how­ever, we must per­ceive that be­ing is not an object” of pos­si­ble re­mem­brance for us, but is it­self what au­then­ti­cally re­mem­bers, what al­lows all aware­ness of any­thing that comes into the Open as a be­ing.

Being is the most said and at the same time a keep­ing silent.

Being is the most for­got­ten and at the same time re­mem­brance.

ß15. Being is the most con­strain­ing and at the same time lib­er­a­tion

Even though be­ing (as what is emp­ti­est and most worn-out) might sink from the sphere of reflection” that oth­er­wise re­mains, and com­pletely dis­ap­pear into the in­dif­fer­ence of for­get­ting in which even this in­dif­fer­ence is an­ni­hi­lated, every­where be­ing once again con­strains us. And in­deed it con­strains us con­tin­u­ally, so that be­ings meet us and carry us away, sur­pass us and flat­ten us, bur­den us and up­lift us. For if, prior to all be­ings, be­ing and only be­ing al­lows each to be a be­ing, then each be­ing re­mains, how­ever it might con­cern and af­fect us, in­fi­nitely far be­hind the con­straint of be­ing it­self. No mul­ti­tude of be­ings ever sur­passes the force” that comes from be­ing and pres­ences as be­ing. Even where all be­ings no longer con­cern us, be­come in­dif­fer­ent, and give them­selves over to empty caprice, even there the force of be­ing reigns. Because that which con­strains sur­passes every­thing in its force, it gives way be­fore no be­ing and in no be­ing, but ex­acts from each that as a be­ing it re­mains forced into be­ing. Being is the most con­strain­ing, wher­ever, when­ever, and how­ever a be­ing might be.

And yet: we do not detect” the force of be­ing, but at most an im­pact and a press­ing from the side of be­ings. Despite that con­straint, be­ing is as if it were” rather not there, and there­fore pre­cisely like the Nothing.” We at­tempt in vain to find be­ing there and yon­der. Being plays around us and through us, as if in­ex­pe­ri­ence­able. But this play con­stantly has in every­thing the sin­gu­lar uni­voc­ity of the unique. For is not being” that which has al­ready placed us there, where be­ings as such are dif­fer­en­ti­ated from one an­other? Is not be­ing that which opens, that which first un­locks the Openness of a there, in which the pos­si­bil­ity is hrst granted that be­ings are dif­fer­en­ti­ated from be­ing, that be­ings and be­ing are set apart from each other?

Being first sets be­ing and be­ings apart, and places us into this apart­ness and into the free. Placement into this set­ting apart of be­ing and be­ings is lib­er­a­tion into be­long­ing­ness to be­ing. This lib­er­a­tion lib­er­ates so that we are free before” be­ings and in their midst, free toward” be­ings, free” from them, free” for them, and thus we have the pos­si­bil­ity to be our­selves. Placement into be­ing is lib­er­a­tion into free­dom. This lib­er­a­tion alone is the essence of free­dom.

Being is the most­for­got­ten and at the same time re­mem­brance. Being is the most con­strain­ing and at the same time lib­er­a­tion.

ß16. Unifying re­flec­tion upon be­ing in the se­quence of guide­words

If we pull to­gether the pre­vi­ously at­tempted re­flec­tion upon be­ing in the se­quence of the guide­words, we will be­come at­ten­tive and more col­lected for what at first might only ap­pear like an empty sound:

Being is the emp­ti­est and the most com­mon of all.

Being is the most in­tel­li­gi­ble and the most worn-out. Being is the most re­li­able and the most said.

Being is the most­for­got­ten and the most con­strain­ing.

At the same time, how­ever: Being is a sur­plus and unique­ness. Being is con­ceal­ment and the ori­gin. Being is the non-ground and a keep­ing silent. Being is re­mem­brance and lib­er­a­tion.

The is” re­veals it­self as some­thing that ap­par­ently only es­capes from us as some­thing said, as some­thing that in truth holds us in its essence, and yes, even in its non-essence (the for­get­ting of be­ing).

Are we sim­ply as­sert­ing and ar­rang­ing ar­bi­trary de­ter­mi­na­tions of be­ing here, and us­ing the no less sim­ple de­vice of op­po­si­tion to mul­ti­ply each one by its op­po­site? A de­ci­sion re­gard­ing this plau­si­ble opin­ion must be post­poned. Before that, we must get be­yond the poverty in which com­mon opin­ion, and a twot­hou­sand-year-old meta­phys­i­cal think­ing as well, pre­sent being.”

We only want to experience” this: that when we fol­low the say­ing p£~£Ta 10 nav and con­sider be­ings as a whole, we stand im­me­di­ately in the dif­fer­ence be­tween be­ings and be­ing, that here­with be­ing an­nounces an es­sen­tial full­ness, as­sum­ing that we only be­gin to think be­ing it­self.

But have we now in fact thought be­ing it­self?

Recapitulation Guidewords about Being 1. Being is empty as an ab­stract con­cept and at the same time a sur­plus

In the first at­tempt to trace this dis­tinc­tion be­tween be­ing and be­ings, and thereby to il­lu­mi­nate above all what being” says here, we at first fol­low the long ha­bit­u­a­tion of a firmly in­grained way of think­ing. This ex­presses it­self in the doc­trine that be­ing is the name for the most ab­stract” of all con­cepts. Seen thus, the dis­tinc­tion be­tween be­ings and be­ing, when we at­tempt to as­sess it evenly ac­cord­ing to both of its sides, is in truth such that all weight falls on the side of be­ings. For be­ing is, like a both­er­some (if also in a cer­tain re­spect in­dis­pens­able) ab­strac­tion, only tol­er­ated as an ap­pendage and a shadow of be­ings. For it­self, be­ing is noth­ing that could evenly and eq­ui­tably main­tain it­self next” to be­ings and of­fer a sat­is­fac­tory ba­sis for re­flec­tion. Being is like the fleet­ing shadow of a cloud float­ing over the land of be­ings, with­out ef­fect­ing any­thing or leav­ing be­hind any trace. The shad­owy char­ac­ter of be­ing con­firms, at best, the so­lid­ity that be­longs solely to be­ings.

If this is so, then it is also clear wherein, alone, the gen­uine ful­fill­ment of the guide­word , u£~£Ta lo 7rav would con­sist: namely, in ex­clu­sively ex­pe­ri­enc­ing and shap­ing and deal­ing with be­ings. The now emerg­ing age of moder­nity in­deed has its un­de­ni­able pas­sion in that it grasps all ex­pe­ri­enc­ing, pur­su­ing, plan­ning, and con­struct­ing of the ac­tual in all re­spects un­con­di­tion­ally, and that it knows this un­con­di­tioned­ness cor­rectly as the new, and val­ues it as some­thing hith­erto not yet willed on earth and as some­thing unique that was never pos­si­ble un­til now. The su­pe­ri­or­ity of be­ings over be­ing has been de­cided.

Yet the ques­tion still re­mains as to whether or not here, and just here, in this un­con­di­tional af­fr­ma­tion of be­ings (which seems to side ex­clu­sively with be­ings at the ex­pense of be­ing), whether or not here a de­ci­sion about be­ing holds sway. Thus it re­mains to be asked whether or not be­ing is pre­cisely some­thing other than merely a name for the most empty con­cept, whether be­ing is not al­ways and ac­tu­ally a sur­plus from which all full­ness of be­ings, how­ever they might pre­sent them­selves, orig­i­nates. It re­mains to be asked whether be­ing is not in­deed both the empti­ness that in­con­testably shows it­self in the most gen­eral con­cept, and the sur­plus that an­nounces it­self to us, for ex­am­ple, in Geothe’s verse. Being would then be not only some­thing ab­stracted and set aside from be­ings, but con­trar­ily, and at the same time, it would be what ex­er­cises its essence in each be­ing every­where and above all.

2. Being is the most com­mon of all and at the same time unique­ness (The same­ness of be­ing and noth­ing)

In re­flect­ing upon the dis­tinc­tion be­tween be­ings and be­ing, we asked about be­ing. The pre­vi­ous con­sid­er­a­tion led to a sec­ond guide­word about be­ing: Being is the most com­mon of all and at the same time unique­ness.

We con­tin­u­ally en­counter in all be­ings, may they be com­pletely dif­fer­ent in con­tent and mode, this uni­for­mity: that they are. Thus it might seem as if be­ing had every­where dis­persed and ex­hausted it­self in be­ing the most com­mon­place in the land of the most var­i­ous be­ings. Because of its uni­for­mity, be­ing was not at all con­spic­u­ous to us at first. This commonness” in­deed be­longs to be­ing; but be­ing does not ex­haust it­self in it. For at the same time be­ing is, by con­trast, unique­ness. Being pres­ences only as some­thing unique, whereas be­ings are here this and here that, here the one and not the other. Beings al­ways have their equal. Being, how­ever, is in­com­pa­ra­ble. Therefore it can­not be said that be­ing is, in the sense of the afore­men­tioned com­mon­al­ity, the same in all be­ings. Rather, be­ing, as the unique, is al­ways the Same. As this same­ness, it does not ex­clude dif­fer­ences. What is in it­self and every­where the same need not, ac­cord­ing to its essence, re­main merely mo­not­o­nous. There are var­i­ous modes of the same be­ing, but there is no var­i­ous be­ing in the sense that be­ing could break up into the some­thing mul­ti­ple and nu­mer­ous.

From the de­vel­op­ment of the Western doc­trine of the be­ing of be­ings (metaphysics) a much-cited propo­si­tion has emerged, above all in its scholas­tic form: omne ens est unum. (Every be­ing is one.) To what ex­tent this propo­si­tion goes back to Greek think­ing about be­ings, and in what re­spect it pre­sents a trans­for­ma­tion of the same, can­not be dis­cussed here. Only this is to be re­mem­bered: that Greek think­ing equates be­ings, lo ov, early on with To £V, the one, and in­deed al­ready in pre-Pla­tonic think­ing be­ing is dis­tin­guished by unity.” Until to­day, philosophy” has ne­glected to re­flect at all upon what the an­cient thinkers mean with this £V. Above all, it does not ask why, at the in­cep­tion of Western thought, unity” is so de­ci­sively at­trib­uted to be­ings as their es­sen­tial fea­ture.

The later propo­si­tion of scholas­tic phi­los­o­phy, omne ens est unum, may not be equated with the guide­word that has sprung from our re­flec­tion: Being is unique­ness. For the for­mer propo­si­tion deals with be­ings (ens), not with be­ing as such, and says in truth that be­ings are al­ways man­i­fold. The propo­si­tion means: Every be­ing is al­ways one and as one it is re­spec­tively one to an­other. Therefore each be­ing is al­ways the other to each re­spec­tive one. Omne ens est unum, we can also translate” by the propo­si­tion: Beings are man­i­fold. But the propo­si­tion Being is unique­ness” is spo­ken from a com­pletely dif­fer­ent view­point. This seems to be en­dan­gered by the Nothing, and cer­tainly in­so­far as the Nothing is in any way a third vis-a-vis be­ings and be­ing, so that the propo­si­tion Being is the unique over against be­ings” be­comes un­ten­able, but also in­so­far as the Nothing is in a cer­tain way the other to be­ing.

(In this way Hegel thinks the re­la­tion of being” and nothing,” whereby he re­mains cog­nizant that, strictly speak­ing, he can­not at all ad­dress the Nothing as the other to be­ing, be­cause both are taken as the most ex­treme ab­strac­tions of actuality” and have not yet de­vel­oped into some­thing (quale). Here, Hegel could never risk the propo­si­tion: Actuality” (in his sense) and Nothing are the same. In this re­spect, how­ever, what is said about the Nothing is meant here, and may not be con­flated with Hegel’s identification” of be­ing and noth­ing.

The ci­ta­tion of the Hegelian identification” of be­ing and noth­ing in the es­say What is Metaphysics?” does not mean the adop­tion of the Hegelian po­si­tion, but rather in­tends only to point out that this oth­er­wise alien identification” was al­ready thought in phi­los­o­phy.)

Our con­sid­er­a­tions ought, only in pass­ing, at­tend to the fol­low­ing: notwith­stand­ing the fact that be­ings are, the Nothing pres­ences, and is” in no way the nullity” that peo­ple would gladly cast aside. Ordinary un­der­stand­ing be­lieves, of course, that the Nothing first en­ters the scene when all be­ings have been elim­i­nated. However, since in this case even man would be elim­i­nated, no one would re­main to think the Nothing, where­upon it is proven” that the Nothing rests upon fancy and a mere play of un­der­stand­ing-but only so long as one mis­uses un­der­stand­ing in­stead of us­ing it only for every­day busi­ness. That un­der­stand­ing has its le­git­i­mate do­main here, no one would want to dis­pute. Yet, pre­cisely be­cause this is so, it could be doubted whether or­di­nary un­der­stand­ing, with­out fur­ther ado, has the legitimacy” to pass judg­ment upon the essence of the Nothing. Thus it is nec­es­sary to re­mark that the Nothing is in­deed the emp­ti­est of the empty, but at the same time it has its equiv­a­lent nowhere else. This dou­ble char­ac­ter­is­tic of the Nothing has spe­cial mean­ing for our ques­tion. The Nothing is the emp­ti­est and is unique.

The same goes for be­ing. Otherwise, the same­ness of be­ing and the Nothing would be a strange word, seem­ing to sub­se­quently strengthen the afore­men­tioned sus­pi­cion that be­ing is only a neg­a­tive and base­less ab­strac­tion.

However, to us the Nothing is not a nul­lity. To re­coil in ter­ror of an­ni­hi­la­tion and to be hor­ri­fied by dev­as­ta­tion is to shrink back from some­thing that can­not be ad­dressed as mere imag­i­na­tion, as some­thing base­less.

On November 2, 1797, Holderlin wrote to his brother: The more we are as­sailed by the Nothing that yawns around us like an abyss or that shape­lessly, soul­lessly and love­lessly haunts us and dis­perses us from a thou­sand­fold some­thing be­long­ing to so­ci­ety and the ac­tiv­ity of men, the more pas­sion­ate, in­tense and vi­o­lent must be the op­po­si­tion from our side. Or must it not?”7

But what if the Nothing that hor­ri­fies man and dis­places him from his usual dal­ly­ing and eva­sions were the same as be­ing? Then be­ing would have to an­nounce it­self as some­thing hor­ri­fy­ing and dread­ful, as that which as­sails us. But we would not gladly ac­cept this. As long as we move within the usual be­liefs about be­ing, we leave it aside as some­thing in­dif­fer­ent, and that is al­ready an avoid­ance of be­ing. This avoid­ance of be­ing is car­ried out in many ways, which are not at all rec­og­nized as such be­cause the pri­or­ity of be­ings claims all think­ing, so that even cal­cu­lat­ing with be­ings of­ten counts as re­flec­tion. Avoidance of be­ing shows it­self in the fact that be­ing is taken as the most in­tel­li­gi­ble of all that is un­der­stand­able. That it comes to this, and can come to this, must, how­ever, rest yet again with be­ing it­self. To what ex­tent this is so re­mains at first un­clear. If we have once be­come aware of our con­stant flight to re­as­sur­ance through the self-understood, then we eas­ily ob­serve every­where how man at once em­beds be­ings, as yet un­ex­plained, within the sphere of the in­tel­li­gi­ble. Thus we find it en­tirely in or­der when every­one, just as they please, pre­sumes to make judg­ments about the be­ing of be­ings ac­cord­ing to ran­dom no­tions, im­me­di­ately cur­rent in­tu­itions, and opin­ions that are barely thought out. On the other hand, one takes it to be en­tirely nat­ural that, where it is a mat­ter of man­ag­ing and in­ves­ti­gat­ing be­ings, the trained prac­ti­tioner, the qual­i­fied ex­pert, the ap­pointed leader has the word, and judg­ment is with­held from the ar­bi­trari­ness of Everyman.

Reference to the con­tem­po­rary claims of mod­ern atomic physics to be able to de­liver the guid­ing thread for in­ter­pret­ing the world in gen­eral should make one thing clear: that the fun­da­men­tal rep­re­sen­ta­tions of be­ings that rule in mod­ern physics are el­e­vated to the stan­dard of mea­sure for re­flec­tion about the world per se, and that in this pro­ce­dure noth­ing ex­cep­tional and ran­dom is seen. People con­sider it su­per­flu­ous to con­sider whether the sketch of be­ings as a whole has its own sys­tem of laws so that it can­not be ar­bi­trar­ily set to work from any­where. Modern atomic physics was also named, and only named, in re­spect to our guid­ing re­flec­tion aimed at the essence of be­ing and the way in which it re­veals it­self. We are not con­cerned, here, with ex­pound­ing a philo­soph­i­cal cri­tique of con­tem­po­rary physics. For this pur­pose re­flec­tion would have to be aimed dif­fer­ently; it also could not limit it­self to an ex­am­i­na­tion of the law of causal­ity.”

When, how­ever, con­tem­po­rary physics equates an even­t’s hav­ing been caused with its pre­dictabil­ity, this clearly does not hap­pen in­ci­den­tally. In re­spect to this equiv­a­lence, one can­not sim­ply afffirm that the prin­ci­ple of causal­ity is a prin­ci­ple of be­ings but pre­dictabil­ity is a prin­ci­ple of the knowl­edge of be­ings, so that even physics would fall into the er­ror of con­vert­ing an on­to­log­i­cal law into an epistemological” prin­ci­ple, thus con­fus­ing two dif­fer­ent realms. The ques­tion re­mains: In what sense is the prin­ci­ple of causal­ity a law of be­ings? We can­not make do with the naive rep­re­sen­ta­tion ac­cord­ing to which causal­ity would be a law of the ac­tual. Between the naive un­der­stand­ing of causal­ity and the con­cept of causal­ity in physics stands Kant and his in­ter­pre­ta­tion of causal­ity, which is not in­ci­den­tal, but code­ter­mined by the meta­phys­i­cal rudi­ments of mod­ern physics. In our con­nec­tion, it is not a mat­ter of tak­ing a po­si­tion in re­gard to the un­der­stand­ing of causal­ity in mod­ern physics, but of in­di­cat­ing that the hardly no­ticed at­ti­tude which takes the essence of be­ing as self-un­der­stood lies at the bot­tom of the claim of physics, as quan­tum physics, to be able to found a quantum bi­ol­ogy” and thus, as it were, a quantum his­tory” and, as it were, a quantum meta­physics.” This ref­er­ence to the claim of physics, which to­day also comes cor­re­spond­ingly from bi­ol­ogy, should bring into view a sign, among oth­ers, in­di­cat­ing that in gen­eral being” means for us the most in­tel­li­gi­ble.

3. The mean­ing of the guide­words: Instructions for re­flec­tion upon the dif­fer­ence be­tween be­ing and be­ings

We are at­tempt­ing, through a se­ries of guide­words, to raise into know­ing some­thing about the be­ing of be­ings. And this, for the pre­sent, only in or­der to pro­cure for our­selves, en­tirely from afar and in a mod­est way, a prepa­ra­tion for the re­solve to fol­low the an­cient say­ing p£~£1a 10 ~av, and in fol­low­ing what is in­cip­i­ent in Western think­ing to come nearer and thus to know some­thing of what, af­ter all, is said in the in­cep­tion. In case we are struck by a word from this in­cep­tive say­ing, we are at least in clearer readi­ness for the di­rec­tion to­ward which we must lis­ten.

It must be ob­served with re­spect to mis­un­der­stand­ings al­ready cir­cu­lat­ing that the guide­words about be­ing do not ap­pear as propo­si­tions that pro­mul­gate a spe­cial doc­trine or sys­tem, or that merely de­velop a par­tic­u­lar theory” about be­ing. The guide­words are not propo­si­tions that can be passed around as as­ser­tions about” a philosophical stand­point.” Taken as such, they would be mis­un­der­stood in every­thing es­sen­tial.

The guide­words are in­struc­tions­for ref­tec­tion upon what comes to light when we have a proper eye for what we can do with­out. And in­deed this re­flec­tion can be car­ried out at all times, from all sit­u­a­tions, and ac­cord­ing to var­i­ous forms. It also does not have to cling to the phras­ing of what is said here.

The main point is this: to take no­tice of some­thing ne­glected, to learn to take no­tice of it with­out the hasty urge to im­me­di­ately seek out util­ity and pur­pose. In the realm of this re­flec­tion, it is a mat­ter of hav­ing the courage not to be as daring” as the usual and ex­clu­sive cal­cu­la­tion of what is ac­tual in each case. It is a mat­ter of hav­ing the courage to look around the do­main of the dif­fer­ence be­tween be­ings and be­ing and sim­ply to rec­og­nize what holds sway here. It is a mat­ter of re­sist­ing the nearly in­erad­i­ca­ble thought that every such at­tempt is only a go­ing astray in ab­strac­tions, and in­deed to re­sist on grounds of the grow­ing knowl­edge of be­ing, which might ap­pear to us like the in­car­na­tion of all ab­strac­tion pure and sim­ple.

At the end we say: Being is the most said. For it is said in every word of lan­guage, and nev­er­the­less dis­course and writ­ing talk for the most part only about be­ings. This comes to ar­tic­u­la­tion. Even where we ac­tu­ally say the is” and thus name be­ing, we say the is” only to as­sert a be­ing about a be­ing. Beings are said. Being is kept silent about. But not by us and on pur­pose. For we are un­able to dis­cover any trace of an in­ten­tion not to say be­ing. Hence, the keep­ing silent must in­deed come from be­ing it­self. Hence, be­ing is a keep­ing silent about it­self, and this is cer­tainly the ground of the pos­si­bil­ity of keep­ing silent and the ori­gin of si­lence. In this realm of si­lence, the word first arises each time.

Michael David Pennamacoor

A brief his­tory of the Spoon Collective

The pe­riod be­tween 1980 and the mid-90s saw the de­ploy­ment of a num­ber of ma­jor tech­nolo­gies for col­lec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tions over the Internet - such as Usenet and Bulletin Board Systems in the early 80s, Eric Thomas’ ListServ in the mid-80s, MOOs in the early 90s, Brent Chapman’s Majordomo in 1992. These tech­nolo­gies ush­ered in com­pletely novel pos­si­bil­i­ties for col­lab­o­ra­tive think­ing and writ­ing.

In the late 80s and early 90s, there was a flour­ish­ing of Internet dis­cus­sion groups in phi­los­o­phy and crit­i­cal analy­sis - so­cial, cul­tural, po­lit­i­cal and artis­tic. Frequently, the cre­ators and par­tic­i­pants of these groups were ei­ther non-aca­d­e­mics or peo­ple who found their aca­d­e­mic en­vi­ron­ment in­tel­lec­tu­ally ster­ile. The new medium of­fered stu­pen­dous po­ten­tial­i­ties for break­ing peo­ple’s in­tel­lec­tual iso­la­tion and bring­ing them in con­tact with peers that they could not find among face-to-face con­tacts. The Internet be­came, for many, the place where they lived their in­tel­lec­tual life.

Just to give some ran­dom road­posts:­sic.clas­si­cal started in June 1987;­mod­ern in May 1989; Michele Macaluso’s ArtCrit list in the late 80s; David Erben’s Derrida list in June 1991. And be­tween 1992 and 1993, Kent Palmer and Lance Fletcher cre­ated ThinkNet/DialogNet, a stu­pen­dously am­bi­tious net­work of dozens upon dozens of email lists and BBSs in­tended to en­com­pass every area of phi­los­o­phy and sys­tems the­ory and ul­ti­mately be­come the foun­da­tion of an open Internet University”. As Kent Palmer wrote: Suddenly we have opened up a win­dow to the world and through that win­dow we can learn to speak out minds and per­haps learn from each other. [ThinkNet/]DialogNet is a fo­rum for the pre­sen­ta­tion of ideas, thoughts and re­flec­tions so that they may be tested against the best thoughts of other minds from around the globe in real-time con­ver­sa­tion and de­bate.”

The early ThinkNet lists were hosted at, a Boston ISP which at the time of­fered its cus­tomers un­lim­ited free Majordomo lists.

In late 1993 and early 1994, some events oc­curred within the ThinkNet frame­work which ul­ti­mately led to the cre­ation of the Spoon Collective. These events in­volved, be­sides Kent Palmer, the per­sons of Michael Current, a young un­em­ployed thinker and gay ac­tivist from Des Moines, IA, Specializing in Philosophy, Queer Studies, Depression, & Unemployment” (in his words); Malgosia Askanas, a math­e­mati­cian, soft­ware en­gi­neer and street per­former from Boston, and Michael Harrawood, a grad­u­ate stu­dent of English at Berkeley (specializing in Shakespeare) - all of whom were, in one way or an­other, in­tensely in­vested in the ThinkNet lists.

The first of those events was the cre­ation of the Deleuze list. Kent Palmer (who was, at the time, em­ployed as soft­ware/​sys­tems en­gi­neer at Boeing and had a PhD in phi­los­o­phy of sci­ence from the London School of Economics) was en­gaged in, as he de­scribed it, research in on­tol­ogy and au­topoi­etic so­cial sys­tems the­ory”. Consequently, in­cluded in the ThinkNet col­lec­tion was a set of lists ded­i­cated to au­topoiesis, and in the con­text of those lists the names Deleuze”, and Anti-Oedipus”, kept com­ing up. To quote from an ac­count by Fido Rodenbeck:

So Kent, not re­ally know­ing a thing about Deleuze, started a Deleuze list in the hopes of learn­ing. […] Kent has many ad­vanced de­grees. But Kent was un­aware of the im­port of the ac­tion he’d just com­pleted: that is, start­ing a list for peo­ple into Deleuze or peo­ple into what they thought Deleuze might be into: peo­ple whose writ­ing slams in the mega­lopo­lis, peo­ple into be­com­ing-gen­era, peo­ple-against-oedi­pus, peo­ple into rub­ber clothes, peo­ple who weren’t of­fended by edgy lan­guage, peo­ple who did­n’t give a fuck about ad­vanced de­grees, you get the pitcher… Michael Current agreed to mod­er­ate the list once it be­came ap­par­ent that Kent, since he had by now in­stalled a num­ber of com­ple­men­tary lists, could­n’t mod­er­ate any of them and run them at the same time. But in the first weeks of Michael’s tenure as mod­er­a­tor, Michael had a num­ber of bizarre em­bod­ied syn­tax er­rors - he changed his med­ica­tion, and was hav­ing a lot of trou­ble ad­just­ing. Rather than duck out and come back all fresh, Michael made his body part of the text of his list, and from the start [the Deleuze list] had an emo­tional qual­ity, a PHYSICAL qual­ity, that I don’t think Kent was ever able to un­der­stand […].”

Palmer had cer­tain ideas of deco­rum in philo­soph­i­cal con­ver­sa­tion. He mon­i­tored the dis­cus­sions on his lists for breaches of deco­rum, and would sud­denly in­ter­vene into heated ar­gu­ments when they did not meet his stan­dards of good taste. These in­ter­ven­tions drew upon him a pro­longed con­tro­versy and mu­tual ha­rangues first with Harrawood and then with Askanas and Current, who all stub­bornly ob­jected to the idea of polic­ing philo­soph­i­cal dis­cus­sions in the name of an a pri­ori stan­dard of what they should be. It is in­ter­est­ing to note that it was this is­sue, rather than some gen­er­al­ized is­sue of free speech”, that was the crux of the con­tro­versy. These ha­rangues had a ten­dency to make Palmer, who - in a truly as­tound­ing ef­fort - was man­ag­ing many tens of lists by him­self, feel un­ap­pre­ci­ated and de­pressed. At such times he would aban­don the lists for a while and/​or threaten to close them al­to­gether.

In early 1994, Palmer in­ter­vened in a dis­cus­sion on the Deleuze list, and his in­ter­ven­tion met with in­tense hos­til­ity from the list as a whole. This threw him into an es­pe­cially in­tense bout of dis­cour­age­ment. He de­clared that he had had it, and was go­ing to close down all of ThinkNet. As a re­sult, Current and Askanas, un­happy with hav­ing a sig­nif­i­cant as­pect of their in­tel­lec­tual life held hostage by Palmer’s mood fluc­tu­a­tions, de­cided to open their own ac­count at, and ne­go­ti­ated with Palmer the trans­fer of own­er­ship of four of the ThinkNet lists. The ac­count was called spoon” - a name se­lected for the light weight, util­ity and ver­sa­til­ity of the ob­ject it de­noted, in con­trast to the pon­der­ous name ThinkNet”. The four lists were Deleuze, Avant-garde (a list which Palmer cre­ated as a kind of ThinkNet Australia to which to ban­ish po­ten­tially un­ruly dis­cus­sions, and on which, at the time, Askanas was leading” a dis­cus­sion of Hakim Bey’s T.A.Z”), Film-theory (which Palmer had cre­ated at Askanas’ re­quest) and Technology, with which Askanas was also in­tensely in­volved. The trans­fer took place in late Spring of 1994, and this was the of­fi­cial be­gin­ning of the Spoon Collective. Soon af­ter, Alan Sondheim - a poet, pub­li­cist and vi­sual artist from New York - joined Spoon to start, to­gether with Current, the Cybermind list; Steven Meinking, who was moderating” the ThinkNet Foucault list, joined Spoon and trans­ferred the Foucault list to it; and Jon Beasley-Murray, Flannon Jackson and Seamus Malone joined Spoon to cre­ate the Marxism list - the first Internet dis­cus­sion fo­rum ded­i­cated to Marxist phi­los­o­phy.

These events are im­por­tant if one wishes to un­der­stand the is­sues that mo­ti­vated the (reluctant) for­ma­tion of the Spoon Collective, and that were to sig­nif­i­cantly shape its poli­cies and mode of op­er­a­tion: (1) the per­cep­tion that in­tel­lec­tual dis­cus­sion needs to be self-reg­u­lat­ing, rather than be­ing reg­u­lated by a non-par­tic­i­pant so as to con­form to some ex­ter­nal stan­dard of deco­rum or proper thought”; (2) the de­ter­mi­na­tion on the part of Spoon to not per­ceive it­self in a po­si­tion of ownership” - with the at­ten­dant right to make de­mands upon the think­ing of list­mem­bers - with re­spect to the dis­course on the lists; and (3) the is­sue of pro­vid­ing a sta­ble en­vi­ron­ment for every list in Spoon’s care.

The first two is­sues mo­ti­vated the over­whelm­ing - fre­quently ex­ces­sive - re­luc­tance to reg­u­late the events on the lists, which be­came a hall­mark of Spoon and led, for ex­am­ple, to the grotesque con­tor­tions to which Spoon later re­sorted in at­tempt­ing to deal with the de-facto hi­jack­ing of its Marxism lists by var­i­ous sects, dogma-spouters, provo­ca­teurs and self-styled vanguards of the work­ing class”. The third is­sue sig­nif­i­cantly shaped the or­ga­ni­za­tion of ad­min­is­tra­tive work within the Collective, and the de­sign of the tech­ni­cal in­fra­struc­ture which sup­ported this work. From its in­cep­tion, Spoon adopted the strat­egy of cen­tral col­lec­tive ownership” (in the list­server sense of the term) and ad­min­is­tra­tion of all its lists. The lists were cen­trally owned” by the spoon” ac­count, to which all mem­bers of Spoon had ac­cess. The ad­min­is­tra­tive tasks for the en­tire col­lec­tion of lists - re­spond­ing to lis­towner email, han­dling mes­sages bounced to the lis­towner for ap­proval, han­dling un­de­liv­er­ables, trou­bleshoot­ing tech­ni­cal prob­lems on lists - were han­dled by each Spooner in turn on the ba­sis of a weekly ro­ta­tion. For is­sues that re­quired inside” un­der­stand­ing of list dy­nam­ics, each list had at least one Spoon caretaker” who ac­tively par­tic­i­pated in the lists’ dis­cus­sions and, in the best cases, at­tempted to shape them through this par­tic­i­pa­tion. More sig­nif­i­cant or thorny is­sues en­coun­tered ei­ther in the course of the ad­min­is­tra­tive ro­ta­tion or in the con­text of on-list hap­pen­ings would be dis­cussed among the Collective be­fore de­cid­ing (or punt­ing) on a res­o­lu­tion.

On July 22, 1994, Michael Current died sud­denly of a heart at­tack. This was a tremen­dous blow to the Collective - not only as the loss of a friend, and one pos­sessed of ex­cep­tional in­tel­li­gence, thought­ful­ness, in­tegrity, courage and hu­mor - but also be­cause Current’s un­der­stand­ing of the Internet cul­ture was a cru­cial re­source in the op­er­a­tions of Spoon. In the wake of this loss, Askanas in­vited Shawn Wilbur, a grad­u­ate stu­dent of American History at Bowling Green State University and a con­sum­mate par­tic­i­pant in Internet cul­ture, to join the Collective. Wilbur, who was at the time moderating” ThinkNet’s Bataille and Baudrillard lists, ac­cepted the in­vi­ta­tion and trans­ferred these lists to Spoon.

In the early Fall of 1994, an­nounced that it would start charg­ing for its Majordomo lists, and the Spoon Collective de­cided to try to find a non-com­mer­cial host. Wilbur, who was in­volved with the MOO in­fra­struc­ture at the University of Virginia’s Institute of Advanced Technologies in the Humanities (IATH), ap­proached John Unsworth, the di­rec­tor of IATH. As a re­sult, Unsworth ex­tended to the Spoon Collective a won­der­fully gen­er­ous of­fer to host all its lists at the IATH. The Collective moved its op­er­a­tions to Virginia in late 1994, and in early 1995 ap­plied for - and was granted - the sta­tus of Networked Fellows. The Collective con­tin­ued to be hosted at the IATH for the next 10 years, un­til its dis­so­lu­tion in late 2004.

At the IATH, the Spoon Collective ba­si­cally had the run of the ma­chine which hosted the Majordomo soft­ware, the lists and the list-archives. Over the years, the Collective mod­i­fied the Majordomo code, im­ple­ment­ing a num­ber of en­hance­ments - for in­stance, the abil­ity to ter­mi­nate au­tore­spon­der loops, the abil­ity to re­motely main­tain lists of ad­dresses that can post to a given list with­out be­ing sub­scribed, and of ad­dresses that should be blocked from sub­scrib­ing or blocked from post­ing to a given list (or to all lists); the abil­ity to run pseu­do­ny­mous and anony­mous lists; MIME strip­ping and HTML trans­la­tion; the abil­ity to re­strict the daily num­ber of posts to a given list from a sin­gle per­son. Some of these are now stan­dard fea­tures of mod­ern list­servers. In ad­di­tion, the Collective wrote soft­ware tools for the cre­ation, dele­tion and en­hance­ment of lists, for fa­cil­i­tat­ing searches through sub­scrip­tion lists, for main­tain­ing a sin­gle ad­min­is­tra­tive pass­word for all the lists, for han­dling ad­min­is­tra­tive re­quests bounced from lists, for strip­ping ir­rel­e­vant head­ers from archived posts, for au­to­matic han­dling of er­ror bounces, for the dis­play of archives on the Web with­out trans­lat­ing them into sta­tic HTML - and many more.

It is amus­ing to note that the outer struc­ture of the raw archives re­flects some of Spoon’s tech­no­log­i­cal his­tory. For ex­am­ple, the early ver­sions of Majordomo did not have au­to­matic archiv­ing. Consequently, the 1994 archives have been man­u­ally com­piled from posts col­lected by in­di­vid­ual Spoon mem­bers, have a highly idio­syn­cratic or­ga­ni­za­tion, and con­tain gaps and du­pli­cates. The next Majordomo ver­sion used by the Spoon lists had au­to­matic archiv­ing but no au­to­matic di­vi­sion of the archive into monthly files; the posts from each list would all be ap­pended to a sin­gle archive file, which would, every now and then, be di­vided - man­u­ally, with the help of scripts - into mean­ing­fully but idio­syn­crat­i­cally named chunks. Then, fi­nally, in mid-1995, the archive be­came pop­u­lated by files with the stan­dard Majordomo-archive names of the form LISTNAME.YYMM.

Another ex­am­ple: at, every time the Collective wanted a new list or wanted to get rid of an ex­ist­ing list, it had to ask the staff to per­form the list-cre­ation or dele­tion. To min­i­mize the im­po­si­tion that would be in­curred by the cre­ation and dele­tion of mul­ti­ple short-term-sem­i­nar lists, the Collective re­quested the cre­ation of five generic” sem­i­nar lists, named sem­i­nar-10 through sem­i­nar-14, which it would use (reuse) for all its short-term sem­i­nars. Even though this strat­a­gem was no longer nec­es­sary af­ter the move to Virginia, short-term sem­i­nars con­tin­ued to be held on those five lists.

While the free­dom of ma­neu­ver that the Spoons en­joyed at Virginia per­mit­ted a breadth of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and flex­i­bil­ity that could never be con­tem­plated at, it also pre­sented - and by the same to­ken - some se­ri­ous pit­falls. These were of a dual na­ture: the ease of ex­pan­sion, and the shift of at­ten­tion to tech­ni­cal main­te­nance.

The Spoons shared with the cre­ators of ThinkNet/Dialognet a predilec­tion for think­ing in terms of a space” of lists that would cross-fer­til­ize each other, rather than an as­sem­blage of in­di­vid­ual lists cater­ing to mostly non-in­ter­sect­ing sets of sub­scribers. In 1994, all the mem­bers of the Collective vig­or­ously par­tic­i­pated in most of the Collective’s lists, and dur­ing the first cou­ple of years of Spoon’s ex­is­tence there were a num­ber of sub­scribers who main­tained an ac­tive and cru­cial pres­ence on mul­ti­ple lists. To name just a few: John Young, Tom Blancato, Ariosto Raggo, Fido Rodenbeck, Alastair Dickson, Sawad Brooks, Chris Dacus, Matteo Mandarini, Connor Durflinger, Tristan Riley, Nathan Widder. These mul­ti­ple list-in­volve­ments re­flected a con­tin­uum of po­lit­i­cal in­ter­est be­hind the lists for whose own­er­ship the Spoon Collective opted dur­ing the first few months of its op­er­a­tion. What the Spoons did not share with Palmer and Fletcher, on the other hand, was any am­bi­tion to­wards completeness” of their list-space; on the con­trary, they started out - es­pe­cially Current, who was ill and had to man­age his en­er­gies very care­fully - with a hor­ror of overex­tend­ing them­selves. Two fac­tors, how­ever, caused the pro­ject to con­tinue to ex­pand in spite of these mis­giv­ings. One was the de­sire, on the part of the peo­ple al­ready in Spoon, to bring into ex­is­tence cer­tain lists that had no equiv­a­lent else­where - and, pre­cisely in or­der to avert overex­ten­sion, the con­comi­tant need to bring into the Collective new mem­bers whose vi­sion and par­tic­i­pa­tion would shape the di­rec­tion of these lists. Thus, as men­tioned above, Beasley-Murray, Jackson and Malone were in­ducted into Spoon to cre­ate the Marxism list; Dan Kern, to cre­ate the Blanchot list; Michael McGee, to moderate” the Postcolonial list af­ter it had been cre­ated by Dan Kern’s in­spi­ra­tion - and many other such in­duc­tions fol­lowed. The other fac­tor re­spon­si­ble for ex­pan­sion was the dif­fi­culty which the Spoons had in not ex­tend­ing their ini­tial list-res­cue im­pulse to other ThinkNet - and, in later years, non-ThinkNet - lists whose mod­er­a­tors wished to come over to Spoon. This is how Spoon ac­quired, for ex­am­ple, the Irigaray list (later re­named French-feminism”) and its mod­er­a­tor Lynda Haas; the Feyerabend list and Marko Toivanen; the Heidegger and Harbermas lists, and Ermel Stepp. These en­large­ments, which be­gan al­ready while the Collective was hosted at, could be ac­com­plished with much greater ease af­ter the move to Virginia. They brought un­der the care of the Collective a num­ber of lists which were in fact of in­ter­est to no more than one mem­ber of Spoon, and whose con­tin­u­ance, in cases where this mem­ber left (or where there was no es­sen­tial in­tra-Spoon in­ter­est in the list to be­gin with), would be­come to the Collective a mat­ter of public ser­vice” rather than of any ac­tive de­sire.

Indeed, as Rodenbeck pointed out in a hi­lar­i­ous provo­ca­tion in June 1995 on the List-proposals list, it was in­fi­nitely eas­ier for the Collective to cre­ate lists than to get rid of them. The prob­lem of how to de­cide whether a list was dead” or, in the im­mor­tal words of Monty Python, merely resting”, proved so in­sur­mount­able that there was in fact not a sin­gle case of the Collective clos­ing down any of its permanent” lists due to the list hav­ing run its course. For as long as a list had sub­scribers, choos­ing to say ab­solutely noth­ing was, on the sub­scribers’ part, a per­fectly le­git­i­mate way of us­ing the list. As for short-term sem­i­nars, the Seminar on Collage that was the sub­ject of Rodenbeck’s List-proposals provo­ca­tion serves as a per­fect case study: it started (on the Seminar-11 list) on Oct 24 94; en­joyed two weeks of ex­u­ber­ant ac­tiv­ity; fell com­pletely silent un­til the Summer of 95, when Rodenbeck tried to wake it up, with ques­tion­able re­sults, by post­ing a stream of lit­er­ary bagatelles ti­tled Everyday Life” un­der names such as Marcel Mauss, E.M. Cioran and Susan Sontag; re­ceived some spam in November 95; fell com­pletely silent again; and was only of­fi­cially closed in March 96, al­most a year and a half af­ter the end of its two weeks of mean­ing­ful ac­tiv­ity.

In one spec­tac­u­lar in­stance, abun­dant cre­ation of new lists and pro­lif­er­a­tion of per­son­nel was at­tempted as a mag­i­cal sub­sti­tute for the sim­ple - yet, to the Spoons, al­most im­pos­si­ble - act of per­form­ing ex­pul­sions and im­pos­ing rules of dis­course”. By early 1996, the Marxism list had been taken over by di­verse sec­tar­i­ans - maoists, trot­sky­ists, lenin­ists, stal­in­ists, ad­her­ents of the Sendero Luminoso - and be­came pre­dom­i­nantly an arena for doc­tri­naire man­i­festos and ver­bal thug­gery. Unwilling to in­ter­vene in what had been promised, in its char­ter, to be an open” list, the Spoons de­cided to cre­ate a sec­ond list, Marxism2, whose char­ter left open the pos­si­bil­ity of in­ter­ven­tion, by de­clar­ing: The pol­icy is that no par­tic­u­lar tra­di­tion or orthodoxy’ shall be es­tab­lished on this list, nor shall it be an arena for wars be­tween or­tho­dox­ies.” However, since this did not re­lieve the Spoons from hav­ing to be en­gaged with the day-to-day op­er­a­tion of the ob­jec­tion­able Marxism list, in late 1996 the Collective tried a more rad­i­cal pro­lif­er­a­tion: it closed down both ex­ist­ing Marxism lists and re­placed them with an open-ended en­tity called the marx­ism space”, which con­sisted (at the time of its cre­ation) of about a dozen lists on dif­fer­ent top­ics, such as Marxism-feminism, Marxism-and-sciences, Marxism-psych, Marxism-theory, Marxism-thaxis (thaxis = the­ory+praxis), Marxism-general, Marxism-news. The Spoons then at­tempted to put dis­tance be­tween them­selves and the new space” by let­ting the on-list is­sues within the space to be man­aged by an­other collective”, a team com­posed of vol­un­teers from each list, who were gath­ered to­gether on yet an­other list called Marx-administration”. The marxism space” was per­mit­ted to op­er­ate un­til May 1998, at which point the Spoons fi­nally de­cided to stop lend­ing their sup­port, re­sources and tech­ni­cal-ad­min­is­tra­tion la­bor to a pro­ject whose ex­ploita­tion by po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests re­pug­nant to the Spoons was in no way di­min­ished by virtue of the pro­ject hav­ing been be­ing frag­mented into many lists and ban­ished to its own reg­u­la­tory shell.

Marx-administration was only one of many in­stances - al­beit the most ex­treme one - of sep­a­rat­ing the on-list” func­tions of run­ning a list from the off-list” func­tions of tech­ni­cal ad­min­is­tra­tion, such as pro­cess­ing bounced mes­sages, in­stalling fil­ters, or an­swer­ing tech­ni­cal queries. Off-list ad­min­is­tra­tion re­quired ac­cess to the Spoons’ Virginia ac­count, a good amount of train­ing, a mod­icum of po­lit­i­cal com­pat­i­bil­ity with the other mem­bers of the Collective, and an ac­tive in­ter­est in the Spoon Project as a whole. The func­tion of the on-list care­taker, on the other hand, was con­ceived as that of a stim­u­lant and di­rec­tion-im­part­ing force on the list it­self - as well as an early de­tec­tor of email loops and other po­ten­tially crip­pling prob­lems. The need for stub­born stim­u­la­tion and pushing” on the part of some on-list leadership” is poignantly il­lus­trated by the case of the above­men­tioned Collage Seminar - which con­denses, in a dra­matic and ex­treme fore­short­en­ing, the re­cur­ring dy­nam­ics of most open dis­cus­sion lists: an ini­tial burst of en­thu­si­as­tic ac­tiv­ity fol­lowed - grad­u­ally or abruptly - by ei­ther rel­a­tive si­lence or a set­tling into some kind of mostly in­dif­fer­ent rou­tine. This pat­tern usu­ally re­peats when­ever a new ini­tia­tive is pro­posed or un­der­taken on the list. The in­ten­sity of the ini­tial burst may be sus­tained for a rel­a­tively long pe­riod if there are one or two peo­ple on the list who are de­ter­mined to sus­tain it and who put a lot of ef­fort into it; but it ends when these peo­ple leave the dis­cus­sion - even though the list may have hun­dreds of sub­scribers.

In fact, the over­all his­tory of the Spoon space” as a whole shows the same pat­tern. Here, the pe­riod of ini­tial in­ten­sity seemed to largely co­in­cide with the par­tic­i­pa­tion on these lists of a hand­ful of peo­ple who made them the cen­ter of their cre­ative and in­tel­lec­tual ac­tiv­ity and who un­stint­ingly lent their own time and in­ten­sity to the life of the lists. After this hand­ful was slowly eroded dur­ing the first few years of Spoon’s ex­is­tence, it was never re­placed by a new con­tin­gent of sim­i­larly-in­clined peo­ple. The Spoons’ pol­icy of ap­point­ing vol­un­teer on-list caretakers” for each list was in­tended to en­sure pre­cisely the sus­te­nance of the in­ten­sity and in­tel­lec­tual alive­ness that char­ac­ter­ized the Spoon lists in their early pe­riod. But this was never re­ally suc­cess­ful. The vol­un­teers were ex­ceed­ingly hard to find, and when they were found, they did not usu­ally lend much cre­ative juice to the list. It is a bit puz­zling why this should be the case. One finds it hard to be­lieve that the ex­is­tence of peo­ple who have time to think, are ea­ger to find a chal­leng­ing in­tel­lec­tual en­vi­ron­ment, and are se­ri­ously in­ter­ested in the kinds of ques­tions and thinkers that the Spoon lists cen­tered around, was a fleet­ing pe­cu­liar­ity of the mid-90s. Nonetheless, such a con­stata­tion seems hard to es­cape.

As was men­tioned be­fore, the ex­pan­sion of the Spoons’ list col­lec­tion also en­tailed a cer­tain ex­pan­sion of the Collective it­self. In some cases, a per­son who had been run­ning a given list else­where would ask to trans­fer the list to Spoon and would also join the Collective; in oth­ers, some­one would join Spoon in or­der to start a brand-new list; in yet oth­ers, the on-list caretaker” of an ex­ist­ing list would ex­press an in­ter­est in join­ing the Collective. Since Spoon had never es­tab­lished any of­fi­cial poli­cies as to who could or could not join it, and had for­mu­lated no re­quire­ments per­tain­ing to the qual­ity of the work con­tributed by the mem­bers, it put it­self, a num­ber of times, in a po­si­tion of ac­cept­ing, and metic­u­lously train­ing, peo­ple who would, in ef­fect - by omis­sion or com­mis­sion - wind up sab­o­tag­ing var­i­ous as­pects of Spoons’ op­er­a­tion. The process of com­ing to re­al­ize the re­al­ity of such sab­o­tage, try­ing to peace­fully rem­edy the sit­u­a­tion, and fi­nally go­ing through the al­ways ac­ri­mo­nious and di­vi­sive ef­fort of ex­pul­sion con­sti­tuted a con­sid­er­able, and re­peated, drain on the col­lec­tive en­er­gies and will.

The in­crease in the num­ber of lists man­aged by the Collective, and the chang­ing cli­mate of the Internet it­self, re­sulted in an es­ca­la­tion in the amount of work in­volved in the tech-sup­port of the lists. Until late 1995, none of the lists had their post­ing re­stricted to sub­scribers, and the Olga spam” - in­struct­ing its read­ers how to find ro­mance in the for­mer USSR - which hit the Spoon lists in the Summer of that year, was an ex­otic event, whose re­cur­rence was pre­vented by hack­ing a spe­cial check for the word Olga” di­rectly into the Virginia Majordomo. In 2004, al­low­ing un­re­stricted posts on any list would be un­think­able; every day, the Collective would re­ceive about 700 pieces of non-sub­scriber spam bounced from the var­i­ous lists - spam that would have gone to the lists had they al­lowed un­re­stricted post­ing. But re­strict­ing posts to sub­scribers meant that le­git­i­mate posts from the sub­scribers’ al­ter­nate ad­dresses would also be bounced to Spoon - and so the per­son on ad­min­is­tra­tive ro­ta­tion would have to sift through the spam in search of a few le­git­i­mate posts that needed ap­proval. To di­min­ish the num­ber of such posts, the Collective added to Majordomo a func­tion for main­tain­ing sets of extra” ad­dresses that were per­mit­ted to post with­out hav­ing to be sub­scribed. New func­tions - later found more widely ap­plic­a­ble - were also added to Majordomo in sup­port of the Marxism lists, in an at­tempt to pre­vent known provo­ca­teurs or other de­struc­tive el­e­ments from post­ing or sub­scrib­ing.

In early 1997, there ap­peared on the Internet a pub­licly dowload­able pro­gram called Avalanche, which gave its user the ca­pa­bil­ity to mail­bomb his or her en­e­mies in a va­ri­ety of al­ter­na­tive ways, one of which was by sub­scrib­ing the vic­tim to all the lists of the Spoon Collective. As a re­sult, the Collective found it­self un­der an in­cred­i­ble as­sault, both from the sheer stream of forged sub­scrip­tions and from the en­raged vic­tims. The lat­ter prob­lem was fixed by a Majordomo hack which re­stricted the num­ber of sub­scrip­tions com­ing from a sin­gle source; the stream of re­quests hit­ting Majordomo, how­ever, al­though it abated over time as the nov­elty of Avalanche di­min­ished, did not fully cease un­til 2001, when the Spoon lists were moved from a ma­chine called jefferson” to a ma­chine called lists”.

One of the hid­den but po­ten­tially un­man­age­able prob­lems of run­ning a large set of lists is the prob­lem of er­ror bounces - i.e. bounces from dis­con­tin­ued or oth­er­wise prob­lem­atic sub­scriber ad­dresses. The proper han­dling of such bounces is to in­spect each of them so as to find the ad­dress caus­ing it, and then to un­sub­scribe this ad­dress from the list. If this is not done, the ad­dress will con­tinue to bounce for­ever, putting an ex­tra load on the mail sys­tem of the list’s host. This han­dling is a rel­a­tively easy task if one is run­ning one or two lists, but be­comes over­whelm­ing - as the Spoons found out early on - even if one is run­ning a hand­ful of lists with a few hun­dreds of sub­scribers, let alone tens of lists with many thou­sands of sub­scribers. Attempting to deal with these bounces (or ag­o­niz­ing about not be­ing able to deal with them) con­sti­tuted a ma­jor as­pect of the ad­min­is­tra­tive ro­ta­tion un­til the Summer of 1995, when the Spoons pro­duced a first im­ple­men­ta­tion of an au­to­matic er­ror han­dler - which, how­ever, did not reach an ac­cept­able ef­fi­cacy, and con­tin­ued to re­quire sub­stan­tial man­ual in­ter­ven­tion, un­til early 1998.

The hap­pen­ings and ten­den­cies touched upon in the pre­ced­ing para­graphs - and many oth­ers be­sides - had, as their com­bined ef­fect, an in­creas­ing es­trange­ment of the Collective from its in­di­vid­ual lists, an in­creas­ing laborization” of the work in­volved in run­ning them, and a grad­ual ex­haus­tion of col­lec­tive en­er­gies and in­vest­ments. The story of the Marxism lists, sum­ma­rized above, un­folded as an (admittedly ex­treme) con­se­quence of the Spoons’ al­most su­per­sti­tious re­luc­tance to de­mand of their lists that they should con­form to some pre-en­vi­sioned set of stan­dards or us­ages. The lists - so the Spoons ar­gued - should, in the ul­ti­mate analy­sis, be per­mit­ted to go wher­ever the sub­scribers want to take them, and be of what­ever use the sub­scribers wish to get out of them. The only reg­u­la­tion should come from the in­side, from the sub­scribers them­selves, their ideas and pas­sions. The con­se­quence, over the years, as the di­rect list-par­tic­i­pa­tion of in­di­vid­ual mem­bers of the Collective di­min­ished, was that the lists - even those that the Collective ran from its very in­cep­tion - were al­lowed to go in di­rec­tions which were in fact of no spe­cial in­ter­est to the very peo­ple who ran those lists and who con­tin­ued to shoul­der their te­dious and unin­spir­ing daily ad­min­is­tra­tion. In ef­fect, the main­te­nance of the Spoon lists be­came a pub­lic-ser­vice pro­ject, and the Collective be­came in­creas­ingly in­fected with the in­dif­fer­ence and ap­a­thy that of­ten char­ac­ter­izes pub­lic ser­vice in­sti­tu­tions. By 2004, for ex­am­ple, it be­came next to im­pos­si­ble to make any se­ri­ous col­lec­tive de­ci­sions - not, as in the past, be­cause of vig­or­ous dis­agree­ments in­side the Collective, but be­cause of an al­most com­plete anomie.

There can be lit­tle doubt that as far as pub­lic-ser­vice pro­jects go, Spoon could be deemed a wor­thy and quite suc­cess­ful one. In the course the 10 years of Spoon’s op­er­a­tion, many tens of peo­ple ac­tively par­tic­i­pated - ei­ther as full mem­bers or as caretakers” of spe­cific lists - in the work of the Collective; and close to 100 lists passed through its care. The en­vi­ron­ment it built be­came a renowned and val­ued Internet space” for pub­lic dis­cus­sion of crit­i­cal the­ory and of that stream in phi­los­o­phy which could be called the nat­ural phi­los­o­phy of Desire”; and many re­searchers, teach­ers and stu­dents made good use of it as a scholas­tic re­source. But if one wants to view the Spoon pro­ject in the spirit which presided over its cre­ation, and which, for years, sus­tained its en­er­gies, then one needs to eval­u­ate it not as a scholas­tic re­source, but rather as a mul­ti­plic­ity of ex­per­i­ments - in col­lec­tiv­ity and mi­crop­ol­i­tics, in the cre­ative uses of tech­nolo­gies, in the man­age­ment of open fo­rums, in pro­vok­ing and sus­tain­ing thought­ful pub­lic dis­cus­sions, in de­vel­op­ing new ways of think­ing, writ­ing, and in­ter­act­ing. From this point of view, the suc­cess of the pro­ject will de­pend on the ex­tent to which its ex­per­i­ments will serve as a spring­board for fu­ture analy­ses, ques­tion­ings, re­think­ing, and fur­ther ex­per­i­ments.

In the Spring of 2003, John Unsworth ac­cepted a po­si­tion at the University of Illinois, and in the Fall of that year he left the IATH. A year later, in the Spring of 2004, Bernard Frischer, then a pro­fes­sor of Classics at UCLA, was nom­i­nated as the new IATH di­rec­tor. During that year, the tech­ni­cal sup­port of the IATH for the Spoon Collective be­came per­cep­ti­bly more re­luc­tant, and in the Spring of 2004 the Collective re­ceived a let­ter from Daniel Pitti, Interim Co-Director of IATH, ques­tion­ing the for­mal sta­tus of the Collective at IATH and an­nounc­ing the IATHs in­tent to dis­con­tinue Majordomo sup­port and to adopt Mailman (which is not suit­able for cen­tral­ized ad­min­is­tra­tion of mul­ti­ple lists) as its sole list­server. Even though the Collective fur­nished some doc­u­ments prov­ing its sta­tus, and com­piled a tech­ni­cal doc­u­ment list­ing the func­tions it re­quired from its list­server, there would be no fur­ther re­ply from the IATH ad­min­is­tra­tion un­til November 30, at which point IATH briskly com­mu­ni­cated its de­ci­sion that the Spoon pro­ject did not fit in with the Institute’s core mis­sion” and would there­fore no longer be hosted.

At this point, how­ever, the Collective, whose mem­bers had been, for some of the rea­sons dis­cussed above, grow­ing in­creas­ingly weary of many as­pects of their daily ac­tiv­i­ties, had al­ready em­barked upon its own dis­so­lu­tion. Here, in part, is the let­ter from Askanas to the other Spoon mem­bers, dated November 15, 2004, which of­fi­cially dis­solved the Collective:

Let me start with an ex­ec­u­tive sum­mary. My po­si­tion, in short, is that the Spoon pro­ject has been dy­ing for a long time, and has been dead for a shorter, but still con­sid­er­able, time; that we should have dis­solved the Collective when this on­go­ing death first be­came ap­par­ent; and that I would like to hereby dis­solve it. As I have said when­ever the op­por­tu­nity pre­sented it­self, the Spoon pro­ject arose as a po­lit­i­cal pro­ject and the Spoon Collective as a po­lit­i­cal for­ma­tion. They arose, first of all, from an un­stated shared con­vic­tion that thought (what is be­ing thought and how) and life (the way daily life, in all its as­pects, is con­ducted) are in­sep­a­ra­bly linked with each other. The early phi­los­o­phy lists and Usenet groups, with their abil­ity to bring into mu­tual con­tact and con­fronta­tion think­ing peo­ple from all over the com­put­er­ized world - peo­ple from as­tound­ingly dif­fer­ent walks of life and with as­tound­ingly dif­fer­ent ways of think­ing, but with a shared pas­sion for more ac­cu­rate per­cep­tion and deeper un­der­stand­ing - seemed to pre­sent a stu­pen­dous po­ten­tial for evolv­ing new modes of thought and new modes of life. And it is cru­cial to note that when we were mo­ti­vated by a thirst for new modes of thought and life, it was for our­selves that we wanted them, right now. The pol­i­tics of the Spoon pro­ject were not a mat­ter of pro­vid­ing soap boxes for peo­ple to spread this or that doc­trine, or pro­vid­ing de­bat­ing fo­rums where peo­ple could pre­sent and swap ar­gu­ments, or pro­vid­ing aca­d­e­mic ex­change chan­nels, or even pro­vid­ing fo­rums where leftists” could get to­gether to safely gripe about the world, or swap ac­tivism sto­ries, or pass around pe­ti­tions. Rather, the pol­i­tics were about chang­ing life - the life we think and live - start­ing right now.

And I am not talk­ing about a utopian pro­ject. The fact is that for a while our lives were truly be­ing changed. They were be­ing changed be­cause (1) we our­selves were a group of in­tel­li­gent, pas­sion­ate, think­ing be­ings; (2) we were in­volved to­gether in a pro­ject re­quir­ing con­crete work, and had to deal with con­crete prob­lems whose res­o­lu­tion re­quired ac­tion­able con­fronta­tions be­tween our dif­fer­ent ways of be­ing and think­ing; (3) we each had an in­tense li­bid­i­nal in­vest­ment in the pro­ject. And an im­por­tant man­i­fes­ta­tion of this in­ten­sity was that each of us was sig­nif­i­cantly and pas­sion­ately ac­tive, on a daily ba­sis, on a num­ber of our own lists - not be­cause we re­al­ized that, in or­der to func­tion, they needed an external” push or provo­ca­tion or di­rec­tion, but be­cause the con­fronta­tions they af­forded us were, first and fore­most, tools for the up­heav­ing of our own ideas.

It is in­dis­putable that in the course of the past 10 years, this sit­u­a­tion has com­pletely changed, and it seems clear to me that the sin­gle as­pect that changed it was the with­drawal, on our part, of the li­bid­i­nal in­vest­ment. I re­ally don’t know if this could have been pre­vented had we made some dif­fer­ent de­ci­sions. It is clear that one can only change one’s thought and life if one is in­tensely in­vested in such a change. I think large pub­lic lists waste and ul­ti­mately burn out this in­ten­sity, sim­ply be­cause they force one to deal with nu­mer­ous id­iots, sabo­teurs, bu­reau­cratic an­tipro­duc­ers, peo­ple who speak, ar­gue and de­bate with­out any real in­ter­est ex­cept for killing time. For a while, one may gain in­sight from dis­cussing with such peo­ple, since one then forces one­self to ar­tic­u­late, ques­tion and test one’s own thoughts, but af­ter a while one has seen them all” and does­n’t want to have to talk to an­other one for as long as one lives. I think that if we had been faith­ful to our pol­i­tics, we should have nur­tured and pro­tected our own pro­duc­tive pas­sion by ruth­lessly get­ting rid from the lists of peo­ple whose participation” was a drag on it. I sim­ply don’t think that it is pos­si­ble to rec­on­cile the pol­i­tics that founded Spoon with a dif­fuse ideal of wide par­tic­i­pa­tion” and in­def­i­nitely pro­longed equal op­por­tu­nity”. But we never se­ri­ously con­fronted our­selves with such in­con­sis­ten­cies in our po­lit­i­cal think­ing, and our death be­gan as soon as we started evad­ing the aware­ness of their ex­is­tence.

I also think that, as we have sug­gested to each other many times, it was a mis­take to di­vide the lists by thinker, group of thinkers, and/​or aca­d­e­mic field. This en­cour­ages them to be joined by peo­ple who specialize” in the given thinker or field and who want to have more or less academic” con­ver­sa­tions about it. We thought that some­how be­cause we had a set” of lists, there would be sub­stan­tial cross-pol­li­na­tion and meld­ing of dis­cus­sions, but ob­vi­ously just hav­ing a bunch of lists in the same place does­n’t ac­com­plish that. I don’t know what would have ac­com­plished what we wanted - but what we, in­stead, wound up with is a struc­ture where the best one can hope for is to dis­cuss this or that as­pect of Deleuze with a group of peo­ple who make, or hope to make, their liv­ing out of Deleuze, and dis­cuss this or that as­pect of post­colo­nial the­ory with peo­ple who make, or hope to make, their liv­ing out of post­colo­nial the­ory.

To pur­sue the pol­i­tics which cre­ated Spoon, we should have changed our struc­tures and poli­cies when­ever, and as of­ten as, we per­ceived that they did not do for us what we wanted them to do, what in­spired our pas­sion. But, in­stead, we per­mit­ted them to stag­nate - in the name of stability”, community ser­vice”, responsibility” to the sub­scribers, and so on. In other words, we did not ac­cord to our own po­lit­i­cal pas­sion the re­spect and se­ri­ous­ness re­quired to keep it alive. The only stability” we should have served was the con­tin­u­ance of our own de­sire, and nur­tur­ing this de­sire should have been our only re­spon­si­bil­ity. But in­stead, we let it die. And then, in­stead of di­ag­nos­ing this death and end­ing the pro­ject, we let it drag on, ar­gu­ing - as we still do - that we don’t mind” do­ing the weekly ro­ta­tion, since it only takes X min­utes a day.

Well, I would like, at this late hour, to di­ag­nose the death of Spoon, is­sue a coro­ner’s re­port, and give the corpse its much over­due bur­ial. When I look at the mat­ter from a proper clin­i­cal per­spec­tive, I have to pro­claim that we should, in­deed, mind every minute we spend on do­ing ro­ta­tion, since it is a minute we are spend­ing in bore­dom and in­dif­fer­ence. And it has be­come in­creas­ingly ob­vi­ous that I mind every hour I have to spend do­ing tech­ni­cal Spoon work, even though I gladly spend the same time do­ing ex­actly the same tech­ni­cal work on other pro­jects that have the power to en­gage my thought and pas­sion. Moreover, I mind every bit of ef­fort I spend in the service” of the peo­ple pop­u­lat­ing our lists - peo­ple who, in large part, con­sider them­selves leftists” but have no ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the work, whether done as la­bor or out of pas­sion, that we put into run­ning this op­er­a­tion, no in­ter­est in by whom, how, and for what pur­pose the stuff they con­sume is pro­duced, no de­sire to build, to think, to live, but in­fi­nite claims as to what is owed” them. These peo­ple are not my po­lit­i­cal al­lies, and it should have been long ago my pol­i­tics to stop cater­ing to them. And I mind, too much to even try to over­come it, hav­ing to spend any time ne­go­ti­at­ing with the new guard at Virginia, ad­just­ing to the en­vi­ron­ment they might come up with, re­mind­ing them to put the right group per­mis­sions on the aliases file, and hav­ing to hope that the new IATH di­rec­tor, Bernie Frischer, will some­how take a shine to the Spoon Project. And the way to cure this malaise - this death so long past cur­ing - is not to take on, as some­one sug­gested, new responsibilities”, in the man­ner of peo­ple who beget chil­dren in or­der to keep the mar­riage to­gether”. The way to cure it is to stop pro­long­ing it. I my­self have been in­stru­men­tal much, much too long in pro­long­ing it, and I now, fi­nally, say Basta”. Spoon is dead. Let’s close shop.

And if some of you want to con­sider con­tin­u­ing the pro­ject in some form, I would like to stip­u­late that the con­tin­u­a­tion take place un­der a dif­fer­ent name. The names Spoon Project” and Spoon Collective” should be­long ex­clu­sively to the pro­ject that I have just de­clared to be dead. They should be per­mit­ted to re­fer, his­tor­i­cally, to a spe­cific col­lec­tive mo­ti­va­tion, a spe­cific mi­crop­o­lit­i­cal state which has run its course.”

At the time of its dis­so­lu­tion, the Collective ran about 50 lists, in­clud­ing: Anarchy-list, Aut-op-sy, Avant-garde, Bataille, Baudrillard, Bhaskar, Blanchot, Bourdieu, Crit-psych, Deleuze-guattari, Derrida, Dromology, Feyerabend, Film-theory, Foucault, Frankfurt-school, French-feminism, Habermas, Heidegger, Klossowski, List-proposals, Lyotard, Marxism-intro, Method-and-theory, Modernism, Nietzsche, Phillitcrit, Postanarchism, Postcolonial, Postcolonial-info, Puptcrit, Sa-cyborgs, Spoon-administration, Spoon-announcements, Surrealist, Technology, Third-world-women. The to­tal sub­scriber­ship of these lists in November of 2004 was about 12, 000. The Collective had 8 mem­bers: Malgosia Askanas, Jon Beasley-Murray, Jim Castonguay, Radhika Gajjala, Reg Lilly, Mark Nunes, Judith Poxon, and Shawn Wilbur.

By M. Askanas

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