Derrida’s Heidegger: la question de l’Etre et l’Histoire. Notes on First Session. By Alberto Moreiras.

Notes on Derrida’s Heidegger: la question de l’Etre et l’histoire.

First session:

The task: destruction of ontology, that is, destruction of the history of ontology, as always already covering up and dissimulation of being.

It should free up the ears to listen to the “originary experiences” that will be a guide for the future.

[Leaving aside the question of catching up with “originary experiences,” the always-already is therefore also the avenir.]

Destruction does not mean refutation, as if some people had been mistaken and needed to be brought back to the true.   The errance, that is, the dissimulation and oblivion, is structurally given and cannot be reduced.   [This is crucial for any possible thought of historicity and for any possible historical thought.]

Also for Hegel truth was historical through and through, not just knowledge.   In Hegel refutation is not completely abandoned, rather turned into “negativity.” [Hegel’s spirit, as last philosophy, subordinates all previous understanding rather than ‘refuting’ it. “There is no disappearance of the principle but only of its form of being absolute, ultimate.”   Hegel’s is a last philosophy because Hegel produces an eschatology where the horizon and the opening of historicity appear as such.]

But the Heideggerian destruction is not the Hegelian Aufhebung. The latter is still caught in classicial ontology, that is, it is still a dissimulation of being in beings.   So everything has to do with the difference between Hegel and Heidegger.

For Hegel being is a concept (conceptualism). And it is a concept consistent with the attempt to unify and gather being under an ontic determination, which happens to be “subjectivity.”   Subjectivity as substance is Hegelian onto-theology.

So that Heideggerian destruction is a fortiori the destruction of hegelianism.

But—destruction is not the positing of a new conceptuality or or of a new principle. It is simply a solicitation, a trembling or a making-tremble.

And YET: at stake is a destruction of ontology, that is, not the proposition of a new ontology.   [If the destruction is looking to make appear a nudity never revealed as such, it does not seek to posit its own nudity or its own “re-velation” of nudity.]   Heidegger is not really looking for an ontology, which is the reason why he will abandon all talk of a “fundamental ontology” after Being and Time.

Three stations: In Being and Time, still call for a fundamental ontology that could open itself to the Seinsfrage.

In Introduction to Metaphysics, eight years later, H. calls for an abandonment of the term “ontology” in order not to foster confusion.   He says, “it is a matter of quite something else.”

In “Nietzsche’s Word,” from 1943, H. clearly attacks ontology as indistinguishable from metaphysics.  

Which means we have moved from the destruction of the history of ontology to the destruction of ontology as such.

[And what would happen if, following along and accentuating the trend, we were to replace the question of being with the question of the common?}


2 thoughts on “Derrida’s Heidegger: la question de l’Etre et l’Histoire. Notes on First Session. By Alberto Moreiras.

  1. The last point is important, and I want to say something about it even if it takes us in a different direction right away.

    The question of being would end up as the question of the essence of ….. (Here “essence” would be something other than what it is within metaphysics, as it would lead to the question of being—which would no longer be the question of ontology.) And the void that opens up there would require that we rethink not only the question of the common but also the question of subalternism, and hegemony, nihilism and … all the way to the question of the essence of politics. Would infrapolitics be a name for this meditation on the essence of politics just as the question of the essence of nihilism is the only way to truly grapple with it? Recently, Alberto, you mentioned that the subalternist approach now seems to you to fall prey to the traps of university discourse. Would you say that this was so because in it the question of being was still dealt with in terms of the ontology that Heidegger ultimately jettisons in order to begin to think through the question of being?

  2. Excellent summary of the first seminar. Without taking force away from Jaime’s very important question, I would like to also take a slightly different direction, in asking about the end of history, the particular role that it plays in this project to destroy Hegel that is taken up by Heidegger. Derrida mentions here on page 27 – 8 something which he will insist upon over and again in his later writings, particularly important in Specters of Marx. And that is that Hegel’s end of history is not the end of history as such, but rather the end of a certain history (“it goes without saying that the end of history and of philosophy does not mean, for Hegel, a factual limit after which the movement of history would be halted, stopped, but that the horizon and the infinite opening of historicity has at last appeared as such, or finally thought as such, that is to say as an infinite opening”). Yet there are many ways to read this. Recently, in a working group we have been carrying out in Texas, we have seen a number of those proposals by Catherine Malabou, Rebecca Comay and Zizek (in progress), in which the question of the end of history and absolute knowledge takes a central role in any reconsideration of Hegel. And this end of history is read, of course, as being entirely compatible, in Malabou’s case at least, with deconstructive thought and the opening to a future to come as the always already. Yet, as we know from Derrida’s critical introduction to the book publication, Derrida has a suspicion, it is just a suspicion, like the eternal return of a phantom that still preoccupies him even as he is making his final farewell, that there is something of a “subjectival logic” in her recuperation of Hegel (and I would highlight here the word logic, given the central role that it plays in his critique of Hegelian thought).

    So Derrida continues to be interested in Hegel as a philosopher of the end of a certain kind of history, he does not represent a step in philosophical thinking merely to be refuted or some kind of equivocation. And it is for this reason that Hegel as a philosopher is the “last philosopher” in a way which is different from other philosophers that we could give same term, such as Aristotle and Descartes (interestingly, though, Kant here is questioned, it is as if Derrida hesitates over whether or not to give him the kind of status that he gives to Hegel but refuses to other philosophers). So, in other words, Hegel’s end of a certain kind of history IS, I think, fundamental for Derrida’s thought of the de(con)struction of metaphysics. But it is not enough. Heidegger’s de(con)struction of ontology is going to introduce something vitally important which perhaps, somehow, for Derrida, Malabou is still unable to grasp with. The question is, what is at stake here?

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