Logic: The Question about Truth

Logic: The Question about Truth

by Martin Heidegger

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Martin Heidegger's 1925–26 lectures on truth and time provided much of the basis for his momentous work, Being and Time. Not published until 1976 as volume 21 of the Complete Works, three months before Heidegger's death, this work is central to Heidegger's overall project of reinterpreting Western thought in terms of time and truth. The text shows the degree

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Martin Heidegger's 1925–26 lectures on truth and time provided much of the basis for his momentous work, Being and Time. Not published until 1976 as volume 21 of the Complete Works, three months before Heidegger's death, this work is central to Heidegger's overall project of reinterpreting Western thought in terms of time and truth. The text shows the degree to which Aristotle underlies Heidegger's hermeneutical theory of meaning. It also contains Heidegger’s first published critique of Husserl and takes major steps toward establishing the temporal bases of logic and truth. Thomas Sheehan's elegant and insightful translation offers English-speaking readers access to this fundamental text for the first time.

Indiana University Press

Editorial Reviews

Philosophy in Review

"Thomas Sheenan has produced a clear and comprehensive critical edition of Heidegger's Logic that contains a great deal more material than its German counterpart." —Philosophy in Review

Theodore George

"It would be difficult to overstate the scope of the impact of the English version of Heidegger's Logic. Heidegger carries out nothing short of a fundamental reinterpretation of the meaning of truth and the foundations of logic. This is a fine translation that contributes much to the overall strength of the work." —Theodore George, Texas A&M University

From the Publisher
"Thomas Sheenan has produced a clear and comprehensive critical edition of Heidegger's Logic that contains a great deal more material than its German counterpart." —Philosophy in Review

"Thomas Sheehan has here set the standard of excellence against which all future translations of Heidegger into English must be measured. At long last, the English-speaking reader is spared the unnecessary mystification of the word Dasein. Only Existenz is left untranslated. In his lectures on Holderlin's poem 'Der Ister,' read in the summer of 1942, Heidegger said to his students: 'Tell me what you think about translating and I will tell you who you are.' Professor Sheehan shows us who he is by making accessible the way of thinking of the Heidegger of Sein und Zeit." —Review of Metaphysics

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Indiana University Press
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Studies in Continental Thought Series
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The Question of Truth

By Martin Heidegger, Thomas Sheehan

Indiana University Press

Copyright © 2010 English edition by Indiana University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-253-35466-2


Part I

The problem of truth in the decisive origins of philosophical logic, and the seedbed of traditional logic (focused on Aristotle)

Prefatory remark

[127] As we now discuss this question with a glance back to some texts of Aristotle, it does not mean that we are trying to give a complete interpretation of those texts. Let's presuppose such an interpretation as having already been carried out. Then, using our guiding question, let us simply focus on some individual theses of Aristotle. Our investigation aims at an original understanding of the problem of truth and a radical way of solving it, one in which our investigation of the problem up to now will gain its legitimacy, and in which its positive content will come to light.

We begin our concrete investigation of the current determinations of truth by characterizing the truth of propositions. This is hardly accidental or arbitrary. We do so because according to the traditional report, the proposition or judgment is the proper place of truth. What is the connection here?

In §11, we will deal with the place of truth and with the proposition ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). Out of those preliminary discussions will come the need to discuss the basic structure of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and, in connection with that, to clarify the phenomenon of meaning.

* * * §11. The place of truth, and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (proposition)

The thesis that the proper place of truth is the proposition or judgment must be understood as an image insofar as "place" is a spatial term, whereas [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is not extended in space. [128] What the expression means is: the proposition is where truth originally and properly belongs. The proposition is what makes truth possible as such. When this thesis is asserted and taken unquestioningly as the basis of every explanation of truth, it is most often accompanied by a second thesis, one concerned with content—namely, that the thesis about the proposition as the place of truth was first enunciated by Aristotle. And usually this second thesis is connected with a third, namely, that Aristotle was the one who first determined the concept of truth—as the correspondence of thought with things. However (so this thesis usually affirms), since this concept of truth cannot stand up against critical reflection, Aristotle is the originator of this naïve concept of truth.

To put it another way, we have three theses:

1. The place of truth is the proposition.

2. Truth is the correspondence of thought with beings.

3. These two statements originate with Aristotle.

These three theses, which are widespread today and have been for a long time, are so many prejudices. It is not the case that Aristotle enunciated the first two theses, nor does he directly or indirectly teach what these theses assert. He originates theses (1) and (2) only in the sense that these came into circulation through an appeal to Aristotle that was based on an inadequate interpretation of him; and it continues unabatedly, even today, to determine the conception of the problem.

What does Aristotle say about truth and its relation to [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] as proposition?

In the first place, we must keep in mind the basic point: Aristotle never determined "truth" as such by going back to the proposition. Rather, if he ever makes any connection between [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (proposition) and truth, he does so in such a way that he determines the proposition through [129] truth, or more precisely, through the ability-to-be-true. But even this way of putting it is inadequate. The propositional statement is determined by Aristotle as speech that can be true or false.

[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. (De interpretatione 4, 17a1–3)

All speech is about something {i.e., in general terms, it means something} ... but not all speech is indicative {i.e., lets something be seen}, but only speech in which being-true or being-false is present {as the ways of speaking}.

This makes it clear in principle that being-true is the distinguishing feature of a certain kind of speech, the kind that states or asserts something. The proposition is determined by its reference to truth—not vice versa, as if truth were derived from the proposition. When Aristotle emphasizes that the statement is a special kind of speech because of its reference to truth, we need to understand this correctly. The statement has a reference to the ability to be true or false. Being-true simpliciter and being true or false, are entirely different phenomena.

According to Aristotle this "either/or," this "either-true-or-false," is intrinsic to the proposition. Therefore, for him the proposition certainly does not have to be there in order for truth to be what it is; and if a proposition is true, it is true as something that also can be false.

Of course, we have not yet established what this either/or really means or why the proposition can be characterized in terms of it. We have not even shown what it is about the proposition that requires that it be caught in this alternative.

This either/or is what distinguishes speech qua statement and delimits it from other kinds of speech. [130] What other kinds? Aristotle gives a brief indication of those other kinds when he continues the sentence previously cited:

[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. (ibid., chap. 4, 17a4)

But being-true-and-false is not present in every kind of speech. A request, for example, is a form of speech, but it is neither true nor false.

Here Aristotle envisions (although he does not name) a rich variety of other forms of speech, including wishes, commands, and questions. Aristotle merely mentions in passing that the proper disciplines for studying them are [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], rhetoric or poetics. Sentences like "Please pass me the scissors" or "Get off this land!" or "Was there another storm today?" are not statements, because they are neither true nor false. This division that Aristotle makes within the various forms of speech has not always been maintained. In fact, it has been strongly challenged—by Bolzano, for example, and in a certain sense even by Husserl—to the effect that even sentences expressing wishes, commands, and questions are thought to have the property of statements.

The question is still debated, and yet anyone can see that getting a clear resolution of the question is a basic presupposition [131] for any scientific grammar. Here we will not pursue the question as a matter of controversy. Instead, we will try to see whether discussing the phenomenon of truth can lead us to a foundation on which we can at least correctly pose (if not resolve) the much-debated question about the expression of objectivizing and non-objectivizing acts. Let us simply get a bit clearer on the distinction Aristotle established.

What does it mean to say that being-true and being-false are not present in an [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], a request? If I say, "Please give me the scissors that are on the table," when in fact there are no scissors on the table, what I say does not correspond with what is the case. My speech is objectively false. I am deceived, and my utterance expresses that deception. That act of speech says something false—but is my request false? Obviously not. Is it true? No, not that either. Why is it neither one nor the other? That becomes clear as soon as we really translate—i.e., interpret and express in our own language—the two Greek sentences we have quoted, in which Aristotle delineates speech qua propositional statement. Let us translate [De interpretatione,chap. 4,] 17a1.

Not all speech is indicative, i.e., shows something, but only speech in which being-true or being-false is present.

That translation fails to convey the degree of understanding that the Greeks had of that Greek sentence, due to the indeterminateness of the words "being-true" and "being-false." When understood correctly and literally (in the strict sense of that word), the Greek word for "being-true"— [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]—means to uncover in the sense of unveiling something, removing the hiddenness from something. An adequate word for that is "to un-cover"—not in the strong sense of bringing something to light for the very first time, but in the more general sense of unveiling something that is still veiled or of again unveiling that which has again become veiled-over. In short, it means to uncover what has been covered until now, or that has become covered again. Likewise the opposite concept, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], [132] does not meaning "being-false." If we translate it that way, the meaning of the sentence remains obscure. [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] means: "to deceive," for example, to deceive another person by giving him not what he expects to see but something else that looks like it. In deceptive speech, therefore, I put into words not what I have in mind but something different. The person expects to hear what I have in mind, but I say something else. So speech can either uncover or misrepresent what I am speaking about. To show that the concept of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is the opposite of "to uncover," we translate it as "to cover-over." This translation is all the more justified by the fact that a false sentence need not be uttered by a "false person," someone who is insincere and intent on deception. The other side of the coin is that every false statement uttered, even if uttered without the intent to deceive, is objectively misleading, a misrepresentation, because as a statement about something, it automatically gives the appearance of saying something about that thing, whereas in fact it covers it over and deceives.

Let us try to understand the issue more adequately by translating the sentence as follows:

The only speech that indicatively shows something, {and thus is a statement,} is speech in which uncovering or covering-over is present.

The Greek word that we translate as "is present," is [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "to be there." But in this case it does not have the meaning it often can, namely, "occurring" in the quite broad sense of "there is something," as if Aristotle meant to say: "Only such speech is indicative in which uncovering and covering-over occurs"—as if covering and uncovering could sometimes occur, and sometimes not. Here, instead, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] has the weighty sense of the philosophical concept that is used by Aristotle: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] means "being there a priori," "underlying something in such a way that everything else is sustained by this thing that is there a priori." For that reason Boethius translates the Greek [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in an entirely correct way as "in-esse," "being-within-[something]," in this case: "belonging to the very essence of speaking." [133] Therefore we have to translate it as follows:

Only that speaking in which uncovering or covering-over sustains and determines the authentic intention of the speaking is an indicative {statement} that shows something.

Now the second part of the text (17a1) becomes clearer, and we can understand the distinction Aristotle has made.

Not all ways of speaking are primarily oriented to uncovering and covering-over. For example, a request is speech, but as a request, it neither uncovers nor covers-over.

A request does not have the sense of uncovering or covering-over.

* * *

So uncovering and covering-over are what determine the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] as indicative showing-something-as. A sentence gets its determination as a statement by uncovering and covering-over. The essence of a proposition is [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]—showing a thing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]: in terms of itself. The meaning of an assertion as a form of speech is to show ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) something as. That [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] whose distinctive possibility as an act of speech is to show something as, whose mode of expression can bring something into view—that is, only if it is an [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], a "statement," or more exactly, an "indicating ... as." However, we will stick with the more normal word "statement," but will give it the meaning that is contained in the phenomenon of this kind of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. What a statement says about something is drawn from that thing itself, so that in this kind of speech, what the speech is about comes into the clear, becomes available for comprehension. In the expressed statement, therefore, the very thing it indicates has become accessible and, as it were, preserved [verwahrt]. This sense of statement must be kept in mind in the future as the primary sense.

In our understanding, what is asserted in a statement is: "the chalk-board in its being-black." But in addition and above all, a "statement" is understood only as "predication," that is, asserting that a "predicate" belongs to a subject. A subject is that to which we give a determination. In this instance, therefore, "statement" has the meaning of "an act of determining." A statement in this sense has an essential relation to statement in the first sense: an act of determining is always an act of showing something as, and it is possible only as such. Whether every statement as such also determines, is a question that we shall have to leave open. It is a question that we will [134] explain in the following paragraphs, when we investigate the full structure of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. So we have what is asserted and the act of asserting as "predicating," e.g., "being-black." The statement as determination is a bit restricted with respect to statement in the first sense.

In the third place, a "statement" can mean the same as a "communication," i.e., the expression of something. This is connected with the first meaning and consequently with the second. But unlike the first, this one means not so much indicating something as, showing it as such, as it does communicating a state of affairs as one that has been indicated. The expression of the statement or indication (i.e., what is stated) is now not only "the chalkboard in its blackness" (i.e., what was indicated and brought into view), nor is it merely "black-ness" (i.e., the predicate qua predicated). Rather, it is the blackness of the chalkboard as expressed, the spoken-forth-ness of what has been indicated, and indicated in the matter of predication. In living speech, an [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is a statement in all three senses of the word at one and the same time. These three meanings are not just empty or invented distinctions within the meaning of "statement." No, each of them refers to a specific structural moment of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. The various determinations of "statement"—1. showing, 2. determining, and 3. communicating—are issue-oriented directives for studying the phenomenon itself.


Excerpted from Logic by Martin Heidegger, Thomas Sheehan. Copyright © 2010 English edition by Indiana University Press. Excerpted by permission of Indiana University Press.
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Thomas Sheehan is Professor of Religious Studies at Stanford University.

Indiana University Press

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