Metaphysics and Its Other

  • Rozemund UljéeEmail author
Part of the Contributions To Phenomenology book series (CTPH, volume 86)


In this paper I seek to point out both the proximity and distance between Heidegger’s and Derrida’s understanding of time in their attempts to think difference. By showing how close Différance is to Heidegger’s structure of temporality of nearness, I argue how Heidegger’s understanding of truth in relation to time leads to an understanding of the history of metaphysics to a structure of possible revelation. However, if we are to understand Derrida’s Différance as a perpetually corruptive force, then how is it possible to ever conceive of Offenbarkeit in Being? The focus here will be set on the possibility of revelation as ‘event’ in Heidegger, and Derrida’s counterargument that the event is always impossible.


Heidegger Derrida Difference Ereignis Différance Truth 

It is in both Heidegger’s and Derrida’s thought that we find a most fundamental and profound challenge put to thought, to language and to philosophy itself. This does not imply that their respective philosophical projects share the same orgin nor that they are aimed towards the same goal. It is rather an acknowledgement of a certain belonging in their attempts to think difference. This paper seeks to trace this belonging by investigating Heidegger’s later thought as explicated in his lecture ‘Zeit und Sein’ [‘On Time and Being’] and Derrida’s essays ‘Finis’ and ‘Foi et savoir’[‘Faith and Knowledge’] with the aim of shedding light on the problematic of difference in its relation to thinking.

We shall first investigate Heidegger’s articulation of the relation between truth and Being as put forward in his lecture ‘Zeit und Sein’. This text can be read as an attempt to think the truth of Being without being grounded in terms of beings. It is thus here that we see Heidegger’s Kehre in a very explicit manner. In Sein und Zeit Heidegger engaged in a questioning of Being from the transcendental horizon of time, where the transcendental horizon is the realm in which the determination of Being is projected as presencing, as deployed from the standpoint of Dasein and as such, bringing the truth of beings into view. However, the truth of Being itself remained unthought, unsaid, and thus concealed. As Alfred Guzzoni writes: ‘[t]he fundamental experience of Being and Time is thus that of the oblivion of Being.’1 This however is not an error in the common understanding of the term, since, for Heidegger concealment of Being belongs to the opening up of Being, as I will seek to clarify. In ‘Zeit und Sein’, Heidegger seeks to point out the truth of Being itself, a truth which undermines the primacy of presence that Heidegger sees affirmed in the history of metaphysics in favour of a thinking that thinks this very history and what remains unthought within it.

Heidegger opens this text with the claim that it is impossible to say that Being is, or that time is. Both Being and time are not a thing. However, Being understood as presencing is determined by time. Also time, in its passing, remains as time and can as such be named as presence. This means for Heidegger that Being and time are determined by each other, but it is impossible to determine Being as something temporal, and it is equally impossible to determine time as a being. According to Heidegger, it is the task of thinking to think this relation. The first task of this thinking is, finds Heidegger, to reflect on the fact that we do not say ‘Being is and time is,’ but rather, there is ‘there is Being and there is time.’2 What is needed is an explanation of the ‘It’ and what is given in the ‘There is’ or ‘It gives,’ claims Heidegger, as it will clarify how:

There is, It gives Being and there is, It gives time. In this giving, it becomes apparent how that giving is to be determined which, as a relation, first holds the two toward each other and brings them into being. Being, by which all beings as such are marked, Being means presencing. Thought with regard to what presences, presencing shows itself as letting-presence. But now we must try to thing this letting presence explicitly insofar presencing is admitted. Letting shows its character in bringing into unconcealment. To let presence means: to unconceal, to bring to openness. In unconcealing prevails a giving, the giving that gives presencing, that is, Being, in letting-presence.3

For Heidegger to think Being in an explicit manner means to think that which is shown in letting-presence. From this unconcealing speaks a giving. For Heidegger, Being as a gift allows for presence and as such belongs to unconcealing. Thinking Being in terms of presencing derives from the beginning of the unconcealment of Being as something that can be said and thought. Heidegger claims that: ‘ever since the beginning of Western thinking with the Greeks, all saying of “Being” and “Is” is held in remembrance of the determination of Being as presencing which is binding for thinking.’4

In the history of metaphysics however, Heidegger suggests that Being as presencing has undergone different transformations in which presencing manifests itself as the One, as idea, ousia, energeia, Spirit. These different transformations can be read as the way in which ‘It gives Being.’ Heidegger points out that in the beginning of Western thinking, Being is thought, not however the ‘It gives.’ The ‘It gives’ has, according to Heidegger, withdrawn behind the gift that it gives, a gift which has been conceptualized and handed down exclusively as the Being of beings throughout the history of metaphysics. Heidegger states that:

A giving which gives only its gift, but in the giving holds itself back and withdraws, such a giving we call sending. According to the meaning of giving, which is to be thought in this way – Being – that which It gives – is what is sent. Each of its transformations remains destined in this manner.5

What is sent forth in the history of Being is destined. From this it becomes clear that the history of Being means its destiny, in which its sending and the ‘It’ which it is sending, holds back its own manifestation. This movement is understood by Heidegger as different epochs of the destiny of Being. The notion of epoche thus is not to be understood in the Husserlian sense, but rather as a sending of Being in which its fundamental character is the holding back of itself ‘in favour of the discernibility of the gift.’6

According to Heidegger, different epochs overlap each other in the history of Being, so that the sending of Being as presence has become more and more obscured. Only a removal of these different layers – a dismantling of the history of metaphysics – can allow for thinking in the direction of what reveals itself as the destiny of Being. Different terms used in the history of metaphysics, such as Plato’s idea, Hegel’s absolute concept or Nietzsche’s will to power, are for Heidegger determinations of Being, and are understood as answers to a claim which is speaking from the sending in which the ‘It gives’ of Being itself is concealed. As such, thinking always remains attached to the different epochs; to the tradition of the epochs of the destiny of Being, even when it attempts to think the manner in which Being itself receives its determination from the ‘It gives Being.’

How then is it possible think the ‘It’ of the ‘It gives Being?’ For Heidegger this task means a return to the thinking of time. Being includes: presence, letting-be-present, presencing, and as such there is a necessary rapport with time. Heidegger finds that according to the Aristotelian conception of time, time is present in terms of the ‘now.’7 This interpretation of time is however incapable of answering the question whether time is, and furthermore, Heidegger finds that the present in the sense of presence is radically different from the present in the sense of the now, so that the present as presence can in no way be determined in terms of the present as the now. For Heidegger, present in the sense of presence means that presence determines Being in a unified manner, namely as presencing and allowing-to-presence, and therefore as unconcealing. Presencing however, requires that ‘we perceive biding and abiding in lasting as lasting as present being.’8 As such, what is present is that which comes towards human beings. Heidegger writes that:

[M]an, who is concerned with and approached by presence, who, through being thus approached, is himself present in his own way for all present and absent beings. Man: standing within the approach of presence, but in such a way that he receives as a gift the presencing that It gives by perceiving what appears in letting-presence. If man were not the constant receiver of this gift given by the “It gives presence,” if that which is extended in the gift did not reach man, then not only would Being remain concealed in the absence of this gift, not only closed off, but man would remain excluded from the scope of: It gives Being. Man would not be man.9

This however does not merely imply that man is only concerned with the presencing of something actually present, since man is also concerned with absence. And the same counts for the future, as in that what comes towards man, presencing is offered. As such, not every presencing is necessarily the present. The giving of presencing that prevails in past, present and future is to be understood as a reaching in that it reaches human beings. This reciprocal relation brings about the present.’ Heidegger contends that the mutual giving of past, present and future is to be thought of as time. Time as such is to be understood as the unity of reaching out and giving. This means for Heidegger that past, present and future belong to one another in the way in which they offer themselves to one another in terms of the presencing that is given. According to Heidegger, this presencing opens what he calls ‘time-space.’ This implies that time no longer has the supposed Aristotelian meaning of a series of ‘nows’ and space by no means refers to the distance between two ‘now’-points in this series. Rather, ‘time-space’ means the openness, which opens the ‘mutual self-extending of futural approach, past and present.’10

Heidegger claims that the common, putatively Aristotelian understanding of time is one-dimensional because it is only capable of thinking time in a linear manner, whereas Heidegger’s thinking of time is derived from the time-space of what is called ‘true time’ and is, in its threefold giving, three-dimensional. This is so because ‘dimensionality consists in a reaching out that opens up, in which futural approaching brings about what has been, what has been brings about futural approaching, and the reciprocal relation of both brings about the opening up of openness.’11 Dimension, however, is not to be thought of as a realm that allows for or can be measured. Rather, it is a reaching, understood in terms of an opening and a giving, such that the given allows for dimensionality in terms of measurement.

It thus becomes clear that the unity of the threefold dimensionality is to be thought in terms of a kind of presencing as an approach and a bringing about, in the present as well as in the past and the future. As such, it is impossible to think presencing only in terms of the present. Rather, the unity of the different dimensions of time consists in the interplay between the different dimensions. This makes the interplay for Heidegger the fourth dimension of time, as it is a true extending playing within time itself. ‘True time is four-dimensional.’12 The fourth dimension however, is actually the first dimension, because it is the giving that determines the three other dimensions. ‘In future, in past, in the present, that giving brings about to each its own presencing, holds them apart thus opened and so holds them toward one another in the nearness by which the three dimensions remain near one another.’13 Thus this dimension brings past, future and present near one another by distancing them in the sense that what has been is kept open by denying its arriving as present.14 Heidegger calls this dimension of time the dimension of ‘nearing nearness’ or ‘nearhood.’15 Nearing nearness is a denial and a withholding, as it keeps open the approach coming from the future as it withholds the present within this approach. This means that nearing nearness already in advance unifies the different ways the past, future and present are reaching out towards each other.

It is thus impossible to say that time is. Rather: ‘It gives time,’ as the giving in which time is given is a denying and a withholding. ‘It grants the openness of time-space and preserves what remains denied in what has-been, what is withheld in approach.’16 The giving which gives true time is called by Heidegger an opening and concealing extending and since extending is to be thought of as a giving in itself, the giving of the giving is concealed in true time. It is impossible to ask after the place of time as time itself is the pre-spatial region ‘which first gives any possible “where”’17 since it is the realm of threefold extending as determined by nearing nearness.

Since the history of metaphysics always thought the supposedly Aristotelian conception of time in terms of a series of now-points, it needed the existence of the psyche, consciousness or Spirit, to measure these ‘nows’ against one another. This assumption however, does not yet explain how human beings themselves relate to time. Heidegger seems to reaffirm the history of metaphysics in the assumption that it is impossible to think time without the existence of human beings, but the question whether man is giving or receiving time is not adequate since, for Heidegger:

True time is the nearness of presencing out of present, past and future – the nearness that unifies time’s threefold opening extending. It has already reached man as such so that he can be man only by standing within the threefold extending, perduring the denying, and withholding nearness which determines that extending. Time is not the product of man, man is not the product of time. There is no production here. There is only giving in the sense of extending which opens up time-space.18

The manner of giving in which time is given however, does not yet explain the ‘It’ of the ‘It gives time.’ Examining the phrase ‘It gives Being,’ the giving consists in a sending and a destiny of presence in its epochal transformations. And the giving in ‘It gives time’ is understood as an extending and opening-up of the four-dimensional realm. Therefore, Heidegger claims that true time seems to be the ‘It’ that gives Being, in that it gives presence, because, as noted, absence also manifests itself as a mode of presence:

What has-been which, by refusing the present, lets that become present which is no longer present; and the coming toward us of what is to come which, by withholding the present, lets that be present which is not yet present – both made manifest the manner of an extending opening up which gives all presencing into the open.19

The destiny in which ‘It gives Being’ appears to be found in the extending of time. This however is not the case, as Heidegger points out, as time itself remains a gift of an ‘It gives,’ in which its giving preserves the realm in which presence is extended. It is only possible to determine the ‘It’ which gives ‘in terms of the giving as the ‘the sending of Being, as time in the sense of an opening up which extends.’20 It is therefore the case that ‘It’ gives, but is itself not there. As such, the ‘It’ names the presence of an absence, or, presence and the other of presence, and has to be thought in terms of the kind of giving belonging to it, namely giving as destiny and a giving as an opening up which reaches. Therefore, destiny and opening up are to be thought together, because destiny lies in opening up. Heidegger states that in the extending of time as the sending of destiny:

[t]here becomes manifest a dedication, a delivering over into what is their own, namely Being as presence and of time as the realm of the open. What determines both, time and Being, in their own, that is, in their belonging together, we shall call Ereignis, the event of Appropriation. Ereignis will be translated as Appropriation or event of Appropriation.21

It is important to note here that the term ‘event’ is not just an occurrence, but that which makes any occurrence possible. Thus, for Heidegger, the manner in which Being and time belong together while holding them to their own is the event of Appropriation or Ereignis. As such, this event precisely means to think the other of presence in the present, and as such, opens the possibility to think the difference in which is simultaneously thought presence and its other, because as noted, in giving as sending there is a certain withholding in that the withholding and denial of the present ‘play within the giving of what has been and what will be.’22 Heidegger notes that: ‘The sending in the destiny of Being has been characterized as a giving in which the sending source keeps itself back and, thus, withdraws from unconcealment.’23 And further:

In true time and its time-space, the giving of what-has-been, that is, of what is no longer present, the denial of the present manifested itself. Denial and withholding exhibit the same trait as self-withholding in sending: namely, self-withdrawal.24

Withdrawal belongs to Ereignis in the manner that Ereignis withdraws what is ‘most fully its own’25 from unconcealment and as such, it expropriates itself of itself. It is here that we find Heidegger’s radical undecidability between presence and absence: an undecidability that is keeping and giving while concealing and withdrawing. As such, Ereignis can be read as the event in which presence is given, that is thus, the event in which presence is not present. This movement is thought, as Heidegger points out, in the German term Anwesen.26 The term An-wesen can be understood as the movement before wesen, which refers to the essence as presence, also found in the Greek ousia. An-wesen, emphasizing the before this presence, marks the source from which presence is possible as such and refers to the continuity of presence as Anwesenheit.27

It is important to point out that for Heidegger, Ereignis is not a relation retroactively imposed upon both Being and time. Rather Ereignis first appropriates Being and time into their own in virtue of their relation, and does so by the appropriating that is concealed in destiny and in the gift of opening out. Accordingly, the It that gives in ‘It gives Being,’ and in ‘It gives time,’ proves to be Ereignis. Further, it is important to mark that naming this event is, in a certain manner, impossible. Naming this event would present Ereignis as some present being, whereas Heidegger is precisely attempting to think presence and its other as such. Asking the question ‘What is Ereignis’ is asking how Ereignis presences, becomes present; it is asking after the Being of Ereignis. However, since Heidegger has pointed out that Being itself belongs to Ereignis and from there receives its determination as presence, we are led back to the beginning of Heidegger’s questioning. That this question demonstrates how Ereignis must not be thought, means for Heidegger that what this event names should not be understood in terms of occurrence and happening, but as the extending and sending which opens and preserves. Moreover, the suspicion might be raised that Ereignis is another name for Being and as such, would precisely affirm the history of metaphysics in Heidegger’s understanding of it. If however Being is thought in terms of presencing and allowing-to-presence that are in destiny which in turn lies in the extending of true time which opens and conceals, then Being belongs to Ereignis. However, it is important to observe that Ereignis is most surely not to be thought as the most general concept that would encompass both Being and time, because, as Heidegger writes: ‘Being proves to be destiny’s gift of presence, the gift granted by the giving of time. The gift of presence is the property of Appropriating, Being vanishes in Appropriation.’28 Therefore, in the phrase ‘Being as Appropriation,’ the word ‘as’ should be read as: ‘Being, letting-presence sent in Appropriating, time extended in Appropriating. Time and Being appropriated in Appropriation.’29

To care for the ontological difference and to accept the concern of presence means to stand in the realm of giving and as such, four-dimensional time has reached human beings. Because both Being and time are only there in appropriating, Appropriation brings man into its own as ‘the being who perceives Being by standing within true time.’30 Being appropriated, man belongs to Appropriation. This belonging, as Heidegger points out, is an assimilation of man to Ereignis and this assimilation allows for man to be admitted to Ereignis. And here we have arrived at ‘that ancient something which conceals itself in a-letheia.’31 Because Ereignis in a certain manner does not designate anything other but Being’s act of concealing itself as it is withdrawing behind the gift that it gives, it makes possible its revelation to man as aletheia: truth as unconcealment. Thus, aletheia can be read as a self-concealing clearing or as a self-clearing concealment, as pointed out by Werner Marx in Heidegger and the Tradition.32 Here is found that aletheia is rethought in such a manner that it does not only designate an openness, but also a relation to concealment, and as such, every openness is an unconcealment.33

Ereignis is thus not circumscribed by truth. On the contrary, Ereignis precedes truth and as such, makes it possible. In recalling Heidegger’s task of thinking the truth of Being itself, thinking the truth of Being itself thus means to think Ereignis as that which gives the gift of truth while withdrawing from its manifestation. As such, thinking this event means to think presence in terms of a ‘letting presence,’ and simultaneously that which is radically other and irreducible to presence. In giving presence while withdrawing, Ereignis is the possibility to think the history of metaphysics and simultaneously it is its voiding or its otherness in terms of its irreducibility to presence which, as such, gives this very history. Thinking Ereignis thus means to think simultaneously the manner in which metaphysics becomes possible and its otherness and the manner in which they necessarily belong together.

Ereignis is not simply the affirmation of the ontological difference, as in this event what is thought by Heidegger is what is preceding this difference, because this event is the thinking of the place from where Being gives itself as irreducible to beings. It thus designates the where from which the ontological difference can be stated and thought. Therefore to think Ereignis means a thinking of difference itself as an event. This is the most primordial and essential task of thinking, which means a thinking of nearness in which man’s responsibility to Being becomes manifest.

Let us now turn to Derrida in order to bring to light both his closeness to and distance from Heidegger. Heidegger’s Destruktion of the history of metaphysics can be read as an attempt to point towards the unthought in thinking. Derrida reinscribes this attempt into the question of writing. This reinscription however does not seek to reveal that which has been revealed by Heidegger’s Destruktion, but points towards an impossibility within the possibility of thinking itself. What does this mean? For Derrida, Deconstruction refers to an impossibility of revealing the origin of thought, by adding a supplement beyond the possibility of comprehension. As such, we can view Deconstruction as a strategy of affirmation which problematizes and oscillates classical oppositions within the philosophical tradition by introducing an element of absolute indecision within these oppositions which conditions and defers and allows and interrupts these oppositions themselves.

It is here that we find the signicification of Différance. Différance, as a homophone and an orthographic corruption of différence (difference), plays most specifically between the infinitive of différer (to defer) and the present participle of différer (to differ) – différant (different/differentiated).34 This is thus a language that is at once verbal and nominal. It describes an immemorial and endless process by which identity differentiates itself from the oscillation or indecision of difference and asserts itself in presence, but wherein this identity is consistently subverted and made different from itself by a radically other difference, which escapes presentification as such. In this sense, we find Heidegger’s ‘letting presence’ of temporality and thus the dimension of nearness reaffirmed within Derrida’s thinking.

But it is within the nature of indecision of différance that, contrary to Heidegger, there is neither origin nor possibility of revelation for Derrida. Because of différance, the reading of any text (or context) can only lead to a point of aporia.

Derrida explains the difference between problem and aporia in ‘Finis’. The word problem has its sources in the Greek problema, which signifies projection or protection (it also means shield or barrier) in the sense of projecting a telos upon the undecidability of différance and through this act creating a protected space in which a decision can be made. As such, the notion of problem indicates the mode of thought that we find throughout the history of metaphysics: it remains concerned with that which can be brought into presence. Aporia on the other hand blocks the way in the very place where ‘it would no longer be possible to constitute a problem.’35 This for Derrida is the point where the task indicated by the problem becomes absolutely impossible and where one is ‘exposed, abolsutely without protection, without problem, and without prosthesis, without possible substitution, singularlaly exposed in our absolute and absolutely naked uniqueness.’36 Aporia is the experience of the interrupting and oscillating dynamic of différance and signifies an undecidablity that renders any decision absolutely impossible. A decision, for it to be a decision, must pass through the impossibiltiy, the without-passage of aporia: ‘in order to be responsible and truly decisive, a decision should not limit itself to putting into operation a determinable or determining knowledge, the consequence of some pre-established order.’37

What then is is that takes place or comes to pass with the aporia? Derrida refers to the arriving of the arrivant which makes the event arrive.38 The arrivant par excellence is not a who or a what; ‘does not yet have a name or an identity.’39 The arrivant arrives from outside conceptual borders and demarcations and thus cannot be named or identified. Thinking the arrivant requires thus a most radical disruption in thinking; the arrivant ‘no more commands than is commanded by the memory of some originary event where the archaic is bound with the final extremity, with the finality par excellence of the telos or of the eskhaton.’40

Différance thus does not have a hidden or forgotten origin; it is immemorial and thus infinitely other and does not allow for revelation. In this manner, the indecision of différance is always and already in oscillation. In ‘Foi et savoir’ Derrida describes the thought of chora, an ‘utterly faceless other’ which remains ‘absolutely impassable and heterogenous’ to all the processes of historical revelation.’41 We cannot even formulate the thought of chora because it never presents itself as such since it is: ‘neither Being, nor the Good, nor God, nor Man, nor history.’42 Chora thus does not allow for a remembrance as possible remembrance nor for an origin that can be thought in terms of a beginning. Derrida writes:

This Greek noun says in our memory that which is not reappropriable, even by our memory, even by our ‘Greek’ memory; it says the immemoriality of a desert in the desert of which it is neither a threshold nor a mourning.43

Plato introduced the thought of chora in the Timaeus to signify a space that is neither Being nor non-Being but rather the ‘place of absolute exteriority’ as an interval in between in which the forms were kept. Derrida finds that as such, chora does not designate a ‘positive Infinity’ of alterity in terms of a divine figure which remains transcendent to thought, but rather ‘a certain desert, that which makes possible, opens, hollows, or infinitizes the other.’44

As such, a revelation in terms of an event – a surprise – must come as a surprise not only to man, but to God as well. This amounts to saying that an event, epiphany, revelation or decision can only be an event if it is singular and unexpected, arising from the dynamic of aporia and not from any structure of an originary openness. Derrida names this ‘messianicity without messianism’45 as a sense of immanence that is riveted to the coming of an other that cannot be seen as a becoming-present, that presences as other:

‘the messianic, or messianicity without messianism. Thus would be the opening to the future or to the coming of the other as the advent of justice, but without the horizon of expectation and without prophetic prefiguration. The coming of the other can only emerge as a singular event when no anticipation sees it coming…46

It now becomes clear that this arrivant is radically different from Heidegger’s understanding of revelation. Derrida thus thinks the relation in a different manner where no order is appropriate. Derrida attempts to remove the event as revelation from the scheme of the veil, light, horizon. Why? And how? Let us seek to clarify this further. We could say that Heidegger’s treatment of the history of metaphysics involves forcing this history back ipon itself to reveal its other, its difference: its unthought and unsaid. This unsaid is precisely Being itself. There is a clear telos to Heidegger’s Destruktion; that of the revelation (Offenbarung) of Being whose destiny, in being concealed, is to be revealed in the thought and language of man. This amounts to stating that the concealment of Being is that which opens its originary possibility for being revealed. As Derrida puts it in ‘Foi et savoir’: ‘It would accordingly be necessary that a ‘revealabiltiy (Offenbarkeit) be allowed to reaveal itself, with a light that would manifest (itself) more originarity than all revelation (Offenbarung). This means that in Heidegger’s thinking, the idea of revelation implies that a possibility of revealability was already there (be it non-logical or non-chronological). For revelation to take place, human existence is open to revelation (as seen in the correspondence between the openness of man and the openness of Being), which makes revealability ontologically prior to revelation. Heidegger’s reading of the history of philosophy is as such always and already leading towards the revelation of Being.

It is however important to note that this revelation is a peculiar revelation. To think the unthought of the history of metaphysics means to think both what reveals itself to thought and to think that which remains inaccessible to it. Because to think the revelation of Being for Heidegger is to think precisely both what gives itself as manifest – namely Being, and to think simultaneously Being’s act of withdrawing behind the gift that it gives. Thinking Being thus means to think that which reveals itself as unconcealed and that which does not reveal itself and remains concealed, and as such, makes unconcealment possible. Or, in other words: to think Being is to think the radical undecidability and incessant play between that which is keeping and giving while concealing and withdrawing. This entails that since the thinking of unconcealment means the thinking of concealment simultaneously, this thinking always remains in an ambiguity between that which is thought and that which is unthought.

We could say however that this thinking still reveals the withdrawal of Ereignis as unrevealed. This means that, in thinking, the concealment of Being is thought as unthought, revealed as unrevealed. Further, the fact that Being is destiny, and therefore history, implies that this thinking is always historical – thinking is always thinking the tradition. The problem thus is that thinking itself – even thinking in terms of exposedness to Being – cannot allow for an event outside its conceptual borders. It is possible to say therefore that Heidegger’s Ereignis cannot be a revelation in the true sense – a surprise – since for Heidegger, revelation confirms and fulfils revealability and so could be named as the neutralization of the event. Therefore, we could suggest that Ereignis as destinality negates the event as surprise. Revelation, for it to be a revelation, has to reveal revealability, and not the other way around.

Heidegger’s philosophical task consists in turning the questioning of Being throughout the history of metaphysics back upon itself. Heidegger is guided by the question:‘What is the meaning of Being?’ Derrida however, in introducing the oscillation of différance, questions the question itself. In its eagerness to discover, the question seems to have the desire to encompass the hitherto unknown within its realm of understanding; its telos seems to be one of bringing into presence before it is a letting presence. As such, the possibility of the question of the meaning of Being can be questioned in terms of Being’s fundamental temporality. Viewed from the perspective of Derrida’s aporia, the question seems to remain within the projection and protection of the problem: a force of thought that wishes to assimilate, to grasp, to understand within the limits of what is already understood. The question, integral to the dynamic of revelation and revealability, does not respect the constant oscillation of indecision for itself; it cannot think difference as the other in terms of the other. In always searching to bring near, the question can be read as a disruption of nearness itself.

For Heidegger, the notion of futurity is still linked to possibility of coming into presence, even in the double movement of concealment and unconcealment, which would reduce futurity itself. This makes Ereignis not an event, but the possibility of grasping. In this sense, it is precisely the thinking of the possibility of futurity that reduces the future to a possibility of presence and thus reducing the other to a structure of possible revelation.

Furthermore, we have found that for Derrida ‘messianicity without messianism’ designates the opening to the future as the arrival of the other as the advent of justice. In the aporia, the future is marked as impossible, as always to come. In this sense, the other remains resistant to all determination. This justice thus is not a function of the truth of Being, as it works according to another logic: it always remains of the other and is unjustifiable in the very event it will come to open.


  1. 1.

    Alfred Guzzoni, ‘Summary of a Seminar’ on the Lecture ‘Time and Being’ in On Time and Being, p. 29. Also Werner Marx notes that in the early Heidegger: ‘The unveiling of Being is always the truth of the Being of being.’ Werner Marx, Heidegger and the Tradition, trans. Theodore Kisiel (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1971), p. 125.

  2. 2.

    ‘There is’ is a translation from the German ‘Es gibt,’ which literally means: ‘it gives,’ but with the idiomatic meaning ‘there is.’

  3. 3.

    ZS, p./trans, p. 5 From the time of Vom Wesen der Warheit [On the Essence of Truth] (1930), Heidegger describes the rapport between aletheia and unconcealment in an explicit manner. A translation of the Greek aletheia as unconcealment indicates for Heidegger that the early Greeks experienced presenting as an occurrence of truth in the form of a relationship to concealment.

  4. 4.

    ZS, p. 10/trans. p. 7.

  5. 5.

    ZS, p. 12/trans. p. 8.

  6. 6.

    ZS, p. 13/trans. p. 9.

  7. 7.

    Aristotle, Physics, 217 b 31w, trans. R.P. Hardie and R.K. Gaye in The Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation, Vol. 1, ed. Jonathan Barnes (Princeton New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1995, rev. ed.), p. 369. It might be stated that Heidegger takes an oversimplified account of Aristotle’s understanding of time. Although Aristotle views time as the calculable measure of motion with respect to a before and after, implying time to mean the duration that is experienced between the beginning and the conclusion of a movement, the duration of time can be broken down into numerical units. As such, time for Aristotle is not a succession of atomic now-points, because according to his account time is continuous and infinitely divisible. See Physics 217b30-218a10, 219b1-30. However, if the now is not a real part of time, it still serves to identify the beginning, end and intervening stages of a movement. For this reason, Heidegger can plausibly hold on to the assumption that Aristotle tacitly takes the ‘now’ as the standard for understanding time. In and since Aristotle, on this revised account, there is a tendency to take the smallest numerical units with which one works - the practical terminus of some actual process of division - as denoting what is ‘currently-now’, ‘no-longer-now’ and ‘not-yet-now.’

  8. 8.

    ZS, p. 16/trans. p. 12.

  9. 9.

    ZS, p. 16/trans. p. 12.

  10. 10.

    ZS, p. 19/trans. p. 14 This openness gives the space in which space can unfold itself, which implies that the opening up in terms of self-extending of future, past and present lies before space. We note that for Heidegger, man’s spatiality is ‘embraced’ by temporality. Already in Sein und Zeit [Being and Time], the representation of space is a temporalization. This however does not mean that space can be reduced to time. Each has its own essence. But exploring the essence of each, we see that their essence is a unified time-space. In Unterwegs zur Sprache [On the Way to Language], Heidegger states: ‘But already thinking time through in this way [as ecstatic] brings it in its relatedness to the There of Da-sein, into essential relation with Da-sein’s spatiality and hence with space.’ Unterwegs Zur Sprache, p. 213/trans. p. 213.

  11. 11.

    ZS, p. 19/trans. p. 14.

  12. 12.

    ZS, p. 20/trans. p. 15.

  13. 13.

    ZS, p. 20/trans. p. 15.

  14. 14.

    ZS, p. 20/trans. p. 15.

  15. 15.

    This is a translation from the early German term Nahheit, a word used by Kant, as Heidegger points out. ZS, p. 20/trans. p. 15.

  16. 16.

    ZS, p. 20/trans. p. 16.

  17. 17.

    ZS, p. 21/trans. p. 16.

  18. 18.

    ZS, p. 21/trans. p. 16.

  19. 19.

    ZS, p. 22/trans. p. 17.

  20. 20.

    ZS, p. 22/trans. p. 17.

  21. 21.

    ZS, p.24/trans. p. 19 The term ‘Ereignis’ is commonly translated as ‘Event.’ Heidegger however thinks the word more fundamentally and in a literal sense in which the prefix ‘Er’- designates an executional character and where ‘-eignis’ refers to the adverb ‘eigen,’ meaning ‘own.’ As such, translating this term into Appropriation or propriation, as many translations of Heidegger’s use of Ereignis read, has the connotation of a ‘bringing into the own,’ or ‘enownment.’ There is a visual reference to term, as the German Auge means eye. Until the eighteenth century, Ereignis was spelt as Eräugnis, eräugnen, which literally means: ‘to place before the eye, to become visible.’

  22. 22.

    ZS, p. 27/trans. p. 22.

  23. 23.

    ZS, p. 27/trans. p. 22.

  24. 24.

    ZS, p. 27/trans. p. 22.

  25. 25.

    ZS, p. 28/trans. p. 22.

  26. 26.

    Heidegger calls what is present das Anwesende [beings in their presence], and the Being of those beings die Anwesenheit [Being as what grants beings or what is present]. Heidegger finds that An-wesen, as well as the Greek ousia or parousia, is used both as ‘coming into presence,’ and a ‘self-contained farm or homestead See Einführung in die Metaphysik [Introduction to Metaphysics], p. 47/trans. p. 64. Heidegger finds that the term Wesen does not mean quidditas, but refers to ‘enduring as present,’ or presencing and absencing.’ (p. 55/trans. 76) Wesen as a noun, meaning ‘essence,’ is derived from the seldomly used verb Wesen, finds Heidegger.

  27. 27.

    A preservation and a continuity that is found in language.

  28. 28.

    ZS, p. 27/trans. p. 22.

  29. 29.

    ZS, p. 27/trans. p. 22.

  30. 30.

    ZS, p. 28/trans. p. 23.

  31. 31.

    ZS, p. 29/trans. p. 24 Here comes to light the nuanced meaning of the Greek term aletheia. Aletheia means truth as unhiddenness. The verb aletheuein means ‘to speak truly.’ These words are related to lanthanein, with an older form lethein, meaning ‘to escape notice, to be unseen, unnoticed, and lethe, ‘forgetting, forgetfulness.’ It thus becomes clear that a-letheia as unconcealment implies a necessary concealment as expressed in the withdrawal of Appropriation.

  32. 32.

    Werner Marx, Heidegger and the Tradition, p. 148.

  33. 33.

    It is important to note that the realm of concealment must most surely not be understood as a ‘nothing’ in terms of a negativity. That which withdraws itself and remains hidden, provides the origin for a clearing or unconcealment understood in terms of aletheia. As such, the opening of Being is a process of presencing ‘as a creative relationship of concealment and clearing’ as Werner Marx points out. See Heidegger and the Tradition, p. 150.

  34. 34.

    MP, p. 5/trans. p. 8.

  35. 35.

    FA, p. 30/trans. p. 11.

  36. 36.

    FA, p. 31/trans. p. 120.

  37. 37.

    FA, p. 38/trans. p. 17.

  38. 38.

    FA, p. 66/trans. p. 33.

  39. 39.

    FA, p. 67/trans. p. 34.

  40. 40.

    FA, p. 68/trans. p. 34.

  41. 41.

    FS, p. 33/trans. p. 58/59.

  42. 42.

    FS, p. 33/trans. p. 58.

  43. 43.

    FS, p. 34/trans. p. 59.

  44. 44.

    FS, p. 30/trans. p. 55.

  45. 45.

    FS, p. 31/trans p. 56.

  46. 46.

    FS, p. 31/trans. p. 56.


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for PhilosophyUniversiteit LeidenLeidenThe Netherlands

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