In what is its ownmost, phenomenology is
not a trend. It is the potential of thinking, at
times changing and only thus persisting, to
correspond to the address and claim of what
is to be thought.
“My Way to Phenomenology”1
From the beginning, phenomenology is more than a method for Heidegger. He retains it as a possibility, a “potential.” Husserl had set free a capacity for investigation that still needed to be developed and radicalized. “Higher than actuality stands possibility. We can understand phenomenology only by seizing upon it as a possibility.”2 To learn how the ‘very issue’ toward which Husserl redirected our gaze could finally come to be sought in the economies of presence, a line of segregation must be drawn through the “rigorous science” conceived by Husserl. If Heidegger adopts phenomenology as a potential for thinking, there has to be something to preserve and something to be left behind in that science. “ ‘A priorism’ is the method of any scientific philosophy that understands itself.”3 It is the transcendental step back (Rückgang, regress, retreat) toward an a priori that is to be retained. But what a priori and what transcendental step back? And what is to be left behind? Following the guiding thread of temporality, we shall see that the a priori undergoes a transmutation as Heideggerian phenomenology reaches its ‘issue’ proper.
To trace this progressive constitution of the affair for thinking, the best approach is to ask, What is the time notion which, according to Heidegger, prevails in Husserl?4 I will then oppose this received notion to the various determinations of time in Heidegger—existential (according to which the concern of phenomenology is the ‘meaning’ or ‘sense’ of being), historical (according to which that concern is the epochal ‘truth’ of being), and eventlike (according to which it is the ‘topology’ of being). For a thinking entirely devoted to the relations between being and time, there can be no other criterion for segregating the potential from the actual in phenomenology, for bringing into focus the disciple’s ambivalence toward the master, and especially for directing phenomenology toward its chosen ground—the economies of presence. Following these transmutations, it is possible to sketch briefly the trajectory that “leaves the dimension of consciousness” and moves toward “what is wholely different from man, namely, the clearing of being.”5
I tried to think the essence of
phenomenology in a more originary manner,
so as to fit it in this way back into the place
that is properly its own within Western
“A Dialogue on Language”6
The way phenomenology belongs to Western philosophy results from complex interlacings that affect not only the kind of statements possible within phenomenological discourse, that is, the manner and the vocabulary in which it raises its questions, but also the interests that underlie its various steps, as well as the problems it excludes from its investigations. However, these webs of connection with the tradition are tied to certain initial orientations in the European way of philosophizing since antiquity, orientations that are easy enough to identify. In broad strokes, if phenomenology is connected to Greek philosophy, it is through the quest for an a priori that conditions and renders possible any and every experience. And if it is tied to modern philosophy, it is because it seeks those conditions in the transcendental knowing subject. The question arises whether a priorism and transcendentalism do not proceed from a common source that would precisely determine “the essence of phenomenology.” This source from which ancient, modern, and contemporary philosophies proceed can be for Heidegger only a certain conception of time. To fit phenomenology “back into the place that is properly its own within Western philosophy” can only amount to inserting it into the one enduring cadre of metaphysics: an understanding of time that—again, in broad strokes—has predominated from ousiology through egology without ever really being challenged (at least within the mainstream of that tradition).
1. “Husserl considers decidedly metaphysical questions.”7 Gauged by the discovery of ecstatic temporality, this verdict of Heidegger’s is undeniable. A closer examination can only substantiate it by stressing the linear continuity of time in Husserl against its existential discontinuity in Heidegger; the preeminence of the present against that of the future; retention and protention against “having-been” and “to-come”; the temporal flow (Zeitstrom) against the threefold “outside oneself,” the ecstases. And yet, at first sight there is nothing metaphysical in the Husserlian attempt to reduce the natural everyday attitude to a description of essences, whether these descriptions are of objects or of experiences in the world. Husserl’s is a retrogression from the known toward its subjective possibilities, toward acts of generative and formative thinking, into which the quest for a world μετὰ τὰ φυσιϰά, beyond sensible things, does not and cannot enter. It is however a retrogression that guarantees knowledge a stable origin. But what kind of stability? And why is the natural attitude qualified as prephilosophical if not because it is ignorant of its own origin, because it lacks solid grounding? It is bracketed so that one can discover how the objects of understanding arise, how they can at the same time be actively constituted and given in evidence. What does time have to be so that such a bracketing as well as the reduction of the natural attitude can be performed and that we can intuit essences at all? To analyze the constitution of objects, Husserlian thinking distances itself from the empirical in order to more readily view the a priori contents. Does this analysis escape what in Being and Time is called the domain of subsistent entities (vorhanden, “given as objects”)? Does the phenomenology of object constitution provide an alternative to the specific temporality of that domain, to constant presence?
The primacy Husserl accords sight already indicates that the answer must be negative. The eidetic contents are given to be seen (to be sure, by a productive vision, not a simple and direct one). They subsist opposite the gaze and for the gaze. This remains true even though Husserl frequently describes the perceiving subject as assuming different positions with respect to the perceived objects, looking at them from various angles. Within Western philosophy, there is nothing new about the primacy Husserl gives sight. Ever since Aristotle, sight has remained the privileged metaphor for the activity of the mind. Even more, since the classical Greeks, to think is to see.8 To know is to have seen, and to attain evidence is, as the word indicates, ‘to have seen well’. We only see well what is given to us, and we see best what remains immobile. Hearing, on the other hand, is the sense attuned to time: the ear perceives movements of approach and retreat better than the eye. A sound is not yet, then it approaches, it is there, and already it fades and is no more. For the gaze there is only the either-or of the present and the absent. To look is to strive to see what is the case. It is an act that requires distantiation. We are unable to read signs printed on a page with the eye ‘glued’ to it.9 Not so for hearing. The closer a sound is the better I perceive it. Hence ‘belonging’ has the connotation of ‘hearing’. The German gehören derives from hören. In the Greek, Latin, and Germanic languages, to be capable of hearing is to be capable of obeying; horchen means gehorchen. The eye is the organ of distance and the constantly present. The ear is the organ of involvement and of disclosure in time.
The Husserlian concept of consciousness, too, points toward Vorhandenheit. The eidetic contents produce evidence by and for the life of consciousness. This is an objectifying life since as ground-providing context it is objectively subsistent. Do not both the eidetic reduction and the Husserlian transcendental step back from experience amount, then, to deepening once more the ancient opposition between ὲπιστήμη and δόξα, between science and belief? For Husserl, this step toward the transcendental origin of cognition constitutes a knowledge, whereas the attitude that is bracketed is precisely a mere belief, the belief that the world of things is as we ordinarily experience it. The theater of the essences, the subject, subsists as it already subsisted for Descartes and as the theater of the ideas subsisted for Plato. It is this mode of temporality, subsistence, that inserts Husserl into the mainstream of Western philosophy. What is it indeed that the universal epochē makes us see? How is the origin behind the contents of natural experiences conceived, the origin from which the species and types instantiated by those contents arise? What is ‘seen’ is primarily the very subject of the natural belief in the world. It is on this point that Husserl remains loyal to Descartes and Kant. At the end of the reduction, the objects in the world as well as the subject itself show themselves as part of the solid universe of the transcendental subject. The constitution of an essence as a particular object, elaborated from real or imaginary experiences, establishes transcendental subjectivity as the arena for intentional experiences. From the perspective of time, this subjectivity could not function or ‘live’ without the kind of permanence already essential to the ancient hupokeimenon. Described in this manner, the step backward is the constitution of an epistemological field where a rigorous knowledge of the life of transcendental subjectivity is procured. Is the ancient ‘rational animal’ not recognizable again in the life of the cogito? Is the insertion into Western metaphysics not obvious? In Husserl, too, “the ζῷον’s mode of being is understood in the sense of being-subsistent [Vorhandensein] and of occurring. The λόγος is some superior endowment; the kind of being which belongs to it, however, remains quite as obscure as that of the entire entity thus compounded.”10
But is Husserl not rightfully renowned for having overcome the conception of an atemporal I? He distinguishes in subjectivity between the substrate and the monad. The I is “the identical substrate of lasting properties,”11 the substrate of habitual possessions, of acquired modalities of consciousness. This construct makes it possible to understand how the world of variably determined objects becomes enriched through experiences. The I to which every new object must relate is the ‘monad’. And indeed, the monad has a past and a future. The substrate, however, although it is no longer an entity as it was for the metaphysicians, does not change. It is removed from relations to the world and to others. This is what remains stable. It is the I as the identical pole of given experiences. From the point of view of temporality—the only one that matters here—the substrate is thus assimilated to the world of facts. It is the subjective, abstract pole of the world, but it is not being-in-the-world. It is as constantly present as the objects. Such limitation of temporal modes to one of them, constant presence, is what in Heidegger’s view assigns Husserl the “place that is properly [his] own within Western philosophy.” It is fatal for the understanding of “world.” Constant presence blocks any access to being-in-the-world. Heidegger therefore comes to surmise that the self-donation of objects is a delusion. From the standpoint of being-in-the-world and ecstatic temporality, he can say that the self-giving of the I is a “seduction,” “leading one astray.”12 The Heideggerian starting point cuts short the very possibility of fixing the subject in subsistence and time in permanence. The temporal continuum must collapse when “for the first time in the history of philosophy, being-in-the-world appears as the primordial mode of encountering entities.”13
However, the relations between the phenomenology of being-in-the-world and that of consciousness are more ambiguous. Husserl struggles against the natural attitude inasmuch as it consists in believing the contents of my consciousness to be available to me, there before my eyes. Therefore it is the notion of natural attitude that prefigures the Heideggerian Vorhandenheit.14 Both designate what the transcendental move must step beyond. Consequently, does Heidegger not climb through the breach already opened by his master’s works? He recognizes that Husserlian phenomenology prepared the “soil”15 for the question of being. The equation between self-givenness, constant presence, and subsistent being is, then, not so simple. There is one ‘datum’ in the phenomenology of consciousness whose characteristics lay bare both the thread that runs from subjectivity to being-there and the irremediable break that separates them.
“Husserl touches on, grazes, the question of being in the sixth chapter of the sixth Logical Investigation with the notion of ‘categorial intuition.’ ”16 An intuition is the corollary of donation, as receiving is the corollary of giving. What is given in a categorial intuition? A category—for example, substance. But how can a category be intuited, seen, angeschaut? “I see before me this book. But where is the substance in this book? I do not in any way see it in the same manner that I see the book. And yet, this book positively is a substance that I must ‘see’ in some way, since otherwise I could not see anything at all.”17 Unlike Kant, Husserl treats the categories as intuitively received. In the narrow sense, says Husserl, “being is nothing that can be perceived.” “But it is well known that one speaks of perception, and notably of vision, also in a much wider sense,” i.e., of Einsehen, intuiting.18 This intuition is analogous to the intuitions of inner or outer sense. In seeing ‘substance’ or ‘being’ at the same time as the book, I always see more than this book. The chief category, ‘being’, thus is seen in each and all perceptions. It exceeds every perception. Substance and being are “nothing in the object, they are not part of it, they do not constitute an inherent moment. . . . Nor is being something added upon the object. . . .”19 Hence the splitting of intuition into two simultaneous acts, sensible and categorial. In treating it as an object of intuition, Husserl “grazes” the question of being. A pre-understanding of being as a category accompanies any act of sense perception.
However, this doctrine of being’s intuitive status falls far short of a phenomenological ontology. It does not make it possible to determine by what mode of being consciousness stands in relation to the natural world opposite it. What is the crucial deficiency here? The temporality of the perceiving subject is not distinguished from that of perceived objects. Existential time is not distinguished from that of perceived objects. Existential time is not distinguished from constant presence. There is no way to pass from the categorial intuition of substance to the determination of subsistence as a way of being—as one way of being among others. When ‘being’ is sought for in perception, worldliness and Vorhandenheit necessarily remain unthought. The analysis proceeds entirely within these two and cannot thematize them. Furthermore, as life world, the world still receives its status of being from consciousness, from ‘man’ as the grounding representation.
Husserl thus made it possible for Heidegger to think being no longer out of the copula’s function in a judgment, but as intuitively manifest and in that sense as a priori. “With these analyses of categorial intuition, Husserl has freed being from its fixation in judgment.”20 Husserl has worked out the phenomenality of being in the category. But he has not questioned the identification of being with consciousness, nor, consequently, that of time with constant presence. By methodically falling back on the cogito, the phenomenology of transcendental subjectivity accomplishes a step backward that leads from the immediately and naturally given world to the world given for and by consciousness. Everything that ‘is’, and notably the object of intentionality, is in consciousness, present to consciousness. To be is to be represented.
The ‘Very issue’ or ‘matter itself’ of Husserlian phenomenology thus turns out to be representation. From this point of its insertion into Western philosophy, the restrictive understanding of time in that Sache selbst leaps into view. What is temporal about the object is that it maintains itself before the subject. “Here to represent means to bring subsistent being [das Vorhandene] before oneself as something standing over against [Entgegenstehendes] oneself, to relate it to oneself, to the one representing it, and to force it back into this relation to oneself as the normative realm.”21 By forcing the object back into the subjective normative realm, the subject constitutes itself as guarantor and guardian of the object and its permanence.
It is clear that, in order to show how Husserl belongs to the metaphysical tradition of linear time conception, Heidegger has recourse not to the notions of flux and flow (Zeitstrom) but to those of subsistent being and representation. The framework of the philosophy of subjectivity he uncritically adopts prevents Husserl from questioning the understanding of being as objective presence.
2. Heidegger turns away from this phenomenology of transcendental consciousness in three stages: first, by passing to existential phenomenology as fundamental ontology,22 then by passing to the phenomenology of historical alētheia,23 and lastly by attempting a topology of the ‘event’. The first metamorphosis of phenomenological transcendentalism leads to the replacement of the ‘subject’ by Dasein, the second to that of Dasein by Menschentum, the third to its replacement by an even less subjectivistic, humanistic, existential word: ‘thinking’.
The phenomenology of Dasein or of “being-there” may appear to be a concretization of the phenomenology of intentional consciousness.24 Transcendental subjectivity would then be the condition for the possibility of existential analysis. But as is indicated by the reference to the question of being contained in the very word Dasein, the foundational relation is rather the inverse: the existential analysis does not ‘fill in’ a posteriori the more formal concept of the transcendental I, but, on the contrary, it designates the a priori stratum that makes possible any philosophy of the I, of the subject’s consciousness.25 Regarding the transcendentalism of consciousness, the phenomenology of Being and Time takes a new step backward. Through its ontologicai essence, “being-there” is an origin more originary than consciousness. The mutation of transcendentalism from Husserl to Heidegger thus has to do with the role of man: the condition of our knowing and experiencing is no longer sought purely in man, but in his relation to the being of entities in their totality.26 The origin is no longer sought in the formal structures of consciousness through which indubitable representations are obtained, but in the ontological structures through which the entity we are is said to belong to being as such.
This transformation would still not be radical if it simply consisted in tracing phenomena to our ontic involvement with them27—if it amounted to declaring that sciences and ontologies are activities that proceed from concrete man. Viewed in this manner, phenomenology would reveal a twin origin, epistemological and existential, cogito and Dasein. However, this way of understanding the two phenomenological projects would gloss over the heterogeneity of the matter that each strives to see. The origin appears as subjectivity when this matter is representation. It appears as being-there when this matter is the being of entities.28 The priority of existential transcendentalism over the transcendentalism of subjectivity is established by retreating from objective essences to the being of entities. Once that step is taken, Husserl’s own starting point appears as a “delusion.”
The same methodic retreat makes it necessary to dismiss the dualism of subject and object; to construe phenomenology as interpretation rather than reflection; to follow the arrival and withdrawal of things in the horizon of the world instead of remaining riveted to entities constantly present; to sap the prestige of seeing over hearing;29 finally, to deconstruct the theories of the constitution of universals for consciousness. In such theories the origin functions as the archē of the contents of the understanding, but not as Ursprung, the emergence, the springing forth, of the “there” of being.
The overcoming of subjective transcendentalism does not put an end to the transcendental method as such. To question the “there” that we are instead of the I, and to disengage from being-there the structures of its performance in the world instead of the I’s a priori structures of objective knowledge, is still to seek the origin of phenomena. The starting point, to be sure, is no longer perception but rather our being’s involvement with things and with others. The origin as epistemological demands an analytic of the understanding, and the origin as existential, an analytic of being-inthe-world. The shift from one to the other discloses “the originary meaning” of the transcendental, so that even the Kantian critique is now exposed in “its proper tendency, possibly still hidden from Kant.”30 The proper tendency of transcendentalism becomes apparent when the a priori is recognized no longer in the acts by which the understanding gives itself totalities, but in the possibility of totalization proper to our being. Nevertheless, it is still a matter of coming back to ourselves in order to inventory conditions of possibility—of knowledge and experiences in one case, of the modalities of involvement and belonging in the other. In this way, the transcendentalism of the period of Being and Time retreats doubly from immediate experience: not only from the perceived to the structures of perception, but further, toward “that which renders possible perception, position, as well as the cognitive faculties . . . as so many attitudes of that entity to which they belong.”31 Subjective transcendentalism, from Kant to Husserl, retrogresses from the objects of experience to our a priori modes of knowing them; Heidegger in turn retrogresses from these a priori modes to their rootedness in the entity that we are.32
In this way, recourse to the I as the origin of knowledge is led back to “being-there” as the origin of the possible determinations of existence in the world. The transcendentalism of phenomenological ontology consists in this double regress. In Being and Time,33 Heidegger distinguishes three senses of the term “phenomenology”: formal, ordinary, and—this qualificative, which may be surprising, is found in another text—scientific.34 In Being and Time, this third sense is properly called “phenomenological.” The three senses are derived from three ways a thing may be said to appear.35 “Formal” phenomenology is the discourse about a thing that shows itself as it is in itself, that appears as such to the gaze by entering the horizon of the ‘there’. “Ordinary” phenomenology considers the thing as it seems to be, what it looks to be. But an entity can seem to be something only because it first always and essentially appears. Therefore, this second sense of φαίνεσ𝜗αι is dependent on the first. The third sense of appearing applies to something whose self-manifestation is only concomitant with phenomena in the formal or the ordinary sense. It does not show itself at first sight and for itself, but is “the meaning and the ground of . . . what shows itself.”36 Such an appearing must be wrested from phenomena, and that is the work of “scientific” phenomenology, “the science of the being of entities.”37 It is scientific because radically transcendental: it steps back from entities in such a manner that what shows itself is the other of entities, an ‘other’ that conceals itself in them as much as it reveals itself therein—not any noumenal ‘other’, but the ‘sense of being’. Understanding this sense is the very way to be of human Dasein. The a priori understanding of the sense of being makes possible all comportment toward this or that entity. So rephrased, transcendentalism has abandoned the problematic of the constitution of universal essences.
By disclosing another time it has also abandoned the neo-Kantian problematic of meaning. The expression “Sinn des Seins” in Being and Time can be understood in several ways. On the first page of that book, Heidegger cites a text from Plato about 𝜗αυμάζειν, the wonder that generates philosophy. Heidegger asks: “Are we today even perplexed at our inability to understand the expression ‘to be’?”38 ‘Sense’, Sinn, means, first of all, a sensibility for the question of being, as one may say of someone that he has a sense of fairness. Being and Time is to revive in us this sense of being as the sensibility for an issue. In the second place, ‘sense’ designates whatever can be understood. Something makes sense, i.e., has meaning, only within the domain of existential projection, the domain that is Dasein. In this perspective, the sense of being is being insofar as it enters into the opening constituted by Dasein. The limits of such an acceptation of the word Sim. are obvious: “The inadequateness of this starting point is that it all too easily makes the ‘project’ understood as a human performance.”39 In other words, Sinn as ‘meaning’ too spontaneously evokes subjectivist transcendentalism. Once this misunderstanding is eliminated, the third acceptation appears: ‘sense’ is direction. This usage, derived as I have said not from the Latin sensus but the German sinno, is rare in English. Still, one may speak of a body that moves in one sense or the other, as the French speak of the sens of a river. A one-way street is une rue à sens unique. In German, “sinnan or sinnen means to follow the direction that is the way something has, of itself, already taken.”40 In the context of Being and Time such bearing or directionality of being is not at all linear. “To think being as time”41 is to bring to light what Dasein never ceases to do, namely, to ec-sist, to be ecstatically. ‘Sense’ in this third acceptation, then, designates the threefold bearing of the temporal ecstases.
The metamorphosis by which ‘sense’ is disengaged from the acts of consciousness and engaged in temporality best shows the path that stretches from Husserl to Being and Time, the path from subjectivity to being-there.
Having given up the preeminence of con-
sciousness for the sake of a new domain, the
domain of Dasein, man has but one
possibility left to attune himself to this new
domain, namely, to enter into it. . . . Those
who believe that thinking is capable of
changing man’s place still represent it
according to the model of production.—What
then?—Then we say with all due caution
that thinking begins preparing the conditions
for such an entrance.
Seminar in Zähringen, 197342
The first mutation of phenomenological transcendentalism, that from subjectivity to being-there, does not entirely leave the ground of man. Indeed, the trend of Heidegger’s thrust beyond Husserl appears only retrospectively. Consciousness as producing eidetic contents ultimately is abandoned for a domain where man finds his place assigned to him, where he is no longer the master of disclosure. The task that then remains for him is to follow the movement of coming-to-presence as it occurs around him and to turn his thinking resolutely toward that historical economy. The line that leads Heidegger from Dasein to its latest offspring, ‘thinking’, is drawn in two strokes: from Dasein to Menschentum, a collectivity as situated by an epoch of truth, and from there to Denken as pure obedience to presencing understood as event.
In Being and Time, to be present still means to be present to ‘man’. The being that we are is presencing. A new way of thinking is required to understand presencing independently of such a reference. The new way of thinking can again be expressed in terms of ‘sense’. Heidegger says for instance that in the contemporary age “there reigns a sense in all technical processes which lays claim to what man does and leaves undone: a sense that man has neither invented nor fabricated in the first place.”43 What does “sense” mean here? Certainly something temporal since its injunctions address us in the midst of “technical processes” rather than in preindustrial processes. The temporality of sense, however, is no longer ecstatic and located in man. It is destinai and located in the epochs of history. “Sense” now designates the direction followed by “sudden epochs of truth,”44 their bearing.
The shift from consciousness to being-there was already accompanied by a new understanding of truth. In Being and Time truth is no longer construed from intentional acts as the structural unity ego-cogito-cogitatum. Truth is “resoluteness.”45 This transcendentalism answers the question of the conditions for the possibility of our being in the world by disengaging the revelatory structures from Dasein, which is thus the “locality” of truth.46 In that way, the origin of the ‘world’ is understood as the there of the possibilities for disclosure. This indicates a remarkable continuity between the phenomenology of intentional consciousness and the phenomenology of being-there: the possibilities of disclosure are always ours. That continuity becomes apparent only in retrospect. From the standpoint of Being and Time Heidegger has good reasons for not speaking of ‘man’ in that work. Compared to his later anti-humanism, however, being-in-theworld, just like eidetic knowledge, is constituted by the unfolding of characteristics proper to man. Being-in-the-world, just like knowing, belongs to the domain of our own potential. It is our ownmost potential. To be sure, intentionality of consciousness is but a figure derived from being-in-theworld, and the self but a modification of existence.47 Nonetheless, in either phenomenology, that of the subject and that of Dasein, the question of truth leads back to man. Truth arises, respectively, from the effective and founding structures of consciousness or from projection. In either case its origin, however desubstantialized, is man. This is not to say that, according to Being and Time, we create truth by our projects. Being-there is always ‘thrown’, preceded by its facticity, located in the midst of limited historical possibilities. Nor can there be anything solipsistic in Dasein. However, the projects are indeed ours. Both the Husserlian and the early Heideggerian phenomenologies consider what Heidegger later calls “the preeminence of man”48 to be constitutive of the origin of truth. For both, truth is accomplished by us.
After the discovery of destinai history the happening of truth runs in the reverse direction: no longer truth made, but truth in the making (the ‘constitution of truth’ no longer as genitivus obiectivus, but as genitivus subiectivus). Always and everywhere we respond and correspond to a truth “that has already happened.”49 It is no longer man who ‘opens up’ a clearing, who ‘projects’ light over entities, who ‘resolves’ the world by revealing it, but historical alētheia which constitutes man by situating him. This sharpened anti-humanism requires a vocabulary more explicitly in accord with history. Each collectivity, each Menschentum, finds its locus of truth assigned to it. Its destiny consists in having to respond to the constellations of presence instituted by an epoch. A Menschentum is an epochal type of man.50
The shift of ‘sense’ toward the directionality inherent in the history of alētheia preserves in transcendental philosophy the search for the conditions that make manifestation possible as well as the quest for an a priori. But these conditions and the a priori henceforth are not situated in man. As long as things present are called true because they enter into a project of disclosure, it is Dasein that circumscribes what is true (i.e., unconcealed because it is bedeutsam, meaningful). Aletheiological phenomenology, on the other hand, shifts from such circumscription to prescription. All its attention goes to what the historical constellations of truth prescribe through ‘sudden epochs’. Heidegger thus undertakes a transcription of the contours of truth. Its horizon is no longer drawn by existential acts such as anticipatory resolution (nor, of course, as Jacques Derrida repeats after him, traced by some figure of the other51), but by the epochē which precedes all our initiatives as their historical condition. What we can do is made possible by our epochal inscription. If, after such displacements of the a priori, we still speak of transcendental thinking, it can only signify a post-subjectivist, post-modern transcendentalism, “a transcendentalism without a subject.”52
‘Sense’ is to be understood now as historical and destinal bearing. Does this not restore a linear conception of time? Is not time—the horizon for the understanding of being—again the chain of the ages? Not at all. The epochal a priori is still more discontinuous than the ecstases in Being and Time. The expression ‘sudden epochs of truth’ points to this new discontinuity. In the context of the existential analytic, destiny (Geschick) means “Dasein’s coming-to-pass [Geschehen] in being-with others,” “the comingto-pass of the community.”53 After the turning, however, destiny is no longer anchored phenomenally in ‘being-with’. A collectivity receives its destiny, it no longer accomplishes it. ‘To destine’, then, means “to prepare, to order, to put everything in its place.” The ‘destiny of being’ is a setting in place of epochal phenomena by sudden rearrangements in the order of things. These intermittencies of destiny shatter linear time. “In the destiny of being, the history of being is not thought as some coming-to-be that could be characterized by development and progression.”54 Rather, destinal history “unfolds” itself.55 The epochs (as retold by Michel Foucault) are as little continuous as the surfaces of a geological fold.
As a consequence of the distinction between the epochal reversals and the turning beyond the epochs, ‘sudden epochs of truth’ can no longer occur past the contemporary threshold. That is the very content of the hypothesis of closure. What has to be retained from the discovery of epochal history, however, is the notion of truth as historical order in which things, actions, and words are rendered mutually present. Alētheia is to be understood in terms of economies of presence. ‘Economy’ is the generic term here of which the epochal constellations (with their reversals) as well as the anarchic one (after the turning), constitute specific instantiations. The event of economic coming-to-presence, of presencing, which after the turning becomes the very issue of phenomenology, requires a still more neutral vocabulary than the inquiry into epochal types of man. The corollary of the epochs is ‘Menschentum’, that of the event, ‘thinking’.
Aletheiological economies are still treated as transcendental conditions, namely of the metaphysical (‘conformity’) and critical (‘certitude’) concepts of truth. This transcendentalism itself is however neither metaphysical56 nor critical. As the constellation of what is veiled and unveiled in an economy of presence, truth furthermore is neither made by verification, nor projected. It dispenses itself to thinking which corresponds to it by abandoning itself to such constellations. The unity of this double ‘letting’, dispensation through economies and respondency through thinking, is called releasement.57 The mutations of transcendentalism lead from metaphysics to fundamental ontology, to the history of truth, to topology; from substance or subject to being-there, to epochal human types, and then to thinking or letting. They may be more easily understood by examining the matching attitude at each stage: making, projecting, corresponding, and letting.
If Aristotle’s Physics is indeed the “foundational” book of Western philosophy, not only its themes and methods, but especially the guiding attitude from which it springs, must have set the tone for the tradition. What is the posture in which becoming and its causes can arise as issues for inquiry at all? It is ποιεν, human making. That attitude predominates until the Husserlian consciousness as ‘productive’ of essences. The Aristotelian analysis of sensible substance and the changes that affect it provided ontology with its basic vocabulary. This is so because the understanding of being had come to be determined by a very particular experience, the astonishment of the classical Greeks before things produced by man, before his capacity to lead into being, to fabricate tools or works of art.58 The projective is but a late formalized offspring of this productive posture. The poietic understanding of being quite naturally translates itself into the double concept of origin (1) as archē of fabrication, then of change, and (2) as ‘principle’ of doctrines for understanding both making and becoming. Knowledge results from such recourse to the origin as archē and as principie, as the focal point for constructing and for conceiving. “Where there is no first term, there is no explanation at all.”59
Compare this to the economic notion of origin in the later Heidegger: the origin that lets all that is present be present makes nothing known. It merely gives us the emergence of entities in our constellation of unconcealment to think. The attitude it requires of thinking is neither poietic nor projective; it is releasement.60 Releasement is the first and final answer to the question, What is called thinking? It is the first answer, for thinking can be learned only if we let ourselves be, if we abandon and give ourselves over to the economic dispensation that assigns us our place. It is the last answer, for to think is to gather up presencing which in itself is nothing but releasement. Presencing lets everything that is present be present. “Letting” is therefore the identical essence of thinking and being.61 To think is to think presencing. To learn to think is to learn releasement. Far from connoting any carelessness or inaction,62 releasement is the essential structure of both thinking and presencing.
The mutations of phenomenological transcendentalism thus lead to Heidegger’s event-like Parmenidism: ‘to be’ and ‘to think’ are one in the event that is releasement. This unique event—coming to presence—assigns everything its location, including man. Because it is economic, it is an anti-humanistic Parmenidism; and it will be necessary to try to understand presencing itself in its terms. It is clear, in any case, that with the One as an economic event63 Heideggerian phenomenology steps outside the philosophy of subsistent being and linear time. What is one is the process of coming to presence. Through the event-like and economic One, the Very issue’ of this phenomenology is definitively severed from all ties to subjectivity and consciousness.
The Kantian quest for universal and necessary conditions of appearance is thus reformulated in terms of processes not centered upon man: on one hand, the process by which any economic unity (whether ‘epochal’ or ‘anarchic’) arises, enclosing for a while all possible phenomena in one mode of presence; on the other, the unitary process called event of presencing. These are two temporal conditions that must be met if appearance is to be possible at all. The temporality of the one resides in the history of alētheia; that of the other, in the ahistorical phuein or showing-forth.
As has been shown, several mutations of phenomenological transcendentalism must be distinguished: from the subject to Dasein (from Husserl to Being and Time); from there to the ‘destiny of being’ which ascribes to any given collectivity or type its historical locus; and finally to the ‘event’. To develop this ultimate phenomenological potential, it will be necessary once again to take up the guiding thread of time. Setting apart these two temporal conditions, that of economic history and that of the topology of the event—of presencing—is the later Heidegger’s way of working out the ontologicai difference as temporalized. This difference will be developed below as the difference between the ‘original’ and the ‘originary’.
This much should be retained at this point: with the mutations that have been traced we touch the withering away of the last in the series of epochal principles, subjectivity. From Husserl to Heidegger the a priori transforms itself from consciousness into being-there and then into an unfolding that is no longer in the least human: the diachronie, historical, ‘original’ unfolding called Geschehen, and the synchronic, ahistorical, ‘originary’ unfolding called Ereignis. The withering away already announced itself in Being and Time with the radical notion of Dasein. It comes to fulfillment, however, only when the very issue of phenomenology turns into the rhizomatic economies that situate presencing. The later Heidegger still sometimes calls an economic locus ‘Da-sein,’ but the transcendental step back toward that topos no longer reaches any origin as referential. The transcendental move then consists in the difficult retrogression in which thinking does what presencing does—let all present things rest in themselves, without manipulation and in accordance with the conjuncture in which they arise. Such respondency is what Heidegger calls “thanking.”64 It is an arduous task in which there is no room for resignation or quietism. It entails, on the contrary, a new concept of acting. An acting totally in compliance with presencing as it occurs economically would equally have to be described as ‘thanking’.
In the age of the turning, however, the most we can do may be to prepare topological and economic thinking and acting. “Thinking begins preparing the conditions for such an entrance” into the economic ‘there’, into the place provisionally assigned to us by the way things come to presence. Acting, likewise, has a preparatory mandate to fulfill.