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Short description: Philosophical term for disclosure

Aletheia or Alethia (/ælɪˈθ.ə/;[1] Ancient Greek:) is truth or disclosure in philosophy. Originating in Ancient Greek philosophy, the term was explicitly used for the first time in the history of philosophy by Parmenides in his poem On Nature, in which he contrasts it with doxa.

It was revived in the works of 20th-century philosopher Martin Heidegger. Although often translated as "truth", Heidegger argued that it is distinct from common conceptions of truth.


Aletheia is variously translated as "unconcealedness", "disclosure", "revealing", or "unclosedness". The literal meaning of the word ἀ–λήθεια is "the state of not being hidden; the state of being evident." It also means factuality or reality.[2] It is the antonym of lethe, which literally means "oblivion", "forgetfulness", or "concealment"[3] according to Pindar's First Olympian Ode.[4]

In Greek mythology, aletheia was personified as a Greek goddess, Aletheia. In some accounts she was a daughter of Zeus, while Aesop's Fables[5] state she was crafted by Prometheus. In interpretatio graeca she was equated with Veritas, the Roman goddess of truth.[6]

Heidegger and aletheia

A painting that reveals (aletheia) a whole world. Heidegger mentions this particular work of Van Gogh's (Pair of Shoes, 1895) in The Origin of the Work of Art.

In the early to mid 20th-century, Martin Heidegger brought renewed attention to the concept of aletheia, by relating it to the notion of disclosure, or the way in which things appear as entities in the world. While he initially referred to aletheia as "truth", specifically a form that is pre-Socratic in origin, Heidegger eventually corrected this interpretation, writing:

Aletheia, disclosure ("Unverborgenheit"), regarded as the opening (Lichtung) of presence ("Anwesenheit") is not yet truth ("Wahrheit"). Is therefore aletheia something less than truth? Or is it more because it first grants truth as adaequatio and certitudo, because there can be no presence and presenting outside of the realm of the opening? (…) To raise the question of aletheia, of disclosure as such, is not the same as raising the question of "truth". For this reason, it was inadequate and misleading to call aletheia, in the sense of opening, truth.[7]

Heidegger gave an etymological analysis of aletheia and drew out an understanding of the term as "unconcealedness".[8] Thus, aletheia is distinct from conceptions of truth understood as statements which accurately describe a state of affairs (correspondence), or statements which fit properly into a system taken as a whole (coherence). Instead, Heidegger focused on the elucidation of how an ontological "world" is disclosed, or opened up, in which things are made intelligible for human beings in the first place, as part of a holistically structured background of meaning.

Heidegger began his discourse on the reappropriation of aletheia in his magnum opus, Being and Time (1927),[9] and expanded on the concept in his Introduction to Metaphysics.[10] For more on his understanding of aletheia, see Poetry, Language,Thought,[11] in particular the essay entitled The Origin of the Work of Art, which describes the value of the work of art as a means to open a "clearing" for the appearance of things in the world, or to disclose their meaning for human beings.[12] Heidegger revised his views on aletheia as truth, after nearly forty years, in the essay "The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking," in On Time and Being.[13]

See also


  1. Zimmerman, J. E. (1964). Dictionary of Classical Mythology. New York: Harper & Row. p. 18. 
  2. ἀλήθεια. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
  3. λήθη. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
  4. Pindar Olympian Ode.11.6 ff (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.)
  5. Aesop, Fables 530 (from Phaedrus Appendix 5)
  6. J. Atsma, Aaron. "ALETHEIA". 
  7. Martin Heidegger, On Time and Being (New York: Harper and Row, 1972), pp. 69–70, translation amended. The original in Zur Sache des Denkens (Tübingen: Max Niemayer, 1969), p. 86. Cited in Nikolas Kompridis, Critique and Disclosure: Critical Theory between Past and Future, (Boston: MIT Press, 2006), p. 188.
  8. Heidegger, Martin (1992). "Parmenides". Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. p. 14. 
  9. Heidegger, M. Being and Time. translated by Joan Stambaugh, Albany, State University of New York Press, 1996, Introduction, Chapter II, §7b.
  10. Heidegger, Martin (2014). Introduction to Metaphysics, Second Edition. New Haven & London: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-18612-3.  Chapter II, § 1.
  11. Heidegger, Martin (2001). Poetry, Language, Thought. Harper Perennial Modern Classics. ISBN 978-0060937287. 
  12. According to Heidegger, art "gives things their look, and human beings their outlook." From The Origin of the Work of Art.
  13. Heidegger, Martin (1972). On Time and Being. New York: Harper and Row. 

Further reading

External links