The passion for disclosure of being in Dana R. Villa's Arendt and Heidegger
The Greek understanding of being as appearance thus reveals the ontologically constitutive power of doxa. Arendt’s and Heidegger’s “repetitions” are in remark able accord here. For Arendt, the superior reality of the public realm is found precisely in its doxastic dimensions, which Plato had dismissed as akin to shadows on the wall of a cave cut off from the light of the Real and the True. Heidegger stresses the historicity of the Platonic devaluation of appearance, a devaluation he sees as marking a turning point in the “spiritual” life of the Greeks and the “destiny” of the West:
It was in the Sophists and Plato that appearance was declared to be mere appearance and thus degraded. At the same time being, as idea, was exalted to a supersensory realm. A chasm, chorisimos, was created between the merely apparent being here below and real being somewhere on high. In that chasm Christianity settled down, at the same time reinterpreting the lower as created and the higher as creator. These refashioned weapons it turned against antiquity (as paganism) and so disfigured it. Nietzsche was right in saying that Christianity is Platonism for the people. [P. 106]This passage clarifies the political stakes of the “destruction of the history of ontology.” It also reveals the way in which the Arendrian revaluation of worldliness and appearance is continuous with, and indebted to, Heidegger’s “surmounting” of Platonism in the nineteen thirties. There is, however, a clear and important difference between their respective “overcomings,” a difference that creates an abyss between these two attempts at post-Nietzschean ontology. The difference reveals itself, symptomatically enough, in the course of Heidegger’s discussion of doxa in An Introduction to Metaphysics. Heidegger turns from discussing the importance of doxa for the reality of appearance to Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. Significantly, the lesson he wishes to extract from the tragedy is that appearance, by its very nature, is self-distorting: appearance reveals, but this revelation is always and at the same time a concealment, or a deception. Sophocles demonstrates the Greek recognition that “this deception lies in the appearance itself”: “Only because appearance itself deceives can it deceive man and lead him into illusion.) The structurally deceiving nature of appearance means that the all important Greek passion was not, as Arendt believes, the agonistic urge to action and self-display; rather, the Oedipus story attests to “the passion for disclosure of being.” The Oedipus story presents us with, in the poet Friedrich Hölderlin’s words, a “tragedy of appearance”; one that enacts, according to Heidegger, “the enduring struggle between being and appearance,” a struggle in which the drive to unconcealment is constantly at war with the concealing powers of appearance.