Early Greek Philosophy & Other Essays Collected Works, Volume Two

By Friedrich Nietzsche

Page 71

of Uncertainty, only a board,
broad enough to lie on! Everything becoming, everything luxuriant,
varied, blossoming, deceiving, stimulating, living, take all that for
yourselves, and give to me but the single poor empty Certainty!"

In the philosophy of Parmenides the theme of ontology forms the
prelude. Experience offered him nowhere a "Being" as he imagined it to
himself, but from the fact that he could conceive of it he concluded
that it must exist; a conclusion which rests upon the supposition
that we have an organ of knowledge which reaches into the nature of
things and is independent of experience. The material of our thinking
according to Parmenides does not exist in perception at all but is
brought in from somewhere else, from an extra-material world to which
by thinking we have a direct access. Against all similar chains of
reasoning Aristotle has already asserted that existence never belongs
to the essence, never belongs to the nature of a thing. For that very
reason from the idea of "Being"--of which the _essentia_ precisely is
only the "Being"--cannot be inferred an _existentia_ of the "Being" at
all. The logical content of that antithesis "Being" and "Not-Being"
is perfectly nil, if the object lying at the bottom of it, if the
precept cannot be given from which this antithesis has been deduced
by abstraction; without this going back to the precept the antithesis
is only a play with conceptions, through which indeed nothing is
discerned. For the merely logical criterion of truth, as Kant teaches,
namely the agreement of a discernment with the general and the formal
laws of intellect and reason is, it is true, the _conditio sine qua
non,_ consequently the negative condition of all truth; further however
logic cannot go, and logic cannot discover by any touchstone the error
which pertains not to the form but to the contents. As soon, however,
as one seeks the content for the logical truth of the antithesis:
"That which is, is; that which is not, is not," one will find indeed
not a simple reality, which is fashioned rigidly according to that
antithesis: about a tree I can say as well "it is" in comparison with
all the other things, as well "it becomes" in comparison with itself
at another moment of time as finally also "it is not," _e.g._," it is
not yet tree," as long as I perhaps look at the shrub. Words are only
symbols for the relations of things among themselves and to us, and
nowhere touch absolute truth; and now to crown all, the word "Being"
designates only the most general relation, which connects

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