Derrida, Jacques. Heidegger: The Question of Being & History

By Fain, Lucas | The Review of Metaphysics, December 2016 | Go to article overview

Derrida, Jacques. Heidegger: The Question of Being & History


Fain, Lucas, The Review of Metaphysics


DERRIDA, Jacques. Heidegger: The Question of Being & History. Translated by Geoffrey Bennington. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2016. xxii + 228 pp. Cloth, $40.00--This volume presents Derrida's first intensive course on Heidegger, delivered over nine sessions in 1964-65 at the Ecole normale superieure. The original French text was transcribed by Thomas Dutoit, with the patient assistance of Marguerite Derrida, from approximately 400 handwritten pages, sixteen of which are reproduced as black and white plates. This translation corrects several errors resulting from suspect transcriptions in the 2013 French edition, and it includes a brief introduction to help situate the course within Derrida's career as a teacher. All of this labor makes a significant contribution to our understanding of Derrida's intellectual development as much as it offers a penetrating reading of Sein und Zeit. Here Derrida reads the master text from 1927 in light of later works including, most significantly, the 1935 Einfuhrung in die Metaphysik and the 1946 "Brief uber den 'Humanismus'." As only partial translations of Sein und Zeit were available in French at the time of this course, Derrida makes his own translations, which are often critical of the French receptions of Heidegger, in particular, by Sartre.

Throughout the course Derrida reads Heidegger against several figures, but Hegel and Husserl stand out. The course also shows Derrida experimenting with several key notions in his mature terminological apparatus, including his translations of Heideggerian Destruktion, not only as "deconstruction," but more prevalently as "shaking up" and "solicitation." Even more striking, perhaps, is Derrida's concordant development of the thematics of "writing" and "difference," along with the notions of "trace" and "metaphor" as they correlate with the vocabulary of the "text" and what Derrida sometimes calls "originary texture."

It is precisely through the notion of metaphor, moreover, that Derrida seeks to radicalize Heidegger's critique of the metaphysics of presence by stretching to its end the notoriously unfinished character of Sein und Zeit, which Derrida calls a "running out of breath." This is a crucial point of orientation for the course, as Heidegger's failure to end this work inspired Derrida's exposition of Heidegger's critical project--even to the point of going beyond Heidegger in a way that Heidegger anticipates without making explicit. Derrida proceeds to that end through an explanation of his title for the course, "as to its very letter." Thus, Heidegger: The Question of Being & History is subjected to the same process of Destruktion, deconstruction, shaking up, or solicitation, that Heidegger intends to perform upon the history of ontology, that is, the history of metaphysics as philosophy; and, in fact, it is Heidegger's failure to end Sein und Zeit that reveals to Derrida the need to explain why Heidegger pursues, not a new ontology that would be a foundational ontology, but rather a destruction of ontology, which can be replaced only by the question of being. …

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