Late Heidegger and Aletheia

Late in his career, Heidegger affirms the longstanding criticism of his reading of the Greek ‘aletheia‘ as unconcealment. In his 1964 lecture The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking, Heidegger writes:

The natural concept of truth does not mean unconcealment, not in the philosophy of the Greeks either.  It is often and justifiably pointed out that the word alethes is already used by Homer only in the verba dicendi, in statement and thus in the sense of correctness and reliability, not in the sense of unconcealment. (See, “The End of Philosophy” in On Time and Being, p. 70).

Although Paul Friedländer had sought in his book entitled simply, Plato, to deny that the alpha in aletheia was to be understood as a privative, it is really Heribert Boeder’s 1959 essay Der frühgriechische Wortgebrauch Von Logos und Aletheia that seems to prompt Heidegger to revise his long standing insistence that aletheia named the originary Greek understanding of being as unconcealment. Boeder argues convincingly in his essay that truth as aletheia in Greek epic poetry was rooted in the world of human communication and grew out of that context.

In my forthcoming book, The Saying of Things: The Truth of Nature and the Nature of Truth in Aristotle, I argue that the question of truth has always been rooted in human being together even as it increasingly came to designate the dynamic relationship between human beings and the things they encounter.

In affirming Boeder, however, Heidegger moves too quickly from the idea that aletheia is in Greek epic always associated with verbs of saying, to the conclusion that this implies that aletheia is understood simply “in the sense of correctness and reliability.” This assumption causes Heidegger to renounce the Greeks in order to insist that aletheia names “the opening of presence concealing itself, the opening of a self-concealing sheltering” (“The End of Philosophy” in On Time and Being, p. 71).

Yet this self-concealing sheltering too gives itself to language and for this reason, aletheia can be heard to name the attempt to articulate things as they show themselves to be. So, even if, as Aaron Krempa suggested in our 9/1 PHIL553 class, Lyotard criticizes Heidegger in “The Differend” for his anthropocentric views, here, it seems that Heidegger has sought to affirm a conception of aletheia that is independent of the human. But aletheia has always involved the human and, more specifically, it does not point the neutral and abstract happening of being; rather, aletheia but to the site of the human encounter with being, that is, to the site of self-concealing appearing.

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