Ḥayim and Rivca Gordon on seeing Aletheia
in Οἰδίπους Τύραννος
If you want to ponder the essence of truth as aletheia and its being grounded upon freedom, you will find it helpful to look again at Sophocles’ poetic rendering of the tragedy of Oedipus. Sophocles clearly shows the great personal and political difficulties that Oedipus faced when he attempted to open up a region in which truths about his past were concealed. Oedipus acted as a free being when he undertook an engagement in which he strove to open a realm where beings that have been concealed become unconcealed and disclosed. This act of freedom, this unconcealing of truth brought personal disaster to Oedipus. Unconcealed truths are not always pleasant.
Another major insight that accords with Heidegger’s thinking emerges when you carefully consider Sophocles’ play. The insight is that, as with the truths that Oedipus sought, many significant truths that determine a person’s way of life establish a situation that transcends the accordance of a proposition to the matter at hand. The truth of Oedipus’ life is that, unknowingly, he killed his father, married his mother, and fathered children with her. The existential horror aroused by this truth, and by Oedipus’ situation once this truth became unconcealed—the truth of this horror transcends any accordance of a statement with a specific matter at hand. Such truths concerning a person’s existence and situation also emerge in the six other plays by Sophocles that have been preserved. We return to additional aspects of Sophocles’ rendering of the myth of Oedipus in later chapters.
This insight concerning the emergence of truth in the life of Oedipus leads us to accept a fact that accords with Heidegger’s thinking. The fact is: many of the crucial truths in a person’s life are aletheia—they are truths that a person must struggle to wrest from concealment. Without such a struggle, in many instances the truths will not become unconcealed. In Sophocles’ plays, we repeatedly find instances that support Heidegger’s statement concerning aletheia: "Unconcealedness is wrested from concealment, in a conflict with it."