THE ESSENCE OF TRUTH
happenings. Beings as such, i.e. in what they are as beings, holds sway. κρύπτεσθαι φιλεῖ: Heraclitus does not say that beings as a matter of fact hide themselves from time to time, but φιλεῖ: they love to hide themselves. It is their proper innermost drive to remain hidden, and if brought out of hiddenness, to return to it. We cannot discuss here how this saying of Heraclitus relates to his fundamental conception of being. The godhead builds the world playfully, countless times, and always as something different.
It suffices that this saying of Heraclitus expresses the fundamental experience in which and from which is awoken an insight into the essence of truth as the unhiddenness of beings. This saying is as old as Western philosophy itself, giving expression to that fundamental experience and orientation of ancient man from which philosophy begins; ἀ-λήθεια, unhiddenness, into which philosophy seeks to bring the hidden, is nothing arbitrary, and is especially not a property of a proposition or sentence, nor is it a so-called 'value'. It is rather that reality, that occurrence [Geschehen], into which only that path (ἡ ὁδός) leads of which another of the oldest philosophers likewise says: 'it runs outside the ordinary path of men', ἀπ' ἀνθρώπων ἐκτὸς πάτου ἐστίν (Parmenides, Fr. 1, 27).
Yet another reservation occurs to us. We can admit that this saying of Heraclitus, and the word ἀλήθεια, are ancient, and belong to the period of the beginning of Western philosophy; but doesn't this show that we need not pay much attention to them? For 'the beginning' is still 'primitive', awkward and unclear, half or fully 'poetical'. Philosophy has in the meantime progressed and become science, yet at a very early stage it thoroughly abandoned the idea of unhiddenness. It is indeed true that the idea of unhiddenness was given up. But is it really the case that the beginning is primitive, half-baked, groping, and unclear? Or is the beginning what is greatest? Not always, to be sure. In everything inessential and without purpose the beginning is what can be and is overcome; therefore in the inessential there is progress. In the essential, however, where philosophy belongs, the beginning can never be overcome. Not only not overcome: it can no longer be attained. In the essential, the beginning is the unattainable and greatest, and it is precisely because we can no longer grasp anything of this, that with us everything is so decayed, laughable, without order, and full of ignorance. Today, people regard it as a mark of superiority to philosophize without this beginning. Philosophy has its own law; what people think about it is something else.
Already we are no longer confronted by a simple word (ἀλήθεια) and its