Chapter One

The Four Stages of
the Happening of Truth

§10. Interpretive procedure and the structure of the allegory of the cave

Our answer to the question of the essence of truth had to pass through a decision. We cannot, as it were, think up the essence of truth in an indifferent rumination. Instead, what is at issue is the confrontation in history with the tradition of two fundamental conceptions of the essence of truth, both of which emerged among the Greeks: truth as unconcealment or truth as correctness. The originary conception as unconcealment gave way.

Here we cannot decide without further ado whether it was the inner superiority of the latter conception (correctness) that gave it the upper hand over the originary concept, or whether it was a mere inner failure that led to the predominance of the conception of truth as correctness. We must begin at the point where the two conceptions are still engaged in struggle.

Plato’s philosophy is nothing but the struggle between these two conceptions of truth. The outcome of this struggle determined the spiritual history of the millennia to come. This struggle is found in Plato in every dialogue, but in its highest form it is found in the allegory of the cave.

The fact that we put the allegory of the cave into this context, that we see the struggle between the conceptions of truth in the story that the allegory tells, indicates a quite definite conception. The interpretation of the myth of the cave leads into the heart of Platonic philosophy.1

The story of the cave in Plato’s Republic is found in book VII, 514a–517b. We cite the text of the Platonic dialogue by the edition of Henricus Stephanus,

1. {Recapitulation at the beginning of the session of 5 December 1933, reproduced from the lecture transcript of Wilhelm Hallwachs. Cf. note 4, below.}


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