Philosophy and Phenomenological Research

Vol. XLVI, No. 3, March 198e

The Indeterminability of Time in "Sein und Zeit"

"What we call time is simply truth's inability to coincide with itself. " —Paul Dfc Man Allegories of Reading "Existence is an unexpected arrival of its proper impossibility. " —Emmanuel Levinas "Unlösbaren Rätsel sind Widersinn." —Edmund Husserl Erste Philosophie II "Für alle das fehlen uns Namen. " —Edmund Husserl Zur Phänomenologie des Inneren Zeitbewusstseins "Somewhere in the second installment of his reminiscences of the South, Magister Ussing calls time 'the galloping ghost/ God knows if this is his own expression; in any case it is very descriptive. But the dialectical task here is simply to get to see the ghost, and to that extent time itself cannot be called a ghost, for the sophistry of time is precisely that one cannot see it. " —S0ren Kierkegaard VU!1 A 193 n.d., 1847



As should be well known, Husserl, the most militant, vigilant, and virulent metaphysician, opens his 1905 lectures on time-consciousness wich a remark about St. Agustine. It reads:
The analysis of rime-consciousness is an age-old crux of descriptive psychology and theory of knowledge. Thefirstthinker to he deeply sensitive to the immense difficulties to be found here was Augustine. Chapters 13-18 of Book XI of the Confessions must even today be thoroughly studied by everyone concerned with the problem of time. For no one in this knowledge-proud modern generation has made more masterful or significant progress in these matters than this great thinker who struggled so earnestly with the problem. One may still say with Augustine: si nemo a me quarat, scio, si quaerenti exp Heare velium, nescio [I know what it is if no one asks me what it is; but if 1 warn to explain it to someone who has asked me, 1 find that I do not know].1

And, as is well known, Heidegger, in Sein und Zeit, has a short study of "the vulgar conception of time," in which the Confessions is examined virtually always alongside texts by Aristotle. There is a difference here, between how these two phenomenologists conceive Augustine's work on time: for Husserl, Augustine was the "erste," the "giosse and ernst ringende Denker, " when it comes to timetalk; but for Heidegger, Augustine is merely repeating the litany of the ordinary levelled-down interpretation of time as a "succession of instances of 'now'," a litany that wasfirstgiven voice to by Aristotle in Physics IV. There is clearly a difference here. But is it any more than just a matter of rhetoric (or of heuristics)? In any event there is a difference that no longer goes unnoticed. Let us (re)mark it. In Section 6 of Part II of the published portion of Sein und Zeit Heidegger gives his thinking over to the analysis of time that covers up its own essential understanding of the meaning of being. "The vulgar conception of time," Heidegger instructs us, "owes its origin to the way in which primordial time has been levelled off [Nievelierung der ursprünglichen Zeit]" (p. 405). This vulgar conception of time, we are told, is time interpreted as a "continually enduring sequence of pure 'nows'" (p. 409). However, this conception of time is one that keeps temporality "covered up" [verdeckt); and by reason of this covering up, the time which we encounter in "ordinary" experience has gaps in it. These gaps must be kept in sight, and in order to do that the theoretical "representation" of time as a continuous inbreaking and slipping-away stream of "nows" must be subject to critical examination — or so the claim goes. "In the vulgar interpretation of time as a sequence of *nows\ both datability and significance are missing. These two structures are not permitted to *come
Edmund Husserl, Zur Phänomenologie des Inneren Zeitbewusstseins, ed. Rudolph Boehm (The Hague: Marrinus Nijhoff, 1966), p. 3. Trans, The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness, trans. James S. Churchill (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1964)» p. 21.


to the fore1 [zum Vorschein kommen] when time is characterized as pure succession. The vulgar interpretation of time covers them up" (p. 428). Time, Heidegger assures us» cannot be rightly or rightfully represented. In §81 of Sein und Zeit, entitled "Die Innerzeitigkeit und die Genesis des vulgären Zeitbegriffes," Heidegger examines both Aristotle's and St. Augustine's interpretation as determinative representations of tunc as a continuous sequence of "nows." St. Augustine's conception of time is virtually always cited alongside Aristotle's, thereby suggesting the interchangeability of the two. In the course of studying these texts — the last part of Physics IV and Book XI of the Confessions — Heidegger attempts to give their conception its "rightful due." He talks about the "merkwürdigen Rätselhaftigkeit" of the ''representational" interpretation of time. By virtue of our insistence that time passes away we gain, or so we are instructed, a kind of "fugitive" access to a more onginary experience of time than the presumably abstractive one we find described in these two texts. There are two problems that need to be addressed if we are to understand the force of Heidegger's analysis. They are: 1. To render the u merkwürdige Rätselhaftigkeit" of the originary conception of time intelligible. We shall see that this remarkable perplexity has three forms: (a) the perplexity to which both Aristotle and Augustine attest when trying to make public an account of time; (b) the riddle of how the ordinary conception of time founds metaphysics by virtue of being that upon which metaphysics founders; (c) the puzzlement over Heidegger's failure to clarify whether time gets interpreted, conceived, or simply understood. This latter puzzle, as we shall see, is decisive for showing that Heidegger's attempt to enact a non-vulgar, non-ordinary conception of time is defeated in advance by the perplexities attendant upon the "ordinary" conception of time. In particular, Heidegger's account is, m advance, destined to failure by virtue of the fact that there is an impossibility inscribed in any account of time, the impossibility of there being anything but an ordinary account of time. 2. To show this, however, we must first instigate measures for remarking the difference between Aristotle's "naturalistic" conception of time and Augustine's "allegorical" plea for an understanding of time that is ultimately redemptive, i.e., that is the entry from history into sacred time. But of course on this score our work has already been carried out — notably by Derrida in his early essay uiOusia and Gramme1: Note on a Note from Being and Time" and Paul Ricoeur in his recent book Time and Narrative.1 It just remains for us to recapitulate his thought, as precisely
* Jacques Derrida, uOusia and Gramme: Note on a Note from Being and Time/' Margins



as can be. Derrida argues in his little essay that the notion of time is at the same time that which founds and funds metaphysics and that upon which metaphysics founders,
. . . every text of metaphysics carries within itself, for example, both the so-called "vulgar" concept of time jm/the resources that will be borrowed from the system of metaphysics in order to criticize that concept. And these resources are mandatory from the moment when the sign "time" —- the unity of the word and the concept, of the signifier and the signified "time" in general, whether or nor it is limbed by metaphysical "vulgarity" — begins to function in discourse.5

A little later on Derrida notes that
Perhaps there is no "vulgar conception of time." The concept of time, in all its aspects, belongs to metaphsics, and it names the domination of presence. Theretore we can only conclude that the entire svstem of metaph>sical concepts, throughout its history, develops the so-called "vulgarm " oi the concept of time (which Heidegger doubtless, would nor contest), but also that an other concept of time cannot be opposed to it, since time in general belongs to metaphysics' conceptualin^

And we can add that it organizes and regulates it. The discourse of metaphysics is timetalk, and necessarily so, for since time is a no-thtng, since "time" signifies that the origin and essence of nothing (and not "nothingness") is non-presence in the sense of the "not yet" and the "no longer," every attempt at describing or conceiving time requires, or has required in advance, an appeal to time, to a "precursory comprehension" of time. In thinking non-being as the non-present and being as present, we already unwittingly operate within the horizon or meaning provided by time. For if nothing has its origin and essence in the not-being of not-being-present, the source for everything is the being of being-present. To this extent metaphysical discourse is the attempt to render explicit this complicity of a certain notion o£ time that has always already befallen language. To this extent, we may say, metaphysical discourse is the attempt to institute this fallen character of language as the restoration of its essence. But, on the other hand, and with equal iorce^ to be able to determine time as non-present and non-being, being has already been determined in advance as being-present.

of Philosophy, trans, Alan Bass (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1981), pp. 29-67; Paul Ricouer, Time ana Narrative^ trans. Kathleen McLaughlin and David Pellauer (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1984), pp. 5-30. 1 Ibid., pp. 60-61. * Ibid., p. 63.


In this precise sense, something is eluded and alluded to in asking, as does Aristotle, whether time is or is not a part of onta. All of metaphysics is engaged by gesturing towards this question — and by silently answering it in advance as what could never be otherwise. If something is evaded in asking this question it could only be the thought of the impossibility of this not otherwise — or to sharpen the temporal economy of metaphysical discourse — the impossibility of this never otherwise, an impossibility of the same order and scope as the impossibility of two 'nows 1 coexisting. This latter impossibility is found, of course, in Physics IV, and the argument is famous: nows destroy each other reciprocally; for if the present now were not annulled by the following now, it would coexist with it, which is impossible [Physics, IV, z i 8 a 12.-15). Thus a physis of the now is impossible: it is impossible for the now to emerge from out of itself by containing itself within itself. And it is by virtue of this impossibility that Aristotle opens his discourse on time by pointing out the necessarily aporetic character of any general discussion of time (dia tön exoterikön logon). There is an impasse, then, at the outset of any timetalk. And this perplexity will be progressively intensified in the course of his discourse: Aristotle constantly repeats this exoteric perplexity by affirming it — by making time itself the affirmation of the impasse we encounter whenever we talk about time. Bur time, the claim goes, consists of a series of instances of 'now'; so a physis of time is impossible. As present in presentness the now cannot coexist with another now as such. A past now must have perished before there was any other now. But, as Aristotle has argued, it cannot have ceased to be when it itself was the now, for at that time it was. But, on the other hand, it is impossible that the past now should have perished in another now, for nows cannot coexist (zi8a I4f). The now, the actualized presence of the present and the actualized present of presence, is constituted as the impossibility of coexisting with another now, that is, with an other the same as itself. But it is also the impossibility of being different than itself, that is, different than any other now. The now both contributes time and is transcendent to it. But no sooner is this dual impossibility formulated than it implodes into possibility. The now is the possibility of the impossible: to be what it is, this impossibility implies that another now, with which our now cannot coexist, is also in a certain sense the same — a now as such and therefore coexisting with that which cannot coexist with it. That is to say, the impossibility of coexistence can be posited as such only on the basis of a certain coexistence in which the otherness and identity of the now are maintained in one and the same sameness. Coexistence has meaning only

THE I N D E T E R M I N A B I L I T Y O F T I M E IN " S E I N U N D Z E I T "


by virtue of irs impossibility and this impossibility appears only the basis of the possibility of coexistence. There appears to be a certain complicitv and compromise maintaining together several different nows: the impossible maintaining of several different nows becomes possible as the maintaining of several different nows. Time is the name for this impossible possibility; it is the impossible becoming possible and the possible becoming impossible/ Time is the very thing which eliminates time; time is that rime is uninrelligible. Time gives itself to us through the now, but does so in the very act of supressing the now. But: if a pbysis of time is impossible, then that it could have been otherwise is equally as impossible, it is this dual impossibility that the question after the meaning of time evades and that which is evaded in the question, as Derrida remarks, "propogates its effects over the entire history of metaphysics, or rather constitutes this history as such, as the effect of the evasion/ * But to evade this problem and to pose it as a problem are one and the same thing: that this problem eludes our grasp is what we mean by alluding to it; and every allusion to it consists in recognizing that it meluctably eludes our grasp. But for all that, time is not an illusion; it is the affirmation of the impasse of eliciting it. And this exoteric aporia which Aristotle initiates as the decisive way of constituting temporality gets intensified in Augustine's Confessions. This intensification of aporia parallels, or even is the same as, the progressive sophistication of language, that it is called to account for itself by being called upon to give an account of itself. As we know, the Confessions is premierly the self-referential attempt to say how it goes with language; it is the confession of the aporetic instantiation of wisdom as being the only one possible in the human estate. And this the Confessions performs — and neither says nor shows, for this can neither be said nor shown, bur only performed, performed by unsaying what it says and by saying what it unsays — by making of itself an allegory of its own unreadability, until, by continuous incantation, this allegory becomes the allegory of the readability of Holy Writ, of the sacred Word that holds reign over silence and reins discourse to the world. The Confessions is the exoteric instruction in impassabiliry, and not impossibility, as Aristotle's discourse on time was seen to be. There is little need to repeat the litany involved in reading the Confessions. We all have read it, and reread it. It is enough to have read it — it is so bewitching precisely because it attempts to perform its own reading as the allegory of its own unreadability. It is here that the difference between
' Cf. ibid., pp. 54-55. Ibid., p. 47.




the figurative and the proper use of language is forfeited for the sake ot the reunion with the origin of this difference. The author tries to return to the origin from which he has been exiled in the "region of unlikeness," the "regio dissimuliiudinis" (VIII, JO). Augustine attempts a restoration of the lost or forgotten origin of selfsameness by confounding figurative and proper language. His lived exile is the same as the loss of hard and fast differentiations between proper and improper, original and derivative, authentic and parasitic modes of discourse — and thus the loss of hard and fast distinctions between proper and improper, original and derivative, authentic and parasitic modes of existence. But his lived exile is also constitutive of the original difference, the originary difference, the origin of these differences — felt as an essential lack — that already inhabits the origin as its prodigal return. By granting this difference its deference, Augustine defers the inescapability of his exile and returns to it with the grace to embrace it. This grace transforms his pretention into the premonition of redemption. In Augustine's exemplary treatment of the region of unhkeness, this region is the metaphor for both linguistic theory and spiritual exile. This metaphor invokes, negatively, the concept of similitude, and similitude is, for Augustine, at once an existential imperative, imitât to Christi, and the basis for a mimetic theory of language. Language is the region of unhkeness. But it also represents the route for escaping that region. Nonetheless, there is an unbridgeable qualitative difference between the divine truth that rests beyond this region and all verbal signs. This qualitative difference prevents the linguistic journey from ever reaching its goal of a total escape from the region of unlikeness. The journey must recoil and double back in upon itself; and this doubling back is itself the affirmation of the journey — not only its seal, signature, and testimony, but also its covenant with the selfsameness of divine truth. By being forced to double back in upon itself, the journey recognized itself for what it is: the ad-venture of aporia that announces the advent of wisdom. As the doubling of itself, the attempt to achieve release from the region of unlikeness is transformed into a reading of this god-forsaken attempt. But this reading, in turn, is the avowal of the divine Word, since it is nothing less than a coming back to the region of unlikeness and recognizing it as such for the first time — and in order to recognize it as such its difference from the repose of selfsameness must have already been constituted, presupposing the relevation of selfsameness. The journey is a movement of always coming back to itself in order to let itself catch up to where it is coming back from.



By exploiting the notion of distance Augustine systematically provokes this aporeric instantiation of truth by forcing language to problemarize itself. The extent of the distance from the origin is measured by the extent of the deformation of language m appealing to its origin. This distancedeformation dialectic is explicitly dramatized in Augustine's discussion of the language we use to "signify" time. Such language, for Augustine, is paradigmatic of the problem of all language; and it \s no accident that his study of time, Book XI, separates the chronicle of his past from the revelation of sacred time carried through in Books XI) and XIII. Augustine "demonstrates" that the terms which designate the "present" are necessarily figurai because the present is literally absent. And because past and future also "are not," do not literally exist, any linguistic sign which "refers to" time is figurai; the "referent" of such signs does not exist (XI, 14). Time appears, then, by withholding its appearance; or more precisely, its appearing consists in the fact that h withholds its appearance. But how can we even say that something appears if there is no appearance? And what does this say about the practice of thinking? We must, like enlightened phenomenologists, distinguish what appears from its appearance, and both of these from its appearing. That what appears appears is its appearing. Rather than say that something is, we must think the appearing of what appears in its appearance. Time, then, is its own pretention: its essence consists in passing over itself, in leaving itself behind in the wake oi its own appearing and in preventing itself from coming to appearance. Time consists entirely in the traces left behind upon its leaving; it is nothing but the disappearing of its own appearing. Time is told, moreover, in the mode, not of metalepsis, but of paralepsis. Strictly speaking, it is not the case that there is just no speaking strictly about time; rather, strictly speaking, to speak strictly about time is to speak paralepticatly — to pass over it with but the briefest mention in order to emphasize rhetorically that it, in its conceptual unity, cannot but be omitted from themarizing discourse. The attempt to thematize time renders it wholly unintelligible. Augustine says: "Tempus tendit non esse." Rather than translate this sentence, let us try to evoke its meaning. Tendit cornes from tendo, which is the Latin caique for the Greek teinb. Both mean originarily to distend, stretch out, extend. Time extends; time is distending; rime is the distending of itself. Augusrine does not say tempus tendit in non esse; there is no preposition. Yet how can we think the distention of time without thinking of that towards which it extends, that it has stretched itself further than itself, further than even its own measure, past every measure? It seems



necessary to insert a preposition. But perhaps not, i f we recognize that the measure of time is the deployment of time past is own measure. What does time measure, if it exceeds its own measure and measures by exceeding its measure? Augustine tells us: mind itself, ipsius anitni (XI, 16). These words echo Aristotle: time exists only because soul as intellect {psyche kai psyches nous) does (Physics IV, 223a 22-27). The mind meets time by finding it is meted out by time. Mete comes from the Greek medesthai, to be mindful. We are mindful when we meet with the meting out of mind. Time is the allotment or apportionment of mind; it allows mind its mindfulness, and to think is to be mindful of and in virtue of this apportioning. Time apportions the proportionality by which we are mindful of things. Time measures the employment oi mind in deploying time further than its measure. Both Augustine and Aristotle expressly reiterate the impassability attained when signification comes up against its limits in trying to designate the nonexistent referent implicated in the unity of the concept and the word 'time\ Time is the tension and torsion effecting a discourse that lacks reference. Such a discourse is undertaken by overtaking the aporia awaiting it. Such a discourse describes the vulnerability of discourse to aporia, for time represents the failing of referentiality. We find this more explicitly embodied in Augustine than in Aristotle, for in the former language is called to greater sophistication by virtue of the disclosure of its allegorical character when called upon to reflect its own origin. And the problem of language is for Augustine one with the problem of time. Precisely this is the difference between Aristotle and Augustine, a difference early Heidegger failed to note — a remarkably puzzling failure. Time, Augustine argues (XI, 27), metes out the constancy of affections. But these affections, as internalized and differentiated from the things which effect them, are representational in nature. Time, then, Augustine seems to suggest, is the representation of the reference to representationality. Time measures the reference to representations. It is the measure of the extent to which representationality implies at the same time that it deflects referentiality. But all this seems to have escaped Heidegger's notice. Something, however, can no longer escape our notice, and that is that, while it is in Sein und Zeit that we find time as either interpreted, or conceived, or understood, it would seem to be a matter of indifference whether we consider Aristotle and Augustine as having offered an interpretation of time, or a conception of time, for time, as the appearing of the withholding of


appearance, as the disappearing of its own appearing, is precisely that which is given only insofar as it is rendered explicit by a thematizing of it. Time is the thematizing of time — or is it different as regards time, is time that time cannot be thematized? At least we can say this much, that time is manifested in and by virtue of having been thematized. Heidegger, when considering time, uses the terms "Zeitbegriff/' "Zeitverständnis, " and "Zeitauslegung. " We need to understand the differences between these three terms, for only after we have can we even begin to guarantee that our mode of access to time is not a corruption of time or a deflection from it, or if it is either of these, that time itself is in complicity with our corrupting or deflecting it. That is to say, in point of fact, that whether time is determined according to either a Zeitbegriff, a Zeitverständnisy or a Zeitauslegung is of the utmost decisiveness, for the point is to determine whether or not time is in fact a fact. And of equal importance is Heidegger's failure to remark the difference between Aristotle and Augustine, a failure, it may be supposed, resulting from his failure to note distinctions between these three terms. The suggestion is that whereas for Aristotle time can only be conceived, with Augustine time can only be interpreted as that which could never be conceived. As early as §5 of Sein und Zeit, entitled "The Ontological Analytic of Dasein as Laying Bare the Horizon for an Interpretation of the Meaning of Being in General," we find these three terms waging battle amongst themselves. The passage in question reads (pp. 17-18):
Dasein ist in der Weise, seiend so etwas wie Sein zu verstehen. Unter Fcsthaltung dieses Zussamenhangs soll gezeigt werden, dass das, von wo aus Dasein überhaupt so etwas wie Sein unausdrücklich versteht und auslegt, die Zeit ist. Diese muss als der Horizont alles Zeinversrändnisses und jeder Seinauslegung ans Licht gebracht und genuin begriffen werden. Um das einsichtig werden zu lassen, bedarf es einer ursprünglichen Explikation der Zeit als Horizont des Seinverstandnisses aus der Zeitlichkeit als Sein des seinsverstehenden Daseins, Im ganzen dieser Aufgabe liegt zugleich die Fordcrug, den so gewonnen Begriff der Zeit gegen das vulgare Zeitverständnis abzugrenzen, das explizit geworden ist in einer Zeitauslegung, wie sie sich im traditionellen Zeitbegriff niedergeschlagen hat, der sich seit Aristoteles bis über Bergson hinaus durchhält. Dabei ist deutlich zu machen, das und wie dieser Zeitbegriff und das vulgäre Zeitverständnis überhaupt aus der Zeitlichkeit entspringen. Dasein is in such a way as to be something which understands something like being. Keeping this interconnectionfirmlyin mind, we shall show that whenever Dasein tacitly understands and interprets something like being, it does so with time as its standpoint. Time must be brought to light — and genuinely conceived — as the horizon for ali understanding of being and for any way of interpreting it. In order for us to discern this time needs to be explicated primordially as the horizon for the understanding of oeing, and in terms of temporality as the being of Dasein, which understands being. This task as a whole requires that the conception of time thus obtained shall be distinguished from the way in which it is vulgarly understood. This vulgar way of understanding it has become explicit in an interpretation



precipitated in the traditional concept of time, which has persisted from Aristotle to Bergson and even later. Here we must make clear that this conception of time and, in general, the vulgar w ay of understanding it, have sprung from temporalis, and wc must show how this has come about.




What is the difference between these seemingly interchangeable or at least closely related terms? What is the difference here, in Sein und Zeit? Or is this a vulgar question, given that Heidegger is the undisputed master of speaking ex cathedra} But, I ask, might it not be considered vulgar not to distinguish between a Verständnis of time, an Auslegung of time, and a Begriff of time? At any rate, 1 find it vulgar of Heidegger to refrain from distinguishing sharply — or at the very least, more or less explicitly — these three notions from the start. Is this a failure, that he does not? Is it a failure that is built into his programmatic "destruction" of the vulgar sense of time? Or is it a function of the irrepressibihty of the "vulgar interpretation of time" that Heidegger fails to remark the difference between Verständnis, Auslegung, and Begriff— precisely when it comes to the phenomenon of time, the phenomenon that vexes any and every attempt at analysis? What is hidden in this failure? Perhaps concealed in this reluctance to differentiate between these three terms is the same gesture to which the tradition covertly appeals when pursuing the metaphysical vocation and venture, a gesture that effects metaphysical discourse, a gesture only now beginning to be exposed by the signature of Dernda. And what, to press even further into the Heideggerian imbroglio, does this reluctance, this failure, be it a failure of omission or commission, be it a failure implicit or complicit but a failure needing to be made explicit — whar does this failure say about the presuppositions involved in the question of the meaning of being? Is this failure implicated or precipitated, or is it propitiated, in asking after the meaning of being? And, finally, what difference docs it make, this lack of clarity about the differences between Zeitverständnis, Zeitauslegung, and Zeitbegriff? Can we say what difference it makes? If we can, we need to, if we cannot, we need to say that we cannot. We need to understand the difference between these three terms for only after we have can we even begin to guarantee our mode of access to time — by which we mean, I suppose, the temporalizing of presence, or the presencing of temporality, or are these the same, or different? Let us hote first of all a passage on p. 13 5 of Sein und Zeit. It closes the introduction in Division Two and it comes from §45, entitled, "The Out-


come of the Preparatory Fundamental Analysis of Dasein, and the Task of a Primordial Exisrennal Interpretation of this Entity." It reads:
Wenn die Zeitlichkeir den ursprünglichen Seinsinn des Daseins ausmacht, es diesem Seienden aber m seinem Sein um dieses selbst geht, dann muss die Sorge "Zeit" brauchen und sonach must "der Zeit" rechnen. Die Zeitlichkeit des Daseins bildet "zcit^cchncn', aus. Die in ihr erfahrene KZeit~ ist der nächste phänomenale Aspekt der Zcirlichkeir. Aus ihr erwachst da alltäglich-vulgäre Zeitvcrstandnis. Und diese entfaltet sich sum traditionellen Zcirbegriff. ' If temporality makes up the primordial meaning of Daseins's being, and if moreover this entity is one for which in irs being, this very being is an issue, then care must use 'time' and therefore must reckon with 'time'. Time-reckoning' is developed by Dasein's temporality. The 'time' which is experienced in such reckoning is that phenomenal aspect of temporality which is closest to us. Out of it arises the vulgar everyday understanding of time. And rhis understanding evolves into the traditional conception of time (p, 235).

And in Part VI of Division Two, §79, "Dasein's Temporality, and our Concern with Time," we find further battle waged between these concepts.
Das sich auslegende Gegenwartigen, das heisst das im "jetzt" angesprochene Ausgelegte nennen wir "Zeit*. . . , Die "unmittelbare" Verständlichkeit und Kennriichkeit der Zeit schliest jedoch nich aus, dass sowohl die ursprüngliche Zeitlichkeit als solche, wie ausgesprochenen Zeit unerkannt und begriffen beliben. The making-present which interprets itself — in other words, that which has been interpreted and is addressed in the 'now 1 — is what we call 'time'. But while time is 'immediately' intelligible Jnd recognizable, this does not preclude the possibility that primordial temporality as such may remain unknown and unconceived, and that this is also the case with the source of time which has been expressed — a source which temporalités itself in that temporality (p. 408).

Allow me to point out some rather obvious items of interest in these two passages. First, time is so close to us that it is only understood vulgarly, but surely this must mean that time, as that thing which is closest to us, is understood only in the mode oi having been overlooked and passed over — for this can only be the meaning of "vulgäre. " Second, time, it is said, "interprets itself," but, Heidegger adds, this only means that time has always already been interpreted — before, we note, it gets understood. There is a kind of fugitive sense in this idea, since time, as that phenomenom which retreats and retracts from being grasped, can only have been interpreted, and can only always already have been interpreted, for there can never be anything there to be grasped. But precisely for this reason, and since interpretation is comprehending, there is nothing there to be interpreted, or rather there is only time interpreting itself. Third, since time is that phenomenon closest to ourselves, it is naturally intelligible, but, we note, intelligible in a way that is totally unintelligible.



But enough of citations. Suffice it to say that at no place in Sein und Zeit is there any evidence of these three terms, Zeitverständnis, Zcitausleonttg* and Zeitbegriff, being used distinctly and clearly; rather, they are always associated with each other, and in an unclarified manner. We shall see how this lack of distinction and clarity is due to the nature of time itself, in that it is entirely undecidable as to whether time — even "primordial temporality" — gets interpreted, understood, or conceived. But if rime is essentially indeterminable, and if by time we understand, as Heidegger does, the horizon for the understanding oi the question oi the meaning of being, where by horizon something like the indeterminate opening up of possible sense is meant, then this says something remarkable about the question of the meaning of being: namely, that undercidabiliry and indeterminability are the horizon within which this question gets constituted in its sense, so that not only is this question undecidable, it is even undecidable how and that this question could be asked and could have been asked; and not only is this question indeterminable, it is even indeterminable how and that this question could be asked and could have been asked. In other words, if time is essentially indeterminable and if our mode of access to it is essentially undecidable, then the question of the meaning of being is, if we preserve our intellectual integrity, essentially unaskable—even if human existence is simply that desperate need to pose this question ever anew. But all this needs to be demonstrated. Let me first try to translate these three terms to which Heidegger makes recourse: Zeitauslegung, Zeitbegriff, and Zeitverständnis. Let me try to translate them thoughtfully. First of all, they are usually translated as, respectively, "the interpretation of time," "theconcept(ion) of time," and "the understanding of time." But if we pay heed to the call of language here, perhaps we can recall these dense words back from out of the everyday unintelligibility due, we are told, to the "vulgar" levelling-down process of understanding. Zeitaitslegung: Heidegger says of Auslegung (§32.111, pp. 148-49) that it is "grounded," "gründet, " in the understanding, das Verstehen, and that it is the "working-out," the uAusarbeitung, " of possibilities projected in the understanding. However, it need not be rendered thematic: it is just the "as-structure" of intentionality, that there is an intending of what is intended in being intendable as . . . . But this is hardly adequate, since it is highly questionable as to whether and how rime is intendable, given that the appearing of time consists in the fact that it withholds its appearance, given that time is the disappearing of its own appearing. This is to say, time recoils from intentionality. To see



this it is enough to recall that for the phenomenologist appearance, which is that aspect of rime that time withholds of itself, is simply the intentional act, so although time is, somehow — and a somehow that decidedly needs tobe specified — intendable, it is doubtful that time can be intended as a whole. The intentionality of time consists in being refactory to intentional acts. But not only that. To have an intentional act, the correlate of which is time, certainty seeïriï possible; and, indeed, necessary; yet it would seem impossible to have such an intentional act, since as Husserl discovered, time-consciousness is always a ''nachgewahren, " a becoming-aware in the vanishing wake of the freshly departed phenomenon; and given that time-consciousness is the absolute of intentionality. intentionality itself is defined in a late unpublished manuscript as the indissoluble unity of "entgleitenlassen-behalten," a aretaining-letting-slip-away.w Also with regard to time, not only is there an absolutely untraversable distance between the intentional act and that of which the intentional act is the correlate, the lived structure of time is always precisely this untraversable gap, inasmuch as I exist only by facing toward my death yet my death is separated from my life by an absolutely untraversable span of time, an impossible time when I am neither here nor not here. I exist futurally, and I can only intend time as both the slipsliding away into afiniteand ever-increasing finite past and, more importantly, the inbreaking of an absolutely indefinite future: at no point do I foreclose on having more time, on having a future — even were 1 to be stricken with a terminal disease, I could only be with more time, how little there was left, there could only be some left. Yet, nevertheless, I can only intend time as radically finite futurity, abruptly closing itself off at some time or another when I am to die — a time, we know well, that will always come at the wrong time. Because the future can only be intended as absolutely indefinite yet radically finite, my mortality is an absolute unintelligibility even while my immortality is also an absolute unintelligibility. Between my last breath and my first moment as a corpse there is a span of time inconceivable and untraversable, an impossible temporal distance. This temporal gap separating me from my death can only be formulated as the possibility of my own impossibility and the impossibility of any possibility. This gap collapses the structure of intentionality; it is that against which all intentions are shattered — yet this gap is where I live out my life, where 1 ek-sist. And let us note, that because of this impossible and untraversable gap, there is no time-as-a-whole, only the "now" as the presence of the present and the present of presence. It is for this reason that Heidegger says "time interprets itself as the *now\" To be more precise, though, the presence of the



present and the present of presence are the milieu in which any and ail Auslegung [\vi earned out. And n is impossible ro s m e ibc diffeienc.between the presence of the present and the present of presence lor tins reason. Time, then, abrogates the structure of intentionality: it would seem to have no "as-structure" yet it only has an "as-structure," for there is nothing for which this as-structure is a structure. We can say of time that its retraction is its extraçtiqn and its extraction is its retraction. We can say of time that its retreating is its entreating and its entreating is us retreating. Let us retreat ourselves a little bit further into the language here and call upon the Grimm brothers' Wortbuch. According to the brothers Grimm Auslegung is the attempt to translate into German the Latin ex + ponere and ponderet with the derivative meaning of expendere, explanere, and interpretari. Its German meanings came originally from fechtenausdruck, which means pressing outwards in a fencing in. A later meaning is vorschiessen which has the sense of pushing or shoving forward. As the translation for the Latin exponere and pondère, Auslegung is a setting forth and weighing, an exposing. Such meanings are related to inter + prat, which has the sense of a spreading out, a flattening. Die Zeitauslegung is the laying out of time, the spreading and flattening out of time into the midst of itself until it is surrounded by itself. This spreading our nevertheless thrusts time outside of itself in an ex-posing of time: in fencing it in time fences with the fencing-m process. And let us note, time can only be set forth, exposed, and subsequently pondered, only if m advance it has laid itself out before us. But Auslegung also means interpretari, which come from the Latin inter + prêt. Prêt- is the present participle oî the verb derived from pretium, meaning value or price. The Latin here is reminiscent of the Sanskrit word for meaning, which has the dual sense of meaning and price. Pondère and interpretari: time is weighed because of its immense value; "time is money," Benjamin Franklin said. Prêt-, moreover, is related to prat-, but prat- is the Latin caique for the Greek phraz-; so the mode of access to time can be said to be a phrazein, a pointing out or showing the way that is never a saying. To interpret time is to acknowledge its value without being able to say anyting about it. Zeitverständnis: The oldest known meaning of Verständnis is verschiedenartige, meaning various and sundry, heterogenous. This was an attempt to formulate a translation for intellectus. Verstand is encompassed by Vernuft, and means the capacity to understand, the ability to fassen, to lay hold of, seize. In this sense Verstand is sinnliche and sachliche: it is the activity of enowing sense and thing to each other-, and Ver-


ständnis is that this enownment of thing to sense and sense to thing has been enacted. Zeitverständnis is the enactment of the enownment of thing and sense to and by one another. Alternately, Zeitverständnis has something to do with the intelligibility of time. Hans-Georg Gadamer says of language that it is the "Verständlichkeit des Seins," the intelligibility of being. And Heidegger says (p. 151) that "meaning [Sinn] is that wherein intelligibility [ Verständlichkeit] of something maintains itself." The ver here signals an intensification, a using up by continuing through to the end, an unreserved expenditure, in this case, of standing. By standing within sight of time we stand with insight into time. But the difficulty here is that it is uncertain as to what is the sinnliche and the sachliche that are enowned by and to one another. Is time a Sache? Do we indeed have an inner sense, a pure intuition, of time? It would seem so, but the problem is how to say the enownment of this thing to this sense and this sense to this thing. And finally, what significance is there in the fact that time is intelligible in an ordinary everyday way although it has not been rendered explicitly intelligible, i.e., thematic? Zeitbgriff: Begriff developed as an attempt to translate amplecti, which has the sense of intertwined, interwoven, embraced; and an attempt to translate complecti, which has the sense of having grasped, clasped. It originally meant einschliessen, to close up in a clasp. Later it took on the sense of conception notio, abfassen, nach begreifen. In genera! it means die verstehen der Wahrnehmungen, the comprehending of perception. Again, it is a question of whether or not time can be perceived, or to follow the language more precisely, taken truly as it is, and embraced in its being-taken-truly. But to avoid this issue — whether time is perceivable — we can simply translate Zeitbegriff'as the concept of time. Yet to do this is to suggest that time has been collected and interwoven into a unity — something that is questionable, given the manifest diaspora precipitated by that untraversable gap separating me from my death. There is, however, a more telling translation of Begriff and that is as a beholding. In this sense the Zeitbegriff is a beholding of time such that in beholding time we are beholden to it, that is, we are under obligation to give back to time the gift of its own conception. In order to behold time we must hold ourselves steadfastly to granting to time the gift of its own conception. The fundamental feature of these three discursions into timetalk is that time is its own source and its own activity. As such it provides the resources for seeking its source. Or more precisely, it is the provision necessary for us to seek the source of our resources. In this way it can be said


that time, as its own source, deploys necessarily an interpretation of itself. As its own activity time activates the necessity of having itself gathered into an interveaving unity, enabling it to come within sight so that it can be beheld with insight; and this unity is an interweaving of past, present, and future into an ecstatic unity. We have seen that time is the negativizing activity of being; it is the appearing of the withholding of appearance and the disappearing of appearing. But this appearing of self-withholding is brought to thought as the appearing of absence. And this disappearing of appearing is brought to thought as the removal of presence that is the source of it. Thinking, then, is the restoration of the being of time by holding it forth from out of its self-withholding and by drawing it out of its withdrawal from presence. This restoration is itself a self-restoration. Time restores itself to itself through the deployment of thinking. In this sense u becomes evident that the appearing of absence takes place by letting thinking take the place of absence. Time is in and by virtue of showing where it can be found — nearer to us than anything, than any thing. That is to say, however, that time is in and by virtue of finding it the founding and tunding of all finding. The overriding question for the thinker is the complicity of thinking in this self-interweaving of time. That is to say, is time mute? But if time as the self-interweaving unity were not mute then it could not be interpreted but rather only heeded. Or at best, there would be no ambiguity as to whether time is interpreted or apprehended. Yet this ambiguity is essential to time: given that time falls away even as it is its own resurgence, and given that time draws thought into the wake of its withdrawal even as it is summoned by thought to be its own upsurgence, it is essentially undecidable whether it is, as we say, interpreted or apprehended. Let us see how this goes. To interpret something requires understanding it first. Yet like most things time has always already been interpreted before there is an attempt at a philosophical understanding oi it. And as we have seen, time is that phenomenon that gives rise to an interpretation without there being anything present of which the interpretation is an interpretation. But let me try to be more precise, guiding my thought by the work done on the basic meanings of Auslegung and Verständnis, To interpret time we have to work out the possibilities projected before us of how to take time as time. Here lies the problem: there is only the asstructure present before us. But let us continue. To interpret time, then, requires setting time forth before us and spreading it out before us: we lay time out before us. But what is it we lay out before us, if time is the with-


holding of its own appearance, if the appearing of time is that it withholds its appearance? We lay time out before us — so that we might collect it into a unity. Certainly: we lay time out before us. But we can lay time out only by letting ourselves be drawn into the wake of its withdrawal. To be drawn into the wake of its withdrawal, however, is to admit that time daims us. Time lays claim to us by laying us out along the wake of its withdrawal. To attempt to interpret time is to be laid out as the tracing of its absences. By being the laying out of the trace of the retreating of time, we behold time as that to which we are beholden. We behold time by laying hold of time. Certainly. But time is the receding of time from our grasp, from our embrace. So what we lay hold of in laying hold of time is the trace of time left in place of its retreat. Yet if to interpret time is to interpret how it appears, and if time appears by withholding its appearance, then we can only interpret time insofar as we interpret how it recedes from appearing, and this we can do only if we have in advance grasped the unity of time. Time is woven into this unity by an act of apprehension. So to interpret time it must have already been apprehended. But with equal force, to apprehend time it must already have been interpreted, inasmuch as what we apprehend when we lay hold of time is, as noted, simply the traces traced out in the retreat of time from our grasp. Since these traces are themselves retreating from our grasp, what we lay hold of when we lay hold of time can only be that we are the laying out of these retreating traces. But to seize upon this requires an interpretation in lieu of the absent phenomenon. Time is never thematized; thinking, rather, is the thematizing of time. To put it another way, since the matter (time) always averts itself from our gaze, it is this gaze itself that we engage in thematizing time, not time. Time does not give itself as itself from itself; rather, it averts itself fiom any self-giving and deflects itself from any simple givenness. For this reason it is essentially undecidable whether time is interpreted, apprehended, or conceived. It could, with equal justification, be any or all. If we say time is apprehended, then we are saying that we apprehend the fact that time withholds its appearances. If we say time is conceived, then, we mean we have gathered time into an interwoven unity; but this unity can only be that the whole of time is the aversion to being gathered together. And if we say we interpret time we thereby mean that we have understood that time defeats of itself any attempt at givenness, so that there is only an interpretation, without there being anything present of which the interpretation is the interpretation. In all these ruminations among the ruinations of the question of the meaning of being, it should have become apparent that the structure of the


question of the meaning of time has a different structure than the vaunted structure of the question of the meaning of being, the structure known as the hermeneutic circle» In point of fact, the structures of the question after the meaning of time has just the opposite structure as that of the question of the meaning of being: the former structure has something like the shape of a hyperbola barely touching on the hermeneutic circle, or just reaching short of it — the gaze is engaged m turning back upon itself just at the point where it should be entering into the hermeneutic circle; and rime retreats and recedes just at the point where it should have entered the hermeneutic circle. What happens to the circle? The circle collapses; it implodes and it is rendered mute and moot. The gaze seeing itself seeing itself with time exceeding its own receding; the gaze engaged in self-gazing while time contracts into a retraction of itself— that is the formal structure of the question after the meaning of time. It is possible to give a precise mathematical representation of the formal structures of the question of the meaning of being and the question after the meaning of time. (And certainly a word should be said here about the irresistible urge philosophers have of picturing time mathematically. There is even some research being done toward developing a model-theoretic representation of time— a representation, one presumes, in which the formal interpretation of time is in the same "language" as that of time. (And, one askes, what language is that? If time is in mutiny against its own muteness? Is that it?) And after that word, another word designed to undercut this urge. But let someone else say it; for right now I have an irresistible urge to give a mathematical pictorilization of time. Let you, reader, say it.) Although time, Heidegger tells us in "Time and Being," has four dimensions, or is a fourfold polyvalence, and being is certainly not unidimensional, but, if Aristotle is to be believed, rather is something like an infinite Hubert space (one presumes orthogonality), let us, for the sake of simplicity, say that we are dealing with two dimensions, namely, meaning and being. Let us also agree that the hermeneutic circle is centered at the origin, although we all have suspicions that the hermeneutic circle is either a circle with a hole at the center — in which case we would have to measure it with homology theory — or a weird ellipse with one single constantly shifting focus. Let us also agree that the hermeneutic circle does not have the shape of any of the seven catastrophes that René Thorn describes in Structural Stability and Morphogenesis — even though being, that is, what lies in between coming-to-be and passing-away, certainly acts like a catastrophe. That Is to say, we are agreed, then, that the hermeneutic circle is a circle without any pathologies in two dimensions,



the center of which is the origin, i.e., the center of which is where meaning and being coincide absolutely. Then the hermeneutic circle of the question of the meaning of being has the precise mathematical formula x* + y i = k\ where k is the depth of our understanding of the question. If we do not understand the question then the circle is an infinitesimal point; and if we understand the question completely, as presumably the divine does, then the circle is a circle the center of which is everywhere and the circumference of which is nowhere. Allowing for all the previous agreements, the formal structure of the question after the meaning of time takes this form: xy = (k + dk)\ Geometrically, the formal structures of these two questions look like meaning


The hyperbola is separated from the circle by the breadth of an infinitesimal, dk. Also note that the hyperbola approaches pure being without any meaning and pure meaning without any being, but never quite arrives at either. Let us also note that k, the radius of the hermeneutic circle, is constantly diminishing and the hyperbola is constantly expanding to xy = dk\ until we are left with the final structure to the question of the meaning of being and time, the meaning of Being and Time, the formal structure where all that is left are high noon shadows of the two axes of meaning and being, shadows that do not meet, i.e., the origin, the coincidence of being and meaning, is lacking.


But let me recapitulate this argument on a more scholarly level. In "The Nature of Things and the Language of Things" (1960)/ Hans-Georg Gadamer indicates the tension oi undecidability that exists between interpretation and apprehension, between "es liegt in der Natur des Sache, " and "die Dinge sprechen für sich seiher, " or "sie führen eine unmisverständliche Sprache. " Initially, to speak of the nature of things seems to be the same as speaking of the things speaking for themselves (p. 69). But the former describes an unalterable givenness that resists unsuitable, prejudiced, and capricious interpretations and prescribes a specific comportment that is appropriate to it. It is a measure of the extent of resistance on the behalf of things to our will to dominate and dispose of them. The latter, however, bespeaks of the reverence for things as they are. It is the attempt to awaken awareness of the "being of things that are still able to be what they are" (p. 72). This approach to the availability of things culminates in the highest truth of meditative thinking: it is that it is what it is. But both of these expressions in a certain sense say the same thing — "something that must be kept in mind over against the despotic character of our capriciousness" (p. 7z). Both of these stress the preestablished harmony between mind and things that takes place in language; they both enact the enownment of Sinn and Sache by and to one another. Both mean that it is not at our disposal to place the priority on things nor to place it on our minds; rather the priority belongs to language as the enacting of the enownment of thing to sense and sense to thing. As Gadamer has it, both of these show that "the correspondence that finds its concretion in the linguistic experience of the world is as such what is absolutely prior" (p. 78). The priority rests on the enactment of the enownment of the worlding word and the wording world to and by one another. However, there is a difference between these ways of having things. A difference of accent; for both show that language exhibits "an experience that is always finite but that nowhere encounters a barrier at which something infinite is intended that can barely be surmised and no longer spoken" (p. 78). Given this, Gadamer concludes that "it makes a difference whether a limit is experienced from out oi the subjectivity of the act of meaning and the domineering character of the will or whether it is conceived in terms of the all-embracing harmony of beings within the world disclosed by language" (p. 81). Truth, Gadamer suggests, is guaranteed "not in 'the nature of things', which confronts other opinions and

Hans-George Gadamer, "The Nature of Things and the Language of Things," Philosophical Hermeneuiics, trans. David E. Linge. (Berkeley: The University of California Press, 1976), pp. 69-81.



demands attention, but rather in 'the language of things1, which wants to be heard in the way in which things bring themselves to expression in language" (p. 81). Of course, Gadamer is talking about Sachen and Dinge, about the difference between causa and res. Time is nor a Ding; it is nor a res. So it would perforce appear to be a Sache, a causa, a matter of judicial arbitration as to the constraints it imposes upon us in accordance with the propriety of its availability. But this arbitration never reaches a conclusion. It never legitimates the proper mode of access to the matter at hand. This arbitration is interminable because this matter, time, is never at hand, but rather withdraws itself from a readiness to hand. The arbitration can at best terminate in an arbitrary prescription of the proper comportment to the matter. But this arbitrariness undermines all attempts at arbitration. This matter is therefore undecidable, since even the most uncompromising comportment to time cannot guarantee that time is thereby only being interpreted — and this means ultimately arbitrarily, capriciously pronounced. The question, then, is: Is there any resolution to the problem of whether time, in being reflected upon, gets interpreted, conceived, or simply described? Does the undecidability of this question arise only from a recalcitrance to primitive experience? But if the appearing of time consists in the fact that it withholds its appearance, and if by sense we mean the appearing of being, then what sense is there to time? Does time really make sense? No metaphysician can say. But what we can say is that inasmuch as rime represents the failure of referentiality and the lack of a final constitutive sense, and inasmuch as every metaphysics of time harbors within itself the attempt to overthrow that metaphysics and, yet, inasmuch as metaphysics is the endlessly reiterated attempt to forestall any objections to its self-adjudicating legitimacy, then metaphysics has always necessarily been imperilled — not from without but from within. Metaphysical discourse, we can now say, lacks reference but makes a kind of sense, a peculiar kind of sense. Yet insofar as it is organized and regulated by a certain way of making sense of time, whereas time literally does not make sense since its sense is that it recedes from sense, metaphysics has always necessarily suspected that it is an imposture, counterfeiting a kind of sense by concealing its own inherent nonsense. And if time is essentially undecidable as to its ultimate sense yet is the horizon for the understanding of the meaning of being, not only is the question of the meaning of being essentially indeterminable, it is, when all is said and done, the ultimate form of nonsense. Therewith the thinker must enlist the wherewithal to poke fun at this question, to toy with it, to scoff at it, but above all, to enjoin it to rich and royal, abundant and resounding laughter.


Or to put it to sleep. And ourselves along with it, by means of an irresistible and irrepressible boredom: the question is, after all, boorish. And you, have you too been put to sleep by my serious and somber reflections on time? I know 1 have, and long before yourfirstyawn. But isn't it time to get in a little play before we are taken over by sleep? And why not: play, we say, takes no time at all. But for that matter neither does sleep. Play and sleep take time off. Sleep; play. \ would have liked to note what these forms of life sayabout the question of the meaning of bemg. But I have to go now; it's time for work. (Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.)



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