The Problem of Truth (Wahrheit)

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In the previous sections, the phenomenon of anxiety (Angst) played a role in 'wresting' Dasein from self-concealment and opening it to the possibility of an authentic self-understanding i.e., anxiety rendered Dasein's dispersal into 'the they' inoperative since it is precisely in this mood that Dasein cannot seek comfort and forgetfulness in that sphere which it essentially is not -- for now the interpretations of the world and its publicness become insignificant.

Deprived of its possibility for determining itself as 'worldly,' Dasein is freed for the possibility of understanding itself from itself. There is thus the possibility of getting a 'true image' of Dasein and this 'true image' of Dasein is nothing less than the Care structure i.e., the Being of Dasein.

Care, as the Being of Dasein, thus culminates in an inquiry into the connection between Being and Truth.

Section 44

Overview: This extremely complex section contains a 'preface' followed by 3 main divisions, each one of which is divided into several parts.

(1) The introductory comments serve to 'place' the problem of Being and Truth historically -- from the Parmenidian identity of Being and Truth to the decisive turn which Aristotle set in motion and which culminated in the 'traditional concept of truth' (which is truth as 'correspondence').

(2) The first division (a) seeks to comprehend this traditional conception of truth and to interpret it in such a way that the primordial ground of this conception gets exhibited.

(3) The second division (b) seeks to disclose this primordial ground --which is essentially to be found in Dasein's disclosedness -- and to further show how the traditional concept in derived from this primordial ground.

(4) The final division (c) seeks to show how the phenomenon of Truth is bound up with the Being of Dasein i.e., how the Being of Truth is connected to the Being of Dasein -- and with this the investigation will have returned to its original 'place' viz., the connectedness between Being and Truth.


(1) the preparatory remarks

Heidegger quotes form Parmenides and Aristotle:

(a) Parmenides (Fragment 5): "Thought (intellectual intuition) and Being are one" i.e., to perceive the 'Truth' is to perceive Being and vice versa.

(b) Aristotle (Metaphysics): "Philosophy is rightly called a knowledge of Truth" (II, 993 b 20-21) "A knowledge of Being qua Being" (IV, 1003 a21).

Here, in the tradition, Being and Truth are thought together and in such a manner that neither get conceived of in terms of 'judgment' but rather, as 'matters' (Sache). If this interpretation is correct, then the problem of truth becomes connected with the problems of fundamental ontology (Being). And an investigation into fundamental ontology ought to include an investigation into the phenomenon of truth. But it is Heidegger's contention that the history of ontology has tended to conceal this connectedness, which was nevertheless quite alive at its very origins. As a phenomenological investigation, the task is to confront the problem of Truth as it 'presents itself.'

Now, the concept of truth presents itself today from the perspective of a tradition in which the concept of truth gets taken as a certain kind of 'correspondence.' The analysis will thus take its point of departure from this phenomenal context (viz., the traditional conception of 'truth as correspondence') -- and then attempt to lay bare the ontological foundation of that conception. Heidegger wants to get beneath the sedimented concept of truth (as 'correspondence) in order to return ('recollect') to the original Greek conception of Truth.

(2) (a) the traditional conception of Truth and its ontological foundations. This section has 3 parts: (i) a justification for the claim that the traditional conception of 'truth' is one of 'correspondence,' (ii) an investigation into the nature and meaning of this 'correspondence,' and (iii) a phenomenological critique of this notion.

Re: (i)

The traditional concept of truth is stated directly: (1) the 'locus' of truth is to be found in assertion (or judgment) (2) it is to involve a kind of agreement or correspondence -- the correspondence taking place between (a) mind (b) judgment and its object. And, with reference to the tradition, (3) it is with Aristotle that we find the definition of truth as (a) 'located' in judgment and (b) correspondence (Ubereinstimmung).

The historical justification for this claim begins with Aristotle's work on Interpretation (16a 4-7). Here, in discussing the nature of 'words' and 'propositions', Aristotle speaks of 'thoughts' or 'affection' in the 'soul' 'corresponding' to 'things'. This sense of 'correspondence' was taken over in the great translations of the 13th Century in which the Greek world view was Latinized and the formulation for the essence of Truth received its most definite expression in Thomas Aquinas -- where Truth is adaequatio intellectus et rei [a "correspondence between intellect (mind, soul) and thing"] (Quaestiones disputatae devertate, QI, Art. I)

In Kant, too, the traditional concept of truth gets taken for granted, even though, in the Critique of Pure Reason, a fundamental turn has occurred, both for the concept of 'subject' and the concepts of 'knowing' and 'judging'. Kant nevertheless keeps the essential characterization of 'correspondence': "Truth is the correspondence of knowledge with its object" (KRV A58/B82)

We could go further than Heidegger and quote from Wittgenstein's classic 'Positivistic' phrase in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus: "The correspondence or non-correspondence of [a proposition] with reality constitutes its truth or falsity" (T2.222).

In all of these excerpts, beginning with Aristotle's reflection on 'words' and 'propositions' down to Kant and finally Wittgenstein's discussion, we find a constant notion of correspondence as the essential moment of 'truth': this correspondence occurring, alternately, between a 'mind' and an 'object', or a judgment (proposition) and an 'object'.

Now, all things being equal, this 'definition' is adequate enough (it is the criteria for the natural sciences). But if it remains unclarified with respect to its ground, it can become misinterpreted and actually serve to 'conceal' more than it 'reveals'. Heidegger thus proposes a further penetration into the notion of truth as 'correspondence'.

(ii) The interpretation into the nature the nature and meaning of this 'correspondence' takes its direction from the statement that--the 'agreement' or 'correspondence' of something with something has the formal character of a relation (Beziehung) of something to something (e.g., of 'mind' to 'object', 'assertion' to 'reality' etc.) Heidegger then proposes to investigate the ontological character (the context of Being) that tacitly gives support to such 'relations'.

In the classic formulations there are several presuppositions that are operative:

(1) a relation between an immanent consciousness (intellectus) and an outside sphere (rei) -- or, in judging, (2) an ideal content (contained in the judgment) and the real thing (judged about);

(2) an ideal content (contained in the judgment) and the real thing (judged about).

There emerges , in these and other notions, a dualism between ontologically distinct levels -- a dualism which creates a radical separation between the different spheres and makes the very possibility of a correspondence (adequatio) problematic.

[It is to Husserl's credit, in the Logical Investigations (V), that such dichotomies were overcome -- the 'relation' here is not to be interpreted as one between the 'mind' (intellectus, the 'knower') and the 'object' (res, the 'known'). Such an interpretation misinterprets the phenomenological structure of knowing. There are no 'images' between act and content, the very meaning of intentionality destroys this dichotomy.]

(iii) The phenomenological critique

Heidegger proposes to approach the problem of truth by investigating an 'act of knowledge' which, while an example of 'correspondence,' reveals the deeper, phenomenological structures operative in knowledge itself (217/260).

Example: the true assertion--"The picture on the wall is hanging askew."

When does the relation (the adequatio) become 'known' as true?

The answer lies in the phenomenal context of demonstration (Ausweisung), when the relationship of agreement becomes 'visible'. The assertion does not relate to some mental 'image' of the picture but rather the assertion means the real picture (cf. Husserl L.I. VI, sec 37, "The adaequatio is realized when the object meant is in the strict sense given...") What gets 'confirmed,' demonstrated' in the 'truth' of the assertion is the fact that the assertion points out that about which it is made. What gets demonstrated is that the 'asserting' is an uncovering of the thing itself. The 'truth' of the assertion has the character of an uncovering. Heidegger then concludes that the Being-true (truth) of the assertion must be understood as Being-uncovering (Entdeckend-sein). Note how the concept of 'truth' takes on the dynamic structure of uncovering and that its 'locus' seems to move closer to Dasein (as disclosive) than to 'judgment'.

(B) This section has 3 parts: (i) a historical justification for the concept of truth as 'uncovering' (instead of correspondence), (ii) a deeper penetration into this primordial phenomenon of truth, and (iii) an attempt to show how the notion of 'truth as correspondence' grew out of its more original ground.

(i) By seeing truth in terms of uncoveredness and not primarily in terms of 'correspondence,' Heidegger has returned the phenomenon of truth to its earliest description as "Aletheia."

The Greek term aletheia can be translated as "taking beings (entities) out of their hiddenness and letting them be seen in their unhiddenness" or, more simply, uncovering beings from their concealment. This is the concept of truth as aletheia. Thus Heidegger has not 'shaken off' the tradition but has rather appropriated it more primordially.

(ii) We must now look much further into this notion of 'uncovering.' Heidegger distinguishes two senses of uncovering and hence two senses of truth. One will be the ground for the other.

(1) The ground sense is described as truth in terms of the being-uncovering which is involved in the Being of Dasein. Here, the sense of uncovering involves the sense of Dasein's disclosedness -- those constitutive moments that make up the possibility of Being-in-the-world.

(2) Upon the basis of this more primordial sense i.e., upon the basis of Dasein's disclosive Being-in-the-world, there lies the possibility of uncovering particular ontic truths -- and, with this, 'truth' in the sense of being-uncovered. (Only because Dasein is a disclosive Being-in-the-world can it 'verify' something like a 'crooked picture on the wall'). Heidegger is explicit about this in the Grundprobleme: Disclosedness is the condition for the possibility of uncoveredness (p,. 101). Heidegger then proceeds to investigate the consequences of this more primordial sense of truth (in terms of disclosedness).

(1) The Being of Dasein is essentially constituted by the constitutive moments of disclosedness, which manifest themselves proximately and for the most part in the mode of falling. The unity of this whole structure is called Care (Sorge). Now, insofar as Dasein is constituted by disclosedness, there is the possibility of Dasein's authentically making itself intelligible to itself -- of disclosing, if you will, the truth of existence (ontological truth). Dasein is 'in' the truth in as much as truth is constituted by disclosedness. But, to Dasein's state of Being belongs the moment of falling -- which we have characterized as essentially concealment. In falling Dasein covers over its Being through its disclosive tendency towards conceiving itself in terms of 'world' (i.e., that which it essentially is not). Hence, because Dasein is essentially falling, it is in 'untruth'.

Dasein, insofar, as it essentially involves both disclosedness and concealment is equiprimordially characterized by truth and untruth.


In his essay, VomWesen der Wahrheit Heidegger speaks of this simultaneous revealing and concealing as a mystery in which the very movement of these two moments is itself concealed and forgotten. For instance, the polarity revealing/concealing is operative in the scientific world view. The scientist, by approaching entities in a certain way (e.g., as spatial-temporal objects), "reveals" them in a certain, fruitful manner -- but, in a simultaneous way, necessarily conceals other approaches (e.g., looking at things present-at-hand, one doesn't see them as ready-to-hand). The image of one door closing when another door opens is appropriate here. But Heidegger says this very movement (which is the 'mystery') is itself concealed in, for instance, a scientific worldview. We have here a concealment of concealment (which is at the very root of the problem of communication between, say existential psychologists and experimental psychologists).



(a) The derivative character of truth as a 'relation' of correspondence or agreement between assertions and objects can be seen in the derivative sense of assertion itself (the apophantical 'as') which involved the notion of objects present-at-hand and its being a modification of interpretation (the hermeneutical 'as') which involved our concernful comportment towards things ready-to-hand and with that Dasein's primary way of understanding the world. The roots of the truth of assertion reach back to the disclosedness of the understanding and hence to Dasein as disclosedness (which is the primary locus of truth).

(b) But Heidegger wants to explicitly show the derivative character of correspondence (or, 'agreement') here involved.

<essentially correct, this section needs to be reworked>

(a) assertions serve to communicate Dasein's disclosive uncoverings. This can be done immediately or, what is mostly the case, by 'proxy', i.e.,

(b) the assertion (or proposition) comes to 'contain' and preserve that which it has expressed. When this has occurred, the assertion becomes a 'piece of information' which then develops the character of something useful and ready-to-hand.

(c) The assertion itself becomes zuhandenheit. Note how the relation here has changed: what is contained in the assertion becomes objectified.

(d) Now this objectified proposition can itself be 'called out' for verification. When this happens the assertion becomes something present-at-hand which may or may not 'conform' to some entity present-at-hand. When this situation has been so far removed from its original uncoveredness, the relationship between the two things present-at-hand shows itself as an agreement, a correspondence: a correspondence, furthermore, that is not engaged in any activity save the 'verification' of two entities present-at-hand.

It is in this sense that truth as uncoveredness changes over into truth as correspondence and this shows how the latter is twice removed from the primordial sense of truth as disclosedness.

(c) This section again has 3 parts (i) the character of truth (ii) the presupposition of truth and (iii) a return to the connectedness of Being and Truth.

(i) Truth in its primary sense is bound to the Being of Dasein as disclosedness. In this sense, there 'is' truth only insofar as 'there is' Dasein -- but from this it does not follow that truth is in the ontic sense is relative. Dasein is the ground for the possibility of ontic truths, but it does not determine those truths -- these must be uncovered through Dasein's disclosedness.

(ii) Now, because truth in the primary sense is involved in the Being of Dasein -- it must be presupposed in the same non-demonstrative manner in which Dasein itself, by simply existing, must be 'presupposed'.

(iii) This connectedness between truth and the Being of Dasein once again returns us to the interconnectedness between Being and Truth. The Being of Truth is connected primordially with the Being of Dasein and, as we will see, with temporality -- and temporality is to be seen as the horizon for the meaning of Being as such.

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Copyright: Robert Cavalier
Department of Philosophy / Carnegie Mellon University