skillful we get in dealing with entities, Heidegger argues, there will always be something about them that we cannot focus on or pay attention to: “each being we encounter and which encounters us keeps to this curious opposition of presenting, in which it always holds itself back in a concealment” (GA 5: 40/BW 178). But this concealment “is not in every case primarily and merely the limit of knowledge,” rather, it is precisely what makes it possible for us to deal with the thing in the first place: it is “the beginning of the clearing of what is cleared” (GA 5: 40/BW 178–9). We get a grip on entities in the world, in other words, by generalizing, by dealing with them as instances of a known type. This leads to the possibility that established ways of dealing with things will make it harder to uncover other possible ways of dealing with them. When “what is familiar becomes known,” Heidegger notes, “with that the concealedness of the unfamiliar deepens, and all that is not-known becomes more insistent in its concealment” (GA 28: 361).
That our familiarity depends on getting a certain more or less familiar grasp on things leads to the possibility that we treat something as an instance of the wrong type – that is, that based on a superficial similarity between a strange thing and a familiar thing, we take the strange thing as something it is not (or, as Heidegger puts it, “a being appears, but presents itself as other than it is”; GA 5: 40/BW 179). Thus something can be uncovered in one sense but covered over in another sense.
To recap, the specific nature of the unconcealment involved in the uncoveredness of entities needs to be understood as a privation of the fundamental covered-up-ness of entities. They are covered up to the extent that we lack the skills necessary to allow them to figure in the overall grasp we get on a situation. We uncover them by fostering a receptivity to them, a receptivity that helps us secure our practical grasp on the situation.
3. Unconcealment of the Being of Entities
In understanding the unconcealment of being, let’s start again by understanding the positive state of concealment of being. When being is concealed, an entity cannot possibly be uncovered as an entity. In the concealment of entities, of course, entities were not uncovered either. But they could be uncovered, if only we had the right skills, or if our purposes or activities were the sort that would make them salient, or if they were no longer obscured by other entities. In the concealment of being, by contrast, the entity cannot under any circumstances be uncovered because there is no place for it in the world we inhabit.
Our ability to uncover practically, reflectively, and linguistically the way things are requires that entities make themselves available to our thought and talk, and that our thought and talk holds itself open to and responsible to the entities in the world around us. The unconcealment of beings is