Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

Truth as a Phenomenon

Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

Truth as a Phenomenon

Article excerpt


ONE HUNDRED YEARS after Martin Heidegger began his career as teacher and writer, contemporary scholarship remains divided over his philosophy. (1) Philosophers outside the phenomenological tradition have had a hard time understanding him, and even within the tradition, there are different estimates of the value of his thought. I believe that the further public discussion of Heidegger's thought can benefit from another study of section 44 of Being and Time (SZ), (2) devoted to the topic of truth, for I think this analysis offers a ready point of access for anyone. Section 44 (a) treats the truth of statements and the "correspondence theory" in a fashion that any philosopher, analytic, phenomenological, rationalist, or empiricist, should be able to follow and appraise. Then on that basis, philosophers should be able to appraise the maneuver that follows, in section 44 (b), where Heidegger argues that there is a form of truth that outreaches all statements and all correspondence--a truth of the world and of human existence. Likewise, section 44 (c), treating truth and history, contributes to well-known issues on the relativity of truth, and debates on the principle of the excluded middle.

Section 44 is important for another reason, too. Even scholars who specialize in Heidegger are divided concerning the place and authority of SZ within his total oeuvre, some taking more interest in his latest period, others focusing on the 1930s and the war years. Yet nobody denies that the theme of truth is persistent throughout his work, so if one wants to weigh SZ in relation to the later work, one needs to take full account of this section. In addition to all that, of course, the topic of truth is important to everyone, not just philosophers, for the deepest reasons.

I shall begin by showing how the sequence of argument in section 44 is ordered by the five introductory paragraphs that precede subsection (a).

The topic of truth has entered this treatise because it is connected to the main theme of the treatise, the question of being. Heidegger says in the second paragraph that it is not because of any question in epistemology, or the theory of judgment, that he will treat truth. Rather, he has cited ancient Greek philosophers, Parmenides and Aristotle, for whom the term "truth," aletheia, was an equivalent for "being," einai or to on. His seven quotations from Aristotle's Metaphysics include some from book 1, chapter 3: Aristotle says that the earliest thinkers, in their pursuit of the first causes of things, were "attempting the investigation of being and philosophized about truth." (3) Again, he says that, in pursuing their study of causes, such thinkers had been guided by "the facts themselves," (4) and a bit further on he repeats the point, saying "later thinkers, forced once more, as we said, by truth itself' (aletheia). (5) Evidently, aletheia plays two roles here. It is one designation for the thinkers' whole field of study, also called wisdom, or being, or the causes. Secondly, it names that which guides the thinkers in their searching, and in this respect it can be equated with facts (pragmata) or the evident phenomena (phainomena). Heidegger will also cite several further texts from Aristotle later in section 44, showing that, for them both, "truth" is more than a feature of judgments and cognitions. In one summary, we read that, in Aristotle, aletheia means "the things themselves, that which shows itself, beings in the manner of their unconcealedness." (6) Notably, SZ does not cite the texts from the Metaphysics, books 4 and 6, where Aristotle explains what "true" means when it is applied to statements, logoi, even though Heidegger had already treated those texts in his 1925-26 lectures on Logic: The Question of Truth. (7) In SZ, it is the link with being that matters.

Though he shares this ontological interest with the ancients, the third paragraph shows us something that is entirely his own and not theirs. …

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