Re-Turning to the Real: Phenomenological Appropriations of Plato’s “Ideas” and the Allegory of the Cave

  • Robert Switzer
Part of the Analecta Husserliana book series (ANHU, volume 110)


This paper focuses on the way one thinker in the phenomenological tradition, Martin Heidegger, has appropriated, re-worked and radically re-cast what is arguably the great founding vision of Western metaphysics, the cave allegory at the heart of Plato’s Republic. I take as my text the long, detailed and, inevitably, somewhat idiosyncratic interpretation of the cave story and Plato’s “theory of forms” presented by Heidegger in the first half of his winter 1931–32 lecture series in Freiburg, entitled The Essence of Truth and published as volume 34 of his Gesamtausgabe. Through the lens of a close reading of Heidegger’s analysis, I articulate two distinct themes of continuing concern within the broader phenomenological movement: the place of eidetic essences—paradigmatic structures of intentionality which, in Heidegger’s term, “pre-model” the transcendent objects which come forward for us, ‘as’ what they are, in experience—and secondly, the place of the “quest” archetype, the dream of liberation from the shackles of the ordinary and, through philosophical questioning, the turn (or return) to the “essence” of human existence. My wider goal is to show that phenomenology has served not merely epistemological but also broadly “ethical” ends: its aims—in the work of both Heidegger and Husserl, I argue—have been not merely to justify, but to transform, both our claims to truth, and our very lives.


Human Existence Ontological Difference Cartesian Meditation Human Essence Metaphysical Thinking 
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The author gratefully acknowledges the support of a faculty development grant from The American University in Cairo, which enabled participation in the World Congress of Phenomenology in Bergen.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The American University in CairoNew CairoEgypt

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