Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Ricoeur's "Human Time" as a Response to the Problem of Closure in Heideggerian Temporality

Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Ricoeur's "Human Time" as a Response to the Problem of Closure in Heideggerian Temporality

Article excerpt

In this essay I explicate Heidegger's conception of time to show that the account of self understanding and interpretation built upon that conception fails to provide the closure necessary for determinacy in self understanding. The flaw lies in a discontinuity between the two levels of time within Heidegger's concept of"Being-toward-death." This discontinuity prevents the formation of a requisite temporal unity and a concommitant conceptual unity. I go on to explain how Paul Ricoeur's account of "human time" responds to this problem by drawing on the strategies of poetics (specifically narrative) to articulate both temporal and conceptual unity. Ricoeur identifies the processes by which two levels of time interweave to achieve a tentative, unstable closure through the "inscription of phenomenological time on objective time."1 The strategies which fix meaning by connecting together the diverse aspects of human acting can also disconnect and reconnect those elements in ongoing processes of re-interpretation across chronological time.

Dasein: The Ontological Temporality of Subjectivity

Heidegger attempts to expose the ontological structures of human being through an analysis of the implicit structures of self awareness and experience. This analysis reveals that, as a subject, one always already finds oneself encountering a world wherein one is aware of one's existence in that world as self aware, i.e., as having an orientation to, and concern for, one's existence. This mode of existence Heidegger calls "Dasein."2 As self consciousness, or subjectivity, only Dasein can enquire into its own existence as an enquirer. This existence as enquiry into its own existence is ontological: it refers to Dasein's being "an entity for which, intimately involved in its being-in-the world, this very being is at issue."3

Dasein is not an entity, but is a mode of existence characteristic, indeed, constitutive, of being a human subject. That is to say, to exist as a self is to live this self concernfulness; there is no other essence, no soul or substantiality behind self consciousness, no telos determining what we are to be. The single defining feature of a self is concern with one's existence: one's existence is always an issue. For this reason Heidegger says that the essence of Dasein is its potentiality: "in each case possible ways for it to be."4 Because human being lacks predetermination, it can be characterized only by potentiality-the potentiality to become various kinds of lives. Aware of life's potential, it is up to each subject to carve out an existence for himself or herself, to create the meaning of one's own life. This is the task of self determination. Self determination is necessary if one is to acquire an identity, i.e., to become some-one. This is why Heidegger says that "Dasein has in each case mineness," and that "Dasein is mine to be in one way or another."5 The peculiar feature of human existence is that we are required to, as it were, appropriate our lives from the many possibilities and situations before us. The meaning of one's experiences is not a function of either nature or God, but of our own self activity. Our capacity for self determination is the response to the closure necessary for potentiality to become actuality.

As potentiality-to-be, Dasein's being is fundamentally temporal-we are "in-the world" oriented to what we are to be; that is, we have a basic orientation to our own existence in terms of our future.6 If the essence of being a subject is to be self concerned, then it is to be concerned with oneself in a fundamentally temporal, and primarily futural, way. Because of the futural orientation of self concern, Dasein's existence is primordially practical. Heidegger argues that my understanding of the world is, firstly, in terms of tasks rather than objects, and it is the tasks that I find myself amongst that give definition and purpose to objects around me.7 Finding oneself always already among tasks, Dasein is said to be "thrown. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.