PATHMARKS


a life-and-death struggle. Stage four of the "allegory" gives us a special glimpse [130 {GA 9: 224}] into how "privation" - attaining the unbidden by wresting it away - belongs to the essence of truth. Therefore, like each of the three previous stages of the "allegory of the cave," stage four also deals with ἀλήθεια.

This "allegory" can have the structure of a cave image at all only because it is antecedently co-determined by the fundamental experience of ἀλήθεια, the unhiddenness of beings, which was something self-evident for the Greeks. For what else is the underground cave except something open in itself that remains at the same time covered by a vault and, despite the entrance, walled off and enclosed by the surrounding earth? This cave-like enclosure that is open within itself, and that which it surrounds and therefore hides, both refer at the same time to an outside, the unhidden that is spread out in the light above ground. Only the essence of truth understood in the original Greek sense of ἀλήθεια - the unhiddenness that is related to the hidden (to something dissembled and disguised) - has an essential relation to this image of an underground cave. Wherever truth has another essence, wherever it is not unhiddenness or at least is not co-determined by unhiddenness, there an "allegory of the cave" has no basis as an illustration.

And yet, even though ἀλήθεια is properly experienced in the "allegory of the cave" and is mentioned in it at important points, nonetheless in place of unhiddenness another essence of truth pushes to the fore. However, this also implies that unhiddenness still maintains a certain priority.

The presentation of the "allegory," along with Plato's own interpretation of it, understands the underground cave and the area outside almost self-evidently as the region within which the story's events get played out. But in all this what are essential are the movements of passage, both the ascent from the realm of the light of the man-made fire into the brightness of the sunlight as well as the descent from the source of all light back into the darkness of the cave. The illustrative power of the "allegory of the cave" does not come from the image of the closedness of the subterranean vault and the imprisonment of people within its confines, [131 {GA 9: 225}] nor does it come from the sight of the open space outside the cave. For Plato, rather, the expository power behind the images of the "allegory" is concentrated on the role played by the fire, the fire's glow and the shadows it casts, the brightness of day, the sunlight and the sun. Everything depends on the shining forth of whatever appears and on making its visibility possible. Certainly unhiddenness is mentioned in its various stages, but it is considered simply in terms of how it makes whatever appears be accessible in its visible form (εἶδος) and in terms of how it makes this visible form, as that which shows itself (ἰδέα),


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Martin Heidegger (GA 9) Plato's Doctrine of Truth