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William Blattner “Temporality”

Blattner, William 2005. Temporality. – Dreyfus, Hubert L. and Mark A. Wrathall (eds). A Companion to Heidegger. Malden; Oxford; Victoria: Blackwell Publishing, 311-324.

Being and Timesets out to “pose anew the question concerning the sense of being” (SZ: 1). To answer this question, to say something about what being means, requires us to acknowledge the role of time: time is the “horizon of all understanding of being,” i.e. being makes sense in terms of time. (311)

[…] for Heidegger “time” refers ultimately to something more fundamental than time as ordinarily conceived. It refers to originary temporality. Time is not the abstract “container” that we imagine “clock-time” to be, but a basic structure of Dasein’s being. (311)

Existence is that aspect of Dasein’s being that it always is what it understands itself to be. Dasein understands itself by projecting itself forward into some way of life, or as Heidegger puts it, possibility of being. (312)

Facticity is that aspect of Dasein’s being that it is concrete or determinate. Facticity is Dasein’s distinctive form of factuality. This determinateness discloses itself to Dasein through affectivity, which is the way things matter to Dasein. Everything Dasein encounters, from the most significant and oppressive events of one’s life, to the most trivial and irrelevant, matter to it. (313)

Existence and facticity do not just both happen to characterize Dasein’s being. Rather, they are equally important (“equiprimordial”) and interwoven. In II.2 of Being and TimeHeidegger describes facticity as the ground or basis (Grund) of existence. That is, we project forth into the possibilities we pursue becausethey matter to us as they do. I press ahead into being a father becauseit is fulfilling, into being a teacher becauseit is rewarding. If those possibilities did not matter to me as they do, I wouldn’t pursue them. (313)

Finally, the third element of Dasein’s being (of the “care structure”) and of disclosedness is falling. Before diving into a description of falling, however, we must cut through a significant terminological ambiguity in Being and Time. On the one hand, falling refers to Dasein’s tendency to fall away fromauthenticity and ontothe world of its mundane concerns in fleeing from the anxiety of a confrontation with death. On the other hand, it names Dasein’s essential encounter withand absorption innon-human things in the course of pursuing its possibilities. Equipment, paraphernalia, gear (das Zeug) are available (zuhanden) to Dasein as it goes about its daily business. (313)

“Future” does not here mean a Now, which not yethaving become “actual,” sometime will be, but rather the coming in which Dasein comes toward itself in its ownmost ability-tobe. (SZ: 325) Temporalizing does not mean a “succession” [“Nacheinander”] of the ecstases. The future is not laterthan beenness, and this is not earlierthan the present [Gegenwart]. (SZ: 350) In other words, Dasein’s possibilities are not the sorts of items that can be actualized in the present. I never can have become a musician, even though I am now pressing ahead into being one. I call this claim the Unattainability Thesis (Blattner 1999). (314)

In II.1 Heidegger defines death as the “possibility of the impossibility of existence” and characterizes it as a “way to be Dasein.” Heideggerian death is a way to be Dasein and, therefore, not non-existence per se. The latter, the end or ending of a human life, Heidegger calls “demise” (Ableben), in contrast with death (Tod). For clarity’s sake, I will call Heideggerian death “existential death.” Existential death is the condition in which Dasein is not able to be or exist, in the sense that it cannot understand itself, press ahead into any possibilities of being. Existential death is a peculiar sort of living nullity, death in the midst of life, nothingness. (315)

To tie all this together, Heidegger accords the phenomenon of existential death ontological importance, because it signals something about the very nature of human possibilities. If existential death looms constantly as a threat to who I am, then who I am, my possibilities, can never characterize me in any settled way. If they did, then I could never find myself unableto be them. Hence, my originary future is not the sort of thing that can bepresent, not a property that can positively characterize me in the way in which a determinate height or hair color, or even a determinate social status, can characterize me. It is a future that is not later than, that does not succeed, the present. (315)

Just as the “ahead” in “being-ahead-of-itself” describes a future that can never come to be present, so Heidegger argues that the “already” in “being-already in a world” picks out a past that never was present. Dasein’s originary past is, recall, its attunements, the way things already matter to it. I am always already “thrown” into the world and into my life, because I am always attuned to the way it matters to me. […] My attunements were not at one time present, after which they slipped into the past. Rather, at every moment that an attunement characterizes me, even at its first moment, I am already thrown into it; it is already past. (315)

Time as we encounter it in our everyday experience is not originary. How do we encounter time in our everyday experience? Heidegger distinguishes, in fact, two sorts of everyday time, world-timeand time as ordinarily conceived. Time as we ordinarily conceiveit (der vulgäre Zeitbegriff) is time as the pure container of events. Heidegger may well build the term “conceive” into its name, because he wants to emphasize that when we disengage from our ordinary experience and talk about and contemplate time as such, we typically interpret time as such a pure container, as the continuous medium of natural change. When we are pre-theoretically engaged with time, however, we experience it as world-time. World-time is the sequence of meaningfully articulated,
everyday times: dinner time, bed time, rush hour, the Great Depression, the Cold War Era, the 1960s, and the like. (316)

World-time differs from ordinary time in that the times of world-time are overtly defined in terms of their relation to human interests, whereas ordinary times are conceptualized as independent of human interests. (316)

World-time is world-time, both because it is the time in which worldly events are measured and ordered, and because it belongs to the very structure of the world. The world, in Heidegger’s technical sense, is the concrete social milieu in which the available has its place and in terms of which human beings understand themselves, hence in which human beings lead their lives. (This is the world in the onticexistentiell sense, sense 3, defined on SZ: 65, as elaborated in ¶18.) As Heidegger writes, the world is “that ‘in which’ a factical Dasein ‘lives’” (SZ: 65). (317)

Ordinary time, however, is the pure flow of clock-time, meaningless, empty, and potentially precise. It is, as Heidegger says, a “pure succession” (SZ: 422). The characteristic “datability” and “significance” of world-time are missing. (317)

„There is, in itself, the possibility that humans not be at all. There indeed was a time when humans were not. But strictly speaking, we cannot say: there was a time when humans were not. In every time, humans were and are and will be, because time only temporalizes itself in so far as humans are. There is no time in which humans were not, not because humans are from eternity and to eternity, but rather because time is not eternity, and time only temporalizes itself in each case in every time as human-historical.” (Intro to Metaphysics: 64) (317-318)

Time is not an entity, but rather an ontological structure. For this reason Heidegger rarely says of time that it “is,” except when he is articulating a common or even philosophical misconception. Rather, he uses the verb sich zeitigen, which in ordinary German means “to ripen” or “come to fruition.” (318)

Just as ordinary time is a leveled off version of world-time, so world-time is a leveled off form of originary temporality. Just as immediately above, we have a reduction in complexity or features, a narrowing down of understanding from a full-blooded phenomenon to one that is thinner. In this case, however, the thinning out is not the thinning of a now. Originary temporality, after all, does not consist of nows. Rather, we have a disconnection of the now from the ontological horizon in terms of which it makes sense. (319)

Heidegger calls the ecstasis of the originary present enpresenting (Gegenwärtigen, making-present). The horizon of enpresenting is, Heidegger says, the in-order-to (SZ: 365). The in-order-tois Heidegger’s general term for the involvement relation that binds the available to the human practices in terms of which they make sense and are defined. Contact cement is involved in home repair, because it is in order to bind objects together. The in-order-to constitutes the significance of the available. Various uses of equipment are appropriate or inappropriate only in virtue of the equipment’s defining in-order-to relation. It is, furthermore, only in terms of the web of in-order-to relations that nows themselves can be significant. Significance, the worldliness of the world (die Weltlichkeit der Welt), is constituted by the in-order-to. This in-order-to is made accessible to Dasein in enpresenting. (319)

We can recognize phenomenologically that the now experienced in engaged everyday practice is part of a larger whole, the whole that is the care-structure of Dasein. Heidegger calls the structural unity of care originary temporality. When we considered this above, however, we quickly arrived at the question of why originary temporality should be thought of as a sort of timeat all. Heidegger answers by showing how if we do classify originary temporality as a form of time, we are able to explain aspects of ordinary time that otherwise remain mysterious, such as its continuity. The continuity of natural time is the way in which natural times stretch back to their immediate predecessors and forward to their immediate successors. This continuity or unbrokenness of natural time remains a brute fact about time, unless we can explain it metaphysically. For this reason, metaphysicians have long sought to do so, but always failed. Heidegger’s suggestion is, then, to explain the continuity of natural time as a reduced or leveled off form of the span of world-time. The spannedness of world-time, what is more, is merely a leveled off form of the inherent unity of originary temporality, the way in which the originary future and originary past are intrinsically bound up with one another and with the originary present, which opens up the now for us. In short, originary temporality should be called a form of time, because it is explanatorily fruitful to do so. “Apotiori fit denominatio”: the name derives from the more powerful (SZ: 329). (Heidegger believes, moreover, that he can offer explanations of the irreversibility and infinitude of time as well.) (321)

Therefore, Heidegger aims in one stroke to answer two central questions: why call originary temporality “time,” and why hold that time is dependent upon originary temporality? In both cases, the answer is that the three varieties of time (originary temporality, world-time, ordinary time) form a degenerating series. If we view ordinary time as a thinned out version of world-time, and if we regard world-time as a disconnected abstraction from originary temporality, we gain explanatory leverage on time. We can now see why ordinary time is continuous, infinite, and irreversible, where beforehand these were bald mysteries. Moreover, if we accept this account in terms of degeneration, we have an excellent reason to regard originary temporality as a form of time: it is a fuller and explanatorily more fundamental form of time. (321)

The concept of historicality aims to capture the distinctive way in which Dasein stands in time, distinctive in virtue of its originary temporality. In a nutshell, Dasein is historical, in that it inherits its possibilities from its forebears and inherits them as already mattering. Dasein’s possibilities are handed down to it by way of tradition. Heidegger’s discussion of historicality may be illuminating for its own sake, but it does not spell out originary temporality itself. (321-322)

As we saw in the preceding section, the three modes of being are all fundamentally structured by modes of time and temporality. These varieties of time are bound together by the complex relations of degeneration and dependence we have explored. Ordinary time is a degenerate form of world-time, and world-time a degenerate form of originary temporality. In some sense, we are learning to see time as ordinarily conceived as a superficial and degraded version of originary temporality. We are learning to see what time “really is.” At its conceptual core – which is not a pared down logical scaffolding, but a fuller whole that makes sense of its degenerate faces – time is originary temporality. Because time is at bottom originary temporality, being is at bottom Dasein’s existence. “Of course, only as long as Dasein is…‘is there’ [‘gibt es’] being” (SZ: 212). This is to say that being at large depends on Dasein. It is not to say, however, that entities depend on Dasein: were all humans to pass from the scene, the stars would not blink out of existence. (323)

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