Makeshift: Phenomenology of Original Temporality

James Luchte

From: (

When questions are raised about principles, the network of exchange that they have opened becomes confused, and the order that they have founded declines. A principle has its rise, its period of reign, and its ruin. Its death usually takes disproportionately more time than its reign.[1]

In a summary of the Davos Disputation with Ernst Cassirer, and in his lecture on his own Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, Heidegger is documented as announcing the deaths of the principles of 'reason', logos, and 'spirit' as adequate "grounds" for a finite knowing rooted in existence, projected as its horizons of possibility. He rings the alarm bell that the "foundations of Western thinking" are in "crisis" - and are threatened with utter collapse. Heidegger makes these statements amidst the horizons of his own temporal existence and problematic, that of his radical temporalization of thought and of the exposure of these traditional grounds to their 'tragic' origin as aspirations of finitude. Cassirer contests Heidegger's written and spoken attributions of such a radical, temporal interpretation to Kant. Despite his comments elsewhere that defer to the spirit of Cassirer's criticism, Heidegger intimates possible readings or engagements with the Kantian text which moves beyond "philology" or "scholarship" in the usual sense of cultivating or advocating a "school of thought". Such an attempt to disclose an "unsaid" is associated with his reading of other thinkers, such as Husserl and Leibniz, which are significant for his expression of radical phenomenology - or his makeshift[2] thinking.

In many ways, these many names are place-names, topoi, for the investigation of the historicity of thought in its significant junctures, reversals, transitions, convergences, transgressions... And, there is a marked similarity in the treatment of these many thinkers as each is appropriated in the context of Heidegger's "makeshift". As mentioned, Heidegger does not seek to be a "good scholar", but to investigate various topoi of thought with respect to their disclosure of "matters themselves", in their accentuation of the phenomenon of original temporality. In his activity of squatting these various topoi, Heidegger is in a destruktive, oppositional comportment with the "history of ontology", but in such a way which seeks to learn from this trajectory of the thesis that truth resides in the proposition and that the measure of truth is ultimately "logic".

Heidegger's radical phenomenology came into its own between the years of 1924-1929. The primary texts for the project are his published works of the period, the unfinished Being and Time (1926) and Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics (1929), his 1924 lecture, "The Concept of Time" to the Marburg Theological Society, and his many lecture courses of the period, such as History of the Concept of Time (1925), The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic (1928), The Basic Problems of Phenomenology (1927), Phenomenological Interpretation of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason (1928). There are also indications of this project in later texts which trace the continuity of Heidegger's concerns - for instance, to the 'Origin of the Work of Art' (1936), 'The Anaximander Fragment' (1946), 'Kant's Thesis About Being' (1962), and still, many others.

Often in the unpublished lectures, we find unexpected formulations and previously unknown, unchartered investigations, such as Heidegger's extended discussion of sexual difference in The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic. In the same lecture, Heidegger depicts his own Being and Time as an example of an "extreme model" of a principial explication of eigenlichkeit.[3] These lectures are accentuated due to their rather neglected status in the current literature. While a few have focussed on Heidegger's work in this period, it is safe to say that the majority neglects the 1927-1928 lecture courses in favour of Being and Time and often very minute sections of Heidegger's so-called "magnum opus".[4] Even Kiesiel in his admirable The Genesis of Heidegger's Being and Time stops short in his journey - "right when it is getting interesting", i.e., when it was on the verge of discussing The Basic Problems of Phenomenology. Moreover, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics is rarely discussed in conjunction with Being and Time (in the sense of the 'Being and Time project' projected in Heidegger's outline of the unpublished sections of Being and Time), but has been co-opted in order to evoke the sterile debate of whether "Heidegger's Kant" is the "real Kant. In light of this reticence to "go all the way to the end", Heidegger's work lies in ruins, despite inquirers such as Sallis, Taminiaux, Krell, Sherover, and Schalow, who have attempted to understand "matters themselves".

We must attempt to redress this omission - and begin to deal with the majority of the extant texts in the context of an investigation of Heidegger's radical temporalization of thought, of his temporal problematic and its implications. Such an attempt is not a 'cutting and pasting' the fragments of a project in ruins - instead, we must seek to enter into the questions raised by these texts, published and unpublished. However, we must not get lost in discussions of the relations between texts at this preliminary stage (before there has been an adequate reading of these texts which have been only recently published), but must seek to understand the texts by seeking after that toward which each points, to see these various texts as "indicative" of being-in-the-world as the temporal existence of the self amid its world. In other words, one must attempt to understand these texts as an expression, logos, which is regulated by the desire to exceed towards "things themselves". To understand a radical, or makeshift, phenomenology of original temporality, each must enter into the questioning of existence so as to illuminate this overwhelming topos.

Heidegger's 1920's phenomenology begins with a specification of the phenomenon of original Temporality of the self, of existence (dasein) in the lecture The Concept of Time. Heidegger seeks to displace the linear model of clock-time in order to excavate the singularity of authentic temporality. As he moves through the lecture, Heidegger calls on his audience to detach itself from the interpretation of time which sets an external standard, whether as the fluctuation of night and day, or as the sun dial, or finally, as the mechanical device on the wall which executes a repetition of the same. Each is beckoned to disclose in his or her own self an authentic "measure" of temporal existence.

These preliminary and schematic indications acquire increasing power and breadth in the confrontation with Husserl in Heidegger's 1925 lecture course History of the Concept of Time. Heidegger charges that phenomenology, despite its rhetoric of the phenomena, has been co-opted and suppressed by traditional conceptualities, such as "reason", "consciousness", taken wholesale from the Cartesian orthodoxy, and a "common time" transplanted from mathematics, from the mathesis universalis. These heavily laden conceptualities obscure the original trajectory and intention of the phenomenological movement - "to the things themselves" - through the imposition of a "network of exchange" - that of a "logic" of discrete, linear identity. Husserl, in his Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness is interested in the myriad phenomena of time-consciousness, but not in the temporality of consciousness itself. Husserl suppresses that which he designates as merely the anthropological dimension of existence in a quest for a pure consciousness - even though he confesses that any attempt to fulfill the intention of a mathematical infinite would, after a time, break down. Such suppressions of temporality and existence entail tacit theoretical and practical - existential - commitments. In the light of these affiliations, phenomenology is exposed as un-phenomenological.

Heidegger seeks to disclose the being of the being that we are via a destruktion of the terminologies which shroud any access to a formal indication of this phenomenon which seeks to express itself. Heidegger insists upon an original 'unity' of intimate self-interpretation that is an expression of an authentic temporal existence. Heidegger rejects that which he indicates as a "mythology of consciousness" with its logic of severance in its assertion, in the manner of Rickert, Brentano and Husserl, of the extremes of the psychic and physical. In a coup d' grace Heidegger points out an exception, that within the antithetical framework of consciousness, there is no way to tell if a hallucination is "real". Phenomenologically, a hallucination erupts amidst an intentional relation, of which the distinction between the physical and physical is posited as elements of an interpretation. Yet, within this relationship, a hallucination is merely another objective phenomena. There is no mark allowing one to step outside the intentional envelop. For Heidegger, being-toward-death is the mark which subverts the envelop of these of antithetical positions, pointing to a deeper severance of thinking - "consciousness" - from temporality. Heidegger insists that severance is a detour and evasion of the "matters themselves", this existence of an ecstatic, temporal self that expresses its own be-ing.

Such an existential disclosure finds expression amid another topoi, in a deconstruction of the Monadology of Leibniz in the Metaphysical Foundations of Logic and the his location of truth in the proposition. The precise trajectory of intentionality and expression, as the indication of existence, comes to the fore with the notion of monadic drive as a desire for finite transcendence, as philosophy, which leads to the specific discussions of Being and Time as the specific topos of the expressivity of finite existence. In this way, truth cannot be merely located in the proposition or representational figure, in that this logos is an expression of the being of the monad. Yet, Heidegger is not merely re-asserting the severance of antithetical stems, but is laying out a precise coordination of logos by being (Sein). It is only when logos becomes detached, or "free-floating", with respect to the being, that its function of indication becomes disrupted and threatens the possibility of not only an erasure of the expressive character of existence, but also of a suppression and cover-up (leqe) of the metaphysical foundations of logic.

In Being and Time, the existentials, or categories, of being-in-the-world, Care, being-toward-death, conscience, guilt and the event of disclosure in anticipatory resoluteness are finite expressions or characters of being-in-the-world, disseminations of one's own singular be-ing, amidst this projection of oneself upon the horizons of one's own indigenous historicity. These characters of being give expression of the specificity of the be-ing of existence as a condition prior to the modes of theoretical or practical being. It is the former which indicates the existence of the self, of this overwhelming moment of finitude, prior to the severance of the vorhanden and zuhanden. The emphasis upon the self-expression of existence entails a deconstruction of the severance which is merely a repetition of the representational or epistemological model. That toward which Heidegger is pointing is the being of human existence as indicated in the existentiale, Care, a specific and original sense of being.

This destruktion of severance intimates Heidegger's engagement with Kant in his Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, in which sensibility and the concept are excavated, traced back, deconstructed, to a "common rooting" in the transcendental power of imagination (Einbildungskraft). If a makeshift phenomenology seeks to disclose the phenomenon of original temporality, via a reminder of its original desire, it also seeks to unearth the schematism of transcendental imagination (ecstatic temporality) as the source of conceptuality in Kant. In the 1928 lecture Phenomenological Interpretation of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, Heidegger makes the distinction from the "subsumptive" model posited by Kant in his Critique of Pure Reason (a model which is forced to take its conceptuality from a "logic" that is ready-to-hand), a radical phenomenology discloses an expressive explanation for the emergence of an authentic conceptuality. For Kant, reason must always remain sequestered from temporality and its theoretical surrogate, the transcendental imagination. It is this distantiation of reason from temporality which in the end necessitates the architectonic of subsumptive judgment. In this model, it is only violence which can account for the "unity" of knowledge. The expressive interpretation of the origin of the concepts entails the exposure of a pure, sensuous reason - one that cannot in the end be distinguished from the transcendental imagination - it is ecstatic temporality and its self-expression. In light of the transfigured scenario cast into relief in the expressive model, it becomes possible to lay out the situation of original temporality amid which existence can disclose an articulation of the ecstatic self amidst its world. Conceptuality becomes the self-expression of existence, of a being-in-the-world.

This topos[5] of ecstatic self-expression is most fully expressed by Heidegger in his 1927 lecture course Basic Problems of Phenomenology. Kant's commitment to an a-temporal, non-sensuous reason has already been shaken through Heidegger's tracing of the stems of understanding and sensibility to a common root of imagination, and more explicitly, his locating of the origin, and hence, legitimacy of a philosophical conceptuality in the expressive articulation of the schematism of pure imagination. For Heidegger, the very presence of a transcendental deduction in the Critique of Pure Reason is symptomatic of an inauthentic interpretation of conceptuality. More problematic, however, for Heidegger, is the suppression of imagination not only in the Second Edition of the first Critique, but also in the two following Critiques. It is stated by Kant himself in his Critique of Practical Reason that imagination and temporality have no place in the "Kingdom of Ends". Even in the Critique of Judgement, Reason - theoretical, practical, aesthetical - at the end of the day, will deploy the free-floating imagination for its own ends, as confessed in the "Dialectic of Aesthetical Judgment". Beauty can serve a moral reason - but, nothing more.

The infrastructure of Kant's segregation of reason or apperception from any immediate contact with temporality or imagination is indicated in the Basic Problems of Phenomenology as "Kant's Thesis of Being". This phrase does not merely indicate a "position" taken on a well accepted path of questioning, but is an excavation of Kant's interpretation of being as position, as an object posited by consciousness. For Kant, the subject as apperception is that "ground" upon which all objects and experience achieve their unity. An a-temporal subject does not touch time - it posits beings that are 'in time'. In the wake of Heidegger's destruktion of this a-temporal subject, however, be-ing withdraws from the possibility of being a mere positing of consciousness. Existence, on the contrary, expresses its own intimate self-interpretation, prior to the severed stems of the theoretical and practical, of understanding and sensibility - prior to the opposition of consciousness and temporality. In the Basic Problems, Heidegger underlines his destructive intent through an explication of the trajectories of ecstatic temporality. In a moment of anticipatory resoluteness, existence not only expresses its own self-interpretation, as a hermeneutics, but is also an expression of an overwhelming temporality and historicity. Beyond the domesticated time of a vanquished sublime, there lies a Temporality upon which being, existence is projected as are all thoughts about being and beings. Such a gesture indicates a radical temporalization of thinking.

This finite thinking throws the traditional principle of reason into question. In such a raising of the question of the principle of reason, a 'network of exchange' which this principle originally opened becomes confused, a wrench in the works has disrupted 'business as usual'. However, even if the principle of reason has already undergone its rise and its reign, its death may take, as Schürmann intimates, with both a sense of irony and tragedy, even longer than its reign. In this way, Heidegger's indication of a pure sensible reason is such an eruption of confusion and absurdity in its "networks of exchange", and perhaps a first step in the unknotting and ruin of its 'order'. Such a counter-ruination would be the setting free of the temporal self to express itself amidst its own indigenous existence. Yet, amidst the hegemony of a "common time", a decadent reason persists in its function of suppressing an expression of being-in-the-world. As Schürmann lays out in his posthumous work Des Hégemonies Brisées, those "broken hegemonies" of ousia, arch, logos, eidos, ratio, substance, cogito, which set decaying in the dust may, in the end, intimate the possibility of a different future - for no reason other than that each is broken.


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