struggle which first creates its enemy and assists its enemy to the most incisive antagonism” (ET, 67/92; translation modified). Because for Heidegger this polemos at the heart of truth is always historical and only historical, “we come to suspect that Plato does not yet grasp it, or no longer grasps it, in a primordial manner”; and: “in Plato the fundamental experience from which the word a-letheia arose is already disappearing” (ET, 67– 68/93). For Heidegger, then, Plato’s truth as genuine transcendence is a falling away from the conflictual heart of truth as unconcealment. We cannot possess the latter truth because we do not own or master history or fate. And yet, without the touchstone of truth in Plato’s sense, as an ideal to strive for, can there really be an escape, a return, and a redemption (however partial) for the prisoner or the cave? Heidegger’s polemical truth binds us just as fast to the cave wall as the shadows, for historicality has no exit, but Plato’s zetetic truth has a trajectory and destination, even as it strives and struggles with the given.

Another objection (one connected to the first) is that the zetetic model of philosophy, while not absolutist in its own particular claims, still makes the absolute, or the transcendent, its ideal, even if that ideal is merely approximated and never attained. As such, it is really only a debased version of the same old otherworldly Platonism that Nietzsche derided and that Heidegger deconstructed. There is some truth to this charge, but much of the weight of the charge itself depends on how much of a threat one takes transcendent ideals to be. But without any intimation of such ideals, ethical and political standards become indefensible as matters of rational discourse, together with all criteria for action, and surely this is also a serious threat. Heidegger and the postmodernists may be right to emphasize our finitude and our temporality, but the result of their deconstruction of the Western tradition is a lapse into an extreme relativism and historicism from which no appeal to transcendent principles is possible without hypocrisy. Although I cannot defend the point in detail here, I would submit that zetetic philosophy begins with and returns to our finitude, just as the prisoner begins in and returns to the cave, and thereby allows finitude and transcendence to enter into a dialectic. Plato’s lesson is that this dialectic can never be resolved, and that any attempt to resolve it will result in philosophical and political disaster. Plato’s bold modesty is what saves him from the worst excesses of modernism: We may seek the transcendent, but we ought not to assume that we can occupy a position of absolute knowledge because we cannot finally and completely transcend our finitude.

This leads to a third objection:19 The passage upwards from the fire in

170 Gregory Fried