The Path’s Forking: Toward a dialetheic account of Heidegger’s Truth
In his recent groundbreaking book, Paul Livingston (2014) endeavored to rebuild the legacy of 20th-century thought from the ground up via (what he identifies as) the constitutive problem of much philosophical thought of this century: namely, the paradoxes of self-reference as they arose from Frege’s attempt to derive mathematics from logic. For Livingston, the possible trajectories of 20th-century thought are broadly conditioned by this paradox and revolve around a fundamental choice: either barring any paradox of self-reference through barring totalization (i.e. prohibiting the One-All, as is seen in Alain Badiou) or affirming the paradox and closing the whole as constitutively paradoxical. The two options, termed the generic and the paradoxico-critical orientation, are described as follows (respectively): “either consistency with incompleteness (and hence the prohibition of total self-reference, […]) or completeness with inconsistency (and hence reference to paradoxical totalities)” (Livingston 2014: 34). The place of Martin Heidegger in Livingston’s book is marginal, and apparently intentionally so in that he is labeled “a special case” (ibid.: 253). However, we may well ask ourselves why a thinker of such stature—his rejection of the linguistic turn notwithstanding—is practically avoided.1placeholder
In the following essay, we will investigate Heidegger’s understanding of truth (as given mainly in his lecture course on The Essence of Truth, and, more specifically, in his dealing with Plato’s Theaetetus), broadly following the path trodden by Livingston, albeit departing from his conceptual vocabulary and problematic to allow Heidegger and his conception of truth to speak for themselves. It is our main contention that Heidegger’s account of truth is dialetheic, i.e. that it affirms the existence of true contradictions in the form of the coincidence of opposites on a primordial, non-propositional level. This dialetheic understanding is preserved most significantly in Heidegger’s “formula”: the question concerning the essence of truth is the question concerning the essence of untruth. Through a close reading of Heidegger’s analysis of the Theaetetus, we want to dispel most (dialectical/mystical/poetic) misunderstandings that could arise in reading this formula, as well as give more attention to Heidegger’s Platonic path and its rejection of principles of classical logic (which is only a part of Heidegger’s rejection of common sense). These latter rejections will allow us to factor in the negative reasons for why Heidegger’s position might be dialetheist, while an understanding of Heidegger’s alternative to Plato will give us the positive ones.
We will proceed as follows: first, we will give a broad outline of Heidegger’s primordial understanding of truth qua unhiddenness and its relation to hiddenness (Sec. 1); then, we will consider Heidegger’s analysis of the two first answers given by Theaetetus in the Platonic dialogue (Sec. 2 and 3); finally, we will examine the method of forking in order to arrive (once again) at two opposed understandings of truth: the propositional/Platonic on the one hand and the primordial/Heideggerian on the other (Sec. 4 and 5). We will conclude by reflecting on more recent work on Heidegger’s dialetheist strands and making a final case for Heidegger’s truth dialetheias (Sec. 6).
1. Common Sense, Unhiddenness, and its Essence
Heidegger’s reflections on the essence and nature of truth can be found throughout his pre-Kehre work: one immediately thinks of §44 of Being and Time (1962), his essays from the 1930s “Plato’s Doctrine of Truth” and “The Essence of Truth” collected in Pathmarks (1998) and his 1931-2 lecture course that has been published under the title The Essence of Truth (2002). For Heidegger, thus, coming to grips with truth was one of the essential tasks in accounting for the nature and comportment of Dasein in view of its existential analytic. It could be said that truth, for Heidegger, stands at the forefront not only of every philosophical reflection worthy of its name but also of every Dasein’s ownmost relation to the world—of its disclosedness.
However, in Heidegger’s eyes, the overall importance of this reflection has not been met with adequate consideration in philosophy and truth is thus a fundamentally misunderstood notion. There is only one tendency of thought to blame for this inability to come to terms with one of the significant questions: namely, the inability of the “philosopher” to distance himself from scholarly idle talk and gossip—the inability of the layman to rise above commonsensical and self-evident considerations. Thus begins Heidegger’s rampage against common sense: in dealing with the question of the essence of truth, it is obvious that one should begin with accounting for the way we grasp essence—a method of generalization by which we arrive at that which is shared by all particulars—and applying this account to all particular truths. The question of the essence of truth, under the auspice of self-evidence, turns into a question of the commonality of all particular truths: what do all truths have in common and what is it that makes these truths true? “The true, [Heidegger writes,] whether it be a matter or a proposition, is what accords, the accordant” (Heidegger 1998: 138). The self-evident understanding of truth as correspondence/accordance (of matter to what it should be or, more significantly, of proposition to matter) is a dominant understanding of truth in both philosophical and everyday circles. It is important to note that Heidegger does not reject correctness (i.e. accordance of matter to a proposition) tout court, but only that he questions the primacy of such an understanding and seeks to base it in a more fundamental one. Thus, Heidegger accepts the existence of everyday, verifiable truths, but argues that another, originary understanding of truth exists as a (transcendental) condition for the former. It is in this sense—i.e. in trying to uncover the primordial signification of truth—that Heidegger returns to the ancient Greek formulation of truth as a-letheia, i.e. unhiddenness. Unhiddenness, which is how Heidegger now understands and translates truth, is a precondition in the sense that without this self-showing of beings to man, putting two things in accord would be impossible; the unhiddenness of beings gives Dasein the ability to openly comport itself (ibid.: 142) and direct itself toward that which shows itself. Truth, thus understood, takes on a broader sense and refers to the structure made possible by Dasein’s directed comportment: it refers to the primary field of intelligibility at work in all direction-ing.
Why was it so hard for modern philosophy (a designation that is extended to all philosophy, beginning with Plato) to get beyond understanding truth as correctness—why is it, moreover, that unhiddenness signifies almost nothing to modern man who understands truth as correspondence? These two questions are in fact one, and when Heidegger returns to aletheia in returning to the inception of occidental thinking, he is returning not to a mere word, but rather to the Greek experience of hiddenness (Heidegger 2002: 9-10) which is what accords significance to unhiddenness in the first place. Heraclitus’ fragment—according to which nature loves to hide itself—is essential here: it points to the essential outside-ness of the self-showing of beings to man, it shows that Dasein—despite enabling the unhidden in its comportment—is nevertheless at the mercy of the struggle between the unhidden and the hidden, what is true and what is untrue. As Reiner Schürmann writes, such an understanding “signals the dual movement in being: the giving of whatever happens to be un[hidden], and the undertow back toward [hiddenness]. It shows presencing as binomial, under the double law (nomos) of giving and of taking back. Heidegger describes the play of [unhiddenness] as a violent struggle: the struggle of the lightness of world against the weight of earth,” etc. (Schürmann 1987: 173).
Two misunderstandings of the back-and-forth movement usually arise: (1) on the one hand, one could take Heidegger to be implying that Dasein’s experience in directed comportment involves a hiddenness of the whole (in the sense that Dasein, in comporting itself to the particular, loses the whole from view); (2) on the other, one could take this movement as being simply dialectical, as implying the necessity of containing one’s other for the constitution of identity. The movement, however, is neither that of the hiddenness of the whole, nor of dialectical sequencing, but rather (as we will argue in relation to dialetheism) the primordial coincidence of the two notions which internally differentiate themselves. Heidegger says, for instance, that “un-hiddenness and hiddenness are bound up with what is null and invalid, not on the basis of a formal external differentiation of the two, but in themselves” (Heidegger 2002: 96). This insight—that “[u]ntruth is not an opposite that occurs alongside (next to truth), and that [it] must also and subsequently be taken into account”—allows Heidegger to make the apparently astonishing claim that the essence of truth is the essence of untruth (ibid.: 92). As stated in the introduction, it is our contention that the entirety of Heidegger’s dialetheism concerning truth hangs upon this statement. The question about the essence of untruth is Heidegger’s entry point into the discussion of Plato’s Theaetetus; more specifically, Heidegger analyzes the first two answers Theaetetus gives to Socrates’ question on the essence of knowledge. For the sake of brevity—and given that our main goal is highlighting Heidegger’s account of untruth in the Platonic dialogue—we will mention the first part of Heidegger’s analysis (namely: Theaetetus’ claim that knowledge is perception) only in relation to the second.
2. Heidegger’s Analysis of the Theaetetus
What is at stake, for Heidegger, in Theaetetus’ first claim that episteme (knowledge) is aisthesis (perception)? Contrary to the common reading, Heidegger emphasizes that Theaetetus’ first answer does not mean the same thing to the Greeks as it means to modern man, entrenched as he is in epistemological considerations: when aisthesis is invoked, what is referred to is not the most naive “version” of knowing, but rather the one that is most certain to the Greek mind. The move Heidegger implicitly makes here is that of once again establishing truth (i.e. unhiddenness) as the field of intelligibility (which he now calls perceivedness) and involving Dasein’s directed comportment as its centerpiece. He argues that “perceivedness appears the most immediate mode of the unhiddenness of something, thus the most tangible ‘truth’ […] For the Greeks, nothing is more self-evident than to interpret possession of ἀλήθεια [aletheia] [which is, of course, of significant import to knowledge—AJ] first of all as αἴσθησις [aisthesis]” (Heidegger 2002: 120-1).
Theaetetus, in short, does not make a naive claim, but rather testifies to the natural comportment of man toward that which shows itself, that which is unhidden in the world.2placeholder This enables Heidegger, albeit much later, to define why the first answer is ultimately rejected (or expanded upon, to be precise): it is not that Theaetetus’ answer should be assimilated to empiricism and rejected on such grounds,3placeholder but rather that this answer assimilates unhiddenness to presence (what-is-present, phantasia) to the point where the two terms become identical. This fault, however, only gets accentuated when one moves to the phenomena of untruth, i.e. pseudes doxa: it is only when confronted with the phenomenon of distorted views—a phenomenon that is so widespread and present that it must not give way to Socrates’ (Plato’s) inability to properly define it (cf. ibid.: 203)—that we begin to see why unhiddenness—i.e. Dasein’s comportment toward what shows itself—has a much broader scope than that of which merely shows-itself in the present as perceived (Heidegger also refers to this, in a shorter phrase, as having-present).
The majority of Socrates’ discussion of the second answer has this in mind: namely, showing that distorted views do exist and that this phenomenon cannot be thought through using the simple equation of unhiddenness to what is present. The problem is self-explanatory: on the one hand, Dasein directs itself to something that is unhidden even when it holds a distorted view, and yet, when unhiddenness is taken as mere presence, it is impossible to think distorted views which engage in precisely un-hiding what is non-present.4placeholder Thus: unhiddenness must contain within itself something-more-than-presence (something more than having-present), as it were, in order to account for the phenomenon of distorted views.
3. Theaetetus’ Second Answer: Rejecting Common Sense
To be sure, Heidegger’s reading of Plato arrives at this necessity of widening the scope of unhiddenness in a way that is more in touch with the Platonic text: the analysis here bears on Socrates’ five attempts at accounting for distorted views and, more importantly, the transition from the first three attempts to the fourth and fifth. In giving a detailed account of Heidegger’s analysis, we will emphasize its rejection of logical common sense, as presented in the often presupposed principle of the excluded third. Socrates’ first three attempts at accounting for pseudes doxa can be enumerated as follows: a distorted view results from (1) a combination of knowledge and non-knowledge or (2) a person referring to something that is-not (i.e. non-being); finally, (3) from a substitution of one thing for another. These answers are easily done away with by Socrates. (1) If it were a question of mixing up knowledge and non-knowledge, then we would have two options—either knowing and not knowing at the same time (which is absurd), or neither knowing nor not knowing (which leads to having no view). (The significant point for Heidegger’s analysis, here, is that Socrates dispenses with phenomena of learning and forgetting, 188a2-4.) (2) If it were a question of referring to something which is not, this would be absurd in that one can only refer to something that is (according to the Parmenidean wisdom). (3) If it were a question of substituting one thing for another (i.e. saying that the beautiful is ugly or that the horse is an ox; Heidegger 2002: 200), this would simply result in an impossible phenomenon and not at all in a distorted view; saying that one thing is something else, as Plato says, would be “talking nonsense” (ibid.: 201). At this point in the analysis, one might again ask oneself what side will budge first: will we first arrive at a way of accounting for distorted views or will distorted views themselves evaporate as a result of the inability to explain them?
It is clear that giving an answer to this type of question is difficult, but it is equally clear to Heidegger (as we mentioned) that the phenomenon must not budge. What must come to pass, then? It is at this point that we arrive at the most interesting point of Heidegger’s presentation of the Platonic text: the only way, Heidegger claims, that the analysis can continue is if we entirely dispense with the “guiding perspectives” of Socrates’ first three answers (ibid.: 197). If indeed, as Heidegger claims, “the puzzling character of the phenomenon is heightened and shows itself in its various aspects,” this is precisely because it forced us into rethinking the guiding principles which were taken as self-evident in our questionings. The guiding principles—or rather, the guiding principle—Heidegger refers to here is that of the excluded third; in short: it is the principle of the excluded third that impeded Socrates’ analysis to the point where it was rendered useless.
The excluded third as an indispensable presupposition is at work most prominently in the first two answers Socrates offers: in the first, it is supposed that a thing can either be known or not-known—with no possibility of there being a third (cf. ibid.: 190); in the second, it is supposed both that a thing can either be or not be (cf. ibid.: 194) and that something that does not exist is immediately not (which is a correlate of the equation of unhiddenness and presence).5placeholder It is Heidegger’s contention that this is an overlooked aspect of the dialogue in that “the usual interpretation [believes] that Theaetetus commits logical errors, and that Socrates/Plato is engaged in a frivolous game of words” (ibid.: 197). Nothing of the sort is at work. Rather, Plato “makes a tremendous effort to combat the domination of everyday talk and to resist the power of that healthy common sense […] That there is something ‘between’ knowing and not-knowing, and between being and being-nothing, is certainly not self-evident. And that this intermediate is more than an intermediate: this is quite hidden to the self-evidence of the common understanding” (ibid.: 197). The prejudice which would have us believe that this between is not the crux of the matter, but that it is rather null, must immediately be done away with if we are to account for untruth.
The fourth and the fifth answer proceed in this way, according to Heidegger’s analysis, in that a “retracting [of] the guiding perspectives of the preliminary investigation in favor of previously denied intermediate phenomena” is at work (see the title of §41; ibid.: 203). Plato offers two positive perspectives which do not adhere to the guiding perspectives (Heidegger’s code for the excluded third): the wax mass and the aviary. Going into these perspectives at length would be tedious and unnecessary, and it suffices that we once again note the shift in perspective that is implied in this transition. What the wax mass and the aviary similes present is an attempt to account for the processes and changes at work in Dasein’s comportment toward the unhidden (i.e. knowledge, as Heidegger sees it); they account for learning, forgetting, coming to know, remembering, reusing, storing away/activation of knowledge, etc. (cf. ibid.: 206). More importantly, in getting closer (albeit not fully arriving at, as we will learn) to the phenomena of distorted views, what these similes show is that unhiddenness cannot be reduced to presence—and this time in a positive way (cf. ibid.: 219), i.e. through accounting for the precise ways in which Dasein’s comportment involves a wider span of directions. What they present us with, in short, are new possibilities for Dasein in its directedness toward the world; more specifically, these possibilities make sense of Dasein’s temporal constitution and its necessary reckoning toward the future while having the past in view.
Heidegger refers to these possibilities as “making-present in the broadest sense” (ibid.: 218) as opposed to having-present as (merely) aisthesis. He writes: “We are always comporting ourselves to beings, even when we do not immediately perceive them […] [T]here are two ways in which every being accessible to us can stand, and be had, in our presence [i.e. having-present and making-present]. At bottom it is this essential twofold possibility, pertaining to every accessible being, that Plato wants to bring out.” Despite his wishes, however, Plato was fundamentally incapable of bringing such consequences out; Heidegger takes it upon himself to show in what way this can be done. The last and most original passage of the 1931-2 lecture course (to which we are now turning) presents the most sustained case for a dialetheic conception of truth as the alternative to a commonsensical understanding of truth.
4. The Forking of the Paths
The guiding question of Heidegger’s last three sections (§44-6) is the following: if unhiddenness is not reducible to presence and forming and having views (doxazein) cannot be reduced to aisthesis—and if we know what the excess of the former over the latter is (namely: phenomena of retention connected to change and temporality)—how is the object of the view (doxa) constituted? In short: if doxa is “a combination of what is encountered in immediate having-present with what is made-present in advance” (Heidegger 2002: 221), how are having-present and making-present combined in order to account for both true and false views?
Having-present and making-present are combined through a method of forking (cf. ibid.: 222). The object of Dasein’s view is confronted by two prongs of this metaphorical fork, where one prong goes straight at the object and takes it as perceived, while the other, longer prong goes upwards and necessarily disperses itself, thereby showing that making-present has a wider, not-existentially-present scope. The object is irreducible to either of the two “perspectives,” and, as we saw, restricting our considerations to only the first is detrimental in that certain phenomena are left in the dark. Given this twofold perspective on view-forming, how are distorted views explained? Before Heidegger provides the answer, he notes that in this respect his analysis goes beyond the Platonic text (cf. ibid.: 222). For Heidegger, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the direction Plato’s discussion here takes is indicative of the way in which truth and falsity are understood in subsequent philosophy. Plato’s position on the forking, in Heidegger’s translation, is as follows: “It is precisely in relation to what we perceive [i.e. have-present] simultaneously through making-present, that viewing something as something [the doxa] twists and turns, becoming sometimes distorted, sometimes not” (ibid.: 225-6). In short, what accounted for the widening of the scope of unhiddenness, here accounts for distorted views: when one brings into play the longer prong of retention, one is immediately prone to a mis-taking (that is nevertheless a taking, a comporting-toward something that, albeit non-existent and distorted can serve as the object of directionality; ibid.: 225).
Everything still hangs in the air at this point: what import does Plato ascribe to the mis-taking that is a result of incorporating making-present qua retentive bringing-before-oneself? As we said above, in Heidegger’s eyes, this is the point at which the entire history of philosophy may or may not go astray—it is here that decisions are to be made. And yet, paradoxically, the decision has already been made by Plato in that he takes the two prongs of the fork in a way that leads to correspondence: the question Plato asks regarding the prongs is only a question pertaining to coincidence, it is only that of correspondence—namely, does the making-present correspond to what we have present? (The question of the combination, in short, is itself a question of correspondence.) That which is present is thus fundamental, it is the guarantor of a non-distorted view—that against which a proposition is measured and the main arbiter of correctness. Mis-taking, for all the attention we have given to the notion, is not a taking after all: “mis-taking does not hit what is made-present in advance. It is a missing of the mark, a failure of the intended predicate” (ibid.: 226).
Plato automatically swerves into negation: the predicate is measured against that of which it is predicated, its directionality is ascribed either correctness or un-correctness—either truth or falsity (with no third)—and distortion is nowhere to be seen. “Missing the mark is a failure of direction: a being-un-correct. The mis-taking look […] is an un-correct addressing. […] Thus Plato grasps the essence of the ψεῦδος [pseudos] as the un-correctness of the λόγος [logos], of the proposition. In this way the λόγος becomes the seat and locus of the ψεῦδος,” instead of distortedness being the seat and locus of the logos. Everything has already been decided: aletheia (unhiddenness) is subordinated to logos—truth is subordinated to propositions. Instead of aletheia being truth qua what is unhidden, it starts being truth qua what is correct (the arbiter being divine [Heidegger 1998: 138-9], and its sole opposition being incorrectness).6placeholder
5. Unswerving, Yet Erring
If the question of combination or application is, as we concluded just now, an erroneous path to begin with, how does Heidegger conserve the forking method—i.e. the widened scope of Dasein’s comportment thereby implied—in light of this Platonic swerving? In other words: how does Heidegger maintain falsity in the sense of distortion (a non-negative/non-propositional understanding of falsity)? The fact that the diagram of forking was given, “naturally[,] with great reservation” (Heidegger 2002: 222) should point us to Heidegger’s response: the diagram itself is erroneous in that it presents two paths (two lines/prongs) when, in fact, it should have presented only one—albeit contradictory—path. It was not an accident that he remarked that “the prevailing view [in which Plato inevitably falls—AJ] is always that the object of δόξα [doxa] consists of two objects” (ibid.: 202) rather than one! This was best exemplified in Plato’s explanation of falsity (mistaking/missing the target in the sense of un-correctness) we saw above. What is at work in Heidegger’s model of distortion is a not a dispersion of making-present in relation to having-present (because any relation of this type would risk instituting a guarantor), but rather a genuine allowing of the making-present to constitute what is unhidden. In other words: distortion becomes genuine distortion only when we allow two distinct and incompatible designations to meet and overlap in one. Heidegger thinks the logically (Platonically) impossible: the affirmation of the coincidence of “opposites”, truth as being essentially untruth, being as being essentially seeming. “So much being, so much seeming. […] The question of being is thus thoroughly ambiguous” (ibid.: 229).
We could say, then, that in light of Platonic swerving, Heidegger firmly chose to stay on the path albeit at the price of erring. The impetus that drives his thinking here (but also generally) can be summarized through a snippet from one of his letters: “Stay on the path […] unswerving, yet erring” (Heidegger 2001: 184). What does staying on this path entail? The balance sheet is frightening: first, in order to expand the possibilities of Dasein’s comportment, he chose to break with the principle of the excluded third; then, in order to save Dasein’s comportment and the primordial understanding of truth, he explicitly argued for the existence of contradictions. Must we conclude from this that Heidegger’s thought is merely illogical and irrational? We might affirm that it is so, with T. Fay, “if by the word ‘logical’ we remain within the logico-metaphysical tradition dominant since Plato” (Fay 1977: 35). If we do not remain within this tradition, however, and if we closely consider the principles Heidegger does employ (as we tried to do in this article), the response we end up with will be different.
6. Conclusion: Dialetheism, Self-Reference, and Striving for Being
In his recently published article and forthcoming book, Filippo Casati (2018 and 2021) argues that the fundamental problem that arose for Heidegger in thinking Being—namely, the problem of the dual and contradictory nature of being: at once an entity and not an entity (2018: 7)—is not resolvable only through a revision of the premises (as some interpreters do, see ibid.: 9), but also through accepting the existence of true contradictions (like the one we referred to; ibid.: 2). A similar objection on grounds of an insoluble contradiction can be raised against Heidegger with respect to his concept of the nothing: nothingness is at once something toward which it is impossible to direct oneself and something which we can indeed think (ibid.: 8). The latter objection has been dealt with to a certain extent in Heidegger’s attempt to differentiate between what is null and what simply is not. Seen from this angle, Heidegger’s rejection of the excluded third and his insistence on a “between” between being and not-being is indicative perhaps not only of his wish to extend the comportment of Dasein to making-present but also of accounting for certain issues relating to paradoxes of self-reference.
This latter concern, as Casati modestly notes, “is not clearly and systematically addressed by Heidegger” (ibid.: 10) and, moreover, has been outright denied as a concern of Heidegger’s by Livingston (cf. 2014: 283). It must be noted, however, that whichever of the two “objections” we choose, we are still within the realm of paradoxes of self-reference. (To clarify: the paradox is most present in Heidegger’s central question. Being is at once not an entity in that it is a “set” that encompasses all entities, and a part of this set of everything that is.) In contrast to these, the paradigmatic example of contradiction we identified in Heidegger’s analysis of the essence of truth does not seem to refer to self-reference paradoxes in any way. This is not entirely the case: although the unswerving impetus does not take the form of a paradox of self-reference, the affinity between the problematic of ontological difference and the question of the essence of truth is hard to deny. At many instances throughout the course, Heidegger reminds his auditors that the question of truth must always be dealt with through the lens of Dasein (cf. Heidegger 2002: 176) and that Dasein, through the comportment that is fundamentally its own, is necessarily directed toward being qua unhiddenness. In short, if the essence of truth is fundamentally a question of Dasein’s liberation (cf. ibid.: 53, 55, 176, etc.), it is hard to see how striving for being—which must, qua striving for unbeing, pass through the struggle we labeled as contradictory and errant—could not be dialetheic in the proper sense (and not merely poetically paradoxical).
Casati, Filippo (2018) “Heidegger and the Contradiction of Being: A Dialetheic Interpretation of the Late Heidegger”, British Journal for the History of Philosophy 27 (5), pp. 1-23.
Casati, Filippo (2021) Heidegger and the Contradiction of Being: An Analytic Interpretation of the Late Heidegger, Routledge.
Chappell, Sophie-Grace, “Plato on Knowledge in the Theaetetus”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2021 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2021/entries/plato-theaetetus/>.Heidegger
Deleuze, Gilles (1990) Logic of Sense, trans. Mark Lester and Charles Stivale, London: The Athlone Press.
Deleuze, Gilles (1994) Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton, New York: Columbia University Press.
Fay, Thomas (1977) Heidegger: The Critique of Logic, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.
Heidegger, Martin (1962) Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd.
Heidegger, Martin (2001) Poetry, Language, Thought, trans. Albert Hofstadter, New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Heidegger, Martin (1998) Pathmarks, trans. William McNeill, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Heidegger, Martin (2002) The Essence of Truth: On Plato’s Cave Allegory and Theaetetus, trans. Ted Sadler, London: Continuum.
Livingston, Paul (2014) The Politics of Logic: Badiou, Wittgenstein and the Consequences of Formalism, New York: Routledge.
Livingston, Paul (2017) The Logic of Being: Realism, Truth, and Time, Evanston: Northwestern University Press.
Schürmann, Reiner (1987) Heidegger on Being and Acting: From Principles to Anarchy, Indiana University Press.
We are not engaging in a polemic with Livingston here, but rather using his marvelous recasting as a stepping stone for our own investigation. It should be noted, in addition, that Livingston’s more recent book The Logic of Being: Realism, Truth, and Time (2017) touches upon Heidegger extensively. In line with Heidegger’s conclusion in relation to truth (cf. Sections 6 and 7), Livingston claims that [the essentially reflexive structure of ontic-ontological difference] is that of the relationship of Dasein as a being marked by a constitutive concern with being, grounded in a predetermining understanding of it, to the possible explicit retrieval of this understanding in thought” (2017: xii).
This realm of unhiddenness (truth), as Heidegger notes, is essential for every account of knowledge and Theaetetus’ first answer is, in a strict sense, indispensable: “The essence of knowledge can be located only in that sphere where the soul itself has dealings with beings – in short, in the sphere of the soul’s relationship to beings (striving for being), in the sphere of the possibility of the possession of the unhiddenness of beings” (Heidegger 2002: 181).
This approach is common in Plato scholarship. See, for instance, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s article on the Theaetetus where Sophie-Grace Chappell (2011) claims that “empiricism is a principal target of the argument of the Theaetetus.”
We see at once that Protagoras’ thesis—that man is the measure of all things and that, as a consequence, there are no false opinions—is not assailed due to its relativism (a notion that was surely foreign to Plato), but rather for its equation of presence and unhiddenness. Protagoras’ main claim is not a derivation of the “everything-goes” thesis, but rather that there is no way to distinguish between views if all refer only to what is present.
It should nevertheless be noted that this second presupposition is only a consequence of the first: when there is no third, it is impossible to admit of degrees and variants (Heidegger 2002: 196-7).
It would be beneficial to see how Gilles Deleuze’s analysis of Plato’s swerving off the track (that is mainly concerned with the Sophist) overlaps with Heidegger’s analysis in his lectures on Theaetetus and the Sophist. This inquiry goes beyond the initial scope of this article, but it is nevertheless interesting to note that Deleuze’s non-negational understanding of opposition, as well as his supplanting of the true/false dichotomy with the realm of sense (see Deleuze 1990: 68), is highly commensurate to Heidegger’s rejection of Plato’s correct/incorrect opposition. In fact, the first trope of Heidegger’s philosophy Deleuze reflects on in his note in Difference and Repetition is precisely that of the non-negational/problematic account of difference: “the Heideggerian Not refers not to the negative in Being but to Being as difference; it refers not to negation but to questioning” (Deleuze 1994: 64).