to the world in the second way uncovers it, she will take the essential properties to be whatever it is about it that allows us to break it down into a resource, and flexibly switch it around and order it, since our background sense for technological efficiency shapes our experience of everything.
In fact, there is, in principle, an indefinite if not infinite number of ways to characterize the properties of any particular thing. A piece of gold, for instance, has a color and a weight and a texture and a shape, but also all sorts of other properties like being good (or bad) for making jewelry, gleaming in a way that seems divine, being directly in front of my favorite chair, and so on. When we decide what kind or type of thing this particular object is, we will do it on the basis of just those particular properties we are responding to, and these properties will be some subset of an indefinite or infinite set of properties we could be responding to.
Given that this is the case, before anything can show up as anything, we must have some particular, prelinguistic disposition or readiness for the world that leads us to see certain features as more important than others. All understandings of what things are thus arise on the basis of a background disposition to the world. We disclose the essences that we do, according to Heidegger, because the way we are moved by or disposed to things allows a particular style of being “to be ascendent” (see GA 45: 129).
As a result, there is no longer any need to see (C) and (D) as incompatible. There might be a culture whose sensibilities for the world lead it to uncover an instance of gold as having just those essential properties specified in (D) – in fact, Heidegger would probably argue, those are just the essential properties we would find in a lump of gold if we were oriented to the world in a technological fashion. We do not need to see (D) as true a priori, because whether it is true is up to the world. Instead, we will use our technological disposition to pick out objects as instances of that kind of resource; from there, it is an empirical matter which features of it make it that kind of a resource. In our age, it seems plausible to say that gold’s essential features (in the traditional sense) are found in its atomic structure, because knowledge of the atomic structure gives us the best grasp on how to turn gold into a resource. The possibility of truth is secured because there is a way that the world opens itself up or is unconcealed, a coherent mode of being, and thus the world can serve as a standard for our thoughts and words.
In summary, then, the unconcealment of beings is the “anticipatory gathering” that lays out certain properties and relationships as salient (see GA 45: 121). This means that essences are historical – they show up differently as dispositions for the world change.
THE REVEALING – CONCEALING OF THE CLEARING
This brings us to the last, and most difficult, feature of Heidegger’s platform of unconcealment. Because of the historical nature of the disclosure