Nihil Unbound pp 153-204 | Cite as

The Pure and Empty Form of Death



In his 1924 lecture ‘The Concept of Time’1, which has been called the ‘Urform’ of Being and Time2, Heidegger begins with the question ‘What is time?’ and shows how it gradually transforms itself into the question ‘Who is time?’ Time cannot be grasped by means of the question of essence, which enquires into ‘the what’ (das Was) of things. The traditional understanding of ‘whatness’ or ‘essence’ operates on the basis of a prior hypostatization of time as presence. Ousia is understood as Vorhandenheit, presence-at-hand (though Heidegger is not yet using this vocabulary in 1924). Thus the question ‘What is time?’ prejudges the very nature of the phenomenon about which it enquires by reducing it to the status of a specific way of being in time: being-present. But time is precisely that which is never merely present: its way of being cannot be grasped on the basis of being-present. So we cannot simply assume that time’s way of being is that of intra-temporal entities. To understand how time is and how its way of being differs from that of intra-temporal entities, we must first understand how we originally come to grasp the various senses of temporal being, how temporal things are. But this entails grasping the intimate relation between those varieties of temporal being and our own being as that within which temporal phenomena are encountered.


Ontological Difference Pure Possibility Empty Form Eternal Return Passive Synthesis 
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  1. 1.
    Martin Heidegger, The Concept of Time tr. William McNeill, Oxford: Blackwell, 1992.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, tr. J. Macquarrie and E. Robinson, Oxford: Blackwell, 1962.Google Scholar
  3. 16.
    H. Bergson, Matter and Memory, tr. N. M. Paul and W. S. Palmer, New York: Zone Books, 1991.Google Scholar
  4. 21.
    Cf. G. Deleuze, ‘La méthode de dramatisation’ in L’île déserte et autres textes, Paris: Minuit, 2002b, 131–62.Google Scholar
  5. 28.
    Cf. Keith Ansell-Pearson, ‘Dead or Alive’ in Viroid Life: Perspectives on Nietzsche and the Transhuman Condition, London: Routledge, 1997, 57–83.Google Scholar

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© Ray Brassier 2007

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