Ennis on Heidegger and Time

Here. He quotes Harman, who basically notes that Heidegger is not, ultimately, a thinker of time, which given that I just wrote an article on this (which will come out when I’ve forgotten this whole discussion) makes me feel quite less original. But yes: Heidegger is not, for all that, a thinker of time. He’s a thinker of what time is not. Well, in that he’s not very original. If you go back to the 1920s, the big, vaunted critique (time is not the clock) was widely shared. In fact, if one were doing ideology critique, one could say it was a shared ideology of the time, from Bergson to Mumford to Whitehead to the Harlem Renaissance to (a bit later) Senghor, etc.

It’s well-known, of course, that Heidegger basically abandoned time as such (yes, yes, the event, etc.) after the 1920s, writing on history and then conflating the two. (I just finished up a chapter on this, so I won’t say much more.) In fact, Heidegger is strikingly repetitive on this (perhaps we all are). I don’t think it’s too much to say that you could just cut and paste the same passages from text to text and they’d be the same. What Heidegger provides is a narrative about how time got to be conceived this way, and what a narrative: the history of the West involves precisely a reduction of time to a non-problem.

But having just gone through Husserl’s early lectures on time-consciousness yesterday (I have student doing summer research on it), it’s positively striking the difference in the treatment. Of course, I’d be more critical of Husserl on many key points, but he deals with the whole problem, for example, of the temporality of “constitution,” which he later argues has to be atemporal. Heidegger sidesteps the whole problem, but not in a good way: the care structure itself is not given over to time. In any case, there is much in Heidegger, but for all that, the main lessons that people take away from Heidegger (time is not space; time is not clock-time; being itself is timely) was positively a truism in the 1920s.


  1. But in ‘On Time and Being’ Heidegger gives an account of the dimensionality of time that isn’t reducible to history, but locates history within temporality.

  2. I was waiting for someone to mention Time and Being…I think David Krell mentions this somewhere: that there he breaks his long silence, all celebrate… and what? For the previous thirty years he discussed time as a ‘dimension” that he then described as a dimension of the “Near.” And after that deep throat clearing, it’s back to the history of Being. He also does this in the Zollikon seminars, and a number of places during the 1960s. But that dimensionality is really just another version of “time is not space.”

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