of essences/understandings of being discussed under plank (3), Heidegger was pushed to ask what makes it possible for any one of a plurality of understandings of being or essence to prevail. Part of the answer he arrived at was that there must be a clearing that allows one way of being disposed to the world to come into operation, while withholding other potential ways of being disposed for the world. I conclude with just a few words about the unconcealment of the clearing.
The historical nature of essences leads one to ask how it is that changes in historical understandings can arise. Heidegger in reflecting on this question noted:
entities are reordered, and indeed not merely by an entity that is not yet accessible to us, and perhaps never will be, but by something concealed which conceals itself precisely when we, holding ourselves in the clearing, are left to the discretion of or even captivated by, entities. From this we derive an essential insight: the clearing, in which beings are, is not simply bounded and delimited by something hidden but by something self-concealing. (GA 45: 210)
This is a phenomenological observation that Heidegger repeats often in various forms, but without much clarification or argument. The idea seems to be something like the following: the style of being that allows things to show up as having an essence is most invisible when it is most effective. That is, when everything is showing up to us in terms of flexibility and efficiency, for example, we are captivated by things – we are wholly absorbed in our dealings with them. That renders us unable to make ourselves aware of the understanding of being that is shaping our experience of the world. Looked at another way, the ready availability of beings to us depends on our losing sight of the fact that their availability is grounded in a particular understanding of the essence of beings as a whole. Thus “the concealment of beings as a whole . . . is older than every manifestness of this or that entity” (GA 9: 193–4/148).
So a new understanding of being can establish itself, and a new ordering of beings can become operative, only if there is something like a clearing that conceals any other way of experiencing the world in order to allow this particular way to come to the forefront. The upside to this is it allows us to inhabit a world: the self-concealment of being “leaves historical human beings in the sphere of what is practicable with what they are capable of. Thus left, humanity completes its ‘world’ on the basis of the latest needs and aims, and fills out that world by means of proposing and planning” (GA 9: 195/149). The downside is that, having lost sight of the concealment that makes it all possible, we become convinced of the necessity and unique correctness of our way of inhabiting the world: “human beings go wrong as regards the essential genuineness of their standards” (GA 9: 196/149).
As I have noted already, the clearing should be understood as something like a space of possibilities – it “grants first of all the possibility of the path to