The three layers of reality

σχήματα of the πράγματα

Being & Time
  • ontic beings
  • ontological difference between Being and beings, existenziellen/existentiell
  • thrownness, conditions for things to show up, existenziale/existential
Categories of study
  • STEM, humanities, study of things*
  • Phenomenology: how things become meaningful
  • Ontology: the structures necessary for meaning
  • ἀλήθεια-3, assertion, correctness, propositions, syllogisms, dialectics
  • ἀλήθεια-2, meaningfulness of a thing as something, intelligibility of world
  • ἀλήθεια-1, dis-covering in the clearing, die Wahrheit des Seins
  • The things in the world, communicated in language
  • How things become, are dis-covered
  • The event, das Nichts, no-thing
  • beings
  • das Sein des Seienden, Being of beings
  • Seyn, beyng
  • things emerge as available
  • φύσις
  • experienced ἀλήθεια, but didn't thematize the clearing
  • οὐσία
  • a thing appears as an instance of an immortal ideal
  • constant presence, substance ontology, metaphysics
  • values
  • essentia: will to power
  • existentia: eternal return of the same
Antigone 1st choral ode
  • 1st phase, humanity is δεινόν
  • 2nd phase, inception is what is most uncanny
  • 3rd phase, the site of openness
  • Natural time, Special Theory of Relativity, space-time
  • Temporalität
  • Zeitlichkeit, time-space
  • ἐπιστήμη λογική
  • human λόγος
  • originary Λόγος
Concealment (λήθη)
  • An entity does not show up to the interlocutor as x
  • An entity is not available in comportment
  • No understanding of being is operative, the nothing
Unconcealing (ἀληθεύειν)
  • An entity shows up, through speaking, to the interlocutor as x
  • An entity shows up meaningfully as x in comporting towards it (discovering)
  • Being—Ereignis—disclosing—worlding
Unconcealment (ἀλήθεια)
  • Manifestness of the entity as x in speaking (linguistic communication)
  • Manifestness of the entity as x in comporting (discoveredness)
  • Manifestness of entities as such and as a whole (disclosedness)

ἀλήθεια-1 through 3 are from Thomas Sheehan. Triads in coral are from Kate Withy's Heidegger on Being Self-Concealing appendix table A.1. Kate Withy's The Complete Taxonomy. [PDF]

Some triads in the Architectonic of 'Being and Time'.


Heidegger’s writings are filled with many different triads of terms, some more clearly explained than others. To cite an example from later in his career, Heidegger claims in Being and Time that every question has three parts: (1) that which is asked about, (2) that which is interrogated, (3) and that which is to be found out by the asking. Read in isolation, this hairsplitting analysis can seem either impressively subtle or annoying and arbitrary.

— Graham Harman, Heidegger Explained


The four planks in Mark Wrathall's' "Truth and Disclosure" from Heidegger and Unconcealment.

The four planks of the platform
1. Propositional truth (correctness, Richtigkeit). An assertion or proposition is true when it corresponds with a state of affairs.

Heidegger understands correspondence (Übereinstimmung) as the condition of being successfully directed toward the world in a propositional attitude:

What makes every one of these statements into a true one? This: in what it says, it corresponds with the matters and the states of affairs about which it says something. The being true of an assertion thus signifies such corresponding. What therefore is truth? Truth is correspondence. Such correspondence exists because the assertion orients itself [sich richtet] according to that about which it speaks. Truth is correctness [richtigkeit]. (GA 34: 2)

But this correspondence or agreement, Heidegger argues, cannot be understood on a representational model of language. He argues instead that correspondence exists when our orientation to the world allows what is to show itself in a particular way, and thus it can be understood as a bringing out of concealment.

2. The truth (uncoveredness or discoveredness, Entdecktheit) of entities. An entity is true when it is uncovered, that is, made available for comportment.

Propositional truth (1) is grounded in the truth of entities, because a true assertion can only correspond or fail to correspond with the way things are if entities are available as the standard against which the assertion or proposition can be measured. Only because an entity is unconcealed, Heidegger argues, “can we make assertions about it and also check them. Only because the entity itself is true can propositions about the entity be true in a derived sense” (GA 27: 78).

The truth – that is, the uncovering or making manifest – of entities can be brought about through an assertion or a theoretical apprehension, but it normally occurs in our practical involvements with things in the world. “Ontic manifesting . . . happens in accordance with an attuned [stimmungsmäßigen] and instinctive finding oneself in the midst of entities, and in accordance with the striving and moving comportment to entities that is grounded along with it” (GA 9: 131).

3. The truth of being. There is an unconcealment (Unverborgenheit) of being when an understanding of the being or essence of everything that is shapes all the possibilities for comportment in the world.

Ontic truth (2) is grounded in the truth of being. Heidegger argued that entities are constituted as the entities they are by the relationships they bear to things, people, activities, and so on. Nothing is what it is without these relationships. There are then two sides to being as the constitutive ground of an entity. First, there must be more or less enduring relationships for the entity to inhabit. Second, it must be possible to distinguish between those relationships that are essential to the being of the entity, and those that are not. The unconcealment of being involves both those two sides:

(a) The disclosure (Erschlossenheit) of Dasein and of the world. The idea is that entities can only be available for comportment on the basis of a prior disclosure of the world as the meaningful relational structure within which entities can show up as what they are. In addition, since entities are uncovered in terms of their availability for comportment, their uncovering requires the prior disclosure of Dasein as an acting and understanding being. In Being and Time, Heidegger expressed this idea as follows: “the uncoveredness of entities within-the-world is grounded in the world’s disclosedness. But disclosedness is that basic character of Dasein according to which it is its ‘there.’ Disclosedness is constituted by disposedness (Befindlichkeit), understanding, and discourse, and pertains equiprimordially to the world, to being-in, and to the self” (GA 2: H. 221).

(b) The truth of essence. Entities can be manifest in their truth, that is, as what they really are, only if they are unconcealed in their essence – which means, they (come to) have an essence. Heidegger’s catchphrase for this is: “The essence of truth is the truth of essence” (GA 9: 201; see also GA 45: 95; GA 65: 288; GA 5: 37). This means that the unconcealment of beings requires first an unconcealment of the most fundamental, essential aspect of entities that makes them what they are. This works not by being thought about, but by disposing us to encounter entities in a particular way, as having a particular essence. We encounter entities, in other words, on the basis of “an original view (form) that is not specifically grasped, yet functions precisely as a paradigmatic form for all manifest beings” (GA 9: 158/123).

What both (3a) and (3b) have in common is the insight that entities can only be manifest on the basis of a prelinguistic understanding of and affective disposedness to what makes something the being that it is.

4. Truth as the clearing (Lichtung). There is a clearing within which an understanding of being or essence can prevail while incompatible possibilities of being are concealed or held back.

This is the most fundamental form of unconcealment. Unconcealment, when understood as the clearing, does not name a thing, or a property or characteristic of things, or a kind of action we perform on things, or even the being of things. It names, instead, a domain or structure that allows there to be things with properties and characteristics, or modes of being. This is not a spatial domain or physical entity, or any sort of entity at all. It is something like a space of possibilities.

Kate Withy on the Fourth Plank

The unconcealing at the first plank is the revealing of an entity in a determinate way (as x) to an interlocutor through speaking. It is made possible by the unconcealing at the second plank, which is the entity showing up meaningfully as x to a case of Dasein who discovers it in comporting. We can see that the former unconcealing depends on the latter in that, intuitively, I can (deliberately) draw someone’s attention to a determinate feature of an entity only if I am already oriented towards it myself (or have been previously). According to Heidegger, the reason for this is that the apophantic ‘as’ of asserting (which communicates the entity as x) is derived from, and so depends on, the hermeneutic ‘as’ of comporting (which discovers the entity as x) (SZ: 158). (The details of the relationship between speaking and comporting are disputed, as I mentioned in §9.) So, second-plank unconcealing is the condition that has to be in place for uncovering an entity to an interlocutor through speaking to be possible. I must be discovering in order to be able to speak

Similarly for the relation between second-plank discovering and its ground in third-plank unconcealing (being, disclosing, worlding). In terms of being, the point is intuitive: in order to encounter any particular entity in its that-being and what-being, I need to be open to entities as a whole and as such. The account of disclosing gives the reason for this. I cannot discover entities in comporting towards them unless I am disclosing because disclosing opens the world (i.e., signifies) and the world, which includes the totality of involvements, is that in terms of which I make sense of entities when I discover them. Just as I needed access to the hermeneutic ‘as’ in order to use the apophantic ‘as’, so too I need to be disclosing and so ‘have’ a world in order to be able to make sense of entities in terms of it. Disclosing is the condition that must be in place in order for it to be possible for me to encounter entities as that and what they are.

The unconcealings at the second and third planks are thus conditions of possibility: independent conditions that must obtain in order for something to be possible. A fourth plank of unconcealing must be the same sort of thing: a form of unconcealing that must obtain in order for third-plank unconcealing to be possible. We can see now why temporality and Ereignis are not, in the end, suitable candidates for the fourth-plank. Temporality is the structure of disclosing, in terms of which it is intelligible and which makes it possible in the way that a formal cause does. It is not an independent condition that makes disclosing possible. Ereignis is the happening of third-plank unconcealing, as the coming-into-relationship and coming-into-themselves of being and disclosing. But it is not an independent condition that makes possible. Neither is a candidate for fourth-plank unconcealing.

We can now also see why no genuine candidate for fourth-plank unconcealing could be a counter-example to my account of third-plank unconcealing as self-grounding: the type of ground that the fourth plank is supposed to afford is different from the type of ground that unconcealing lacks by virtue of its self-grounding. Recall that this self-grounding is the unsatisfactory answer to a ‘why’ question: why are there entities instead of nothing? Or, regarding disclosing, it is the unsatisfactory answer to a ‘whence’ question: from what ground is disclosing thrown into its that-it- is? The sort of ground that these ‘why’ and ‘whence’ questions ask after is not a condition of possibility. The questions would not be answered by a fourth plank of unconcealing—just as the question, ‘why are you speaking rather than remaining silent?’ (‘from whence comes the fact of your speaking?’) is not answered by appeal to the hermeneutic ‘as’ that makes possible the apophantic ‘as’. These questions ask for something like a moving cause: what drives one to speak rather than to remain silent? What sets off unconcealing’s battle to overcome λήθη? We saw in §17 that, for Meister Eckhart, ‘God requires no efficient cause to set Him into activity.’11 So too, being and disclosing—and Ereignis and temporality—have no independent moving cause but ‘spring up out of their own grounds’.12 Their self-grounding is not the absence of a condition of possibility but the lack of an independent moving cause. That is what ‘ground’ means when we speak of these phenomena as self-grounding.

So is there any reason to posit a fourth plank at all? Is there any phenomenon of fourth-plank unconcealing or unconcealment? I see no reason to think that there is. Until a genuine phenomenon of unconcealing is identified that is the condition of possibility of third-plank unconcealing, the fourth plank serves no purpose. Thus I strike it from the taxonomy. (See Appendix.) I leave it present under erasure, however, as an artifact of our distinctive and relentless sense-making quest to provide grounds, including conditions of possibility, for everything that we encounter.

From Heidegger on Being Self-Concealing.

Created 2021/1/1
Last updated 2022/8/6