Notes on Derrida´s Heidegger: la question de l´Etre et l´histoire
Second session–Second set of notes.
Derrida calls our attention to two words in the Sein und Zeit manuscript, that is, “ontic metaphor,” two underlined words, as a comment to the end of the Introduction, where Heidegger is making a difference between the great difficulty of thinking the being of beings and “telling stories” about beings (ueber Seiendes erzahlende zu berichten).
[This is very significant in light of what will come later. Just keep it in mind.]
[We do not want postmetaphysical, postontological, postphilosophical thought to be a matter of telling ourselves, and others, stories. We need to break away from novel writing when it comes down to thought. It is de-narrativization, in a sense, that is called forth. The interruption of narration.] Derrida asks: “why, at the moment when historicity must finally be taken absolutely seriously, must we stop telling stories?”
A necessary caveat: it is not, as it has classically been, a matter of stopping the story-making in order to access a superior realm of abstraction. Being is not in the beings, it is nothing outside beings, it is not another being, it is ontically nothing outside its ontic determinations. It is nothing, therefore, outside its own history. Which is the reason why the thought of (the truth) of being cannot be pursued outside history, and outside the history of ontology, through its destruction.
It is, rather, and this is the difficulty Heidegger proposes, a matter of stopping the story-making from within ontic fields–say, religion tells itself a story, science tells itself a story, metaphysics tells itself a story BECAUSE they have already closed off the question of being in favor of their own internal ontic regionality.
So, to stop telling ourselves stories means to start thinking from the ontico-ontological difference, that is, from the difference that keeps the question of being apart from every ontic determination.
[Simple thing: we tell ourselves stories when we turn being into a character. Say, I want to teach a class on being and I say, “Hey, remember the joke about two Jewish rabbis . . . ” The example given is the moment in Plato’s Sophist when the Stranger calls for taking the question of Being strictly on its own terms instead of muthon tina diegesthai, telling ourselves stories. Say, being appears as movement, or being appears as force, or being appears as god, or being appears as production. . . All of this is crucial, because “telling ourselves stories” already in Plato, as Derrida notes, is assimilated to “what men do,” that is, to the natural attitude, to what one does when one finds nothing better to do, that is, practically all the time. Which sets up the theme of the “necessity of the ontic metaphor.”]
[What Heidegger calls for, therefore, is a certain breakaway from the natural attitude, that is, from the necessity of the ontic metaphor. This is the great difficulty. Because, how does one break away from a necessity? Is the necessity not waiting around the corner every time when one thinks one has escaped it?]
Once again, through references to Hegel, Derrida explains how, on the one hand, Hegel understood the problem, the philosophical problem of having to break away from the natural attitude, in order to, on the other hand, close it off within metaphysics, which of course turns Hegel into the “plus grand” story teller of all, but still a story-teller.
The step beyond ontological history might resemble a step outside history altogether, but it is, on the contrary, “the condition of access to a radicalization of the thought of history as history of being itself.” Stopping the story-telling is the condition of access to a radical notion of historicity.
Even in Heidegger it is a long process. For instance, the fifth chapter of Sein und Zeit seems to be devoted to historicity, but it is the historicity of Dasein, not of Sein. It is still introductory, therefore, preliminary to the question. It is only part of a preliminary investigation into the modalities of historical access for the human being, and it still says nothing about history AND being.
And yet, as preliminary, the question of the historicity of Dasein is already “immense progress.”
Why, then, must the question of the historicity of being go through the question of the historicity of Dasein?
Heidegger must begin somewhere. But that somewhere must be without presuppositions, without “stories.” Derrida says Heideger gives himself at this point two “assurances” in order to proceed.
The first assurance has to do with the “always already.” There is an a priori that takes us away from mere empiricism, and that must not be understood as a presupposition, but as an entry point.
In order for us to be able to ask the question of being, it must be because the question of being is already obscurely accessible. The accessibility posits an “already” not as presupposition, but as entry point enabling the question. Now, this “already” points in the direction of an originary history. Heidegger calls the obscure accessibility a Faktum.
As such, it is a Faktum of language. Since “being” is a matter of linguistic signification.
So, those are the two “assurances:” there is the possibility of the question, and the possibility of the question is a matter of language.
It is these two assurances that, Derrida maintains, open up–just open up–the question of being as history, since “there is no language without history and no history without language.” [Derrida’s reasoning seems a little weak here, not persuasive, at least to me. Something does not quite click here. Is it just me?]