5 Jan 2009

UnReading Heidegger and Derrida



by Corry Shores
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[The following is my first MA Thesis, defended and archived August 2007 at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. The research here will prove usefull when later we examine how Deleuze side-steps these dominant philosophical traditions.]



UnReading Heidegger and Derrida

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‘Back and forth’ or ‘through and through’?

May words say how water moves?

Guide its gliding gracefully;

Course abreast its currency.

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Backstory

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Our read of Derrida will flow from our treatment of Heidegger, as though his writing picks up where Heidegger leaves off. Flowing transitions are more than mere coherence techniques in this thesis: our reading seeks a textual hermeneutic that is as freely open-ended all while remaining fluid. Such movements flow by moving unbrokenly, and free if altering unforeseeably. These two features would seem to counteract each other; for, if the movement is fluid, that to where it moves would connect developmentally from whence it comes, thus being not entirely free and unpredictable. This seeming paradox I intend to remedy here, by adopting and critiquing attributes of Heidegger's and Derrida’s characterization of language. In Heidegger’s hermeneutics, we find more fluidity and less freedom; in Derrida, the inverse. What I propose in conclusion is an alternative possibility for fluid alteration, possessing both fluidity and freedom, for further development in following efforts.

As a dynamic feature, fluidity has certain philosophical advantages: it is without recourse to transcendent principles, unrestricted by a metaphysics of presence, and able to account for alteration in accordance with paradoxes of identity and difference. Also, hermeneutic freedom opens greater possibilities for development and reconstructive re-vision by reviving the text through regenerative reinterpretations. While the conclusion will make use of Husserl’s associative structure of flow to articulate unbroken movement, our treatment of Heidegger and Derrida will presuppose such a fluidity to evaluate their textual hermeneutics in terms of freedom and flux.

To bridge through Heidegger and Derrida, we designate certain themes: relationality & middle voice, dynamism & fluid alteration, complexity, and these developments’ progress from a metaphysics of presence. Throughout our effort, we will come more to see how these thematic domains are necessary to the sort of flow we seek, and how they interwork: dynamism, especially fluid alteration, is facilitated by complexity and interrelationality; the former destabilizes the structure to perpetuate its motion, and the latter creates dimensions of complexity and bridges transitions so alteration can transpire without breaks. By complexity we mean primarily the coupling of opposing principles, which possibilizes and perpetuates dynamism on account of the resulting continual irresolution; yet in some cases, we may take complexity to indicate the intricate network of interrelations so thorough and pervasive as to preclude the possibility of identifying isolatable parts. Interrelationality can mean this thoroughgoing complex dynamic constitutional associationality, yet we include with it as well ‘middle voiced’ relationality, which we find to better facilitate a fluid alterational movement; a middle voiced relation is one that does not designate a subject-object hierarchy, and thus frees up relations to shift and change without any taking possession of another, which can make their natural reconfiguring somewhat more strained and rigid. We take these advances to progress philosophy from its confining metaphysics of presence that would normally limit flow’s freedom.

In our own version of a freely flowing hermeneutic dynamism, interpretation itself can be reinterpreted, as in the case of our development here in which our reading of Heidegger and Derrida fluidly alters our sense of textual hermeneutics. It is on account of this hermeneutic flow flowing upon and through itself, like the wondrous movement of water, that our revised un/reading is able to bypass the limitations of presential metaphysics so to move through unforeseen interpretations, but to do so unbrokenly, and thus without recourse to components not immanent to the movement itself.

Losing Heidegger's Way

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Ever moving always flowing

Through itself yet far away.

Our river runs a coursing,

Which begins along its way.

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As our read flows through Heidegger and Derrida, we will sense that the main features of Heidegger's characterization of language are adopted almost wholly by his successor; and while our concern here will be to clarify these similarities, our larger purpose will be to pinpoint the differences that have bearing on the textual hermeneutics implied in their characterizations of language. This way, we come to our own sense of how best to read a text, which would benefit our interpretations of philosophical writings – including Heidegger's and Derrida's own texts – as well perhaps as texts of literature.

I have designated regions of similarity between Heidegger’s and Derrida's writings on language – middle voice, complexity, dynamism, relationality, and the overcoming of traditional philosophy – in order to emphasize their main difference: Heidegger retains some of the tradition’s metaphysics of presence, despite his opening the door away from it, a door which Derrida crosses, further fulfilling Heidegger’s aim to untangle us from the tradition. The hermeneutic implication in this distinction is that for Heidegger, we are to read what is unread in the text in a way that always leaves the text still partly unread; yet for Derrida, we are not even to ‘read’ the text to begin with, but to let it continue deconstructing. Our own revised version of un/reading calls for a textual hermeneutic in which our interpretations flowingly change with their shifting constituent associations, ever altering the context of interpretation, thus liberating it from a determinate and determinating contextualization. Yet, because this reinterpretive movement flows, it does not involve radical violent breaks, thus is maximally free for alteration while remaining fluid. Before examining similar flow themes in Heidegger's later writings on language, we look first at prior stages of their development in his earlier texts. Here we find indications of the sort of complex relational dynamic that he later identifies with language.

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Middle Voice

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Heidegger’s usage of the middle voice in his sentence constructions is more than a superficial feature of his style. The middle voice is a mode of relationality that is central to his ideas about language’s complex dynamic movement. We need to adopt a middle voiced ‘letting’ hermeneutic not only to understand his characterization of language, but also to bring about language itself; for, it is through this mode of relationality that all things come to flow through the all-encompassing movement of language. I will interpret this stylistic feature found throughout his writing in a way that explains its philosophical implications, because it plays a central role in the way his characterization of language allows him to advance philosophical thinking past its traditional confinements.

Heidegger’s most prevalent uses of the middle voice are his lassen constructions, normally translated in English with inflections of ‘let’ along with the verb infinitive they modify. He makes explicit mention of middle voice in Being and Time’s second introduction, in his phenomenological treatment of logos as speech, portraying it in terms of its function of apophainestai: letting what is spoken about be seen to its speakers. As apophansis, logos lets be seen by indication, giving it the structure of apophantical synthesis, which is letting something be seen as something, that is, letting it be seen with something else in their togetherness. Also, logos can mean legomenon: what speech lets be seen by pointing to it, and hence it means also what is addressed, or pointed to, as something related to something else, and thus logos also means relation and relationship. These themes of togetherness and relatedness in Heidegger's depiction of language we develop later; regarding our focus here, we take note of the way he incorporates a middle voice characterization. Because logos lets be seen, it can be true or false, not in terms of correspondence, but of aletheia. Falseness is pseudesthai, deceiving as covering over as though by placing one thing before another so to present it as another thing it is not. Contrariwise, the truth of logos as apophainestai is taking out of concealment the beings spoken about, to “let them be seen as something unconcealed (alethes).” Apophainestai is central to his understanding of phenomenology, which for Heidegger means, apophainesthai ta phainomena, “to let what shows itself be seen from itself, just as it shows itself from itself.” Phainomenon derives from phainesthai, “to show itself,” which he explains is a “middle voice” rendition of phaino, to bring into the brightness of daylight (Stambaugh 28-30; 25).

The lassen constructions Heidegger uses to translate the Greek middle voice of phainesthai and apophainesthai might then be close to the “lassen-middle” constructions that normally take the reflexive pronoun, and which mediate the relation between the active and passive voices (Steinbach 21; Llewelyn The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience 86). In English translations of Heidegger's writing, we very often encounter verbal constructions with ‘let,’ in German lassen, which we found to be his way to translate Greek middle voiced verbs. Given the prevalence of these lassen, ‘letting,’ formulations in his writings, we can detect the middle voice’s important role in his thinking and writing style, even though he does not continually note their voicing. I offer this interpretation of his diction, because I find that through the middle voice, Heidegger is able to unwind himself from a tradition bound by the subject/object relationship, along with its metaphysical implications; and as well, it frees up the dynamism of relationality. When we let a being appear in a middle voiced way, it appears not on account of itself or ourselves alone, but instead through our cooperative efforts and mutual allowances for each other. By engaging non-intrusively, we integrate more fluidly with our world and better facilitate its alterational dynamic: rather than fixing relations we assist their freedom to inter-associate, thereby allowing constitutions to alter according to their changing associative relationality. Such a cooperative bearing blurs lines of distinction between beings, bringing into focus the relational dynamic. In a like manner, a middle voiced approach to text, as we later find, would yield an interpretative dynamic with greater open-ended freedom for flowing alteration, thus one with hermeneutic wealth, liveliness, liberty, and potential for continual renewal.

Heidegger sometimes characterizes this bearing as Gelassenheit. If we are right to characterize his lassen formulations as middle voice, then perhaps Gelassenheit is this sort of relational orientation in the world. John Llewelyn notes that Heidegger sought to express the lassen of Seinlassen and Gelassenheit without connoting either forward intrusiveness or disengagement, but rather something between those comportments (The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience 86). Gelassenheit does not involve an active agent imposing its will; for, his interlocutors in Conversation on a Country Path about Thinking say that to awaken Gelassenheit, they must wean themselves from willing. In accordance with this sense, the translator renders the term “releasement.” Yet, Gelassenheit is not a willlessness or complete passivity either: rather than “weakly allowing things to slide and drift along,” Gelassenheit lies “beyond the distinction between activity and passivity,” because it does not concern matters of will (60-61). The sense Heidegger gives to Gelassenheit is one of cooperatively engaging with and within a movement, that although remains mysterious, still nonetheless is fundamental to how we live and interact with the world, other beings in the world, and the dynamic of these interactions. In a sense, we do release from willing, not because we cease it, for Gelassenheit is not a matter of willing whatsoever; rather, we release ourselves from a relational perspective where will is at issue. The middle voice of verbal constructions likewise does not concern itself with willing; because, by not grammatically prioritizing a subject over an object, but by rather mutualizing or leaving the two undesignated, we release our articulation from a syntax prioritizing a subject’s willful action over the passivity and inferior volition of its object. Gelassenheit would seem, then, to be the nominalization of the relationality of lassen middle voice constructions.

In English, it is difficult to convey a sense of the middle voice, but some suggestions do well, for example, “enabling” and “abetting,” which connote cooperativity (Llewelyn 87; Rojcewicz 24). For our purposes, we will take the grammatical middle voice metaphorically, and refer to this sort of relationality merely as a ‘middle voiced’ relation; that is, one not designating a subject acting upon a passive object, but rather a relation of reciprocality and mutuality blurring lines of distinction between components, highlighting their interrelational dynamic. We later find how the constitutive interreferential interrelationality of the world constitutes all things as dynamic relations, by means of our hermeneutic engagement.

We find the middle voiced relation in another of its grammatical instances in Heidegger's writing: the “impersonal middle construction” Es gibt (Steinbach 29). As impersonal, such a syntactic configuration does not designate a subject or object, but expresses merely a dynamism by isolating and emphasizing the sentence’s verb. Although the It would seem to be performing the action gibt, this giving of the Es, for Heidegger, is a “letting,” a letting-giving, or a giving-letting, although designating neither a giver nor receiver; and, the Being that is given is “letting-presence,” the letting of which reveals its character in unconcealment; that is, letting-presence is a middle voiced manner of disclosure through the giving of the Es gibt (“Seminar in Le Thor 1969” 60; “Time and Being” 5).

Yet, this letting-presencing of unconcealing is not simple: coming into presence is in the same movement a motion from and into absence, and unconcealing at the same time a concealing. Releasement respects the concealment of Being as whole, because rather than willfully grasping a being in its entirety, Gelassenheit is continually aware that each being’s integration with the others – including one’s own immersion – is so pervasive that none can stand out to see the whole; at best, one can cooperatively engage in the relational dynamic which one co-constitutes. As well, the letting of releasement involved in letting-presence acknowledges that the very dynamic of unconcealing must also involve a movement of concealment, not only of beings as a whole, but in regard to the transitional movement of dually coming into presence while passing away. To be middle voiced is to relate not only to what is present, but to what also is not present, so that the transition of presence to absence in the movement of alteration may be better facilitated. Thus, through a middle voiced relationality, opposites can coincide without contradiction, even in a non-dialectical way, because releasement would keep both opposing forces together while de-hierarchizng their relation to each other, allowing them to continue their dynamic interrelating without being reduced to – or by – the other, in a sense, fusing them interrelationally without their obtaining a common identity.

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Complexity

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This melding without identifying opposites, which middle voiced relationality allows, is a feature of the complexity providing dynamism’s momentum. Heidegger’s opposites differ from each other, although not entirely so, and they do not dialectically sublate: they are inseparable from – but not reducible to – one another. We might say they constitute each other by being together in their opposition, but we will examine Heidegger’s own characterizations.

An early example of his inseparability of opposites is something ready-to-hand found missing: circumspection here discovers within the referential context of items an emptiness – which is the relational space where the missing object should be – and thereby also realizes the absent item’s functions and interrelations with other objects. By encountering this lack, the world’s relational structure of references is lighted and disclosed as this absence reveals all else present (Heidegger Being and Time Macquarrie and Robinson 105). As well, in moments of boredom and anxiety, absence awakens us to this constitutive complexity. In boredom, we “can no longer reach things, no longer be absorbed by them, no longer lose ourselves in them;” in these moments, we face the co-constitutive Nothing normally escaping our attention; likewise, anxiety reveals the Nothing, for it is a fear whose object is lacking (Visker 64-65). Lack also is co-constitutive in the Thing for Heidegger: in the case of the vessel, its emptiness does its holding, and thus is the vessel’s being: ‘containing’ (Heidegger “The Thing”169). Hence, a being’s constitution is concealed as well as disclosed.

Heidegger speaks of disclosure often in terms of truth, aletheia, which is also complex. He takes the a of aletheia as a privation of lethe, or concealedness, and the two are inseparable. Lethe is taken in relation to epilanthanesthai, “to forget;” and the Greeks, “speaking in the middle voice,” render it epilanthanomai to emphasize the mutuality between humans and the objects concealed by their forgetting, which as remaining-concealed, is the essential feature of both presence as well as absence (Parmenides 14; “Aletheia” 108-109). Thus, the un/covering of a-letheia is the complex of un/truth. Only on account of their belonging together can a true proposition stand opposed with an untrue one; and, only when considering truth’s opposite will our inquiry into it reach its essence. The un/concealing of un/truth requires a middle voiced relationality, as letting-be is required for its complexity: it is only because letting-be “lets being be in a particular comportment which relates to them and thus discloses them” does it also conceal beings on a whole; thus, letting-be is inherently a revealing and concealing, by means of a middle voiced relationality in their unfolding (“On the Essence of Truth” 130; 132). This concealment of beings as a whole is untruth or the mystery, which we now detail to later contextualized it with language.

Heidegger also speaks of this mystery and the un/concealing complex as occurring in art work. Bernasconi writes that an impenetrable mystery belongs always to it, and hence art’s role in Heidegger's thinking on lack is to illustrate the deeper complexity of concealment and unconcealment, which although opposite, bind themselves together in a mutual relationship (Question of Language 84). Heidegger explains this middle voiced relationship in his text, “Logos,” wherein he speaks of logos and legein as letting aletheia lie before us, because disclosure releases from concealment what comes to presence. A-Letheia, Heidegger explains, rests within Lethe by “drawing from it” and letting lie before us what is concealed in Lethe, the “reservoir” from which disclosure draws (Heidegger “Logos” 70-71). The concealing of lethe belongs to a-letheia, not “as shadow to light,” but instead “as the heart of aletheia” (“Time and Being” 71). Un/concealment, then, is inherently complex: disclosure’s motion is one and the same with concealment, because their joint movement is dually inverse: one’s motion moves with and through its inversion. Such a complex dynamic is readily exhibited in the movement of water ripples bouncing against a vertical wall, concurrently moving into the edge while also backwards through themselves. In water, such complex interwoven multi-directional movement is commonplace – one need only pause to observe its marvelous motion; later we will detail the water metaphors Heidegger employs in describing these sorts of movements he attributes to language as Ereignis.

Inherent to this sort of motion is the “coupling of opposites,” which for Heidegger does not equate or equalize the contraries, for he explains that logos – which is also for him aletheia – lets lie together before us such oppositions as night & day, war & peace (“Logos” 71). In Heidegger’s complexity, opposites are unified, just not through sublation or identification; rather, opposites are let to lie together, while yet maintaining their difference. He writes in similar terms of the Same, which is the “ancient something” concealed in a-letheia (“Time and Being” 24). The Same does not eliminate differences by equalizing, unifying, or reducing them to a common denominator; it is the belonging together of differing things gathered by their difference. Thus, only in terms of difference may we speak of the Same, which gathers distinct elements together into a middle voiced interaction (“Poetically Man Dwells” 218-219). Heidegger further describes this relation of Sameness in “The Principle of Identity,” where he rejects the notion of identity as an equality reducing to each other both ‘A’s of “A is A;” because identity, taken more complexly than bare equality, needs two ‘A’s rather than one for each ‘A’ to have with itself a relation of sameness. The “with” of ‘A’s sameness with itself is a non-sublative mediation; for, Sameness is a belonging together. However, rather than this relation being a belonging together, emphasizing their unity or synthesis, it is a belonging together, underscoring their “coordination” and mutual appropriation (24-32). Each is proper to – and appropriates – the other, without either’s reduction. We see again Heidegger's attributing a middle voiced relationality to his Ereignis, here translated as Appropriation. Thus, Nothing “belongs” to Being, because the two are not absolutely opposed but instead belong together in their opposition, remaining the Same by maintaining dually their mutual separation and togetherness (Introduction to Metaphysics 89). We further elaborate this complex relation, because their irresolvable opposition creates and perpetuates the dynamic’s motive instability, which will account for the open-endedness and freedom in his hermeneutics.

Heidegger sometimes characterizes the opposition of un/truth as a struggle, conflict, strife, or polemos, thereby casting the movement in terms connoting a violence and irreducibility to each other. Truth is gained through struggle; unconcealedness is “wrested” from – and is in “conflict” with – concealment, although it is unclear who the strugglers are. We might consider this unclarity of opponents as a middle voiced relationality in which the distinction between agents is blurred as the activity of struggle comes more to the fore. The sides of the struggle are more “oppositional relations” than opposites: they are not independent entities, but rather mutual relations, constituted through their middle voiced relationality, even though characterized here in pugnatory terms (Parmenides 17-18). In Introduction to Metaphysics, Heidegger reinforces this theme by speaking of phusis as the “sway” which births a world of oppositions (64-65). The contest between concealing and unconcealing is the tension found in all things opposite; for, in each is concealed what relationally stands over against it, and it is only on account of that oppositional relationship that each may be what it is.

In “Origin of the Work of Art,” Heidegger elaborates this struggle as the strife of World and Earth, the former more or less associable to unconcealing, and the latter to concealing, although on account of their blurred complex relationship, each, through its struggle with the other, is together with it. The World is self-disclosing openness, and the Earth is continual self-secluding and sheltering concealedness. The opposition of World and Earth is a productive strife through which beings unconceal in the lighted clearing. Yet, the concealment of beings also only occurs within the realm of lighting; for, every being we middle voicely “encounter and which encounters us” remains in the opposition of presence and absence; thus, the clearing where beings disclose in the light is their place of darkening closure as well. Although the strife of un/concealing is the primal conflict, their mutual struggle is not so simple a relation as between two distinct forces, because Earth penetrates the World, which grounds itself upon the Earth. Their conflict produces a divisional cleft that is really their intimate relation of mutual belonging: rather than split them apart, the rift keeps the two together in their joint struggling (“Origin of the Work of Art” 48-49; 53; 55; 62). This again is the complex relationship of coupled opposites. They belong with each other, yet not in pure reductive sameness, nor in speculative dialectical sublation, because their opposition sustains. Instead, this complex relationship is one of Sameness, togetherness, or mutual constitutionality perhaps best understood when taking the middle voiced relation into account: the two relate without either subjecting the other; rather, they enable each other to be what they are, dually in terms of their togetherness and distinction.

We take note that Heidegger characterizes the sign in this same complex manner when speaking of pseudos, which is the covering and veiling that is also a letting-appear. Thus, although pseudos pertains to the realm of covering and concealing, it is also ever in the same movement an unveiling, showing, bringing into lighted appearance. To describe the double movement of pseudos, Heidegger translates this Homeric line: “Zeus, slinging his lightning bolts to the right and letting appear propitious signs.” These heaven-sent arrows, as signs or sema, are a revealing that dually holds forth while keeping back: they suggest the presence of something else by masking over it. As portents, signs let appear the coming course of events by presenting their veil: when the sign itself unconceals, it also – by denoting and referring – indicates what it hides (Parmenides 30-32). We see here not merely the un/concealing movement of language, but also a complexity in the temporal dimension of its unfolding, which we later characterize as ‘dovetailing.’ Language keeps concealed not only what at any moment co-constitutes the revealed. As well, it masks indicatively what will emerge in this complex motion that unveils some relations and thereby conceals those about to disclose along the temporal dimension of their unfolding.

Heidegger’s temporality, then, is complex in this way. In Being and Time, he terms it the primordial out-side-of-itself. Temporalization is the unity of the Present with “the phenomena of the future” and “the character of having been” (Macquarrie and Robinson 377). Hence time’s complexity: what is not temporally present comes together with what is, and their enjoinment is temporalization. In “Time and Being,” he further clarifies how absence is determined by presencing: what is no longer present still concerns us; it “presences immediately in its absence” as what has been, thus does not disappear entirely. In this way, the temporally present reaches into what passes into the past, being then both absent and present in the present and past. The future too is such an absence, coming toward us as yet-to-be-present; however, this presently absent – and absently present – future is still yet more complex, because its approach engenders the no-longer-present, itself likewise bringing about this very future. And, this reciprocal relationality of the future and past’s inter- emergence/submergence brings about the present’s presencing, thereby co-constituting all three (“Time and Being” 13). Later we elaborate this perplexing temporal movement of the future arriving from the past that itself derives from the future, when discussing the thinker’s remembering and Heidegger’s hermeneutic un/reading. For now it should suffice to note some important features of his temporality: it stretches out from presence into absent presences, whose bidirectional movement toward and away from each other brings about a more coherent complex temporality melding past, present, and future into a symmetrical dynamic configuration with an indefinite center of origin. Time gathers and shelters what arrives and passes away, keeping these different temporal dimensions together without reducing any to another (“Language in the Poem” 176-7). When discussing Heidegger’s ‘destructive’ method, we will discover a hermeneutic implication of this complex temporal movement: un/reading unearths concealed meanings in previously composed texts, thereby letting them arrive from the future into presencing.

Heidegger further details temporality in the “Anaximander Saying” by explaining how past and future are present, despite their lying outside the region of unconcealment. The two are “unpresently present” – for him, absent – and together remain essentially related to the presently present, because the absent emerges into, all while withdrawing from, the realm of disclosure. For this reason, the absent and present constitute each other, although remaining distinct in their togetherness; and, their transitional motion moves in concord with a-letheia; for unconcealment is presencing. Yet although not identical, they are the Same in their belonging together, because the presently present does not lie “like a severed slice, sandwiched between two absences.” Instead, presence & absence’s staying-with-one-another is their “concealed gathering:” concealed because absent in part, gathered because together in Sameness (“Anaximander Saying” 261; 279; 263). The middle voice accounts for this complexity; for, he writes that presencing self-shows as letting-presence and as unconcealment: the giving of the Es gibt (“Time and Being” 5). The middle voiced relation, which allows presence & absence and concealing & unconcealing to maintain together in their opposition, is also the relationality making up the dynamic movement of Ereignis itself.

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Dynamism & Fluid Alteration

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Heidegger regards the dynamic of un/concealment as the giving of the Es gibt, which, by dually sending and withdrawing, opens the relational space for present and absent beings to dis/appear. Through his Es gibt, and along with his notions of struggle and play, Heidegger conveys a sense of a middle voiced constitutive dynamism. The sending and withdrawal of the Es gibt – which gives being and time by letting – is Ereignis. Although sometimes translated as ‘event’ or ‘event of Appropriation,’ Heidegger considers it unrenderable like logos and dao. Ereignis does not mean simply an occurrence; rather, as the belonging together of being & time and of humans & Being, it is a dynamic relationality, and not an event. Instead, Ereignis is a singulare tantum; its occurring is the only such occurring, and it can neither be said to terminate nor to have ever begun: such temporal traits derive from Ereignis and do not inhere in it (“Time and Being” 22; 18-19; “Principle of Identity” 36). It is not an event or the event; it is what possibilizes any eventuality. Parvis Emad and Kenneth Maly consider this when translating Ereignis as ‘enowning:’ they reject ‘event,’ because it evokes the metaphysical notions of unprecedented and precedented that are alien to Ereignis, and also because events emerge from within time-space created by Ereignis and are thereby enowned by it. Hence, ‘event’ cannot approximate Ereignis, because it must be understood from within Ereignis (“Translator’s Foreword” Contributions to Philosophy xx-xxi). Appropriation, Heidegger writes, “neither is,” nor is it “there;” it is not a being in time, but is the giving & withholding of being & time. It is no more possible to ascribe these attributes to Ereignis as is it to “derive the source from the river" (“Time and Being” 24): to say that it has being or temporality is a misunderstanding of Ereignis, because it is the source of being and time, given by withholding them. So when speaking of Ereignis’s dynamism, we must not attribute to it metaphysical meanings such as ‘becoming,’ ‘activity,’ or ‘event;’ instead, we regard it as what makes the dynamism of time, being, and language possible. This clarification becomes important when we discuss the impossibility of a metalanguage, which locates us, and everything else, within the relationally dynamic movement of language as Ereignis, thereby constituting all as language.

We further characterize Heidegger's dynamism as fluidly altering, a characteristic we later discuss in terms of language’s wave-like flow. By ‘fluid alteration,’ I mean a dynamic in which the movement of un/concealing and un/presencing proceeds without determinate divisions along its flow; instead, it is a continual movement in which each revealing veils something that itself, when coming to light, is also together already with what it shadows in darkness. In this way, beings transition seamlessly: each unconcealment glides into the negative relational space fluidly opened by some other concealment, thereby blurring constitutional lines across time. He says in “Origin of the Work of Art” that on account of the clearing, beings unconceal in “changing degrees,” implying that alteration occurs in a gradual way, even if with the force and momentum of struggle (53). Heidegger’s dynamism would seem to be a bidirectional wave-like flowing from concealment to unconcealment while vice versa.

In the “Anaximander Saying,” Heidegger further describes the fluid dynamism of his complex temporality. He describes genesis as the emergence of a thing “escaping” from concealment while going forth into unconcealment. The phthora of genesis is the “passing away” which is the movement that – although originating in unconcealment – withdraws and departs into concealment. Thus, genesis and phthora are the inverse complementary motions making up disclosure’s complex dynamic: in genesis there is the arrival of what emerges from concealment, and in phthora there is departing and descending from openness back into concealment. In this double movement, what comes forth departs just as it arrives. If all its phases of disclosure are only partial – on account of it being always either in a movement from or to concealment – then its movement is fluid; for, its unconcealment is never more than transitional. Yet, Heidegger writes that when within the presently present, it “stays awhile,” suggesting that for a duration it might be neither coming nor going, as though briefly riding the crest of a wave. However, as before noted, the presently present does not lie “sandwiched” between two absences, because what arrives is present only by also moving back to concealment, leaving off where its successor picks up. Thus what emerges as present does so through the double movement of coming forth and passing away, undergoing both movements together. In doing so, it stays in the “while,” which is the “transitional arrival in departure,” the “passage between the two absences” (“Anaximander Saying” 257-258; 263-264; 277). Heidegger's alterational dynamic is always a wave-like double movement in which beings un/conceal at no definite points. I offer another trope for this dual motion, ‘dovetailing:’ when something fills the inverse relational space of its complement, they can be said to dovetail each other, which means they flow together, complementing one another entirely. If a passing away motion is coupled by one coming forth, then they dovetail, fluidly sliding across each other in a seamless way, as when one instrument fades out its note while another fades in the same one, thereby fluidly transitioning that tone from one instrument to the next; thus, we might also characterize this movement as cross-fading. Likewise, wood pieces joined by dovetails interlock securely also on account of their filling each other’s inverse relational space. Such a dovetail or cross-fading configuration suggests itself in Heidegger’s dynamic middle voiced complexity, which bonds opposing motions through mutual complementarity. However, we will find that Heidegger's dovetailing is problematic, primarily for two reasons: in the double motion, what emerges “whiles,” and thus Heidegger may have perhaps held on somewhat to a tradition privileging the present by using a term evoking this metaphysics. Also, he does not always portray his dynamism as symmetrical. Elsewhere he writes of the history of Being, seemingly a trace of presence: even if complex, it still would not follow precisely the passing away motion he describes in the “Anaximander Saying.” However, we will adopt a dovetail structure based on Heidegger’s dynamic middle voiced coupling of inverse motions in the configuration we finally offer, although excluding these traces of presential metaphysics.

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Relationality & Inter-Relationality

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The togetherness of un/concealing, un/presencing, World & Earth, and the mutual appropriation of humans & Being in Ereignis, all suggest the importance relationality plays in Heidegger’s thinking. He says the Es gibt’s giving is a relation, and it gives being and time by holding them together with each other, thereby bringing them into being (“Time and Being” 5). The giving of the Es gibt, and the complex dynamism of the Ereignis, come about through a middle voiced relationality that is constitutive of their movements. Being and Time contains an account of Heidegger’s interrelationality on a different level – between beings – which will also provide an early version of his overlapping being with language, so we will pay special attention to the relevant sections, namely 15 through 18, and 32 to 34. From this analysis, we obtain Heidegger’s account of the relational nature of the world & language and the role hermeneutics plays in bonding them together.

In the earlier sections where Heidegger takes up a phenomenological approach to the explication of Being, he comes to regard the world as being constituted by relations, which is revealed to us through the activity of signs. He says that when disclosing and explicating Being in this phenomenological way, entities become thematically primary. When regarded in a mode of concern, entities are taken to be equipment, yet there is no equipment in the singular, because any equipment’s Being is derived from its relation to other equipment within the totality of equipment. It is through these relations that an equipment is what it is, because as something in-order-to, it necessarily relates to other entities in the network. The character of this in-order-to structure of the totality of equipment is that something always has an assignment or reference to something else. Entities, as equipment, derive their particularity from how they relate to other entities or equipment, especially in regard to what they are for, in relation to other entities that are for something. Thus, if something is related to something else in the sense that it is for something else, then it must refer to that other something, assigning itself to it. Yet, it seems Heidegger does not make a significant ontological distinction between entities and equipment, because he says that the readiness-to-hand of equipment is also the way entities are defined ontologico-categorially, suggesting perhaps that no matter which mode of comportment one takes to the world, the entities making it up always derive their Being from their relational place in a complex network of other entities, all of which are constituted by their particular referential interrelationality (Macquarrie and Robinson 95-97; 101).

Heidegger next incorporates a type of equipment functioning as language: signs, whose complexity we noted before when discussing them as portents and pseudos. Signs serve the function of “letting something ready-to-hand become conspicuous;” that is, signs do more than other referential equipment; they, in a middle voiced way, indicate, which means that their referentiality is raised to our attention, which as well alerts us to the referential relationality that constitutes the world (111; 109). Regarding this relation of sign and world, Parvis Emad writes that Heidegger considers reference and sign together, because by studying the function of signs, we uncover the world’s essential structure (“Reference, Sign, and Language” 175-176). Or, as Heidegger articulates, being-a-sign-for is a universal kind of relation providing an “ontological clue” for the characterization of all entities of any sort, because signs have this dual readiness-to-hand: one function is their particular relational place in the totality of equipment, another is their capacity to indicate the worldhood of the referential totality and readiness-to-hand’s ontological structure (Heidegger Being and Time Macquarrie and Robinson 107-108; 114). Thus, the sign, as an entity in our world, is not only constituted the same way as other entities: it is also the means by which we may become aware of their inter-constitutionality; and thus also, signs play the primary role in our coming to understand the interrelationality of our world.

Heidegger then moves further to describe the hermeneutic relationship our speaking actions have with this interrelationality, by introducing the notion of significance, although he is not working within a structural linguistic tradition. Instead, he regards it as the relationality of the totality of reference. By understanding and interpreting the relationality of its world, Dasein discloses the significations upon which words and language are founded. What is understood, the world, comes to be interpreted by taking entities in it as something. Its as-ness is determined by its relationality to other entities and is what makes up both the structure of the understood entity and the constitution of interpretation. Even before articulating predicatively the as structure of an entity, we have already taken it as such; for, we always see a totality of involvements each with its own as structure. When we articulate the entity’s as-ness, we merely express the as nature that we implicitly knew it to possess. Often times what Dasein interprets is veiled, and it unveils when Dasein places it into a context projected into the interpretation, foreseeing the possible ways it could be unveiled; hence the complex temporality of interpretation, which we later discuss more fully. Understanding entities through interpretation discloses their meaning, which is not identical to their Being, but is rather their intelligibility. Discourse, i.e. saying or speaking, articulates this meaning, and what is articulated is the totality-of-significations, which is cast into words: “to significations, words accrue;” that is, discourse is expressed by means of language, which is the totality of words, and these words articulate the world’s totality of entities. Yet, for discourse to disclose the “existentiality of existence,” it must also involve hearing and keeping silent (120-121; 188-193; 204-205). Further on, we will note some differences with Heidegger's later characterization of language; for example, instead of ‘accruing’ to an entity’s significance – which is not its Being – words will co-constitute the things themselves in a mysterious way; rather than regarding hearing and keeping silent as possibilities of discourse, he will say that listening silently is always an essential part of language’s dynamic; and instead of focusing on words on this ontic level of interreferentiality, he emphasizes more the relationality of language as Ereignis. Nonetheless, we take special note of this ontic referentiality, as a point of comparison with Heidegger’s later sense of language and with Derrida’s more semiological account of differance.

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Fluidly Altering Philosophy: The End of Metaphysics

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Heidegger’s writings on language do more than offer a new perspective on the matter; they serve to unravel us from the confining traditions of philosophy, and to open doors to a post-philosophical thinking and writing, doors which we will find Derrida to have crossed; and it is on account of these progresses that the hermeneutics we derive from his writing has its measure of open-ended flow. Heidegger regarded philosophical traditions, especially metaphysics, as leaving something forgotten, which is the danger of technology, and we will later see how his new portrayal of language plays a central role in turning us from this long confining and dangerous tradition to a new epoch in the history of being.

Heidegger’s portrayal of this turning to a post-philosophical thinking underwent development throughout his writings, and was never something he fully accomplished, even though he cleared the way for others to continue the endeavor. In Being and Time, he characterizes this project as one of “destruction,” by which he means we must formulate the question of Being in such a way that its own history is made transparent, so that its “hardened tradition” is loosened up, thereby dissolving its concealments. Yet he clarifies that such a destruction does not negate the ontological tradition; for instead, destruction should discover its “positive possibilities,” which means always remaining within its bounds (Being and Time Macquarrie and Robinson 44). Rudolf Bernet describes Heidegger's destruction as his way to read traditional philosophical texts for their unthought and concealed temporal presuppositions, which Heidegger finds to be a metaphysics of presence (“Is the Present Ever Present?” 85). His destruction is destructive perhaps only in the sense of developing it by looking to what underlies it, and bringing that concealed and unthought ground to light; it does not annihilate that tradition as much as renew it, by bringing out meanings which were hidden in its passing away, and letting them emerge as coming forth as new interpretations. Philosophy, for Heidegger, since its inception has been metaphysics, which, for the ancient Greeks was their apprehension of Being as phusis: the self-emergence, the unfolding and appearing of something from itself, like a blossoming flower; it is the Being by which beings come to be what they are and be observed, the “sway” that emerges and sustains. However, the sway arises from concealment in the movement of aletheia only as far as it struggles forth as a world. Heidegger then notes that according to Heraclitus, polemos, as the sovereign who lets emerge all that presences, is the strife holding sway before all things divine and human, the struggle by which things may unfold apart from each other in oppositional relations. Polemos is the dynamism by which the “un-heard, the hitherto un-said and un-thought” come to be projected and developed; and it is perpetuated by poets, thinkers, and statespersons, who on account of the struggle, open up worlds through their works, by which presencing comes to be. Yet, despite this Heraclitean perspective that thinks deeper into the ground of Being, the Greeks mainly regarded being as ousia or parousia, as presence rather than the more complex sense of polemos. Thus as Bernet observes, philosophy’s tradition is one of a metaphysics of presence that must be ‘destroyed’ in the way Heidegger means the term, by thinking its concealed unthought: concealment itself. Heidegger believes that Greek philosophy never returns to this concealed ground of Being (Heidegger “The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking” 55-56; Introduction to Metaphysics 64-65). Instead, history has kept concealment concealed and forgotten, and has continued down a path leading to our current era of modern technology as Ge-stell. The end of the ancient Greek era, then, begins a historical epoch of Being that is obsessed with presence and unconcealment, an epoch that thrives still in our modern age: unconditional certainty comes to be of highest value, and everything’s content, value, and validity is determined by its degree of objectifiability and functionality. Moreover, experience comes to be dominated by procedural processes: “a river no longer flows in the mysterious course of its windings and turnings along banks it itself has carved out, but it now only pushes its water to an ‘end’ predirected to it without detours” (Parmenides 128). This approach to Being as a mode of functional objectification does not respect the concealed mysteriousness that must always go along with the unfolding of beings; it tries to predetermine and predict natural processes that really must, by virtue of Being’s complexity, be indeterminate and unpredictable. Thus, instead of letting beings come to be in that natural way in which concealment thrives, an era begins during which beings are considered knowable and controllable objects that can be understood with certainty. In this era of Ge-stell, science and technology separate from philosophy and establish their independence, which will culminate as the completion of philosophy (“End of Philosophy” 57-59), because as the Ge-stell comes to dominate, the concealed becomes more forgotten, which is the ‘danger’ of technology; yet, by thinking this unthought in the danger, we may begin the new epoch of being. Philosophy, metaphysics, continues to leave being unthought, because it only thinks the being as such, which is illuminated and unconcealed. Being itself then withdraws, because the essence of the unconcealment of beings remains concealed. This withdrawal of unconcealment and remaining of Being’s concealment occur in a “shelter” located in the essence of the human being, whose relation to Being’s openness is thinking (“Question Concerning Technology” 309; “Nihilism as the History of Being” 211; 214; 217-218). Thus for Heidegger, the thinking of the thinker is her relatedness to Being; to think is a letting oneself be involved in one’s relation to Being (What is Called Thinking? 86). This middle voiced relatedness between us and Being is Heidegger's Ereignis and Es gibt. As Bernasconi notes, the overcoming of metaphysics necessitates that we release into Ereignis, not solely by our own doing, but by mutual appropriation (Question of Language 89). Instead of thinking the Being of beings in terms of presence, we are to let appropriation appropriate, which says the “Same in terms of the Same about the Same,” hence appearing to say nothing at all. In a sense, it does say Nothing, because in this Same is the un/concealment complex of a-letheia; and, to ponder it is to think the Being of beings without beings, that is, non-metaphysically (Heidegger “Time and Being” 24). In doing so, we consider the essence of being no longer in terms of permanence, but instead in its “verbal sense” (Bernasconi Question of Language 68). The Es gibt of Ereignis, then, has been unthought since the beginning of Western thinking. To think the dynamic complexity of Ereignis in its movement of un/concealing is to consider presence’s opening as concealment, as sheltering, which, when thought, reaches the “path to the task of thinking at the end of philosophy” (Heidegger “End of Philosophy” 71). Thinking the Ereignis in the proper middle voiced way is to enter into the relational space, “vibrating within itself,” in which Being and humans mutually appropriate, thereby shedding those qualities metaphysics once attributed to them (“Principle of Identity” 37). Hence Heidegger's middle voiced complex dynamism goes hand and glove with his progressing traditional metaphysics, which instead takes the subject/object, simple and stagnant ontological standpoint.

What we must note here is that Heidegger does not position himself as being past metaphysics or traditional philosophy, but as beginning within it and opening the door leading away from it, a door he holds open for others to pass through to find their own new philosophical directions. The task of destruction as overcoming metaphysics is not its dismissal, but a coming to its terms; for, ignoring metaphysics in effort to abandon it serves only its perpetuation (Bernasconi Question of Language 88). Instead, we must stand within the tradition, think its unthought and say its unsaid, in order to overcome it from within. In the “other beginning,” Heidegger explains, we are no longer doing metaphysics or ontology, although both terms are “transitional names” for beginning a discourse allowing us to move into another philosophical perspective; we must probe into this passing tradition to bring forward a new mode of philosophical thinking (Contributions to Philosophy 41-42).

Thus, Heidegger’s efforts to overcome metaphysics begin with his examining the history of Being throughout the tradition, working first with the given metaphysical lexicon. The word “Being” itself, for example, is a name that belongs to the “patrimony” of metaphysical language, and his efforts to unthink this term both uncover metaphysics’ essence while returning it within its own bounds. Metaphysical thinking is limited by the fact that it leaves unthought the concealment of concealment. Thus by properly unthinking Being, we come to find it also to be a name for nothingness and emptiness. The overcoming of metaphysics, he comes later to say, is not a destruction or denial of metaphysics, but an entering into it anew, beginning with its terms; because, what is sought for lies in those words but is still unnamed and yet to be “unraveled” (“Dialogue on Language” 19-21). What as well lies concealed in Being is Ereignis, which is not a word for Being but for the overcoming of metaphysics. By coming upon the Ereignis, our once limited attention to Being broadens into a perspective that transforms our heritage and the categories and concepts we inherit from it. Yet, just like the unthinking of Being, Heidegger believes that Ereignis too carries with it its own withdrawal, opening further its alterational horizon (Bernasconi Question of Language 85-88). Later when we discuss Heidegger’s merger of language with Ereignis, we see that the reason we begin with the traditional lexicon is because we are always within language’s complex dynamism, and can never take an exterior perspective to it; rather, in a middle voiced cooperative way, we engage with – and within – language’s movement, listening for and speaking words with mysterious meanings whose unfolding merely perpetuates the mystery.

MisHearing Heidegger

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Steady stream is speaking,

So seems it while we’re listening.

In signs? in words? I think it speaks,

When oar to water’s surface meets.

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Middle voice, complexity, dynamism, and relationality are the distinctive characteristics of language that allow Heidegger to overcome traditional philosophy and that will help us characterize the sort of hermeneutics his portrayal of language implies. These features are too intertwined to separate from each other, so we will follow an associative course in the manner Heidegger exhibits in his own style; otherwise, we might mischaracterize his writing.

Heidegger notes that language is traditionally taken primarily as speaking, and his similar preferences bring him dangerously close to a phonocentric presential metaphysics. However, Heidegger also breaks from this Western phonological tradition that he detects in words theretofore used for language, which he finds has for long been experienced, conceived, and defined in terms of speaking, evident in words indicating tongue, such as glossa, lingua, and langue (Heidegger “Nature of Language” 96). A presential metaphysics would presume that beings are experienced as present things, and because speaking itself is considered present according to this perspective, the meanings that speech is thought to carry are also regarded as present. When characterizing language, Heidegger himself often emphasizes its vocalization. He writes that we most often regard language as speaking, because the two are bound together. However, his other emphases indicate his crucial distancing from the phonological tradition. He explains that if we take language as vocalization, we will not come to know how “sound is given voice” in the experience of stillness. Speech, as language, always transcends its sensible/physical dimension, because language is “suprasensuous” (“The Way to Language” 115; 113; 125; 122; “A Dialogue on Language” 35). And although he considers language the mouth’s “flower,” it is rooted in the Earth, voiceless in its silent sheltering concealedness, which despite being inherent to language, nonetheless is not explicitly spoken. The sounding of language, then, is no longer merely an issue of physical articulation or even phonetic data; it is the movement of Earth and World in which the sheltering concealment of the Earth rises into the World, creating the Open, in which both concealment and unconcealment maintain together. On account of this complexity, our relation to language is too vague, obscure, and speechless for us to fully articulate. We can only venture into language as already within it, in mutual appropriation. In a middle voiced way, we listen for its silent echo by being receptive to the concealed mystery calling us to say it. Hidden in speech is something unspoken, be it not yet spoken or what is always beyond speech’s reach (“The Nature of Language” 101; 58; 91; 81; “The Way to Language” 113; 120). Thus language never gives itself entirely; and this withholding is essential to its nature, which itself is withheld, as with Being and Ereignis. Yet, although the being of language cannot be articulated, when we Say rather than speak, language’s being says itself nonetheless in its most proper manner, because Saying is the middle voiced relation of Ereignis. Hence, Saying brings forth language’s being, even though it cannot be defined.

To “Say,” for Heidegger means letting be seen and heard. The middle-voiced relation, then, is inherent to this way language occurs, because such a Saying that is showing must let the unsaid remain concealed and unshowable, as mystery; but not merely as what has yet shown, as well, what is always held back (“The Way to Language” 126; 122; “Nature of Language” 93). As Bernasconi writes, the phenomenological sense of language is one of letting the hidden appear as hidden (Question of Language 73), which is reminiscent of Heidegger’s sign as pseudos: in a complex double movement, language both shows and thereby conceals, and must necessarily always do so for this dynamic of unfolding to continue. Also, we find in Saying this same sort of complexity in un/concealing and presencing/absencing, because in Saying, all present or absent things announce themselves by either granting or refusing, showing or withdrawing (Heidegger “Nature of Language” 122). This complexity of Saying can be regarded the same way Heidegger characterizes temporality, and in fact, it is through Saying that time comes about. An indication of what will show precedes Saying, again much in the same way he speaks of pseudos in terms of indications, signs, portents, and also hints, which are messages of the “veiling that opens up” (“Dialogue on Language” 44). What is said in Saying emerges from what has formerly been spoken and also from what is yet to be spoken, appearing then fading from presence, because Saying structures the open clearing in where all present and absent beings appear and disappear (“The Way to Language” 124; 126). He speaks also of a naming that calls out into the distance for something absent, thereby bringing into nearness what previously was yet-to-be named (“Language” 198-199). Thus, language itself structures Heidegger's complex temporality; for, in all phases of the movement, Saying extends outside of presence by veiling.

Saying’s complex movement, as middle voiced, involves our “listening” – our letting language say its Saying to us – which we hear and say again by letting its silent voice be spoken to us. Yet, just as saying is not mere speech, listening is not mere hearing; it is a more essential form of reception to the mysterious and inexpressible dimension of language. When we speak with releasement, we respond to language by listening, by being receptive to what does not show itself, to what eludes our grasp in its movement (“Language” 210). Our listening and saying cooperate with language, neither passively relaying what it says nor forcefully determining it, but rather flowing with it and contributing to the movement of discourse. Heidegger characterizes this middle voiced relationality of language as the poetic; for, the double movement of listening and responding to language is the singing of poetry; and the freer a poet is to the unforeseen, the more open and ready she is for its mystery, and the more poetic she is (“Poetically Man Dwells” 216). The poet, then for Heidegger, plays this vital receptive role in language’s unfolding.

Thus, listening/saying is poetic saying, and we must be released in such saying so that we do not “force the vibration” of poetic expression into the “rigid groove” of a univocal articulation, thereby destroying it, a tendency we found with the metaphysical tradition leading to the standpoint that regards being as Ge-stell (“The Nature of Language” 64). Such a perspective would want to control language by demanding that words have definitive and stable extractable meanings for functional usage. However, poeticizing is a listening to what language is already saying, and thereby cooperatively interacting with it rather than using it for the sake of an ulterior end. David Wood describes such poetic saying as following rather than forcing language, waiting for it rather than leading it, yet not passively but creatively, remaining aware that it is not an act one does solely by oneself. Heidegger challenges the metaphysics of the active-passive relationality by revising his wording from “man speaks” to the more impersonally middle voiced “language speaks” (Wood 78-79), which underscores the dynamism of language by leaving undesignated a distinct speaker and listener; for, both are functions of the same listening/saying movement. The poet, then, renounces control over her words; and, this renunciation and self-denial is her Saying, because it is one side of the double movement of language, which we later articulate in hermeneutic terms.

Thus, the poet herself takes up the middle voiced relationality in order to co-create with language its complex dynamism; she does not strive to say what she hears so to bring it all to light, but rather she reaches into the mystery, always allowing the hidden to remain concealed. This tension between advancing into the mystery while distancing from it, her renunciation, does not achieve contact with the word for which she reaches but instead touches the mysteriousness of the relation between word and thing. This “prize” she seeks to name ever evades her grasp, withdrawing into the “mysterious wonder that makes us wonder,” in her experience of language as reaching toward a veiling word passing into the mysterious darkness (“Nature of Language” 78-79; 88). The poet’s mysterious word allows the thing to presence, and this allowing, Lassen, he calls “bethinging.” Yet, the poet does not herself understand what this bethinging of the thing is, because she is committed to the word’s mystery by denying her claim to it. Her renunciation is really a non-self-denial of the mysteriousness of the word, by letting-be its relation to the thing (Unterwegs zur Sprache 233; “Words” 152-153). This self-denial is what allows language to grow and develop: by seeking into the silent concealed movement of language for things yet named, the poet serves language’s dynamic unfolding of bethinging. But, rather than remaining silent in this lack of the word, she composes poems conveying her unusual experience with the missing word she sought (Bernasconi “The Experience of Language” 9-10; Question of Language 53).

The relationship between the poet and the word’s mystery is much like the relationality of togetherness, neighborhood, and belonging, because her poetic words remain proximate to something always kept at a distance. Her invisible prize, then, may only be alluded. In this way, the spoken words of poetry remain sheltered in their unspoken essential nature. Thus, the treasure remains just in the poet’s grasp as it vanishes from her possession, being the furthest away while yet in the “nearest nearness” in which the treasure remains mysteriously familiar to the poet. Her un/saying is a showing that brings the thing into radiance; and it is a saving that both offers and releases the mystery, without willfulness, force, or dominance (“Words” 154). On account of this middle voiced relationality between active and passive, the poet may be in a relationship with language, and language may be in a relationship with the poet, with neither one fully appropriating the other; but rather, both remain proper to each other in that relation.

Perhaps through complex middle voiced dynamism, the poet’s poeticizing allows for a fluid alteration. The poet’s seeking while renouncing her prize perpetuates the hunt: she ventures into the mystery for what needs articulation in creative new ways – themselves poetically mysterious – thereby releasing herself into proximity with what withdraws from her advances, withheld for an “originary advent” that is never more than gradually and incompletely accomplished (“Nature of Language” 66). Her poeticizing, then, is an unveiling that shows and conceals the mystery in a fluidly altering way. The complex dynamic of such a revealing what remains mysterious consists of complementary advancing and retreating motions. They do not bring about a series of successive distinguishable stages, but move fluidly in concord, as the donkey advancing toward the ever receding carrot its rider dangles before it.

The poet’s proximity/distance to the mystery of the word, for Heidegger, brings the poet into a relationship with the divine, through song, and this human-divine relationship will bring us to Heidegger's hermeneutic relation. The poet’s renunciation transforms Saying into an inexpressible “songlike” echoing sound: she wanders in darkness as a stranger in a foreign land, listening to the gods’ mysterious silent song while singing it as poetry. In the distance kept between them lies the revealing of the gods’ concealment. When the poet’s word resounds in her song, she succeeds in answering to the word’s mystery, which she can only surmise in her pondering (“Language in the Poem” 188; 191; “Words” 150; 148). That is to say, the poet can only respond insofar as she takes up the role of the thinker, which we will find also lies on the receptive end of the middle voiced relation to language.

The poet then, must ponder, bringing her into the neighborhood of the thinker. Heidegger explains that when we listen to the song of the poet’s poem, we let her tell us – and let her tell herself – that which is “worthy of the thinking of poetic being.” When we listen to the poem, we ponder poetry, which is the way poetry and thinking come about (“Words” 155): pondering is the wondering wandering of thinking and poeticizing, the renunciation shared between the thinker seeking ever elusive thoughts and the poet reaching for always mysterious words. Moreover, both poetry and thinking are modes of Saying, which brings the two into nearness or neighborhood (“The Nature of Language” 93; 83). All poetry is a type of thinking, and likewise, all reflective thinking is poetic in nature: both say the unspoken by thinking it as a thanks, an owing thanks, the renunciation owing itself entirely to the word’s mystery (“The Way to Language” 136; “Words” 152). Yet while the Same in their modes of listening, they are not identical: both thinker and poet care for the word, but the thinker’s role is to prepare the way for the word by remembering, by thinking back; and, her memory keeps in concealment what must be firstly thought, in that complex temporal way of the past coming forth from the future. As this remembering back to what one thereby comes to think, memory is the ground and source for poetry, which emerges from this thoughtful recollection. Hence we see in another way the union of complex temporality and language: the thinker reaches forth for what is to be said by reaching back into what is concealed in her memory. However, Heidegger also distinguishes thinking from poetry, because thinking is not the action that creates poetry, but is instead a primordial saying of language that, although the Same, is yet of a slightly different nature than poetic saying. Also, because thoughts come to us rather than we to them, unlike the poet’s seeking forth (What is Called Thinking 11; 135), thinking is more on the listening side of the middle-voiced listening/saying relation, and poetry on the saying, because thinking attends quietly to concealedness while poetry speaks it in a way that maintains the mystery (“The Thinker as Poet” 6). I interpret Heidegger to mean that the poet and thinker perform dual functions in the double movement of listening/saying, with one always accompanying the other; for otherwise, the poet would not know what to say without the thinker’s ponderative wonderment that recalls, and the thinker would have no means to say her thoughts without the poet’s creative original use of words that engages with language’s complex flow. In addition, the thinker says being, but the poet names the holy; thus, the poetic is nearer to the gods (“Postscript to ‘What is Metaphysics?’” 237).

The poet’s singing the song heard from the gods is her poetic dialogue mediating the two (“The Nature of Language” 78; Bernasconi Question of Language 91). Heidegger recalls the role of poets as interpreters of the gods in Plato’s Ion when explaining how he understands the term ‘hermeneutic.’ The word, he writes, is derived from the Greek word hermeneuein, which itself is related to hermeneus and thus to Hermes, the divine messenger, who brings the message of destiny. Hermeneuein, and thus hermeneutics, is the poet’s bringing tidings by listening to the gods’ messages. This interpreting of the message from the gods is the hermeneutic relation, by which mortals and gods correspond in a mysterious discourse. As with the poet’s relation to the gods, the hermeneutic relation is also a sort in which as one nears them, listening/saying their message, they forever recede into mystery. As well, the hermeneutic relation, as middle voiced, leaves behind the metaphysics of subjectivity implied in I/Thou experiences in which an object refers back to a subject. Like the poet, the interpreter of the gods “walks the boundary of the boundless,” seeking its mystery, hidden in the dialogue between them. The message-bearer, then, must make the double movement of coming from the message while also going toward it, listening. In doing so, she enters the vast openness across which Saying calls her to be its messenger, so that she may heed the hinting message that both veils and opens up (“Dialogue on Language” 29-30; 35; 40-41; 44; 51-53).

The hermeneutic relation, then, binds us into language’s dynamic. Our releasing ourselves into this relation is the way-making that opens paths to experiencing language (“Way to Language” 119; 130); that is, by letting-up on efforts to determine what language is, and instead merely engaging with its coursing, we may more appropriately sense its nature. When doing so, we let language from within itself speak its being to us, because its nature is this very middle voiced dynamic relationality we take up to engage it, and thus language needs us as much as we need it (“Nature of Language” 85; Dastur “Language and Ereignis” 364). Indeed, we are always immersed in language; “all is way,” which is the “mystery of all mysteries,” the “great hidden stream which moves all things along and makes way for everything,” the “relation of all relations” (“Nature of Language” 92; “Way to Language” 135).

Yet relation, now thought in terms of Ereignis, is no longer considered merely as reference, which would call for a revision of the network of interrelationality which for him constitutes discourse in Being and Time. In these later writings he does, however, speak of language exhibiting a diverse multiplicity of relations and elements, a “web” of language, which speaks its relational nature. Although, it does not permit a clear, unobstructed view of its mesh of relations, on account of our essential integration within it preventing our viewing it objectively. However, we are still to experience its “strange” unbinding bond (“The Way to Language” 135; 113). As not mere reference, the web’s unbinding bond might be that between the mysterious word and its elusive thing, and between humans and language in Ereignis. Perhaps it is on account of his coming to regard language in terms of Ereignis instead of the totality of references that Heidegger is able to steer philosophy away from its traditional confinements – more concerned with the ontic level of words – after his having begun in the tradition’s midst. That is, it was only by his own middle voiced thoughtful/poetic engagement in the language of the tradition, following its natural way by letting its unthought come forth in its mystery, that he was able to fluidly alter this conventional sense of language.

Such complexity in Heidegger’s later characterization of language as presencing/absencing through listening/saying, then, moves him beyond the traditional metaphysics of presence – not only in the sense of present beings, but also of present meanings – and as well progresses the presential metaphysics implied in the traditional semiological view of the signifier’s relation to the signified. And not only by means of his characterization of language does Heidegger progress philosophy, his very writing style itself serves the overcoming: his use of the middle voice in his lassen constructions and in the impersonal middle voice of the Es gibt disentangles him from a philosophical tradition that presumes a strict division between subjectivity and objectivity, taking up instead a more dynamic integrational configuration enabled by middle voiced syntax; and, his later poetic writing, by leaving much in mystery, exhibits the presence/absence complex involved in the happening of language. Moreover, although Heidegger writes much about language, he never resorts to doing so as though through a meta-language. This places his writings not outside language, which would objectify it while subjectifying us as its observers; but instead, it locates them within language, as language. For this reason, we maintain a commitment to language, and we can never step away from it to view it as though from another vantage point. Thus, we may only view language as far as it views us, as far as we mutually appropriate each other (“Way to Language” 130; 134). The task of our engagement with language is not to accomplish anything more than to arrive where we already are, flowing with language by corresponding with and in it (“Language” 190-191). Thus, Saying cannot be caught and pinned down in any one statement; language, then, is nothing linguistic. Hence, when speaking of language, our articulations will always be inadequate to the task; for, we cannot speak of language, we can only speak language. Such an experience of language defies the metaphysical perspective in which one considers the presence of language as an object of our subjective gaze (“Way to Language” 133-4; “Dialogue on Language” 24; 36).

Bernasconi elaborates on the way Heidegger’s characterization of language serves to overcome traditional metaphysics, explaining that the poet’s renunciation comes at the end of the era of metaphysics where logos thought as presencing was the dominant perspective. In the poet’s renunciation, she listens to the silent lacking word for Being in the withholding of language. Traditional metaphysical thinking cannot think this constitutive absence, because it always posits an entity “in the face of a default.” However, Heidegger’s saying-not-saying makes room for the concealment of Being, the mystery that must remain mysterious (Question of Language 62; 83; 91). Thereby, Heidegger opens the door leading away from the confinements of traditional philosophy. Yet despite this accomplishment, we may find traces of a presential metaphysics in his explanations of poetic rhythm, so we turn now to the themes of water and flow to clarify the extent to which he retained such a metaphysics, for the sake of comparison with Derrida.

On the one hand, Heidegger characterizes language as being too indeterminate and fluxional to be univocally grasped and contained. In speaking of such a univocal determination of language that dictionaries attempt, he explains that although there are plenty of terms in a dictionary, there are no ‘words,’ because dictionaries could not possibly give them univocal and stable articulations; to do so would freeze their dynamic and uncover their mystery entirely, which flatly contradicts language’s mysterious dynamism. Language is ever in a movement of emergence – from silence – of what is said in the word, while returning to its concealed soundlessness from whence it raised (“Nature of Language 87; 108; “Way to Language” 131). Thus, language ever moves along a way, always catching what is to be said through listening, and never does it pause along this path, concretizing. And, we as inquirers do not forcibly extract our interlocutor’s replies but instead release into the open what we listen/say, following the dialogue’s “hidden drift,” the natural proceeding of the discourse’s movement in which interlocutors free themselves from their expectations of the interlocution’s direction, and rather trust together in its flow (“Dialogue on Language” 30).

The image of drift is compatible with the water and flow metaphors he also employs; as for example, the flowing river and the wave, which he relates to poetic rhythm. He explains that the “hidden nature” of rhythm is first given in the poetic statement, which is the “source of the movement-giving wave” whose “rise causes all the movement of Saying to flow back to its ever more hidden source” (“Language in the Poem” 160). However, despite this association between rhythm and the flow of waves, he also writes that rhythm, from the Greek rhusmos, rather than meaning flux and flow, instead indicates form and rest. Yet even still, his rest is not the pure stagnancy of permanence; for, it is also what lets the movement of singing and dancing find its rest within itself (“Words” 149). In the Heraclitus Seminar, Heidegger elaborates this translation, which is in fact not the conventional one for the Greek rhusmos. Heidegger sides with what was a more recent interpretation of this term theretofore translated as reo, flow, but then reconsidered to mean imprint, boundedness, temporal or proportional measure, confinement, and enjoinment. And, rhusmos is not a human creation but rather is the substrate of our language; it is the binding regularity that holds together our language so that it may maintain itself throughout its movement (Heraclitus Seminar 55). As David Krell comments, Heidegger's rhusmos carries the meanings of measure and order instead of fluid, uninterrupted, unpunctuated flux (“The Wave’s Source” 30).

Yet for Heidegger, although poetry itself is measuring – and measure-taking the poetic element in dwelling – measure in this poetic sense is neither geometric nor scientific, for poetic measure-taking has its own metron, metric; and, dwelling is no determinate fixing in one place. In poetic measuring, the human measures herself against an unknown, mysterious godhead concealed in the heavens. This godhead lets us see not it but rather only its guarded self-concealment. Thus poetic measure is a “strange” measure; it is not the customary sort of quantitative measuring made by ruled measuring sticks. Such un-poetic measure-taking is the sort performed with pre-ruled and standardized measuring instruments used for calculating in accordance with the Ge-stell perspective. Contrariwise, poetic measure-taking does not clutch or grasp what it measures, but rather middle voicely lets come what is dealt out. Only by such a measure-taking of the measure given by the mysterious unknown godhead can the poet make poetry. She gauges it not against some universal standard of measure, but rather against the mysterious measure of the “darkness and silence of what is alien.” In that alien strangeness the poet finds her nearness to always distant gods, which is her way of poetically dwelling (Heidegger “Poetically Man Dwells” 221-228). These passages invite us to consider a certain ambivalence in Heidegger’s characterization of the wave-nature of language: on the one hand, language is a fluidly altering movement with an indeterminate rhythmic measure; while on the other hand, it is not in flux or flow, but is bound by a fixed rhythm that bestows rest and regularity. Heidegger’s ambivalent position in this regard indicates his ‘outsets’ from traditional philosophy, but also the incompletion of that movement away. [I take special note here, in response to Krell’s claim that in these later texts on language, Heidegger’s writing style – contrary to the implications of his translating rhusmos as measure – is not written poetically enough, in the sense that it is inadequately metered (Krell 38-39). However, if we take into account Heidegger’s other sense of measure as indeterminate, then we might not require his writing’s rhythm to be perfectly metered: if so composed, his words would have been forced into a rigid rhythmic groove, disrupting the dual listening/saying thinking/poetic measure-taking of his composition. I would take as such a looser fluidly-altering poetic rhythm to be the one William Blake describes and employs in his work, “Jerusalem,” which he articulates in its introduction:

Of the Measure, in which the following Poem is written: We who dwell on Earth can do nothing of ourselves, every thing is conducted by Spirits, no less than Digestion or Sleep. When this Verse was first dictated to me I consider'd a Monotonous Cadence like that used by Milton & Shakspeare & all writers of English Blank Verse, derived from the modern bondage of Rhyming; to be a necessary and indispensible part of Verse. But I soon found that in the mouth of a true Orator such monotony was not only awkward, but as much a bondage as rhyme itself. I therefore have produced a variety in every line, both of cadences & number of syllables.

Poetry Fetter'd, Fetters the Human Race!

(“Jerusalem” 145)

Here we also see the role that middle voice, dwelling, Earth, and the gods play in flowingly-rhythmic poetic saying: Blake, as a poet dwelling on the Earth, listens to the gods sing him the poem, but it is not therefore altogether pre-determined; for, he has to arrange the words. Thus, it is middle voiced and unruled, and for that reason, all the more poetic saying. According to this perspective, and on account of Heidegger’s ambivalence on the rigidity of poetic rhythm, we might also regard his prose style as having poetic measure.]

These considerations of Heidegger’s ambivalent position regarding a presential metaphysics implied in his accounts of rhythm now serve us in our extraction of his textual hermeneutics from his ‘semiology;’ that is, by taking into account the nature of language, we will describe the reader’s interaction with texts and how she may best read them. The poet and the interpreter of the gods both say their mystery in the double movement of approaching while distancing. In this complexity of language, there is both an unveiling and a concealing of ‘meaning,’ a term we employ without its usual metaphysical and semiological connotations, instead evoking its complex dynamic sense. We also noted that for Heidegger, absence is the unpresently present; and thus, the meaning of the text’s words that the reader reads would involve a hermeneutic process in which she reads like the poet says: unveiling a mystery that remains mysterious. In this way, the unpresently present meaning of the text is always left in its distance while the reader remains in its nearness. She both reads the text and yet ‘un/reads’ it; that is, by maintaining a middle voiced relationality to the hermeneutic event of the text, the reader both lets uncover and lets conceal its meaning, un/reading it.

Heidegger does offer some clues to his textual hermeneutic in his short writing, “What is Called Reading?” (Was Heisst Lesen?), in which he writes that authentic reading is sustained by a gatheredness to what already claims us, what already has us in its sight, without our knowing so; and, only by taking up such a reading may we view any sort of semblance or appearance whatsoever (i). As a gatheredness and mutual seeing, authentic reading is middle voiced; and as semblance, what appears to our viewing is partly veiled, as the showing by concealment of pseudos. Thus when reading we are together with the hermeneutic dynamic of the ever irresolute revealing of mysterious meanings. As Kenneth Maly explains, we do not read by deciphering and interpreting, because reading involves our detachment from interpretive intentions; hence, we do not run “roughshod” over the text by imposing fixed determinate meanings. Rather, an open reading is a mutual gazing with the text, letting the meanings emerge naturally by attending to the “evocative character” of what “hints and haunts it,” concealed deep within. In this manner, the text’s words evoke rather than grasp as they reveal and conceal in the relationality of Ereignis; we are to listen for the silence, responding to the unknown as well as the known in the text, and thus our reading expands beyond what is immediately shown. By recognizing and respecting its ambiguities, we are given its deeper, mysterious meaning (“Reading and Thinking” 237-238).

Heidegger’s own destructive read of traditional philosophical texts may be said to follow this middle voiced un/veiling of their un/concealing meanings. As we noted, Rudolf Bernet writes, “Heidegger’s endeavor to come to terms with the tradition thus implies . . . a particular way of reading the texts of the philosophical tradition with respect to their (concealed, unthought) presuppositions” (85). For our comparison with Derrida, we emphasize here the modified presence of the text’s concealed meanings. What unconceals in interpretation in a sense is already present, unpresently present; and, because to each uncovering corresponds a concealment, we un/read texts by always leaving some of its meaningfulness unread. In other words, the unread concealed meanings do not unveil without already having been hinted by – and co-constitutive with – their unconcealed context. The hermeneutic advantage of this configuration is that our interpretations proceed fluidly; for, each phase of the movement already extends into where it will go, in the dovetail fashion. Yet, its disadvantage is the limitation on interpretation’s freedom to arrive in surprising and refreshing new places, if its direction is always indicated along its way. A Heideggerean un/reading would certainly yield a continual movement of relatively new and creative interpretations, but we wonder now, might there be an alternative hermeneutic dynamic with greater possibility for unforeseeable interpretations?

De-Deciphering Derrida

* ** *** ***** ********

From Waterfall to waterfall,

May streams be so undone?

When water breaks we can’t perceive

Fluidity at such swift speed.

************* *********************

Derrida's characterization of language bears Heidegger’s progressive features: complexity, interrelationality, dynamism, and middle voice, yet in each case marked by a subtle – yet highly consequential – distinction: Derrida’s complex dynamism erupts from a constitutive breach repeatedly violated by an absolutely alien other itself so fractured. This violent, broken dynamic better evades a metaphysics of presence and is more free to alter, but at the cost of fluidity. Also, its absolute otherness, although technically neither transcendent nor metaphysical, comes dangerously close – a gamble our flow perspective need not wager to achieve as much freedom alongside Heidegger’s fluidity.

Reasons for Derrida’s lack of fluxion pervade all our themes, including middle voice. In one sense, Derrida’s dynamic seems middle, because différance[1] remains “undecided” between active and passive. However, it is not just merely middle; for, it is both active and passive. Spacing, likewise, is simultaneously both voices; and Khora is ‘shielded’ from these distinctions (“Différance” 9; “Implications” 8; “Khora” 233). Moreover, we later find that differance is neither active nor passive, because it engenders all such distinctions, like Heidegger's Ereignis (“Differance” 130). According to Llewelyn, the middle voice in Derrida’s differance is not a mean between active and passive voicings as a decided third value. Rather, it is an undecided third value. It cannot be understood as between the two voices, because its relation to them is entirely different altogether (Derrida on the Threshold of Sense 93). Yet, because Derrida’s dynamism is not restricted to active and passive voicings, it shares Heidegger’s freedom. However, for Derrida, differance is undecided rather than middle, a subtle distinction with a notable hermeneutic consequence: texts do not contain hidden meanings. In fact, they contain no meaning at all.

To better grasp this undecidability preventing textual meaning, we turn first to his semiological writings. It is from this structuralist perspective that Derrida progresses to complex dynamism, just as Heidegger advanced from his interrelational in-order-to structure of the world and signs, which inversely mirrors Derrida’s semiological depiction of language as constituted entirely by differences. With a revisionary eye, we might look back to the interreferentiality of Heidegger's world as being similarly structured: each relation is constituted by its different relations to other relations, hence each is a relation of difference. To arrive at this configuration, Derrida evokes Saussure: the play of difference possibilizes signification, because inscribed into a chain or system are signs and concepts referring to others on account of the “systematic play of differences.” He then expands Saussure's claim that language is constituted only by differences, saying that as well it is constituted by “differences from differences” (“Différance” 5; 11; “Plato’s Pharmacy” 98). Words then, are not “atoms” but instead are “focal points of economic condensation,” spreading through the text’s chain of differentiation (“Positions” 40). Thus, Derrida structures language on the level of signifiers’ interrelationships much the same way Heidegger’s world is constituted by references. However, Derrida emphasizes the differentiality of these interrelationships, which is only implied in Heidegger's configuration. Yet, Derrida's difference becomes far more complex.

Like Heidegger, Derrida characterizes language in terms of a constitutive complexity. However, he sets out from a semiological perspective, taking up the undecidability thematic. For Derrida, absence is constitutive to language. The referent is lacking on account of signification’s structure: a signifier stands-in for the missing signified’s negative relational space, almost like Heidegger’s pseudos. This constitutive absence in differance is a “discontinuity,” which colors it differently than Heidegger’s fluid dovetailment. Thus a text for Derrida “hides,” inaccessible like a secret – not because its meaning is concealed – but because it is entirely undetermined (Of Grammatology 69; “Plato’s Pharmacy” 63). He spells differance with an ‘a’ to distinguish it from ordinary difference; yet we look first at this locution in terms of semiological differences. Differance evokes, on the one hand, differing as non-identification; for signifiers are different than their signifieds and fellow signifiers. On the other hand, it suggests deferring in the sense of delay, the temporal motion spanning between the sign and its arriving upon its reference. Yet differance is not difference, but rather possibilizes it and, as well, the opposition of presence & absence, just as Ereignis neither has being nor is in time, but rather is that from which time and being issue.

Yet while a constitutive lack structures language for Derrida, so too does an overflow or “overdetermination” of sorts (Rapaport Heidegger and Derrida 38). This principle is necessary for his configuration, which lacks dovetailment’s fluidly and irresolutely rectifying imbalance. If he would like instead for his configuration to contain a constitutive fracture with an absolute exterior, he must account for the push-pull dynamic of its movement. Thus he incorporates an excessive overflow, what he calls both originary differance and supplementarity, which is the complex dynamic of the play of absence and presence. In supplementarity, a sign substitutes and replaces another, because new marks move upon – ‘remark’ – other marks. Yet, because each remark is itself remarked, Derrida will say that the “substitute is substituted for a substitute” and that the “signifier first signifies a signifier” and not an immediately present thing or signified (Of Grammatology 167; 314; 237). Language is an endless chain of deferrals of deferrals, never technically substituting; for, there is nothing substantial to supplant. Rather, this movement is one of always supplementing other supplements, suggesting both utter emptiness and hyperbolical overabundance. These two features perpetuate language’s dynamic, which is destabilized by the constituent absence that overdetermination supplements out of “desire” for the center that is ever “exiled” to its substitutes and that never had nor will have been (“Structure, Sign, and Play” 280). This supplementary movement of remarking is differential repetition, what he terms ‘iteration,’ elsewhere ‘miming.’ Indeed it repeats, but each time by something entirely different. Each iterated mark bears its own alterity, because meaning depends on an “irreducible relation to otherness” (Gasché The Tain of the Mirror 272). This is not the relationship of otherness between different signs in the network of differences and deferrals: it is other to the whole network itself. Moreover, it allows the network to be what it is while also preventing it from being so: it brings about language’s dynamic, which as a concatenation of supplantations, never allows any inscribed structure to hold. Iteration, then, is possible only because every mark’s presence is ruptured, its ‘death’ and the possibility of its death (Derrida Signature Event Context” 8). The remarks filling these lacks “remark the mark in advance:” each reinscription comes from and bears an alterity already inscribing that reinscription. And as entirely other, the remark is radically originary; it thus remarks “as though it were the first time” (“Limited Inc a b c . . .” 50). It is a similar yet entirely different mark that is part of a repeating dynamic.

In further elaborating this dynamism, Derrida employs such terms as movement, play, process, polemos, spacing, and timing, in ways reminiscent of Heidegger’s descriptions. Différance and supplementarity, Derrida explains, are “event ridden:” moving and not static, a genetic play of difference (“Signature Event Context” 19; “Différance” 12; “Semiology and Grammatology” 27). Such a complex dynamism derives its play from undecidability, which allows one sign to concurrently have opposite meanings, and to both stand in the place of and yet be alien to other marks, in a complex game played by presence & absence, identity & difference, truth & lie, and being & naught. Differance itself consists of and engenders these tensions, irresolvable because undecidable.

Thus, on account of this complex structural dynamic, signs can recur differentially. In iteration, marks divide their own identity a priori (“Limited Inc a b c . . .” 53): the identity of A is ‘A,’ and it is not not-A, for example, it is not B. Thus, it is defined both through its self-differentiation and its differential relations to other marks. Indeed, identity is utterly undecided and complex. If we take signification for what it is, these complexities must follow; for, any sign may recur innumerably, but each time always in a different context, taking a different place in the network of differences: the second ‘A’ of “A = A” defines the first, thus is subtly different in meaning, on account of its differing role and relationality. Because inherently re-instantial, signs are never absolutely self-same; to be a sign, they must possess the possibility of reinscription, to differentially recur. Even an inaugural inscription of a new symbol is written with the presupposition that this need not have been its first – nor need be its last – instantiation. And even the most worn out and tired old marks, when written or read again, obtain a new place in the relational network and thus a new identity. All marks, then, are just as recycled as they are inaugural. This is the play of simulacrum – of repeating similar yet alien ciphers – and the movement of supplementarity. The second ‘A’ can substitute the first only because it is a different A; both A’s must be incomplete, or else they could not be supplanted; and they must be overdeterminate, for otherwise they could not do the supplanting. Supplementarity supplies the first’s lack of a full unified identity with another mark similar enough to be its substitute and different enough to add itself to it. The field of language cannot be exhausted or totalized, and the center cannot be fixed or determined, because the sign that substitutes and replaces the absent center is always both an overflowing surplus to another surplus and yet utterly deficient (“Structure, Sign, and Play” 289). In this play of substitution, there is no absolute external reference or transcendental signified that could encompass the movement in a limit or boundary; and it is “mad,” because it persists through perpetual substitutions of substitutions, and is violent as well: not “inoffensive word-play” but rather a “raging polemos” (“Plato’s Pharmacy” 89).

This constitutive violence in language stems partly from disruptive violations of the mark’s fracture, thereby wrenching language repeatedly into movement. As inherently fractured, language remains in “intimate relation” with its outside, open to its exteriority and thus to what is not its own. But on account of this intimacy, there can be no absolute inside (“The Originary Metaphor” 97; “Speech and Phenomena” 86), and thus the exterior may invasively remark, supplement, substitute, and supplant the inside. However, on account of the constitutive fracture or disruption, this substitution is not without its violence, what Derrida calls the “war economy” of absolute exteriority’s radical otherness brought into relation with the seemingly closed interiority of the mark: the supplement “opposes” and “overturns” the “dominant authority” of what it remarks, making it more like polemos than phusis, for its activity is one of violence rather than growth (“Outwork” 5; “Positions” 82; “Differance” 137; “Plato’s Pharmacy” 105). Writing, he explains, is “parricidal,” because it is a violent eruption against the father figure Parmenides, whose supposed unity of being is intruded upon and violated by otherness and non-being. The disruptive fracture that iteration cuts into the remark is itself always again cut; that is, in the movement of iteration, fractures fracture their fractures through supplementary remarking (“Plato’s Pharmacy” 163-164; “Signature Event Context” 53). We take special note of this violent cutting fracture motion, because it of course does not lend itself to the natural fluid motion we would prefer for the sake of our revised hermeneutic dynamic.

This movement of differance involves not merely the additive motion of substitution, but also the subtractive: remarked remarks erase as they are supplemented. The iterance, as a complex double, supplants the structure it reiterates with an entirely alien configuration whose relation to what it substitutes is undecided, thereby causing it to disappear, in the deconstructive movement we later detail. Because in the movement of effacement marks are constantly disappearing, the trace is never present; for it effaces just while it is presented, “in being sounded it dies away” (“Differance” 154). We see, then, the complex dynamism in which, through the double supplementing/effacing movement, the mark is added-to while being erased, which might suggest a motion of fluid alteration.

In some cases, Derrida writes in a way that might lead us to wonder if the movement of differance is not somehow fluid. When speaking of its inaugural nature, Derrida says of writing that it is unaware of its trajectory, and that no knowledge of where it is going could hinder it from precipitating toward its future anyway. He also explains that if there were structure, it would need a more fundamental one allowing the entirety to overflow itself as though it anticipates an indeterminate telos. However, he explains, even though this more progressive structuralist open structure liberates time and genesis, it also hiders its futural procession (“Force and Signification” 11; 26); for, this overflowing would already be in relation to a future, which would be more of a modified present rather than something temporally spaced and genetic. In other words, it would seem that alteration is not so fluid for Derrida, if the movement of language is one where the mark is not developmentally connected to what remarks it. Thus, when Derrida writes that iterated marks are “constantly altering” so that new things take place, we perhaps should not take this alteration as fluxional, but rather as a repeating dynamic each time iterating something new. And while Derrida claims that he does not believe in “decisive ruptures,” because they are always re-inscribed into old marks that are “continually” undone (“Limited Inc a b c . . .” 40; Implications” 24), we may take him to mean not that the ruptures are bridged by a continuum of alteration flowing from one phase to the next, but instead that no one rupture goes unchallenged and that they must always, in their disjointed way, be repeatedly challenged.

Through these repeated challenges of the remark remarking, differance is genetic and originative, much like Heidegger's language as Ereignis. (Or, perhaps supplementarity is an ironic mimicry of Ereignis, deceptively similar yet entirely other.) As alien, remarks are intervallically spaced, entirely unrelated to each other, despite being interchangeable. Thus when inscribed, the remark could not have had a causative predecessor. Hence it erases its origin as it inscribes, and is thereby decontextualized, unprecedented, originary (“Positions” 94; Of Grammatology 271). Writing, then, is inaugural, because the remark has a new character neither reducible to – nor presupposed by – the remark it remarks: as Derrida writes, the remark is reiterated “as though it were the first time” (“Limited Inc a b c . . .” 50). This remark, then, is not synthetically derived by what it remarks; rather, it is an undecided third term, a tertium datur. It is as though the remarks continually arise ex nihilo in a movement that would thus be without beginning or end, and devoid of linear order – logical, chronological, or otherwise (“The Double Session” 219-220; “Implications” 3; 13-14; Of Grammatology 267). Rather, differance produces differences, the effects of these differences, the differences playing between differences, and also the complex subject who is never herself (“Differance” 130; 141; “Speech and Phenomena” 82). Thus Derrida, like Heidegger, characterizes language as originative, yet Derrida’s differance is more radically so: it continually generates decontextualized alien marks, unlike Heidegger's dovetailment where a togetherness spans along the motion.

Differance, as the genetic dynamic, is the ‘source’ of all else, seemingly as all-inclusive as Ereignis. On account of differance’s originativity, it is “older” than the ontological difference between Being and beings, older than being itself: as the play of differences, it is the dynamic out of which all such distinctions or entities are generated and erased (“Différance” 22). “There is nothing outside of the text,” because no referent, no transcendental signified, can outlie language; such would stand beyond the network of differences, unable then to function as a signifier. Everything, then, is discourse, just as all is language in Heidegger’s Ereignis (“Structure, Sign, and Play” 280; Of Grammatology 158; “Semiology and Grammatology” 19-20).

And like Ereignis, differance is inessential, nonexistent, and unnamable. He explains that it is “literally neither a word nor a concept” and that it has no essence; even “différance” is not its name: as language’s dynamism, it cannot be unified into a single stable concretizing word (“Différance” 3; 26). Thus also, displacement, effacement, trace, supplementarity, iteration, mimicry, simulacra, and writing cannot be said to exist; yet perhaps they are substitutive marks for differance. That same complex movement engendering all differences cannot itself be among them without also self-deconstructing.

This absent dynamic evades a metaphysics of presence; and yet like Heidegger’s Ereignis, it begins within its discourse, deconstructing it from within by remarking its terms. Such a reinscription must be a “violent transformation” of the traditional lexicon: marks such as trace, effacement, and differance mimic their metaphysical counterparts, but really inscribe alien structures overturning the ones they remark (“Différance” 25). Yet this will not bring about philosophy’s death or ultimate end: it is not a transgression that lands Derrida beyond philosophy; for he remains at its marginal limit (“Implications” 6; 12). As Gregory Fried observes, both Heidegger and Derrida call for a departure from metaphysics, but not one absolving us of that tradition altogether (Heidegger’s Polemos 225-226). In fact, there is no longer much sense in speaking of traditions or histories: they strive to preserve beings in their presence, which Derrida deconstructs in his characterization of language (Derrida “Speech and Phenomena” 102); and also, differance is ahistorical, because it is ‘older’ than presence and history, distinctions possibilized only by its play and erased by its movement. Thus, deconstruction need not surpass the tradition, when it is under erasure anyway.

To efface, the remark’s identity need be complex, a trait in Heidegger’s dynamism that also served to progress philosophy. In Derrida’s writings on the matter, I interpret him to be defying the three classical logical principles – identity, non-contradiction, and excluded middle – by breaking down identity and leaving its status undecided. Furthermore, I suggest that his defiance of the third principle distinguishes his complex identity from Heidegger’s. Altogether, they allow him to deconstruct traditional hierarchies from within the context of their discourse.

Derrida complicates identity by denying the possibility for pure self-identification. He notes, for example, that Mallermé’s ‘Book’ is both same and other to itself (“Force and Signification” 25). This breakdown of identity is central to differance’s dynamic, which both produces and is motivated by self-differentiating self-relations, thereby being a movement of repeated sames unidentifiable to one another (“Speech and Phenomena” 82; “Outwork” 4). Derrida evokes this sense of complex identity when considering the Egyptian god Thoth as the inventor of play: Thoth, he writes, who is opposed to his other, supplements and supplants it, thereby both extending and self-opposing it through its repeated self-replacement. By taking the shape of what he resists and substitutes, he thereby opposes himself. Thus, he bears the identity of the god of nonidentity. And yet, although he is lord over the “absolute passage between opposites,” he is not a god of Hegelian dialectic, because opposites in Thoth’s case have the character of coincidentia oppositorum: they – like Heidegger’s Same – stand to each other unresolved in their opposition. However for Derrida, they are not middle voicely related; for, his sames oppose utterly, ‘ironically doubling’ one another (“Plato’s Pharmacy” 93).

The laws of non-contradiction and excluded middle, as well as identity, are broken in this coincidence of opposites. Khora, for instance, defies the logic outlawing contradictions and middle terms. As neither sensible nor intelligible, it belongs rather to a third category, given that it is neither self-identical, ‘this’ or ‘that,’ nor even “both this and that” (Khora” 231; 238). Thus, it violates the law of identity and non-contradiction, but as a third genus is a tertium datur, a non-excluded middle. In a like manner, supplementarity’s movement produces such a third party with an undecidable status. Thoth, he explains, is neither ‘king’ nor ‘jack,’ but rather a “joker, a floating signifier, a wild card, one who puts play into play” (“Plato’s Pharmacy” 93). Every remark is such a joker; thus language contains a perpetual, genetic chain of equivocating terms whose meanings remain undecided.

Complex identity’s undecidable character allows Derrida to progress Hegelian dialectics without returning to a simpler sense of sameness and difference. But yet, Thoth’s passage between opposites would seem dialectical. He mimics the movement; however, by ever ironically doubling it, he indefinitely delays its fulfillment (93). Likewise, differance’s undecidability prevents any sublation of opposite terms. He writes that if differance had a definition, it would be the evasion of the Hegelian Aufhebung: differance’s productive conflictual movement is not preceded by any unified identity, and its oppositions cannot be “relieved” of its undecidability (“Positions” 40; “Outwork” 6). Hegel resolves difference, synthesizing it and sublating it to a self-presence. Differance breaks with this dialectical system; its contradictions never find resolution from a transcendental signified regulating its dynamic (“Positions” 44). Instead, the marginalized ‘loser’ of each opposition prevails, overturning the order and creating a new instable structure.

This complex identity of Derrida’s dynamism that progresses traditional ontologies, as did Heidegger’s Same, is characterized in similar terms. Differance, the source of language’s oppositions, is also “the element of the same (to be distinguished from the identical) in which these oppositions are announced” (“Implications” 9). Differance, then, is “this sameness which is not identical;” it is rather the deferring and differing that is “both as spacing/temporalizing and as the movement that structures every dissociation” (“Differance 129-130). I quote these passages to highlight their obvious similarity to Heidegger’s writings on Sameness and Ereignis as the source of space-time.

Derrida’s notion of identity, then, is bound up as well with complex temporality, which again like Heidegger, progresses traditional metaphysics and philosophy. Yet unlike Heidegger’s absent as a concealed modified present, Derrida’s alien other is entirely unindicated and exterior to the structure it overturns, although inscribing itself into it. Thus for Derrida, temporality is not a movement of un/concealment coming to and from the past and future. It instead is an unpredictable and incompletable, violently disruptive dynamic, whose structural instabilities are exploited by the supplement exceeding and supplanting it. Thus, the remark is self-identical and temporally complex for one and the same reason; for, on account of the constitutive fracture destabilizing supplementarity’s movement, nothing can be self-identical or without an intervallic temporal spacing, being neither simply present nor exclusively self-referential (Semiology and Grammatology” 26). Derrida deconstructs Husserl’s present, now no longer considered a self-same “blink of an eye” during which subjects may self-identify. It is rather a trace through which the living present emerges from its self-differentiation (“Speech and Phenomena” 85). On account of this fractured identity engendering the remark’s undecidability, temporal spacing is brought about. Using traditional terminology, it would be as if the fractured ‘present’ remark is already in relation to the ‘past’ remark it erases and the ‘future’ one erasing it. But unlike Heidegger, these past and future marks are not modified presences, but are what “absolutely is not.” Thus, the interval constituting the so-called present divides it dynamically, a movement Derrida calls spacing: time’s becoming space, and space’s becoming time. And in this temporalizing spacing, the mark’s presence is disrupted, in a dynamic he terms ‘writing’ (“Différance” 13; “Signature Event Context” 19). A present is ever already disrupted by its temporal others – spatially divided by an interval – that it violates and that violate it. No present moment, then, is alone to itself, and each temporal motion is an originary, complex, merging of marks that he considers the movement of differance (“Speech and Phenomena” 86). Originary, because in temporalization, an alien temporal exteriority is incorporated with the interiority, through the supplementary movement. Thus like Heidegger, Derrida's complex temporality comes about through language’s dynamic: language substitutes itself for the living present by adding itself to presence, supplanting and supplementing it. This movement self-fractures language, thereby it maintains the indefatigable desire to rejoin itself within itself (Of Grammatology 280). As constitutively fractured, thus empty and unresolved, language is destined never to satisfy its desire for self-fulfillment. Through this suspended unfulfillment, différance temporalizes by mediating its detours from detours along its hopeless quest for satisfaction (“Différance” 9). Temporalization, then, is not akin to Rousseau’s "continuous advent of presence," which lacks the play of discontinuity (Of Grammatology 263). Language’s dynamic requires that reinscription impose an absolute absence in no way connected continuously to what it inscribes. Each temporal movement brought about by the iterations’ spacing is entirely unpredictable, novel, and foreign.

Because always disrupted, the present is never presented. Upon their inscription, remarks are already remarked by other marks, themselves structured by displacement. Thus no thing ever temporally presences; it defers and detours, hanging undecided as to its presence, absence, or third status. Derrida writes that différance “is” what possibilizes presence, but crosses out this copula, adding parenthetically that he crosses out that crossed-out “is” once again. For, the play of supplementarity disallows the determination of an identity or presence, including that of the very play of différance itself. Like spacing and Thoth, it can never be presented; it is without existence, presence, or location ("Différance” 6). Likewise, trace has no identity, being, or presence: it erases itself and thus is really “the trace of the trace” or erasing’s erasure (“Ousia and Gramme” 66).

Trace’s erasure brings Derrida’s differance to traditional philosophy’s threshold, which he need not cross: the tradition self-erases on account of its discourse’s deconstructive dynamic, leaving our place within it undecided. Metaphysics had theretofore been an issue of absence & presence, identity & difference. Hegel progresses this structure, Heidegger more, yet Derrida shows how these oppositions self-erase through supplementarity. Differance is the genetic dynamic producing, thus preceding, metaphysical marks and distinctions, namely those regarding being. Metaphysical discourse, along with its oppositional terms, itself came about and erased through the play of supplementarity, whose absolute excessiveness cannot be thought within its lexicon. To deconstruct metaphysics, we must inscribe a trace within its discourse, signaling the direction of an utterly different text altogether (Of Grammatology 143; 65). Thus, Derrida does not take philosophy beyond itself, for ‘beyond’ already carries with it metaphysical oppositions. Rather, Derrida points us to the deconstructive movement already at work, reinscribing philosophy with an exteriority to which it is already vulnerable, but whose character is not determinable from the given metaphysical oppositions.

Derrida’s characterization of language would seem so far to be an improvement upon Heidegger’s efforts. Derrida sometimes marks the difference between them, while at other times offering an account of Heidegger's influence. In fact, Derrida concedes that his advances were possible only through the “opening of Heidegger's questions,” especially regarding the ontico-ontological difference between beings and Being (“Implications” 9). Derrida also acknowledges similarities in their thinking. Heidegger's Gespräch, the language that speaks between the thinker and poet, “divides and gathers;” and in speaking about itself by speaking in itself, Heidegger’s language both self-refers and self-defers (Of Spirit 83). Despite critiquing his ‘proper,’ Derrida acknowledges that Heidegger's thinking is not simply one of gathering, because memory’s trace opens the khorismos of khora, to disjunction, duplicity, and difference. The Es gibt that gives to memory from the future brings about nothing absolutely present. Its promises are always unfulfilled as the aporia of its gift, much like the deconstruction of presence (“Acts” 146-147).

Derrida recognizes that this aporia of Ereignis as language also creates an affinity with his differance and spacing. He writes that Heidegger uses spatializing metaphors when describing language, as for example Zerstreuung: dissemination, dispersion, and distraction (“Geschlecht: Sexual Difference, Ontological Difference” 395). According to Herman Rapaport, in La Carte Postale Derrida transposes Heidegger's sense of spacing into the context of writing, by characterizing the distantiation in language as a delaying dispatch. He writes further that Derrida’s écriture is his development of Heidegger’s temporal insight that “time times” through Saying (Heidegger and Derrida 194-195; 186).

Derrida also acknowledges that Heidegger has considered the oppositional relationality allowing for spacing, because throughout his writing, Heidegger has been interested in the dissension maintaining opposition. In Heidegger's struggle, two conflicting wills in rapport are heightened and preserved in their opposition; in fact, they did not exist before this struggle, and would cease if they came to peace. Their constant conflict maintains the difference and interval between the two; their belonging together is only possible through their contradiction. Thus for Heidegger, self-rapport is disagreement, adversarial relations are self-relations, and the force of this inner- and inter-resistance perpetuates the dynamic. Moreover, Derrida notes how Heidegger's polemos destabilizes the relation between a presumed subject and object, and also how he uses another word for An-Wesen, Walten, to convey the violence between the contraries’ repose and movement; and, dissimulation as truth comes about through Walten. There is nothing more “logical” than Heidegger's polemos, Derrida continues, logical in the sense of an internal contradiction of the sort he advocates. The dissociation, scission, dissension, and disjunction of the internal contradiction of Heidegger's polemos opens the intervals, faults, gaps, and distances that also join and couple the struggling opposites of Heidegger’s Same (Derrida “Heidegger’s Ear” 200-209). Although Derrida would not want to adopt the ‘togetherness’ part of the oppositional relation, he employs similar terminology when speaking of differance as a non-identical sameness that makes up oppositional relations. Also, Derrida notes that on account of Heidegger’s struggling opposition, hierarchical divisions are undermined, namely the one between a supposed meta-language and language. Thus he concurs with Heidegger that word meanings cannot be found in a dictionary; for Heidegger, this is because “language speaks” of and from itself, and cannot be spoken for. The project of overcoming metaphysics cannot examine its terminology from a meta-level, but only from within that discourse, a point that Derrida acknowledges he shares with Heidegger. They both progress philosophy, then, by first adopting its syntax and lexicon (“Acts” 110; 112; “Implications” 9-10).

Yet despite acknowledging these important Heideggerean influences and similarities, Derrida does more to distinguish himself, largely in regard to presence. He notes that in Being and Time, for example, Heidegger construes Being’s meaning in terms of parousia and ousia, signifying presence. Being is thereby understood in the temporal mode of the present. Furthermore, instead of progressing past traditional philosophy in Being and Time, Heidegger remains fixed within the metaphysical lexicon and grammar, never leaving the initial phase of his destructive strategy (“Ousia and Gramme” 31; 63). Even Heidegger’s more complex articulations of Being as conflict still, for Derrida, bear a metaphysics of presence, because Kampf’s originarity involves a listening to what is yet heard, answered, and thought, which is an anticipation of a modified present (“Heidegger’s Ear” 210). This is because Heidegger’s polemos is not a struggle between absolute others, but of opposites together in the Same. Thus for Derrida, there is not enough distantiation and difference in Heidegger’s thinking. Differance is not the difference between Being and beings, but what precedes and possibilizes this difference.

Derrida detects remnants of a presential metaphysics also in Heidegger's writings on the hand and handwriting. When it writes, the hand manifests the hidden by “pointing,” which construes language as a motion of signs moving to modified-presences. Also, Heidegger considers writing in terms of phonetic writing, as related to speech (“Geschlecht II: Heidegger's Hand” 179); and as phonocentric, Heidegger’s thinking here bears the mark of a presential metaphysics privileging the supposed immediate presence of the speaking voice. He thereby uncritically prioritizes the phone, which Derrida links with logos and the metaphysics of presence in logocentrism. He finds this phonological privilege in Heidegger’s predominant phonic metaphors and also in his disdain for writing when he proclaims that poetry, akin to speaking, must be liberated from written literature (“Implications” 10-11). Speech and thus handwriting carry with them marks of traditional philosophy. As David Wood explains, Derrida’s main reservation is that Heidegger’s solution to a metaphysics of presence was insufficiently radical; for Heidegger rethinks presence without radically displacing it (“Metaphysical Textuality” 83-84).

These metaphysical remnants in Heidegger’s thinking manifest in other areas where Derrida is sure to clarify his originality, as with Heidegger's concept of history. Derrida disallows any place in his deconstructive critique for a telos or transcendental signified, the marks of which he detects in Heidegger's writing. Unlike the historicity of Heidegger’s movement of falling, Derrida does not take on any such sort of linearism. Heidegger, then, retains a metaphysical concept of history as developing and fulfilling itself linearly, instead of taking up the more progressive view of history as having complex stratification and internal contradiction, based on the logic of trace and differential repetition. This is the logic of différance, which is without origin or end, cause or effect, archia or telos, or dialectical historical development (Derrida “Positions” 49-50; 54; 56-57; “Ousia and Gramme” 67).

This element of telos insinuates itself in Heidegger's thinking in subtle ways, which for Derrida indicates a more fundamental difference between them. He detects hints of a telos in Heidegger’s Sprache as Weg, which is a path pre-implicated with what lies ahead. For Derrida this movement bears the structure of metaphor, and also that of a linearized history. Heidegger’s “suspensive withdrawal of Being” is one of veiling and dissimulation. It’s withholding withdrawing, then, is a sort of “metaphorico-metonymic displacement” whose structure retains traditional philosophy’s presential metaphysics inherent to its semiological and ontological presuppositions (“The Retrait of Metaphor” 112; 115-116).

This metaphysics of presence remains as well in Heidegger’s notions of gatheredness and the proper, in all their forms, which instead of being radically differential, contain yet some marks of identity and presence. The gathering that conjoins opposites in Heidegger's struggle unites logos with polemos and is thus logocentric; also, it presences one opposite to its other (“Heidegger's Ear” 209). Likewise, Derrida criticizes Heidegger's sense of poetic polysemy, which unifies harmonically into the higher univocity of language’s monologic voice (“Heidegger's Hand” 189). This problem of gatheredness, as well, is what Derrida finds wrong in Heidegger's proper and its family of terms, for example, propriety, propriate, appropriation, Eigentlichkeit, Eigen, and Ereignis. The togetherness implied in these terms suggests a mutual presencing rather than radical differentiation (“Positions” 54). Contrariwise, in supplementarity, the mark’s relationship to its other opens its intervallic spacing to an absolutely non-present exteriority (“Speech and Phenomena” 86).

This added complexity in Derrida’s characterization of language yields hermeneutic consequences that further distinguish him from Heidegger. Supplementarity inscribes a textual mark that overthrows and thereby erases the remarked structure of differences, which is the movement of trace. Reinscription’s violent obliteration is the deconstructive movement inherent to language’s dynamic. It is also a ‘strategy’ for reading texts in a manner corresponding with this movement already working and playing in language. When applied to philosophical texts, it liberates us from their metaphysical confines.

Deconstruction’s dynamic is the repeating intrusion of alien marks of no relation to what they remark, which leaves the meaning, status, identity, and structure of a text always undecided. For this reason, Derrida proclaims it necessary that “writing literally mean nothing;” for, differance’s play disallows a structuring and governing center that could determine a text’s meaning (“Implications” 6; 14; “Positions” 41). A deconstructive approach to texts, then, does not decipher or decode them or resolve tensions created by hidden but hinted meanings. It is more of a de/ciphering by grafting into a cipher an utterly foreign fractured one, thereby deposing both. For example, Derrida iteratively inscribes conventional words such as ‘trace,’ ‘erasure’ and ‘writing’ with marks spelled the same, but that overturn the reinscribed systems, while presumably themselves being remarked and deconstructed in that very movement. To read a text is to transform it, an alteration never bearing the possibility of finality; for, the “turbulence” of the reinscription’s lack fractures the text’s limit, thereby preventing any exhaustive extraction of its themes, signifieds, or meanings (“Signature Event Context” 21; “Positions” 63; 45). Deconstruction, as a strategy, is one without telos or final appropriation of its motion and domain. In its unpredictable movement, both chance and necessity are jointly at play, or as he also writes, to Thoth “we owe the games of dice” (“Differance” 135; “Plato’s Pharmacy” 93). Moreover, deconstruction itself will be reinscribed and replaced through a “series of events which in fact it never commanded” (“Differance” 135).

Derrida offers elaboration on the strategy of deconstruction, which for him involves a double movement: hierarchical displacement & undecidability inscription. I will clarify it as triple: supplementing that erases the hierarchy it overturns. Deconstruction inverts and erases the hierarchy of a text’s oppositions by inscribing a differentially repetitive supplementary remark that in no way fits into the remarked hierarchy, because its relation to it is undecidable (“Positions” 42-43). These three facets of the triple motion – overturning, supplementing, and erasing – are neither successive nor simultaneous; for, it is only through the deconstructive play of differance that such distinctions could be made. By means of this tripartite maneuver, one makes critical use of language’s supplementarity. This play of differance is so inherent to language that merely to read something again yields another unstable text; for, one does so from a new interpretive context in which the differential relations between terms have shifted. All reading, then, is un/reading.

Unlike Heidegger’s dovetailed un/reading, Derrida’s deconstruction does not unveil a meaning hidden in the text or even somehow implied or derivable from it; rather, a radically new complex text is un/read in the text, which itself is vulnerable to further genetic un/reading. Rudolf Bernet writes that this is Derrida’s “radicalization of the Heideggerian onset” away from a metaphysics of presence: for Derrida there is “no primordial text because there is no presence which would precede and determine such a text and there is no final text because every new text introduces anew an unsaid and unwritten moment” (Rudolf Bernet “Is the Present Ever Present?” 90). Heidegger initiates this development by complicating language, time, and being, but retains some debris from his ‘destruction’ of the tradition’s presential metaphysics. The hermeneutic consequence of these remnants, namely absence as modified presence, is that the interpretive movement’s direction is always indicated in advance. Derrida’s strategy of deconstruction distances from such a hermeneutics of presence; although he seems to pick up where Heidegger leaves off. (Yet also, his innovation may not have been predictable from Heidegger’s context.)

While this improvement upon Heidegger’s characterization of language might better succeed at erasing the philosophical tradition of a presential metaphysics, we might wonder if it would not, as David Wood puts it, “sterilize” the text of any hermeneutical value (“Metaphysical Textuality” 89). As Derrida himself admits, writing must be meaningless. Has he perhaps thrown out the hermeneutical baby with its semiological bathwater by taking the deconstructive position? As a strategy, deconstruction is an effective tool and weapon for liberating philosophy from its confinements, but such radical freedom hermeneutically neuters texts; and while it is effective for philosophical writing, I would think that for literary texts we would not have this philosophical agenda. Perhaps as a general hermeneutical method, deconstruction is limited to a very narrow range of application. As well, I am concerned about deconstructive un/reading’s broken movements of violent reinscription. Is such a motion unnatural, almost schizophrenic, rhythmically nauseating, redundant, tiresome, or just plain out-of-date? If so, we might prefer a more naturally fluid dynamic. Moreover, although Derrida’s absolute other is technically not transcendent to his configuration, because it is already inscribing itself to the interiority, I wonder, can we account for the alterational dynamic without recourse to transcendently hued terminology, sterility, or violent disjointed brokenness?

In/Conclusion:

An Epilogic Continuation to the Re-Titled Text:

“UnReading Derrida’s and Heidegger’s UnReading”

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Rowing and flowing, this way and that;

Wakes erase ripples and traces that passed.

Whereto and wherefrom we never can know:

Our wake self-erases itself as we go.

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Now from this context, after flowing through Heidegger and Derrida, we look back, seeing that our procession cohered through associative transitions, and that our criteria for flow was unbrokenness. This structure of flow is comparable to Husserl’s associative synthesis of temporal consciousness. I will briefly describe its features so that in my proposal for a freely flowing hermeneutic I may adopt some of them, along with a few from Heidegger’s and Derrida’s configurations.

For Husserl, intentional contents are synthesized by means of awakenings, which are associative movements that motivate consciousness to co-intend similar contents, thereby unifying them in one act of consciousness. Contents are awakened and unified by a bridging term that relates them according to similarities. Time phases themselves are synthesized into a continuum merely on account of their overlaying each other in intimate association by a graduating bridging term, ‘temporal contiguity.’ Thus, flow for Husserl is the intimate linkage of bridging associations into a synthetic flux. Yet, because each link is a bridge, it bears a relational horizon: it is open to what comes to associate with it. In object synthesis, objects can be continually modified aggregatively, but sometimes new intentions both associate to an object for one reason, and disassociate to that same object for another, as when mistaking for a store clerk a mannequin one addresses: its unresponsiveness associates with its constitution as the store clerk, for they are attributes of that figure so far taken to be such, but it disassociates with the trait of attentiveness one ascribes to such service people. For a time, the object’s identity remains undecided, yet eventually one interpretation prevails, and the prior synthesis may be affirmed or annulled accordingly. Thus, when nearing the figure and seeing its artificial skin, these new contents associate with the prior ones according to bridging terms uniting them all into an object with the identity of a mannequin (Analyses Concerning Passive and Active Synthesis; 166-168; 180-181; 170-173; 63-73). From Husserl, then, I adopt the following notions for flow hermeneutics: flow is unbroken on account of it being constituted by horizonal associative relations rather than atomic units; and, new associations that conflict with others can bring about a retro- and pro-acting re-interpretation.

Where I will part from Husserl is in regard to his “phobia” over forgetfulness, which indicates his metaphysics of presence. For Husserl, the object constitution whose identity was annulled is still retained in retentional consciousness, although covered over by the prevailing one. This creates a fixed successive history, even if there are revisionary reinterpretations. Furthermore, this retentional structure suggests that through recall, one can re-intend the annulled or modified intentional state as it was before its nullification or aggregation, as though untainted by the new associative bridging of its contents. This is hermeneutically untenable from the flow perspective I propose, because such a memory would involve interpreting the contents again as one once had, but from a perspective that has come already to see them a different way, from a different interpretive context. Husserl presumes that recollective acts of consciousness can transcend their own contextual circumstances. What I propose – that we cannot displace our interpretations from their context – may not be so perplexing. It does not resort to transcendent principles that are difficult to account for, but rather remains within the perspective of immanence. New associations send ripples through the network, altering even if slightly the whole thoroughly interrelational web and its objects, thereby erasing the old arrangements; although, whether or not there are such different objects differently constituted previously, and what their constitution might have been, is a determination only determinable by the perspective making that determination. Thus, we cannot return to our innocent childhood interpretations; for, they are regarded by minds no longer innocent. In this way, history changes. There is no fixed past or future, because their constitutions are ever altered by new waves of associativity that flowingly erase them through reassociation. For this reason, my configuration retains Derrida’s radical originarity, except without his brokenness, and thus we can have a dovetail flow perspective that is free and unpredictable.

I take the hermeneutic dynamic, then, to have the dovetailed flowing symmetricality of Heidegger’s phthora/genesis configuration. However, on account of our flowing erasure movement, the ‘absent’ phases of the interpretation are not modified presents in immediate relation to present ones. They are absent because the flow of interpretation flows upon itself as well, as when coming to a different understanding of interpretation, adopting it, thereby changing the hermeneutic dynamic itself. For example, if I try to look back to how I had previously regarded my interpretive dynamic, I do so from the context of this flow hermeneutic, so I see it as having flowed to this context. But if this presumed prior interpretive perspective were indeed a different sort of hermeneutic dynamism, then it did not regard interpretive development as flowing. Thus, I could not have expected from that context that it would flow into a flow hermeneutic perspective, because it would have presumed a different developmental dynamic. I suspect that when the hermeneutic dynamic changes, its manner of interpretation alters too, and so it cannot interpret again the way it did before (if even it believes there was a previous perspective). Because it may erase its own movement and thereby hermeneutically constitute its origin differently, the flow perspective has the potential to be radically originary like Derrida’s deconstruction: it can arrive upon a context from which everything is interpreted another way, even its own coming to be. However, this would suggest that our fluid hermeneutic dynamic can change to a perspective that would not interpret its changing to have been fluid, but there is no way to know that from the flow perspective, which would presume we would flow there. Because we cannot know how we will look back after a change, we can say even from our flow context that on account of hermeneutic flow flowing through itself, thereby self-erasing fluidly, we can flow into differing degrees of newness spanning all the way to radical originarity.

This flow hermeneutic, then, has Husserl’s associative structure of flux, horizonality, and reinterpretive movement; however, we leave aside his transcendental perspective and fixed time-line of retended interpretations; I adopt Heidegger’s complex interrelational dovetail dynamic, but without his modified presence or history; and I take up Derrida’s erasure movement, leaving aside its accompanying brokenness, in favor of a flowing erasure motion capable of flowing through itself like the wondrous movement of water. If this revised hermeneutic proves tenable, I wonder for following efforts, might it be applied as a textual hermeneutic technique and literary critical method?

Fade aways flow Zenonianly:

Endless divisions blur seamlessly

Transitions of passage from being to naught,

Denying from death its determinate spot ...




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Works Cited

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Derrida, Jacques. Khora.” The Derrida Reader: Writing Performances. Ed. Julian Wolfreys. Transl. Ian McLeud. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998.

Derrida, Jacques. “Limited Inc a b c . . .” Limited Inc. Transl. Samuel Weber and Jeffrey Mehlman. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1988.

Derrida, Jacques. “The Originary Metaphor.” The Derrida Reader:Writing Performances. Ed. Julian Wolfreys. Transl. Ian McLeud. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998.

Derrida, Jacques. “Ousia and Gramme.” Margins of Philosophy. Transl. Alan Bass. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982.

Derrida, Jacques. “Outwork, prefacing.” Dissemination. Transl. Barbara Johnson. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

Derrida, Jacques. “Plato’s Pharmacy.” Dissemination. Transl. Barbara Johnson. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

Derrida, Jacques. “Positions: Interview with Jean-Louis Houdebine and Guy Scarpetta.” Positions. Transl. Alan Bass. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

Derrida, Jacques. “The Retrait of Metaphor.” The Derrida Reader: Writing Performances. Ed. Julian Wolfreys. Transl. Ian McLeud. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998.

Derrida, Jacques. “Semiology and Grammatology: Interview with Julia Kristeva.” Positions. Transl. Alan Bass. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

Derrida, Jacques. “Signature Event Context.” Limited Inc. Transl. Samuel Weber and Jeffrey Mehlman. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1988.

Derrida, Jacques. “Speech and Phenomena: Introduction to the Problem of Signs in Husserl’s Phenomenology.” Speech and Phenomena And Other Essays on Husserl’s Theory of Signs. Transl. David B. Allison. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1973.

Derrida, Jacques. Of Spirit: Heidegger and the Question. Transl. Geoffrey Bennington and Rachel Bowlby. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989.

Derrida, Jacques. “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences.” Writing and Difference. Transl. Alan Bass. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978.

Derrida, Jacques. “The Supplement of the Copula: Philosophy before Linguistics.” Margins of Philosophy. Transl. Alan Bass. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982.

Emad, Parvis. “Reference, Sign, and Language: Being and Time Section 17.” Collegium Phaenomenologicum: The First Ten Years. Eds. J.C. Sallis, G. Moneta and J. Taminiaux. Pages 175-189.

Emad, Parvis, and Kenneth Maly. Heidegger, Martin. “Translator’s Foreword.” Contributions to Philosophy (from Enowning). Ed. John Sallis. Transl. Parvis Emad and Kenneth Maly. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.

Fried, Gregory. Heidegger’s Polemos: From Being to Politics. London: Yale University Press, 2000.

Gasché, Rodolphe. The Tain of the Mirror: Derrida and the Philosophy of Reflection. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986.

Heidegger, Martin. “Aletheia.” Early Greek Thinking. Transl. David Farrell Krell and Frank A. Capuzzi. New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1975.

Heidegger, Martin. “Anaximander’s Saying.” Off the Beaten Track. Ed. and Transl. Julian Young and Kenneth Haynes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Transl. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1962.

Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Transl. Joan Stambaugh. Albany: SUNY Press, 1996.

Heidegger, Martin. Contributions to Philosophy (from Enowning). Ed. John Sallis. Transl. Parvis Emad and Kenneth Maly. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.

Heidegger, Martin. “Conversation on a Country Path about Thinking.” Discourse on Thinking: A Translation of Gelassenheit. Transl. John M. Anderson and E. Hans Freund. New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1966.

Heidegger, Martin. “A Dialogue On Language.” On the Way to Language. Transl. Peter D. Hertz. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1971.

Heidegger, Martin. “On the Essence of Truth.” Basic Writings. Transl. John Sallis. Ed. David Farrell Krell. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978.

Heidegger, Martin, and Eugen Fink. Heraclitus Seminar 1966/67.Transl. Charles Seibert. University, Alabama: The University of Alabama Press, 1979.

Heidegger, Martin. Introduction to Metaphysics. Transl. Gregory Fried and Richard Polt. London: Yale University Press, 2000.

Heidegger, Martin. “Language.” Poetry, Language, Thought. Transl. Albert Hofstadter. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers,1971.

Heidegger, Martin. “Language in the Poem.” On the Way to Language. Transl. Peter D. Hertz. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1971.

Heidegger, Martin. “Logos.” Early Greek Thinking. Transl. David Farrell Krell and Frank A. Capuzzi. New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1975.

Heidegger, Martin. “The Nature of Language.” On the Way to Language. Transl. Peter D. Hertz. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1971.

Heidegger, Martin. “Nihilism as the History of Being.” Nietzsche: Vol IV: Nihilism. Transl. Frank A. Capuzzi. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1982.

Heidegger, Martin. “Origin of the Work of Art.” Poetry, Language, Thought. Transl. Albert Hofsadter. London: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc, 1971.

Heidegger, Martin. Parmenides. Transl. Andre Schuwer and Richard Rojcewicz. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992.

Heidegger, Martin. “Poetically Man Dwells.” Poetry, Language, Thought. Transl. Albert Hofsadter. London: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc, 1971.

Heidegger, Martin. “Postscript to ‘What is Metaphysics?’” Pathmarks Transl. William McNeil. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Heidegger, Martin. “The Principle of Identity.” Identity and Difference. Transl. Joan Stambaugh. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969.

Heidegger, Martin. “The Question Concerning Technology.” Basic Writings. Transl. John Sallis. Ed. David Farrell Krell. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978.

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Heidegger, Martin. “The Thing.” Poetry, Language, Thought. Transl. Albert Hofsadter. London: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc, 1971.

Heidegger, Martin. “The Thinker as Poet.” Poetry, Language, Thought. Transl. Albert Hofsadter. London: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc, 1971.

Heidegger, Martin. “Time and Being.” On Time and Being. Transl. Joan Stambaugh. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972.

Heidegger, Martin. Unterwegs zur Sprache. Stuttgart: Kett-Cotta, 1959.

Heidegger, Martin. “The Way to Language.” On the Way to Language. Transl. Peter D. Hertz. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1971.

Heidegger, Martin. “What is Called Reading?” Hermeneutics & Deconstruction. Ed. Hugh Silverman and Don Ihde. Albany: State University of New York Press, Albany, 1985.

Husserl, Edmund. Analyses Concerning Passive and Active Synthesis. Ed. Rudolf Bernet. Transl. Anthony J. Steinbock. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2001.

Krell, David Ferrell. “The Wave’s Source: Rhythm in the Language of Poetry and Thought.” Heidegger and Language. Ed. David Wood. Coventry: Parousia Press, 1981.

Llewelyn, John. Derrida on the Threshold of Sense. London: MacMillan Press, 1986.

Llewelyn, John. The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience: A Chiasmic Reading of Responsibility in the Neighbourhood of Levinas, Heidegger and Others. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991.

Maly, Kenneth. “Reading and Thinking: Heidegger and the Hinting Greeks.” Reading Heidegger: Commemorations. Ed. John Salis. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.

Rapaport, Herman. Heidegger and Derrida: Reflections on Time and Language. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998.

Rojcewicz, Richard. The Gods and Technology: A Reading of Heidegger. Albany, New York: SUNY Press, 2006.

Steinbach, Markus. Middle Voice: A Comparative Study in the Syntax- Semantics Interface of German. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2002.

Visker, Rudi. The Inhuman Condition: Looking for Difference after Levinas and Heidegger. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2004.

Wood, David. “Metaphysical Textuality.” Heidegger and Language. Ed. David Wood. Coventry: Parousia Press, 1981.


[1] I have chosen arbitrarily – but I hope consistently – to use the diacritically marked ‘différance’ only when citing translations rendering it so.


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1 comment:

  1. All the peculiarities of Derrida's work come from his dissociated epistemology.
    Derrida gets the language for his epistemology from Husserl. Everybody agreed on the starting point, that phenomenology starts with a "principle of principles" that "primordial presence to intuition is the source of sense and evidence, the a priori of a prioris."

    This means that "the certainty, itself ideal and absolute, that the universal form of all experience (Erlebnis), and therefore of all life, has always been and will always be the present. The present alone is and ever will be. Being is presence or the modification of presence. The relation with the presence of the present as the ultimate form of being and of ideality is the move by which I transgress empirical existence, factuality, contingency, worldliness, etc." [Speech and Phenomena, 53-54.]

    However, Husserl's choice of the words "present" and "presence" to indicate the ground of all knowledge has some very unfortunate consequences. That choice sets up a confusion between two completely different meanings of the word "presence."

    One meaning is "phenomenological presence". This refers to the immediate access to being in the original act of knowledge. It does not refer to time at all. So, phenomenological presence might be better expressed by calling it presence-to-being. That would save it from being confused with the other meaning of "presence", what we should call "temporal presence", that is, the occurrence of an event at a particular moment in time.

    Derrida also mentions that this living presence is "the now". This reinforces the confusion between presence-to-being and occurrence-at-a-particular-moment-in-time. It is also unfortunate that Derrida has to use the word "form" in the phrase "the universal form of all experience". What he wants to refer to is the "universal basis of all experience", which is not a form. It is an act. But this word-slippage is also quite telling, and one of the many clues in Derrida's work that he is confusing the order of abstract concepts and the order of actual reality.

    Once having departed from actual reality, Derrida's whole work becomes surreal. One cornerstone mistake is his claim that iterability is an a priori condition of the origin of knowledge, whereas in fact iterability is an a posteriori result of the original act of knowledge. Once you get the traditional realistic assertion that insight is an act that can be repeated over and over, all of Derrida's objections collapse.

    I have discussed these issues at length in my article "Dealing With Derrida", which you can find on the Radical Academy web site. http://radicalacademy.com/studentrefphilmhd1.htm

    Although running down Derrida's mistakes in his text is difficult, once you get the key point that he was dissociated, the whole pattern of his out-of-body thinking makes sense. Dissociation is the result of trauma, and we find it in many corners of social thinking, presumably among people who have been traumatized. There are many sources of insight into dissociation. I recommend Trauma and the Body by Pat Ogden et al. as a start.

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