In the conclusion to Part One of Parmenides, Heidegger continues an evaluation of Plato’s mythos on the polis. The focus in this segment is on the close of the mythos, where Er visits the daimonios topos in his transition from the “here” to the “there.” Heidegger begins by initiating an understanding of the concepts of the soul, the ordinary, and the uncanny as they are related to the “demonic.” For the Greeks, the essence of the soul is the way a being exists in relation to himself and to other beings, or “the position of Being on a living thing.” (99) A living thing must have the word in order to hold a soul because the only way that a being can relate to other beings, and thus experience Being, is by the word. Having experienced Being as such, the being has arrived at a daimonios topos, or “demonic place.”
An appreciation of the “demonic place” cannot be fully arrived at without assessing the Greeks’ understanding of the “demonic.” Heidegger claims that one cannot adhere to the Christian understanding of the “demonic” as the “evil” or the “devilish.” In fact, daimonios has its root in daio, and can be linked more closely with the divine than with the unholy. Heidegger calls the “demonic” “the essential ground of the uncanny.” (102) With this said, it becomes necessary to evaluate the meaning of the uncanny, as well as what is meant by the ordinary in relation to it. In general, the ordinary is perceived as what is within the realm of the “real” and the “facts.” Heidegger transforms this common interpretation when assessing the ordinary in relation to Being. Here, the ordinary is all that is represented by being, but is suffused with Being in the sense that they are both brought into unconcealedness. All that is ordinary emerges from the uncanny, is suspended in it, and falls back into it. The uncanny is, therefore, that which is extraordinary, seemingly excessive, and beyond the comprehension of beings engulfed in the ordinary. The “demonic,” the uncanny, and Being itself surround the ordinary, but are not the ordinary. The “demonic” comes before the uncanny, and “shows itself in pointing at what is ordinary.” (102)
The “look” allows something to present itself to other beings, as well as in reciprocity with the reflected look of another being. This is not to be confused with the action of sight, which adheres to the subject-object oriented way of thinking that takes the pointer for granted and is something man selects to do. On the contrary, looking is Being bestowing itself upon man by its shining into beings. Moreover, since the gods can look out through man, there exists the misconception that the divinities are a product or invocation of man. However, man cannot experience the gods without an original shining through and looking facilitated by Being. The gods originate from Being, and unlike the Christian god, do not dominate destiny any more than does man. Because man has the word, he can let beings appear by naming. Since the divine is what appears, it is what is named, or said, in mythos. Thus, the legend of the gods becomes myth, and, while man does not call the gods upon himself, he can be called the “god-sayer.” Bringing the uncanny into the ordinary via the “look” of the word is the daimonian. This correlation better equips one in understanding the daimonios topos as an “uncanny district,” where the uncanny shines throughout and Being comes into view.
At the conclusion of Plato’s’ mythos, Er finds himself in such a district. It is not on heaven or on earth, but it is where supraterrestrial and subterrestrial beings wander before returning to earth. The final stop within this district is the field of lethe. The field of lethe is a void, filled only by the presence of withdrawal. The only entity in this field is the river Carefree, from which all travelers must drink a certain amount before beginning a new mortal course. The “care” here is “the not caring about alathea.” (119) The drink from this river ensures that the drinker will return to earth belonging to the realm of concealedness. Some, who do not “have sight for what is essential,” (120) drink too much. These individuals will be at the mercy of concealment, and cannot experience “philosophy,” which is, for Heidegger, “to be addressed by Being itself.” (120) This portion of the mythos points to the idea that a certain amount of concealment belongs to the essence of unconcealedness. Since this is so, it follows that alathea cannot be the mere absence of lethe; unconcealedness is not an elimination of concealedness. Instead of the abolishment of concealment, Heidegger introduces the notion of anamnesis, the striving freely for unconcealedness throughout one’s mortal course. Anamnesis, Heidegger contends, is how man can preserve the unconcealed and overcome lethe. Because one cannot eliminate the other, and because there is nothing that lies between alathea and lethe, the movement from one to the other is sudden. The original point at which the two are united is the beginning; man originates from this point, the “uncanny district.”
From here, Heidegger introduces the Fourth Directive presented by alathea. He begins Part Two by reminding us that unconcealedness is a result of some kind of keeping. The unconcealed is what shows up, but not always what is true. This raises the question of whether the term “unconcealedness” fully exhausts the meaning of alathea. Heidegger discusses “disclosure” as a sheltering enclosure of what has been unconcealed, a saving from oblivion. This points back to the presence of a concealment within unconcealedness, and, as Heidegger points out, only further solidifies the conflictual essence of alathea to be explored by the Fourth Directive.
Applying this segment of Heidegger’s work to Voltaire’s Candide, it would appear that both Candide and the “philosopher” Pangloss consumed a bit too much from the river Carefree. Both characters subscribe wholeheartedly to the belief that everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds, even when events over the course of their journey prove otherwise. These two beings are impenetrable by what Being sets before them. They have the means of experience by which to assess the world and think beyond their original “philosophizing,” but they do not “respond to the claim of Being with appropriate thinking.” (121) While Voltaire may have been satirizing the optimism of certain contemporaries of his, Candide also proves to be a work that illuminates the folly in not giving oneself over to Being.