The Path's Forking: Toward a Dialetheic Account of Heidegger's Truth

Andrej Jovićević

KU Leuven (Belgium)


In light of the recent proposal of a dialetheic reading of Heidegger's thinking presented by Filippo Casati (2018, 2021), this article proposes a reading of Heidegger's pre-Kehre discussions of truth as harboring a deeper dialetheic concern. We consider Heidegger's concept of truth, especially as it was presented in his 1932-3 lecture course The Essence of Truth (2002b), and offer a dialetheic reading of Heidegger's statement that the essence of truth is the essence of untruth. By way of this discussion, we consider the mechanisms of hiddenness, unhiddenness and covering in Heidegger's conceptual reading of Plato and propose that it is precisely the dialetheic account of truth that allows Heidegger to distance himself from the propositional/Platonic accounts of the same concept.

- “[M]etaphysics and everything essential has a logic quite different from that of sound common understanding” 1

§1. Introduction.

In his recently published book, Filippo Casati argues for a dialetheic interpretation of Heidegger's understanding of being in light of the paradoxes of self-reference that arise due to the ontological difference between being and beings. 2 According to Casati, whether we take Heidegger's understanding of being (das Sein) as the condition of intelligibility or the condition of existence of everything that is (i.e., beings, or die Seiende), being proves itself contradictory.3 If being is defined as necessarily different from everything that is (i.e., every existing thing), and if in speaking of some-thing we say that it “is” with equal necessity, being is at once both something of which we speak (or something that is) and something that, by virtue of the very definition of being, can neither be nor be spoken of. In Casati's view, accepting this and similar paradoxes of self-reference is a viable course of action that leads to dialetheism – i.e., the non-classical logic which affirms “truth-value gluts,” 4 or valuations that ascribe both truth and falsity to a variable. However, and as Casati openly notes in the Conclusion, 5 such a dialetheist reading seems to be fundamentally at odds with Heidegger's rejection of propositional truth. It seems that any logical approach is essentially at odds with a discourse consisting not in “a series of propositions, but rather [in] the movement of showing.”6 As such, Casati ends his book with a promissory indication of a future work which would address the potential (in)compatibility of dialetheism with Heidegger's non-propositional understanding of truth. This article situates itself within the possibility of such an elaboration.

Given the centrality of the questions concerning of truth, knowledge, and being in ancient Greek inquiries, and the centrality of such inquiries for Heidegger's philosophical work, we propose to pursue this elaboration through Heidegger's discussion of Plato. More specifically, we will investigate Heidegger's understanding of truth as given in his lecture course on The Essence of Truth, and, more specifically, in his dealing with Plato's Theaetetus. It is our main contention that, despite the apparent tension between propositional dialetheism and Heidegger's non-propositional understanding of truth, Heidegger's non-propositional aletheia is di-aletheic, i.e., that it affirms the existence of true contradictions in the form of the coincidence of opposites on a primordial, non-propositional level. This dialetheic understanding is preserved most significantly in Heidegger's ‘formula’: the question concerning the essence of truth is the question concerning the essence of untruth. Through a close reading of Heidegger's analysis of the Theaetetus, we want to dispel most (dialectical/mystical/poetic) misunderstandings that could arise in reading this formula, as well as give more attention to Heidegger's Platonic path and its rejection of principles of classical logic (which is only a part of Heidegger's rejection of common sense). These latter rejections will allow us to factor in the negative reasons for why Heidegger's position might be dialetheist, while an understanding of Heidegger's alternative to Plato will give us the positive ones.

We will proceed as follows: first, we will give a broad outline of Heidegger's primordial understanding of truth qua unhiddenness and its relation to hiddenness (Sec. 2); then, we will consider Heidegger's analysis of the two first answers given by Theaetetus in the Platonic dialogue (Sec. 3 and 4); finally, we will examine the method of forking in order to arrive (once again) at two opposed understandings of truth: the propositional/Platonic on the one hand and the primoridal/Heideggerian on the other (Sec 5 and 6). We will conclude by reflecting on Casati's work and making a final case for Heidegger's truth dialetheias (Sec. 7) in relation to the tension we sketched above.

§2. Common Sense, Unhiddenness and its Essence.

Heidegger's reflections on the essence and nature of truth can be found throughout his pre-Kehre work: one immediately thinks of§44 of Being and Time, 7 his essays from the 1930s "Plato's Doctrine of Truth" and "The Essence of Truth" collected in Pathmarks 8 and his 1931-2 lecture course that has been published under the title The Essence of Truth. 9 For Heidegger, thus, coming to grips with truth was one of the essential tasks in accounting for the nature and comportment of Dasein in view of its existential analytic.10 It could be said that truth, for Heidegger, stands at the forefront not only of every philosophical reflection worthy of its name but also of every Dasein's relation to the world—of its disclosedness. As he says in an early lecture course, “in order to see anything of the anthropological structure in which man [stands], we need to return to the phenomena of άληθεύειν, the uncovering and disclosure of the world” (Heidegger 1997: 256). However, in Heidegger's eyes, the overall importance of this reflection is not done justice by the history of philosophy and its prevalent conception of truth as correspondence between a thing and its mental representation. 11 Moreover, in considering truth in this limited way, the“noble antiquity” reveals itself “even more bound to this self-evidence”12 than our common conception of truth.

Thus begins Heidegger's rampage against common sense: in dealing with the question of the essence of truth, it is seemingly obvious that one should begin with accounting for the way we grasp essence—a method of generalization by which we arrive at that which is shared by all particulars—and applying this account to all particular truths.13 The question of the essence of truth, under the auspice of self-evidence, turns into a question of the commonality of all particular truths: what do all truths have in common and what is it that makes these truths true? "The true, [Heidegger writes,] whether it be a matter or a proposition, is what accords, the accordant." 14 The self-evident understanding of truth as correspondence/accordance (of matter to what it should be or, more significantly, of proposition to matter) is the dominant understanding of truth. It is important to note that Heidegger does not reject correctness (i.e., accordance of matter to a proposition) tout court, but only that he questions the primacy of such an understanding and seeks to base it in a more fundamental one. Thus, Heidegger accepts the existence of everyday, verifiable truths, but argues that another,15 originary understanding of truth exists as a (transcendental) condition for the former.16 It is in this sense—i.e., in trying to uncover the primordial signification of truth—that Heidegger returns to the ancient Greek formulation of truth as a-letheia, i.e., unhiddenness. Unhiddenness, which is how Heidegger now understands and translates truth, is a precondition in the sense that without this self-showing of beings to man, putting two things in accord would be impossible; the unhiddenness of beings gives Dasein the ability to openly comport itself17 and direct itself toward that which shows itself. Truth, thus understood, takes on a broader sense and refers to the structure that makes Dasein's directed comportment possible: it refers to the primary field of intelligibility at work in all direction-ing, or Dasein's relation toward what immediately surrounds it.18 As such, truth is in a direct relation to being.19

Why was it so hard for philosophy (a designation that is extended to all philosophy, in Heidegger’s view, beginning with Plato) to get beyond understanding truth as correctness?20 When Heidegger returns to aletheia in returning to the inception of occidental thinking, he is returning not to a mere word, but rather to the experience of hiddenness21 which accords significance to unhiddenness in the first place and which necessarily follows each opening instance of unhiddenness and the truth of being. Heraclitus' fragment—according to which nature loves to hide itself—is essential here: it points to the essential outside-ness of the self-showing of beings to Dasein, it shows that Dasein—despite enabling being to show itself in its comportment—is nevertheless at the mercy of the struggle between the unhidden and the hidden, what is true and what is untrue. In so far as being, that which properly speaking is not (in the sense in which beings [die Seiende ] are, and are said to be), shows itself and gives itself in its truth qua unhiddenness, it is necessarily hidden in the same instance. It is in this sense that Heidegger can affirm, much later, that “It, being, gives itself. But [...] It gives itself and refuses itself simultaneously.”22 As Reiner Schürmann writes, such an understanding

signals the dual movement in being: the giving of whatever happens to be un[hidden], and the undertow back toward [hiddenness]. It shows presencing as binomial, under the double law (nomos) of giving and of taking back. Heidegger describes the play of [unhiddenness] as a violent struggle: the struggle of the lightness of world against the weight of earth [...].23

This violent struggle is as enigmatic as it is violent; according to Jean-Luc Marion, “the phenomenon offers itself as the enigma of the forever unobjectifiable play of the apparent with the unapparent.”24

Two misunderstandings of the back-and-forth movement could arise; we will treat both presently. (1) On the one hand, one could take Heidegger to be implying that Dasein's experience in directed comportment involves a hiddenness of the whole (in the sense that Dasein, in comporting itself to the particular, loses the whole from view). Such a reading would lead one to believe that the relation between hiddenness and unhiddennes was one of sporadic shifting on the empirical level, and not one of contradictory coexistence. However, given that truth qua unhiddenness is considered, as we noted above, to be a ground and precondition of truth qua correspondence (and other meaningful relations to everything that exists), it is not clear that such particular instantiations of perceptual shifting fully account for the grounding phenomenon of hiddenness Heidegger has in mind. Furthermore, it is not clear that the hiddenness of a part of the ‘perceptual’ field amounts to the hiddenness of being which is, as we noted above, hidden by definition and not by means of a contingent arrangement.

(2) On the other, one could take this movement as being simply dialectical, as implying the necessity of containing one's other within oneself for the constitution of identity. On the face of it, this interpretation seems more plausible. Indeed, dialectical thinking is what first comes to mind when one is confronted with contradictions in philosophy: “Supposing the contradictory statements about being and about time could be reconciled by an encompassing unity, this indeed would be a way out,”25 Heidegger writes. After all, Werner Marx has convincingly shown, in his book Heidegger and the Tradition,26 the affinity between Hegel and Heidegger when it comes to the question of intelligibility and of truth. In contrast to Aristotle, who conceived the nature of being as completely intelligible and transparent in light of the basic properties of nous, W. Marx maintains that Hegel's reflection on the nature of truth helped bring to the fore the essential dimensions of darkness, hiding and error.27 Despite this, however, Marx claims that Hegel's view of being still ends up privileging the light of reason and its power of sublating untruth and healing the obscurity by the power of nous.28 The author also maintains, and quite correctly at that, that Heidegger's conception of aletheia involves not a static unconcealment in the sense of constant presence (the alleged product of the teleological movement of Hegel's system), but a verbal sense of presencing that involves a constant strife between the opposed movements of concealing and unconcealing.29 As such, we should be able to dismiss the dialectic interpretation as well, as Heidegger himself urges us to do in saying that “the sentence ‘the essence of truth is un-truth’ should not be taken to claim [...] that truth is never itself but, dialectically represented, is always its opposite as well.”30

Given the issues attached to both interpretations, then, this movement is neither that of the hiddenness of the whole, nor of dialectical sequencing, but rather (as we will argue in relation to dialetheism) the primordial (i.e., transcendental) coincidence of the two notions which internally differentiate themselves.32 Heidegger says, for instance, that "un-hiddenness and hiddenness are bound up with what is null and invalid, not on the basis of a formal external differentiation of the two, but in themselves. "32 This insight—that "[u]ntruth is not an opposite that occurs alongside (next to truth), and that [it] must also and subsequently be taken into account"—allows Heidegger to make the apparently astonishing claim that the question regarding the essence of truth is to be approached via the essence of untruth,33 or Schürmann to claim that absencing and presencing (as originary movements of an-archic unfolding) permeate each other.34 As stated in the introduction, it is our contention that the main thrust of Heidegger's dialetheism is contained in this guiding statement. However, the importance Heidegger ascribes to this way of approaching the question of truth might get lost through overemphasizing any specific formulation of it and taking it as a mere methodological device. Instead of distinguishing between method – i.e., a way of asking a question – and the product of the methodic inquiry, Heidegger takes ”˜method’ to be part and parcel of the ‘product’ and not a mere propaedeutic. This is why Heidegger somewhat evocatively speaks of “rediscover[ing] that stretch of the path of the question concerning the essence of untruth”35 as a way of approaching truth in a non-propositional way.

The question about the essence of untruth is Heidegger's entry point into the discussion of Plato's Theaetetus; more specifically, Heidegger analyses the first two answers Theaetetus gives to Socrates' question on the essence of knowledge. For the sake of brevity—and given that our main goal is highlighting Heidegger's account of untruth in the Platonic dialogue—we will mention the first part of Heidegger's analysis (namely: Theaetetus' claim that knowledge is perception) only in relation to the second.

§3. Heidegger's Analysis of the Theaetetus.

What is at stake, for Heidegger, in Theaetetus' first claim that episteme (knowledge) is aisthesis (perception)? Heidegger emphasizes that Theaetetus' first answer does not mean the same thing to the Greeks as it means to modern man, entrenched as he is in epistemological considerations: when aisthesis is invoked, what is referred to is not the most naïve "version" of knowing, but rather the one that is most certain to the Greek mind. The move Heidegger implicitly makes here is that of once again establishing truth (i.e., unhiddenness) as the field of intelligibility (which he now calls perceivedness) and involving Dasein's directed comportment as its centrepiece. He argues that "perceivedness appears the most immediate mode of the unhiddenness of something, thus the most tangible 'truth' [...] For the Greeks, nothing is more self-evident than to interpret possession of ἀλήθεια [aletheia] [which is, of course, of significant import to knowledge] first of all as αἴσθησις [aisthesis]."36 Theaetetus, in short, does not make a naive claim, but rather testifies to the natural comportment of man toward that which shows itself, that which is unhidden in the world.37

This enables Heidegger, albeit much later, to define why the first answer is ultimately rejected (or expanded upon, to be precise): it is not that Theaetetus' answer should be assimilated to empiricism and rejected on such grounds,38 but rather that this answer assimilates unhiddenness to presence (what-is-present, phantasia) to the point where the two terms become identical.39 In this sense, Heidegger is perfectly in line with the guiding light of his inquiry: “[b]eing is not perceivable [wahrnehmbar],”40 since “[t]he being of entities 'is' not itself an entity.”41 Only beings (i.e., entities) are perceivable, while being remains in excess over and against the entities; as such, equating knowledge with perception does not suffice.

This fault, however, only gets accentuated when one moves to the phenomena of untruth, i.e., pseudes doxa: it is only when confronted with the phenomenon of distorted views—a phenomenon that is so widespread and present that it must not give way to Socrates' (Plato's) inability to properly define it42 —that we begin to see why unhiddenness—i.e., Dasein's comportment toward what shows itself—has a much broader scope than that of which merely shows-itself in the present as perceived (Heidegger also refers to this, in a shorter phrase, as having-present). Most of Socrates' discussion of the second answer has this in mind: namely, showing that distorted views do exist and that this phenomenon cannot be thought through using the simple equation of unhiddenness to what is present. The problem is self-explanatory: on the one hand, Dasein directs itself to something that is unhidden even when it holds a distorted view, and yet, when unhiddenness is taken as mere presence, it is impossible to think distorted views which engage in precisely un-hiding what is non-present, i.e., disclosing what is not.43 This paradox amounts, in short, to “saying that there is [...] a δηλουν [deloun], a revealing, and that this λέγειν [legein] is ψευδή [pseudē], it distorts.”44 Thus: unhiddenness must contain within itself something-more-than-presence (something more than having-present), as it were, in order to account for the phenomenon of distorted views.

§4. Theaetetus' Second Answer: Rejecting Common Sense.

Whereas, as we saw in §3, Heidegger arrives at the necessity of widening the scope of unhiddenness in an indirect way, he does the same in a way that is more in touch with the Platonic text: the analysis here bears on Socrates' five attempts at accounting for distorted views and, more importantly, the transition from the first three attempts to the fourth and fifth. In giving a detailed account of Heidegger's analysis, we will emphasize its rejection of logical common sense, as presented in the often-presupposed principle of the excluded third.

Socrates' first three attempts at accounting for pseudes doxa can be enumerated as follows: a distorted view results from (1) a combination of knowledge and non-knowledge (cf. 188a11-b2)45 or (2) a person referring to something that is-not (cf. 188d3-5); finally, (3) from an “interchange” of one thing for another (cf. 189b10). These answers are easily done away with by Socrates. (The significant point for Heidegger's analysis, here, is that Socrates dispenses with phenomena of learning and forgetting at 188a2-4.) (1) If it were a question of mixing up knowledge and non-knowledge, then we would have two options—either knowing and not knowing at the same time (which is absurd as it violates the principle of non-contradiction), or neither knowing nor not knowing (which leads to having no view). However, the violation of the principle of non-contradiction is taken, by Socrates, to be a consequence of failing to abide by the principle of the excluded middle which is agreed upon at the outset;46 in other words, truth-value gluts are rejected if it is accepted that “he who forms opinion must form opinion either about what he knows or about what he does not know” (188a7-8). (2) If it were a question of referring to something which is not, this would be absurd in that one can only refer to something that is (according to the Parmenidean wisdom). Socrates here abides by the same duality of the principles of non-contradiction and the excluded middle: on the non-formalized level of Socratic inquiry, the argument again proceeds by excluding the third and concluding it “impossible to hold an opinion of that which is not” (189b), i.e., concluding it is impossible to maintain a view and its negation at the same time. (3) If it were a question of substituting one thing for another (i.e., saying that the beautiful is ugly or that the horse is an ox),47 this would simply result in an impossible phenomenon and not at all in a distorted view; saying that one thing is something else, as Plato says, would be “talking nonsense” (190e1).48 At this point in the analysis, one might again ask oneself what side will budge first: will we first arrive at a way of accounting for distorted views or will distorted views themselves evaporate as a result of the inability to explain them?

It is clear that giving an answer to this type of question is difficult, but it is equally clear to Heidegger that the phenomenon, or the substantial inquiry into the matter itself, must not budge. What must come to pass, then? A similar situation, now in regard to the possibility of ψευδής λόγος [pseudés logos] in Plato's Sophist, can serve as our guiding light;49 Heidegger's succinct presentation of the problem and the alternative Plato faced is mirrored in the Theaetetus:

either to allow the matters themselves their right and bind oneself on the basis of them to a ruthless opposition against all pre-established theory, or to adhere to the tradition simply because it is venerable and thereby renounce oneself and give up research, which is always research into the matters themselves.50

The most interesting point of Heidegger's presentation of Plato occurs just at such internal junctures: the only way, Heidegger claims, that the analysis of the Theaetetus can continue is if we entirely dispense with the "guiding perspectives" of Socrates' first three answers.51 If indeed, as Heidegger claims, "the puzzling character of the phenomenon is heightened and shows itself in its various aspects,"52 this is precisely because it has forced us into rethinking the guiding principles which were taken as self-evident in our questionings. The guiding principles—or rather, the guiding principle—Heidegger refers to here is that of the excluded third, or rather the principle that intuitively makes Socrates reject any possibility other than knowing (P) or not-knowing (¬P).

It is important, at this point, to shortly gloss the relation between the Law of Non-Contradiction (LNC) and the Law of Excluded Middle (LEM). Unfortunately, due to the length and the scope of the article it is impossible to fully account for the subtle differences between the two Laws with respect to paraconsistent logic. What can be said, however, is that the two Laws are taken to be co-implicative or dual in Socrates' analyses (as we noted above); moreover, on this reading, violating the exclusion of the third leaves the question open as to what exactly violates it (i.e., whether the violation occurs through a truth-value glut that assigns two contradictory truth values to a variable or through a truth-value gap that assigns no truth values). In principle, then, Socrates' analysis is largely undecided and the two Laws are dual.53 However, in practice, Socrates opts for one of the options – namely, the option of truth-value gluts, as we specified in the paragraph above – and attacks it for its failure to abide by the principle of the excluded third. Although contemporary accounts of paraconsistent logic clearly distinguish between the rejection of LEM and the introduction of gaps, on one side, and the rejection of LNC and the introduction of gluts, on the other,54 no such strict parallelism holds for Socrates.55 In other words, it is precisely LEM, in its classical coextension with LNC, that holds Socrates/Plato back from affirming true contradictions, or dialetheism. This is what Heidegger's critical analysis amounts to with regard to Plato, and it is within this landscape that Heidegger develops his dialetheist position.

In short, Heidegger implies that the principle of the excluded third impedes Socrates' analysis to the point where it is rendered useless. The excluded third as an indispensable presupposition is at work most prominently in the first two answers Socrates offers: in the first, it is supposed that a thing can either be known or not-known—with no possibility of there being a third;56 in the second, it is supposed both that a thing can either be or not be57 and that something that is not (i.e., which co-implies non-being in any manner) is immediately not (which is a correlate of the equation of unhiddenness and presence).58 It is Heidegger's contention that this is an overlooked aspect of the dialogue in that “the usual interpretation [believes] that Theaetetus commits logical errors, and that Socrates/Plato is engaged in a frivolous game of words.”59 Nothing of the sort is at work. Rather, Plato

makes a tremendous effort to combat the domination of everyday talk and to resist the power of that healthy common sense [...] That there is something 'between' knowing and not-knowing, and between being and being-nothing, is certainly not self-evident. And that this intermediate is more than an intermediate: this is quite hidden to the self-evidence of the common understanding.60

The preconceived opinion which would have us believe that this between is not the crux of the matter, but that it is rather null, must immediately be done away with if we are to account for untruth.61

The fourth and the fifth answer proceed in this way, according to Heidegger's analysis, in that a "retracting [of] the guiding perspectives of the preliminary investigation in favour of previously denied intermediate phenomena" is at work.62 Plato offers two positive perspectives which do not adhere to the guiding perspectives (Heidegger's code for the excluded third): the wax mass and the aviary. Going into these perspectives at length would be tedious and unnecessary since what is important for our account is the shift in perspective that is implied in this transition. What the wax mass and the aviary similes present is an attempt to account for the processes and changes at work in Dasein's comportment toward the unhidden (i.e., knowledge, as Heidegger sees it); they account for learning, forgetting, coming to know, remembering, reusing, storing away/activation of knowledge, etc.63 More importantly, in getting closer (albeit not fully arriving at, as we will learn) to the phenomena of distorted views, what these similes show is that unhiddenness cannot be reduced to presence—and this time in a positive way, i.e., through accounting for the precise ways in which Dasein's comportment involves a wider span of directions.64 What they present us with, in short, are new possibilities for Dasein in its directedness toward the world; more specifically, these possibilities make sense of Dasein's temporal constitution and its necessary reckoning toward the future while having the past in view. Heidegger refers to these possibilities as “making-present in the broadest sense”65 as opposed to having-present as (merely) aisthesis. He writes:

We are always comporting ourselves to beings, even when we do not immediately perceive them [...] [T]here are two ways in which every being accessible to us can stand, and be had, in our presence [i.e., having-present and making-present]. At bottom it is this essential twofold possibility, pertaining to every accessible being, that Plato wants to bring out.66

Despite his wishes, however, Plato was fundamentally incapable of bringing such consequences out; Heidegger takes it upon himself to show in what way this can be done. The last and most original passage of the '31-2 lecture course (to which we are now turning) presents the most sustained case for a dialetheic conception of truth as the alternative to a commonsensical understanding of truth.

§5. The Forking of the Paths.

The guiding question of Heidegger's last three sections (§44-6) is the following: if unhiddenness is not reducible to presence and forming and having views (doxazein) cannot be reduced to aisthesis—and if we know what the excess of the former over the latter is (namely: phenomena of retention connected to change and temporality)—how is the object of the view (doxa) constituted? In short: if doxa is "a combination of what is encountered in immediate having-present with what is made-present in advance,”67 how are having-present and making-present combined in order to account for both true and false views? Having-present and making-present are combined through a method of forking.68 The encountered object is confronted by two prongs of this metaphorical fork, where one prong goes straight at the object and takes it as perceived, while the other, longer prong goes upwards and necessarily disperses itself, thereby showing that making-present has a wider, not-existentially-present scope. The object is irreducible to either of the two "perspectives," and, as we saw, restricting our considerations to only the first is detrimental in that certain phenomena are left in the dark.

Given this twofold perspective on view-forming, how are distorted views explained? Before Heidegger provides the answer, he notes that in this respect his analysis goes beyond the Platonic text.69 For Heidegger, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the direction Plato's discussion here takes is indicative of the way in which truth and falsity are understood in subsequent philosophy. Plato's position on the forking, in Heidegger's translation, is as follows: “It is precisely in relation to what we perceive [i.e., have-present] simultaneously through making-present, that viewing something as something [the doxa] twists and turns, becoming sometimes distorted, sometimes not.”70 In short, what accounted for the widening of the scope of unhiddenness, here accounts for distorted views: when one brings into play the longer prong of retention, one is immediately prone to a mis-taking (that is nevertheless a taking, a comporting-toward something that, albeit non-existent and distorted can serve as the object of directionality).71

Everything still hangs in the air at this point: what import does Plato ascribe to the mis- taking that is a result of incorporating making-present qua retentive bringing-before-oneself? As we said above, in Heidegger's eyes, this is the point at which the entire history of philosophy may or may not go astray—it is here that decisions are to be made. The importance of this problem in Heidegger's interpretation seems to warrant close scrutiny of Plato's text. Some have rightly argued, however, that Heidegger can hardly be said to have employed his exegetical skills when this problem is concerned;72 much to the contrary, an apparent sleight of hand is at work in the analysis in that “Heidegger does little more than assert [...] Plato's view.”73 Hence the abrupt conclusion: the decision has already been made by Plato in that he takes the two prongs of the fork in a way that leads to correspondence: the question Plato asks regarding the prongs is only a question pertaining to coincidence, it is only that of correspondence—namely, does the making-present correspond to what we have present? (The question of the combination, in short, is itself a question of correspondence.)

Despite the apparent sleight of hand, Heidegger nevertheless refers to an important point of tension in Plato's text. Right after establishing the prospect of ‘turning and twisting’, i.e., the notion of falsity in its own right, Plato clarifies by a strict separation between the true and the false: a doxa is “true when it puts the proper imprints and seals fairly and squarely upon one another, and false when it applies them sideways and aslant” (194b4-7). That which is present is thus fundamental, it is the guarantor of a non-distorted view—that against which a proposition is measured and the main arbiter of correctness. Mis-taking, for all the attention we have given to the notion, is not a taking after all: "mis-taking does not hit what is made-present in advance. It is a missing of the mark, a failure of the intended predicate.”74 Plato automatically swerves into negation: the predicate is measured against that of which it is predicated, its directionality is ascribed either correctness or un-correctness—either truth or falsity (with no third)—and distortion is nowhere to be seen. “Missing the mark is a failure of direction: a being-un-correct. The mis-taking look [...] is an un-correct addressing. [...] Thus Plato grasps the essence of the ψεῦδος [pseudos, i.e., the false] as the un-correctness of the λόγος [logos], of the proposition. In this way the λόγος becomes the seat and locus of the ψεῦδος,"75 instead of distortedness being the seat and locus of the logos. Truth, moreover, is contained within the predicate and untruth is the negation of the predicate's correctness.

Indeed, there is no more room to wonder about what is meant by truth and being; this question, as Heidegger writes, “comes too late. For this character of Being has long since been decided without our contribution.”76 Everything has already been decided: aletheia (unhiddenness) is subordinated to logos—truth is subordinated to propositions. Instead of aletheia being truth qua what is unhidden, it starts being truth qua what is correct (the arbiter being divine,77 and its sole opposition being incorrectness). Falsity is reduced to a mere negation of truth and is not grasped in coextension with it.

§6. Unswerving, Yet Erring.

If the question of combination or application is, as we concluded just now, an erroneous path to begin with, how does Heidegger conserve the forking method—i.e., the widened scope of Dasein's comportment thereby implied—in light of this Platonic swerving? In other words: how does Heidegger maintain falsity in the sense of distortion (a non-negative/non-propositional understanding of falsity)? The fact that the diagram of forking was given, "naturally, with great reservation"78 should point us to Heidegger's response: the diagram itself is erroneous in that it presents two paths (two lines/prongs) when, in fact, it should have presented only one—albeit contradictory—path. It was not an accident that he remarked that “the prevailing view [in which Plato inevitably falls] is always that the object of δόξα [doxa] consists of two objects”79 rather than one! This was best exemplified in Plato's explanation of falsity (mistaking/missing the target in the sense of un-correctness) we saw above. What is at work in Heidegger's model of distortion is not a dispersion of making-present in relation to having-present (because any relation of this type would risk instituting a guarantor), but rather a genuine allowing of the making-present to constitute what is unhidden. In other words: distortion becomes genuine distortion only when we allow two distinct and incompatible designations to meet and overlap in one. Heidegger thinks the logically (Platonically) impossible: the affirmation of the coincidence of "opposites", truth as being essentially untruth, being as being essentially seeming. "So much being [Sein], so much seeming [Schein]. [...] The question of being is thus thoroughly ambiguous.80 In this way, Heidegger attempts to circumvent both the option rejected by Socrates himself – i.e., that false views are non-existent simply due to the separation between being and non-being – and his mediating solutions in the wax mass and aviary similes. While the first is insufficient for obvious reasons sketched even in the dialogue's expressed need to account for false belief, the second is insufficient for the less readily apparent, but nevertheless significant reason that the principles governing the new schema remain the same as those governing the first. In other words, the concession given to falsity in the second schema is deceptive in that falsity – i.e., untruth or hiddenness – remains subordinated to conditions of complete presence in a proposition. 

It should be noted, however, that in his detailed account of "the secret history of Heidegger's reading of Plato on truth and untruth,"81 Francisco J. Gonzalez argues that Heidegger was only able to reach this conclusion through a dogmatic obfuscation of Plato's arguments.82 Although Gonzalez's aim, by his own admission, is not refutation, his analysis suggests that the Platonic dialogue itself (and not Heidegger's addition) "makes [hiddenness] pervade our relation to being or, in other words, makes every un[hiddenness] of being at the same time a [hiddenness].”83 He even goes as far as claiming that Heidegger's conclusion—the coexistence of unhiddenness and hiddenness—is to be found in the Platonic text.84 The defensibility of such a reading of Plato, as well as the question of Heidegger's possible distortion of Ancient texts,85 however, clearly goes against the scope of the article which is, as we maintained since the beginning, concerned with the prospect of continuing and substantiating a dialetheic interpretation of Heidegger's original contribution to philosophy.

We could say, then, that in light of Platonic swerving, Heidegger firmly chose to stay on the path albeit at the price of erring. The impetus that drives his thinking here (but also generally) can be summarized through a snippet from one of his letters: "Stay on the path [...] unswerving, yet erring.”86 If it is really true, according to another of Heidegger's famous formulations, that the one who thinks greatly must also err greatly, 87 what does staying on this path entail? The balance sheet is frightening: first, in order to expand the possibilities of Dasein's comportment, he chose to break with the principle of the excluded third; then, in order to save Dasein's comportment and the primordial understanding of truth, he explicitly argued for the existence of contradictions. Must we conclude from this that Heidegger's thought is merely illogical and irrational? We might affirm that it is so, with T. Fay, "if by the word 'logical' we remain within the logico-metaphysical tradition dominant since Plato.”88 If we do not remain within this tradition, however, and if we closely consider the principles Heidegger does employ, the response we end up with will be different. The overarching aim of the present article was showing that Heidegger's contribution to thinking the problem of truth does not amount to a mere irrationalism; furthermore, in analysing Heidegger's analysis of Plato's Theaetetus, we argued for a more specific claim that Heidegger's position is covertly dialetheist. The following section summarizes these findings and presents a final case for a dialetheic interpretation of Heidegger's notion of truth.

§7. Conclusion: Dialetheism, Self-Reference and Striving for Being

In his recently published works, Filippo Casati argues that the fundamental problem that arose for Heidegger in thinking Being—namely, the problem of the dual and contradictory nature of being: at once an entity and not an entity—is not merely resolvable through a revision of the premises (as some interpreters do),89 but through accepting the existence of true contradictions.90 A similar objection on grounds of an insoluble contradiction can be raised against Heidegger with respect to his concept of the nothing: nothingness is at once something toward which it is impossible to direct oneself and something which we can indeed think.91 The latter objection has been dealt with to a certain extent in Heidegger's attempt to differentiate between what is null and what simply is not. Seen from this angle, Heidegger's rejection of the excluded third and his insistence on a "between" between being and not-being is indicative perhaps not only of his wish to extend the comportment of Dasein to making-present but also of accounting for certain issues relating to paradoxes of self-reference. This latter concern, as Casati modestly notes, "is not clearly and systematically addressed by Heidegger."92 In order to propose a response to an important aspect left out by Casati's analysis while nevertheless maintaining the general thrust of his reading, in this article we maintained that this ‘between’ is to be conceived as a truth value glut and not as an empty valuation.

It must be noted, however, that whichever of the two "objections" we choose, we are still within the realm of paradoxes of self-reference. In contrast to these, the paradigmatic example of contradiction we identified in Heidegger's analysis of the essence of truth does not seem to refer to self-reference paradoxes in any way. This is not entirely the case: although the unswerving impetus does not take the form of a paradox of self-reference, the affinity between being and the question of the essence of truth is hard to deny. This thesis is supported by two conditions. (1) At many instances throughout the course, Heidegger reminds his auditors that the question of truth must always be dealt with through the lens of Dasein 93 and that Dasein is necessarily directed toward being qua unhiddenness. As he writes in a different context, “[m]an is the message-bearer of the message which [...] unconcealment speaks to him.” 94 (2) In addition, in so far as being shows itself in a truthful occurrence that harbours hiddenness in the same stroke, and in so far as this ‘occurrence’ is a complex structure that is prior to Dasein, Heidegger already anticipates many of the post-Kehre discussions that approximate the notions of truth and the Event of being.95 In short, if the essence of truth is fundamentally a question of Dasein's liberation,96 it is hard to see how striving for being—which must, in so far as it is engaged in the above mentioned paradoxes and in so far as it strives for unbeing, pass through the struggle we labelled as contradictory and errant—could not be dialetheic in the proper sense (and not merely poetically paradoxical).


1. Bahoh, James (2020) Heidegger's Ontology of Events, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

2. Bostock, David (1988) Plato's Theaetetus, Oxford: Claredon Press.

3. Carraud, Vincent (2002) Causa sive ratio. La raison de la cause, de Suarez à Leibniz , Paris: PUF.

4. Casati, Filippo (2018) ''Heidegger and the Contradiction of Being: A Dialetheic Interpretation of the Late Heidegger', British Journal for the History of Philosophy 27 (5), pp. 1-23.

5. Casati, Filippo (2021) Heidegger and the Contradiction of Being: An Analytic Interpretation of  the Late Heidegger, Routledge.

6. Chappell, Sophie-Grace, "Plato on Knowledge in the Theaetetus", The Stanford Encyclopedia of  Philosophy (Spring 2021 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL =  <>.Heidegger

7. Dahlstrom, Daniel O. (2001) Heidegger's Concept of Truth, Cambridge: Cambridge University  Press.

8. De Beistegui, Miguel (2004) Truth and Genesis, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

9. Derrida, Jacques (1984) Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass, Chicago: University of Chicago  Press.

10. Derrida, Jacques (2021) Donner le temps II, Paris: Seuil.

11. Detienne, Marcel (1996) Masters of Truth in Archaic Greece, New York: Zone Books.

12. Fay, Thomas (1977) Heidegger: The Critique of Logic, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.

13. Gonzalez, Francisco J. (2009) Plato and Heidegger: A Question of Dialogue, University Park: The  Pennsylvania State University Press.

14. Heidegger, Martin (1962) Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson, Oxford:  Blackwell Publishers Ltd.

15. Heidegger, Martin (1971) On the Way to Language, trans. Peter D. Hertz, New York: Harper &  Row Publishers.

16. Heidegger, Martin (1972) On Time and Being, trans. Joan Stambaugh, Chicago: University of Chicago  Press. 

16. Heidegger, Martin (1985) Prolegomena to The History of the Concept of Time

17. Heidegger, Martin (1995) The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude, trans. William McNeill and Nicholas Walker, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

18. Heidegger, Martin (1997) Plato's Sophist, trans. Richard Rojcewicz and André Schuwer,  Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

19. Heidegger, Martin (1998) Pathmarks, trans. William McNeill, Cambridge: Cambridge University  Press.

20. Heidegger, Martin (2001) Poetry, Language, Thought, trans. Albert Hofstadter, New York:  Harper Collins Publishers.

21. Heidegger, Martin (2002a) Off the Beaten Track, trans. Julian Young and Kenneth Haynes,  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

22. Heidegger, Martin (2002b) The Essence of Truth: On Plato's Cave Allegory and Theaetetus, trans.  Ted Sadler, London: Continuum.

23. Marion, Jean-Luc (1998) Reduction and Givenness: Investigations of Husserl, Heidegger, and Phenomenology, trans. Thomas A. Carlson, Evanston: Northwestern University Press

24. Marx, Werner (1971) Heidegger and the Tradition, trans. Theodore Kisiel and Murray Greene,  Evanston: Northwestern University Press.

25. Priest, Graham (2008) An Introduction to Non-Classical Logic: From If to Is, Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press.

26. Priest, G., Berto, F. and Weber, Z. (2022) ‘Dialetheism’, The Stanford Encyclopedia of  Philosophy. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from .

27. Restall, G. (2004) ‘Laws of Non-Contradiction, Laws of the Excluded Middle, and Logics’, in The  Law of Non-Contradiction, edited by G. Priest, J. Beall and B. Armour-Garb, pp. 73-84.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press.

28. Schürmann, Reiner (1987) Heidegger on Being and Acting: From Principles to Anarchy, Indiana  University Press.

29. Wrathall, Mark (2011) Heidegger and Unconcealment. Truth, Language, and History, Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press.

[1] Heidegger 1995, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude, 199.

[2] Casati 2021, Heidegger and the Contradiction of Being.

[3] Ibid., 68-76.

[4] Priest, An Introduction to Non-Classical Logic: From If to Is, 129-30.

[5] Casati 2021, 182.

[6] Heidegger 1972, 2.

[7] Heidegger 1962, Being and Time.

[8] Heidegger 1998, Pathmarks.

[9] Heidegger 2002b, The Essence of Truth.

[10] Cf. Dahlstrom 2001, Heidegger's Concept of Truth, 223-231.

[11] Ibid., 6.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid., 1-5.

[14] Heidegger 1998, Pathmarks, 138.

[15] Cf. Wrathall 2011, Heidegger and Unconcealment: Truth, Language, and History, 15

[16] Heidegger 1962, Being and Time, 269; also cf. Bahoh 2020, Heidegger's Ontology of Events, 109-110: “[T]he mechanism[s] of the adaequatio of proposition and thing [...] are underwritten by the phenomenal access one has to the thing.”

[17] Heidegger 1998, Pathmarks, 142.

[18] Bahoh captures the grounding aspect of truth: “Truth [...] becomes understood [...] as an ontological structure that enables the movement of unconcealment, disclosure of beings, or origination of a meaningful world” (Bahoh 2020, Heidegger's Ontology of Events, 105).

[19] cf. Heidegger 1985, Prolegomena. The History of the Concept of Time, 55: “Truth here comes down to being, being-real. This is a concept of truth which also emerged very early in Greek philosophy and was constantly being confused.”

[20] Heidegger's diagnosis is as follows: “[T]he hidden history of Greek philosophy consists from its beginning in this: that it does not measure up to the essence of truth that lit up in the word ἀλήθεια, and so, of necessity, has misdirected its knowing and saying about the essence of truth more and more into the discussion of the derivative essence of truth” (Heidegger 2002a, Off the Beaten Track, 28; emphasis added).

[21] Heidegger 2002b, The Essence of Truth, 9-10.

[22] Heidegger 1998, Pathmarks, 255.

[23] Schürmann 1987, Heidegger on Being and Acting: From Principles to Anarchy, 173.

[24] Marion 1998, Reduction and Givenness: Investigations of Husserl, Heidegger, and Phenomenology, 59.

[25] Heidegger 1972, 4.

[26] Marx 1971.

[27] Ibid., 54.

[28] Ibid., 55-7.

[29] Cf. Ibid., 133, 142, 147, etc.

[30] Heidegger, 2002a, Off the Beaten Track, 31.

[31] Our claim, then, is directly at odds with Derrida's understanding of the way in which the showing of being is necessarily accompanied by its hiding: “The possible cannot begin but from the impossible. This is what is noticed in Heidegger's formulas of the type ”˜truth is in its essence untruth’, a formula which is neither empty [vide], nor contradictory, nor dialectical” (Derrida 2021, Donner le temps II, 76; also cf. 117-8; also cf. Derrida 1984, Margins of Philosophy, 66).

[32] Heidegger 2002b, The Essence of Truth, 96.

[33] Ibid., 92-6. The same claim returns, for instance, in the Origin of the Work of Art: “Truth, in its essence, is un-truth” (Heidegger 2002b, Off the Beaten Track, 31).

[34] Schürmann 1987, Heidegger on Being and Acting: From Principles to Anarchy, 222, 27.

[35] Heidegger, 2002b, The Essence of Truth, 93.

[36] Ibid., 120-1; added emphasis.

[37] This realm of unhiddenness (truth), as Heidegger notes, is essential for every account of knowledge and Theaetetus' first answer is, in a strict sense, indispensable: "The essence of knowledge can be located only in that sphere where the soul itself has dealings with beings - in short, in the sphere of the soul's relationship to beings (striving for being), in the sphere of the possibility of the possession of the unhiddenness of beings" (Heidegger 2002b, The Essence of Truth, 181).

[38] This approach is common in Plato scholarship. See, for instance, the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy's article on the Theaetetus where Sophie-Grace Chappell (2011) claims that "empiricism is a principal target of the argument of the Theaetetus."

[39] As David Bostock writes, “the moral of the first part of the dialogue [is] that knowledge differs from perception, because perception takes a direct object whereas knowledge is always knowledge that something-or-other” (Bostock 1988, Plato's Theaetetus, 164).

[40] Heidegger 1985, Prolegomena. The History of the Concept of Time, 58.

[41] Heidegger 1962, Being and Time, 26.

[42] Cf. Heidegger 2002b, The Essence of Truth, 203; 1997, Plato's Sophist, 270.

[43] We see at once that Protagoras' thesis—that man is the measure of all things and that, as a consequence, there are no false opinions—is not assailed due to its relativism, rather for its spontaneous equation of unhiddenness with presence. Protagoras' main claim, if it can be considered a substantive claim at all (cf. Heidegger 1997, Plato's Sophist, 151), is not a derivation of the "everything-goes" thesis, but rather that there is no way to distinguish between views if all refer only to what is present. As Gonzalez (2009: 224) argues, Theaetetus "repeatedly assumes and explicitly draws our attention to an understanding of, and relation to, being that far surpasses presence."

[44] Heidegger 1997, Plato's Sophist, 281.

[45] Plato 1997, Theaetetus. Sophist. All cited translations of the Theaetetus refer to this edition. 

[46] Bostock 1988, Plato's Theaetetus, 162.

[47] Heidegger 2002b, The Essence of Truth, 200.

[48] Ibid., 201.

[49] The confluence of the two dialogues is not difficult to establish. As Bostock writes: “It is a standard Greek idiom that to believe falsely is to believe what is not [...] The old and familiar problem of false belief [...] is given full treatment later in the Sophist [...]” (1988, Plato's Theaetetus, 165). 

[50] Heidegger 1997, Plato's Sophist, 285.

[51] Heidegger 2002b, The Essence of Truth, 197.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Greg Restall gives more context on the “dual” nature of these principles with respect to a set of paraconsistent logics with a similar lack of constraint; cf. Restall 2004, “Non-Contradiction, Excluded Middle, Logics”, 77.

[54] Cf. Priest, Graham and Weber 2022, “Dialetheism”, §1.

[55] In fact, no such strict parallelism holds even with an early recorded use of ‘principia contradictionis’ in 1638; cf. Vincent Carraud, Causa sive ratio. Le raison de la cause de Suarez a Leibniz, 91.

[56] Heidegger 2002b, The Essence of Truth, 190.

[57] Ibid., 194.

[58] It should nevertheless be noted that this second presupposition is only a consequence of the first: when there is no third, it is impossible to admit of degrees and variants (Heidegger 2002b, The Essence of Truth, 196-7).

[59] Heidegger 2002b, The Essence of Truth, 197.

[60] Ibid.

[61] Miguel de Beistegui clarifies this Heideggerian intuition when he writes that “wrested from the twofold principle of identity and presence to which it had hitherto remained bound [...] Being breaks with all substantialist and essentialist links, and reveals itself as the forever evanescent “Between” that sustains and traverses all things” (2004, Truth and Genesis, 18; also cf. 66, 71, 73, etc.). The contradictory realm of aletheia is precisely this ‘Between’.

[62] Ibid., 203.

[63] Ibid., 206.

[64] Ibid., 219.

[65] Ibid., 218.

[66] Ibid.

[67] Ibid., 221.

[68] Ibid., 222.

[69] Ibid.

[70] Ibid., 225-6. Fowler's translation of the same passage runs as follows: “[I]t is precisely in relation to things which we know and perceive that opinion turns and twists, becoming false and true [...]” (194b2-4).

[71] Ibid., 225.

[72] Cf. Gonzalez 2009, Plato and Heidegger: A Question of Dialogue , 219.

[73] Ibid., 217.

[74] Heidegger 2002b, The Essence of Truth, 226.

[75] Ibid.

[76] Heidegger 1972, On Time and Being, 6.

[77] Heidegger 1998, Pathmarks, 138-9.

[78] Heidegger 2002b, The Essence of Truth, 222.

[79] Ibid., 202.

[80] Ibid., 297; also cf. Heidegger 1962, Being and Time, 60; and Marion 1998, Reduction and Givenness, 59: “Schein counts here for the appearance that does not comply directly with apparition because it covers over an unapparentness that, if it appeared, would offer a completely different appearance; thus the appearance of the Schein attests to the enigma of the phenomenon as a play of the apparent and the unapparent.”

[81] Gonzalez 2009, Plato and Heidegger: A Question of Dialogue, 224.

[82] Ibid., 222.

[83] Ibid., 224.

[84] Ibid., 221.

[85] A notable proponent of the claim that Heidegger's philological work is ultimately distortive is Marcel Detienne (cf. Detienne 1996, Masters of Truth in Archaic Greece, 26-8).

[86] Heidegger 2001, Poetry, Language, Thought, 184.

[87] Where W. Marx goes astray in his conception of aletheia, and here Schürmann (1987: 357, n. 36) proves himself an impeccable judge, is that he fails to properly understand the realm of applicability of such an understanding of truth. As we noted in the introductory sections, whereas accordant truth is best understood in empirical, i.e., predicative, claims, the sense of truth seen in aletheia operates solely on the pre-predicative (transcendental) level. As such, we cannot follow W. Marx's scandalized indictment of aletheia and its consequences in that—as Schürmann's book on the whole has managed to show—this notion of truth is not meant to be empirically (let alone morally) applicable to one's actions (in the sense of determining whether they are right or wrong on the basis of normative rules for behaviour derived from a first principle), but serves to give indications as to the nature of the groundless play of presencing.

[88] Fay 1997, Heidegger: The Critique of Logic , 35.

[89] Casati 2018, “Heidegger and the Contradiction of Being: A Dialetheic Interpretation of the Late Heidegger,” 7, 9.

[90] Ibid., 2.

[91] Ibid., 8; cf. Casasti 2021, Heidegger and the Contradiction of Being, 123-33.

[92] Ibid., 10.

[93] Heidegger 2002b, The Essence of Truth, 176.

[94] Heidegger 1971, On the Way to Language, 40.

[95] Bahoh 2020, Heidegger's Ontology of Events, 104, 40

[99] Heidegger 2002b, The Essence of Truth, 53, 55, 176, etc. Heidegger's notion of freedom here encapsulates the entire register of presencing that enables one to relate to what shows itself. As Bahoh writes, freedom “designates whatever it is that enables the openness involved in Dasein's comportment to be bound or determined by beings, such that comportment is directed in a pre-thematic, pre-predicative manner” (Bahoh 2020, Heidegger's Ontology of Events, 121).

Andrej Jovićević - The Path's Forking: Toward a Dialetheic Account of Heidegger's Truth
Longer version of paper presented at The Heidegger Circle Annual Meeting Boston University, May 2023