The final “Note” that is added to the 1967 edition of the essay in Pathmarks (Wegmarken) (Cambridge UP, 1998; translated by John Sallis) says that in the phrase “the truth of essence” (from which the essence of truth would arise), “remaining still within metaphysical presentation, Beying is thought as the difference that holds sway between Being and beings” (153). But truth, as fundamental trait of Being, is lichtendes Bergen, or a sheltering that clears. Heidegger then says that this is the first “saying of a turning” (Sage einer Kehre) within the history of Beying. Beying is concealing withdrawal, or aletheia (154).
The claim Heidegger introduces is that the presentation of Beying as withdrawing concealment, which also means, as errancy, “accomplishes a change in the questioning that belongs to the overcoming of metaphysics” (154). This means that “every kind of anthropology and all subjectivity of the human being as subject” is left behind and that “the truth of Being” is “sought as the ground of a transformed historical position” (154). It is a large claim. It is also the claim that the ontico-ontological difference, that is, Seyn, must give way to errancy. And that errancy is already postmetaphysical thought. No matter what one thinks of the Heideggerian jargon as such, it is perhaps clear that Heidegger assigns a great deal of importance to this particular manifestation of it. It needs to be thought out.
So this note is an attempt to grasp the notion of errancy in the essay. Preliminary and inexpert, as it were. And for discussion. I should say that I intend this as a contribution to a dialogue with Arturo Leyte, with whom I started discussing “On the Essence of Truth” ten days ago, in Gondomar. If, as we in this group have discussed in the past, the destruction of Hegelianism is the destruction of any historical myth, and of mythical history, or history as myth, the infrapolitical insistence on un-mythic politics that we call posthegemony appeals to an errant democracy, that is, to a political space liberated from metaphor. Errancy might just be the early Heideggerian attempt (only three years after Being and Time) to move tenuously away from a politics of Being, from the overwhelming metaphorization of Being as oblivion—all the more remarkable to the extent that, only a few years later, Heidegger would enter quintaessentially mythical antisemitic and Nazi paths. It is arguable that Heidegger came to think of a truer than true national-socialism as the only legitimate politics of Being commensurate with the sway of technological calculation in modern times. Such a move would not be authorized, would rather be preempted by the position taken in this 1930 essay.
There is an openness of comportment, a freedom proper to Dasein that first grants the possibility of truth as letting beings be. This happens in an active sense (that is, not as letting be in the sense of leaving alone). Letting beings be means engaging with beings by and in letting them be, in the form of a withdrawing engagement. Comportment is therefore a relation with the open region where things, beings, may be let be. The ancient name of that open region is, Heidegger says, ta alethea, the unconcealed.
Dasein’s withdrawing engagement is ek-sistent, it exposes. Once articulated in language, as the explicit question of philosophy, the question about Being as the unconcealment of beings as such as a whole means the birth of Western history, the beginning of historical time. It is not, however, that Dasein possesses freedom, or history; it is rather that freedom, as ek-sistence, possesses the human being, and holds history. But this also means that historical human beings can choose, “in letting beings be, also not letting beings be” (146). This untruth is no more a property of the human subject than truth is. Untruth also derives from freedom, from unconcealment, that is, from truth as such. And it is so “because letting-be always lets beings be in a particular comportment that relates to them and thus discloses them” (148). The attunement, the specific mood of every comportment towards beings, “conceals beings as a whole” (148). “Letting-be is intrinsically at the same time a concealing. In the ek-sistent freedom of Da-sein a concealing of beings as a whole comes to pass” (148).
Concealment is untruth. To the extent that every disclosedness happens, it happens from out of concealment. Untruth is “older than letting be itself” (148). Heidegger calls this “the mystery” (148). This mystery is the fact that concealment is what is first concealed, hence that truth happens first of all as untruth. This untruth, as “the originary non-essence of truth,” points to “the still unexperienced domain of the truth of Being” (149).
Forgetting sets in, as a factical determination of Dasein. Through forgetting of the untruth of concealment “the mystery leaves historical human beings in the sphere of what is readily available to them, leaves them to their own resources” (149). “The inordinate forgetfulness of humanity persists in securing itself by means of what is readily available and always accessible. This persistence has its unwitting support in that bearing by which Dasein not only ek-sists, but also in-sists, that is, holds fast to what is offered by beings, as if they were open of and in themselves” (150). “Insistent existence” is the name of a life in which the forgotten essence of truth-untruth holds sway.
Erring is the characterization of the life of insistence existence—the German irren refers of course both to errancy and error. But it doesn’t just happen, it is not optional or accidental. It belongs in the “inner constitution of the Da-sein” (150). “The concealing of concealed beings as a whole holds sway in that disclosure of specific beings, which, as forgottenness of concealment, becomes errancy” (150).
There is only one thing to be done, which is key to any possible political projection, and for me a crucial thought for the very possibility of both infrapolitical reflection and posthegemonic democracy, which means, of democratic invention today: “By leading them astray, errancy dominates human beings through and through. But, as leading astray, errancy at the same time contributes to a possibility that humans are capable of drawing up from their ek-sistence—the possibility that, by experiencing errancy itself and by not mistaking the mystery of Da-sein, they not let themselves be led astray” (151). “Experiencing errancy itself,” that is, as errancy, against every mythical projection, in the nakedness of traumatic awakening—this is the passage to the act in posthegemonic democracy and infrapolitical awareness: the political act that alone decides on the difference. Heidegger—this Heidegger of the 1930 essay—will call it “freedom” (151).
An experience of errancy is infrapolitical—it happens below the threshold. But, as experience, it is sustained into political life, as withdrawing engagement, as letting beings be. Awakening from errancy must be sustained, as errancy: as the demotic errancy of the one whose only qualification is to know no one qualifies as a subject of/to truth.