From Time To Time

Time and the Other remarks the time of the solitary existant as time of the Other. Does it say that there is time before the time of the existent? Does it allow that this question makes sense? Levinas recalls Heidegger's reliance in Being and Time on the distinction between 'beings', Seindes, as a substantive or verbal noun and 'to be', Sein, as a verb. If, as German says, a verb is a Zeitwort, a time-word, the question 'Is there time?' would already seem to have given itself an affirmative answer, provided the being of time is understood as es gibt rather than as ist or 'exist'. Only beings exist. But, as underlined in the quasi-Berkeleian sentences reproduced above (in the third section of chapter 2) from page 230 of Being and Time, the existing of Dasein is presupposed by the 'giving' of being, and, in the terms Levinas says he prefers for reasons of euphony, the existence of the existant is presupposed by existence or, rather, by exister to exist, as he prefers to say in Time and the Other, suggesting that he thinks the verbality to which Heidegger draws attention is insufficiently marked in the title De l'existence a l'existant. It is intriguing to note that in the table of contents even of the 1981 edition of the latter book existance, with an a, is given as the last word of the subtitle that in the text itself is printed as La relation avec l'existence, with an e. Assuming that the meaning of Sein and exister is time, as following the clue of their grammatical category as time-words Heidegger maintains in Being and Time, this typographical slip provides a word that would at least seem to keep open the question whether the temporality of existence is different from the temporality of what can be referred to as the existance rather than the existence of the I. What is Levinas's answer to this question?

Taking Heidegger again as his point of departure, he agrees that there is little sense in the notion of an existing without something that exists. But he adds that the notion of an existing as though prior to each existant is introduced along with the existential that Heidegger calls Geworfenheit, the phenomenon of finding oneself as though uncontrollably thrown into existence. And it is this notion that Levinas redescribes under the pseudonym il y a, there-is. The question just raised must therefore be posed as follows: Is there, y a-t-il, time before or, in case that preposition is too provocative, independent of the positing of the existant? It will be recalled that from the analysis of positing conducted in chapter 3 it seemed that Levinas was at pains to show that although this positing is a beginning which has modes of endurance, these are not modes of the duration of an I. The il y a admits no I. It is impersonal. It is without subjectivity, so it is without the beginning that subjectivity implies. It can therefore be likened to eternity, Levinas proleptically suggests. His reference to it also as the place (endroit) where positing is produced, suggests a comparison with the incomparable placeable place (chora) of the Timaeus. The il y a is the first incomparable in the order of exposition of Levinas's ethics, though not necessarily the first in the order of being or of being's eminent emphase. And the il of the il y a is a repetition of the es of Heidegger's es gibt, a repetition however that deprives the latter of the gift by which it enables a passage to authentic selfness from the inauthenticity of das Man, the impersonal they or people or one which is not to be confused with Levinas's personal one who is some determinate one, un, who stands out from the anonymity of the il y a.

It is to this anonymous il y a from which the existant stands out that Levinas is referring when he writes that the event of hypostasis, that is to say, the present, has a past and a history without being that past or that history. This does not conflict with the argument just recalled from chapter 3 that the instant of positing or hypostasis is an instant of enduring without duration. The present has the past as memory, but it is itself a tearing in two and rejoining not of an already constituted duration, but of the thread of an eternity that has neither beginning nor end, an infinity, Levinas says, a bad infinity, one might say, the pedagogically first infinity. Without mention of the name of Kant, since that is rendered otiose by the frequent mentions of the author of Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, published in the second year of Levinas's presence at Freiburg, Levinas suddenly starts talking about an ontological schematism. The present is so described because it performs a function analogous to that accomplished by the schemata of the first Critique. Levinas says that the schema is a function, and this is the word Kant uses of the procedure of the understanding in producing schemata. For Kant this is a procedure in the legal sense of the term in that it is a procedure of judgement for determining what is on the right and the wrong side of the law constitutive of experience. Kant's pages on schematism are tantalizingly few. Levinas's are fewer, but they occur at as crucial a moment in his critique of fundamental ontology as Kant's do in his critique of dogmatic metaphysics. Although no more than outlines are traced in the pages of Time and the Other where the word 'schematism' is used and although no table of schemata is hinted at there, is it not Levinasian schemata that are being described in Existence and Existents under the names of 'lassitude', 'dilatoriness' and 'fatigue'? Like Kant's schemata, these are limitrophic forms. They are, Levinas says in that book, concrete forms of the adherence of existence to the existents. In Time and the Other the schema of the present is said to be the eventing, the événement—one might say after Heidegger the Ereignen—of hypostasis which occurs at the limit between existence or being and the existent or the being. Its situation is that of the ambiguous threshold between the verbality of the exister of being and the substantivity of the id-entity and idem-tity of beings. It is the tension between the timeless eternity of unnamable being and constituted existents persisting in given, datable time (TA 38, TO 57). This time is given time, the homogeneous continuum which in the first Critique is a given form of sensibility. Hence the ambiguity of the Kantian schemata which the Levinasian schemata reflect. The Kantian transcendental schemata have to be sensible concepts if they are to be able to accomplish the application of the formal concepts of the understanding, for example substance and the inherence of properties, to particulars existing in time. Application is instantiation. But the instantiation of properties in substantial objects, inherence, is itself a function and production of subjects. So that the instantiation of properties in present at hand objects and the logical and epistemological schematism that it presupposes, presuppose in turn the production and self-positing of subjects accomplished in the act of presenting that Levinas calls the 'instant'. And the inherence of properties in objects presupposes what he calls the adherence of the existent in existence and ontological schematism.

The word 'schema' is cognate with the Greek verb echô meaning 'to have, hold or possess', as in the possession or holding of property, properties or oneself. It is not far-fetched to use it therefore to expound the idea of status, standing and stance. The root verb, like the Latin habeo from which (along with habit, clothing) the French avoir derives, can also mean to have power or mastery. And schematism as described by Levinas is precisely the empowering of an existent with mastery over the impersonality of existence. A schema in Greek can be a person, a figure or shape. Its meaning as outline, diagram, sketch, project and indeed scheme, is spelled out by Kant. Its German translation as Entwurf is implicit in Heidegger's jectile words Geworfenheit, Entwerfen, and so on.

Levinas himself uses the verb 5 'esquisser, meaning 'to sketch or make a first draft', at the beginning of his analyses of the three concrete forms of stantiation that might be regarded, we have noted, as schemata. What is singular about these schemata is that they accomplish mastery, the first but not the last mastery in Levinas's exposition, through separation. There is adherence, but at the same time or rather before time, separation. The separation is separation from the there-is. Separation, be it observed, not just distinction. In Levinas's judgement it is only as far as distinction that Heidegger goes in what the latter calls the ontological difference, the difference between being and beings, which Levinas considers to be the point where the thinking of Being and Time is at its most profound. This separation, the first separation in the order of Levinas's exposition, can be described from two points of view. On the one hand it is the separateness of neutral existence without beginning or end from the existent with whom beginning begins. On the other hand it is the active separating that this beginning accomplishes. As well as describing this as a tear (déchirure), Levinas at one point calls it a mue. A mue can be a moulting, a sloughing off of skin or the breaking of the voice. It is evidently a more dramatic alteration than the unceasing pseudo-alteration of the il y a that he and Blanchot call its remue-ménage and which Levinas likens to Heraclitus's river in which according to Cratylus one cannot bathe even only once.

Schematism then is crucial in Levinas's deconstrual of Heidegger's construal of it because it is that which makes the difference between the way they each think of the ontological difference. Heidegger claims, as Levinas reads his teaching on Jemeinigkeit, that existence always belongs to an existent. Repeating Husserl's experiment of imagining the destruction of the world, Levinas casts doubt on what he takes to be Heidegger's claim. He proposes that the connection between existence and the existent is that which is effected by a schematism which is also a disconnection. Schematism spells schism.

He confirms his finding by appealing to the fact of insomnia. Insomnia is sleeplessness but not consciousness. A person who is conscious is a person who is capable of sleep. In insomnia I am not asleep, yet I can be awakened from it. I cannot awake myself from it. not least because in this waking state, the first waking state before I am awakened, I am not present as an I. There is presence, il y en a, but it is a pseudo-presence because it is without beginning. It is without beginning because it is indistinguishable and inseparable from a past to which it is, in Levinas's metaphors, soldered, riveted, enchained. The enchainment to this eternally present past would be broken if only it were a past that could be remembered. But this is an immemorial past. This is the first immemorial past we encounter in Levinas's exposition. There is another on the way.


The first immemorial past is so closely present that there is no distance from which to stand and look back. With the in-stance of the existant is produced dis-

tance, the Entfernung that makes possible the estimation of closeness, the removal of farness, Ent-fernung, as one might say with the Heideggerian hyphenation that brings together and sets apart. But if the immemorial past is to be repeated it must be repeated as an immemorial future.

There is no future in the instant of the existant's hypostasis. Even its present is evanescent. As the present of beginning coming sheerly from itself it cannot have a past, for if it did it would not come sheerly from itself. So it cannot have a future, since that would be a future with respect to its past. That is why the present is effacement. If the present of hypostasis can be said to have any time, it is not hypostatized time, the time of durational spread. It is not time that is, time that is given, le temps donné. It is the time of the giving of that time, that time's generation. It is the tense time of the procedure of schematism, of a Verfahrung of which, as Kant says, there can hardly be any Erfahrung; it is beyond experience because it is a root hidden in the depths of the soul. So, as Levinas says, although phenomenology may be a method of radical experience, this may be a root that its experience fails to reach. This is not Levinas's last word on the scope of descriptive phenomenology. For two reasons. It is not his last word on experience. In later writings he will say that experience in the Kantian and Heideggerian senses just adverted to is not what experience par excellence is. Anyway, one does not need to go that far to recognize that since disappearing is related to appearing as darkness is to light, and since each term of each of these pairs derives its meaning from the other, a phenomenology of hiddenness is not a contradiction in terms. It is phenomenology in this slightly extended sense that is performed in Being and Time. And in that sense phenomenology is not even slightly extended beyond the sense it has in the lectures by Husserl edited by Heidegger in 1928 under the title The Phenomenology of Internal Time Consciousness. Witness the following often-quoted sentences from §36 which Levinas has in mind in his reference to Heraclitus and in the paragraphs from this that have been and are about to come under our review:

It is evident, then, that temporally constitutive phenomena are, in principle, objectivities other than those constituted in time. [...] To be sure, one can and must say that a certain continuity of appearance, namely, one which is a phase of the temporally constitutive flux, belongs to a now, namely, to that which it constitutes, and belongs to a before, namely, as that which is (one cannot say was) constitutive of the before. But is not the flux a succession? Does it not, therefore, have a now, an actual phase, and a continuity of pasts of which we are conscious in retentions? We can say only that this flux is something which we name in conformity with [nach] what is constituted, but it is nothing temporally 'Objective'. It is absolute subjectivity and has the absolute properties of something to be denoted metaphorically as 'flux', as a point of actuality, primal source-point, that from which springs the 'now', and so on. In the lived experience of actuality, we have the primal source-point and a continuity of moments of reverberation. For all this, names are lacking.3

The present of the self s hypostasis depresents itself. But by what in a Kantian context would be called 'double affection' and in a Husserlian context 'double intentionality' the act of hypostasis can become the object of a hypostasis that locates the original non-durational hypostasis at a point in the course of hypostatized time.4 This very presentation of the presencing of the actuality of the living present is its depresencing. It is the living presence's petrification and death: its entombment. Precisely this takes place when one fails to distinguish in Levinas's text the extant substantial subject that can bear a name from the movement of parousia to it which can no more be named than can the impersonal existence from which the existent is torn. The chances of this confusion are increased because Levinas's texts do not always distinguish the subject from the ego and the I, the je. This is a difficulty they inherit from the texts of Husserl. It is very likely however that what in the passage before us Husserl refers to as absolute subjectivity and point of actuality is what Levinas has in mind when in Time and the Other he writes that the I, the je, is not initially an existant, but a mode of existence itself: initiation (TA 33, TO 53). It is natural to ask whether this initial initiation occurs only once, at an absolute beginning, or whether it can be repeatable at different times. Levinas himself compares an act performed dilatorily with driving along a road which is so bumpy that every instant is like a new beginning. This is however a comparison, the comparison of constitution with the constituted of which Husserl speaks, where, as his translator puts it, the one is conformed to the other. The uncommon sense of the instant as an active stance and presencing which Levinas describes as the perpetual birth of the I cannot but find itself gravitating toward the common sense of the instant as a chronological point (DEE 143, EE 84). Absconditus, the nameless parousia-apousia of the presencing that is the initial enabling of names can be described only by analogy and metaphor. Strictly speaking this presencing has no given name because it is not itself given. So it can be given no date. Hence it makes no sense to say that it takes place only once or again and again. What Levinas calls beginning (commencement) is the way of being of the I; and what he calls événement is less misleadingly described as an eventing rather than an event, as indicated above by the suggestion that his word may be put in apposition with Heidegger's Ereignen and Ereignis.

It can now be added that Levinas's commencement is closer in its grammar to Heidegger's Anfangen and anfänglich, which denote originarity rather than a beginning in historiographical time. So that when Levinas writes that the present has a past, but in the form of memory, and that it has a history but is not history, he is perhaps saying that the history it has is a borrowed one, one borrowed from narrative as the history of events in the more usual sense of the term (TA 32, TO 52). I say only that perhaps he is saying this because I am taking his histoire in the sense of dated history or the chronicle of such a history. If one interprets his word in the sense of the existential historically, Geschichte, that Heidegger attributes to Dasein, then, without this second interpretation being incompatible with what is being claimed according to the first, Levinas must be taken to be disagreeing with that attribution. This disagreement is in any case implied by the fact that his analysis of the event of presencing is, as was shown in chapter 3, an analysis of presencing that is not a presencing in the world. It claims to be independent of worldhood. Whereas existential historicality is a mode of being in the world.

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