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Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics [517-18]

comportment toward various beings, within which ordinary understanding is able to manage and find its way through. The enormity of that indifference pertaining to ordinary understanding is that such understanding fails to hear the being of beings and is able to acquaint itself only with beings. Beings are the beginning and end of its accomplishments. In other words, precisely that distinc­tion which ultimately and fundamentally makes possible all distinguishing and all distinctiveness remains closed off from ordinary understanding. If the essence of understanding consists precisely in distinguishing (it has been regarded in terms of κρίνειν from time immemorial), then ordinary understanding in all its glory can only be what it is on the grounds of that distinction it believes it can do without.

What kind of distinction is this: 'being of beings'? Being and beings. Let us freely concede that it is obscure and cannot straightforwardly be made like that between black and white, house and garden. Why can a straightforward distinction be made in these cases? Because it is a distinction between beings and beings. Such a distinction can be made—in an entirely formal and universal way—both when it is located within one and the same domain and when it obtains between beings belonging to domains that are different in kind, such as, for example, between a motorbike and a triangle, or between God and the number 'five'. Although the distinctions are difficult to determine in detail, the immediate way of approaching every such determination is after all given of its own accord, as it were—namely oriented toward beings, such as those we constantly encounter, even if we do not specifically grasp them or even submit them to a comparative examination in order to make distinctions.

Yet: beings and being. Here the difficulty does not lie in first determining the kind of distinction, rather we are already unsure and at a loss to begin with, when we wish merely to attain the field or dimension in which to make the distinction. For this dimension is not to be found among beings. Being is not some being among others; rather all the things which we previously dis­tinguished between, together with their relevant realms, now fall on the side of beings. And being? We do not know where to accommodate it. Furthermore, if the two are fundamentally different, then nevertheless they are still related to one another in this distinction: the bridge between the two is the 'and'. Thus this distinction as a whole is in its essence a completely obscure distinction. Only if we endure this obscurity will we become sensitive to what is problem­atic, and thereby reach a position from which we can develop the central problem inherent in this distinction and thus comprehend the problem of world.

The distinction between being and beings, or the being of beings for short­—this is such and such, that is, this is not so, this is. We shall try to set out what is problematic about this distinction in various directions in a series of nine points. We do so in order to gain a foothold in the problem: not so much to solve it, but in order to have an opportunity to continually bring closer to us

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