Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Under the Aspect of Time "Sub Specie Temporis": Heidegger, Wittgenstein, and the Place of the Nothing

Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Under the Aspect of Time "Sub Specie Temporis": Heidegger, Wittgenstein, and the Place of the Nothing

Article excerpt

But some of the greatest achievements in philosophy could only be compared with taking up some books which seemed to belong together, and putting them on different shelves; nothing more being final about their positions than that they no longer lie side by side. The onlooker who doesn't know the difficulty of the task might well think in such a case that nothing at all had been achieved.

(Blue Book, 44-45)

It is often said that there has been relatively little work devoted to the relationship between Heidegger and Wittgenstein. It has also been argued that this is due, to a great extent, to the barriers of the "analytic-continental" divide. Yet, over the last two decades interest in the relationship (or non-relationship) between the two philosophers has intensified and has been articulated in what can be provisionally laid out as four distinct streams of interpretation: analytic, pragmatic (both analytic and continental), mystical, and phenomenological.1 What is surprising (or, perhaps, not surprising) about the discussion of the relationship, however, is the relative lack of awareness of each of the streams to the others, as they trickle blindly, impervious to the others. Indeed, it is not that there has not been any work on this relationship, but that the work has remained segregated by a network of blindnesses, barriers, or dams. This network has served to impede any synoptic or perspicuous interpretation of the relationship.

The purpose of this essay will be to invite these streams to break their banks and coalesce into a larger river of interpretation-and by showing one way this could be done. The strategy for this convergence will be a reading of Wittgenstein's comments about Heidegger-and those that speak as he does-against the background of their respective treatments of temporality, which is a question which has been explicitly ignored or resisted by the dominant streams of interpretation (except for the phenomenologist Gier who will be considered below). In the following pages, I will give a description of the interpretive streams, pointing out the limitations of each with respect to a synoptic interpretation of the relationship. I will next lay out what I see as the proper context of Heidegger's philosophy for answering Wittgenstein's comments on the latter, especially his request for a "system" in which Heidegger's phrases would make sense. I will then lay out this alternative "system," that of a radical phenomenology of ecstatic temporality, which will be characterized as an innovation in the grammar of time and existence. I will then turn to Wittgenstein's treatment of time in order to see if his perspective would be compatible with that of Heidegger. On this basis, I will finally attempt to bring the philosophies of Heidegger and Wittgenstein into the same interpretive space and let them interact with each other.

I will build upon the place cleared by Gier, but will extend the treatment of the relationship between Heidegger and Wittgenstein with a renewed emphasis upon ecstatic temporality which is not present in his debate with Reeder (nor in the discussions of the other streams). In this encounter between arguably the most important philosophers of the twentieth century, we will be invited to raise the question of the meaning of meaning, of the fluid context of shifting meanings, of rule-following and rule-breaking, especially in relation to our questions regarding time and temporality.

Heidegger and Wittgenstein: Interpretive Streams

The question of a relationship (in which Heidegger could play a serious role) is resisted by analytic philosophers, who seem to maintain their own exclusive construct of the meaning of meaning (Ogden)-and have so lambasted Heidegger that a dialogue would seem quite out of the question-or, if they invited him, he certainly wouldn't come. Duncan Richter (2007), in his recent article, "Did Wittgenstein Disagree with Heidegger?" lays out this stream of interpretation in a detailed focus upon Wittgenstein's extant comments on Heidegger and their interpretation by analytic philosophers. …

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