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Ph i lo s oph y a n d T e m p or a l i t y f rom K a n t to C r i t ic a l T h eor y

This book is a critical analysis of how key philosophers in the European tradition have responded to the emergence of a modern conception of temporality. Espen Hammer suggests that it is a feature of Western modernity that time has been forcibly separated from the natural cycles and processes with which it used to be associated. In a discussion that ranges over Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Adorno, he examines the forms of dissatisfaction which result from this, together with narrative modes of configuring time, the relationship between agency and temporality, and possible challenges to the modern worlds linear and homogenous experience of time. His study is a rich exploration of an enduring philosophical theme:the role of temporality in shaping and reshaping modern human affairs. es pen hammer is Professor of Philosophy at Temple University, Philadelphia. He is the author of Stanley Cavell:Skepticism, Subjectivity, and the Ordinary (2002) and Adorno and the Political (2005), and the editor of German Idealism:Contemporary Perspectives (2007).

MODERN EU ROPEAN PHILOSOPHY General Editor WAYNE MART IN , University of Essex Advisory Board SE B AS T IAN G ARDNER , University College, London BEAT RIC E HAN - PILE , University of Essex HANS SLUG A , University of California, Berkeley

Some recent titles Frederick A. Olafson:Heidegger and the Ground of Ethics Gnter Zller:Fichtes Transcendental Philosophy Warren Breckman:Marx, the Young Hegelians, and the Origins of Radical Social Theory William Blattner:Heideggers Temporal Idealism Charles Griswold:Adam Smith and the Virtues of Enlightenment Gary Gutting:Pragmatic Liberalism and the Critique of Modernity Allen Wood:Kants Ethical Thought Karl Ameriks:Kant and the Fate of Autonomy Alfredo Ferrarin:Hegel and Aristotle Cristina Lafont:Heidegger, Language, and World-Disclosure Nicholas Wolterstorff:Thomas Reid and the Story of Epistemology Daniel Dahlstrom:Heideggers Concept of Truth Michelle Grier:Kants Doctrine of Transcendental Illusion Henry Allison:Kants Theory of Taste Allen Speight:Hegel, Literature, and the Problem of Agency J. M. Bernstein :Adorno Will Dudley:Hegel, Nietzsche, and Philosophy Taylor Carman:Heideggers Analytic Douglas Moggach:The Philosophy and Politics of Bruno Bauer Rdiger Bubner:The Innovations of Idealism Jon Stewart:Kierkegaards Relations to Hegel Reconsidered Michael Quante:Hegels Concept of Action Wolfgang Detel:Foucault and Classical Antiquity Robert M. Wallace:Hegels Philosophy of Reality, Freedom, and God Johanna Oksala:Foucault on Freedom

Batrice Longuenesse:Kant on the Human Standpoint Wayne Martin:Theories of Judgment Heinrich Meier:Leo Strauss and the Theologico-Political Problem Otfried Hffe:Kants Cosmopolitan Theory of the Law and Peace Batrice Longuenesse:Hegels Critique of Metaphysics Rachel Zuckert:Kant on Beauty and Biology Andrew Bowie:Music, Philosophy, and Modernity Paul Redding:Analytic Philosophy and the Return of Hegelian Thought Kristin Gjesdal:Gadamer and the Legacy of German Idealism Jean-Christophe Merle:German Idealism and the Concept of Punishment Sharon Krishek:Kierkegaard on Faith and Love Nicolas de Warren:Husserl and the Promise of Time Benjamin Rutter:Hegel on the Modern Arts Anne Margaret Baxley:Kants Theory of Virtue David James:Fichtes Social and Political Philosophy

Ph i lo s oph y a n d T e m por a l i t y f rom K a n t to C r i t ic a l T h eor y

Espen Hammer
Temple University, Philadelphia

c a m br i d g e u n i v e r si t y p r e s s Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, So Paulo, Delhi, Tokyo, Mexico City Cambridge University Press The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge cb2 8ru, UK Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York

Espen Hammer 2011 This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press. First published 2011 Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data Hammer, Espen. Philosophy and Temporality from Kant to Critical Theory / Espen Hammer. p. cm. (Modern European Philosophy) Includes bibliographical references and index. isbn 978-1-107-00500-6 (hardback) 1. Time. 2. Philosophy, Modern. 3. Continental philosophy. I. Title.II.Series. bd 638.h 2755 2011 115.0903dc22 2010049737 isbn 978-1-107-00500-6 Hardback Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of urls for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication, and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

C on t e n t s

Acknowledgments Introduction 1 The historicity of time 2 Modern temporality 3 Two responses to the time of modernity 4 Hegels temporalization of the absolute 5 Schopenhauer and transcendence 6 Time and myth in the early Nietzsche 7 Recurrence and authenticity:the later Nietzsche on time 8 Heidegger on boredom and modernity 9 A modernist critique of postmodern temporality Conclusion Bibliography Index

page ix 1 11 37 58 71 97 125 144 161 188 236 243 255


Ack now l e dgm e n t s

A version of Chapter 8 has appeared in the Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal 29:1 (2008), pp. 199225. I thank the Arts and Humanities Research Council for a grant that in 200506 supported much of the foundational work on this volume. I also thank the NorwayAmerica Association for a grant in the fall of 2008. Thanks, in particular, to the philosophy departments at the University of Essex and Temple University for offering me leaves of absence to continue working on the manuscript in 200607 and 2010. I am indebted to the various audiences to whom parts of this material have been presented, and to all the colleagues, students, and friends who have made the writing of this book possible. Among them I am especially thankful for the input I have received from Jay Bernstein, Stanley Cavell, Richard Eldridge, Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Elizabeth Goodstein, Paul Guyer, Axel Honneth, Rolf-Peter Horstmann, Joseph Margolis, Terry Pinkard, Hartmut Rosa, and Martin Shuster. My stays as Visiting Professor in the philosophy departments at Temple University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the New School for Social Research in the period between 2005 and 2008 have been sources of invaluable help. A special thanks to my wife, Kristin, and my two children, Mathias and Stella, for their patience and encouragement.


I n t roduc t ion

Questions about the nature of time have always puzzled the philosophically disposed mind. What are the essential properties of time? How can we know them? How does time relate to other fundamental features and facts of the universe such as space, conscious life, and the occurrence in it of events and their connections? Does anything exist beyond time? Is, in what may seem like a fleeting sequence of ever passing nows, time a mere succession of discrete moments, or does it harbor a more fundamental continuity? Is time real or in some sense a function of the human perspective? The questions arising from even the briefest and most casual reflection on time are numerous, difficult, and, we tend to think, profound. Time itself can never be made directly present in experience. Evanescent and intangible to the point of appearing ungraspable, it nevertheless permeates and, in a sense, governs everything that takes place. It dissolves into things, processes, and events as the mode of their becoming, and yet is typically represented by means of space and spatiality, as though time were a mere medium of movement. Our experience of time defies such an easy definition, however, and seems to involve mental abilities such as remembering, synthesizing, and anticipating. As Augustine notes in an often-quoted passage in the Confessions, I know well enough what [time] is, provided that nobody asks me; but if I am asked what it is and try to explain, I am baffled.1 Many philosophers interested in questions of time have focussed on time as an abstract concept, excluding not only the relation to human conceptualization and agency but any association with the wider social,
1 Augustine, Confessions , trans. R. S. Pine-Coffin (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1961), p. 264.


psychological, and political dimensions of human existence that are studied in disciplines such as history, anthropology, comparative literature, and sociology. Time has been an object of metaphysics. In this study I will refrain from raising any of the perennial metaphysical questions of time. My interest, rather, is human existence in time and what it means to exist temporally.2 In this regard, I will be making three guiding yet crucial claims. The first is that our consciousness of time, the way we relate to time and take it up, to a large extent is a function of historically mediated horizons of meaning. Our schematization of time is expressive of our identities as knowing and desiring beings, while also influencing these identities. Drawing on philosophical interpretations relating to specific social realities, I intend, in other words, to explore how agents, being at least partly self-legislative and self-interpretive, experience time, and what the implications may be of such experience. The second guiding claim is that there is something peculiar about the time of modernity (or what I will equate with Western modernity in order to distinguish it from other and possibly different processes of modernization occurring elsewhere).3 The time of modernity, which I will argue imposes specific constraints on what we can take human existence in time to entail, is torn loose from its erstwhile association with natural cycles and processes to become a disenchanted succession of essentially homogeneous now-points. In thrall to such momentous changes as urbanization, secularization, commercialization, technicization, as well as an ever greater increase in social complexity, the life of modern societies and subjects is to a tremendously detailed and overwhelming degree organized with reference to the chronometer, the representation of time according to a principle of successive instants,
2 In The Time of Our Lives:A Critical History of Temporality (Cambridge, Mass.:MIT Press, 2009), p. xiii, David Couzens Hoy distinguishes between time defined as clock-time and temporality defined as time in so far as it manifests itself in human existence. A distinction between clock-time and lived time will be important in this book as well, although I do not distinguish rigorously between time and temporality. As I see it, this would have been counter-productive given the fact that this terminology is not employed consistently, or even at all, by the thinkers I will be discussing. 3 The Weberian question about the uniqueness of Western modernization has recently been the subject of a lot of debate. There are those, following Weber, who continue to believe that there is something unique about the Western process of modernization, and that, while unique, it carries a universal significance. Today, however, it is common to talk about a plurality of different processes of modernization. Since my own conception of modernization is fundamentally Weberian, I will restrict my findings to a Western context and leave the question of universality open.


each of which has a similar weight, leading in a linear direction from a past that is gone forever to a not yet actualized future. As I will argue, this temporal configuration raises a number of existential and ethical-political questions. My third guiding claim is that this development has sparked off its own philosophical discourse of modernity, in which key figures in the post-Kantian tradition have explored, and in many cases criticized, the ramifications of the rampant consolidation of a modern, disenchanted time-consciousness.4 The advantages wrought by a disenchanted time-consciousness are both obvious and numerous. Most strikingly it makes possible a new and enormously effective system for precisely coordinating social interaction. With the chronometer comes a vast increase in discipline, efficiency, and social speed, transforming every major institution in Western societies. The factory is totally clock-based, and so is the current office environment and urban space in general, as well as private life. Transportation, business, the flow of information, indeed everything we do, either alone or with others, is to a greater or lesser extent controlled by the clock. Moreover, the very idea of progress, which can be traced back to Christian conceptions of providence, is largely owed to technological innovation, presupposing a linear conception of time according to which the past is irretrievable and the future an open horizon. The before and after, the idea that history offers movement, change, and development is based on appeals to clocks and calendars. Perhaps most strikingly, the rise of the exact sciences and modern industrial technology would not have been possible without an objectivist, clock-based understanding of time. It is impossible to imagine the modern world without the clock. For many of the central post-Kantian thinkers, however, including Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Adorno, the disintegration of external, socio-historically sanctioned authority with its premodern forms of time-consciousness has brought about a wide-ranging
4 The idea of analyzing at least selected parts of the post-Kantian tradition of European philosophy as engaged in some type of extended debate over the nature, promises, and (in many cases) dissatisfactions of modernity is by no means new. It features prominently in Jrgen Habermass influential study The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, trans. Frederick G. Lawrence (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1987) and has been pursued in considerable depth by Hans Blumenberg, Michel Foucault, Theodor W. Adorno, Leo Strauss, and many others. However, no account so far has interpreted the discourse of modernity in terms mainly of problems related to temporality and duration. For a good overview, see Robert Pippin, Modernism as a Philosophical Problem (Cambridge, Mass. and Oxford:Blackwell, 1991).


sense of dissatisfaction. In some instances, such as those of Hegel and Nietzsche, this has led to the recommendation of new and, in these philosophers view, emancipatory forms of commitment. However, in many of them it has been viewed as a potential threat to both agency and motivation. If time, calculated and commodified, is disenchanted to become a succession of irreversible now-points to be taken up by the instrumental pursuits of a post-conventional agent, then every traditional certainty, whether of faith or sensation, stands in danger of being rendered hollow or invalid. Clock-time, while a homogeneous resource, lending itself to be exploited by rational and calculative behavior, is empty and uniform, devoid of any intrinsic sense of significance. The aim of this study is to analyze and discuss how the temporally inflected experience of uncertainty accompanying the perpetual and dynamic process of modernization finds a cultural response in the tradition of philosophical reflection from Kant to Adorno.5 Two interconnected issues, both related to subjective effects of modernization, arise in this regard. One is the lack of existential meaning in a world in which few or no permanent and intersubjectively validated cultural, spiritual, ethical, or aesthetic contexts in which to experience the bindingness of value are accepted. Lack of meaning, I argue, is a function of the modern agents and modern societys incessant erosion of pre-given authority and value-patterns. With the destruction of the various contexts that grant human life existential meaning and form, and which permit the formation of narratives that in an intersubjectively binding fashion can generate both individual and collective meaning, a quotidian crisis of subjectivity begins to emerge. As ends are subjectivized, agents start relating instrumentally to them, and the crisis grows even deeper. The time merely of waiting to achieve a subjectively and, from the point of view of any such meaning-giving contexts, arbitrarily set end is empty, meaningless, and self-stultifying. Another important concern is the changing and changed experience of transitoriness. On a traditional metaphysical account of transcendence, like that found in Platonism, the adequate ethical response to the fact of temporality (and hence of transitoriness) consisted in trying to invent and employ procedures and practices of evasion. By purifying the soul through rational or ecstatic participation in noetic
5 I here follow Marshall Berman, who in All That Is Solid Melts into Air:The Experience of Modernity (New York:Penguin Books, 1988) consistently speaks of modernism as a reaction to modernization.


essence, or, as in Christianity, through salvation, the human being could triumph over time and be united, after her brief earthly sojourn, with the transcendent sphere of immutable being. Secularization, enlightenment rationalism, and skepticism have largely undermined this appeal to transcendence, thereby radically transforming how agents are able to interpret and make sense of fundamental facts of life such as embodiment, suffering, and death. Indeed, the disintegration of metaphysics became an ideological hallmark of modernity itself, placing man in a concrete historicity, a historical time, that, when fully secularized, stretches indefinitely into the future, with no possibility of archetypical return or repetition, leaving the modern agent to pursue her goals exclusively in relation to her own capacity for autonomous reason-giving. In tandem with the emerging social and cognitive impact of physicalist interpretations of time (or clocktime), agents have increasingly been led to perceive time as a mere succession of homogenous instants devoid of any inherent meaning that could justify the experience of radical contingency made possible by this time frame. Transitoriness obtains a particular significance precisely because the time of the active modern agent is measured out in ever-more precious seconds, minutes, days, and months that need to be conquered and controlled. Philosophy has by no means been the only field in which modern time and time-consciousness has sparked off reflection. In the arts, and especially in literature, there are numerous and powerful responses to this issue. As early as in his 1916 study The Theory of the Novel , Georg Lukcs claimed that time is the key to understanding the modern novel, and that only the novel has been able to register fully how intimately the alienation of modern subjectivity from a sense of objective purpose is connected to changing conceptions of time.6 Much of the growing body of critical discourse on Marcel Prousts Remembrance of Things Past has been examining how the relationship between time and modernization is reflected in literary form.7 The novel, in particular, provides historical context and subjective viewpoints, thereby bringing the relevant phenomena to light in ways that no philosophical text is able to match. While often accomplished in interpreting the
6 See Georg Lukcs, The Theory of the Novel , trans. Anna Bostock (London:Merlin Press, 1978), p. 121. 7 See, for example, Julia Kristeva, Proust and the Sense of Time , trans. Stephen Bann (New York:Columbia University Press, 1993) and Malcolm Bowie, Proust among the Stars (New York:Columbia University Press, 1998).


general significance of such matters, philosophy has typically shunned questions to do with context and lived subjectivity.8 As I will try to show, however, while the historical dimension is often only implicit, it is never completely absent; thus my task as an interpreter has been to bring it to light and read the relevant philosophical texts as responding to their own social conditions and the type of experience these conditions make possible. I therefore offer a rereading of certain central representatives of the modern European tradition, different from that advanced by standard histories of modern philosophy, in order to seek in them a fruitful approach to the too often ignored relationship between modernization and time-consciousness. Appearances notwithstanding, the philosophy I will be dealing with is indeed a discourse on, as well as a response to, modernity. Although I hope to demonstrate the centrality of the question of time in any proper account of the philosophical discourse of modernity, I will not provide reasons to believe that the dominant responses to the emergence of a modern conception of time are tremendously persuasive. Reconstructing a tradition that runs from Kant over Hegel to Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and certain of the figures associated with the early Frankfurt school, I will on the contrary argue that they are all faced with very tough challenges though some more so than others. The position I favor will be based, though not closely, on accounts coming out of the writings of Ernst Bloch, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor W. Adorno. The first chapter is predominantly methodological. The aim here is to make plausible the idea that time can, and indeed should, be analyzed with reference to publicly endorsable structures of engagement that, when employed to schematize concepts, provide time with significance. While capable of being distorted in various ways, they can never be completely replaced by objectivist or naturalist conceptions of time. Of importance for my argument is the first-person point of view and its relevance for understanding the kinds of responses agents are able to muster when
8 One current exception to this tendency is Charles Taylors A Secular Age (Cambridge, Mass. and London:Harvard University Press, 2007). On p. 3, Taylor refers to secularity, his object of philosophical investigation, as being a matter of the whole context of understanding in which our moral, spiritual or religious experience and search takes place. He continues that by context of understanding here, I mean both matters that will probably have been explicitly formulated by almost everyone, such as the plurality of options, and some which form the implicit, largely unfocussed background of this experience and search, its pre-ontology, to use a Heideggerian term.


relating to these structures. I also offer a brief account of narrative, arguing that lived time tends to be structured along narrative lines. The second chapter presents historical material and interpretations regarding the rise of a modern consciousness of time. I try to show how, with the rise of modernity, radical changes in the organization of everyday life conspired with the Enlightenment critique of metaphysics and the commitment to progress to generate a new sense of time and ones place in it. Accompanying these vast changes is a huge transformation of structures of self-interpretation and action-orientation. From having been constituted by appeals to pre-given forms of symbolic authority, they gradually become oriented towards the formal and instrumental, serving mainly subjective rather than objective ends. The chapter ends by identifying two important strands in the modern experience of temporality that will subsequently cause discontent:first, the universalization of linear, homogeneous time, which radicalizes the age-old problem of transitoriness, calling for substantive reconceptualizations of mans relation to society, to others, and to his own mortality; and, second, the orientation towards progress which will turn out to stand in conflict with the displacement and, in the most extreme cases, rejection with considerable ethical and existential consequences of vocabularies expressive of the anchoring of identities in a fabric of collective meaning and purpose. In Chapter 3 I consider two responses to the time of modernity:one Kantian and one Aristotelian. The Kantian strategy is to argue that rationally endorsed projects projects initiated by an agent capable of rational self-determination cannot involve the kind of alienation that I associate with the modern time frame. However, since the exercise of pure and decontextualized autonomy is itself predicated on the acceptance of a disenchanted temporality, it follows that the issues of transitoriness and existential meaning do not go away. By contrast, the Aristotelian strategy is to retrieve an alternative temporality based on the idea of praxis. Here the activity is its own end, the fulfilling expression of an intersubjectively endorsed cultural commitment, and time, rather than being understood within an instrumental framework, is theorized as a field, an enabling medium, in which meaningful action action that draws on historically binding, traditional patterns of action and interpretation can occur. I argue that although such an Aristotelian critique of modernity is in some ways promising, it underestimates the difficulties involved in rejecting the temporal economy of modern life, seeking refuge in an altogether unrealistic anti-modernism.


In Chapter 4 I turn to Hegel and examine the tension between, on the one hand, his theory of time and, on the other, his early interpretation of European modernity. On the basis of his theory of time, which interprets time in terms of the necessary unfolding of a rational process, Hegels theory aims to eliminate the ethical and existential consequences of the disenchanted modern time frame. As a form of life and embodied in institutions that self-consciously express it, Hegels Geist is a self-determining rational structure whose development is inherently meaningful. In the early account, however, Hegel paints a much darker picture, especially of European modernity and the challenges it imposes on the formation of an autonomous form of subjectivity. I thus attempt to reveal the tensions between his metaphysics of time and his thinking about the crisis of modern subjectivity. In sharp opposition to his rival Hegel, Schopenhauer, who is mainly concerned with the problems of finitude and transitoriness, rejects the notion of rationality as an immanent process of self-realization, instead offering an account of transcendence. In Chapter 5 I analyze his account of time and aesthetic experience, arguing that his vision of Platonic transcendence does not adequately resolve the problem of transitoriness. I also suggest that the Schopenhauerian view represents a melancholic response to time:in refusing to accept finitude and transitoriness, it exemplifies a resistance to come to terms with loss and thereby to mourn. Turning, in Chapter 6, to the early Nietzsche, I discuss how his critique of Enlightenment rationalism, embedded in an account of Greek tragedy, leads to the advocacy of a pre-modern, cyclical understanding of time opposed to the contingency and irreversibility of linear time. I propose that the early Nietzsche, for reasons internal to his account, fails to identify modern authorities capable of offering the kind of non-reflective assurance that he needs in order to ground his position. The later Nietzsche, examined in Chapter 7, criticizes all attempts to negate transient life, associating them with nihilism. Accepting transience becomes a matter of affirming the past as irretrievably gone; it is to accept that nothing lasts while resisting the desire to establish a melancholic attachment to the lost object. I finally analyze Nietzsches ambitious attempt to rethink the notion of time by means of his conception of the eternal recurrence of the same. Criticizing Nietzsche, I suggest that none of his recipes for countering the modern crisis of temporal awareness is satisfactory. The appeal to myth is regressive;


the active nihilism of his later work is incapable of solving the problems to which it is designed to respond. In particular, I contend that since, on his account, there can be no unchosen demands upon the self, the creations being presented by Nietzsches bermensch remain without any binding value. The redirecting of desire towards the transient world becomes a narcissistic game incapable of overcoming the problem of nihilism. While both Schopenhauer and Nietzsche focus mainly on transitoriness, Heidegger, whose work I discuss in Chapter 8, turns to the problem of meaning more generally. In his analysis of the relation between time-consciousness and modernitys achievement of a secular order marked by the pursuit of autonomy and technological mastery, he establishes a link between rationalized modernity and boredom. Of particular importance for my purposes is that Heidegger understands boredom as a direct and painful confrontation with the emptiness characterizing a mere succession of mutually homogenous moments of time. Modern technological environments, and indeed modern society in general, are structured such as to preclude the possibility of meaningful engagement. They are, in Heideggers view, quite simply boring. In light of this diagnosis I discuss Heideggers appeal to a notion of commitment. By taking full responsibility for ones selfdefinition and by implicating the self in ones engagements, experience again becomes meaningful and significant, and the awareness of time no longer a burden. I ask how successful this account really is. In particular I argue that his concepts of commitment and authenticity essentially remain stuck within the parameters of a modern, disenchanted temporal economy. Theorists of postmodernity invariably claim that the modern project, pa with its various meta-narratives of progress, innovation, and emanci tion, has come to an end, and that what we now witness is a tremendously pervasive and exclusive orientation towards the present, the given, and the appearing (as opposed to any conceptions of essence or origin).9
9 The most influential study of the concept of the postmodern has undoubtedly been Jean-Franois Lyotards The Postmodern Condition:A Report on Knowledge , trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Minneapolis:University of Minnesota Press, 1999). See also Gianni Vattimo, The End of Modernity:Nihilism and Hermeneutics in Postmodern Culture , trans. Jon R. Snyder (Baltimore:Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988) and Fredric Jameson, The Seeds of Time (New York:Columbia University Press, 1994). For a cogent exposition of the relation between modernist ideologies that make reference to the new and the postmodern rejection of this category, see Boris Groys, ber das Neue:Versuch einer Kulturkonomie (Munich:Carl Hanser Verlag, 1992).



In their view, technological advancement has reinforced this position:the tremendous increases in physical and informational speed have made our horizon of expectation less a function of the narratives we construct regarding historical development and change than of the more imme diate demands and desires of individual agents. Although these devel opments, which I examine in Chapter 9, seem undeniable, I suggest that the values and problems of modernity have not been entirely superseded by the emergence of the postmodern. On the contrary, understanding and criticizing the present requires a thorough analysis of what I will call a modernist consciousness of time. Thus, I will analyze a position according to which lived time is understood in terms of the subjects relation to a form of immanent transcendence. For Bloch, Benjamin, and Adorno, the time of progressive modernization is empty and homogeneous, and by extension the same is true of the protracted now of postmodern temporality. In countering this time frame and its social conditions they introduce a set of critical tools with which to think not only about time but about experience and ethics. According to the view I excavate and extrapolate from their writings, time, while predominantly homogeneous, occasionally permits a dimension of alterity to affect the ego, thereby placing it in a relationship of ethically relevant responsibility. I conclude Chapter 9 by arguing that the problem of existing in time must be related to a notion of social critique. When the subject finds itself in a position of being addressed by a significant and authoritative, yet ultimately sublime, other, the solitary time of boredom and emptiness has the potential to be transformed into a common project. I end by hinting towards the political implications of this point.

1 T h e h i s tor ic i t y of t i m e

The aim of this chapter is to establish a general theoretical framework for analyzing the various post-Kantian positions that emerge in response to the temporality of modern life. I do this by defending the claim that the experience of temporality is itself historical and, as such, fundamentally a product of human convention; and I seek to distinguish this view from accounts that do not refer to the social or to the social constitution of time. I then try to show that, qua historical, this experience can be theorized in terms of the inferential articulation concepts implicitly have when applied in temporally indexed judgments, and I emphasize the first-person standpoint as being ultim ately both irreducible and authoritative. The idea of narrative will be important: the narrative mode conditions and structures action, experience, and selves. Ultimately, these can appear intelligible only temporal synagainst the background of narratives that bring about thesis, thereby creating order and unity among their various elements. Finally, I introduce three levels of temporal mediation and negotieveryday life, (b) of the relation between singular action ation (a) of and ones life as a whole, and (c) of larger, collective events suggesting that narrative is what allows these levels to interact with one another.

Physical vs. social time

This book is predicated on the idea that there is something distinct about the way in which time is understood and experienced in modernity. Since its object, after all, is something like modern temporality and its philosophical challenges, I set modernity apart from all other periods of human history and restrict myself to dealing with category. My ambition is to explore the working conception that this


The historicity of time

modern agents have of time and to conjecture that, independently of the various regional circumstances whether scientific, personal, social, or natural-cyclical in which time is an issue for us, something general yet non-trivial can be said about modern temporality. Prima facie there should be nothing peculiar about such a procedure. Philosophers, sociologists, and historians typically refer to modernity by characterizing it in various general terms, depending on their research interests, data, and interpretive horizons. Modernity may set the stage for a Promethean act of collective self-legislation, or it may be an epoch of nihilism and disenchantment; it may be studied with reference to a huge range of topics such as for instance the rise of the novel, secularization, the triumph of technology and science, the spread of liberal political institutions, new orientations towards sex, the drive towards totalitarianism, and so forth: there are innumerable ways in which the continuities and characteristics of a historical epoch may be understood and articulated, and debates surrounding the nature of modernity are not likely to go away very soon. It should be noted, though, that my intentions may easily seem at odds with the concerns of the majority of writers interested in the category of modcharacter. ernity. They deal with phenomena of an obviously historical The novel, for example, or the system of parliamentary representation, is something that has a particular history:it came into being because people created and developed it in ways that the historian can trace, depending on her interest and point of view. I, by contrast, point to a phenomenon time which many, including most professional philosophers, are inclined to treat as belonging to the order of nature. Just as nature in general is governed by unchanging laws, so time, it would seem, has certain properties that, whatever they may be, do not change. Time, then, is an ahistorical dimension of a physical system, the universe considered as a whole, whose constituent laws and behavior carry no intrinsic relation to how we happen to go about applying temporal predicates in a given period of human history. It may therefore seem unacceptable to refer, as I do, to the time of modernity, or modern time, and the like. There is no such time. There is only physical time. defeating. To raise this objection this early in my study may seem self- Can I not simply set the specter of reductionism aside and bracket the metaphysics of time? Do I not open a can of worms that will prevent me from ever addressing my central concerns? In a sense I certainly do. In a treatise on, say, moral philosophy or aesthetics I would in most

Physical vs. social time


cases not be obliged to worry about the ontological status of phenomena like intentions or emotions. Most philosophers writing on these subjects take certain concepts for granted without wondering about their relation to concepts of a purely natural order. The concept of time, however, seems different from, say, concepts such as obligation or pleasure. Whereas the latter concepts would have no extension in a world without humans, time is one of the fundamental features of the universe, having its origin, according to contemporary cosmology, with the Big Bang, and then continuing indefinitely. It is simply a fundamental and universal feature of reality; hence it would seem absurd to dismiss physicalist or, more generally speaking, agent-neutral ways of employing temporal concepts.1 Even someone who refused to make any realist commitments about time would have to admit that, within the frameworks in which they are being used, such concepts certainly carry a pragmatic meaning, and that natural science (and indeed the natural-scientific worldview) could not be possible without them . I do not seek to resolve the ontological quandary that arises once we contrast the apparent inevitability of a physicalist conception of time to a social conception of time. That would take me too far afield and probably exceed my powers. One thing it should be possible to agree on, however, and with which I want to begin my attempt to sketch the nature of social time, is that there is in fact an everyday usage of temporally inflected concepts in which such concepts meanings and involve specific implications. We should attain specific be able to agree that there is a phenomenology here to be engaged with. Among the phenomena that deserve to be highlighted are social practices whereby we employ temporal categories practices that reflect and express deep-seated and complex historical commitments. Indeed, social life contains numerous layers and structures
1 It should be noted that to say that the passage of time is in some sense agent-centered does not as such imply that it cannot be viewed as an inherent part of the fabric of the universe. For J. M. E. McTaggart, in his classic paper The Unreality of Time, Mind 17 (1908), pp. 45673, the A series corresponds to our everyday notions of past, present, and future. The A series is the series of positions running from the far past through the near past to the present, and then from the present to the near future and the far future (p. 458), and can exist only in so far as the verbal tenses of ordinary language (expressions like it is the case that, it was the case that, and it will be the case that) can be taken as primitive and unanalyzable. Ordinary language with its range of verbal tense must then exist, and with it speakers who use it. However, the A series is not therefore a human convention; it simply presupposes the reality of tense. McTaggart contrasts this with the B series, in which positions are ordered from earlier to later, i.e. the series running from earlier to later moments.


The historicity of time

of temporal organization just think of the temporal structuring of work, politics, family life, ritual, play, love, and, indeed, every social activity and recognizable human project. While both time and space are fundamental dimensions of the universe, the concepts we possess of them are taken up and processed in determinate ways as human agents relate to the world both temporally and spatially. As I will soon argue in more depth, temporality is not, as Kant argued in his account of pure intuition, only explanatory of some of the most fundamental a priori features of human experience (such as the ability to experience duration, succession, and coexistence); rather, it is present in all our dealings with ourselves, others, and objects, and as historical beings with particular practices and vocabularies we relate to time in culturally and historically specific ways.2 So can this by itself a cursory reference to the phenomenology of social time help to account for the antinomy of physical and social time? One may hold the (realist) view that a specific rational endeavor, say theoretical physics or philosophy, holds the key to formulating a final and objectively true theory of time a theory, let us stipulate this, whose truth-value is logically independent of the means we have at our disposal for justifying it in which case there would be an essence to time that would be unaffected not only by human anthropology in the most general sense, but by historical contingencies as well. However, even if such a theory were to be formulated, it would not follow that human practices of relating to time and interpreting it would be any less binding for us. Human experience, I will argue in more detail later, is inherently structured on the historically mediated, practices of relating to time. basis of actual, It is largely unaffected, in other words, by third-person descriptions of time. If someone were to claim that Einsteins theory of general relativity offers the true theory of time, or at least the true theoretical framework within which to understand time, then this person might very well be correct.3 Yet such a claim would be of no actual consequence whatsoever for her self- understanding as an agent. Even
2 Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason , trans. Norman Kemp Smith (London:Macmillan, 1986), B219:The three modes of time are duration , succession , and coexistence . There will, therefore, be three rules of all relations of appearances in time, and these rules will be prior to all experience, and indeed make it possible. 3 There is considerable disagreement about whether the theory of relativity offers a theory of the nature of time, or whether it is mainly concerned with the problem of measuring time. For an exponent of the first view, see Max Planck, Eight Lectures on Theoretical Physics , trans. A. P. Willis (New York:Columbia University Press, 1915),

Physical vs. social time


if this person were to find a way to make sense of the very purpose of such an undertaking, she would not be able to make the relevant mathematical statements comprising this theory become a part of, and influence, her everyday orientation in the world. To be sure, she could, as some practitioners of mathematical physics no doubt are, be obsessed with Einsteins theory and constantly reflect upon it. What she could not do, however, except at the risk of making herself unintelligible both to herself and others, would be to try to interpret herself, her relation to others, her everyday experience, or her plans and projects, in terms that would include those of Einsteins theory of general relativity. Such an undertaking would be external to what she could possibly claim with any degree of authority and plausibility to make up her self-understanding. At the phenomenal level, the objectivist accounts we find in physics seem largely incommensurable with our everyday understanding of temporality. Does this entail some sort of dualism whereby time potentially has two sets of properties, one that is real and another that, while unavoidable in some sense, ultimately is unreal and agent-relative? One could imagine that this would commit me to have to work out the relation between these two levels, and that I would have to introduce, say, supervenience or similar concepts used in order to conceptualize such relations. Again, since I am going to focus my analysis on agent-relative features of time, on features pertaining to the time of the everyday, what will interest me are the implications the various stances towards time we dispose of as modern agents carry for our self-understanding, and at this level considerations about the relation between the natural and the social do not arise. The sense that I need to work out the nature of the relation between these two sets of properties can arise only from a materialist or reductionist standpoint, requiring me to think of it in terms of some sort of contrast between essence and appearance. Yet from an agent-relative point of view, which is experienced as more or less autonomous, such an analysis is not called for. Referring, as I occasionally do, to the time of the everyday as being largely incommensurable with time considered as a fact of nature may seem like an imprecise or even sloppy way of drawing an important philosophical distinction. It would seem that matters of degree
p. 120. For an exponent of the second view, see Martin Heidegger, The Concept of Time in the Science of History, in Supplements:From the Earliest Essays to Being and Time and Beyond , trans. H. S. Taylor, H. W. Uffelmann, and J. van Buren (Albany, N.Y.:SUNY Press, 2002), p. 55.


The historicity of time

should not be allowed to play a role here. The reason why they are needed, however, is that the time frame I scrutinize, namely that of modernity, so palpably demonstrates interconnections between these two levels. Processes of modernization, I will argue later, eminently involve the impacting of systemic imperatives upon everyday actionorientations; thus conceptions of objective (or cosmic) time start influencing the logics of human action and self-interpretation in such a way as to transform them. The historic emergence of clock-time can perhaps be viewed as the most drastic expression of this tendency. As I will soon discuss in greater detail, the early modern introduction of clock-time as the prevalent and socially enforced way of relating to time has profoundly changed our conception of what existence as a temporal being involves. There is no sanctuary from the larger historical forces and their impact on conceptions of time. The introduction of the chronometer made the organization of the working day more rigorous and the fear of losing time, with its immediate economic connotations, more overt in that each operation could be measured to last a certain while that would set the standard for all other repetitions of the same operation. Chronometric linearity revolutionized social coordination, making human interactions and transactions easier to calculate and predict, and in so doing placed increasing demands on peoples willingness and ability to discipline themselves in accordance with the demands of the clock and the calendar.4 The consequences of this development for agents everyday dealings with time have been immense. Now if I am not interested in defending a dualism involving real and non-real properties but simply in studying the time of the everyday as it pertains to modernity; and if this time is mainly historical; then is not my approach to modern time best characterized as being a species of social constructivism? According to standard social construction theory, there is a substantial class of phenomena that, rather than enjoying an independent standing or reality, are mere reflections
4 Readers familiar with Habermas may here note that I implicitly endorse his view that, for certain purposes, systemic imperatives and lifeworld imperatives governing the symbolic reproduction of the lifeworld must be dealt with separately and distinctly. By analogy with Habermass account of social rationalization, I view the introduction of clock-time as a process of colonization whereby key features of the lifeworld are transformed or destroyed. For Habermass most elaborate discussion of the system/ lifeworld distinction, see The Theory of Communicative Action , vol. ii, Lifeworld and System: A Critique of Functionalist Reason , trans. Thomas McCarthy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1985), pp. 11398.

Physical vs. social time


or products of contingent social forces and tendencies. According to Ian Hacking, claims about social construction entail a denial of inevitability; thus, social construction analyses about X hold that X need not have existed, or need not be at all as it is. X, or X as it is present, is not determined by the nature of things, it is not inevitable.5 As I have already started to intimate, and as should be obvious, the way we go about relating to time in modernity is not inevitable in the sense that it is determined by the nature of things. One implication of this is that had the history of Western modernity been different in certain relevant respects, then we would most probably have thought of time in other terms. Perhaps earlier, non-linear conceptions of time would still have been dominant, or other instruments for measuring and calculating time than the clock and the calendar would have been invented, generating alternate understandings of time. In this sense, my view dovetails with conceptions of social construction. I differ, though, from social construction theory of the more radical kind in resisting the inference, so often made, from historicality (and therefore contingency) to illusion. For many social construction theorists, the historicity of a concept means that it cannot enter into judgments that possess any genuine claim to validity. At best, such judgments refer to something unreal precisely a construction of some sort being opposed to what is there independently of our historical practices. The problem with this view is its conflation of genesis and validity. While concepts have a definite historical origin, it does not follow that the class of objects a concept purports to refer to necessarily is unreal. It may be unreal, of course, but never because its concept has a determinate genesis. Money is eminently a social construction; it has a history that can be tracked and documented; and yet the claims we make about it certainly do come with objective truth-values. Note that when, earlier, I refused to commit myself to an opposition between objective, physical time and the subjective or illusory time of the everyday, I suggested that temporal concepts can be binding on us because they contain norms that are implicit in our practices of judging and inferring, and that without such practices what we did would no longer be intelligible either to ourselves or others. Having dismissed the illusion thesis of radical social construction theory, I can now return to this claim and propose that our temporal
5 Ian Hacking, The Social Construction of What? (Cambridge, Mass.:Harvard University Press, 2000), p. 6.


The historicity of time

concepts have this ability to be both historical and capable of imposing certain normative constraints on us: we must accept them, for otherwise our capacity to be intelligible to ourselves and to one another would be jeopardized. I am now closer to showing why I am entitled to dismiss reductionist and metaphysically realist skepticism as irrelevant. These concepts make up the fulcrum on which we organize our experience. They are not inevitable; they do not refer to the natural order of the world. Over and above everything else they are facts about who we are at this particular moment in history, and about how we make sense of ourselves and our experience. In other words, it is not possible to adopt or reject the concepts at our ourselves and our experience temporally on disposal for describing the basis of a mere decision, whether rationally grounded or not. They are, rather, an outgrowth of the form of life that we have come to count as our own, and they are necessary in order to have other experiences that we count as essential to who we are.6

In order to shed light on the sense in which we may speak of an everyday conception of time that, while historical, is not arbitrary or merely relative in some external manner to a particular set of practices, I will introduce the notion of time-consciousness.7 The term is used in a number of different ways. We may refer to the timeconsciousness of someone in a specific time period, or the term may be used to designate a collectives temporal self-understanding as it comes to be displayed in exemplary symbols, patterns of action, or technological items of the period in question. The word is also used more technically as referring to the minds awareness of time, or how temporality is a factor in cognitive and appetitive processing. My use of
6 I am here indebted to Stanley Cavells remarks in The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein, Skepticism, Morality, and Tragedy (Oxford University Press, 1979), p. 119:What we take to be necessary in a given period may alter. It is not logically impossible that painters should now paint in ways which outwardly resemble paintings of the Renaissance, nor logically necessary that they now paint in the ways they do. What is necessary is that, in order for us to have the form of experience we count as an experience of a painting, we accept something as a painting. And we do not know a priori what we will accept as such a thing. But only someone outside such an enterprise could think of it as a manipulation or exploration of mere conventions. 7 The term stems from the German Zeitbewusstsein and was originally used by phenomenologists, yet has now been imported into a number of discursive contexts.



the term will combine these meanings. By time-consciousness I have in mind a practically determinate, reflective, and agent-related stance towards time. The time of the everyday (or what I call social time), I will suggest, is made comprehensible to the individual agent by virtue of socially constituted structures of engagement that, when embodied in speech and practice, provide temporal orientation, structure, and meaning. Before I turn to the issue of temporality itself, I need to give a brief sketch of the pragmatist and inferentialist account of norms and concepts that I will be drawing on in order to spell out how agents relate to time. The key to this account, developed mainly by Robert Brandom but with forerunners in Kant, Wittgenstein, and Sellars, is the claim that our practices of judging and inferring, as well as action itself, are inherently normative. The norms may in some cases take the form of explicit rules, although in most cases they are implicit in what we do as speakers. Explicit rules, Brandom argues, almost always presuppose the existence of norms that are implicit in our practices of judging and inferring.8 Like Brandoms position regarding normative commitment, Kants theory of judgment in the Critique of Pure Reason was designed to account for how, and under what specific conditions, our concepts are to be legitimately employed. According to Kant, for concepts to find legitimate application in judgments there must be certain normative demands, or validating conditions, that specify what counts as a correct application of the concept. By virtue of her capacity for spontaneous action, in each instance of application the individual agent is responsible for following the rules that stipulate the normative conditions under which such application can take place, thereby ascribing them to herself as valid. The agent self-consciously takes herself to be committed to the rules in question. Following Kants lead, Brandom thus understands judging as a species of acting: every time we act, we undertake a commitment to do what is necessary for the action to be correct; thus, acknowledging the rules as binding, we do what we think is appropriate in order to perform the action we take ourselves to be performing. One might think that such behavior could be analyzed in terms of what people actually do. On such an account, the norms implicit
8 Robert B. Brandom, Making It Explicit. Reasoning, Representing, and Discursive Commitment (Cambridge, Mass.:Harvard University Press, 1994), p. 20.


The historicity of time

in a societys practices would be discernable simply by observing how the members of a society regularly behave. However, such descriptions are inadequate unless they take into account what people think must be done in order to engage in the kinds of practices they happen to engage in. Without this it would not be possible to account for what it means to go against the rule, or to do things incorrectly. A mere description would simply state what people do but rule out the possibility of anyone committing an error. There could be deviations from the mean but not misfirings, infelicities, or mistakes. In describing the practice in question, the proponent of the regularity view is thus ultimately forced to presuppose normativity. Norms, then, are not just regularities exhibited by the practice but, as Brandom calls them, proprieties implicit in the practice. The proprieties implicit in practices, moreover, are social achievements. They arise only in so far as they are recognized and instituted by members of a particular community. Laws of nature constrain without any such recognition. They just apply. Norms, however, can exercise an authority over us only in so far as we actively endorse them as authoritative. For norms to be binding, someone has to take them to be binding and treat them as such. For Brandom, the process of instituting norms and proprieties is, however, quite complex. On the one hand, there must be individuals who on their own give them authority by practically acknowledging them in their actions. On the other hand, such acknowledgment commits agents in the eyes of others not only to the norm in question but to a host of others that may exceed their explicit grasp. Thus there is independence in that norms have no normative force over the individual unless she freely acknowledges their bindingness. Yet in exercising such independence, the same individual is dependent on the attitudes of others, who attribute and hold [her] to the commitment, and thereby administer its content.9 According to Brandom, while the commitments we undertake provide us with a certain social status on the basis of which we
9 Robert B. Brandom, Tales of the Mighty Dead: Historical Essays in the Metaphysics of Intentionality (Cambridge, Mass.:Harvard University Press, 2002), pp. 22021. On p. 223 Brandom offers another important statement of his essentially Hegelian account of the social authority of norms:The commitment one undertakes by applying a concept in judgment or action can be construed as determinately contentful only if it is to be administered by others distinct from the one whose commitment it is. So in acknowledging such a commitment, one is at least implicitly recognizing the authority of others over the content to which one has committed oneself.



obtain recognition, there is always a process of negotiation taking place between the individual and those who attribute a certain set of commitments to her. The individual may find that what she took to be a coherent, meaningful application of a concept does not permit her to find the requisite recognition from the other. She will then need to consult the other and engage in a conversation about what is in fact implied in our practice. The other is necessary in order to confer objective status on the position she is in as someone undertaking a commitment. Thus, on Brandoms view, her authority is only partial. While she may commit herself to being the player of a particular game and in so doing acknowledges certain norms to be binding upon her, the other is needed in order to decide what further moves are appropriate or obligatory given that she takes herself to be playing this game. Although she needs to take herself as affirming their validity, she does not objectively control in the sense of having full authority over all the norms that govern the possible moves within the game. For Brandom, undertaking a specific normative commitment is to bring conceptual norms into play by putting forward the inferential structure on the basis of which a given concept has content.
Saying or thinking that things are thus-and-so is undertaking a distinctive kind of inferentially articulated commitment: putting it forward as a fit premise for further inferences, that is, authorizing its use as such a premise, and undertaking responsibility to entitle oneself to that commitment, to vindicate ones authority, under suitable circumstances, paradigmatically by exhibiting it as the conclusion of an inference from other such commitments to which one is or can become entitled. Grasping the concept that is applied in such a making explicit is mastering its inferential use:knowing (in the practical sense of being able to distinguish, a kind of knowing how) what else one would be committing oneself to by applying the concept, what would entitle one to do so, and what would preclude such entitlement.10

Brandoms basic point is that in taking up a certain stance in a conceptual space by saying or thinking that something is the case, or by doing something we implicitly appeal to reasons (and offer to give and be asked for reasons) on the basis of which what we do or say becomes intelligible. There is, in other words, an inferential know-how that goes with, and makes possible, judging and action. Such reasons
10 Robert B. Brandom, Articulating Reasons:An Introduction to Inferentialism (Cambridge, Mass.:Harvard University Press, 2000), p. 11.


The historicity of time

may not always provide a logically or formally determined set of inferences. On the contrary, most of the inferences that articulate the content of a given concept are material . If we judge that Philadelphia is to the west of New York, then by virtue of a material inference we should (and will) be committed to holding that New York is to the east of Philadelphia; and if we judge that we see a dog, then we should (and will) be committed to the applicability of the concept of mammal to it. Commitments provide premises from which other propositions can be inferred. To master the use of a concept is thus to master the inferential relations that come into play once the concept is being employed. Thus, if for instance someone says that it is a beautiful day, then in standard cases understanding what this person means requires knowing implicitly that it is being implied that it is not raining, that it is not particularly cloudy, that the sun is up, that there is no fog, and so forth. These are some, though far from all, of the material inferences that are being presupposed in saying that it is a beautiful day. These inferences stipulate what it means for something to be a beautiful day. However, when applied in a judgment like this, the content of the predicate beautiful (as in it is a beautiful day) is not simply given. Someone and this points to the inescapability of individual acknowledgment of proprieties might imply that it is cloudy just because he or she loves the grey shades of color clouds can give to a day, associating a days beauty with that. The content can never finally be fixed but is determined through ongoing processes of negotiation whereby different interlocutors respond to each others ways of using concepts. There is never any final answer to what is correct, Brandom writes:everything ... is itself a subject for conversation and further assessment, challenge, defense, and correction.11 Brandoms semantic view centers on the claim that commitments and entitlements of inferences are established through intersubjective negotiation alone. We have seen that he does not believe that content can ever be finally fixed through such processes of negotiation. There will always be deviant interpretations and applications of given concepts; thus, agents will never escape the need for reflection and correction. We have also seen that norms are typically implicit in the practices of judging. What we do when we reflectively spell them out is to make them explicit. However, it is the sum total of the communitys ongoing negotiations that ultimately constitutes the norms as
11 Brandom, Making It Explicit , p. 647.



authoritative, and the individual speaker, when rational, will tend to follow the communally constituted norms when engaging in particular practices. For Brandom, to follow a rule is to act in accordance with the rule. Whether explicitly or implicitly, it is to apply (in so far as it is determinate) the rule to a specific case. When a concept is being employed along these lines, the speaker thus draws on standards that govern the application of the concept. The presence of the norm licenses, we might say, the proper application of the concepts in judgments. It determines the range of implications and commitments that each legitimate application of the concept involves. Although it ultimately is the form of life, as Wittgenstein would call it, understood as an ongoing process of reason-giving and responding to reasons, that creates or generates the norms in question (in the sense that norms in the final instance can be said to be instituted by the community), our linguistic authority ultimately rests on appeals to the framework of rules:thus, language, for Brandom, comes to rest on a framework of rules such that our mutual intelligibility in language becomes supported and made possible by that framework. One important problem with this view is that it underestimates the flexibility and precision with which we exercise our linguistic abilities. No interpretation of a rule will ever determine the right action in every single case. No concept can be completely bound by rules. Indeed, as Wittgenstein points out in paragraph 201 of the Philosophical Investigations, no course of action could be determined by a rule, because every course of action can be made out to accord with the rule. The existence of a given rule is logically compatible with an indefinite number of applications. Wittgenstein therefore infers that we must conceive of a way of grasping a rule which is not an interpretation , but which is exhibited in what we call obeying the rule and going against it in actual cases.12 What Wittgenstein most probably wants us to see is that rule-following requires the existence of
12 Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations , trans. G. E. M. Anscombe (New York: Blackwell, 1958), 201. This, of course, is the paragraph which led Kripke to interpret Wittgenstein as a radical skeptic about meaning. What I do here is simply to signal that rather than reading 201 as an argument for skepticism, I see it as demonstrating that accounts based on an appeal to interpretation will inevitably fail. For Saul Kripkes contribution, see Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Languages (Cambridge, Mass.:Harvard University Press, 1982). See also Stanley Cavells discussion of Kripkes account in Conditions Handsome and Unhandsome: The Constitution of Emersonian Perfectionism (Chicago and London:University of Chicago Press, 1990), ch. 2.


The historicity of time

practices. Only in and through participation in a given practice the exercise of judgment in specific cases, the mastery of language is it possible to speak about obeying or disobeying a rule. According to Stanley Cavell, it is thus by agreeing in judgments the judgments that make up a given practice that we agree in the norms revealed in those judgments. We then agree in a form of life, in all the various ways in which we have come to be judgmentally attuned; thus, we share an indefinite number of commitments and conceptual practices with other speakers. On Cavells view, what is normative is the mastery of language itself, the infinitely fine-grained capacity we all have to make ourselves intelligible by projecting words into new contexts and remaining ready to declare and respect the implications of doing so. We speak as members of the human group, as representative humans, and language is shared and made possible by a prior agreement in judgments the tremendously detailed and complicated ways in which we are mutually attuned. A representative is, however, individually responsible for the way she seeks to represent the community; and hence the individual qua representative of the community is therefore always responsible for her own linguistic moves. In cases of disagreement, it will not ultimately be possible to appeal directly to the rule; rather, the individual must own up to the moves that she makes in the language game. The notion of use brings in a component of acknowledgment:the individual must actively take responsibility for her own words; she must respond to the specific requirements that a particular practice in a particular situation imposes upon her.13 It must be emphasized that this particular consideration, which will play an important role later in this study, does not invalidate the view that the various moves we make in a particular language game (including those that relate to time) do carry pragmatic implications. We mean something specific, X, when we apply a given concept only because doing so is to imply that certain implications what Brandom calls material inferences follow. We understand each other in so far as we relate to these implications and thus to the commitments that each individual speaker takes up when saying something. What the Wittgensteinian objection about rule-following amounts to is a denial
13 For a useful discussion of the relevant methodological contrasts between Brandom and Cavell, see Paul M. Livingston, Philosophy and the Vision of Language (London and New York:Routledge, 2008), pp. 17196. For the notion of responsiveness, see also Espen Hammer, Stanley Cavell:Skepticism, Subjectivity, and the Ordinary (Oxford:Polity Press, 2002), p. 23.



of the view that in saying X, we follow socially constituted rules or, as in Brandoms view, relate to material inferences that can function as reasons that license us to do this. As speakers belonging to the same life-form we share ways of employing a specific concept in saying X. That means that we share a commitment to the various implications involved in doing so. However, the rules do not govern our behavior. On the contrary, we can tell which rules or implications speakers are committed to by observing their actual employment of the concepts that go into the saying of X. In cases of disagreement and confusion we can reflect on these implications and try to spell them out. That is different, however, from relying on the rules in order to make judgments. We make judgments as members of a specific community. We speak as one speaks; our voice, when aiming to be reasonable and create conviction, seeks to represent the community. However, the authority in cases of disagreement does not rest with those who purport to represent intersubjectively validated norms. Such norms cannot settle conflict. All they can do is help us to understand our differences and articulate where each individual stands. Brandoms deontic scorekeeping model is useful in modeling how speakers commit themselves to various forms of inferences. However, it mischaracterizes the individuals authority and ultimately downplays the role of practices in accounting for how these commitments are made. Now how can any of this be of any relevance when thinking about direct our relationship to time? I have already suggested that our most and ordinary experience of time is by way of publicly meaningful, inferential structures of engagement. Time-consciousness, therefore, cannot as well as the concepts that make such consciousness possible, be theorized from a purely objectivist point of view. If time is nevertheless conceived as I want to suggest it is, or approximates to, under modern conditions in terms of succession, a linear series of nows, where the line of time moves from the past through the present into the future, or through any causal or physicalist equivalent of the simple succession model, then temporal concepts, while not necessarily unstructured by material inferences, start to become abstract and, in some cases, indeterminate. Of course, sequential time forms an unquestioned horizon within which agents operate in so far as they organize and measure it by means of clocks, calendars, and other systems for measuring, and time is then repsequentially structured resented as a perpetual recurrence of nows. One minute follows the other, one month is succeeded by the next, and as such they are


The historicity of time

mutually identical, homogeneous, and without intrinsic significance for the agent. However, the time of clocks and calendars chronological, sequential time only starts to carry significance for an agent endowed with particular beliefs and intentions in so far as she observes, and identifies with, certain publicly endorsable structures of engagement with time that are agent-relative in the sense I have outlined. The experiential possibilities that are available to human beings in specific historical and cultural circumstances are in complicated and innumerable ways dependent on their working conceptions of the nature of time, as well as on how their temporal economy is organized in everyday, unreflective settings. A scientific theory of time, such as the one we find implied by Newtonian mechanics, is, if applied under ideal circumstances stipulated by the theory itself, central to mans capacity to predict phenomena, thus making technology and technological progress possible. Scientific mastery presupposes among other things that duration can be measured objectively, that the distinction between the past, the present, and the future can be understood in terms of the distinction between different modalities of existence (necessity, actuality, and possibility), and that criteria are available by which to identify occurrences such as coexistence and succession. While all-important for the pursuit of technological progress, the conception of physical or scientific time is by no means, however, sufficient to account for all forms of experiential temporalization and configurations of existential possibility. Psychological time, the annual, monthly, weekly, and daily biographical rhythms of starting, getting underway with something, and bringing activities to a close, sets the stage for mans selfinterpretation as an initiator and overseer of events the unfolding of which the agent is entitled (and condemned) to see herself as at least responsible for. Life itself follows natural patterns from birth through adolescence and maturity to old age and death, each of which presents different challenges, experiences, rewards, and frustrations. The body has its cycles, ranging from mood swings to fluctuations in physical and mental capacity, each of which presents the individual with a given set of parameters by which to confront and negotiate the fact of existence. Like the vicissitudes of the human body, the natural cycles of day and night, and the passing of the seasons which sets in motion the growth and decay of life, may seem inevitable:there is little or nothing we can do to influence them, and, despite the many unpredictable events of nature, their occurrence is experienced as belonging to an order of necessity. Mythical or archaic conceptions of time tend to



imitate the many ways in which nature, beyond mans will, fluctuates between decay and regeneration. Agrarian societies in particular, in which the renewal of alimentary reserves takes place on a regular and often annual basis, marked by ritual, typically draw on the observation of biocosmic rhythms to form symbolic representations of periodic purification and the regeneration of life. Rather than seeing time as a succession of independent and self-sufficient moments, members of such societies understand time as inherently cyclical as structured around the endless repetition of cycles consisting of cosmogonic creation, decay, and regeneration.14 Lived time is not, however, exclusively dependent on conceptions of natural necessity. Imagine a concrete situation of everyday life. The car needs to be picked up, a friend returns to ask why we did not make good on our promise to give him a helping hand, the shop where we went to get groceries is about to close, or we are about to take up a mortgage. In making sense of any such situation, a complex set of expectations and demands come into play. We will have to presuppose not only beliefs but inferential relations holding between who we take ourselves to be, our needs and desires, as well as our expectations of others and the commitments our agreements with others confer upon us. A temporal horizon is thus disclosed to us. Rather than simply relating to the here and now, we structure a chain of significances along an unruly temporal axis. The now becomes impregnated with what was, our stored memories and knowledge, and with anticipations of what will and should be. The car needs to be picked up because it was handed into the garage yesterday, and because we were promised we would have it today when it is needed in order to drive the children home from school. A promise has been made. Hence someone has been placed in a particular normative relation to another which constrains this persons future plans and actions. The promise can be revoked or broken, heeded or revised, but whichever line of action is being taken will only be fully intelligible with reference to the past commitment this person entered into by making the promise. Events, we might say, are objects in time, and events interrelate. We relate to them by providing a temporal form that itself is structured inferentially along the lines just described. There may be a simple causal order, such as when the occurrence of a cause leads us (perhaps along simple Humean lines, on the basis of contiguity and constant
14I return to the conception of cyclical time in Chapter 6.


The historicity of time

conjunction) to infer the occurrence of a given effect, or there may be more complex interconnections between events where earlier events generate later events, and later events fulfill or complete earlier events. In their discursive presentation events are bound together along the lines of inferences that we bring to them. We see the blooming flowers as manifestations of springtime and place them temporally by invoking the sequences associated by the annual changes in nature from winter to spring and summer, and all of this while viewing the whole process in terms of concepts like regeneration, life, or perhaps beauty. We interpret the beginning of a life from the perspective of the end, or we approach a dilapidated house as the conclusion to years of neglect. We always bring certain inferences to bear on what we experience such as to transform mere succession into meaning and form. Actions, as we have seen, are also structured temporally. For a particular action to have meaning and be describable in a determin ate fashion, it needs to occur with reference to inferential relations that point both backwards and forwards in time. To be able to be disappointed in someones behavior, for example, it is necessary to have certain beliefs about what has occurred, what someone has promised she will do or say, which desires one has had and still has, as well as beliefs about what would satisfy them. No action, no human behavior, would ever be meaningful and determinate unless it could be situated in a conceptual structure of socially endorsed inferential relations that refer to both past and future. Some philosophers, most notably Paul Ricoeur and Georg Henrik von Wright, have taken these and related observations to entail that understanding action is to place it within a narrative ; it is to offer storystatements that connect the action with beliefs about actual past events and desires and expectations about future events, as well as with inferences expressive of the agents self-interpretation and interpretation of others thoughts and actions, and all of this against a larger context of social and historical developments that ultimately provides the action with its point and significance.15 Successful narratives confer a structural unity on all of these elements such as to make actions, or
15 Thus Georg Henrik von Wright in Explanation and Understanding (London:Routledge, 1971), p. 115, holds that the behaviours intentionality is its place in a story about the agent . Paul Ricoeur explores this thought with much sophistication. See his Time and Narrative , trans. Kathleen McLaughlin and David Pellauer (Chicago and London:University of Chicago Press, 1984), vol. i, p. 57:If, in fact, human action can be narrated, it is because it is always already articulated by signs, rules, and norms.



sequences of actions, intelligible. In so far as this is true, it follows that, when understood and brought under a definite description, intentional action brings past, present and future into particular types of relations with one another. An action that is undertaken in response to a past event for the sake of some future state of affairs synthesizes past, present, and future in a particular way. It extracts a complex configuration from what would otherwise be a mere succession, thereby providing the various events with a form or significance that allows us to grasp them together.16 Story-statements make the representation of a unity of events possible. They order events temporally, thus making them intelligible as, for instance, beginnings, responses, obstacles, or turning points. However, they also impute meaning to particular events by showing how they contribute to a plot or at least some kind of significant sequence of events. Alasdair MacIntyre has argued that we live out narratives all the time, and that our lives become intelligible to us to the extent that we can recount the stories of which they are composed.17 To look at a life is, in a sense, to encounter a narrative. Although my view dovetails with MacIntyres in important respects, especially when his conception is cast in terms of the theory of material inference that I have outlined,
It is always already symbolically mediated. On p. 52, he states why time is so central to the symbolic articulation of human action:time becomes human to the extent that it is articulated through a narrative mode, and narrative attains its full meaning when it becomes a condition of temporal experience . In The Philosophy of the Novel:Lukcs, Marxism and the Dialectics of Form (Minneapolis:University of Minnesota Press, 1984), pp. 12831, Jay Bernstein offers a suggestive interpretation of von Wrights thesis that turns out to have ramifications for his assessment of modernity. 16 David Carr, Time, Narrative, and History (Bloomington:Indiana University Press, 1991), p. 89:Human time in our sense is configured time. The narrative grasp of the story-teller is not a leap beyond time but a way of being in time. It is no more alien to time than the curving banks are alien to the river, or the potters hands to the clay. Mere sequence is like the prime matter of the philosophers and theologians. It is not something we could ever experience. It is a limiting concept:the thought of what lies beyond our experience, yet has a force of its own which runs counter to it, like a gravitational pull. The experience of the pull of chaos is our only experience of temporal sequence. 17 Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue:A Study in Moral Theory, 2nd edn. (University of Notre Dame Press, 1984), p. 212: It is because we all live out narratives in our lives and because we understand our own lives in terms of the narratives that we live out that the form of narrative is appropriate for understanding the actions of others. For a thorough discussion of this account, see Anthony Rudd, In Defence of Narrative, European Journal of Philosophy 17:1 (2007), pp. 6075. Rudd is in part responding to objections raised by Galen Strawson, Against Narrativity, Ratio 17:4 (2004), pp. 42851.


The historicity of time

it is necessary to distinguish between, on the one hand, the basic level of organization that characterizes a human life regardless of the capacity for explicitly transforming this level into an explicit form and, on the other, the narratives that people explicitly and actively shape. This distinction is sometimes formulated in terms of the contrast between story and narrative. The story is what is being narrated in a narrative. If I say to someone that I will tell her the story of my life, then one thing I could mean is that although the story is there because my life does show up certain determinate patterns and lines of temporal organization, I have not yet transformed this story into a full-blown narrative. In the most extreme case of providing explicit discursive form to my life, I may decide to write an autobiography. I then make explicit and rhetorically embellish a story that could otherwise have remained fairly contours of crude and without contours. By contrast, I may relate the my life in a couple of sentences. There are, in other words, levels of explicitness here that MacIntyre fails to take into account.18 For him, the intelligibility of a life (and hence someones personal identity) is dependent upon the provision of narrative. However, there is a big difference, both quantitatively and qualitatively, between someone who simply has an interesting story but has not told it yet and someone who appropriates this story and actively creates narrative form. The difference, it seems, is mainly gradual. While the organizational features that structure the events themselves can, though not necessarily, remain the same regardless of the process of verbalization, there are different degrees of self-awareness. Some people tend not to reflect upon their own stories very much and show little interest in constructing explicit narratives. Some may even largely live out stories over which they have little control stories they unreflectively obtain from foreign sources, such as significant others or advertising. Many of the stories that make up our lives are obviously quite conventional, and there is no escape from the ways in which cultural context provides meanings in the form of interpretatory schemes and inferences.
18 See Carr, Time, Narrative, and History, p. 62, where he argues that what is essential to narration is not that it is a verbal act of telling, as such, but that it embodies a certain point (or points) of view on a sequence of events. Furthermore, narrative structure refers not only to such a play of points of view but also to the organizational features of resolution, the events themselves in such terms as beginning-middle-end, suspension- departure-return, repetition, and the like. We maintain that all these structures and organizational features pertain to everyday experience and action whether or not explicit the narrative structure or the act of narrative structuring takes the form of verbalization.



We do what people in our situation normally do; we follow the tracks laid out for us by others, and even innovation and creativity will have to take place against a background of the understood and expected. Others, such as perhaps certain authors or people undergoing psychoanalytic treatment, may be highly focussed on their stories and in excruciating need of providing as much form, sincerity, truth, and explicitness to them as possible. In these cases the quest for authenticity often becomes paramount:Is what I recount when I confront my socially shaped past really an expression of who I take myself to be in the present, or do I, like the character Roquentin in Sartres Nausea , find myself in some perhaps unnerving way alienated from the narratives I am capable of providing? When offering a sense of authenticity, story-statements make possible the apperceptive identification with a set of events as elem ents of my story. I own up to what I have become and the way I became what I am. The story I tell may help me to see what would otherwise appear as a contingent heap of unrelated happenings as events for which I can take some degree of responsibility. Either they now appear as the result of intentions, plans, or projects that I have had, or, less explicitly, I start to be able to see them as reflective of who I am or who I aspired to be at a given point of time. There will be commitments that I see myself as having entered into, and these commitments will be based on allegiance to overarching values and goals.19 Of course, narratives may not always generate this kind of awareness of oneself as an autonomous agent. In many, or perhaps most, cases the narrative will reveal contingency and confusion. However, without the possibility of narrative, I would be unable to recount who I take myself to be. My self would be opaque the mere result of all the things that without my thought, reflection, commitment, or initiative have been pushing me around. We have now gone beyond the level of mere action-description. For how a person is disposed to act (and think) in the sense just outlined will, as I have already intimated, also have consequences for who this person is. Our pragmatic reckoning with time reveals important dimensions of our own identities of who we are and aspire to be. A persons identity thus depends on (but is obviously not exhausted by)
19 In this sense I agree with Charles Guignons deflated Heideggerian stance in On Being Authentic (London and New York:Routledge, 2004), p. 139: Wholehearted commitments are unconditional in the sense that they are experienced as definitive of who you are.


The historicity of time

his or her actions in the temporal space that our temporalized conceptual relations opens up. Someone who does not take paint ing after Duchamp to constrain or structure what painting can be is different from someone who does. Equally, someone who predominantly acts for the sake of a future good is different from someone who acts predominantly for the sake of immediate gratification. The narrative structuring of life turns life into an ongoing project. How we negotiate our temporality is an essential and unavoidable aspect of who we are.20 The mode in which we respond to our interpretations of the past and the related mode in which we respond to our anticipations of the future also structure the world in which we act. If we find ourselves writing literature after Beckett, we may find only certain possibilities of expression to be available, while other forms of expression may strike us as essentially unavailable. Moreover, what we aspire to write will inform what we write and how we consider the significance writing. of past forms of writing (such as Becketts) for our own What we happen to write will be a response to the temporally saturated world of beliefs, commitments, desires, and possibilities that we face in any given situation. Stories structure both ourselves and the world.
20 This may be a good place to acknowledge certain structural similarities between the view I outline here and that of Heidegger in Division Two of Being and Time . Like Heidegger, I aim to distinguish between measurable, sequential time or what he sometimes calls derivative or vulgar time and a more primordial form of time which we engage with and, in a sense, constitute through our engagement. Unlike measurable, sequential time, the more primordial time cannot be objectivized but is, rather, a function of our capacity to hold together in a differentiated unity the various temporal ecstasies of having been, making present, and being ahead of oneself. While I do not share Heideggers attempt to describe primordial temporality in terms suggesting that it is ontologically more real than measurable, sequential time, I share his sense that the latter represents a kind of falling away from, and a reification of, primordial time. Heidegger associates this falling away with at least three different tendencies:the history of metaphysics with its drive towards isolating presence (the presence, in the case of time, of successive nows), a shying away from the existential burden of Daseins fundamental ungroundedness, and, finally, modernity itself, with its drive towards calculation, instrumental control, and fungibility. In this regard I only subscribe to something like the modernity account. As I will argue in Chapter 2, modernization tends to lead us to downplay our dependence on primordial time and interpret ourselves and our experience almost exclusively in light of measurable, sequential time. As such, this process of rationalization, being one of the key conditions of successful modernization, has been tremendously advantageous. However, I also want to argue that it has brought about a genuine loss of meaning and a new and highly challenging sense of transitoriness.

Three levels of tempor al mediation


Three levels of temporal mediation

We have seen that inferential relations of various kinds structure our self-interpretations as temporal beings and provide us with a determinate sense of the relationship between past, present, and future. However, the conceptual characteristics and inferential relations, in so far as they are of a social nature and require social endorsement to be accepted as binding, are not, as it were, free-floating meanings; rather, they are embodied in shared practices of action and judgment, as well as in the symbolic and material structures that enable and sustain them. Social reality as a whole is temporally structured. There is a specific temporal economy pertaining to each of the social institutions we relate to, and, following from this economy, specific forms of discursive structuring and specific regimes of power and discipline imposed on the human body.21 The traditional industrial factory, for example, imposed on its workers symbolically (in the form of rules and regulations) as well as materially (in the form of such things as the organization of the architectural space and the configurations of routines and operations) a temporal schema geared towards an unusually high degree of preciseness and predictability. Workers needed not only to synchronize and coordinate their actions with great precision, but the duration and sequentialization of the various tasks had to correspond to a standardized system of measurement and organization. As Charlie Chaplin memorably demonstrates in Modern Times, a worker who failed to conform to the requirements imposed on her temporal self-organization would immediately be noticed and duly sanctioned. Likewise, a well-functioning family is likely to be normatively structured in such a way that each of its members is expected to get up at a certain time in the morning in order to fulfill privately and publicly assigned tasks, as well as engaging in forms of activity allowing for a greater degree of spontaneity and affectivity, with all of this involving a certain sequentialization and coordination with the projects and activities of the other members of the family. Their home, therefore, with its arrangement of rooms, each with its different activities being assigned and expectations invoked, will tend to be organized so as to sustain such challenges; more generally, their tacit as well as explicit codes of behavior and habitualized patterns of behavior (which can
21 See Foucaults path-breaking remarks on temporality in Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison , trans. Alan Sheridan (New York:Vintage, 1979), pp. 14952.


The historicity of time

never be fully theorized independently of references to socio- economic status) will also enforce a temporal organization on their activities and self-interpretations. (The older brother will be able to borrow the car in order to go skiing with his girlfriend in the afternoon, but only after he has finished his homework and if he can pick up his mother from work on the way back home. His dad is away on business the whole week and will not be able to mend the broken lamp until he returns.) According to Peter Ahlheit and Anthony Giddens, we need to distinguish between the different levels at which such socially endorsed time structures operate.22 First, there are the time structures of everyday life. They provide normative constraints on how we deal with predominantly repetitive routines and rhythms of labor and recreation, private and public life, attending to ourselves and others, as well as the related challenges, discussed in the sociology of time, of synchronization, speed, duration, and the sequentialization of action. Going to sleep and waking up again; getting to and from work; deciding whether to see a movie or go swimming these are all everyday tasks and activities that individuals perform in their own way but which nevertheless have their own temporal logic. I may for various reasons decide to stay awake at night and sleep during daytime, but what I cannot change is the normative expectation that sleeping takes place during the night, that most public activities take place during the day, that the time devoted to sleeping must permit one to fulfill ones duties in relation to other people and institutions, and so on. How I take up and respond to these structures will, however, ultimately be expressive of who I am, and of how I want and am able to spend my time. I may be a late sleeper, and this would be a characteristic of me as an individual, yet I can only be a late sleeper because intersubjective expectations make late sleeping possible. If there were no expectations to the effect that getting up early is desirable or in some sense necessary or required in order to perform certain tasks or undertake certain actions, then I could sleep until noon every day but hardly be a late sleeper. As Giddens points out, time at the level of everyday existence time tends to be interpreted as reversible. If for some reason I refrain from going swimming today, I can always do so tomorrow or some other day.
22 Anthony Giddens, ed. Social Theory and Modern Sociology (Stanford University Press, 1987), pp. 14065; Peter Ahlheit, Alltagszeit und Lebenszeit, in Rainer Zoll (ed.), Zerstrung und Wiederaneignung von Zeit (Frankfurt:Suhrkamp, 1988), pp. 37186. For a more general sociology of time, see also Barbara Adam, Timewatch:The Social Analysis of Time (Oxford:Polity Press, 1995).

Three levels of tempor al mediation


Although genuine actions always bring about certain consequences, they can usually be rectified by further lines of action. In everyday life our decisions do not carry as much weight as when we venture into commitments that have the capacity to permanently change things. This is one of the senses in which everyday life can appear trivial:it is full of actions each of whose significance does not mark me permanently as a person. Hence a second type of inferential relations structure the way we interpret the relation between singular actions and our life as a whole . Whether implicitly or explicitly, a human being will inevitably have a perspective on how a particular decision fits in with her generalized self-conception. Not all types of decisions fit this pattern. Only the ones we think of as weighty do. Ones decisions about education, for example, build on previous knowledge and experience while preparing one for later challenges, and all of this with a view to leading a specific life the life of a physician, a lawyer, a bricklayer, and so on. Questions to do with synchronization, speed, duration, and sequentialization of events are in this regard highly relevant. Will I have children before I finish my education? Will I stay in the same job throughout my working life, or will I have more than one career? When will I retire? How, in other words, will I spend my time on earth? A third type of inferential relation structures our understanding of larger, collective events the kinds of events which historians ordinarily try to understand. We conceive of ourselves as inhabiting a certain historical epoch, and we tend to think of history as the successive replacement of one epoch by another in accordance with some larger scheme of interpretation that we variably think of in terms of notions such as progress, decline, change, repetition, or stasis. It is important to note that the three types of inferential relations are interconnected in all sorts of unruly ways. The time horizon of everyday life, for example, is never independent of biographical time (the time of our life as a whole). The broader conception of who I am and how I would like to spend my time influences my everyday priorities and actions, just as how I act and think at the everyday level impacts on what I can take myself to be more generally. I may choose a particular type of education and view it as a reflection of what people in our day and age do. Or I may interpret my own epoch on the basis of experiences to do with my biography. A set of social experiences, for example, may have capitalism, the effect of making me see my own period as that of late an age of democracy, or an age of interminable decline.


The historicity of time

Narratives are crucial when such interweaving of various types of inferential relations takes place. If we look at a particular action, such as for instance that of deciding to spend more time with ones family, then it is easy to realize that it may involve considerations taken from all the three levels. I think about my everyday routines, my general conception of who I am and want to be, and, perhaps, about what one does (say as a middle-aged man) in this day and age. Each type of inferential relation provides temporal patterns (rhythms, sequences, speeds, attempts at achieving synchronization) as well as perspectives on the past, the present, and the future. Each, moreover, is highly dependent on socially constituted meanings, imaginaries, and narratives that leave limited room for individual innovation and creativity. In particular, rhythms, speeds, durations, and sequentialization of activities and events are predominantly given as functions of institutional rhythms, deadlines, timetables, opening hours, schedules, and so on. Along these lines, there is much to explore in the sociology of time, and the body of literature within this field is rapidly expanding. This chapter has served only to set the stage for what will be discussed more directly in the next chapter. There I will turn to the very idea of modern temporality and analyze some of its most important ramifications.

2 Mode r n t e m por a l i t y

According to Charles Baudelaires famous 1863 statement, Modernity is the transient, the fleeting, the contingent.1 Considered as a category of social being, modernity makes essential reference to the present, not only as a simple portion of time, but as what passes, the contingent and the circumstantial, that which breaks with the past and throws us mercilessly into the future. The idea of modernity as marked by this particular economy of time raises a number of questions. What must temporality be like for modern agents to be able to relate to it in this way? What is the relation between, on the one hand, modernity as a concrete social formation with particular technologies, practices, identities, and ideologies, and , on the other, its temporal configuration? In what features of modernity should we search in order to account for this new time of passage and the passing? How, indeed, do modern agents relate to time more generally? I begin this chapter by considering some of the historical factors that have led to the emergence of a modern temporality. Following such theorists of modernity as Max Weber and Georg Lukcs, I argue that as purposive-rational action takes on a normative and empirical predominance over other forms of action, the socially endorsed attitudes and perceptions of time, and the ways in which our concepts are temporally schematized, become radically transformed and, in a sense, distorted. Under the impact of the purposive-rational orientation, agents increasingly orient themselves towards the future, while being prepared to lessen the influence and authority of the past as a source of guidance for the present. At the same time, the clock, and clock-time, with its
1 Charles Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life, in Selected Writings on Art and Artists (New York and Harmondsworth:Penguin Books, 1972), p. 403.



Modern tempor ality

quantification and neutralization of time, and its role in the commodification of time, starts to mark out temporal experience in general as both transient and repetitive. The upshot, reverberating in all sorts of ways throughout the post-Kantian tradition, calling the Enlightenment faith in moral and technological progress into question, is the emergence of the interconnected issues of a loss of meaning and a highly increased and changed sense of transitoriness.

The process of modernization

In A Secular Age , Charles Taylor refers to homogenous, empty time as the mark of modern consciousness.2 Alluding to Kants transcendental aesthetic, according to which time is defined as an a priori intuition, Taylor then suggests that, for the modern consciousness, time has, like space, become something like a container, indifferent to what fills it.3 This, obviously, is radically dissimilar to a conception of time in which the temporal is identified by what is visibly present ritual, perhaps, or the cyclical changes in nature on which ritual is often based. Since a container of this sort can be described in terms of ideal properties that are indifferent to its content, this entails, however, that modern time can emerge as a time of repetition, a perpetual reproduction of identical temporal units (seconds, minutes, hours, and so on) that, with the invention of the chronometer, allows for calculation, coordination, and exactitude in matters of social life, technological development, research, as well as in our orientation in and to nature in general. The seventeenth-century scientific revolution, with its repudiation of the ancient and medieval distinction between the realms of sub-lunar change and heavenly eternity, most certainly acted as an important impetus for the onset of this new time-consciousness. It universalized a homogeneous conception of time to be valid for all being. However, the main motor is likely to have been the vast social changes that throughout the development of modernity have led us to measure and organize time as never before in human history. How can the emergence of such a modern time frame be accounted for? How should this story be told?
2 Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, Mass. and London: Harvard University Press, 2007), p. 58. 3 According to Kant, the most appropriate image of time is a straight line. See the Critique of Pure Reason , trans. Norman Kemp Smith (London:Macmillan, 1986), B154.

The process of modernization


I start with a clue from the German historian of concepts Reinhart Koselleck, who, drawing on his semantic studies of linguistic behavior, holds that the onset of modernity, or what he refers to as Neuzeit , brought about a dramatic shift in lived time.4 Kosellecks Begriffsgeschichte is geared towards studying how historical events are semantically articulated. What are the conceptually articulated meanings pertaining to such events? How are such events expressed in the various vocabularies of their time? Koselleck is not presupposing that history and language coincide in the sense that events or experiences are exhausted by their linguistic articulation. Nor is he holding that the linguistic articulation is necessarily correct in a realist sense. Rather, the claim is that the study of historical concepts is bound to reveal important facts about the interconnection between history and language, events and self-interpretation. These facts suggest both that historical events do not exist independently of articulation, and that language, or rather our concepts, reflect historical experience. While numerous extralinguistic factors enter into the constitution of every event, thereby creating an essential tension between structuring and material, social reality and social events are in important ways discursively structured.5 In studying the eighteenth-century emergence of the concept of Neuzeit , or modernity, Koselleck finds that it embodies several crucial characteristics. One is that the use of this concept, particularly in historiography, presupposes a conception of history not as static and repetitive, as in the pre-modern historians who, invoking Thucydides, saw all histories as structurally similar or parts of the same history
4 Reinhart Koselleck, Futures Past:On the Semantics of Historical Time , trans. Keith Tribe (Cambridge, Mass.:MIT Press, 1985). Among philosophers I am not alone in taking Koselleck as a guide to the time-consciousness of modernity. While drawing a different conclusion, Jrgen Habermas does the same in the opening chapter of The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, trans. Frederick G. Lawrence (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1987), pp. 67. 5 Koselleck, Futures Past , p. 231:In the absence of linguistic activity, historical events are not possible; the experience gained from these events cannot be passed on without language. However, neither events nor experiences are exhausted by their linguistic articulation. There are numerous extralinguistic factors that enter into every event, and there are levels of experience which escape linguistic ascertainment. The majority of extralinguistic conditions for all occurrences (natural and material givens, institutions, and modes of conduct) remain dependent upon linguistic communication for their effectiveness. They are not, however, assimilated by it. The prelinguistic structure of action and the linguistic communication by means of which events take place run into one another without ever coinciding.


Modern tempor ality

while providing no emphasis on the present, but as fundamentally allowing for contingency and radical change. From having thought of history as a particular ordering of events that only subsequently occurs in time, modern historians begin to see history as unfolding both in and through time, and therefore as containing a constitutive element of contingency.6 Suddenly the grasp of the present and its capacity to be presented both as a beginning and an end became more important to historians than the mapping of the present onto a distant past that could serve as its framework of interpretation. In particular, as the notion of progress started to make its impact with Kant and other thinkers of the Enlightenment, history could be seen as the progressive unfolding of events leading into the present, which now, in its orientation towards the new and the unprecedented, could be set apart from the rest of history and be designated as Neuzeit . The concept of progress is equivocal. It may, as in Marx and Comte, be understood as progress from a particular state towards a fixed, utopian state in the future. On such an account, every moment belongs to, and obtains its meaning from, a continuous history directed towards a determinate end. The present is an accumulation of the past, and the future the necessary result of all the accumulated moments of history.7 However, other conceptions of progress tend to shun teleological considerations and simply see history as permanently advancing without a final destination. On this latter account, which only makes sense in so far as a principle of progress (technological innovation, mans moral perfection, and so on) has been identified, the individual moment cannot be given meaning in terms of its twin relationship to the past and the future. There can be no historical master narrative. Instead, history becomes an endless interlacing of the repetitive and the irreversible a permanent renewal .
6 Historiography informed by conceptions of providence also distinguishes between the ordering of events and their temporal insertion. Augustines account of world history is a good example. For Augustine, profane history, including the history of the Roman Empire, is ultimately governed by Gods will. See Augustine, City of God , trans. Henry Bettenson (London and New York:Penguin Books, 2003), p. 215:we must ascribe to the true God alone the power to grant kingdoms and empires. He it is who gives happiness in the kingdom of heaven only to the good, but grants earthly kingdoms both to the good and to the evil, in accordance with his pleasure, which can never be unjust. 7 When I ascribe such teleological considerations to Marx and Comte, I do not mean to claim that they follow Aristotle in believing that everything, including a complex phenomenon such as human history, develops in relation to an objectively existing telos . I only take such considerations to entail the postulate of a beginning and an end to history, as well as the principle of perfectibility as historys ultimate explanans .

The process of modernization


However, for such a conception of history to become acceptable and authoritative, a modern, secular time-consciousness has to emerge. The Copernican revolution, the developing new technologies, the exploration of the globe, the creation of new and more mobile instruments of political power, as well as the emergence of manufacturing industries and concentrated investment capital all of these were factors that, in the period between the fifteenth and the nineteenth century, from the Renaissance and the Reformation to the French Revolution, opened a gap between what Koselleck calls the space of experience and the horizon of expectation. Whereas the peasant-artisan environments of the medieval period, existing largely within the temporal frameworks set by the various cycles of nature, subsisted entirely on the experiences of their predecessors,8 the early modern agents found themselves forced to bracket traditional knowledge in favor of being directed towards an active transformation of the world. From letting the horizon of expectation be a function of the space of experience, it increasingly became the case that the limits of the space of experience and of the horizon of expectations diverged.9 Thus, Koselleck writes, the burden of our historical thesis is that in Neuzeit the difference between experience and expectation is increasingly enlarged; more precisely, that Neuzeit is conceived as neue Zeit from the point at which eager expectations diverge and remove themselves from all previous experience.10 A new form of futurity, marked by a sense of openness, uncertainty, and contingency, started to emerge. Slowly but persistently, early modern agents had to get used to a greater speed in social, political, and technological processes of transformation; indeed, not only did the Neuzeit introduce permanent renewal, but it drastically accelerated the tempo of change. They witnessed this acceleration as a feature of the process of modernization, and they affirmed it in various ways (and with various degrees of allegiance and success) by shaping their attitudes and mind-sets so as to be in conformity with the requirements imposed on them by this process. The key to Kosellecks account of modernity is his thinking about the development of a new conception of contingency. In this regard, he is wholly in accord with the classical understandings of modernity, those of Friedrich Schiller and Max Weber, for whom modernity means the disenchantment of the world, the loss of intersubjectively
8 Koselleck, Futures Past , p. 277. 9 Ibid ., p. 280. 10 Ibid ., p. 284.


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validated and instituted forms of value and interpretation, expressed in acts of ancestor-worship and religious practices, and experienced as an openness to cosmic forces and pressures to which one is indebted and before which one is both fragile and responsible. When the social order comes to reject past authorities and embrace the pursuit of a projected future, it has to accept a completely new form of contingency. No longer a natural continuation of past cycles and taken-for-granted practices, it becomes permeated with a sense of risk, requiring the kind of strategic calculation of uncertainty that is being undertaken in capitalist investment and technological innovation.11 Of course, every social order is faced with its fair share of contingency, and Kosellecks claim is not that pre-modern societies did not experience suffering and want, fears and catastrophes. What is new in modernity is not that there is more contingency but that its representation has changed.12 In markets, democracies, and scientific-technological environments, we must (and indeed can) take ourselves as being engaged in conduct oriented towards prediction, where the effort to calculate, control, and dominate goes hand in hand with an awareness of risk. Koselleck puts great emphasis on the idea of the present as involving transition. As the space of experience and the horizon of expectation get disentangled from one another, ones attitude towards everyday life is increasingly marked by expectations of change and a heightened acceptance of transience. Indeed, as socio-political and scientific-technical renewal become institutionalized in forms of democratic representation and organized research, and as technologies of communication, organization, and travel develop while labor becomes more regimented and intense, a sense of acceleration starts to make itself felt: the temporal rhythms and intervals that in pre-modern society were embedded in unchanging natural cycles can now be patterned on the basis of imperatives formed with reference to values set by the rational agent herself.13 Change thus gradually becomes more rapid,
11 Ulrich Beck, Risikogesellschaft (Frankfurt:Suhrkamp, 1986). Central to Becks account is his claim that modernization brings about a transformation from collective to individual risk. 12 For more on this particular point, see T. J. Clark, Farewell to an Idea:Episodes from a History of Modernism (New Haven and London:Yale University Press, 1999), p. 11. 13 For an important study of the notion of social acceleration, see Hartmut Rosa, Beschleunigung : Die Vernderung der Zeitstruktur in der Moderne (Frankfurt:Suhrkamp, 2005). See also Paul Virilio, Esthtique de la disparition (Paris: ditions Balland, 1980).

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and the present as what distinguishes the past from the future becomes progressively condensed.14 Around 1750, with the invention of the steam engine, the spinning-machine, and the telegraph a new compression of both space and time, a new capacity and desire for speed, starts to transform the structures of everyday life.15 As everything which is solid melts into air (Marx), however, it becomes increasingly difficult to entertain the idea of a non-temporal, immutable contrast to the finite, temporal world of objects. While obviously not the only cause of secularization (the rise of scientific rationalism being at least as important), the intensified sense of transience that nothing that can be an object of human experience is lasting, that everything in the empirical world is radically finite and transitory is likely to have played a role in the slow, yet persistent disintegration of organized religious activity in Europe from the time of the Enlightenment to the present.16 Kosellecks semantic analysis is highly useful for historical research. It demarcates an original object of study, provides a method for exploring it, and throws genuine light on the development of historical time. Koselleck is, however, reticent about the underlying forces of change. To be sure, as explanatory factors he mentions political,
14 In the preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit , trans. A. V. Miller (Oxford University Press, 1977), pp. 67, Hegel writes that it is not difficult to see that ours is a birthtime and a period of transition to a new era. Spirit has broken with the world it has hitherto inhabited and imagined, and is of a mind to submerge it in the past, and in the labour of its own transformation ... The frivolity and boredom which unsettle the established order, the vague foreboding of something unknown, these are the heralds of approaching change. The gradual crumbling that left unaltered the face of the whole is cut short by a sunburst which, in one flash, illuminates the features of the new world. 15 David Harvey, The Conditions of Postmodernity. An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change (Oxford:Blackwell, 1990), pp. 240ff. See also Reinhart Koselleck, Zeitschichten. Studien zur Historik (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2000), p. 157: Es gehrt ... zu den Befunden unserer Epochenschwelle, dass schon vor Erfindung der Dampfmaschine, der mechanischen Websthle, des Telegrafen, die den Verkehr, den textilen Leitsektor der Produktion und die Nachrichtenbermittlung beschleunigten, eine zunehmende Schnelligkeit des ganzen Lebens registriert wird. 16 According to Agacinski, modern consciousness is one of passage and the passing. From now on we think that everything arrives and passes . Nothing permanent gives things any kind of anchor against time. See Sylviane Agacinski, Time Passing:Modernity and Nostalgia , trans. Jody Gladding (New York:C olumbia University Press, 2003), p. 11. In Charles Taylors, Michael Allen Gillespies, and Hans Blumenbergs accounts of secularization, the modern sense of transitoriness is traced back to medieval nominalism, which undermined the older vision of objectively existing universals, introducing a radical sense of contingency.


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intellectual, economic, and technological transformations. He does not, however, seek to identify the fundamental logic leading to the uprooting of traditional time-consciousness. As a student of semantic alteration, he delimits his research methodologically from any kind of serious engagement with the impacting causes; thus, like much of the hermeneutic tradition from which it springs, his work might be said to suffer from a certain idealistic prejudice. In order to understand the logic behind the new time-consciousness, we need to focus on two crucial dimensions of the emerging modernity:on the one hand, the rise of capitalism with its free markets and general commodification, and, on the other, the development of an autonomous technological or instrumental rationality. Analytically, the two are distinct phenomena or processes and can be theorized separately. It is obviously possible, as in the former communist systems in Russia and Eastern Europe, to have a highly technological society without capitalism. What is not possible, however, is to have capitalism without a considerable or even pervasive orientation towards instrumental rationality. We need to understand what this instrumental rationality amounts to and how it can be said to generate its own form of temporality. The classic statement of the normative orientation underlying technology (and, as we will see shortly, capitalism as well) is that of Max Weber, who referred to a purposive-rational (zweckrational ) form of rationality.17 Purposive-rational action, for Weber, is action oriented towards the realization of a given end. The action is rational in so far as the agent manages to identify and make use of the most effective means available to secure it. Weber emphasizes that from the purposive-rational standpoint, no end can be rationally adopted. The end is set on the basis of an appeal either to absolute value or to given subjective desires. None of them permits rational deliberation. It is only when a given end is viewed as a means to secure a further end that it can be rationally adopted. He also claims that in purposively rational conduct, the agent will be weighing the alternative efficacy of each of the possible means of attaining the end. In technology and social administration, purposive-rational action is action according to a plan or procedure which is rational in so far as its application is meant to maximize the desired outcome in all relevantly similar cases.
17 Max Weber, The Theory of Social and Economic Organization , trans. A. M. Henderson and Talcott Parsons (New York:Free Press, 1966), pp. 11518.

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Weber contrasts this with forms of rationality that are less prevalent in modernity. Value-rational (wertrational ) action is action directed towards affirming an overriding ideal, recognizing no other considerations. The ideal may be of duty, honor, or devotion to a cause or a faith:the essential point is that the outcome of the action is subordinated to the interest in affirming the ideal through ones action. While value-rational action is rational in so far as it involves the setting of coherent objectives to which the individual directs her activity, what Weber calls affective action is undertaken under the influence of some sort of emotive state. Like value-rational action the basis for an adequate assessment of the action is not located in the instrumentality of means to ends, but in whether or not the act is carried out for its own sake. The act, we might say, is autotelic. Its purpose or telos is inherent to the action itself. Weber finally identifies a fourth type of action-orientation, namely traditional action, which is carried out under the influence of custom and habit. An agent here acts in a specific manner because it is socially expected in a given situation, and the outcome of the action is assessed in terms of a shared and authoritative framework of value that objectively provides meaning to the action. Although value-rational and traditional action may appear similar in that both presuppose the existence of an established framework of symbolic value, Weber stipulates that the meaning of traditional action does not require the coherent and defined understanding of value that we find in value-rational action. Traditional action is most often unreflective; value-rational action, by contrast, tends to be highly reflective and undertaken out of explicit allegiance to the ideal or value in question. The purpose of rehearsing this familiar typology is not to engage in exegesis. I will not be following Webers own use of it except to note that his famous account of how the so-called spirit of modern capitalism grew out of an initial commitment to ascetic Protestant ideals of disciplined work capable of proving the worthiness of the individual to obtain salvation can be understood as pointing to a transformation from traditional and value-rational to purposiverational action.18 Early modern capitalism, for Weber, with its rational planning, its perpetual postponement of gratification, and its disengagement of the individual from the wider concerns and symbolic
18 Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism , trans. Talcott Parsons (New York:Charles Scribners Sons, 1958).


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authority of the community in short the inner-worldly asceticism (innerweltliche Askese) of the protestant work ethic involved the institutionalization and endorsement of purposive-rational action as the dominant form of social action. Indeed, as the rationalistic work ethic of capitalism spread to other spheres besides that of the economic (e. g. to politics, law, and science), it brought about a drastic weakening of the religious ideals that had spurned it (after all, the ideals themselves were increasingly considered to be without authority), leaving the individual faced with the iron cage of instrumental rationality and , when it comes to adopting ultimate ends, little opportunity but that of mere arbitrary and subjective decision. In the large economic and bureaucratic organizations of more developed forms of capitalism, purposive-rational action became increasingly a matter of collective planning and large-scale management, thus ruling out value-rational or traditional action. Unsurprisingly, the spirit of capitalism brought about a completely new economy of time. Waste of time, Weber writes, was for the burgeoning bourgeois the first and in principle the deadliest of sins. The span of human life is infinitely short and precious to make sure of ones election. Loss of time through sociability, idle talk, luxury, even more sleep than is necessary for health, six to at most eight hours, is worthy of absolute moral condemnation.19 Time is not only strictly quantified; it is viewed as a scarce resource, easily lost, to be fervently seized upon and conquered. In his 1923 study History and Class Consciousness, Georg Lukcs argues that, while highly suggestive, Webers account of purposiverational action as the key to theorizing modernity needs to be supplemented by a theory which describes the operations of capitalism as a distinct historical and social formation. This means that the concept of commodification will have to brought into the equation. Although Weber himself acknowledges that capitalism, which is identical with striving toward profit in the continuous, rational business organization, requires the rational capitalist organization of [formally] free labor,20 and that neither rational bookkeeping nor the spread of monetary exchange relations is sufficient to account for the long-term institutionalization of the profit motive in society, he does not see the commodity form as central to the understanding
19 Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism , pp. 15758. 20 Ibid ., p. 21.

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of modern society. Drawing on Marxs theory of commodification, Lukcs claims against Weber that capitalism transforms both the subject and the object in accordance with the logic of the commodity. Unlike Weber, who explains the domination of purposive-rational action in modernity as the result of the rise and influence of religious ideals, Lukcs insists not only that acting rationally under capitalism is inadvertently to act in accordance with the principles of purposive-rational action, but that this must be understood as a result of the dominance of the commodity form. In particular, as capitalism, with its great emphasis on monetary value or exchange value, and hence quantification, both makes possible and requires an orientation towards calculation, it is inevitable, he argues, that agents will have to take up a purposive-rational stance towards their social environment. For Lukcs, the theory of purposive-rational action must be amalgamated with Marxs view that under capitalism human relations will be structured by the inexorable laws of the marketplace. When human beings relate via the market, however, they can be fully rational only in so far as they accept the need to act purposive-rationally. It is impossible to act rationally in a market without calculating costs (means) and the likelihood of their generating specific benefits (ends). Although not impossible, acting traditionally or in a value-rational mode is to counteract the fundamental laws of capitalist exchange. Rational behavior in a market is geared towards maximizing efficiency (in order to lower the costs), downplaying the use value (or intrinsic value) of an item in favor of its susceptibility to be exchanged, rejecting traditional values and ideals as offering relevant constraints on action, and seeking ends that satisfy subjective wants and desires while being both logically and pragmatically separate from the action itself. According to Lukcs, while the attitude of calculation draws labor out of the organic-irrational, that is, the natural cycles of pre-modern production, it requires an increasingly specialized labor force geared towards dealing exclusively with only fragments of the complete process of production and exchange. As for Weber, on Lukcss account, these mutually dependent aspects of social rationalization lead together to a transformation of lived time. In particular, as labor becomes commodified and thus made measurable in units of time, the pre-modern embeddedness of time in cycles of natural reproduction and labor gives way to a conception of lived, everyday time as inherently quantifiable that is, as essentially an indefinite repetition of commensurable unities.


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According to Lukcs, time is thereby understood by analogy with, or even becomes a function of, space:for just as physical space is abstract and measurable, a container indifferent to its content, so now is time, and duration becomes a matter of mere quantifiable length, with the length of time being understood in terms of standardized temporal succession:
Thus time sheds its qualitative, variable, flowing nature; it freezes into an exactly delimited, quantifiable continuum filled with quantifiable things (the reified, mechanically objectified performance of the worker, wholly separated from his total human personality):in short, it becomes space.21

Lukcss analysis is by no means without problems of its own. It rests heavily and quite dogmatically on Marxs highly controversial theory of value; and its philosophical categories, when not offering social analysis by means of its peculiar blend of Marx and Weber, are largely directed towards employing an outmoded, quasi-Hegelian scheme of objective and necessary development. Moreover, since its object is industrial capitalism, it is not clear how far it can be generalized to serve as anything even remotely qualifying as a theory of modernity. In their co-authored Dialectic of Enlightenment, Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno argue at least implicitly that it can indeed be generalized far beyond Lukcss original estimates.22 Adorno in particular draws on it in order to elucidate crucial features of late modern (postindustrial) society as well, including its system of cultural reproduction. My purpose, however, in bringing the early Lukcs to the table is not to defend his theory but to draw on some of its claims in order to formulate two theses. First (and this should be fairly uncontroversial), purposive-rational action cannot be limited to the technological domain but should be seen as the predominant form of rational action in modern capitalist society. It is predominant not only in the sense that it conforms to the requirements of technological development and progress, but because a capitalist system presupposes and could not function without the
21 Georg Lukcs, History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialectics , trans. Rodney Livingstone (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1971), p. 90. For a different approach to this notion of time becoming, like space, a container, indifferent to what fills it, see Taylor, A Secular Age , pp. 5859. 22 Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment , trans. John Cumming (New York:Verso, 1979).

The process of modernization


intensive exercise of such rationality. In a highly commercialized society, it is likely, as both Lukcs and, later, Horkheimer and Adorno, as well as, today, Habermas, argue that the purposive-rational attitude associated with commodification will come to dominate most, or probably all, major parts of society, including even the most intimate lives of its members. It should be emphasized, however, that I do not seek to suggest that non-instrumental reasons for adopting a particular end or goal are completely unavailable to modern agents. The claim is that since they are exogenous to the dominant instrumental orientation, such reasons will tend to appear as marginal, irrelevant, or arbitrary, and in general be difficult to trace and promote. They may, as Charles Taylor argues, in some important ways be action-guiding yet still be largely unacknowledged by most agents.23 Or, as Adorno holds, while existing, they may not be action-guiding in any obvious sense and actually be extremely hard to detect.24 In fact, the fundamental point, namely that in modern societies one mode of rational evaluation the instrumental dominates social relations, is even compatible with the possibility of demonstrating that end-oriented rational behavior is possible. I am not, for example, rejecting the possibility of offering a Kantian demonstration to the effect that certain maxims command unconditional acceptance among all rational agents. That may perfectly well be possible.25 What I put forward here is a historical claim. It is a claim about what kinds of reasons rational, modern agents will tend to find binding, and therefore about what kinds of actions they will be able to consider rational on this basis. Second , the dominance of purposive-rational action means and this is the claim I need to flesh out in much more detail that there must be something inherently new and distinctive about the modern conception of time. If time is no longer embedded in the cycles of natural reproduction, then what exactly becomes of it, and what are the ethical and existential consequences of this transformed conception of time?
23 I have in mind Taylors project as he lays it out in the first part of Sources of the Self:The Making of the Modern Identity (Cambridge, Mass.:Harvard University Press, 1989). 24 This will be the burden of my argument in Chapter 9. 25 In the next chapter I claim that Kants account of reason, on which his moral philosophy is grounded, presupposes a disenchanted, future-oriented, and ultimately instrumental attitude. If this is right, then (while I recognize the tremendous complexities involved in trying to reconstruct the exact relation between agency and law in Kant) the Kantian claim to have uncovered unconditional moral commands should at least be viewed with some degree of suspicion.


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The temporality of purposive-rational action

I now want to bring what has been said so far into a more systematic framework and provide a theoretical reference point for assessing some of the available intellectual responses to the modern disenchantment of time. What is the temporality of purposive-rational action? In order to answer this question, it is necessary to look closer at its actual structure. When not based on dogmatic commitment to a specific value, purposive-rational action is undertaken in order to satisfy a particular desire, and its purported end is its satisfaction. The agent is free to decide which desires she will want to satisfy and in deciding how she will order her priorities. Unless an appeal to absolute value can be made, which is not likely given the modern demise of subject-transcendent authority, the end is a product of the individual will and as such arbitrary. Its adoption may, and most often will, be constrained by further considerations (moral, political, epistemic, and so forth), but on the basis of the conceptual resources available to the purposive-rational agent, the only relevant rational constraint is the ends liability to function as a means to procuring further ends. (Obviously, this means that ends are either set dogmatically, on the basis of the desires one happens to have or find oneself willing to entertain, or they are grounded in further acts of calculation, in a conception of them as being means to achieve further ends, which threatens to lead to an infinite regress: our end becomes the next means, but only because there is a new end demanding a new justification, and so on and so forth ad infinitum .) It is, more over, with this kind of action always possible to specify and determine before the action is undertaken what its end is supposed to be; the end is separated from the means and can be reached via the implementation of an indefinite number of means. When the agent chooses between possible means, she will, if rational, search for the one which will most effectively bring about the desired end. Thus, the rationality of purposive-rational action consists solely in the ability to maximize effectiveness that is, in identifying and implementing the most effective means to achieve ones given ends. Beyond the consideration of effectiveness, which is performed by applying technical criteria to a problem or a situation, there can be no other rational estimates of worth. The decision to employ a particular set of means may have all sorts of moral and political consequences, yet these are of no intrinsic relevance to the purposively rational agent.

The tempor ality of purposive-r ational action


All that she can rationally care about is how well the application of the means will maximize the achievement of her ends. If she has adopted a particular end, the commitment to a particular set of means follows from a consideration of what that end is and what its actualization, when brought about most effectively, requires. The end is what is to be realized it is the future the agent wants to put at her disposal; the means are justified by being shown to be the best way to achieve the realization of the end. When embedded in a general orientation towards utility and technical control, purposive-rational action (and a purposive-rational orientation more generally) involves looking at the world as composed of possible means. Rather than being composed of objects that are valuable on their own terms, the world tends to be reduced to a set of resources the Bestand (standing reserve) of which Heidegger speaks in the Question Concerning Technology and elsewhere.26 The traditional values that once were accepted as constraints on action are set aside in favor of the application of impersonal procedurality and utility maximizing. Ends are disconnected from traditional contexts of meaning and made to be a function of individual will. How, then, is time experienced? For one thing, since what matters is the moment of satisfaction (the actualization of the end), the time which separates the agent from it must be a dead or meaningless time a time to be overcome.27 The purposive-rational agent is seeking to conquer time. She knows that the amount of time at her disposal is limited (and that life is radically finite); hence purposive-rational action can serve as an attempt to control, or perhaps even deny, this finitude. Acting instrumentally for the sake of obtaining a future end is, on the one hand, to accept uncertainty and contingency (the agent is never in a position to control all the factors that may influence the outcome of the action), and, on the other, to try to bring them under ones control by employing a well-functioning procedure. Speed is here the crucial factor. If the means are employed effectively, they will make possible a relatively swift execution of the action and shorten as much as possible the time until the end is achieved. They will help the agent to save time and thereby to eliminate as far as possible the
26 Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays , trans. William Lovitt (New York:Harper & Row, 1977), pp. 335. 27 For a useful account of what this implies, see Lorenzo C. Simpson, Technology, Time, and the Conversations of Modernity (London:Routledge, 1995), pp. 5152.


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dead and meaningless time between the action and the realization of the intended end.28 Of course, the clock is the pre-eminent instrument for keeping track of the time that is to be overcome.29 The clock tells the agent how much time has passed from the actions inception, and how much is left, according to ones stipulation, until the realization of the chosen end. If the purposive-rational agent is aware of her finitude, then the clock, with its incessant ticking away of seconds and minutes, heightens and expresses it. Clock-time is essentially linear, homogeneous, and irreversible. Any given moment of time is gone forever, being unremittingly replaced by new identical moments that themselves disappear. The purposive-rational agent is future-oriented. While her technical-pragmatic knowledge (her ability to predict an outcome on the basis of insight into the lawlike relations holding between causes and effects), which, once an end is adopted, is all she can recognize as binding and relevant when it comes to assessing which action to take, is necessarily derived from past experience and accumulated information, her project is to bring into existence a specific state of affairs. In doing so, she will neither ask what her chosen means may or could have meant to people in the past, nor whether the ends she sets conform to traditional value patterns and self-interpretations. The future she is facing is open, unconstrained by past horizons of experience, and ready to be
28 In A Secular Age , p. 40, Charles Taylor argues that Our encasing in secular time is ... something we have brought about in the way we live and order our lives. It has been brought about by the same social and ideological changes which have wrought disenchantment. In particular, the disciplines of our modern civilized order have led us to measure and organize time as never before in human history. Time has become a precious source, not to be wasted. The result has been the creation of a tight, ordered time environment. This has enveloped us, until it comes to seem like nature. We have constructed an environment in which we live a uniform, univocal secular time, which we try to measure and control in order to get things done. This time frame deserves, perhaps, more than any other facet of modernity, Webers description of a stahlhartes Gehuse (iron cage). 29 For an interesting reflection on how the modern obsession with precise clock-time has grown out of modern agents desire for effectiveness and speed, see Martin Heidegger, What Is Called Thinking?, trans. J. Glenn Gray (New York:Harper & Row, 1976), p. 101:Todays reckoning in sports, for instance, with tenths of seconds, in modern physics even with millionths of seconds, does not mean that we have a keener grasp of time, and thus gain time; such reckoning is on the contrary the surest way to lose essential time, and so to have always less time. Thought out more precisely:the growing loss of time is not caused by such a time reckoning rather, this time reckoning began at that moment when man suddenly became un-restful because he had no more time. That moment is the beginning of the modern age.

Tempor al alienation and its consequences


given a specific direction by the ends to be actualized. This, of course, is historically understood in terms of the notion of progress the ideal of human life itself as a process of everlasting change and improvement. For the proponent of progress, the world is never settled; on the contrary, ones relation to it is marked by a fundamental restlessness that drives one from one action to the next. The time until the realization of the end, however, is presented as calculated beforehand:not only is it linear, homogenous, and irreversible, but, according to the planning, a time which is parceled out and quantitatively reckoned. The pursuit of efficiency means that time is treated as composed of quantitative units (seconds, minutes, hours, and so on), each of which is assigned a specific value depending on the productivity it makes possible, making time itself, as Marx claimed when he defined value in terms of the time it takes the worker to produce an entity, a commodity:Time is money. A commodified time, such as in the extreme case of Taylorist attempts to minutely control and standardize the workers activities, yet also in everyday life more generally, is then regulated by the clock, which itself enhances the possibility of coordination and social control.30 From the standpoint of commodified clock-time, all events are commensurable and located within the same set of coordinates. Purposive-rational action is not just the kind of action we find in technology and science but, if we are to believe Koselleck, Weber, Lukcs, Heidegger, and Adorno, the dominant form of action in a modern society organized around the imperatives of bureaucratic management and economic calculation. It is not the only type of action that modern agents dispose of; the claim is just that it is the dominant one, that it is the form of action corresponding to a highly technicized, bureaucratized, and economically rationalized everyday life, and that other forms of action tend to be marginalized as the process of modernization inexorably moves forward.

Temporal alienation and its consequences

The advantages a uniform, univocal, disenchanted time-consciousness offer are numerous, and most of them have played a role in telling the Kantian/Enlightenment story of the transition from the medieval to
30 For a brilliant elaboration of this claim, see E. P. Thompson, Time, Work-Discipline and Industrial Capitalism, Past and Present 36 (1967), pp. 5797.


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the early modern worldview in terms of such concepts as liberation, emancipation, and human self-assertion. I have mentioned the vastly increased ability to precisely calculate and coordinate social interaction. Just as strikingly, it makes historical time possible, the understanding of human nature as exhibited in large-scale human action on the basis of the correct sequencing of complex, spatially and temporally distant events.31 Most importantly, as we have seen, it fits in with the requirements of the purposive-rational agent described by Weber in his analysis of modernity the agent who predominantly is oriented towards marshalling the most effective means to achieve her ends. The very idea of progress, which in the modern worldview is often geared towards technological production, where progress consists in the enhancement of the efficiency of means, is also predicated on a linear conception of time a time frame in which the future can be understood as an open horizon. The list could be much longer. However, the story of the transition to a modern view of time can also be told in terms of various forms of dissatisfaction. It causes dissatisfaction, in particular because the very practice of temporal schematization that rationalized modernity imposes on agents is distorted. It can be thought of as distorted because the inferential relations, referring to both past and future, which make temporal schematization and synthesis possible (and hence intentional action intelligible), can only be realized in a stultified and incomplete form. As action-orientation, in particular, becomes increasingly geared towards purposive-rational intervention in an ethically neutralized environment, the ability to base its definition and intelligibility on narratives and inferential relations that refer to the past, which is crucial in order to provide sense to particular actions, is radically weakened, if not lost altogether. Actions lose their determinacy in abstraction from traditional contexts able to provide meaning, coherence, and motivation: thus, as Weber points
31 See Raymond Geuss, Outside Ethics (Princeton and Oxford:Princeton University Press, 2005), p. 227. In Truth and Truthfulness: An Essay in Genealogy (Princeton and Oxford:Princeton University Press, 2002), p. 169, Bernard Williams, somewhat implausibly, claims that objective time of this kind was invented by Thucydides as early as in the fifth century bc. However, as Koselleck argues, it is first in early modernity that historians start taking seriously the view that historical phenomena exhibit no structure independently of their temporal organization. See also Karl Lwith, Meaning in History (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1949), p. 7:There is not the least tendency in Thucydides to judge the course of historical events from the viewpoint of a future which is distinct from the past by having an open horizon and an ultimate goal.

Tempor al alienation and its consequences


out, the end, rather than being a function of pre-given and authoritative values with reference to which the agent negotiates her position and defines her stance, becomes arbitrary, a means to satisfy desire or achieve further ends, but woefully unintelligible or arbitrary from the point of view of traditional, ethical value commitments. This has two important consequences. First, as we have seen, the time-consciousness of rationalized modernity exacerbates a sense of transitoriness. If once a transient world was juxtaposed to a world of immutable existence, thus generating anxiety about the finitude of this life or this moment as opposed to eternity, in a modern, secularized world time is universalized to become the experiential form of everything that can exist and takes on the form of a linear, irreversible succession of moments, each of which appears as radically transitory. Clock-time is repetitive in that it perpetually repeats moments of time (seconds, minutes, and so forth) that are identical with one another. However, unlike forms of repetition (such as, for example, rituals) that retrieve the past, the individual moment of clock-based time is a mere passing and therefore also a form of loss: this individual moment will never return. Time provides an essential condition of possibility for every being:everything exists within specific time spans, and time can be viewed as the universal medium within which every being is able to exist and develop. However, time is also destructive:its power means that everything is transient, provisional, and bound to come to an irreversible end. Things suffer through time, according to Aristotle; time wastes things away, and ... there is oblivion owing to the lapse of time.32 For beings with awareness of time, and of the present as opposed to the future and the past, every moment seems to carry an element of nothingness within itself; every instant is irretrievably gone, as it were, before we know it. Time in this sense, Sartre observes, separates me from myself, from what I have been, from what I wish to be, from what I wish to do, from things, and from others.33 When understood as the steady transformation of potential future into actual past by reference to a dynamic human perspective fixated on the present, time brings everything to an end in every single moment; it may seem to dissolve the world into an infinite dust of instants. Modern disenchanted time,
32 Aristotle, Physics , trans. W. D. Ross (Oxford University Press, 1947), 221a29. 33 Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness:An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology, trans. Hazel E. Barnes (London:Methuen, 1969), p. 131.


Modern tempor ality

moreover, the time of purposive-rational action, does not have any intrinsic value; rather, through the implementation of apparatuses of acceleration and speed, we seek to pass through chunks of time in order to arrive at our goals. On the one hand, time becomes something that should pass, and as quickly as possible, yet on the other, we fear the brevity of life as it is interpreted in the light of projects aiming to master and conquer time:there is never enough of it. However, such a modern time-consciousness will also have to be faced with what is essentially a loss of meaning. The moments in time to which the purposive-rational agent is relating are empty. Far from being related to structures of collective historical understanding, they become viewed as fragmented, isolated, and contingent now-points linked together not via the configuration of a meaningful narrative, but in infinite linear progression towards an open future. One upshot of this is that the kinds of thick, genuine grounds for action, weaving personal identity and a fabric of collective meaning together, that mark traditional action-orientations start being replaced by a thin, modern conception of the self for which there are no constitutive attachments, no sacred bonds, between it and the social world at large, and for which reasons for action can only be valid in so far as they satisfy abstract, procedural constraints that exceed the horizon of established, historical meaning. As traditional bases of meaning dissolve as the result of a relentless pursuit of the ever-new, itself keyed to the precision of what Georg Simmel calls the supersubjective temporal schema of clock-time, the modern self may experience fragmentation or depersonalization a disaffection that typically takes the form of boredom, melancholy, ennui, or a sense of existential emptiness. Elizabeth Goodstein describes this process as a democratization of skepticism:Boredom epitomizes the dilemma of the autonomous modern subject, for whom enlightenment has also meant fragmentation for whom modernization and scientific progress have caused, in Max Webers term, the disenchantment of the world such that history and religion can no longer anchor identity in the fabric of collective meaning. If rationality is the sustaining myth of modernity, boredom, as an everyday experience of universalized skepticism, constitutes its existential reality.34 From the perspective of the inferentialist account of temporal awareness that was introduced in Chapter 1, such a loss of meaning
34 Elizabeth S. Goodstein, Experience without Qualities:Boredom and Modernity (Stanford University Press, 2005), pp. 34.

Tempor al alienation and its consequences


can be theorized in terms of an at least partial disintegration of the thick web of inferences that weave past, future, and present together in a dynamic unity. As many of these inferences gradually lose their validity, being replaced with a more objectivist orientation towards successive instants that are to be conquered and mastered, the sense of selfhood, orientation, and identity that the inferences provide stands in danger of withering. A question that will surface later in this book is whether such narratives can be reconfigured. For now, however, I will hold on to the concepts of transitoriness and a loss of meaning, and use them as vantage points from which to analyze various philosophical responses to the modern disenchantment of time.

3 T wo r e spon s e s to t h e t i m e of mode r n i t y

In this chapter I consider two accounts of rationality, both of which can be construed as responding to the predicament that has been outlined. In the Kantian tradition, there is in addition to the means end orientation of purposive-rational action a strong emphasis on rational self-determination. I argue that while the project of rational self-determination may seem to promise a way out of the alienating conditions of modernity, it does not provide resources for reconceptualizing temporality such that the problems of meaning and transitoriness will be overcome. The Aristotelian tradition, by contrast, offers other resources for thinking about action, some of which are relevant for thinking about temporality. I argue, however, that its peculiar combination of anti-modern rancor and a desire to retrieve elements of ancient theories of virtue makes it unhelpful as a critical tool by which to criticize and, possibly, reconceptualize our relation to time.

Kant, Habermas, and autonomy

The philosophical responses to the disenchantment of time, starting with Kant and Hegel, have been both varied and vigorous. One particularly influential response is favored by philosophers committed to some form of neo-Kantianism. Their strategy is to accept modernitys consciousness of time as an unavoidable fact while rejecting a purely instrumentalist interpretation of it. In a lecture entitled Modernitys Consciousness of Time, published as the opening chapter of his 1987 study The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, Jrgen Habermas starts out by pointing to Baudelaires claim that the erosion of social convention which marks the onset of modernity makes possible a strange new perception of, especially, aesthetic objects as being both transient

Kant, Habermas, and autonomy


and immutable. Modernity is emblematized in the transitory yet selftranscending presences of modern art and fashion. While this could have constituted an interesting occasion for further exploring the promises embedded in the temporal significance of this strange tension between transience and immutability the kind of project that Benjamin and Adorno pick up, and which I will seek to approach in Chapter 9 Habermas immediately turns to the writings of Hans Blumenberg and Reinhart Koselleck, as well as the early Hegel, arguing that modernity, both de facto and de jure, is temporally geared towards a continuous breaking with the past. While often instrumental, the continuous breaking with the authority and significance of the bygone harbors the potential for being normative in a sense irreducible to calculative and meansend oriented forms of rationality.
Modernity can and will no longer borrow the criteria by which it takes its orientation from the models supplied by another epoch; it has to create its normativity out of itself. Modernity sees itself cast back upon itself without any possibility of escape.1

The notion of self-created normativity is in Habermas closely linked to that of self-determination or autonomy the capacity to be a lawgiver unto oneself expressive of the freedom and dignity of the subject. According to Habermas, agents exercise their autonomy when they relate freely, without coercion, and on the basis of rational considerations alone, to reasons and reason-giving. One upshot of the Kantian appeal to autonomy is that it requires agents to shed, or at least regard with suspicion, those aspects of their own identity, including their normative commitments in the widest sense, that have been constituted without explicit consent and reason-giving. To be modern, which entails the aspiration to autonomy, means not to be satisfied with whatever is only pre-given or unreflective, and to press ahead, in accordance with rationally self-chosen reasons and principles, to whatever is to be brought about and constituted. Habermass claim is not that the old is bad or unwanted because it is old; rather, it is that the validity of the old should be bracketed when there is no explicit
1 Jrgen Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, trans. F. Lawrence (Cambridge, Mass.:MIT Press, 1987), p. 7. See also Marcel Gauchet, The Disenchantment of the World: A Political History of Religion , trans. Oscar Burge (Princeton University Press, 1997), p. 176:a society no longer externally determined is a society which must necessarily turn completely toward the future. The future is the obligatory temporal orientation, legitimacy converted into time, of a society containing its own ordering principle.


Two responses to the time of modernity

reason to hold on to it:modernity, the age of freedom, demands that all norms should, if possible, satisfy the requirement of being rationally acceptable. Obviously, Habermas is not a Cartesian skeptic. He does not think that we can ever be in a position of meaningfully doubting all our beliefs. Following Charles Sanders Peirce, his view is that any belief may be doubted, not that they can all be doubted at once. However, the quest for autonomy requires agents to be constantly on guard, always questioning the material inferences involved in their reasoning, and never accepting any pre-given authority at face value. Constituting the privileged temporal mode, the future is more important than the past; thus, the autonomous subject is asked to reject and create rather than accept and discern in short to ride roughshod over its very situatedness, being prepared to rationally scrutinize every substantial meaning.2 In its prioritizing of the future, Habermass position is directly anticipated by Kant, who in his Anthropologie in Pragmatischer Hinsicht contends that Sein Leben fhlen, sich vergngen, ist also nichts anders als: sich kontinuierlich getrieben fhlen, aus dem gegenwrtigen Zustande herauszugehen.3 In sharp contrast to the older aristocratic priority of leisure and pleasure, informing much of the Aristotelian tradition, Kant strongly advocates a bourgeois work ethic in the Weberian sense, placing a premium on discipline, cultivation of interiority, and renunciation of pleasure:Eben so wird die Menge der Abschnitte, die den letzten Teil des Lebens mit mannigfaltigen vernderten Arbeiten auszeichnen, dem Alten die Einbildung von einer lngeren zurckgelegten Lebenszeit erregen, als er nach der Zahl der Jahre geglaubt hatte, und das Ausfllen der Zeit durch planmig fortschreitende Beschftigungen, die einen groen beabsichtigten Zweck zur Folge haben (vitam extendere factis), ist das einzige sichere Mittel, seines Lebens froh und dabei doch auch lebenssatt zu werden.4 What renders
2 See Reinhart Koselleck, Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time , trans. Keith Tribe (Cambridge, Mass.:MIT Press, 1985), p. 288:All concepts of movement share a compensatory effect, which they produce. The lesser the experiential substance, the greater the expectations joined to it. The lesser the experience, the greater the expectation:t his is a formula for the temporal structure of the modern, to the degree that it is rendered a concept by progress. 3 Immanuel Kant, Anthropologie in Pragmatischer Hinsicht , in Werke in sechs Bnden , vol. vi, Schriften zur Anthropologie, Geschichtsphilosophie, Politik und Pdagogik (Frankfurt:InselVerlag, 1964), p. 554. 4 Ibid ., p. 556.

Kant, Habermas, and autonomy


life valuable is not enjoyment, since that is fleeting and dependent on accidents and natural laws. A life of mere enjoyment, if at all imaginable, would also be self-defeating:desire would come to an end, and with desire life itself.5 What makes life valuable, rather, is cultivation and work for the sake of attaining a laudable purpose. A successful life is a life busy in pursuit of the good. In Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant bolsters this view by arguing that a life in pursuit of happiness the kind of life that, for him, will not involve the kind of forward-looking restlessness that characterizes agents exercising and cultivating their capacity for autonomy will necessarily fail in that no objective account of the nature of happiness can be offered. It is impossible to tell in advance what will make us happy. What makes me happy may not make you happy, and I cannot know in advance what will make me happy or how the various circumstances I find myself in will influence the ordering of my priorities. As a result, judgments being made to identify the best means to achieve happiness can only take the form of counsels (or general imperatives of prudence, based on experience), and they will never achieve the status of categorical commands of reason but remain assertoric. Those who seek happiness (and as creatures of need we all do) should observe certain empirical counsels, e. g., of diet, frugality, politeness, reserve, etc., which are shown by experience to contribute on the average the most to well-being.6 Kants claim in referring to these counsels is not that we should ever desire happiness for its own sake (there can be no such duty) by focussing on the counsels independently of other considerations; rather, it is that observing such strictures induces well-being and, most importantly, serves the purpose of making us capable of rationally setting ends and subordinating whatever empirical incentives that may arise to that purpose. A life of inactivity or pure pleasure-seeking, such as Kant ascribes to the South Sea Islanders,7 would prevent our faculties from being developed; hence a rational being, who will seek to attain specific ends set by herself, could not consistently want such a life. We have an imperfect duty to ourselves to cultivate our talents and avoid idleness. In Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose, his most famous essay on the philosophy of history, Kant, echoing
5 Ibid . 6 Immanuel Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals , trans. James Ellington (Indianapolis:Hackett, 1993), p. 28. 7 Ibid ., p. 31.


Two responses to the time of modernity

Rousseaus notion of amour-propre, further argues that, through the amassing of honor, power, and property, men are driven by a desire to distinguish themselves, thereby creating competition.8 As a result, they tend to be pulled out of their inborn tendency to seek to live an Arcadian, pastoral existence of perfect concord, self-sufficiency and mutual love.9 This, of course, is for Kant a fortunate circumstance, for only by leaving such an Arcadian state behind can mankind hope to develop its rational nature. Kant therefore adds that Man wishes to live comfortably and pleasantly, but nature intends that he should abandon idleness and inactive self-sufficiency and plunge instead into labor and hardships, so that he may by his own adroitness find means of liberating himself from them in turn.10 No progress can occur unless men break out of their tendency to laziness.11 The temporal economy implied by these passages is obvious. For the sake of attaining laudable, rationally self-chosen purposes, modern subjects defer pleasure, exercise strong self-control, cultivate their talents, and work; thus they deliberately break with the static nature of pre-modern subjectivity, perpetually orienting their self-interpretations in light of the future rather than the past. With Koselleck one might say that, for Kant, the ethic of work and incessant self-cultivation privileges the horizon of expectation over the space of experience. Made
8 Rousseaus writings obviously contain a number of references to amour-propre , and his view of it tends to be very negative, perhaps more so than Kant, who thinks it may serve the end of true moral progress. One of Rousseaus most straightforward definitions occurs in Emile or On Education , trans. Allan Bloom (New York: Basic Books, 1979), pp. 21314:Self-love, which regards only ourselves, is contented when our true needs are satisfied. But amour-propre , which makes comparisons, is never content and never could be, because this sentiment, preferring ourselves to others, also demands others to prefer us to themselves, which is impossible. This is how the gentle and affectionate passions are born of self-love, and how the hateful and irascible passions are born of amour-propre . Thus what makes man essentially good is to have few needs and to compare himself little to others; what makes him essentially wicked is to have many needs and to depend very much on opinion. 9 Immanuel Kant, Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose, in Kant:Political Writings, ed. Hans Reiss, trans. H. B. Nisbet (Cambridge University Press, 2005), p. 45. 10 Ibid . 11 Ibid ., p. 44. For the connection between progress and time-consciousness in Kant, see Koselleck, Futures Past , p. 280:Kant, who may have been the originator of the term Fortschritt (progress), indicates the shift that concerns us here. A forecast which basically anticipated what had already occurred was for him no prognosis, for this contradicted his expectation that the future would be better because it should be better. Thus, experience of the past and expectation of the future were no longer in correspondence, but were progressively divided up.

Kant, Habermas, and autonomy


to be defined in the light of imperatives referring to the horizon of expectation, the present, rather than being a function of the space of experience, is burst open. The body with its natural tendency towards inaction and pleasure-seeking must be disciplined; thus, calculation and concerns about efficiency and punctuality go hand in hand with the domination of clock-time and hence of a linear conception of time. Time, for Kant, is to be seized upon, conquered, and controlled. Kant has a clear sense of the sacrifices needed in order to pursue such an ethic of work and self-cultivation. Although a person, by adopting morally praiseworthy maxims, can make himself worthy of happiness, the study of morals, as we have seen, cannot teach him how to be happy.12 Moreover, since the attainment of happiness is ultimately a matter of luck, it would be foolish to expect happiness. Even the most active and deserving life may easily be full of hardship, and virtue is rarely rewarded, leading Kant, in his moral theology, to introduce his famous postulates of immortality and a benevolent Creator. Only under such conditions can we reasonably hope for the attainment of the Highest Good (summum bonum), the union of virtue and happiness.13 As Freud would later argue in his writings on civilization, progress tends to be bought at the expense of happiness.14 Activity in accordance with a modern, progressive temporal scheme alienates agents from the fundamental interests they are endowed with qua finite, embodied beings, creating a loss that can be accepted only in so far as it makes possible the formation of a fully rational character the ability to set ends for ourselves that are universally and hence categorically binding. There is a moral aim to both the history of individuals and the history of the human species that confers a theodiciacal quality on the sacrifices needed to achieve it.15 Our sacrifices, however unpleasant, have a meaning.
12 Immanuel Kant, On the Common Saying:This May Be True in Theory, but It Does Not Apply in Practice, in Kant:Political Writings , p. 64. 13 Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason , trans. Norman Kemp Smith (London:Macmillan, 1986), B841. 14 See especially Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents , trans. James Strachey, in The Penguin Freud Library, vol. xii, Civilization, Society and Religion (London and New York:Penguin Books, 1990). Freud enlists various factors explaining this claim, including, in particular, the emergence of strong feelings of guilt, which, via sublimation, channel libido into productive purposes. 15 For a thorough discussion of theodicy and moral progress in Kant, see Peter Dews, The Idea of Evil (Oxford:Blackwell, 2008), pp. 3341.


Two responses to the time of modernity

Similarly, for Habermas and other contemporary neo-Kantians, the alienated and alienating character of the time of modernity can be overcome (or at least be made acceptable) in so far as we find ways to see ourselves as subjects that is, as self-determining agents capable of acting on principles that are praiseworthy independently of mere instrumental considerations. What makes these principles praiseworthy is that they identify ends that have value for us, or matter for us, only because of the quality of the reasons involved in setting those ends.16 However, the master idea behind this conception is that of the value of ones humanity, the capacity to set ends as such, to be a lawgiver in a kingdom of ends. For Habermas, in particular, the setting of (rational) ends is a matter of collective reflection of rational endorsement as the result of a dialogically conducted testing of controversial validity-claims.17 In participating in rational dialogue, one must not only view oneself as a responsible subject, but all the other participants must be viewed as equally able to respond reflectively to reasons. The Kantian, then, interprets the notion of progress primarily in moral rather than instrumental terms. Progress is the individual and collective process of reflectively moving from states of subjection to arbitrarily willed law to states of subjection to self-legislated law.18 It means to become the subject of ones deeds, a subject which orients its thinking and judging fully, freely, and wholly in accordance with the commands of reason. For such a subject, it seems as though there can be no significant degree of alienation between itself and its rationally endorsed projects, on the one hand, and the time in which these projects are unfolding, on the other. The projects are mine regardless of their temporal structure; hence the problem of temporal alienation that we encountered in the previous chapter, which was predicated upon the idea that certain abstract, procedural constraints may lead
16 For a brilliant treatment of this issue, see Terry Pinkard, Liberal Rights and Liberal Individualism without Liberalism: Agency and Recognition, in Espen Hammer (ed.), German Idealism:Contemporary Perspectives (London and New York:Routledge, 2007), pp. 20912. 17 Habermas spells out this idea in numerous writings. Perhaps the most detailed account is found in Discourse Ethics:Notes on a Program of Philosophical Justification, in Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action , trans. Christian Lenhardt and Shierry Weber Nicholsen (Cambridge, Mass.:MIT Press, 1991), pp. 43115. 18 Kant himself has many ways of capturing this idea. In his Lectures on Ethics , trans. Louis Infield (Gloucester, Mass.:Peter Smith, 1978), p. 140, he writes that Man must give [the] autocracy of the soul its full scope; otherwise he becomes a mere plaything of other forces and impressions which will withstand his will, and a pray to the caprice of accident and circumstance.

Kant, Habermas, and autonomy


agents to isolate themselves from sources of collectively authorized meaning, causing time to be conceived in the wholly abstract, homogenous, and calculable fashion required by the instrumentally oriented agent, appears not to arise. However, as I have already intimated, the purportedly autonomous Kantian subject is just as vulnerable to the problems of transience and existential meaning as the purely purposive-rational agent turned out to be. As Habermas himself emphasizes, a rational discourse can proceed only in so far as its participating agents accept that beliefs must be decontextualized and identities disconnected from the substantive contents of a particular form of life, including its vision of the good life.19 Thus, the moral conception of Enlightenment progress informing this picture of rational autonomy must itself be geared towards a continuous and progressive disentangling from traditional values and their unquestioned claim to validity. As a consequence, the exercise of rational autonomy becomes radically forward-looking. Rather than drawing on the ethical substantiality of the tradition, the force of the better argument commands agents to burst every provinciality asunder, and consider as possibly valid only those principles and ends that accord with reasons demand for universal acceptability among all rational agents.20 Thus, whether instrumentally or morally, Habermas understands modernity in light of the idea of continuous renewal that is, as a period of perpetual transition.21 As such, it cannot pose a real challenge to the homogeneous, linear, future-oriented, and essentially technological time of the clock. Kantian theories of agency and progress are essentially modern; they serve to legitimize,
19 See Habermas, A Reply, in Axel Honneth and Hans Joas (eds.), Communicative Action (Cambridge:Polity Press, 1991), p. 219. 20 In his Recovering Ethical Life:Jrgen Habermas and the Future of Critical Theory (London and New York:Routledge, 1995), p. 33, Jay Bernstein takes this to mean that there is ultimately no real difference between instrumental and communicative reason. Both are formal and procedural; hence communicative reason is a component of the very disintegrative process it means to remedy. Although I do suggest that there are parallels in terms of how both regimes of reasoning presuppose similar types of time-consciousness, I would not go this far. Communicative reason is capable of setting rational ends. That makes it substantially different from instrumental reason, which limits reasoning to items that purport to be good only as means, thereby preventing any concern with the possible goodness of the actual ends of human action. My claim is that the argumentative context is instrumentally defined. For a more elaborate response, see Espen Hammer, Romanticism Revisited, Inquiry 40:2 (1997), pp. 22542. 21 Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, pp. 78.


Two responses to the time of modernity

and indeed underwrite, rather than oppose, a modern, disenchanted temporality.

A neo-Aristotelian rejoinder
Rather than appealing to the formal constraints on rational action a different response to the dissatisfactions of modern temporality consists in arguing that we should focus on the precise, constitutive features of practices that do not fit in with the requirements of such temporality. Thus in Technology, Time, and the Conversations of Modernity, Lorenzo C. Simpson sets up a contrast between what he calls the time of ends and the time of meaning (or, alternately, the time of praxis).22 The time of ends is essentially the time I discussed in Chapter 2:the reified time of technology and purposive-rational action which becomes transformed into a calculable commodity to be quantitatively disposed of. Such a time is resolutely future-oriented; the future is defined as the time when the provisional and, from the point of view of traditional value-orientation, arbitrary ends set by the agent are meant to be achieved, thus making the present a time of empty waiting. The time of meaning, by contrast, is for Simpson a time of meaningful praxis. Drawing in part on Aristotles account of action in the Nichomachean Ethics, Simpson sees meaningful praxis as essentially identity-defining. Engaging in such praxis, the agent, rather than seeking to obtain some external end, acknowledges the action involved in that praxis to be its own end, an end through which the agent confirms herself as someone with a particular identity. Unlike purposive-rational action, which seeks to bracket conventional meaning, praxis cannot take place in a historical or cultural void. On the contrary, praxis is an application or creative repetition of the past understood as a historical legacy composed of socio-cultural norms and value-laden patterns of interpretation. For such an agent, temporality involves both preservation and invention; for in drawing on the horizons of the past, she will not only
22 Lorenzo C. Simpson, Technology, Time, and the Conversations of Modernity (London:Routledge, 1995), pp. 5060. Simpsons work is closely related to the more influential neo-Aristotelian accounts provided by thinkers such as MacIntyre, Taylor, and Thompson. The reason why I have chosen to focus on Simpson is that he so diligently and systematically uses the neo-Aristotelian perspective to take up the issue of time. I am not claiming that Simpsons work represents the only neo-Aristotelian way of handling this issue; all I say is that his approach is one among possibly several, and that as an approach of this type it strikes me as compelling enough to warrant an extended discussion.

A neo-Aristotelian rejoinder


repeat but creatively continue the tradition. According to Simpson, we may think of such a praxial temporality as effecting a fusion of the horizons of the past and the future. It presupposes, he claims, an applicative recollection oriented toward future action, thus being at once the time of preservation and invention.23 While the value and significance of purposive-rational action lies solely in its consequences, the value and significance of praxis lies solely in its doing. In performing the action well, the agent affirms her essential connection to a meaning-providing shape or form of life:Meaning has its natural locus in the phenomenon of world or form of life, and when meaning is made explicit, it emerges from the cognizance of a world.24 Yet the doing also discloses the subjectivity of the agent, her character, to others, thus creating the possibility of entering into concrete relationships of certain kinds with others who share the cultural background with the agent. Since the action is its own end, the agent engaged in praxis will not experience the present as transitory or empty. On the contrary, as the meaningful meeting point of sedimented layers of past expectations and mediated readiness for innovation, the present promises both fulfillment and satisfaction. Simpson considers the example of eating. If eating takes place within a purposive-rational framework, in a time of ends, worldless expectations such as fulfilling the nutritive function and being inexpensive as well as speedily consumed and digested will tend to take precedence over traditional expectations such as participating in a codified ritual and enjoying the taste, smell, shape, color, and texture of the food, as well as being in the company of others. The convenience, say, of the lonely drive-through, or of microwaved food consumed at different times by the various members of a family, then becomes more highly regarded than the ritualized family meal with all the socially encoded bonds and symbolizations it involves, enacts, and effects. However, if eating takes place within a framework geared towards praxis, then qua action it will be inserted providing frameworks and symbolic structures in the into meaning- world in which it figures. The consumption will then be its own meaning, which, while dependent on a tradition and the narratives that structure and connect individuals with it, always involves an element of change and innovation. The idea of slow food, which has gained
23 Simpson, Technology, Time, and the Conversations of Modernity, p. 57. 24 Ibid ., p. 45.


Two responses to the time of modernity

some following, thus represents a rebellion against the hegemony of the time of ends:eating slowly is to eat for its own sake, rather than for external ends that subordinate the consumption to a logic of mere means while calling for speed, efficiency, and cost-saving. Through slow-eating agents achieve a harmonious synthesis of traditional belief and anticipation in the present . The present becomes what the ancient Greeks called a kairos, the right or opportune time, interrupting the homogeneous flow of sequential time or chronos. Simpsons attempt to relate the problem of modern time to the notion of praxis is suggestive, reverberating in some respects, especially the idea that undistorted time-consciousness must be able to provide a balanced synthesis between past, present, and future, with the inferentialist account I offered in Chapter 1. On Simpsons view, Western civilization needs to regain its erstwhile relationship to symbolic authority embedded in meaningful practices. We need to rethink the shape and texture of lived time, thus accepting our finitude as beings who, rather than desperately trying to surpass it, accept time as the unfolding of tradition through our individual insertion in it. For Simpson, this means that we must challenge technology, and most likely also capitalism, in so far as they promote and effect the uprooting of action from concrete forms of life. Indeed, the only consistently promising way out of the time of ends appears to consist in some form of leave-taking with modernity as such.25 At this point, Simpsons position starts to look deeply conservative. Invoking cultural resources against capitalism and technology, he seems to yearn for a temporal configuration that is decidedly premodern. There is a Luddite side to Simpsons critique that sits uneasily with his interest in progressive politics. One would like to know whether the traditions he refers to are available, and, if so, whether
25 Simpson makes an effort to dispel the notion that the critique of technology articulated in this study is a blanket condemnation of modernity, ibid ., p. 172. He does so by responding briefly to the work of Christopher Lasch and his anti-modernist plea for accepting limits to progress. According to Simpson, such limits cannot be posited a priori:a community will always have to negotiate limits based on its own cultural and technological standpoint. Lasch, Simpson argues, sets up a false dichotomy between accepting the blind workings of nature and viewing every aspect of life as subject to choice. There is a middle road. While Simpsons point seems perfectly reasonable, it is still possible, especially on the basis of the kind of scathing critique of technology that one finds in his book, to imagine communities that would reflectively want to adopt radically anti-modern measures and, if possible, condemn all forms of modern technology.

A neo-Aristotelian rejoinder


our attempts to make them relevant can ever lead to the reinstating of their authority. There is a difference between a tradition that is immediately authoritative and one that is deliberately adopted. Full freedom to adopt or discard traditions means that they no longer enjoy any intrinsic authority, and that the source of authorization must be sought elsewhere. The problem for Simpson is that his account rests so heavily on the notion of traditions that are intrinsically authoritative and, without question, authentically valuable. As soon as agents start applying external criteria by which to adjudicate between traditions, much of the point of appealing to them begins to disappear. That noted, it is unclear how any concerted leap out of modern conditions would even start to be imaginable, let alone desirable. What would it involve? How much would we have to sacrifice? There is a risk that Simpsons Aristotelianism will lead him to take shelter in what Adorno would refer to as false forms of immediacy practices that seem to promise an escape from the problems associated with disenchanted temporality, but which in fact are systemically interlinked with features that actually are unmistakably modern. Advertisement abounds with such promises. We hear of the perfect steak, car, or holiday, and always as the meaningful end that will represent a creative interpretation of the tradition. Yet advertisements, of course, are aimed at selling as many products as possible; the logic they obey is instrumental and not geared towards a time of meaning or praxis. The deepest problem with Simpsons neo-Aristotelian account is that it fails to take into account the constitutive role of contingency in all modern representations of social arrangements. As I argued in the previous chapter, the central key to understanding the nature of modernity is contingency the way in which, for agents who understand themselves as modern, no social arrangement can be conceptualized as necessary, originating from an essential source, and developing in such a way as to actualize an inherent telos. With modernity, that sense of stability is lost. The Kantian attempt to moralize progress and the Aristotelian search for ways to leap out of it each corresponds to different valuations of times three modes. Whereas the Kantian is uncompromisingly modern in wanting to evaluate the past and the present on the basis of a rationally self-chosen conception of a future state of affairs to be realized, the Aristotelian is anti-modern in wanting to evaluate


Two responses to the time of modernity

the future and the present on the basis of the past. What they share is a sense that modern time ultimately is disenchanted, and that for modern agents it has become organized in terms of the homogeneous, linear scheme that was outlined in Chapter 2. Time has become a marker of abstraction and finitude. In the next chapter I consider an attempt not simply to seek alternatives to the form of rationality that fundamentally informs modern temporality, but to redefine time completely.

4 H ege ls t e m por a l i z at ion of t h e a b s olu t e

From late medieval nominalism to Kant, the critique of metaphysics was conducted in many different ways and on the basis of a wide variety of epistemic interests and orientations. As those with only a scant knowledge of history will know, the period between the late fourteenth century and the late eighteenth century witnessed such momentous developments as the rise of experimental, quantitative natural science, the Reformation, the downfall of theocracy, and the rise of liberal political institutions, as well as the emergence of a capitalist system of exchange with its new set of bourgeois values of independence, privacy, and individual rights. From having been viewed, in the Catholic ordo, as a logical expression of Gods eternal essence, nature was progressively disenchanted and its languages stripped of predicates that did not conform to the prevailing materialist, commercial, and mathematical-scientific desire to understand and relate to what empirical there is in terms that are expressive not of revelation but of verifiability, instrumental reason, and formal (mainly mathemat ical) models of thought.1 Not only did the appeal to the divine lose its explanatory power in most areas of human engagement, but the very idea of there being a divine reality at all that could command absolute authority in issues ranging from the operations of the visible world to the ideal structure of society and the individuals correct conduct within it, slowly but steadily declined and disintegrated, while continuing to do so well into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Viewed retrospectively, it was never likely that metaphysics in its classic Platonist or Thomist guise based as it was on an ontological division
1 For a good overview of some of the most consequential steps in this regard, emphasizing the role of medieval nominalism in particular, see Michael Allen Gillespie, The Theological Origins of Modernity (University of Chicago Press, 2008).



Hegels tempor alization of the absolute

between the realms of temporal and non-temporal entities would survive these developments and solidify its position as a culturally dominant form. On the contrary, European modernity and, more specifically, its extended period of enlightenment, became predicated upon a rejection of metaphysics. In pre-Kantian European philosophy, the most influential anti-metaphysical movement was the British tradition, ranging from Hobbess materialism to the empiricism of Locke and, most conspicuously, Hume, but related movements also existed in France, most pointedly represented by materialist philosophers of nature like dHolbach, La Mettrie, and Helvetius. Even though Kants critique of metaphysics had many forerunners and was situated in the historical context of the burgeoning German enlightenment in the reign of Friedrich II, there can be little doubt about the breathtaking originality of his contribution. Unlike his antimetaphysical forerunners, many of whom became skeptical of the human claim to knowledge, Kant develops an anti-skeptical theory that assigns to human knowing its conditions and precise limits, and he establishes his doctrine of transcendental idealism according to which human agents are said to have epistemic access only to what Kant calls appearances, from which he sharply distinguishes things as they are in themselves. Whereas the rationalist tradition that he seeks to overcome had argued that objective knowledge must be knowledge of things as they are in themselves, Kant restricts knowing to the temporally and spatially appearing objects of sensuous experience. One of the central implications of his critique of metaphysics is that whatever can be experienced as an object or event must possess temporal coordinates; hence, the absolute, unconditioned, atemporal object of classic metaphysics can never be presented to a finite agent as an object of experience. In Heideggers formulation, Kants thinking is therefore an analytic of finitude: it seeks to delimit, and uncover conditions for, the exercise of an intellect for which there is no possible epistemic access to a noumenal reality.2 For such an intellect, time is an a priori determination of all presentable being. Kants generalization of time to all presentable being was instrumental in generating a modernist vision of a wholly secular order in which every possible form of authority is constituted not by a transcendent
2 Martin Heidegger, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics , trans. Richard Taft (Bloomington and Indianapolis:Indiana University Press, 1990).

Hegels metaphysical account of time


force of some kind, but by mans own self-determination. For Kant, stored memories of past events should lose the privileged meaning they had in traditional societies and be replaced with a modern notion of progress according to which time is a mere succession of calculable instants in a world that increasingly is understood in the light of formal and quantifiable properties. In this chapter I want to look at some of the ways in which Hegel responds to these issues. Unfortunately, the vastness of Hegels work and the encyclopedic pretensions of his mature system prevent me from offering anything like a complete account. Instead I will focus mostly on Hegels attempt to overcome Kants conception of disenchanted and homogeneous time. Hegels fundamental claim is that temporal being is itself absolute. What Hegel calls spirit is of universal significance in that it speculatively unites subject and object, yet is also a self-actualizing structure that becomes what it is, or reaches its own essential determination, in time that is, in and through spirits own history. For Hegel, who draws theological conclusions from his philosophy of spirit, world history should thus be viewed as the teleological unfolding of nothing less than divine essence. On this view, God is a self-actualizing structure that requires history the history of human beings and their institutions to become what it is. This, of course, is an extraordinary claim, and no major thinker after Hegel has tried to defend it. Although, in some of its Marxist configurations, it has notoriously been used to defend evil in the name of historical necessity, most late nineteenth- and twentiethphilosophers, including pragmatists, hermeneuticians, logical century positivists, and poststructuralists, have actively weighed against it, emphasizing the finitude of historical existence. In the first section I examine Hegels claim and how he goes about defending it. In the second section I discuss Hegels own implicit self-critique and argue that his overall theory is plagued by inconsistency.

Hegels metaphysical account of time

As the last great metaphysician and rationalist of the European tradition, Hegel develops a grand attempt to overcome the apparent meaninglessness of secular, linear time by seeing time itself as the unfolding of the absolute. Rather than, as in Kant, being the marker of finite being, of finitude as such in contrast to eternity, time is one of the necessary dimensions within which spirit develops and comes to actualize itself.


Hegels tempor alization of the absolute

At its most ambitious, Hegels theory purports to offer a conversion into philosophical terms of the Christian doctrine of providence such that, as Karl Lwith puts it, salvation becomes a secular theodicy for which the divine spirit is immanent in the world, the state is an earthly god, and all history is divine.3 Of course, much here hinges on what exactly this is supposed to mean. On a traditional view of Hegel, it entails a conception of the eternal divine manifesting itself in the particular and contingent. However, more contemporary anglophone Hegel studies (such as those of Pippin, Pinkard, and others) stress that if history is divine for Hegel, then it is not so much because God can be said to metaphysically manifest himself in history or that God/Spirit is some sort of entity in need of temporal actualization, but because history itself, when looked at philosophically, shows up a structure the gradual development of a fully self-determining culture that has essential features in common with that which Christian theologians would refer to as God. If anything, it will be self-sufficient or absolute, requiring no extraneous support or foundation in order to be what it is, and it will decisively and in a priori ways constitute or prefigure the space within which action and cognition become possible berhaupt.4 For my purposes it is the particular application of this absoluteness-claim within the framework of a historicist philosophy that will be important, and I will argue that Hegel, especially in the Science of Logic and the Philosophy of Nature, tends to reify this structure, turning it into a metaphysical entity that allegedly shows up certain essential features such as selfdevelopment, and goal-directedness. Ultimately, this organization, self- quasi-Aristotelian view becomes the basis for holding that transience can be imbued with a rational dimension. In Parmenides, Plato, and much of the Christian tradition, the essential aim of metaphysics was to demonstrate the existence of atemporal, temporal purely intelligible archetypes or forms in contrast to which and hence transient being was viewed as ontologically corrupt and inferior. Moreover, since humans were understood to be endowed, through the purification of the soul, with a capacity to evade time, the
3 Karl Lwith, From Hegel to Nietzsche:The Revolution in Nineteenth-Century Thought , trans. David E. Green (New York:Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964), p. 216. 4 For perhaps the most influential proponents of this Kantian interpretation of Hegels conception of spirit, see Terry Pinkard, Hegels Phenomenology:The Sociality of Reason (Cambridge University Press, 1996) and Robert Pippin, Hegels Idealism: The Satisfactions of Self-Consciousness (Cambridge University Press, 1989). For essays discussing the implications of this approach, see Espen Hammer (ed.), German Idealism:Contemporary Perspectives (London and New York:Routledge, 2007).

Hegels metaphysical account of time


fundamental problem of life, namely how to respond to the finitude of human existence, was not so much resolved as overcome by appeal to some version of redemptive transfiguration. Although, under the influence of Augustine, much of the Christian tradition eventually came to view eternity not as mere immobility but rather as the dynamic gathering of all time into an instant, the juxtaposition of temporal and non-temporal being remained absolutely crucial. The contrasting idea of the absolute as being itself temporal is not new with Hegel. It has its precursors in Plotinus, in several medieval readings of Aristotle, as well as in Goethe, with whom Hegel kept up a vigorous correspondence. Goethe was obsessed with the notion, presented by the chorus mysticus at the end of the second part of Faust, that all things corruptible / Are but a parable [Alles Vergngliche / Ist nur ein Gleichnis].5 For Goethe, the eternal announces itself as something which is present as its own purpose in the singular yet fleeting moment. Many of his poems, as well as parts of his conversations with Eckermann, deal with the need to appreciate the moment, because every moment, he maintains, contains in itself the possibility of apprehending eternity. According to Goethe, this creates a basis for distinguishing between the intuitive grasp of reason and the discursive grasp of the understanding:The Divinity works in the living, not in the dead; in the becoming and changing, not the become and the fixed. Therefore Reason, with its tendency towards the divine, has only to do with the becoming, the living; but Understanding with the become, the already fixed, that it may make use of it.6 Yet the paradigmatic experience of such a presence in the fleeting instant was for Goethe inherent neither in the apprehension of art nor in that of any cultural form, but in the contemplation of nature, which, he argues, transcends the vicissitudes and limitations of historical time.7 While nature knows change, it always reproduces itself
5 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust:Part Two, trans. Philip Wayne (London and New York:Penguin Books, 1959), p. 288. 6 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Conversations with Eckermann , trans. John Oxenford (San Francisco:North Point Press, 1984), p. 238. 7 Goethes poetry abounds with visions of the eternal in nature. See for example Die Metamorphose der Pflanzen (1798) or the final stanza from Eins und Alles: Es soll sich regen, schaffend handeln, Erst sich gestalten, dann verwandeln; Nur scheinbar stehts Momente still. Das Ewige regt sich fort in allen: Denn alles mu in Nichts zerfallen, Wenn es im Sein beharren will.


Hegels tempor alization of the absolute

within parameters that remain constant. It knows neither a past nor a future; it has neither a history nor a projected temporal end. Nature simply is what it is in eternity. Through his morphology, moreover, with which he approached and sought to grasp the essence of natural objects, Goethe believed himself to be in possession of a method whereby the eternal in the transitory could be immediately identified. As intimated by the nature morte, the Stilleben , nature is always bound to recreate itself in the forms it presents in the present. To experience such forms is to know eternity. Though suggestive, Goethes view could not satisfy Hegel or, arguably, stand up to much independent philosophical scrutiny. For one thing, it rests heavily on an appeal to the senses: even if the idea of morphological patterns is kept in mind, the account asks us to intuit the presence of the eternal in the temporal. Yet Goethe abstains from even trying to demonstrate that human intuition in fact contains a potential for transcending the level of the particular, or that the eternal can ever be present in the temporal. According to Kant, we are able to verify synthetic a priori truth in what he calls pure intuition (this, he argues, is how, in particular, the truths of geometry and mathematics are ascertained), although he never claims that pure intuition, or what he also refers to as the pure form of sensibility, can give access to eternal forms or patterns of sensuous being itself. On the contrary, pure intuition is the mere form of all possible intuition of appearances; it is a representation (Vorstellung) in which there is nothing that belongs to sensation.8 As such it is temporal, because temporality (as well as spatiality) is a pure form of every intuition. Moreover, it is quite clear that Goethes general skepticism of the reigning natural sciences leads him to underestimate the significance of physical or cosmological time. From the notion of natures transcendence of historical time, it does not follow that it contains an atemporal dimension.9 Everything in nature comes to an end; everything is transient, including the cosmos itself. Only in an exalted, idealized sense can one claim, as Goethe does, that natures temporal objects
(It is intended to move, to act and create first to form and then to transform itself; its moments of immobility are only apparent. In all that lives the Eternal Force works on:for everything must dissolve into nothingness, if it is to remain in Being.) See Goethe, Selected Verse, ed. David Luke (London and New York:Penguin Books, 1986), p. 275. 8 Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason , trans. Norman Kemp Smith (London:MacMillan, 1986), B34. 9 Of course, it is unlikely that our access to nature can ever transcend historical time. Our perception of nature is always mediated by cultural expectations and assumptions.

Hegels metaphysical account of time


are at the same time eternal. (Needless to say, Goethes morphology, with its search for eidetic essences, was never a likely competitor to Newtons mechanics or Darwins historicization of nature.10) According to Lwith, Goethe held on to the idea of eternal nature because of his deep antipathy towards human history.11 On Goethes view, European history is the history of Christianity and its fateful separation between the ideal and the natural world; hence only an appeal, he argued, to the eternal in nature can reunite what Christianity has disunited. This is the point at which Hegels position starts to deviate from that of Goethe. In Hegels most rationalist moments, human history world history is itself an emanation of spirit, whose absolute nature is grounded in, or even identical with, Gods divinity. The ideal and the natural are separated not because it is of the essence of Christian dogma to prevent their reconciliation, but because the history of Christianity coincides with spirits own self-alienation, which ultimately can only be overcome in philosophy, the consummation of spirits own self-understanding. This implies that history, rather than nature, is the primary site of spirits presence in and through temporal being. However, it also implies that thinking, rather than intuition, becomes the primary mode of access to the convergence between as Hegel famously puts it in the preface to Elements of the Philosophy of Right the rational and the actual.12 Hegels main discussions of time, in the Jena lectures on the philosophy of nature from 180405 and in the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences, are indebted to various Greek sources, in particular Platos Timaeus, with its vast invocation of time as the moving image [eik n] of eternity,13 as well as Aristotles Physics. In following Aristotle, Hegel focusses his account on the now (to nun), attributing to it a tremendous right because only the present truly is, in contrast to what is already past and what does not yet exist.14 This is not to say, though, that the past and the future are empty concepts. In Hegels view, the present contains both the past and the future:it is, as it were, the embodiment of
10 For an explanation of this issue, see H. B. Nisbet, Goethe and the Scientific Tradition (London:The Institute of German Studies in London, 1972). 11 Lwith, From Hegel to Nietzsche , p. 212. 12 G. W. F. Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right , trans. H. B. Nisbet (Cambridge University Press, 1991), p. 20: What is rational is actual; and what is actual is rational. 13 Plato, Timaeus , trans. Francis M. Cornford (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.:Prentice Hall, 1959), p. 37d. 14 G. W. F. Hegel, Philosophy of Nature:Being Part Two of the Encyclopaedia of the Philoso phical Sciences (1830), trans. A. V. Miller (Oxford:Clarendon Press, 1970), p. 36.


Hegels tempor alization of the absolute

eternity, the infinite whole of time, which he describes as an eternal circle. Although time seems to press on from the potential, yet unrealized future to the actualized past, with the apparent present being fleeting and insubstantial, there is, Hegel argues, a true present which, while immanent in time, is nevertheless separated from the stream of time. In the positive meaning of time, it can be said that only the Present is, that Before and After are not. But the concrete Present is the result of the Past and is pregnant with the Future. The true Present, therefore, is eternity.15 As Hegel puts it elsewhere, one must recognize in the semblance of the temporal and transient the substance which is immanent and the eternal which is present.16 Hegel rejects Kants view that time is a form of human sensibility, arguing instead that it must be considered a fundamental manifestation of the idea, or the fully actualized concept, in the realm of nature. Time, he maintains in the Encyclopedia, is the simple Notion without which change, development, the passing away, and coming into being of entities would be impossible.17 Time is intrinsic to finite things and not a form imposed on them. However, the abstract concept of time itself is eternal, existing in a timeless sphere of ideality.18 Hegels view may thus seem close to that of Plato, for whom the ideas the forms, or universals exist in an eternal now which is juxtaposed to the temporal dimension of ontologically inferior particulars. In Plato, time is identified with the periodic revolution of the heavenly sphere, initiated by the divine demiurge. However, whereas Plato rejects the view that past and future, and hence also the flow of time, are ontologically independent of the eternal present, he struggles to integrate the eternal successfully with the temporal. They remain separate from one another, thus generating the problem, prominent in the opening section of Parmenides, of how the generic status of a given particular can ever be accounted for.19 Hegels view is different. For him (and here we see him leaning towards Aristotle, albeit with a much more metaphysically ambitious theory of
15 Ibid ., p. 39. See also his Jenaer Realphilosophie . Vorlesungsmanuskripte zur Philosophie der Natur und des Geistes von 18051806, ed. J. Hoffmeister (Hamburg:Felix Meiner, 1967), pp.1013, in which this idea finds its earliest expression. 16 G. W. F. Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right , ed. Allen Wood, trans. H. B. Nisbet (Cambridge University Press, 1991), p. 20. 17 Hegel, Philosophy of Nature , p. 35. 18 Ibid . 19 Plato discusses this issue in Parmenides , trans. F. M. Cornford, in The Collected Dialogues of Plato , ed. Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns (Princeton University Press, 1989), pp. 92130.

Hegels metaphysical account of time


the relation between logic and metaphysics), the inner essence of the objective world is at one with the idea, or rational essence, according to which it necessarily finds its determination.20 Ontologically, Hegel is a theorist of self-actualization.21 Everything develops until it actualizes its own essence. The task of philosophy, one might say, is to disclose this essence at the adequate a priori level and provide it with a systematic conceptual presentation. So what exactly is Hegels argument about time?22 It has already been mentioned that he attempts to provide an account of time that is consonant with the notion of spirit actualizing itself in time. The passing of time, he claims, is a movement that can be described only in terms of a paradox:[Time] is that being which, inasmuch as it is, is not, and inasmuch as it is not , is.23 What Hegel seems to mean by this is that when we isolate a now and represent it to ourselves, then it turns out to be differentiated from the nows that have been and the ones that are not yet. The now cannot exist independently of its relation to other nows; rather, it is the successive negation of all the other now-points that precede and succeed it. It has being in not being:it signifies a transition from being to nothing or from nothing
20 For a useful formulation of this contrast, see Michael Murray, Time in Hegels Phenomenology of Spirit , Review of Metaphysics 33 (1981), p. 688:If we were to triangulate Hegels approach we might distinguish the aim of a Platonic realist position that takes the Concept as eternal form or species, on the one side, and a nominalistic conventionalism on the other that takes the Concept as a temporal name. Then we might say that Hegels conception of the Concept is both ontological and temporal, so that the Concept is not a mere name but a mode of existence (viz., that of Spirits life) and not an eternal eidos but a temporal process of self-shapings. 21 Rolf-Peter Horstmann, What Is Hegels Legacy and What Should We Do with It, European Journal of Philosophy 7:2 (1999), pp. 27980:According to Hegel this new logic uncovers the laws which govern the constitution and the development of reason (understood as an ontological concept). Because reason is taken as a self-realizing entity whose process of realization can be thought of very much in analogy to the way in which a living organism unfolds its characteristic features in the course of its life time, these laws reflect in a predominant way processual aspects of elements in transition, of things in their coming to be and their passing away. Being the logic of reason and reason being the one and only real entity, this new logic is not attentive primarily to our subjective modes of thinking (though these play a role too) but rather mirrors universal rules of objective self-organization. 22 For a relatively clear account, see Richard Dien Winfield, Space, Time and Matter:Conceiving Nature without Foundations, in Stephen Houlgate (ed.), Hegel and the Philosophy of Nature (Albany, N.Y.:SUNY Press, 1998), pp. 5169. See also Alison Stone, Petrified Intelligence: Nature in Hegels Philosophy (Albany, N.Y.:SUNY Press, 2005), pp. 3840. 23 Hegel, Philosophy of Nature , p. 34.


Hegels tempor alization of the absolute

to being. It is, he writes, intuited mere Becoming.24 Time is the mere transition from the now which is no longer to the now which is not yet. To move forward in time is to negate that which has been and transform that which will be but is not yet into its negation:that which is. Becoming is both arising and passing away. Hegel arrives at this conception by considering the relation between space and time. Time, he argues, is a conceptual successor of the concept of space in that time requires space for its own determination. Space itself is the prospective first and most minimal element of nature. On Hegels account, space (considered in its mere conceptual and a priori determination) is simply Auereinandersein (or mutual externality) and Nebeneinander (or juxtaposition), which together make up its infinite continuity of extension. Thus, although space is one and unbounded, it can be viewed as interrupted by discrete, ideal points. As opposed to Aristotles definition of space in terms of place, which presupposes existing bodies and their spatial interrelations, what Hegel here means by ideal points is not something that can be determined by real things in space. Any such view would seem to be viciously circular in that space would have to be presupposed in order to refer to the determination by bodies. Nor do these ideal points have any individuating characteristics by means of which they can be distinguished from one another. They are mutually external, immediate, and singular, yet what they comprise is completely undifferentiated and indeterminate. No differences can be ascertained. Since this, however, is unsatisfactory, Hegel starts discovering contradictions that mark not only the concept itself but also the universal structure it characterizes. The ideal points in space, he argues, are in fact determined, although not through themselves but by other such ideal points which themselves are also only negatively determined, that is, determined in relation to other points which they themselves are not. Each point, Hegel then continues to argue, is the negation of the others. Point A is not point B, just as point B is not point A. They are, according to Spinozas principle of omnis determinatio est negatio which Hegel here applies, each others negations. The successive determination of space is equated with a set of successive negations. Consequently, the point, as the discrete element in the continuity of space, generates a line where one point after another cannot help but pass into a geometric relation with the point contiguous with it.
24 Ibid ., p. 35.

Hegels metaphysical account of time


Moreover, the system of lines generates planes, and planes the threedimensionality of Euclidean space defined by straight lines. Space is in other words an infinite assemblage of heres that are utterly identical to one another, being differentiated only by virtue of their negative relations to the other heres. The way time can be said to follow from space is in Hegels exposition far from straightforward. As is well known, motion has often been invoked as a basis of time. In Newtons mechanics, for instance, time is a measure of motion in space. However, since changes in place involve motion only in conjunction with temporal alteration, it seems to follow that motion presupposes time, rather than being constitutive of it. What Hegel instead appears to suggest is that time simply is the way in which space as a whole necessarily is external to itself in its externalization.
Negativity, as point, relates itself to space, in which it develops its determinations as line and plane; but in the sphere of self- externality, negativity is equally for itself and so are its determinations; but, at the same time, these are posited in the sphere of self-externality, and negativity, in so doing, appears as indifferent to the inert side-by sideness of space. Negativity, thus posited for itself, is Time.25

Just as space is understood as a ceaseless self-transcendence of spatial differentiation, so time consumes its own moments, immediately supplanting one now with another equally straddling past and future. Space could not exist unless individual differentiation takes place through the negation of all the other ideal points in it:time, then, is this negativity. Hegel provides very little by way of a proper justification of how time follows from space. It is not clear why the self-transcendence of time could not, as in Kant and many other philosophers of time, be of an entirely different nature altogether. A somewhat promising account, in that it seems to go quite a long way towards preserving the letter of Hegels argument, draws attention to Hegels claim that, at the level of the dialectic of space, there is a contradiction between space as conceptual and space as material.26 According to Alison Stone, this means that, for Hegel, externality is self-contradictory. The contradiction
25 Ibid ., pp. 3334. 26 On p. 30 of his Philosophy of Nature , Hegel draws a distinction between abstract space and relative space, which he understands as the determinate space of some material body.


Hegels tempor alization of the absolute

can be overcome, she argues, by deducing the necessary emergence of a better natural form, namely time.27 Time unites the plurality of internal differentiation (the material) with the self-identity of ideal units (the conceptual). The reference to materiality, however, is misleading:Hegel is not making a systematic reference to materiality until later in the dialectic, and while space is a precondition for materiality, it must as such be distinguished from it. Even if we correct this mistake and replace materiality with extension, it is not obvious, moreover, that Hegel sees a contradiction between space as conceptual and space as extended. In the Zusatz to 257 of the Encyclopedia (to which Stone also refers) Hegel writes the following. Space is this contradiction, to be infected with negation, but in such wise that this negation falls apart into indifferent subsistence.28 The negation which Hegel refers to is that of the negation of extension in the ideal point. However, such spatial limits (as the ideal points), based on differentiation, become external to one another once extension is taken into account. They transgress the boundary that separates them from what they demarcate. Space is therefore both the differentiation of points, making possible lines and planes (which themselves are necessary for space to be possible), and their self-transgression. If time is defined as just this ongoing self-transcendence endemic to space, then it seems as though Hegel has presented an argument of some merit. We can now also begin to see what Hegel means by his claim that the true present is eternity. The present remains forever as the abiding now in relation to which the before and the after are not. Time is the endless, infinite becoming in the now, where the now exists in virtue of its negative movement. The now is thus a product of the endless work of the negative the endless negation of the negation. Now this is also the key to understanding how spirit can be both temporal and eternal. In Hegels characterization of it, spirit develops according to the same logic. As a conceptual structure, it divides or differentiates itself from itself, and then conceives of itself as the unity of the original concept and its self-differentiation.29 In this sense, spirit is nothing but the self-externalization of the concept in time:it is history, or
27 Stone, Petrified Intelligence , p. 40. 28 Hegel, Philosophy of Nature , p. 34. 29 G. W. F. Hegel, Introduction to the Philosophy of History , trans. Leo Rauch (Indianapolis and Cambridge, Mass.:Hackett, 1988), p. 80:Time is the negative element in the sensory world:thought is this same negativity; but it is the innermost infinite form itself wherein every thing that exists is, in principle, dissolved and chiefly the finite being, the determinate form.

Hegels metaphysical account of time


rather world history, as a movement of spirit towards the actualization of its own final essence.
The self-knowing Spirit knows not only itself but also the negative of itself, or its limit:to know ones limit is to know how to sacrifice oneself. This sacrifice is the externalization in which Spirit displays the process of its becoming Spirit in the form of free contingent happening, intuiting its pure Self as Time outside of it, and equally its Being as Space. This last becoming of Spirit, Nature , is its living immediate Becoming; Nature, the externalized Spirit, is in its existence nothing but this eternal externalization of its continuing existence and the movement which reinstates the Subject . But the other side of its becoming, History, is a conscious, selfmediating process Spirit emptied out into Time; but this externaliza tion, this kenosis, is equally an externalization of itself; the negative is negative of itself ... The realm of Spirits which is formed in this way the in the outer world constitutes a succession in Time in which one Spirit relieved another of its charge and each took over the empire of the world from its predecessor. Their goal is the revelation of the depth of Spirit, and this is the absolute Notion .30

The idea of spirit as emptying itself out in time through its consecutive movements of self-externalization and self-discovery in the medium of philosophy is put to direct use in Hegels philosophical history of the world his account of reasons actualization in history. World spirit, he maintains in the Introduction to the Philosophy of History, while indeed always one and the same,31 reveals itself in history as the rational process of its development. History is not simply the succession of essentially contingent events (hence it cannot be fully understood from a merely empirical point of view, as the object of historical research); rather, everything which takes place in it is directed towards an ultimate purpose and governed by the providence of a supreme insight and will in Hegels terms, by spirit or reason as the infinite power and infinite content 32 and understanding history means to understand the rationality which is unfolding in historical time. The claim is not that history can be constructed on purely a priori grounds,
30 G. W. F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit , trans. A. V. Miller (Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 492. For a useful account of the relationship between the Concept (der Begriff ) and time in Hegel, see Karin de Boer, Begriff und Zeit:Die Selbstentuerung des Begriffs und ihre Wiederholung in Hegels spekulativem System, Hegel-Studien 35 (2000):1149. 31 Hegel, Introduction to the Philosophy of History, p. 13. 32 Ibid ., p. 12.


Hegels tempor alization of the absolute

since that would lead to fabrications.33 The task, rather, of the philosophical historian is to apprehend empirical history in the light of, and as emerging from, an adequate conception of reason: To him who looks at the world rationally, the world looks rational in turn.34 A similar thought comes through in Hegels famous passage at the end of the preface to Elements of the Philosophy of Right :As the thought of the world, [philosophy] appears only at a time when actuality has gone through its formative process and attained its completed state ... When philosophy paints its grey in grey, a shape of life has grown old, and it cannot be rejuvenated, but only recognized, by the grey in grey of philosophy; the owl of Minerva begins its flight only with the onset of dusk.35 Let us pause for a moment and note how Hegels account, however ambitious, is designed so as to tackle the two interrelated problems of time which I initially introduced as arising with modernity and the emergence of a modern time-consciousness. First, through its reunification of the eternal and temporal, spirit and matter, it promises to point beyond the specific worries about transience that a secular modpriori ern order makes possible. By bringing the eternal order of a necessity not only in contact with nature and history but, through the externalization of the concept in time, into a position of being the animating principle which governs the world and gives it its purported rational intelligibility, Hegel hopes to have made transience a rational determination, rather than a merely destructive marker of finitude. Although world history considered empirically includes innumerable contingent events, time is essentially productive. It is the medium through which spirit overcomes its self-alienation in history and nature, and returns to itself in the full transparency of its shape as absolute spirit. The radical implications of what Heidegger addresses as Kants analytic of finitude are overcome. In that he aims to offer an account that is directed towards conferring value on the historical event as such, the event in itself and for itself, Hegel also points beyond what I have called the disenchanted time of rationalized modernity. As long as every event is valid in itself inasmuch as it is a manifestation of spirit, it follows that all history is meaningful in a profound, metaphysical sense. This is why Hegel considers reading the morning paper a kind of realistic morning
33 Ibid ., p. 13.34 Ibid ., p. 14. 35 Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right , p. 23.

Tensions in Hegels understanding


prayer:36 events, however banal, of everyday life are themselves expressions of spirits unfolding in history. While acknowledging that modernity involves a skeptical distancing from the immediate certainties of faith, tradition, and collective life that is, everything which kept the citizens of the ancient Greek polis free and happy (as they were recognized as being at one with the community, having fully internalized and identified with its norms) philosophy, he argues nonetheless, heals the wounds generated by modernity. By means of philosophical comprehension, the emptiness of the rationalized living now can be countered and sublated into a higher unity of meaning.

Tensions in Hegels understanding of modern temporality

This is not to say, though, that Hegel did not consider modernity from a critical perspective. Modernity is the epoch of subjectivity of the formation of social arrangements and cultural systems in which no other authority but the subjects own reflection is the touchstone of validity:The greatness of our time rests in the fact that freedom, the peculiar possession of mind whereby it is at home with itself in itself, is recognized, and that mind has this consciousness within itself.37 In the achievements of enlightened modernity its individualism, its demand for reflection and autonomy, and its idealism Hegel sees the principle of subjectivity, or subjective freedom, being applied. Historically, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the French Revolution are all concrete expressions of this principle.38 However, while Hegel never rejects its supreme historical value, he criticizes what he considers to
36 G. W. F. Hegel, Aphorismen aus der Jenenser Zeit, no. 31, in Johannes Hoffmeister (ed.), Dokumente zu Hegels Entwicklung (Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt:Frommann, 1974), p. 360. Quoted from Vincent Descombes, The Barometer of Modern Reason: On the Philosophies of Current Events , trans. Stephen Adam Schwartz (New York and Oxford:Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 3. As Descombes (p. 16) puts it, The philosopher trained as a Hegelian aspires to write a speculative system and to take part in the formation of public opinion. Moreover, these two activities should not remain separated:t he System is what dictates the article to be published in the newspaper. These are the components of the typical career of a young Hegelian intellectual:working at night on his System, and then capitalizing on it during the day in his public pronouncements. 37 G. W. F. Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy, vol. iii, trans. E. S. Haldane and Frances E. Simson (Lincoln and London:University of Nebraska Press, 1995), p. 423. 38 See Jrgen Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, trans. Frederick Lawrence (Cambridge, Mass.:MIT Press, 1987), p. 17.


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be the one-sidedness or inadequacy of these particular interpretations of what subjective freedom entails. As Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno will later argue with considerable force in their Dialectic of Enlightenment, he effectively claims that modernity suffers from a onesided rationalization.39 This critique is implicit in Hegels early writings on theology and reaches a great degree of elaboration in two important essays from around 1800:The Difference between Fichtes and Schellings System of Philosophy and Faith and Knowledge.40 In the writings on theology, Hegel displays his objections to what he understands as the coldness and essentially alienating character of the Enlightenment, contrasting this with an idealized vision of the Greek polis as the embodiment of a social life capable of fostering a free and integrated form of subjectivity. The Enlightenments victory over religion, he argues, is introduces a calpyrrhic; rather than promoting genuine freedom, it culating, fragmenting model of rationality that transfers the alien lawgiver of positive religion to the inner life of the isolated individual.41 In the essays, standing at the beginning of Hegels Jena phase, he continues this critique by turning to the philosophical systems of Kant and Fichte. Isolating the subject from its alleged connection with the absolute, these thinkers, he argues, represent the very gist of the spirit of modernity, attempting to theorize reason as a completely selflegislating or self-grounding activity, the ability to rationally set limits
39 Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment , trans. John Cumming (London and New York:Verso, 1979). 40 G. W. F. Hegel, The Difference between Fichtes and Schellings System of Philosophy , trans. W. Cerf and H. S. Harris (Albany, N.Y.:SUNY Press, 1977); Faith and Knowledge , trans. W. Cerf and H. S. Harris (Albany, N. Y.:SUNY Press, 1977). 41 G. W. F. Hegel, Early Theological Writings , trans. T. M. Knox (Philadelphia:University of Pennsylvania Press, 1975), p. 210:We might have expected Jesus to work along these lines against the positivity of moral commands, against sheer legality, and to show that, although the legal is a universal whose entire obligatoriness lies in its universality, still, even if every ought, every command, declares itself as something alien, nevertheless as concept (universality) it is something subjective, and, as subjective, as a product of human power (i.e., of reason as the capacity for universality), it loses its objectivity, its positivity, its heteronomy, and the thing commanded is revealed as grounded in an autonomy of the human will. By this line of argument, however, positivity is only partially removed; and between the Shaman of the Tungus, the European prelate who rules church and state, the Voguls, and the Puritans, on the one hand, and the man who listens to his own command of duty, on the other, the difference is not that the former make themselves slaves, while the latter is free, but that the former have their lord outside themselves, while the latter carries his lord in himself, yet at the same time is his own slave.

Tensions in Hegels understanding


for oneself and observe those on the basis of self-chosen principles. In Kant, this attempt generates a system characterized by an extraordinary set of dualisms: between reason and sensibility, theoretical and practical reason, the apriori and the posteriori, and so on. Rather than being acceptable consequences of Kants arguments, the dualisms testify to the essential alienation of the modern human being the finite, formal, empty, and ultimately unsatisfying nature of her particular form of reason.42 However, it is not until the Phenomenology of Spirit in 1807 that Hegel fully brings his social and philosophical critique together. What I want to show in the following is that the construction of the modern subject that we find in the Phenomenology does not cohere easily with the account of spirit and time that later emerges in the Encyclopedia and other writings subsequent to the full elaboration of the system.43 There is a deep tension between, on the one hand, the vision of spirit as capable of externalizing itself in history such that the emptiness of linear, secular time is overcome and, on the other, the conception of modern subjectivity as being radically self-alienated. Now, unlike the other preceding sections of the book, the long and remarkably complex chapter on Spirit in the Phenomenology presents Hegels recounting of the history of spirit from classical antiquity to the onset of Napoleonic Europe. Very roughly, spirit in the Greek polis is defined in terms of the actualization of an unquestioned ethical life uniting individual aspiration towards the good with the interests of the social body as a whole. Unlike the Roman world, which sees the birth of one particular type of free individual (though only as an abstract bearer of rights), the Greek polis possesses no conception of subjectivity apart from the individuals assigned place in the social system. In ancient Greece, the subject acquires its identity exclusively through identification with the social order, which is interpreted as
42 For the early Hegels account of what he calls reflection, which he distinguishes from speculation, the (essentially Schellingean) capacity to disclose a prior and more fundamental unity, see The Difference Between Fichtes and Schellings System of Philosophy , pp. 8998. 43 Elizabeth Goodstein refers to Hegels account of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution as a philosophical-historical myth about the origins of modern subjectivity. See her Experience without Qualities:Boredom and Modernity (Stanford University Press, 2005), pp. 4142. While I hesitate to think of it as a myth, I accept Goodsteins more general view that Hegel is seeking to construct a specific form of narrative. By recounting this narrative, Hegel wishes to account for why we ought to be committed to the specific set of ideals that he associates with modernity.


Hegels tempor alization of the absolute

unshakeable and natural. For Hegel, the goal of spirits journey is to unite subject and substance, free individuality and ethical life, in such a way as to be able to consider modern social life in Europe as fully self-determining. It is as if the individual must come into being before spirit can be united with itself as a life-form that offers genuine freedom. However, in order for that to happen, it is necessary for the individual to purify itself of its natural self, of everything that is simply given, immediate, and not rationally accepted. Full freedom is only possible when every pre-given particularity is overcome.44 Hegel refers to this purification of the natural self as Bildung education or, as in Millers translation of the Phenomenology, culture. Increasingly, the self is forced to distance itself from endsetting that depends on appeals to nature, or what appears natural in ones social world, and orient itself towards ends with which it can identify as a rational, self-determining agent. There is no need to run through all the details of Hegels complete story. It begins with the Romans, who disentangle the self from its previous dependence on a network of pre-given roles, reducing it to a subject of mere legal recognition in an essentially atomistic state. Having created a space for interiority, or a desire at least for retreating from the abstract social world into an inner sanctuary of apparently real freedom, the medieval, Christian world takes this self-alienation one step further. At this point, Hegel looks at the nobility and its struggle to fashion a aristocratic lifestyle by sacrificing every individual inclinagenuinely conform to the ideals of the desired life. In the tion that does not period of French absolutism, the self is engaged in pure strategic action, aiming, by cultivating an ethic of flattery, to be recognized in a completely external manner. Absolutism presents a world of deceit, a nihilistic game,45 described as both hollow and boring. This is the point at which, in Hegels account, the Enlightenment starts to formulate conceptions that continue and indeed enhance the pure consciousness of absolutism. For the proponents of the Enlightenment, there is no natural order or system of authority that deserves to be
44 Jean Hyppolite, Genesis and Structure of Hegels Phenomenology of Spirit , trans. Samuel Cherniak and John Heckman (Evanston, Ill.:Northwestern University Press, 1974), p. 384:Culture and alienation are akin in meaning:the determinate individual cultivates himself, and forms himself to essentiality, through the alienation of his natural being. More precisely, for Hegel, the cultivation of the self is conceivable only by the mediation of alienation, or estrangement. 45 Hegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit , p. 317.

Tensions in Hegels understanding


recognized as binding. Rather, the only standpoint worth taking is one that is free from tradition and unreflected social practice. If authoritative grounds for belief or knowledge exist, then they must be found within the rational subject. The Enlightenment is therefore skeptical:its relationship to the world is marked by negation. In the absolute freedom of Rousseaus conception of the general will, the rejection of everything substantial reaches what looks like a stable, authoritative level:to be free is to adopt as ones maxims only those that conform to the demands of a universal (or impersonal) will, or the volont gnral . The general will is the will of the people as such and must be expressed in order to be actualized. However, since absolute freedom can only be actualized in so far as there is a political agent acting on the basis of its imperatives, Hegels dialectic reaches the French Revolution and, notably, the Terror.46 The Jacobins view themselves as embodying the will of the people, hence their actions are seen as incorrigible necessary and yet free. Their political mandate is to eliminate those who are seen to represent particular interests opposed to the dictates of the general will. However, because its victims are without any social substance, the death from terror is devoid of significance:The sole work and deed of universal freedom is death , a death which has no inner significance or filling, for what is negated is the empty point of the absolutely free self. It is thus the coldest and meanest of deaths, with no more significance than cutting off a head of cabbage or swallowing a mouthful of water.47 The section on Bildung, and indeed the whole chapter on Spirit, can be read in various ways. It certainly offers what Hegel understands as a philosophical narrative of the socio-political transformations that from Greek and Roman antiquity to Napoleonic Europe are said to account for the development and purification of the modern ideal of rational self-determination. It is the story of human spirit, and quite possibly even the divine spirit, reaching awareness of itself as free; yet it is also the story of the coming into being of European modernity. Perhaps most striking, though, is its provision of a philosophical account of the genesis of the modern subject. What Hegel can be read
46 For two good discussions of Hegels approach to the French Revolution, see Jrgen Habermas, Hegels Critique of the French Revolution, in Theory and Practice , trans. John Viertel (Boston:Beacon Press, 1974), pp. 12141 and Joachim Ritter, Hegel and the French Revolution , trans. Richard Dien Winfield (Cambridge, Mass.:MIT Press, 1982). 47 Hegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit , p. 360.


Hegels tempor alization of the absolute

as claiming is that the modern subject is not sui generis, an abstract entity or form of spontaneity as in Descartes or Kant, but the outcome of a determinate set of dialectical experiences that together have led to its alienation from its own social substance. In all its forms, from the Roman world to the world of chivalry and absolutism, and finally to the Enlightenment and the Jacobin Terror, the subject discovers its own existence as predicated upon a loss of cultural and historical connection to other people and communal practice. As history progresses, what the actualization of freedom demands is the adoption of an increasingly abstract conception of authority, culminating with the direct worship of the universal independently of any possible acknowledgement of duties towards concrete individuals. While the individual now sees itself as an absolutely pure and free individual self, the general will can only express itself via the negation of the individual as a being existing in the universal.48 Death is the Janus face of absolute freedom. Hegels construction of the modern subject entails a notion of temporality which is hard to square with the account of temporality found in the mature system. In the system spirit is held to actualize itself through time through the self-externalization of der Begriff. History can therefore be characterized as a rational process. We may think of this as the objectivist side of Hegels vision of history. Here, however, when thinking about the fate of the subject in modernity, and hence about history from a subjective point of view the point of view of the experience of consciousness49 rather than a systematic part of the Realphilosophie Hegel describes an experience in which all social groups or classes which are the spiritual spheres into which the whole is articulated are abolished.50 By completing the destruction of the actual organization of the world, the subject exists now just for itself, this is its sole object, an object that no longer has any content, possession, existence, or outer extension, but is merely this knowledge of itself as an absolutely free individual self.51 This is Hegels vision of modernity:coldly utopian, it forces the individual to organize and authorize actions solely with reference to universally valid imperatives that mercilessly demand the elimination of the horizon of experience and traditional attachments. The guillotine becomes Hegels chosen
48 Ibid . 49 Ibid ., p. 56: the way to Science is itself already Science , and hence, in virtue of its content, is the Science of the experience of consciousness . 50 Ibid ., p. 357.51 Ibid ., p. 35960.

Tensions in Hegels understanding


image of a world in which the step into the future is made through violence and destruction, and in which the merely given historical, cultural, spiritual, and aesthetic contexts that previously gave life meaning are eclipsed. Only by sacrificing itself, as well as everything that has been of value, for the sake of the future, can the subject heed the demands of a totally rationalized lifeworld. It follows that Hegel is here presenting a picture of modernity in which the problems of transience and existential meaning overwhelmingly present. The world figured by the perverted are enlightenment of the Jacobins and the guillotine is in constant flux, permitting no lasting commitments, values, or roles to appear as authoritative or binding; and rather than anchoring the self in stable expectations and publicly endorsed structures of inference, it uproots it and leaves it to organize its conception of itself with reference only to that normative content which along Kantian/Rousseauan lines can find universal acceptance among purportedly rational agents. There emerges at this point in Hegels narrative of modernity not only a thin theory of the self but a thin theory of the good and a thin ethical experience.52 Most importantly, time theory of moral and that is, the experienced or phenomenological time of modernity has become thinned out. It now seems devoid of the features that, in the mature system and the lectures on the philosophy of history, make history sacred. The diagnosis of modernity is strikingly at odds with Hegels metaphysics. Within the framework of Hegels own thinking, it is not difficult to find a response to this apparent quandary. As already mentioned, Hegel conceives of the self-realization of spirit in history as a process in which spirit is constantly challenged by claims that would make it seem limited or one-sided. Referring to these challenges and the overcoming of them as the work of the negative, Hegel seeks to understand the abstract universality of Rousseau and the social (or spiritual) world it constitutes as a moment within spirits larger quest to purify itself of everything that does not stem from its own free selfmovement. Consequently, the Phenomenology does not end here. Having progressivism of dealt with the abstract ultra-modernism and ultra-
52 The talk of thick and thin was introduced into philosophy by Bernard Williams. For Williams, concrete concepts like cruel, generous, and compassionate are thick while more abstract concepts like good, happy, beautiful, are thin. See Bernard Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1985).


Hegels tempor alization of the absolute

the Enlightenment and its dialectical culmination in the Jacobin period, Hegel immediately points to the Napoleonic expansion in Europe, introducing universally codified law and a regulated end to emblematic feudal privileges, as involving a return to order: These individuals who have felt the fear of death, of their absolute master, again submit to negation and distinctions, arrange themselves in the various spheres, and return to an apportioned and limited task, but thereby to their substantial reality.53 With Napoleon, the ideals of the French Revolution also reach Germany. Here, however, they are not transformed into political realities but articulated discursively and abstractly by the German idealists, whose moral views are under scrutiny in the preceding section on Morality. However, rather than interpreting the universal will as the will of the people, to act only in accordance with a universal law now becomes a demand of pure reason. At this point, we reach Hegels discussion of Kant and Fichte. There is at this point a considerable tension in Hegels narrative. On the one hand, the reaction to the French Revolution soon reinstates the validity of institutions whose mode of social temporality is not based on the desire for a radical break with the past. On the other, the critique of the moral philosophy of German idealism culminates in the dialectic befalling Fichtes extreme internalization of the self-legislating will. Suddenly we are thrown back to the kind of moral fanaticism that characterized the Jacobin revolutionaries, and the new institutionalism that made its impact felt with the downfall of the Jacobin reign seems to make little or no difference with regard to the potential for creating new forms of positivity. However, as the so-called hard heart, whose only source of moral authority is its own conscience, learns, normative authority can only be established in the socially concrete conditions of ethical life wherein moral demands arise from processes of intersubjective recognition. The hard heart, which rejects any continuity with the other,54 learns that in reconciling itself with the other, it reaches a higher form of universality that finally has the requisite authority. The name Hegel gives to this higher form of universality is religion.55

53 Hegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit , p. 361. 54 Ibid ., p. 405. 55 Ibid ., p. 409:The reconciling Yea , in which the two Is let go their antithetical existence , is the existence of the I which has expanded into a duality, and therein remains identical with itself, and, in its complete externalization and opposite, possesses the

Tensions in Hegels understanding


It may therefore seem as though Hegel, in the Phenomenology, wavers in his assessment of modernity. There is, in his terms, a consistent orientation on the part of the subject towards shedding its own substance or immediacy. Bildung is the painful process through which this happens; thus Bildung reaches its endpoint when everything merely given the human body, nature, tradition, the past is rejected. The French Revolution with its grand project of starting history anew represents the epitome and victory of this process. Despite the continuation of progressive modernism in German idealism, however, Hegel also seems to believe that a new religious community will be able to transform the ideal of freedom from an individual to a collective standpoint. The religious community, capable of forgiving and therefore overcoming evil, will constitute an absolute position from which to think of oneself as a free and rational self-legislator. In the philosophical system in the absolute spirit this community will reach the highest comprehension of its own essence. The circle is ended and history will be seen as the continuous and rational unfolding of spirit. It is difficult to assess the status of the chapter on religion in the Phenomenology, and many commentators have expressed uncertainty about what to make of it.56 Hegel was by no means a deist, nor did he follow Kant and Fichte in seeing religion as an extension of moral life, a postulate of pure practical reason. Rather, religion is a direct expression of mans spiritual being, of the fact that man lives within a religious framework with reference to which he authorizes his beliefs and existence. Religion is the way in which man represents (vorstellen is the German term) the absolute; while expressing the consciousness

certainty of itself:it is God manifested in the midst of those who know themselves in the form of pure knowledge. 56 The classic question has been whether Hegel is ultimately a thinker of divine life, or whether he ends up with some sort of humanism, reducing God to mans selfconception. The eminent Hegel scholar Jean Hyppolite, for example, writes with a noticeable sense of uncertainty that He is certainly not a mystic and although he interprets and takes up for himself the formulas of certain mystics, he already sees in them the image of his own dialectic. Nor is his solution an anthropology in Feuerbachs sense. Hegel speaks of the universal divine man who succeeded the God-man , but his thought remains equivocal and opens the way to the diverse interpretations of his followers. Absolute spirit surpasses finite spirit and yet exists only through finite spirit, even if it is true that only in this reconciliation (which supposes both separation and unity) is spirit authentically absolute because it becomes absolute. Jean Hyppolite, Genesis and Structure of Hegels Phenomenology of Spirit , p. 544.


Hegels tempor alization of the absolute

a people has of itself, it represents the absolute unity of finite and infinite, albeit not as a mere substance, but as mediated by a reflective awareness, the substance (of which Hegel speaks in the preface to the Phenomenology) which has become subject. As Hegel puts it elsewhere, God is God only so far as he knows himself; his self-knowledge is, further, a self-consciousness in man and mans knowledge of God, which proceeds to mans self-knowledge in God.57 Mans history is the history of Gods own reconciliation with himself in absolute otherness; hence mans self-consciousness coincides with that of God. These are grandiose metaphysical claims that I will not seek to interpret or substantiate further. One thing that can be said, however, is that although Hegel resolves the potential conflict between spirit and time in favor of spirit, seeing time itself as the eternal or perpetual present comprehending within itself both past and future, he understands the history of spirit, and modernity, in particular, as fraught with such dissatisfaction and negativity that from a purely experiential point of view it remains unclear whether religion can do the work of overcoming the disenchanted time of the abstract and universalist subject of modernity. Can such an overcoming take place without ignoring the observations Hegel has made of modernity? Historically, the nineteenth century was marked by secularization, and to rest Hegels case on a reference to de facto religious belief would therefore be unpromising. On the other hand, if Hegels case rests on his metaphysics, which is more likely given the importance he assigns to the Science of Logic, then there seems to be a conflict between that and the phenomenology. Although Hegel believes the conflict can be resolved by recourse to metaphysics, he would still be faced with the difficult task of defending the metaphysics of time underlying his account of spirits temporal development.58
57 G. W. F. Hegel, Philosophy of Mind: Being Part Three of the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences (1830), trans. A. V. Miller (Oxford:Clarendon Press, 1971), p. 299. 58 Some readers are likely to object that I do not take into account Hegels theory of the modern state as it is developed in Elements of the Philosophy of Right . In this work Hegel considers abstract right, morality, and ethical life (including family, civil society, and state) in light of the different ways in which they actualize human freedom, where freedom is understood as self-actualization. One concern Hegel has is to balance the modern requirement of individual freedom coming out of the Lutheran Reformation and the French Revolution with a more classical interest in achieving a determinate social identity. Of some interest for my project, given my preoccupation with the abstraction-claim, is whether his account of estates and corporations in that work might provide modern social life with some sort of

Tensions in Hegels understanding


In any event, the excessive character of Hegels concept of time was soon to be surmounted by the Left Hegelians, for whom time was accorded decisive priority over spirit and eternity. In Feuerbachs and Marxs philosophies of finitude, Hegels now, far from being an eternity which is immanent in time, became little more than an accidentally present point in the stream of time. A new generation of thinkers, including not only Feuerbach and Marx but Ruge, Bauer, and Kierkegaard as well, consciously elevated immanent historical change and development unfolding in a temporal dimension to be the ultimate arbiter of value. With the idea of temporally unfolding progress, however, followed an emphasis on futurity as being ethically and existentially primordial the idea, that is, that when rationally accounting for the present and ones actions in it what is to be achieved should be accorded justificatory primacy. Responding to Kants analytic of finitude, Hegel made one last attempt to provide a philosophical interpretation of a Christian conception of providence.59 Yet the new experience of social and material transformation brought about by the process of modernization led to an increased sense of contingency, which in the end undermined the credibility of the Hegelian view. The loss of eternity nevertheless engendered its own substitutes and reaction-formations, and various attempts were made to recover what had once been the unquestioned framework of human existence in time. As both religion and philosophy became incapable of
contextual or communitarian dimension. I think it could, although I hesitate to think that considerations concerning the concrete social identity to be had from membership in these institutions they are, after all, to be thought of mainly as professional associations can play a very large role in evaluating Hegels overall account of modernity. Moreover, the philosophy of right is less an account of modernity (like the one we find in the chapter on Spirit in the Phenomenology of Spirit) than it is a theory of what a fully rational state would look like. One may, therefore, share the early Hegels hesitations about modernity while being fully committed to the philosophy of right as an ideal account. For a useful discussion of subjective freedom versus corporate spirit, see Allen W. Wood, Hegels Ethical Thought (Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 23943. 59 Karl Lwith, Meaning and History (Chicago and London:University of Chicago Press, 1949), p. 59:Fifteen hundred years of Western thought were required before Hegel could venture to translate the eyes of faith into the eyes of reason and the theology of history as established by Augustine into a philosophy of history which is neither sacred nor profane. It is a curious mixture of both, degrading sacred history to the level of secular history and exalting the latter to the level of the first Christianity in terms of a self-sufficient Logos absorbing the will of God into the spirit of the world and the spirits of the nations, the Weltgeist and the Volksgeister.


Hegels tempor alization of the absolute

providing such substitutes, art, with its alleged powers of ecstatic knowledge, stepped into the equation, becoming throughout the nineteenth century the favored vehicle of ontological authorization of the eternal.60 In the next chapter I discuss Schopenhauers account of time and his invocation of aesthetic experience as a purveyor of transcendence.
60 For a study of this development, see Jean-Marie Schaeffer, Art of the Modern Age:Philosophy of Art from Kant to Heidegger, trans. Steven Rendall (Princeton University Press, 2000).

5 S c hope n h au e r a n d t r a ns c e n de nc e

Despite its consistently brilliant style, The World as Will and Representation is an unwieldy and often challenging book:by turns lyrical, acerbically insightful, and cynically dismissive, with its repertoire of philosophical concepts drawn mainly from Kant yet with forays into Hinduism and Platonism, it places vivid psychological realism at the service of a project that is unashamedly metaphysical in nature. Unlike his great contemporary Hegel, whose work he ferociously despised, Schopenhauers recognition did not take place until well after his own death, and his readership has tended to be of an aesthetic and literary rather than narrowly philosophical bent. That should not, however, be taken to imply that his contribution to philosophy has been slight; on the contrary, Schopenhauers work has exerted an extraordinary impact upon subsequent developments in European philosophy. His debunking of intellect in favor of will set the early Nietzsche off on his course, and via Eduard von Hartmann, a popular Schopenhauerian thinker of the late nineteenth century, exerted a profound influence on Sigmund Freud. Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno adopted aspects of his critique of Hegel as well as his emphasis on human suffering and finitude. Through the works of figures such as Richard Wagner, Marcel Proust, Thomas Mann, and Samuel Beckett, his importance for literary and musicological thought has been considerable. As a philosopher of time, Schopenhauer sees human existence as tragically finite and life essentially as a prolonged process of dying, oscillating between dissatisfaction and boredom. But not only is the life of individuals without metaphysical approbation. In bitter opposition to all the other philosophers associated with either Kant or postKantian German idealism, he dismisses the view that collective history can be described or understood in terms of the notion of progress,


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arguing instead that history should be approached in terms of a perpetual repetition of the same destructive forces and events in ever new clothing. The only respite to this condition lies in negation:while Hegel still appealed to spirits own temporal path of self-recognition as the pre-eminent guarantee of there being an objective purpose to human existence, Schopenhauers commitment to the existence of a non-purposive will at the foundation of existence itself leads him to conceive of aesthetic experience and ascesis as means to transcend the futility of everyday existence. For Schopenhauer, times destructiveness can only be countered by adopting a position of selfless immersion in the timeless realm of either Platonic ideas or the pure will. Schopenhauers work belongs squarely to an early nineteenthcentury discourse of the mal du sicle with its sense of spiritual malaise beginning to plague the French and German bourgeoisie. Like the increasingly influential chroniclers of boredom, ennui , spleen, and disillusionment among them Goethe, de Senancour, Chateaubriand, Lamartine, Tardieu, Flaubert, and Baudelaire Schopenhauer is politically disappointed, believing exemplary achievements of modernity such as the French Revolution and the rapid spread of new technologies to more and more areas of life to be little but inauthentic screenings of a more elemental negative force, and he is deeply distressed by the transformation from an entrepeneurialist bourgeois phase to that of industrialized mass society.1 Although Schopenhauer is responding to the process of modernization, The World as Will and Representation is written as though conceived and composed sub specie aeternitatis. With the exception of his reflections on current developments in philosophy and natural science, there are few, if any, direct references to the authors own time or to the process of modernization understood more broadly. Thus, in proposing that the book must be read as a document belonging to the philosophical discourse of modernity, I suggest that it is most fruitfully interpreted when placed within the context of its origin. My central claim in this chapter will be that while Schopenhauer presents a powerful account of the existential challenges implied by a modern conception of time, his invocation of aesthetic transcendence as a means to overcome the empty linearity of such time is unpromising.
1 For more on this, see his many invectives against political progressives and modern man in Parerga and Paralipomena:Short Philosophical Essays , 2 vols. trans. E. F. J. Payne, (Oxford:Clarendon Press, 1974).

The critique of Hegel


It intimates that some sort of leap out of the conditions of modernity is possible; and it seeks to reinstate a Platonic model that ultimately fails to explain how genuine transcendence is possible. At the end of the chapter I turn to Freuds thinking about transience and argue that, in psychoanalytic terms, Schopenhauer seeks to respond to transience by recommending what is essentially a melancholic position.

The critique of Hegel

It is not difficult to tell what the most important influences on Schopenhauers thinking were. Despite his suspicion of philosophical discipleship, Platos dialogues, the Vedas, the Upanishads, Kant, Berkeley, and Goethe are all mentioned frequently throughout The World as Will and Representation , and Schopenhauer has no qualms acknowledging his debt to these books and thinkers.2 With some noteworthy exceptions, however, it is not so easy to tell who Schopenhauer seeks to criticize.3 He is very much a constructive philosopher. The most noteworthy of these exceptions, which include all the German idealists, is no doubt Hegel (with Fichte a good second), whose thinking Schopenhauer never tires of scorning. As early as in the third paragraph of the preface to the second edition of The World as Will and Representation we find Schopenhauer referring to Hegel as an intellectual Caliban,4 and his conflicts in Berlin with the internationally acclaimed Hegel when Schopenhauer was lecturing as an obscure Privatdozent are well known to most students of nineteenth-century philosophy. The reasons behind Schopenhauers aversion to Hegel have in part to do with his more general hatred of all forms of academic or university philosophy. He strongly promoted a kind of romantic or elitist ideal of thinking as the activity of a solitary mind grappling with the deep issues of life unconstrained either by public expectation, the scientific community, or indeed, as in Hegel, the requirements of rigid systematicity.5 The anti-Hegelianism was also related to
2 Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation , trans. E. F. J. Payne (New York:Dover Publications, 1969), pp. xiixvi. 3 As an exception, he very clearly identifies Kant as the target of his critique in the long appendix to the first book of The World as Will and Representation . 4 Ibid ., p. xxi. 5 Schopenhauer, On Philosophy at the Universities, in Parerga and Paralipomena , vol. i, pp. 13997.


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Schopenhauers ambition to be the true successor of Kant the one who would most successfully and adventurously continue the Kantian project. In Schopenhauers estimate, Hegel, who with his vast invocations of reasons capacity and role in human life seemed to venture far beyond the epistemically modest framework of Kants critical project, could not in any way lay claim to such a legacy. Yet the most important reason for distrusting Hegels philosophy was neither directly related to his suspicion of the academicism of dialectical logic, nor to his claim to being the real inheritor of the Kantian project. What Schopenhauer found particularly unacceptable in Hegels thinking (and in the works of some of the other German idealists, including Fichte) was its rejection of a metaphysical theory of transcendent, non-rational being and the concurrent attempt to demonstrate that being as such is responsive to, and indeed governed by, reason. As we have seen, at least part of the Hegelian response to the worry that history and the temporality of individual lives in it are without purpose and hence meaningless in some deep sense was to introduce an account of Geist that would make both the time of nature and the time of history determined by a priori principles of self-organization and self-development. Spirit actualizes itself in time, thereby making time not a medium of empty progression from one instant to the next but a dynamically productive and rational process that permits purpose to exist objectively both in human history and in nature at large. On Hegels theodiciacal view, every event has a positive meaning; there is no brute being beyond the rational order constituted by the activities of spirit itself.6 Schopenhauers claim against Hegel that being as such, being in itself, is irrational and without purpose may be seen to echo a gnostic objection to orthodox Christianity, namely that the belief in the infinite benevolence and almightiness of God is impossible to square with the fact of evil.7 Whereas Hegel, via his dialectical account of spirits own necessary self-externalization and self-appropriation, seeks to reconcile evil with reason, thereby siding, albeit in a rarefied philosophical
6 For a critical discussion of Hegels attempt to offer a theodicy, see Richard Bernstein, Radical Evil:A Philosophical Interrogation (Oxford:Blackwell, 2002). 7 For an elaborate account of this view, see Micha Brumlik, Die Gnostiker: Der Traum von der Selbsterlsung des Menschen (Frankfurt: Fischer Verlag, 1995), pp. 21015, esp. p. 213: Schopenhauer mochte nicht sehen, da das, was er als gnostische Religionsphilosophie bezeichnete, nur ein Ausweg aus einer Konstellation darstellt, die auch er nicht aufgegeben hat:Einer ganz und gar schlechten, verwerflichen Welt steht ein ber alle Maen guter, abgrndiger Gott gegenber.

The critique of Hegel


language, with orthodoxy in viewing evil as stemming from a finite human freedom that through agape and Gods own self-sacrifice in Christ can find forgiveness, Schopenhauer holds being itself, the world as it is in itself, to be irreconcilable with mans desire for meaning and purposiveness. To be sure, Schopenhauer was not the first thinker in the German idealist tradition to have put a wedge between being and reason. While not acknowledged by Schopenhauer, the late Schelling, in his positive philosophy, had already criticized Hegel for failing to demonstrate that the categories of the dialectical logic actually extend to being as such.8 Such categories, Schelling argued, may have an a priori status for human thinking, but even if our grasp of being is necessarily mediated by them, we would need an independent argument to show that being in itself is rational (i.e. that it actually conforms to the structure of reason), and this Hegel fails to provide. In his essay on freedom, Schelling coins the term Un-Grund in order to emphasize the ungraspability of pre-conceptual, indeterminate being. It is a Grund , a ground, in that it makes consciousness, freedom, and objectification possible, although it can never be turned into a categorized, determinate object.9 Directly anticipating Schopenhauer, Schelling even identifies the Un-Grund with the notion of will (Wille), arguing that the essence of the universe is a pulsating yet blind will that operates independently of any recognizable order or system of purposiveness. Schopenhauer identifies the essence of the world the world as it is in itself, independently of any particular perspective on it with the will:
All representation, be it of whatever kind it may, all object , is phenomenon . But only the will is thing-in-itself ; as such it is not representation at all, but toto genere different therefrom. It is that of which all representation,
8 See, for example, Schellings critical discussion of Hegel in On the History of Modern Philosophy, trans. Andrew Bowie (Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp. 13460. Since on Hegels account nature is the first in point of time but not such that it can exist independently of spirit, it is doubtful whether this objection can have any bite. See G. W. F. Hegel, Philosophy of Nature:Being Part Two of the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences (1830), trans. A. V. Miller (Oxford:Clarendon Press, 1970), p. 19:Nature is the first in point of time, but the absolute prius is the Idea; this absolute prius is the last, the true beginning, Alpha is Omega. See also Philosophy of Nature , p. 444. 9 F. W. J. Schelling, Philosophical Investigations into the Essence of Human Freedom , trans. Jeff Love and Johannes Schmidt (Albany, N.Y.:SUNY Press, 2006). For an elaborate introduction to Schellings account, see Frederick C. Beiser, German Idealism:The Struggle against Subjectivism, 17811801 (Cambridge, Mass. and London:Harvard University Press, 2002), pp. 56576. See also Terry Pinkard, German Philosophy 17601860:The Legacy of Idealism (New York and Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp. 19298.


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all object, is the phenomenon, the visibility, the objectivity. It is the innermost essence, the kernel, of every particular thing and also of the whole. It appears in every blindly acting force of nature, and also in the deliberate conduct of man, and the great difference between the two concerns only the degree of the manifestation, not the inner nature of what is manifested.10

The will to which he attributes unity yet which, given Schopenhauers restriction on applying the concept of objecthood beyond the phenomenal realm, can hardly be viewed as an entity should not be confused with force, which exists at the level of phenomena and must be explained as such. The force of gravity, for example, is an expression rather an instantiation of will. Although in part modeled on human willing, the will is the ultimate reality, as well as ultimate explanation, of everything that exists and occurs in the world of phenomena. Since my aim here is to discuss his account of time, I will refrain from further discussing Schopenhauers notion of the will. Suffice it to say that he initially detects its operation in his own body (most directly through sexual desire, but also through hunger and other bodily needs) and then, in a highly speculative leap, generalizes this observation to hold true of everything that exists.11 The will is unitary, and
10 Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation , vol. i, p. 110. 11 The key step in this regard takes place in The World as Will and Representation , vol. i, p. 109. Schopenhauer has just stated (p. 108) that Teeth, gullet, and intestinal canal are objectified hunger; the genitals are objectified sexual impulse; grasping hands and nimble feet correspond to the more indirect strivings of the will which they represent. We can feel our inner nature functioning this way. He then goes on to claim (p. 109) that The reader who with me has gained this conviction, will find that of itself it will become the key to the knowledge of the innermost being of the whole of nature, since he now transfers it to all those phenomena that are given to him, not like his own phenomenon both in direct and in indirect knowledge, but in the latter solely, and hence merely in a one-sided way, as representation alone. He will recognize that same will not only in those phenomena that are quite similar to his own, in men and animals, as their innermost nature, but continued reflection will lead him to recognize the force that shoots and vegetates in the plant, indeed the force by which the crystal is formed, the force that turns the magnet to the North Pole, the force whose shock he encounters from the contact of metals of different kinds, the force that appears in the elective affinities of matter as repulsion and attraction, separation and union, and finally even gravitation, which acts so powerfully in all matter, pulling the stone to the earth and the earth to the sun; all these he will recognize as different only in the phenomenon, but the same according to their inner nature. He will recognize them all as that which is immediately known to him so intimately and better than everything else, and where it appears most distinctly is called will . It is only this application of reflection which no longer lets us stop at the phenomenon, but leads us on to the thing-in-itself. The extraordinary style in which this passage is couched

The theory of time


since nothing else really exists, Schopenhauer infers that the world is ontologically one. There is only the will. Phenomena exist only for the human subject, as what Schopenhauer calls its representations, and since the human cognitive apparatus is a mere function of the will, they must be viewed as illusory objectifications of the will itself. While ontologically the world is one, epistemologically that is, for the subject it divides into the thing in itself and the order of the phenomena. In order to understand his theory of time, it is necessary to come to grips with how Schopenhauer understands the fundamental nature of experience.

The theory of time

In developing his account of time, Schopenhauer takes himself to be following Kants transcendental aesthetic:The Transcendental Aesthetic is a work of such merit that it alone would be sufficient to immortalize the name of Kant. Its proofs have such a complete power of conviction that I number its propositions among the incontestable truths.12 Assenting to a set of propositions, however, is different from offering a rational reconstruction of them. Even a cursory reading of Schopenhauers interpretation shows that his approach to Kants doctrine of time in the transcendental aesthetic is at best idiosyncratic, more revealing, perhaps, of Schopenhauers own brand of idealism than of Kants own distinct form of transcendental idealism. Reducing Kants elaborate set of categories to just one, namely causality, Schopenhauer understands time, space, and causality to be the three essential ways in which the mind imposes a priori forms on every object that can be presented to it. Since these forms are not found in the object itself but make the representation of objects possible, they are, he writes, the ground of being.13 Time and space in particular are said to be formal or pure intuitions:they can, as Kant holds in the metaphysical exposition of these concepts in the transcendental aesthetic, be represented as intuitions even without external objects, whereas objects can only be represented
almost covers over the embarrassing fact that, despite its enormous importance for Schopenhauers metaphysics, the reader is not presented with anything like an argument for the ontological monism of a cosmic will. Schopenhauer simply invites us to perform the same kind of transferring of the will from our own bodies to nature in general as he claims to have done. However, he never explains on what basis anyone would be rationally entitled to do so. 12 Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation , vol. i, p. 437. 13 Ibid ., p. 7.


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within time and space. Although all of this may sound very Kantian, it should be noted that Schopenhauers version is quite psychologistic. The a priori forms, he claims, lie in the human intellect, and, since Schopenhauer without any argument identifies the intellect or the mind with the brain, their origin is in the brain.14 From a Kantian point of view, the problem with this is obvious. As Kant points out in paragraph 27 of the b edition of the Critique of Pure Reason, if the categories and the pure sensible intuitions (space and time) are held to have an empirical origin, then it will be impossible and indeed involve a generatio aequivoca at the same time to defend their status as a priori concepts and intuitions.15 If, as Schopenhauer claims, they have an empirical origin, then they must have an a posteriori status; hence their claim to be necessary and strictly universal must falter. It is doubtful whether Schopenhauer is actually aware of this problem. As mentioned, he often treats brain, intellect, and understanding as interchangeable terms; thus, the difficulty involved in trying to locate the origins of a priori knowledge in what is empirically given as an object may never have arisen for him. Schopenhauer also claims to adopt Kants ideality thesis about time, holding that time is in us.16 Rather than being applicable to things considered in themselves without taking account of the mediation of our sensibility, time is a form in which all things appear to the mind. Nothing can appear to the mind but that which has a temporal determination. For Schopenhauer, a natural extension of this thought is that time is some sort of distorting medium through which things seem to us to be temporally determined, whereas in reality they are not. Such an interpretation is in line with metaphysical or ontological reconstructions of Kants transcendental idealism, according to which the distinction between the order of appearances and the order of things in themselves is one between degrees of reality.17 On such a
14 Ibid ., p. 421. 15 Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason , trans. Norman Kemp Smith (London:Macmillan, 1986), B167. 16 Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation , vol. i, p. 424:Thus before Kant we were in time; now time is in us, and so on. 17 There is a long line of Kant scholars, going back at least to Peter Strawson, who in some version or another have held this view. Paul Guyer, for example, argues in Kant and the Claims of Knowledge (Cambridge University Press, 1987), pp. 33435, that Kant views the concept of the thing in itself in such a way as to degrade ordinary objects to mere representations of themselves, or identify objects possessing spatial and temporal properties with mere mental entities.

The theory of time


view, the restriction of epistemic access to appearances means, strictly speaking, that objective knowledge is impossible. Since objective knowledge must be knowledge of reality as it exists independently of our capacity for representation, there can be no such thing as objective knowledge.18 According to an epistemic interpretation, however, of Kants argument for the ideality of space of time, things do not seem to us to be temporal because they are perceived through a distorting medium. Rather, things are temporal in the sense that temporality is a necessary condition for something to be considered an object at all (berhaupt). On this interpretation, the relevant distinction is not between different degrees of reality (or between reality and mere illusion), but between things represented in accordance with the necessary and universal conditions for such representation and the ultimately empty idea of things transcending the conditions for what may count as objects for us.19 In sharp contrast to this view, Schopenhauer is adamant that, as forms that are imposed by the mind on what is presented to it, time and space create a counter-world of mere appearances, that is, an illusory world contrasted to the real world, which is the world of the will, existing beyond space and time. On the epistemic interpretation of Kant there is no reason to think that time and space are subjective in the sense that their origin is in the mind, and that they are somehow imposed on what is given. The only relevant sense in which they are subjective is that they are a priori conditions for whatever can be presented in intuition; thus in the absence of time and space there would be no human experience.

18 In The Bounds of Sense:An Essay on Kants Critique of Pure Reason (London:Methuen, 1966), p. 16, Peter Strawson claims that, for Kant, reality is supersensible and we have no knowledge of it. 19 For an elaborate account of this version of transcendental idealism, see Henry E. Allison, Kants Transcendental Idealism , revised and enlarged edn. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2004). On p. 16 Allison writes that this epistemologically based understanding of transcendental idealism requires that the transcendental distinction between appearances and things in themselves be understood as holding between two ways of considering things (as they appear and as they are in themselves) rather than as, on the more traditional reading, between two ontologically distinct set of entities (appearances and things in themselves). He continues: When Kants distinction is understood in this way, the claim that we can cognize things only as they appear, not as they are in themselves, need not be taken (as it was, for example, by Prichard) to mean that we can know only how things seem to us under certain conditions or through a veil of perception. Rather, such cognition is fully objective, since it is governed by a priori epistemic conditions (p. 17).


Schopenhauer and tr anscendence

Indeed, as many commentators have noticed, Schopenhauers idealism, which includes what is given to the senses, or the material, and not just the a priori forms of sensibility, or the formal, is in many respects closer to that of Berkeley than to that of Kant. On Schopenhauers view, to be an object is to be an object for a consciousness:
The world is my representation ... Therefore no truth is more certain, more independent of all others, and less in need of proof than this, namely that everything that exists for knowledge, and hence the whole of this world, is only object in relation to the subject, perception of the perceiver, in a word representation ... Everything that in any way belongs and can belong to the world is inevitably associated with this being-conditioned by the subject, and it exists only for the subject.20

The key to Schopenhauers view is his insistence that the basic term in epistemology should be neither subject nor object but representation (Vorstellung). Rather than being mutually independent terms, both subject and object are aspects of the representation itself. Whereas the representation is presented directly and in a non-inferential manner such that no skepticism can arise, subject and object are, he argues, the two poles of the representation. To any representation there necessarily belongs a perceiving I, for without such a perceiving I there would be no representation. Likewise, the object is, to use Husserls terminology, the intentional correlate of each and every act of comporting oneself to the representation. When starting from the subject, as Schopenhauer claims Fichte does, one never gets to establish an epistemic relation to an object because only the subjects own representations are immediately available to consciousness, and there is no external point of view that allows one to bridge the gap from such representations to the object. On the other hand, by starting from the object, the relation becomes equally inconceivable; for how can the object matter even be considered in the absence of a subject for which such an object can be represented as an object? Schopenhauers fundamental claim is that the subjectobject split the Cartesian legacy in epistemology which, because of its division between the inner and the outer, directly accessible representations and indirectly accessible reality, generates the considerable, and perhaps irresolvable, problem of how representations can be veridical must be overcome not by deriving the one from the other, but by introducing a new perspective
20 Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation , vol. i, p. 3.

The theory of time


that makes it possible to realize that the division itself does not exist in the first place.21 Schopenhauers view is meant to undercut the global (Cartesian) skeptics argument by identifying the empirical world with the representation in which subject and object are united. This position, however, is inherently unstable. Although Schopenhauer believes that he has curbed the possibility of epistemic skepticism, he does, as already mentioned, make very strong metaphysical claims about there being an objectively existing world of pure will that transcends the grasp of humans. What Kants argument amounts to is not that there is something we cannot know, but that to talk about knowledge makes sense only within a certain framework that we may call anthropological. For Kant, it is not that we cannot know the thing in itself and should therefore be disappointed as knowers; rather, it makes no sense to talk about human knowledge (or lack of such) beyond the parameters of human intelligibility. By contrast, Schopenhauers view is that, metaphysically speaking, the world is pure will, yet epistemologically, we can only have recourse to representations. However, Schopenhauer never explains how it is possible to know that the thing in itself is correctly described as pure will. Schopenhauers idealism may appear to equivocate between a stronger and a weaker version. Prima facie the stronger version seems downright implausible. If Schopenhauers view is that an objects existence is dependent on its actually being perceived, then it follows that an unperceived object does not exist. However, if the unperceived object does not exist, then the world would cease to exist and come into being again as humans go about their business. How could the world in which, causally speaking, life (and therefore minds) emerged from non-life have existed before there was anyone around to perceive it? From the perspective of considerations like these it is hard to see the attraction of such a view. Schopenhauers idealism seems more plausible, however, if existence is equated, as in the weaker version of his idealism, not with being perceived but with perceptibility.22 This view would entail no claims about the objects existential dependence on perception but, rather, an interesting and less problematic claim about the very meaning of
21 Dale Jacquette refers to this as the interpresupposionality of subject and object. See The Philosophy of Schopenhauer (Montreal and Ithaca, N.Y.:McGill-Queens University Press, 2005), p. 27. 22 See The World as Will and Representation , vol. i, p. 4, where Schopenhauer appears to endorse the claim, attributed to the Vednta school of philosophy by Sir William Jones, that existence and perceptibility are convertible terms.


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objecthood. We can speak intelligibly about something being an object only in so far as it can be presented as such to a subject. And in so far as it is presented, it must satisfy the most fundamental conditions namely, having temporal and spatial coordinates and being causally related to other objects or events for something to be an object for that subject. The weaker view makes no reference to the non-existence of unperceived objects. The onus, rather, is on what can count as an object. We can now understand better the role time plays in the overall design of Schopenhauers system. Time is an a priori constituent of all possible experience; together with space and causality it is a formal condition of objecthood, yet the world as it is in itself cannot coherently be said to be temporal; hence Schopenhauer avers that it must be atemporal. The essence and nature of time, he claims, is succession . In conjunction with space, it makes such fundamental features of the phenomenal world as coexistence and duration possible. Time qua succession is also important for Schopenhauers account of causality, which is a rule-governed succession of events in space. But most important and relevant for Schopenhauers theory of human existence (which, after all, is our main concern here) is his view following from the claim that the essence of time is succession that such existence is radically transitory. Time is a succession of discrete, infinitesimally brief moments, each of which exists only by effacing the preceding moment:In time each moment is, only in so far as it has effaced its father the preceding moment, to be again effaced just as quickly itself. Past and future ... are as empty and unreal as any dream; but present is only the boundary between the two, having neither extension nor duration.23 In strict metaphysical terms, this is unsatisfactory. Having introduced his position, Schopenhauer fails to address the classic paradox, forcefully raised by Augustine in the eleventh book of the Confessions, that if the present is only the boundary between past and future, and therefore without temporal extension (or duration), then, since existence requires temporal extension, it becomes impossible to attribute existence to the present.24 Moreover, Schopenhauer seems to offer no
23 Ibid ., p. 7. 24 Augustine, Confessions , trans. R. S. Pine-Coffin (Harmondsworth:Penguin Books, 1961), p. 264: As for the present, if it were always present and never moved on to become the past, it would not be time but eternity. If, therefore, the present is time only by reason of the fact that it moves on to become the past, how can we say that even the present is , when the reason why it is is that it is not to be ?

The theory of time


answer to the equally old problem of how time can be composed both of discrete instants and hold up for us a continuum. How, for example, can we account for the continued existence of objects on this picture? It would seem that they, and indeed the world itself, would come in and out of existence as time passes. Yet if we look beyond these metaphysical quandaries, it is clear that the central outcome of Schopenhauers account of time as a successive destruction of every presence, where what is given in time as present is irretrievably lost in the same instant as it appears, amounts to an extraordinary and quite peculiar vision of human loss. As the radically transitory moment is all there is, the world and our existence in it have no standing. Time and history are modalities of perpetual destruction. The sense of loss becomes even more pronounced when Schopenhauer, in book four of The World as Will and Representation , starts considering death. While death is ordinarily understood to occur at the end of a human life, such that life and death contrast with one another and are mutually exclusive, Schopenhauer interprets life itself as an ongoing dying that starts with the infants first breath:His real existence is only in the present, whose unimpeded flight into the past is a constant transition into death, a constant dying.25 Yet life as a whole, a normal life span, is also very short. We continue our life, he adds, with great interest and much solicitude as long as possible, just as we blow out a soap-bubble as long and as large as possible, although with the perfect certainty that it will burst.26 Of course, the notion of lifes brevity is a comparative one:it presupposes another time, what we might call cosmic or deep time, in comparison with which a normal life span, however long, is not only finite but staggeringly short. While hardly noticed by Schopenhauer, the awareness of the painful contrast between cosmic and lived time presupposes a modern setting in which the individual is faced with the dominance of physical time or clock-time.27 A traditional society in which time to a greater extent is a function of mythic repetition or natural cycles in nature could not conceive of this contrast. However, unlike many other writers on this topic, including both Husserl and
25 Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation , vol. i, p. 311. 26 Ibid . The tension should be noted here between the idea of time as involving radical discontinuity (giving rise to the constant dying thesis) and the idea of a brief continuity (giving rise to the brevity of life thesis). 27 For a detailed discussion of this issue, see Hans Blumenberg, Lebenszeit und Weltzeit (Frankfurt:Suhrkamp, 2001).


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Heidegger, Schopenhauer, betraying his stern acceptance of the modern experience of disenchanted time, never attempts to downplay the impact of cosmic time or argue that the time of the lifeworld is primary. Schopenhauer adds to his observation about transience and lifes brevity that as long as all our needs are satisfied, boredom is the predominant experience of temporality in its disenchanted form: the empty ticking away of the clock. Since, however, the basis of all human existence is need (this claim follows from the assumption about the pervasiveness of the will) and the concomitant desire to satisfy it, our lives are dominated by discomfort emerging from a lack of satisfaction. Indeed, as Schopenhauer argues, our lives fluctuate between discomfort and boredom:discomfort or pain, when one or more needs make themselves felt; boredom, when, for a brief moment, they are all quelled and there is nothing more that needs to be done. In middle-class life boredom is represented by the Sunday, just as want is represented by the six weekdays.28 Of course, Schopenhauers explanation is not complete. A purposive-rational agent in Webers sense would, when all her needs are satisfied, start planning for the future, rather than just abstain from acting. The satisfaction of needs may be a necessary but hardly a sufficient condition for the emergence of boredom. In order to explain the emergence of boredom, something else, a sense of meaninglessness, implied by Schopenhauers vision of empty time, must also be brought into the equation. Schopenhauers account of time can be viewed as amounting to a form of radical nihilism. On this account, time is emptied out or flattened, containing no promise, no potential for transformation, except that of dying and death; and the individual moments of time with their individual units of experiential content all that exists are inherently transitory to the point of being self-cancelling. Life is a rush from one such empty moment to the next; and outside each individual life, perpetually fluctuating between discomfort and boredom, reigns the infinity of cosmic time. With the exception, perhaps, of Giacomo Leopardi and, as we shall see, Charles Baudelaire, few nineteenthcentury writers have more forcefully traced the ethical and existential consequences of a modern, disenchanted temporality.29
28 Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation , vol. i, p. 313. 29 Giacomo Leopardi, Selected Poems , trans. Eamon Grennan (Princeton University Press, 1997).

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Transience and nihilism

While philosophically grounded in Schopenhauers system, the sense of transitoriness being invoked here carries phenomenological and experiential implications that have called for more literary forms of representation. In Der Abschied. Theorie der Trauer (The farewell. A theory of mourning), the German philosopher and literary theorist Karl-Heinz Bohrer has argued that some of the most incisive interrogations of modern, disenchanted time can be found not in philosophy but in certain strands of nineteenth-century poetry.30 In Les Fleurs du mal , for example, he finds Baudelaire developing something like a poetic account of modernitys specific form of temporality. In a secular order, Bohrer argues, time is viewed as the endless substitution of one instant for the next, in a chain of instants for which there is neither an origin nor end. Every instant disappears as soon as it has appeared. Thus, the melancholy ego in Baudelaires une passante can only witness in distress how the promise of love and happiness contained in the brief encounter with a passer-by on the street immediately fades into nothingness.
The street roared round me, deafening. Tall, slender, in deep mourning, regal woe, A woman passed, lifting her furbelow, Holding her hem up, graceful, wondering; Noble and lithe, her leg was sculptural. And I myself, with wild intensity, Drank in her eyes, a somber, stormy sky, The sweetness that enthralls, the joy that kills. A lightning flash ... then night! Love passing by, Whose sudden glance bestowed new life on me, Shall I not see you till eternity? But its too far! Too late! Never, maybe! I know not where you are you, where I go, You whom I should have loved and felt it so!31
30 Karl-Heinz Bohrer, Der Abschied. Theorie der Trauer: Baudelaire, Goethe, Nietzsche, Benjamin (Frankfurt:Suhrkamp, 1996). For an attempt to locate and, in part, defend Bohrers project within the framework of a philosophical discourse of modernity, see Charles Larmore, Romanticism and Modernity, Inquiry 34:1 (1991):pp. 7789. 31 Charles Baudelaire, Selected Poems , trans. Joanna Richardson (London and New York:Penguin Books, 1987), pp. 17071. une passante La rue assourdissante autour de moi hurlait. Longue, mince, en grand deuil, douleur majestueuse,


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A lightning flash ... then night! Thus Baudelaire describes the exposure to the inexorable ephemerality of the present, and of every presencing. As soon as the woman has appeared in the crowd (which, incidentally, is an arch-modern phenomenon, a familiar emblem in the discourse of modernity from Gustave le Bon to Sigmund Freud and Elias Canetti), she is gone, in all likelihood forever. Now the experience of transience is, as it were, an anthropological constant; hence Bohrers point is not that that as such counts as specifically modern. Things have always come to pass. What really must be considered modern, he argues, is the stern sense, in the literature he explores, that since time, at least for modern agents, is first and foremost experienced as a succession of continuously fading now-points, there can be no return, or retrieval, of that which is gone. The past is gone forever the woman will never be seen again, and life itself hurries to its unavoidable end. Indeed, since the present moment must be considered to have no real extension (any extension would simply include another succession of now-points) but only, at best, some sort of infinitesimally short duration, not just the past but also what we take to be the present has no standing. If conceived as the steady transformation of potential future into actual past by reference to a dynamic human perspective fixated on the present, time brings everything to an end in every single moment; it seems, as Sartre puts it, to dissolve the world into an infinite dust of instants.32
Une femme passa, dune main fastueuse Soulevant, balanant le feston et lourlet; Agile et noble, avec sa jambe de statue. Moi, je buvais, crisp comme un extravagant, Dans son il, ciel livide o germe louragan, La douceur qui fascine et le plaisir qui tue. Un clair ... puis la nuit! Fugitive beaut Dont le regard ma fait soudainement renatre, Ne te verrai-je plus que dans lternit? Ailleurs, bien loin dici! trop tard! Jamais peut-tre! Car jignore o tu fuis, tu ne sais o je vais, toi que jeusse aime, toi qui le savais! 32 Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness:An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology, trans. Hazel E. Barnes (London:Methuen, 1969), p. 131:It is time which is chosen as the practical measure of distance; this town is half an hour away, that one an hour; it will take three days to finish this work, etc. ... The instant is indivisible and nontemporal since temporality is succession, but the world dissolves into an infinite dust of instants. It should be pointed out that Sartres own analysis leads him to reject this view.

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According to Bohrer, the figure of the return a repetition, or retrieval of that which has been has played an impor restoration, tant role in the European literary imagination. As evidence, Bohrer cites such central texts as The Odyssey (with its return of the hero to Ithaca), the gospels (with Christs return after death), and The Divine Comedy (in which the narrator returns to life having traversed Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise). He also cites, from philosophy, the Platonic quest to escape from self-estrangement and return to truth, as well as the Hegelian desire for synthesis and reconciliation. With modernity and the complete disenchantment of Western time-consciousness, this figure, he argues, appears to have lost its erstwhile authority and plausibility. Modern agents no longer seem to have recourse to the idea of temporal restoration, the return of that which was once well lost. Bohrers account is at this point ambiguous. It is not clear whether his claim is that modernity has led to the discovery of the final truth about time, or whether modernity has brought about or even created this new and disenchanted experience of time.33 There is a difference between, on the one hand, holding that included in the essence of time is the irretrievability of every moment, and hence that temporal recovery is a mere illusion that modern agents will be rejecting, and, on the other, holding that modernity has brought about a new conception of time which itself, though not necessarily true in some absolute or metaphysical sense, is incompatible with the notion of temporal recovery. While following Aristotle and others in a priori linking time with transience, he nevertheless displays a clear awareness of modernity as uniquely bringing about a new conception, or at least experience, of time. If, given that he has no ambition to try to establish a metaphysical theory of time beyond the often rather loose references to transience, it ultimately makes most sense to interpret Bohrer as agreeing with my own view, namely that modernity must be considered to have brought forth its own conception of time, and hence that a social rather than a metaphysical account is called for, then he is faced with different options:He may try to offer a critique of modernity itself; or, like Heidegger, he may argue that modernity has generated a distorted conception of time that should be corrected; or, finally, he may accept that
33 In Der Abschied , p. 9, Bohrer speaks of Abschiednehmen as Vorstellung und Bild so etwas wie eine Urszene des Menschen. In his analyses of Baudelaire, Nietzsche, and Benjamin, however, he claims that the radical awareness of temporality as a structure necessarily involving irretrievable loss is only to be found in modernity.


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these are our conditions that modernity in its current formation is inescapable, and that we need to understand its implications and somehow endorse or learn to live with them. Bohrer definitely rejects the first position. He is deeply skeptical of any critique that promises an escape from modernity. He is, however, also dismissive of positions that purport to explain temporal disenchantment as being based on some kind of misunderstanding. The option he takes up, it seems, is to accept the fact of temporal disenchantment and, while calling it nihilism, to hold that no remedy can be found for it. While refusing to accept any recourse to transcendence, arguing that such attempts have dominated modern philosophies of history and in some instances disastrously encouraged the formulation of various totalitarian teleologies, the positive side of Bohrers project hinges on the possibility of coming to terms with the destructive nature of time. Despite its chilling pronouncements about modern life, there exists a form of acceptable nihilism, expressed not only in Baudelaire and Leopardi but in twentieth-century writers like Beckett and Cioran, for whom the discovery of finitude becomes a source of ethical orientation, in however minimalist a sense. In the light of this predicament, our best bet, according to Bohrer, is to take inspiration from the Epicurean tradition in seeking to live with the absence of comprehensive meaning:Ich lasse mir das Erlebte nicht ber hhere negative oder positive Sinnordnungen entstellen und erlebe es ohne Sinn, jedenfalls ohne teleologisch-finale Sinn.34 The most adequate response to the fact of finitude is a lifestyle geared towards short-term satisfaction free of the illusion that things will last. This in itself may be perfectly reasonable. What Bohrers account lacks, however, is something akin to Nietzsches interest in how the passing of time may be affirmed that is, how genuine mourning, the letting go of the past, and with that forgiveness, is possible.35 It remains unclear why anyone who has accepted Bohrers analysis would

34 Karl Heinz Bohrer, Mglichkeiten einer nihilistischen Ethik (i), Merkur 51:1 (1997), p. 18: I will not let what I experience be distorted via higher negative or positive systems of meaning and will live through it without meaning, and at least without teleological-final meaning (authors translation). See also Simon Critchley, Very Little ... Almost Nothing, revised edn. (London and New York:Routledge, 2004). 35 See Vladimir Janklvitch, Forgiveness , trans. Andrew Kelley (Chicago and London:University of Chicago Press, 2005), p. 15:Aggressive rancor resists becoming; and forgiveness, on the contrary, favors becoming by ridding it of impediments that weigh upon it, it cures us of rancorous hypertrophy.

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be motivated to find anything of value in the present for, after all, the present is nichtig, it is pure passing. Another reason why Bohrers nihilism remains problematic is its staunch dismissal of any challenges to kronos to the homogeneous, destructive time of modernity. Bohrers account only makes sense if one supposes that no alternative can be presented. He assumes, in other words, that there cannot be another time, a kairos of some sort, and that for modern agents the time of the clock, though not necessarily ontologically adequate in some deep sense, is the only available framework. In view of the many alternative philosophies of time that have been developed in response to the problems of linear, modern time, including those of Bergson and Heidegger, such a claim is question-begging:Bohrer would need to discuss the most promising candidates, or at least demonstrate why they are irrelevant. He too quickly rules out the possibility of a critical theory of temporal modernity, or an appeal to more authentic forms of accounting for our lives as temporal beings. However, like Schopenhauer, Bohrer does provide a notion of how everyday temporality can be aesthetically challenged. In his theory of literature, in particular, he develops a conception of aesthetic illusion (Schein). On this view, the suddenness of aesthetic experience the sublimity of art is said to intimate a kind of utopian transgression.36 Like the early Beckett, Bohrer holds art or at least certain forms of art to be capable of satisfying its own promise of happiness by transporting its audience beyond the confines of everyday temporality.37 The disadvantage, though, is that such satisfaction remains an exclusive hallmark of aesthetic experience, and, what is more problematic, the utopian element of aesthetic transgression is said to bear no relation whatsoever to history but is a mere psychological or anthropological effect.
36 For Bohrers theory of the avant-garde and the sublime, see Suddenness:On the Moment of Aesthetic Appearance , trans. Ruth Crowley (New York:Columbia University Press, 1994). On p. 233, Bohrer offers the following summary of his analysis:The value of the utopia of the moment, which has become aesthetic, can no longer be qualified in terms of the philosophy of history, but must be viewed instead in terms of anthropology and psychology. Telos, ethos, and regulative idea, which are categories applicable to the conceptual comprehension of the traditional forms of utopia, are of no use here. The utopia of the moment shares the criterion of incommensurability with the phenomenon of the aesthetic itself. 37 For Becketts account, see his essay Proust, in Proust and Three Dialogues with Georges Duthuit (London:Calder, 1987), pp. 7576. Bohrer instances such seminal examples of modernist writing as Joyces Ulysses , Musils The Man without Qualities , and Prousts Remembrance of Things Past .


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Bohrers turn to art is heavily indebted to Schopenhauer. On Schopenhauers account, the possibility of transcendence emerges from a consideration of aesthetic experience, in particular as it involves perception of timeless ideas. Viewed as immediate objectifications of the will, ideas in Schopenhauers system are essences pure and ideal forms that serve as archetypes of every particular object of a given kind. While empirical knowledge is always subordinated to the will, primarily serving the role of defending the subject against external threats and finding the most efficient means to satisfy desire, knowledge of ideas arises through a displacement of reason from being occupied with appearances as they figure in light of the principle of self-preservation to being concerned exclusively with purely intelligible objects beyond space, time, and causality. With the exception of music, which expresses the will itself, the highest and most perfect forms of art, he maintains, let these ideas be intuited not, as in Bohrer, by the empirical individual, but by a pure will-less subject of knowledge.38 It may seem problematic to hold that the ideas can be perceived as though they are objects when in fact they purport to be intelligible essences. Kant, after all, whose account of reason serves as an acknowledged source of inspiration to Schopenhauer, vehemently denied that Platonic ideas can ever be given as objects of intuition.39 On his view, ideas can be thought but never experienced. Whatever can be experienced must belong to the empirical order. Schopenhauers contention, however, is not that we intuit ideas in the same manner as we intuit empirical objects. There is a special sort of non-empirical intuition, he maintains, which makes it possible to go beyond the transcendental conditions of empirical knowing altogether, and thus also to transcend time itself. Being the archetype of a particular type of entity, an idea becomes visible in the most perfect instantiations of that entity. It reveals itself, yet without entering into the order of phenomena. Schopenhauer is thus not inviting us to equate the artwork qua empirical entity with the idea. The Apollo Belvedere is an object made of marble. The archetype, rather, of the human body which this object permits us to contemplate is present in the object but cannot be identified with it. Schopenhauers thesis may not sound so exotic once we accept that it is possible to intuit ideal geometrical properties in or through the
38 Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation , vol. i, p. 178. 39 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason , B370.

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symbols used to depict them. If a person points to a well-drawn circle on a blackboard, uttering the words thats a circle, then linguistically competent adults, at least if they are doing geometry, will take her to mean the ideal circle, rather than the graphic symbol of the circle spread out in chalk. For Kant, pure space permits the intuition of geometrical properties. It could therefore perhaps be argued that the idea of will-less knowing is Schopenhauers analogue of Kants pure intuition (or, for that matter, Husserls notion of eidetic intuition being made possible once the natural attitude of relating to empirical objects is left behind by virtue of the transcendental reduction).40 Rather than placing the object within the everyday coordinates of the where, the when, the why, and the whither, what is being focussed upon in such knowing is the what the essence of the object. In willless knowing the subject no longer brings specific conditions of objecthood to bear on the object itself; instead the object emerges entirely on its own ideal terms. For Schopenhauer, not only does the will-less knower apprehend geometrical generalities, but the object is now revealed in its ideal shape or form. Thus,
we do not let abstract thought, the concepts of reason, take possession of our consciousness, but, instead of all this, devote the whole power of our mind to perception, sink ourselves completely therein, and let our whole consciousness be filled by the calm contemplation of the natural object actually present ... We lose ourselves entirely in this object, to use a pregnant expression; in other words, we forget our individuality, our will, and continue to exist only as pure subject, as clear mirror of
40 Husserl articulates this idea repeatedly, but a good place to begin is Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy. First Book:G eneral Introduction to a Pure Phenomenology, trans. F Kersten (The Hague:Nijhoff, 1982). See also Husserl, Experience and Judgment:Investigations in a Genealogy of Logic , trans. James S. Churchill and Karl Ameriks (Evanston, Ill.:Northwestern University Press, 1973), pp. 33954, esp. p. 349:We speak of an essential seeing and, in general, of the seeing of generalities. This way of talking still requires justification. We use the expression to see here in the completely broad sense which implies nothing other than the act of experiencing things oneself, the fact of having seen things themselves, and, on the basis of this self-seeing, of having similarity before ones eyes, of accomplishing, on the strength of it, that mental overlapping in which the common, e. g., the red, the figure, etc., itself emerges that is, attains intuitive apprehension. This, naturally, does not mean a sensuous seeing. One cannot see the universal red as one sees an individual, particular red; but the extension of the expression seeing, which not without reason is customary in ordinary language, is unavoidable. With this, we wish to indicate that we appropriate, directly and as itself, a common and general moment of as many examples as desired, seen one by one, in a manner wholly analogous to the way in which we appropriate an individual particular sensuous perception.


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the object, so that it is as though we no longer are able to separate the perceiver from the perception, but the two have become one, since the entire consciousness is filled and occupied by a single image of perception. If, therefore, the object has to such an extent passed out of all relation to something outside it, and the subject has passed out of all relation to the will, what is thus known is no longer the individual thing as such, but the Idea , the eternal form, the immediate objectivity of the will at this grade. Thus at the same time, the person who is involved in this perception is no longer an individual, for in such perception the individual has lost himself; he is pure will-less, painless, timeless subject of knowledge .41

One might object that while Schopenhauers description of the state of will-less knowing is phenomenologically compelling in the sense that most lives are likely to contain certain moments of ecstasy (in the original Greek meaning of ek-stasis of being beside oneself), there is scarcely any reason to believe that such a state makes possible a pure (that is, empirically untainted) intuition of essences. What Schopenhauer seems to be doing is to draw substantive philosophical inferences about the reality of non-empirical knowing from what is merely an account of a peculiar yet wholly psychological state of mind. Moreover, while the account seems to reverberate with those experiences that we must believe lie within the parameters of representational, empirical knowing, it is equally clear that, according to Schopenhauer, this is how we must go about it if we are to say anything about pure intuition at all. That the entire consciousness is filled and occupied by a single image of perception cannot be the decisive feature, since that is the case in various forms of attentive empirical perception as well. Rather, what all of this hinges on is whether a completely pure, disinterested contemplation of an object really is possible. In the Critique of Judgment , Kant argues that genuine aesthetic judging is possible only in so far as the subject is able to bracket any possible empirical interest in the object.42 Kant does not, however, hold that such bracketing must entail that the object is no longer experienced as empirical. For someone to judge it to be beautiful, the object must exist and be empirically perceived. For Schopenhauer, by contrast, who subordinates cognition to the
41 Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation , vol. i, pp. 17879. 42 I am here referring to the first moment of Kants analytic of the beautiful. See Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment , trans. Paul Guyer and Eric Matthews (Cambridge and New York:Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 8996.

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will, the only way in which an agent can behold an object without it being invested with empirical interest is if the object transcends the conditions of empirical knowing altogether. Thus, Schopenhauer may not be doing himself a service by describing will-less knowing in psychological terms, as though such knowing were on a par with ordinary acts of empirical comportment. He should, it seems, not be portraying will-less knowing as a special kind of knowing but, rather, as something different from knowing altogether. That is probably why he introduces the dramatic language of losing oneself in the object, of the self-inflicted extinction of the self the melting away of time, space, and causality (the conditions, that is, of being an individual, knowing subject), such as to make possible an unguarded encounter with the idea. The problem, however, is that Schopenhauer continues to make reference to experience despite the fact that at this level we are not entitled to speak of it. His account, then, is faced with a dilemma:either he must take will-less knowing to be a form of experience, but then he is forced to accept that it must have a spatial, temporal and causal determination, and therefore cannot be of the idea; or he can say that it is not a type of experience, but then he remains without resources for explaining how such knowledge of the ideas is possible. The leap from what is, after all, fundamentally an empiricist and sensualist understanding of empirical knowing to a type of knowing that is directed towards spiritual and ideal entities such as the ideas is simply too great, and all he can do is gesture towards concepts such as intuition or feeling (Gefhl ), but without being able to offer more in terms of making them internally plausible than a rather fanciful phenomenological description of what they might entail. Such immediately given objects would have no determinacy and hence no objecthood; indeed, they would violate the essential idea, emphasized from the outset by Schopenhauer as well, of knowing as being an intentional relation:to know is for someone, a subject, to relate intentionally to an object of knowledge. In the case of will-less knowing of Ideas there is neither a subject nor a determinate object. Jean-Marie Shaeffer has argued that Schopenhauers theory of eidetic knowledge is therefore indefensible; and from a rationalist point of view, this seems true.43 However, Schopenhauer is seeking to place himself within an anti-rationalist, Platonist tradition for which
43 Jean-Marie Schaeffer, Art of the Modern Age: Philosophy of Art from Kant to Heidegger, trans. S. Rendall (Princeton University Press, 2000), p. 192.


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the idea of immediate intuition, though philosophically perhaps inexplicable, has tended to be attractive and in many cases absolutely central.44 On his view, the alternative to empirical, sensual knowing of finite objects is necessarily and ultimately some form of mysticism. Once the contemplation of an object turns from its empirical and therefore contingent properties to its necessary and universal ones, the object no longer presents us with any empirical properties and the world of appearances is transcended. If, despite its resistance to philosophical explication, we are willing to entertain the idea of pure, will-less intuition, and if we accept that there is something to be seen in such an act, even if what is seen is not, strictly speaking, an object, then we need to ask whether Schopenhauers solution to the problem of disenchanted time is coherent. It is clear that Schopenhauer takes himself to be presenting what in effect is meant to involve a transcendence of time. In contemplating the timeless ideas, the subject transforms itself from a temporal to a non-temporal being, from relating in an objectivizing manner to temporal objects to being submerged in the eternal idea itself. The successful contemplation of the artwork stops the wheel of time.45 Hence what the transcendence, if possible, amounts to is a leap into the register of the unchanging, the frozen, the ever-same. Contemplated along Schopenhauerian lines, the idea is, as in Plato, an eternal presence an ideality that knows neither a past nor a future, but which simply exists as itself and, in its generic essence, forever. Since this presence can only be presented in the present, the idea exists in an endless, indefinite prolongation of the present. Considered as an image of eternity, however, this is not persuasive. First, such a presence cannot both be exclusively in the present and have temporal duration (last forever). The appeal to duration cannot
44 In Diotimas speech in Platos Symposium , which arguably represents the archetypical expression of this idea, the leap from immanent (or empirical) to transcendent knowing is famously described as an ascent. See Plato, The Symposium , trans. Christopher Gill (London and New York:Penguin, 1999), p. 49:When someone goes up by these stages, through loving boys in the correct way, and begins to catch sight of that beauty, he has come close to reaching the goal. This is the right method of approaching the ways of love or being led by someone else: beginning from these beautiful things always to go up with the aim of reaching that beauty. Like someone using a staircase, he should go from one to two to all beautiful bodies, and from beautiful bodies to beautiful practices, and from practices to beautiful forms of learning. From forms of learning, he should end up at that form of learning which is of nothing other than that beauty itself, so that he can complete the process of learning what beauty really is. 45 Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation , vol. i, p. 185.

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make sense unless we assume the modalities of later than and before that of a past and a future. Second, immutability is what we arrive at when time is understood in terms of a continuous reproduction or repetition of the same. It is therefore a modification of time, of how chronological time consists of repetitions of temporal units (seconds, minutes, and so on), rather than a leap away from it. In immutability, time is what Michael Theunissen refers to as halted (stillgelegt).46 As in the Greek cosmologies of Plato and Aristotle, time becomes a function of that which never changes. If empirical time is a function of movement (the movement of one system in relation to another the sun, say, in relation to us), then eternal time is a function of immutability. As Theunissen intimates, such an eternal time can be considered mythical. As in a mythical worldview, there is an ongoing repetition of the same projected into eternity and thereby provided an eternal status such as to become an eternal repetition of the same. However, an eternal repetition of the same cannot be understood as a form of transcendence. On the contrary, this is a perverted, stultified vision of time, a vision in which destiny reigns supreme and nothing new can emerge. We may also, though, bear in mind Heideggers claim that Western metaphysics has throughout been geared towards, and has ontologically privileged, presence and hence the present.47 What is most real is that which to the greatest degree shows itself as it is in its sheer presence-at-hand. According to Heidegger, this view needs to be challenged hence the attempt, in Being and Time and elsewhere, at a destruction of the history of Western metaphysics and the project of subverting the notion of presence by showing how it trades on a more complex, self-differentiating process of original, ecstatic temporality. Walter Benjamin, on the other hand, suggests in the Prologue to The Origin of the German Tragic Drama that the failure of the ideas (in the Platonic sense) to satisfy the real criteria of transcendence means that the philosopher must turn to the particular to the fleeting, ephemeral, and fragmentary rather than to the immutable.48 Platonic ideas, Benjamin argues, are mythical constructs. They represent the principle of repetition, of reified, natural history (Naturgeschichte), of human destiny being staked out and shaped in the absence of human
46 Michael Theunissen, Negative Theologie der Zeit (Frankfurt:Suhrkamp, 1991), p. 40. 47 Martin Heidegger, Being and Time , trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (Oxford:Blackwell, 1985), pp. 4748. 48 Walter Benjamin, The Origin of the German Tragic Drama , trans. John Osborne (New York:Verso, 1998), p. 29.


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control. What is needed in order to challenge such a principle is a kind of irruption, a leap that must be effected as the response to a demand that is capable of pulling the subject out of its enthrallment to myth. I return to both Heidegger and Benjamin in subsequent chapters. I will now ask what Schopenhauers proposed solution to the problem of time might entail for the individual. We know already that he offers a psychologistic description of transcendence. Yet what kind of position is this in psychoanalytic terms?49 We have seen that aesthetic contemplation is held to offer a response in the form of a denial or rejection of the fact of transience. It is therefore striking that in his 1915 essay On Transience, Freud suggests that the incapacity (such as we see in Schopenhauer) to accept transience is in fact caused by an inability to mourn.50 We can only appreciate and take joy in beauty and things of value, Freud claims, in so far as we are able to relate productively to the fact they are all fated to extinction.51 In order to do this, however, we must be capable not only of taking into account the mere fact of transience but also of mourning that which will have to decease, where mourning is defined as the displacement of libido from the lost object to another and available object. The figure of the poet, which Freud in this essay uses to dramatize a resistance to mourning, can admire the beauty of the landscape in which he and the author are walking while taking no joy in it. All that he would otherwise have loved and admired seemed to him to be shorn of its worth by the transience which was its doom.52 For the poet, it would seem that transience can be countered only through some form of self-overcoming. If the object of value could remain in his possession forever, and if he could unite himself with it and thus overcome the fateful distance he detects between himself and the object, then it would be possible to rejoice in its existence.
49 Schopenhauer and Freud may at first glance seem far apart from one another. However, Freud refers very approvingly to Schopenhauer, and especially to his emphasis on sexuality as a key factor in understanding human behavior. In An Autobiographical Study, trans. James Strachey, The Penguin Freud Library, vol. xv, Historical and Expository Works on Psychoanalysis (London and New York:Penguin Books, 1986), p. 244, Freud states that he read Schopenhauer thoroughly, noting the many parallels with his own work, yet too late for him to have directly influenced the development of psychoanalysis. See also Freud, Resistances to Psychoanalysis, ibid ., pp. 26869. 50 Sigmund Freud, On Transience, trans. James Strachey, The Penguin Freud Library, vol. xiv, Art and Literature (London and New York:Penguin Books, 1990), pp. 28790. 51 Ibid ., p. 287. 52 Ibid .

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In On Transience, Freud does not state explicitly what it is he thinks prevents the poet from mourning. In a better-known essay, however, Mourning and Melancholia, written around the same time, he argues that the inability to mourn stems from a disposition to melancholia.53 Unlike mourning, in which one love object is, although never without resistance, abandoned in favor of another, yet without any abiding withdrawal of engagement with the world, melancholia is caused by the loss of an object that was loved on a narcissistic basis. Rather than being loved for its own sake, the narcissistically chosen object is loved as the result of an act of identification. When the object is empirically lost, the subject, rather than initiating a process of mourning, is able to hold on to it by regressing to narcissism. In lieu of the object-cathexis, the subject can retain its love by allowing its own ego to become a substitute for the erotic cathexis of the (now lost) object, and hence to withdraw its interest in the world around it. Freud complicates this picture, however, by pointing to a fundamental ambivalence running through the narcissistic disposition. Narcissism ultimately spells regression to the so-called oral phase of libidinal organization. In this first and highly primitive phase of psycho-sexual development, the infant obtains both nourishment and sexual satisfaction from the breast. However, in suckling the breast, the infant not only loves itself and receives both nourishment and sexual satisfaction through identification with the mothers body (the infant experiences its own body as united with its mothers), it also seeks aggressively to incorporate the mothers body into its own. What takes place as the melancholic incorporates the lost object into herself, identifying with it to the point of using her own ego as a substitute, is that she, on the one hand, directs all libido onto herself, while, on the other, starts to hate the substitutive object. She loves the object, but even more so she hates it; and because she hates it, that other within herself is a bad self. Thus it is as though she is saying to herself, I am bad, I hate myself, I am worthless, I want to kill myself in other words, she is melancholic or depressed, heaping all possible scorn and abuse upon herself, and developing an extremely negative self-image. When comparing Schopenhauers account of aesthetic transcendence to Freuds theory of melancholia, it is striking despite the obvious differences in terminology and conceptual commitments how
53 Sigmund Freud, Mourning and Melancholia, trans. James Strachey, The Penguin Freud Library, vol. xi, On Metapsychology (London and New York:Penguin Books, 1991), pp. 25168.


Schopenhauer and tr anscendence

fundamentally congruent they are. While acknowledging its inevitability and importance for human life, both are struck by mans seemingly inherent resistance towards acknowledging the fact of transience. Both Schopenhauer and Freud hold that the position of successful denial requires a suspension of our everyday pragmatic orientation towards the world. While differing in their assessments of the possibility of achieving mourning, and hence an affirmation of time, with Schopenhauer vehemently denying it and Freud rather optimistically believing it to be universally available, for both, such a suspension promotes the redirection of attention and interest to a purportedly non-transient object, an object over which one, as it were, has control. Finally, both think that the attention and interest required to let the non-transient object lift the subject out of its everyday preoccupation with transient objects must take the form of an immersion in, or identification with, the object. In both Schopenhauer and Freud, the subject thereby undergoes a process of self-destruction. It can thus be argued that the position Schopenhauer outlines when addressing the question of aesthetic transcendence is essentially melancholic. Psychologically, it represents an inability to come to terms with time and transience, as well as a search for an object that can withstand the eroding effects of times passing and with which one can identify and unite oneself. Not only does Schopenhauer resist any recourse to mourning, but his whole metaphysics is constructed in a melancholy mode. In the next two chapters I will turn to Nietzsche, suggesting that his work, in particular after the rejection of Schopenhauer, can be viewed as an effort to affirm time and hence to establish a position of mourning as the adequate basis for a modern orientation towards time. Yet while Schopenhauers melancholy leads him to embrace a highly problematic form of Platonism, Nietzsches aggressive anti-Platonism runs into difficulties of its own. Ultimately, his advocacy of mourning prevents him from responding successfully to the crisis of authority which modernity, as he sees it, brings about.

6 Time and m y th in the e a r ly N i et z s c h e

Nietzsches views on time develop and alter significantly from his first published writings in the early 1870s until his final and frantic philosophical efforts ending with the collapse in January 1889. Against the widespread view of him as not having had much to say about time until the first formulation of the doctrine of the eternal return of the same appears in section 341 of The Gay Science in 1882, hence well into the socalled middle period, I argue that the question of time remains crucial from the very early phase of his work, and that it continues to be decisive as his thinking gradually liberates itself from the initial infatuation with Richard Wagners works and Schopenhauers metaphysics.1 Nietzsche never presents any systematic philosophy of time, nor indeed a genuinely systematic account of any philosophical topic.2 He thus deliberately breaks with the German idealists, for whom systematicity had been an overriding concern.3 However, Nietzsche
1 The idea, long a commonplace in Nietzsche scholarship, that Nietzsches writings can be divided into three periods was initially proposed by Lou Salom in her Friedrich Nietzsche in Seinem Werke of 1894. Saloms book has been republished as Nietzsche , trans. Siegfried Mandel (Champaign, Ill.:University of Illinois Press, 2001). For further discussion of this division, see Ruth Abbey, Nietzsches Middle Period (Oxford and New York:Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. xixvii. 2 In his Nietzsche, vols. iiv, trans. David Farrell Krell, Joan Stambaugh, and Frank A. Capuzzi (New York:Harper & Row, 1979, 1984), Heidegger was famously misled by Elisabeth Frster-Nietzsches inadequate editing of Nietzsches Nachlass into thinking that there existed a Nietzschean system which would be incorporated into a major work entitled The Will to Power. The edition he used Alfred Baeumlers version of Der Wille zur Macht, which was based on Frster-Nietzsches flawed philology has continued to be available despite the appearance of Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinaris widely respected Werke. Kritische Gesamtausgabe in 15 Bnden (Berlin and New York:Walter de Gruyter, 197088). 3 For an incisive account of what the German idealists may have meant by the term system, see Paul Franks, All or Nothing: Systematicity, Transcendental Arguments, and Skepticism in German Idealism (Cambridge, Mass.:Harvard University Press, 2005).



Time and myth in the early Nietzsche

goes further than simply rejecting the demanding idealist model of systematicity. The aphoristic style adopted in the middle and final periods seems deliberately designed to avoid the very possibility of linear argumentation. Its replacement of inferential linearity with sequences of sections that at best may be tied to one another by virtue of a common theme, where each section seems complete and selfsufficient, yet without, in most cases, the traditional means thesis, clearly identifiable arguments, the observation of valid rules of inference, and relative completeness for legitimating it as philosophy, may seem to push Nietzsche in the direction of the literary.4 Although the literary qualities of Nietzsches writing are beyond dispute, it would be wrong to take his resistance towards traditional standards of valid argumentation to imply that he somehow renounces philosophy.5 The fact that Nietzsches works display such qualities hardly means that he relinquishes the very project of providing philosophical insight on a rational basis. It is rather that Nietzsche challenges the traditional sense of what such a basis ought to involve. He seems in particular to believe that a philosophically cogent demonstration can occur via the cumulative effect of many different reflections and perspectives that together, while not logically interconnected, add up to a larger conclusion. Among subsequent thinkers, one is reminded of the later Wittgenstein, for whom the philosophical investigation is composed of remarks that together make up a number of sketches of landscapes which were made in the course of ... long and involved journeyings.6 In what follows I shall start by discussing Nietzsches early work on tragedy. I will reflect on the account of time it entails and show why I think it fails. Then, in the next chapter, I turn to his critique of historicism. Finally, at the end of the next chapter, I turn in detail

4 For an account of how aphorisms may carry genuine philosophical weight, see Stanley Cavell, Epilogue:The Investigations Everyday Aesthetics of Itself, in Stephen Mulhall (ed.), The Cavell Reader (Oxford:Blackwell, 1996), pp. 36989. 5 At the extreme, there are those, especially among commentators who take seriously the idea of there being a postmodern or poststructuralist Nietzsche, who not only think that Nietzsche transforms philosophy into literature but indeed welcome, cherish, or even celebrate the apparent non-cognitivist implications of such an alleged turn. For a good introduction to the poststructuralist or postmodern Nietzsche, see the collection of essays in David B. Allison (ed.), The New Nietzsche: Contemporary Styles of Interpretation (Cambridge, Mass.:MIT Press, 1985). 6 See Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations , trans. G. E. M. Anscombe (New York:Blackwell, 1958), p. v. See also Bernard Williamss introduction to Nietzsche, The Gay Science (Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. viiiix.

Nietzsche on tr agedy and modernity


to the later Nietzsches account of the eternal return of the same. My conclusion will be that Nietzsche, in spite of his many attempts to develop a viable response to the modern crisis of temporality, does not adequately manage to distance himself from the nihilism he so effectively diagnoses.

Nietzsche on tragedy and modernity

Nietzsches first book, The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music, which appeared in 1872, is primarily presented as a treatise in classical philology, aiming to uncover the essential nature and historical origin of Greek tragedy, and most of the reviews, not least the devastating critique put forth by Ulrich Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, took for granted that at stake in this youthful essay were only the exceptionally strong and controversial claims being made in it about Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides.7 However, the exalted Foreword to Richard Wagner, placed at the very beginning of the work, soon demonstrated that Nietzsche had even higher ambitions, and that, despite its importance, the text of The Birth of Tragedy operates at more levels than the philological. What he wants, he writes there, is for Wagner, when reading the book, to realize that he addresses a grave problem for Germany which should be placed as a vortex and turning-point, into the very midst of German hopes.8 The reader is not told immediately what the problem amounts to. However, in later sections, it becomes clear that the solution which turns out to be Nietzsches own, although the book certainly speaks to the German genius as such will be related to the no doubt extravagant idea of a rebirth of what the author thinks of as the tragic culture of Hellenic antiquity. Nietzsches vision hinges on nothing less than the idea that Wagners musical drama (and the musical tradition on which it built, going back at least to Beethoven) has the capacity to generate a radical resurgence and renewal of German tragic culture. While founded on its own myths, this culture will in all key respects be analogous to Greek tragic culture.
7 Ulrich Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, Zukunftsphilologie (Berlin: Gebrder Borntrger, 1872). Wilamowitz-Moellendorffs contribution was actually more than a review; it was a book in itself, one of whose aims was to establish its author, four years Nietzsches junior, as a promising scholar. For an early defense of Nietzsche, see Erwin Rohde, Afterphilologie (Leipzig:E. W. Fritzsch, 1872). 8 Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy and Other Writings , trans. Ronald Spiers (Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 13.


Time and myth in the early Nietzsche

The young Nietzsches faith in the culturally subversive dimension of Wagnerian opera would not last very long. Only four years later, in Richard Wagner in Bayreuth, the fourth of the untimely meditations, he starts to show signs of moving away from Wagner, and when, in 1878, he publishes the (in comparison with the rhetoric and argument of The Birth of Tragedy) very different Human, All Too Human , the break is a fact. He later wrote two books, Nietzsche contra Wagner and The Case of Wagner (both published in 1888), justifying his break, and much has been said about his difficult yet defining relation to the composer.9 My interest here, however, is not to discuss the details of the Nietzsche/Wagner constellation but to carve out a position from which to approach The Birth of Tragedy as a critique of modernity based on an appeal to the temporality of myth.10 While prominent, especially in the latter half of the book, the modernity theme does not loom quite as large in The Birth of Tragedy as it does in later works, and the argumentation is often indirect. (As we shall see, this theme is mainly developed indirectly by constructing a view of tragic myth that will be played out against Nietzsches assessment of modernity.) Anticipating Max Weber, Nietzsches central claim related to the grave problem for Germany is that the culture of modernity has entered a phase of disenchantment. Once integrated via the sacred authority of myth and cultic practice, society is now dominated by a pragmatic and naively optimistic rationalism whose program it is to correct all social ills through piecemeal political and technological intervention. In line with the characterization of the final man in Thus Spoke Zarathustra , the culture of the theoretical man (as opposed to the so-called Dionysiac spirit), which Nietzsche associates with the Alexandrian,
fights against Dionysiac wisdom and art; it strives to dissolve myth; it puts in the place of metaphysical solace a form of earthly harmony, indeed its very own deus ex machina , namely the god of machines and
9 For a summary of the Nietzsche/Wagner relation, see Franz-Peter Hudek, Die Tyrannei der Musik:Nietzsches Wertung der Wagnerischen Musikdramas (Wrzburg:Knigshausen & Neumann, 1989). 10 Few commentators are as straightforward as Manfred Frank in considering The Birth of Tragedy primarily as an exercise in cultural critique. See his Gott im Exil:Vorlesungen ber die neue Mythologie (Frankfurt:Suhrkamp, 1988), p. 30: Nietzsches TragdieSchrift ist nicht als ein altphilologischer Text von Bedeutung, sondern als Manifest, in dem sich ein subversives Selbstbewutsein der Kultur des spten 19. Jahrhunderts manifestiert.

Nietzsche on tr agedy and modernity


smelting furnaces, i.e. the energies of the spirits of nature, understood and applied in the service of higher egotism; it believes in correcting the world through knowledge, in life led by science; and it is truly capable of confining the individual within the smallest circle of solvable tasks, in the midst of which he cheerfully says to life:I will you:you are worth understanding.11

The culture of modernity, Nietzsche continues some pages later,

occurs when a people begins to understand itself historically and to demolish the metaphysical buttresses surrounding it; this is usually accompanied by a decided growth in worldliness and a break with the unconscious metaphysics of its previous existence, with all the ethical consequences this entails. ... On the heights we find the same excessive lust for knowledge, the same unsatisfied delight in discovery, the same enormous growth in worldliness, and alongside these things a homeless roaming-about, a greedy scramble to grab a place at the tables of others, frivolous deification of the present, or a dull, numbed turning away from it, all of this sub specie saeculi of the here and now.12

The early Nietzsches dissatisfaction with modernity is hardly original, and many elements of it had already been developed by philosophers and artists such as the early Hegel, Schiller, Novalis, Hlderlin, and Wagner. Perhaps most fundamentally, Nietzsche downright rejects scientific rationalism, which he considers to be a shallow substitute for metaphysical insight. Despite its central position in modern culture, scientific rationalism is incapable of penetrating into the deeper layers of reality. All it can do and here Nietzsche presupposes Schopenhauers distinction between appearance and thing in itself is to provide explanations at the level of the immediately given nature of appearances. However, since appearances on Nietzsches Schopenhauerian view are illusory, the science that takes them as its objects, while recognizing no deeper reality, is superficial. Nietzsche is particularly scathing in his critique of what he rightly sees as the invalid inference from scientific success in offering causal explanations to the view that nothing exists outside the scope of scientific research. Science is only an acceptable endeavor when it manages to recognize its own limitations.
11 Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, p. 85. 12 Ibid ., pp. 11011.


Time and myth in the early Nietzsche

To make his critique of science dependent on Schopenhauers view of appearances is of course to adopt a problematic strategy. If appearances are illusory, then it trivially follows that science somehow is illusory. Yet why would anyone with even the slightest interest in science feel obliged to take the skepticism expressed by the premise seriously? A more promising construal of Nietzsches argument would focus on the sense of shallowness it registers. If the human capacity for making sense of its own experience is restricted to the achievements of natural science, then all other aspirations become meaningless and irrational. All the apparently important things in life love, friendship, hope; aesthetic, moral and political commitment, ones sense of decency and self-respect, and so on would be reducible to data available to scientific theorizing and thereby lose their meaning. Nietzsche also criticizes his contemporaries for unduly concentrating on the present and its technically definable problems. For contemporary man, history is just the process leading inexorably, and with the inevitable force of progress, to the present. It contains no claims that can have an authoritative impact on contemporary society; thus, myth and religion, in particular, are considered to be anachronisms, or at least something to be overcome and left behind. Moreover, since the past is conceptualized as a cumulative development of knowledge and technological insight, everything that previously has been taken for granted can be overturned in the name of future discovery. Nothing is sacred or in any way unquestionable. The result, however, of the Enlightenment process of secularization is a tremendous spiritual confusion, self-centeredness, and social fragmentation. There is no longer a generally acknowledged source of unquestionable symbolic authority providing order and purpose to the social body. Living historically now means two things:first, that modern man has achieved a genuinely secular existence; and second, that he will exercise his capacity for rational mastery by prudentially applying his theoretical and technological capacity to the tasks at hand. Modern man works and invents, thus transforming his surroundings in accordance with rational imperatives, yet without any mythical or religious framework by which to ground his values and authorize his commitments. In Nietzsches critique, we recognize the Enlightenment view of time as an indefinite extension of pragmatically or instrumentally defined possibilities to be seized upon and conquered:the goals that are pursued enjoy no other legitimacy than that of being functions of individual preference, which, from a moral or ethical point of view, is

Nietzsche on tr agedy and modernity


arbitrary. Past authority, by contrast, is objectivized and neutralized as that which precisely has been and is thus of no normative consequence for the present. There is, one might say, neither an overarching goal or purpose that can justify human striving and suffering, nor any accepted authority that can serve as basis for ones claim to offer such a justification in the first place. While science has renounced its erstwhile claim to offer insight into the essence of things, art, on the other hand, has sunk to the level of mere entertainment.13 Neither cultural sphere is capable of producing or grounding value. An important consequence, structuring much of the argument in The Birth of Tragedy, is that in the absence of such an authorized sense of purpose, we are not entitled to any self-confidence and, more worryingly, are without any psychological defense against inevitable contingencies of human existence such as pain, loss, and death. The latter point becomes even more pronounced by considering how emphatically the time-consciousness of modernity is shaped by the overall preparedness to face up to contingency. Following in the wake of secularization and the cultural loss of institutions geared towards ancestral worship, the culture of modernity, as I argued in Chapter 2, is largely defined by its willingness and capacity to open itself to an uncertain future over which, by means of instrumental rationality, it seeks to obtain mastery and control. However, without such a unified and strong sense of symbolic authority, the fact of such contingencies becomes more incomprehensible and threatening than ever. In his later work, Nietzsche describes this condition in terms of nihilism. The highest values, he claims, are devalued (entwertet), and in their absence nothing no human undertaking can be regarded as inherently meaningful.14 The so-called transvaluation of all values (Umwertung aller Werte), which gains a central place in the final phase of Nietzsches philosophical career, eventually leads him to suggest that the authentic source of all binding value is willing, hence the famous will to power. Rather than some value motivating the will, the will now constitutes and authorizes every value. I discuss this position later. In The Birth of Tragedy, it is the values associated with myth, or rather the rebirth of myth, which are
13 Ibid ., p. 114. 14 Nietzsche, Werke viii, 2:Nachgelassene Fragmente Herbst 1887 bis Mrz 1888, ed. Giorgio Colli and Mazzimo Montinari (Berlin:Walter de Gruyter, 1970), p. 14:Nihilism:es fehlt das Ziel; es fehlt die Antwort auf das Warum? Was bedeutet Nihilism? da die obersten Werthe sich entwerthen .


Time and myth in the early Nietzsche

set to overcome the nihilism that marks modernity, and we need to consider this idea first. At the centre of Nietzsches early efforts to resolve the ills of modernity stands the myth of the suffering Dionysos. In the poem Bread and Wine, Hlderlin, one of the many precursors of Nietzsche in this respect, describes Dionysos as the God who is to come (der kommende Gott).15 According to Manfred Frank, for Hlderlin the figure of Dionysos blends Christological and eschatological expectations of messianic return with an imagined fund of social solidarity which the Christian tradition, through its rejection of archaic forms of religiosity, is said to have shed.16 Like Christ, Dionysos suffers, dies, and is promised to return. Hlderlin associates the wine of the Eucharist with Dionysos gift to his followers; and, like Christ, the divine Dionysos is said to be born of a mortal woman. However, while drawing on the romantic imagery of a future and foreign god who will one day appear and set things right, Nietzsche downplays the parallel to Christ as the savior of individuals, emphasizing instead the numinous powers that Dionysos has been held to represent. In the Orphic and later Christian tradition, on which the German romantics, including Schelling, Creuzer, Novalis, and Hlderlin, based their understanding of this figure, the account of how the myth has been taken up comes in several versions. There is, first, the story of Dionysos-Zagreus, the wild hunter, who, as the offspring of Zeus intercourse with Semele, a mortal woman, is killed by the Titans. The Titans are long-standing enemies of Zeus; hence when asked by Hera, Zeus angry wife, to slaughter her husbands love-child, they dismember him, boil the pieces in a kettle, and, according to some accounts, devour them.17 Upon receiving news of the crime, Zeus destroys
15 Friedrich Hlderlin, Selected Poems and Fragments , trans. Michael Hamburger, ed. Jeremy Adler (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1998), p. 277: Unter die Fichten dort, unter die Trauben, von wo / Theben drunten und Ismenos rauscht im Lande des Kadmos, / Dorther kommt und zurck deutet der kommende Gott. Up to the pine-trees there, up to the grapes, from which rush / Thebe down there and Ismenos, loud in the country of Cadmus:/ Thence has come and back there points the god whos to come. For an extensive discussion of this poems identification of Christ with Dionysos, see Manfred Frank, Der kommende Gott:Vorlesungen ber die neue Mythologie (Frankfurt:Suhrkamp, 1982), pp. 257342. See also Peter Szondi, Hlderlin Studien (Frankfurt:Suhrkamp, 1970), pp. 95ff. 16 Frank, Gott im Exil , p. 54. See also Frank, Der kommende Gott , pp. 12ff. 17 For an account of how this particular version of the myth evolves, see Mircea Eliade, A History of Religious Ideas, vol. i, From the Stone Age to the Eleusinian Mysteries, trans. Willard R. Trask (University of Chicago Press, 1978), pp. 36873.

Nietzsche on tr agedy and modernity


the Titans with a thunderbolt, obtains his sons heart, and awakens Dionysos-Zagreus to life. In the sixth century bc, the rites celebrating Dionysos-Zagreus emerged in several parts of Greece, most famously at Delphi, where each spring singing and chanting women unforgettably portrayed in Euripides The Bacchae would take part in ecstatic dance, enacting the drama of the young god by pretending to nurse him and, as Nietzsche, following the romantic interpretation, implies, identifying with his suffering to the point of total deliverance from everyday social convention. Viewing themselves as Dionysos followers, in intoxicating states verging on divine possession, they would cavort with animals and eat raw flesh. According to Frank, the reborn Dionysos, or Bacchus, the wine god, is the focus of a second line of interpretation. Here, the emphasis is not primarily on the gods dismemberment and suffering but on his socially integrating powers as the enchanting and erotic figure of intoxication and sexual transgression. Although Nietzsche, by defining the Dionysiac through the analogy of intoxication,18 takes obvious account of this second tradition, referring to the transgressive event of communion with cosmic and vital forces, his primary interest, as we shall see, is in the spectacle of collective identification with the suffering god. He also, however, draws on a third tradition according to which Dionysos, rather than being directly associated with Christ, is related to the myth of Demeter, the goddess of agriculture. In this myth the goddess gives birth to Dionysos in order to reconcile her loss of Persephone, her only daughter, to the lord of Hades.19 Demeter the personification of the Greek Mother Earth [G-mtr] thus becomes the embodiment of the Dionysian promise of a restored contact with the socially unifying forces of the sacred. According to Nietzsche (who here refers explicitly to a third Dionysos)
What the epopts [those initiated into the mysteries] hoped for was the rebirth of Dionysos, which we must now understand, by premonition,
18 Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, p. 17. See Eliade, A History of Religious Ideas , vol. i, p. 359:There was certainly a threat to the supremacy of the Olympian religion and its institutions. But the opposition was also the expression of a more intimate drama, and one that is abundantly documented in the history of religions:resistance to every absolute religious experience, because such experience can be realized only by denying everything else (by whatever term this may be designated:equilibrium, personality, consciousness, reason, etc.). 19 According to Frank, Gott im Exil , p. 54, Nietzsche is at this point indebted to Schellings lectures on the history of religion.


Time and myth in the early Nietzsche

as the end of individuation; the epopts roaring song of jubilation rang out to greet this third Dionysos. Only in the hope of this is there a gleam of joy on the countenance of a world torn apart and shattered into individuals; myth symbolizes this in the image of Demeter, sunk in eternal mourning, who knows no happiness until she is told that she can give birth to Dionysos again .20

To the typical representative of Enlightenment modernity, the appeal to tragic myth, and in particular the idea of a rebirth of tragic myth in Wagners opera, as a means to counter the alleged nihilism of contemporary European culture, may seem deeply problematic, if not intellectually frivolous. Unless one is already one of the devotees and it must be noted that Nietzsche concedes in his 1886 An Attempt at Self-Criticism21 that it was addressed to Wagner in a kind of dialogue what is there in this view that can even start to sound appealing? So far, not much has been put on the table except a hypothesis to the effect that the myth of Dionysos took different forms according to the various rites that in different contexts were performed more than 2,000 years ago in order to worship him. Moreover, it would seem that even if the historical claims can be made plausible (and even they may arguably be seen as by-products of the romantic imaginary, rather than scholarly theses in their own right), one would expect Nietzsche to say a lot more about how European culture is supposed to be able to retrieve the semantic resources of tragic myth in a way that would assign to them an authoritative status. After all, what Nietzsche, anticipating Heidegger, is looking for is some sort of total overcoming of European modernity, a turn to a radically different cultural space in which socially mediated conceptions of time, history, identity, and individuality are fundamentally altered. As Nietzsche himself came to see, Bayreuth, the famous opera-house where Wagners operas were originally shown to great acclaim, could not be the answer. In The Case of Wagner, he retracts his initial belief in the composer as a countercultural figure, instead seeing him as representing the epitome of mod ern values:Wagner is decadent, he is a disguised Christian, his music is sentimental, he is resentful of life, he lacks taste, he is a nihilist in short, all the things that the mature Nietzsche is eager to attack.22
20 Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, p. 52. 21 Ibid ., pp. 312, esp. p. 5. 22 Nietzsche gives us the gist of his later view of Wagner by declaring, in The Case of Wagner:A Musicians Problem , trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York:Vintage Books, 1967), p. 156, that Wagner sums up modernity.

Nietzsche on tr agedy and modernity


In the later Nietzsches view, Wagner remained committed to the romantic union of the Dionysiac with the Christian spirit. Even if the claim, which I will not flesh out in any detail, that Wagners music drama represents a return to the sacred space of protoDionysian worshipping could be made sense of, it does not follow that modern, reflective individuals will be likely to find such a purported return or rebirth rationally acceptable. In terms that they themselves could recognize as valid, such individuals would demand a justification capable of demonstrating that the cultural revolution envisioned by Nietzsche would have a rational basis. Nietzsche is like a religious believer striving to justify his faith to an atheist. Having tried different strategies, he may find that the atheist simply refuses to play his language game. The believers reasons do not speak to the non-believer. Nietzsches response to such an objection would be, however, that the desire for justification itself is misleading and at best an expression of a misguided modern quest for warranty. The authority of myth, and in this case of the figure of Dionysos himself, is not, and cannot be, based on an appeal to rational insight. A skeptic who asked why he should accept Dionysos would precisely be incapable of relating to the experience that would make sense of Dionysos as a god in the first place. On Nietzsches account, Dionysos is the ultimate authority. It is he who bestows authority on all other practices, and in his absence no other claim to authority deserves to be accepted as binding. The language of ecstasy, intoxication, and enchantment speaks of a god before whom no questions can be raised, a god who can only be revered but not rationally scrutinized with a view to assessing the validity of his claim to authority. Since Nietzsches account is radically anti-modernist, the awareness of contingency that I have claimed is a component of modernist self-awareness is simply ignored. While seeking to appeal to features immanent in modernity itself (the Wagner phenomenon in particular), his critique is in fact transcendent, requiring a transcendent ground (the figure of Dionysos and his authority) to be made plausible. This does not mean that Nietzsche is uninterested in how the intellectual framework within which the figure of Dionysos makes his appearance can be justified. Indeed, based on Schopenhauers thinking, The Birth of Tragedy presents a highly ambitious reconstruction of what Nietzsche takes to be the metaphysics of Greek tragedy. In the anglophone critical literature it has therefore been common to reconstruct Nietzsches theory of tragedy primarily with reference to


Time and myth in the early Nietzsche

Schopenhauer.23 It should, however, be emphasized that Nietzsches employment of idealist metaphysics does not make sense unless the desire for a retrieval of the semantic resources of a mythical worldview has been brought to the table and been seen to be responsive to the modernity problem at hand. It is at this point that his Romantic vision of a new mythology can be supported via the conceptual apparatus of Schopenhauers dualistic system. Apart from using it to illustrate aspects of his own philosophy, Schopenhauer himself takes no interest in the nature of myth, and certainly not in the idea that some sort of return to a mythical worldview is possible, or even desirable. Nietzsche, however, deliberately uses Schopenhauers system for the purpose of articulating what he understands to be the metaphysical meaning of Greek tragedy.24 Arguing that Greek tragedy originated in the cult of Dionysos, Nietzsche sets up a fundamental distinction between the Dionysiac and the Apollonian, which then gets interpreted in complex ways along the lines of Schopenhauers philosophy of will and representation. While the Dionysiac is associated with the will, the Apollonian refers to the order of representation. And while the Dionysiac is unruly, cruel, and indifferent to the interest in individuation, the world of the Apollonian is orderly, beautiful, and predicated on spectatorship from a safe distance, thereby presupposing a clear distinction between subject and object. Psychologically, the Dionysiac is about intoxication and loss of self, while the Apollonian is about dream and contemplation. Dionysian art culminates in music; Apollonian art finds its highest manifestation in sculpture. In Greek tragedy, Nietzsche argues, these two tendencies, now considered as artistic drives (Kunsttriebe), come together in the spectacle of the suffering of the tragic hero, who is ultimately a stand-in for Dionysos himself. On the one hand and this is the Dionysian aspect of the drama the individual is shattered and reunited with primal being (the will). However and this is the
23 For this tendency, see, for example, the account offered by Julian Young in Nietzsches Philosophy of Art (Cambridge University Press, 1992). 24 Nietzsche was well aware, of course, that Wagner had already, in his two essays Beethoven and Opera and Drama, formulated a Schopenhauerian interpretation of his own operas. Very roughly, Wagner argued that while the orchestra represents the will (and hence, in Nietzsches terms, could be viewed as Dionysiac), the singers on stage represent the wills embodiment in figures, forms, and concepts (and hence, in Nietzsches terms, could be viewed as Apollonian). See Richard Wagner, Beethoven , trans. Albert Parsons (Indianapolis:Benham Brothers, 1873) and Opera and Drama , trans. W. Ashton Ellis (Lincoln:University of Nebraska Press, 1995).

Nietzsche on tr agedy and modernity


Apollonian element since the shattering is beheld qua appearance, the vision of the worlds inherent horror is turned into an aesthetic phenomenon to be affirmed and even enjoyed. In being able to affirm what takes place on stage, the spectator is able to rejoice in Dionysos sufferings, and ultimately in the profound, though dreadful, unity and reality of the world itself. All of this leads Nietzsche to his famous theodiciacal conclusion, namely that only as an aesthetic phenomenon is existence and the world eternally justified .25 We can now better understand why Nietzsche thinks his critique of science is effective. Since the truth conditions of scientific propositions are indexed to the world of appearances, the modern scientific worldview, and indeed the whole disenchanted worldview to which he and Weber refer, will not be in touch with the deep metaphysical truths of human existence. It will neither be able to recognize the inevitable suffering of the individuated self, nor take into consideration the fundamental unity behind all that exists. Tragic drama, Nietzsche argues, can serve a metaphysical purpose in that it makes possible an aesthetically mediated encounter with the will beyond the everyday parameters of individuated existence. Thus, while Schopenhauer advocates aesthetic self-renunciation and resignation, Nietzsche endeavors to show how it is possible to affirm life. While modern man is decadent, subscribing to the metaphysically superficial values of science and progress, or even to Christian values that are seen to be antithetical to life, tragic drama has the potential to awaken him to his lost mythical home.26 It may transcend the homogeneous, drab time of rationalized modernity, replacing it with a metaphysically sanctioned appeal to the experiential authority of the sacred. It should now be apparent that The Birth of Tragedy contains several strong claims about time. I have mentioned Nietzsches claims regarding the disenchanted time of modernity. The most important may be that time follows a cyclical, rather than a linear pattern:history proper starts with a sacred event that initiates a new cycle, and each cycle comes to a halt when that event is no longer interpreted as authoritative and binding. Wagnerian music drama involves a rebirth of Dionysian tragic myth, yet it also signifies the end of the secular period which preceded it. Thus, rather than being understood in terms of a linear progression of events, history is a self-repetitive pattern in which the occurrence of events is seen to be governed by some sort of underlying telos.
25 Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, p. 33. 26 Ibid ., p. 115.


Time and myth in the early Nietzsche

This makes sense if we construe Nietzsche as drawing an implicit distinction between sacred and profane history. Sacred history is the temporal pattern organized in accordance with the structuring principles of the myth itself. By basing itself on the authority of the sacred, the cult of Dionysos regenerates society, making it more cohesive. Invocations of the myth thus offer an everyday account of the force and motivating power of norms and social arrangements that, rather than seeming arbitrary, will be accepted as authoritative. Profane history, by contrast, is made up of the succession of events that, as such, cannot be construed as bearing any relationship to the event of sacred founding. Hence in Nietzsches terms, whereas every genuine staging of a Sophoclean drama would repeat the founding event of Dionysian transgression and thus partake in the unfolding of sacred history, the phenomenon of Socratic rationality, which came to define the Enlightenment tendencies of Alexandrian and modern culture, was predicated on the refusal to accept the sacred as authoritative, thereby promoting secularization. Modernity, of course, is the period in which the sacred has lost all its authority; hence the need to revoke it through a return to the tragic/sacred space disclosed by Wagnerian opera. Nietzsches account may seem hopelessly speculative. If what he seeks to achieve in The Birth of Tragedy is to criticize modernity from the vantage point of time, then why, even providing that we accept that there is a case to be made for his metaphysical reading, the extraordinary emphasis on Greek tragedy and Wagnerian opera? Why just those? In what way can they be so privileged? Are they not arbitrary with respect to the overall goal of challenging modernitys timeconsciousness? Indeed, is not the attempt to pattern world history on the emergence, and re-emergence, of these particular institutions so extravagant as not even to merit serious consideration? Finally, what would be required for the contingency of modernity to be overcome? It is more than likely that any possible answer to this question would take us far beyond cultural politics or the advocacy of German opera.

Eliade and repetition

I will now step back from Nietzsches writing for a moment and ask for independent verification that this kind of scheme of cyclical history actually has existed and been authoritative. If not, my reading of the early Nietzsche as a theorist of time cannot claim to be very interesting.

Eliade and repetition


In his classic study The Myth of the Eternal Return , Mircea Eliade takes up the theme of the image of himself formed by the man of the archaic societies, asking how it essentially differs from that of historical or modern man.27 According to Eliade, the answer must primarily be sought in the opposing ways in which archaic and modern man experience time. The man of archaic or traditional societies (his examples are taken from a number of ancient cultures in Asia, Europe, and America) finds himself in a closed universe in which the occurrence of socially and existentially relevant events is interpreted and organized in accordance with a mythical scheme grounded in an exemplary model, archetype, or transcendental origin. Like the natural fluctuations of decay and regeneration which, beyond mans will and with inevitable necessity, form the model upon which such societies construe their conceptions of temporality, time is here perceived not as a succession of mutually independent and self-sufficient instants but as structured around the endless repetition of cycles consisting of cosmogonic creation, decay, and regeneration. While, in the agrarian societies Eliade is referring to, the belief in such cycles is sustained by the observation of elementary facts related to the regular renewal of alimentary reserves, requiring different activities (such as plowing, sowing, and harvesting, and indeed even hunting, fishing, games, conflicts, and sexuality) throughout the cycle, the mythical origin of time, and hence the starting point of the religious calendar, is related to the zone of the sacred, held to be of absolute value and reality, and endowed with unrestricted and inscrutable authority. In so far as it participates in the sacred, every event and action has a definite meaning, thereby imitating the various cosmogonic phases which are believed to have taken place ab origine with the creation of the world:For traditional man, the imitation of an archetypal model is a reactualization of the mythical moment when the archetype was revealed for the first time.28 When each cycle ends, construction rit uals, sacrifices, and various forms of orgiastic excesses are performed in order to restore integral wholeness, purify man of his sins, and set off yet another cycle. Anything that cannot be fitted into the scheme of sacred time is either meaningless or ontologically inferior; thus, man
27 Mircea Eliade, The Myth of the Eternal Return, or, Cosmos and History, trans. Willard R. Trask (Princeton University Press, 1971.), p. xiii. 28 Ibid ., p. 76. See also Eliades condensed treatment of the same issue in Patterns in Comparative Religion (London:Sheed and Ward, 1958), pp. 388408.


Time and myth in the early Nietzsche

answers to a profound need to suspend profane time and symbolically reunite with the temporal order of the sacred. Eliade charts the various stages whereby the myth of the eternal return is transformed, rationalized (in Platonism in particular), and, finally, with the onset of post-Hegelian modernity, overcome and replaced with what he refers to as historicism. While the linear conception of time and history has its roots in Irenaeus and Augustine, who for the first time trace the course of humanity from initial fall to final redemption in a straight line, consisting of irreplaceable events that are not subject to repetition, the theory of periodic regeneration continues to make itself felt in Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, Roger Bacon, and Dante, all of whom believe that the cycles of the worlds history are governed by transcendent forces. However, with Joachim of Flores one sees a retrieval of Augustines account of linear progress, and, from the seventeenth century, influenced by the progress believed to be taking place in the natural sciences, this account is promoted in a number of secular versions. Yet after Hegel, the dominant position, in positivism, German historicism, and secular humanism, is that history possesses no archetype whatsoever, that it consists of a linear succession of temporal unities, and that mans historicity his situatedness in his own specific culture in a given time largely determines who he is and what he can aspire to be. According to Eliade, modern man associates the traditional conception of archetypes and repetition with being in thrall to nature (in which everything repeats and reproduces itself). By virtue of his autonomy, however, he, by contrast, views himself as independent of nature and hence capable of generating change in a genuinely historical (as opposed to natural) space. On Eliades account, the crucial points are (a) that it is only with the introduction of linear history that real autonomy becomes possible, and (b) that in a traditional periodical system, since every event that matters must satisfy the criteria for being a mimetic repetition of an unchanging, eternal archetype, there can be no room for historical creation:For the modern man can be creative only in so far as he is historical; in other words, all creation is forbidden him except that which has its source in his own freedom; and consequently, everything is denied him except the freedom to make history by making himself.29

29 Eliade, The Myth of the Eternal Return , p. 156.

Eliade and repetition


The price to be paid for the achievement of secular modernity is that the singular historical event, which for traditional man was endowed with meaning as the result of its mimesis of the archetype, now becomes evacuated of any deeper significance or relevance. Not to be able to contrast profane time with sacred time means that time as such becomes a marker of relativity and arbitrariness; indeed, because every historical event, on the historicist conception, must be explained either as the blind play of economic, social, or political forces, or as the result of some arbitrary human action, man no longer possesses a defense against contingency, or what Eliade calls the terror of history.30 In Eliades dialectic of enlightenment, while secularization initially brought about an increase in freedom, the more secularized modern man becomes, the less free he is to create. Rather than liberating him, the inherent meaninglessness of linear time ends up making it impossible to justify the events that take place within it. Eliades sweeping narrative may be challenged on many fronts. It could be argued that its high level of generality prevents him from coming to terms with the extraordinary variety of empirical phenomena that he seeks to understand, and that the simple juxtaposition of pre-modern and modern societies is far too crude to grasp the complexities at stake. He never really manages to throw any light on the Weberian question of what it is that sets Western societies, and in particular Europe, on a path of rationalization that other cultures outside the Western sphere of influence seem to have rejected, or at least remained oblivious of.31 In particular, he does not attempt to explain how and why people came to adopt a linear, continuous conception of time, or even to establish that modern agents actually understand their temporality primarily in terms of such a conception, let alone determine whether or not it is cognitively superior. (Is it perhaps tied to, and propelled by, the spread of capitalist modes of exchange, requiring an ever-increasing specialization and abstraction, or is secularization, as in classic Enlightenment accounts, to be regarded as a semi-autonomous learning process motivated in some way or another by the drive for self-determination?) Despite his Nietzschean fascination with myth and primitive mentality, he ends his discussion, surprisingly, by advocating Christianity as the only abiding solution to the ills
30 Ibid ., p. 151. 31 See Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism , trans. Talcott Parsons (New York:Charles Scribners Sons, 1958), p. 25.


Time and myth in the early Nietzsche

of modernity. Finally, one may indeed want to know more about what it is that prevents secular humanism, with its emphasis on the pursuit of human autonomy, self-determination, and self-rule, from being intellectually, emotionally, and existentially satisfactory. In spite of these shortcomings, the gist of Eliades view is clear and can aid us in obtaining a better understanding of the kinds of questions we ought to be asking about time and time-consciousness. Modernity, for Eliade, essentially means contingency.32 It means that the inevitable struggle with natural necessity and the reality of separation, loss, pain, and death can no longer be given any sense by invoking transcendent authorities whose influence was once expressed and validated through cultic action and the enactment of collective memory embodied in myths, stories, and images. Rather than the worship of ancestors and other past authorities, members of a modern social order are left with nothing but their own capacity to generate meaning. While pre-modern, non-secular societies were able to confront contingency by seeing it as a function of fury or fate, modern societies require informed calculation regarding the future. No longer is there a deep meaning or purpose capable of commanding allegiance independently of human activity and valuing. According to Nietzsches argument in The Birth of Tragedy, secularization in this sense generates a tremendous loss of meaning, a monotonous existential blankness which can be overcome only by returning to myth. The early Nietzsche believed such a return, and with it a complete transformation of modernitys temporal economy, to be possible. It became a great source of inspiration for a whole generation of anti-modern writers and critics, including Stefan George, Rainer Maria Rilke, Robert Musil, and Thomas Mann, and also such figures as Alfred Rosenberg and Alfred Baeumler, who took the view in an extreme right-wing direction, using it to provide legitimacy for the culture of Nazi Germany. As mentioned, Nietzsche very quickly lost faith in Wagner, the figure he ventured would be able to lead Germany into a renewed engagement with myth, and thereby also in the cultural politics to which this composers name had been indexed. Indeed, Nietzsche not only became disenchanted with Wagner but with the
32 This view is hardly controversial. It forms the basis for Webers famous notion (which he borrowed from Schiller) of the disenchantment of the world, and it continues to be of central importance in the writings of Habermas, Giddens, and Beck. In his much-acclaimed study Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism (New Haven and London:Yale University Press, 1999), p. 7, T. J. Clark considers contingency to be the key component in his own understanding of modernity.

Eliade and repetition


whole account of myth itself. In his later writings, rather than invoking some grandiose reconfiguration of modern temporality, he seeks ways to accept or even affirm it, and with that to affirm contingency as the most important mark of modernity. From about 1875, Nietzsche endorses features of what Eliade calls autonomy, searching for ways to expand its implications and scope until finally formulating a highly modern conception of authenticity as pure experimentation and detachment from external authority. I now turn to this account.

7 R ec u rr e nc e a n d au t h e n t ic i t y: t h e l at e r N i et z s c h e on t i m e

Nietzsche eventually rejected some of the key assumptions behind The Birth of Tragedy. For a start, he became dissatisfied with Wagner and the Wagner cult, thinking that rather than bringing about conditions for a renewal of German culture, they were actually aligned with the project of modernity and therefore symptoms of the very predicament he sought to overcome. In The Case of Wagner (1888), but also in writings from the latter half of the 1870s, Nietzsche considered Wagners music to be artificial and decadent, an expression, ultimately, of Christian values and, in particular, resentment against life as such. Another reason why Nietzsche went beyond his early account is that he came to dismiss Schopenhauers metaphysics, which he gradually came to think had its roots in the Christian tradition from which he later sought to disengage himself. However, Nietzsche was not just dismayed by his youthful infatuation with Wagner and Schopenhauer. He was also losing faith in the possibility and even desirability of retrieving a mythical conception of time. In the late 1870s, Nietzsche bade farewell to his altphilologische hopes, realizing that the orientation towards myth could not be combined with his increasing interest in innovation and self-transformation. For the later Nietzsche, emphasizing creation and freedom, the mythical conception of time became untenable.

From history to life

After the mid-1870s a new sensibility enters Nietzsches writings. Among other things, he begins to incorporate elements of an aesthetic avantgardism, ceaselessly pointing to the arts as the conveyors of new existential possibilities and as capable of promoting what he sees as a needed break with the past. As a result, his account of time-consciousness also

From history to life


changes. No longer contrasting modern mans historicizing and linear time-consciousness with the mythically informed circular time of his erstwhile cultural heroes, his interest now focuses on change and aesthetic experimentation. As Habermas puts it, [Nietzsche] was the contemporary of Mallarm and the Symbolists, an advocate of lart pour lart ... What Nietzsche calls the aesthetic phenomenon is disclosed in the concentrated dealings with itself of a decentered subjectivity set free from everyday conventions of perceiving and acting.1 The sphere of aesthetic avantgardism becomes important precisely because it incorporates, exemplifies, and articulates the implications of a radically modern time-consciousness ready to either break squarely with the past, or at least interpret the past exclusively from the standpoint of a liberated present geared towards future possibilities and projects. Thus, according to Habermas, the avantgarde understands itself as invading unknown territory, exposing itself to the dangers of the sudden, shocking encounters, conquering an as yet unoccupied future. The avantgarde must find a direction in a landscape into which no one seems to have yet ventured.2 Nietzsche articulates this new stance on the relationship between time and modernity most succinctly in the second essay of his 1876 Untimely Meditations, Of the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life.3 The question framing the discussion is one that had interested Dilthey and the German historicists, and would continue to preoccupy such thinkers as Husserl, Heidegger, Weber, and Habermas:what is the ultimate aim and status of the human (or historical) sciences? Such sciences produce knowledge about human history, understanding the human agent as an eminently historical creature, yet what is the value of such knowledge? What interest, if any, is satisfied in getting to know the past? The prevailing view among the historicists and philologists that Nietzsche aims to attack was that the knowledge-constitutive interest of the historical sciences is essentially contemplative:we aim to know the past because obtaining truth and knowledge is itself valuable. On the historicist view, the past is composed of a series of objective events that the historical sciences can uncover by employing the
1 Jrgen Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, trans. Frederick C. Lawrence (Cambridge, Mass.:MIT Press, 1987), p. 93. 2 Jrgen Habermas, Modernity An Incomplete Project, in Charles Harrison and Paul Wood (eds.), Art in Theory 19001990 (Oxford:Blackwell, 1996), p. 1001. 3 Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations , trans. R. J. Hollingdale (Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 57123.


Recurrence and authenticity

methods appropriate to the respective disciplines. The past, moreover, determines the present: we are what we have become. According to Nietzsche, however, it is by no means obvious that revealing more and more about the past is in itself a desirable goal. For the more we know, he argues, the more we are burdened by what we know, and the more we are weighed down and incapable of action. Our sense of being determined by the past is stifling. An obsessive orientation towards the past, Nietzsche claims, can even cripple and destroy the vital powers of life (Leben). We should therefore cease to see ourselves in light of the past, as the outcome of some kind of chain of development determining our destiny and providing us with conceptual means for interpreting ourselves. Instead we should seek to draw a line around our own culture, encouraging new forms of self-expression aimed at the future. In that way our relationship to the past can become creative. In Nietzsches words, if you are to venture to interpret the past you can do so only out of the fullest exertion of the vigour of the present :only when you put forth your noblest qualities in all their strength will you divine what is worth knowing and preserving in the past.4 There is a sharp contrast between, on the one hand, accepting tradition as authoritative and, on the other, viewing it as material to be actively taken up by us in accordance with principles and commitments that are self-chosen. For the sake of expanding our possibilities and reaching out into the future, Nietzsche recommends that we should strive to let go of existing affiliations and indeed of the tradition itself, which should no longer be viewed as binding in any obvious sense. We should live unhistorically. Our fundamental value should be life and not history. At the beginning of the second untimely meditation, Nietzsche offers a dramatic vision of what such unhistorical life might entail. An animal, he suggests, does not have any sense either of yesterday or tomorrow. Rather, it is absorbed in the present, fettered to the moment and its pleasure or displeasure,5 knowing neither melancholy nor boredom. Only by adopting this capacity is man able to experience life to the full:
He who cannot sink down on the threshold of the moment and forget all the past, who cannot stand balanced like a goddess of victory without growing dizzy and afraid, will never know what happiness is worse, he will never do anything to make others happy.
4 Ibid ., p. 94. 5 Ibid ., p. 60.

From history to life


... Thus:it is possible to live almost without memory, and to live happily moreover, as the animal demonstrates; but it is altogether impossible to live at all without forgetting. Or, to express my theme even more simply:there is a degree of sleeplessness, of rumination, of the historical sense, which is harmful and ultimately fatal to the living thing, whether this thing be a man or a people or a culture .6

Animals are happy because they see themselves as complete in the present, without recollections of loss or concerns about the future. It is not altogether clear, however, whether Nietzsche thinks of human beings as capable of such absorption, nor indeed whether he would ultimately recommend it, despite its promise of happiness. While, as Nietzsche writes, it is possible to live almost without memory, humans tend to make their ends subservient to conceptions of the good, causing them to feel incomplete. Moreover, the reflection on animal life seems mainly geared towards underlining an existential possibility that, while perhaps attainable to some degree, would be self-destructive if fully realized. There seems, therefore, to be an ambiguity in Nietzsches argument. On the one hand, he asks us to draw a circle around the present in order to protect it from being only a transitory and contingent stage in an impersonal process. Animals, we must assume, simply live in the present; they neither reflect nor create. On the other hand, however, the vocabulary being used of vitality, health, power, abundance, striving, and vigor suggests that he does not advocate some sort of return to a semi-vegetative, or perhaps non-human, state. As opposed to being in a state of denial of life (and, as he will argue later, of its essential character of will to power), to really live is to be ready to go beyond oneself; it is to create and transform: self-transcendence is lifes ultimate ethical goal. On this second interpretation, man is forever exiled from the unimaginable enjoyment of self-being in otherness manifest by the creature. He cannot avoid standing opposed to his own being. Being caught up in the labor of negation, man is condemned to the ceaseless production of mediating representations, of forming conceptions of the good that eventually make desire and possession possible.7
6 Ibid ., p. 62. 7 For a suggestive treatment of this topic, see Eric Santner, On Creaturely Life. Rilke, Benjamin, Sebald (Chicago and London:University of Chicago Press, 2006), pp. 110.


Recurrence and authenticity

Rather than claiming that we could ever transcend history (and thus our relation to the past), which seems impossible, Nietzsche seems, then, to hold that we both can and should reject pre-given appeals to the authority of history. Relating to history, he claims, should be done for the purpose of life!8 Distinguishing between monumental, antiquarian, and critical approaches, he claims that history must be interpreted in terms of its capacity to heighten our sense of life. In a monumental relation to history, the creative, forward-looking character uncovers heroic examples that serve as sources of inspiration for action and self-understanding; in an antiquarian relation to history, he preserves and honors the past for the sake of bestowing dignity on his own practices; and in a critical relation to history, he seeks to break loose from repressive ideals. However, in all three relations the priority is on the side of life and futurity, rather than some notion of historically constituted authority. The second untimely meditation does not contain a full-blown conception of time and time-consciousness. Nietzsches primary interest, after all, is to criticize the objectivism of the burgeoning historical sciences. Bringing his argument in touch with the values of the aesthetic avant garde, however, he does prioritize the future over the past in a decisively modern way, thereby contributing to the discussion about time. Rather than being merely a corrupting factor, time becomes an essential precondition for the creation of value; hence the passing of time can be affirmed. The ephemeral is to be valorized not only because modernity demands it, but because without it, man would never be able to create new meaning. The time-consciousness implied by Nietzsche thus forms the basis for an ethics of the ephemeral a celebration, as it were, of the lightness of being. The question Nietzsche does not yet address in this early essay, at least not satisfactorily, is how such an ethics can be achieved.

The doctrine of eternal recurrence

The doctrine of the eternal recurrence of the same is Nietzsches most explicit and elaborate contribution to the philosophical discourse of modern temporality. It is first formulated in the penultimate entry of book four of The Gay Science, in the context of introducing the figure of Zarathustra:
8 Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations , p. 66.

The doctrine of eternal recurrence


The heaviest weight . What if some day or night a demon were to steal into your loneliest loneliness and say to you:This life as you now live it and have lived it you will have to live once again and innumerable times again; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unspeakably small or great in your life must return to you, all in the same succession and sequence even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned over again and again, and you with it, speck of dust! Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him:You are a god, and never have I heard anything more divine. If this thought gained power over you, as you are it would transform and possibly crush you; the question in each and every thing, Do you want this again and innumerable times again? would lie on your actions as the heaviest weight! Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to long for nothing more fervently than for this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?9

This is a complex passage both formally and in terms of its philo sophical meaning. It contains an anonymous narrator who may or may not be identical with the authorial voice; it is directed to an anonymous you who may or may not be the reader; and it makes reference to the sayings of an imagined demon. The formulation of the actual doctrine of the eternal recurrence of the same offered by the demon seems to take the form both of a truth-claim (it is the case that ...) and of some kind of counterfactual thought experiment (what if it had been the case that ...?). The emphasis, however, seems to lie on the implications the vision of an eternal recurrence of the same would have for the addressee if this doctrine in fact were demonstrably true. There seems to be two such possible sets of implications:one involving the heaviest weight, the other being more positive, indeed even divine, something for which the addressee is thought to be longing fervently, being the ultimate confirmation and seal. How should this passage be understood? Why is it formulated in this mythical and rhetorically complex manner? Indeed, is Nietzsche here presenting a theoretical position, or is he, as the emphasis on the possible responses might indicate, perhaps
9 Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science , trans. Josefine Nauckhoff (Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 194.


Recurrence and authenticity

setting up some sort of existential challenge, a call for self-transformation, that does not require commitment to any theoretical claims? Life, the demon states, will have to be lived once again and innumerable times again; and there will be nothing new in it. There is talk of an endless recurrence of lives and of cycles. Let us first consider this as a theoretical statement. At various points throughout his career, though with limited success, Nietzsche does try to formulate the doctrine of the eternal recurrence of the same as a serious cosmological hypothesis.10 As can be ascertained from his notebooks and letters, from at least 1881 and onwards he is influenced by related ideas in Pythagorean teachings, by various other conceptions stemming from Greek antiquity, as well as by Eugen Dhrings 1875 Cursus der Philosophie.11 His more famous contemporaries Auguste Blanqui and Gustave le Bon both present similar notions, and there is evidence that Nietzsche was familiar with both.12 A more precise formulation of the hypothesis is that everything that has already happened, and everything that is happening at any given moment, and everything that will happen in the future, has already happened and will happen again, preceded and followed by exactly the same events in the same order, an infinite number of times. It is hard to know what would count as support for such a claim. As a straightforward a posteriori claim, it seems entirely beyond the bounds of sense transcendent in precisely the sense Kant ascribes to classical metaphysics. Yet does it lend itself to a priori demonstration? In the section of Thus Spoke Zarathustra entitled On the Vision and the Riddle, there is a character named the dwarf whom Zarathustra refers to as the spirit of heaviness. In this particular section, the dwarf literally assaults Zarathustra, demanding to sit on his back, thus weighing him down. When Zarathustra starts to reflect on the eternity of time that must have passed and the future eternity of time that will
10 Karl Lwith claims that the idea can be traced back to Nietzsches very early essays, Fate and History and The Freedom of the Will and Fate, both written in 1862. See Lwith, Meaning in History (Chicago and London:University of Chicago Press, 1949), p. 214. 11 Eugen Dhring, Cursus der Philosophie als streng wissenschaftlicher Weltanschauung und Lebensgestaltung (Leipzig:Koschny, 1875). 12 Auguste Blanqui, Lternit par les astres (Paris:Librairie Germer Baillire, 1872); Gustave le Bon, LHomme et les socits (Paris:ditions J. Rothschild, 1881). According to Mazzimo Montinari, co-editor of the Kritische Gesamtausgabe , Nietzsche also read F. G. Vogt, Die Kraft. Eine real-monistische Weltanschauung (Leipzig:Haupt und Tischler, 1878), in which reference is also made to conceptions of recurrence.

The doctrine of eternal recurrence


pass, the dwarf spitefully responds, stating that all truth is crooked; time itself is a circle.13 Zarathustra then continues this thought, asserting the following, which looks like an argument in favor of adopting the view of eternal recurrence:
See this moment! I continued. From this gateway Moment a long eternal lane stretches backward:behind us lies an eternity. Must not whatever can happen already have passed this way before? Must not whatever can happen, already have happened, been done, passed by before? And if everything has already been here before, what do you think of this moment, dwarf? Must this gateway too not already have been here? And are not all things firmly knotted together in such a way that this moment draws after it all things to come? Therefore itself as well? For, whatever can run, even in this long lane outward must run it once more! And this slow spider that creeps in the moonlight, and this moonlight itself, and I and you in the gateway whispering together, whispering of eternal things must not all of us have been here before? And return and run in that other lane, outward, before us, in this long, eerie lane must we not return eternally? Thus I spoke, softer and softer, for I was afraid of my own thought and secret thoughts.14

Many commentators have failed to identify the affect this little speech inspires, yet this is a vision that seems to horrify Zarathustra. If, as he sees it, time extends endlessly into the past, then everything that can happen must have happened, and every instant (with every possible configuration of the world in its totality) must have repeated itself endlessly and will continue to do so endlessly. Yet why would the indefinite extension of time not be compatible with the singularity of each state and configuration of states in it? How can Nietzsche (or Zarathustra, assuming he is Nietzsches voice here) presuppose that the universe is not capable of an eternal number of possible configurations, and that, therefore, no repetition necessarily follows from the stipulation of temporal perpetuity? Indeed, there may well be an infinity of time, a finite number of possible states, and an

13 Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra:A Book for All and None , trans. Adrian Del Caro (Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 125. 14 Ibid ., p. 126.


Recurrence and authenticity

infinite number of distributions that these states can have. He never seems to present a premise that can bridge this gap in the argument. Moreover, as Georg Simmel points out, a repetition can be of significance to an agent only in so far as her ego remains actively related to the new configuration which a repetition qua repetition involves. A repetition that found her in the same experiential state in which she was when the first instant occurred, without any realization that anything has happened, would obviously not be registered:The eternal recurrence only has import for someone who watches, reflects on, and unites the many returns in his consciousness; it is nothing as an external reality.15 If interpreted either ontologically or in terms of the logical possibility of the experience itself, the argument for the eternal recurrence of the same is not very compelling. More promising than directly assessing the argumentative strength of Zarathustras highly poeticized rumination, however, is to obtain a sense of exactly what it is that makes this vision so unbearable and why it is sparked off by the appearance of the dwarf. Like most of the characters and animals Zarathustra meets, the dwarf represents a particular attitude to life. The dwarf, more specifically, is peculiar in that he is antithetical in certain key respects to Zarathustra; he is what Zarathustra is not. While Zarathustra is described as a dancer, walking lightly and with grace, the dwarf is portrayed as heavy, disfigured, and unwilling to walk. More generally, the dwarf represents the spirit of resentment, ressentiment , of hatred against precisely the values that Zarathustra brings to the fore:lightness of being, continuous self-creation, affirmation of existence in all its respects, the tragic-aesthetic vision of life proclaimed as early as in The Birth of Tragedy. The dwarf hates life and cannot tolerate these commitments. The vision, therefore, of the universe sparked off by the dwarfs initial remark about the circularity of time is fuelled by horror and disgust with existence. If cosmic time is infinite and every state of the universe is bound to repeat itself, then the universe is evacuated of resources with reference to which human beings can interpret existence as meaningful. On this view, the history of the universe is like an indefinite repetition and exhaustion of a finite set of possible
15 Georg Simmel, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, trans. Helmut Loiskandl, Deena Weinstein, and Michael Weinstein (Urbana and Chicago:University of Illinois Press, 1991), p. 174.

The doctrine of eternal recurrence


combinations, and there is no origin, no freedom, no inherent order other than the mere succession of specific states, and no telos of any kind. In Leibnizs famous argument to the effect that this is the best possible universe, God is held to have pondered all possible universes before choosing one of them.16 The dwarfs universe is the mere playing out, in reality and not merely in Gods mind, of all the possible combinations over and over again. No principle, act of creation, or source of order has ever emerged:the universe has no meaning and life is unbearable. Yet the section in which the dwarf makes his appearance, On the Vision and the Riddle, ends on a strange note. The dwarf suddenly disappears, being replaced by a shepherd with a heavy black snake hanging out of his mouth. As the sight of this frightens Zarathustra, the shepherd bites off the snakes head and spits it out. The section ends with laughter. Now, in addition to the eagle, the snake is one of Zarathustras animals. Both symbolize eternal recurrence. Unlike the eagle, however, the snake incarnates what is unbearable and unacceptable about such a temporal configuration. The shepherds bite promises the overcoming of the unwanted dimension of the eternal recurrence; hence the laughter. We are now at some distance from the ontological interpretation. What concerns us is no longer whether the doctrine of the eternal recurrence is true but whether, on a counterfactual basis, we could accept its implications. The shift, in other words, is from a merely cognitive to an affective and perfectionist register. If able to accept that every moment could return, endlessly, forever and ever again, in eternity, then what kind of person are you? What does it take to be brought to a position of affirming every moment such that this could be accepted? The idea of the eternal recurrence thus becomes the supreme existential challenge, the ultimate test of courage and vitality, for it asks whether life can be affirmed as it is, here and now. According to this thought experiment there is no eternal, immutable order beyond that of each present moment. Instead the eternal is displaced to become the Now this moment, this life, this existence, which one is willing to accept is eternally recurring. The affirmation simultaneously abolishes guilt, meaninglessness, and resentment:it means that suffering
16 G. W. Leibniz, Theodicy:Essays on the Goodness of God, the Freedom of Man, and the Origin of Evil , trans. E. M. Huggard (Chicago:Open Court, 1988).


Recurrence and authenticity

and pain, just like pleasure and bliss, are equally perfect, belonging equally to the highest order of perfection. Truly to affirm, however, is to accept all moments of time and be able to view them as ones own. Hence Zarathustra, in the section of Thus Spoke Zarathustra entitled On Redemption, speaks of redeeming the past and transforming its it was into a thus I willed it.17 While first and foremost a call for a renewed relation to the fact of transience, the doctrine of eternal recurrence is undeniably designed to tackle what I have called the problem of meaning. The innocence of the cosmic child at the beginning of Thus Spoke Zarathustra , building and destroying with the same gesture, symbolizes the innocence of man freed from rage against the transience of all things.18 Unlike the essentially Augustinian belief that to the blessed each and every moment will come back to them as redeemed from time, the idea of return means accepting and indeed affirming every single detail of life without despairing at the possibility that, in every single detail, it will occur again and again indefinitely. What compels Nietzsche is the sense that this is the only life possible the complete acceptance of transient things, contingency, and suffering, by willing their eternal recurrence.19 Only thus can the desire for revenge against time against the passing of time announcing itself in the Platonic impulse to set up a counter-world of immutable, timeless essences, be resisted.

Heidegger on Nietzsches account of revenge

Heideggers lectures on Nietzsche from the latter half of the 1930s are famous for their claim that Nietzsches thinking represents the consummation of Western metaphysics and the reversal of Platonism.20 Nietzsche, Heidegger argues, turns will to power into the central
17 Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra , p. 110. 18 Ibid ., p. 17:The child is innocence and forgetting, a new beginning, a game, a wheel rolling out of itself, a first movement, a sacred yes-saying. 19 Genevieve Lloyd, Being in Time:Selves and Narrators in Philosophy and Literature (London and New York:Routledge, 1993), p. 108:The idea of recurrence as deliverance from times relentless onward passage involves an affirmation of transience rather than a denial of its reality. For detailed discussions of this issue, see Stanley Rosen, The Mask of Enlightenment: Nietzsches Zarathustra (Cambridge and New York:Cambridge University Press, 1995) and John Richardson, Nietzsches System (Oxford and New York:Oxford University Press, 1996). 20 Martin Heidegger, Nietzsche , 4 vols., trans. David Farrell Krell, Joan Stambaugh, Frank A. Capuzzi (New York:Harper & Row, 197987).

Heidegger on Nietzsches account of revenge


concept of metaphysics, thereby paving the way for a conception of technology as the organizing principle and activity of contemporary man. In What Is Called Thinking?, however, a lecture course from 1951 and 1952, his last before formal retirement from the University of Freiburg, Heidegger returns to Nietzsche in order to think further about mans relation to time. The focus of this particular discussion is Nietzsches notion of the spirit of revenge from Thus Spoke Zarathustra and elsewhere. The notion of revenge first comes to the fore in Nietzsches examination of moral psychology in The Genealogy of Morality from 1886. Here it denotes a feature of so-called slave-morality, namely its desire to exact punishment on the strong for their natural opposition to the values of the weak.21 In Thus Spoke Zarathustra , however, Nietzsche introduces the idea of a metaphysically oriented form of revenge, based on resistance towards the fact that everything comes to pass. The passage Heidegger refers to is the following:
This, yes, this alone is revenge itself:the wills unwillingness toward time and times it was.22

As Heidegger points out, the vision of time which underlies this reflection echoes that of Aristotle, who in his Physics divides time into the three fundamental modalities of that which lies in the future and will become present, that which is present and will become past, and that which has faded into the past and will forever be bygone. Time, then, on this view, is a flowing away in succession, the emergence and fading of every now that rolls past, out of the not yet now into the no longer now.23 Everything temporal is thus ephemeral:the future possibility becomes a present actuality which is immediately transformed into an untouchable, unchangeable past the it was. One might think that the finality of whatever lies in the past at least if one accepts a realist interpretation of it is simply a fact that has to be accepted. However, for Nietzsche, the will, being defined by its striving, suffers at not being able to change the past. As Heidegger puts it:
The it was becomes a stumbling block for all willing. It is the block which the will can no longer budge. The it was becomes the sorrow
21 Nietzsches account of slave-morality is obviously a lot richer than this. Most importantly, slave-morality involves a complex psychological disposition based on the desire to negate or reject whatever is vital and strong. 22 Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra , p. 111. 23 Martin Heidegger, What Is Called Thinking?, trans. J. Glenn Gray (New York:Harper & Row, 1976), p. 97.


Recurrence and authenticity

and despair of all willing which, being what it is, always wills forward, and is always foiled by the bygones that lie fixed firmly in the past. Thus the it was is revolting and contrary to the will. This is why revulsion against the it was arises in the will itself when faced with this contrary it was.24

The liberation of the will from its fixation on the reified, rigid past takes place, Heidegger argues, by actively willing the it was. Thus Nietzsche then writes that To redeem those who are the past and to recreate all it was into thus I willed it! only that would I call redemption.25 By willing the return and recurrence of every it was, the will manages to affirm the past. It stops feeling revulsion against time and its passing. Through the act of willing return and recurrence, the will accepts transience the fading away of everything into the past. Nietzsche also argues that the past and the present are necessarily connected through the passage that leads from the one to the other. Thus, affirming the present, the result of this passage, is to affirm all that has led to it. Again, Nietzsche wants to present us with an injunction to accept every aspect of ones life, and not to have any regrets. The amor fati of which he so often speaks is not about love for an impersonal fate, for the powers that might be, but for what we might think of as the story of ones life what one can will as ones own and identify with.26 This is me, Nietzsches protagonist seems to say, and I fully accept it. Nietzsches account of time and of the eternal recurrence of the same is both hugely speculative and fascinating. With the exception of Epicureanism, few Western doctrines of human existence have been able to confer such gravity on things and events by willing them simply as they are. Recontextualizing his early claims about Dionysian man, Nietzsche shows how life can be justified even in its most dreadful and apparently unbearable moments. Celebrating becoming over being to the point of reintroducing a conception of the sacred, he thus ultimately generates an account of the good, of that for the sake of which one does whatever one does, with the inherent perfection of life as such being the goal of all praiseworthy human striving. And yet
24 Ibid ., p. 92. 25Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra , p. 110. 26 For an emphasis on narrative in connection with the doctrine of the eternal recurrence of the same, see Alexander Nehamas, Nietzsche:Life as Literature (Cambridge, Mass.:Harvard University Press, 1985), pp. 16369. I return to the question of narrative in Chapter 9.

Heidegger on Nietzsches account of revenge


the account is not without serious problems. If, as I have suggested, it takes the form of a thought experiment, then in what sense is it capable of making a claim upon us? A thought experiment is a story that is arbitrary in every respect except the point it is meant to illustrate; and as such it carries no inherent claim to being true. According to Nietzsche, we should tell it in order to test ourselves and see whether we are ready to endorse, however counterfactually, its implications. Yet we will be able to take it seriously only in so far as we already are committed to these implications. There seems, in other words, to be a circularity in the argument:the story is arbitrary from the point of view of how things really are (we have no good reason to believe the doctrine of eternal recurrence); we take it seriously in order to test whether we can accept its implications; yet we need to have accepted those implications in order to find the story compelling. Another problem is the exotic nature of the story itself. Let us imagine a person who finds the story compelling independently of its implications. Why does it compel him? We normally take fiction seriously and are able to take an interest in the fate of its characters to the extent that it manages to sustain some sort of illusion of reality. Once the illusion is shattered, we need other hooks by which to sustain our interest.27 The doctrine of the eternal recurrence of the same postulates that everything is interconnected and that everything will return. Here the illusion of reality is shattered by its very implausibility. Thus, even though we are not meant to interpret it as a cosmological doctrine (that is, as a theory of reality), it may simply be too strange or idiosyncratic to impress us. Like a dream, it risks remaining a private narrative, of direct relevance only to the person immediately experiencing it.28 From a moral point of view, the doctrine may seem to have extremely counterintuitive, and perhaps even abhorrent, consequences. It ultimately asks us to see whether we can bring ourselves to want every event in the universe to return, and thus to affirm everything to the
27 The view of fiction as presenting some sort of illusion is widespread but by no means unchallenged. For a useful discussion of this issue, see John Gibson, Fiction and the Weave of Life (Oxford and New York:Oxford University Press, 2007). 28 It is worth noticing that Nietzsche himself is the first to acknowledge the phantasmagoric nature of the doctrine of the eternal recurrence of the same. Not only is Zarathustra, the spokesman of the doctrine, presented as a mythical figure, but his own account of it tends to be couched in a vaguely religious rhetoric of intoxication, ecstasy, and self-overcoming as though from the vantage point of a dream- or trance-like state.


Recurrence and authenticity

point of accepting its return. Yet why would we want everything to return? Is Nietzsche not thereby demanding that we should want evil to return? Is he not asking us to condone moral evil, and indeed even encouraging us to rejoice in its return? For anyone with even the slightest interest in morality and justice, this would no doubt be difficult to accept, and yet it seems to follow from Nietzsches position. I cannot want my own life to return without wanting the world in which my life has unfolded, as well as the history of this world, to return. The doctrine of eternal recurrence admonishes us to overcome the past and its it was. It asks us to celebrate transience and be able actively to let go of the past. In Freudian terms we may think of this as a kind of extreme mourning. The mourner detaches cathexis (Objektbesetzung) from lost objects, thus accepting that they are gone to the point of saying, with Nietzsche, I willed it. He then turns the amount of libido which was previously attached to the lost object towards other objects. While Schopenhauers theory of transcendence could be seen as representing a distrust of mourning and an unwillingness to replace the lost object with a new one, Nietzsches theory represents an almost triumphant or even ecstatic readiness to mourn. The past qua it was is supposed to carry only the weight assigned to it by an active, forward-looking subject, and it is only as a function of the subjects plans and commitments (the I willed it) that it can carry any significance at all. Nietzsche does not advocate a complete loss of history. He does argue, however, that modern agents need a radically new psychic economy in which the capacity to forget and rewrite is more important than the capacity for recollection and memory.29 One may want to ask whether such hyper-mourning (Freud would perhaps have called it manic) does not carry with it its own burdens. It may lead us to ignore the significance of the actual past; and since the past can only be presented through the triumphant lens of the I willed it, it is hard to see how genuine learning from the past, or things like commemoration of past events, can be possible. However, it also detaches itself from its own history, and thereby from the sources of symbolic authority that it could use, and indeed need, in order to create for itself a narrative whereby a sense of identity could emerge.
29 See Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil , trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York:Vintage Books, 1966), p. 41 on the necessity not to remain stuck. In The Will to Power, trans. Walter Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale (New York:Vintage Books, 1967), p. 233, Nietzsche writes that Not to become finished with an experience is already a sign of decadence.

Heidegger on Nietzsches account of revenge


This brings us to the most serious difficulty facing Nietzsches Both the second untimely meditation and Thus Spoke doctrine. Zarathustra focus on the value of unhampered creation and selfcreation. Nietzsche values the artist (and possibly also the great politician, but only in so far as he acts like an artist) more than any other character. The artist, for Nietzsche, while eminently life-affirming in so far as the aesthetic state is one of exuberance, strength, joy, and production, transforms reality and recreates it according to his will and intention. He does not display the desire for fixing, for immortalizing, for being, but, rather, for destruction, change and becoming.30 The artistic orientation thus shuns all external authority all symbols and expressions of cultural, ethical, and moral authority. The problem, however, with such a radical rejection of authority is that there is no longer any measure by means of which the artist-philosopher can value his own creations. Since no restrictions on successful creation are accepted, the creations themselves threaten to become arbitrary:there is no reason to recognize or evaluate them in any particular way or manner, or with reference to any kind of framework of value or canon of justification. This, no doubt, has ramifications for the creator. In Thus Spoke Zarathustra the idea of play and playful innocence is all-important and serves as the model for a post-historical existence. However, since for this very reason the creations of such a post-historical agent cannot carry any historical weight, the experiences they engender will be empty. There is no authority behind them with reference to which they can be justified as worthy of our attention and interest. One might venture the thought that Zarathustra must get bored by his new creations. With the rejection, and indeed crisis, of authority, there is nothing to give his activity any authorized meaning, nor is there any comprehensive framework of organizing values and fundamental commitments by means of which he can construct for himself a narrative able to make the individual event meaningful.31 In his 1937 lecture course entitled The Eternal Recurrence of the Same, Heidegger interprets Nietzsche as anticipating his own doctrine of
30 Nietzsche, The Gay Science , p. 235. 31 For a stimulating reflection on this point, see Giorgio Agamben, Infancy and History:On the Destruction of Experience , trans. Liz Heron (London and New York:Verso, 2007), p. 16:For experience has its necessary correlation not in knowledge but in authority that is to say, the power of words and narration; and no one now seems to wield sufficient authority to guarantee the truth of an experience, and if they do, it does not in the least occur to them that their own authority has its roots in an experience.


Recurrence and authenticity

authentic temporality in Being and Time.32 For Heidegger, the collision of past and future in the moment is resolute action the coming together of an anticipation of ones uttermost and ownmost possibility with ones ownmost having been.33 In present action, past and future thus interpenetrate one another:the future is a projection of Dasein into its ownmost possibilities; while staking out future possibilities, the past is at the same time a function of the projection towards the future. On Heideggers account, Daseins authentic commitment necessarily solves the problem of authority; thus, in so far as his reading of Nietzsche makes sense, the problem of boredom and lack of motivation in his work cannot arise. Eight years prior to the 1937 lecture course, however, Heidegger turned explicitly to the issue of boredom, arguing that while there is an intrinsic connection between modernity and boredom, his own theory of authenticity could show a way out of this predicament. In the next chapter I turn to Heideggers analysis of boredom in order to test this claim.
32 Heidegger, Nietzsche , vol. ii, pp. 13340. 33 Martin Heidegger, Being and Time , trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (Oxford:Blackwell, 1985), p. 373.

8 H e i deg ge r on bor e dom a n d mode r n i t y

The centrality of the concept of time within Heideggers thinking is beyond dispute. From early Marburg investigations such as the 1924 essay The Concept of Time to late works such as the 1962 On Time and Being, Heidegger attempts to uncover the ontological nature of temporality, and, in particular, the relationship, as he understands it, between time and being. In Being and Time, by far his most influential study of time, he announces in the introduction that the meaning of the Being of that entity which we call Dasein will be temporality.1 The fundamental intelligibility of Daseins (that is, the entity that we are in so far as our own being, as Heidegger puts it, is an issue for us) existence is made possible by a deep transcendental level which is alternately referred to as ecstatic or original temporality, and which must be sharply distinguished from vulgar time, the quantitative time of clocks and objective measurement. Heideggers theory of time, especially in Being and Time, has generated a huge body of scholarship.2 By picking up and developing Augustines claim against Aristotle that time must be understood not as the succession of irreversible and homogeneous now-points but as mans (or Daseins) fundamental manner of being, Heidegger renews the post-Kantian discourse of time and gives it a decisive twist towards what he calls the how of Dasein. Temporality in Being and Time is theorized as the temporalized version of the structure that makes up

1 Martin Heidegger, Being and Time , trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (Oxford:Blackwell, 1985), p. 38. 2 The body of literature devoted to this issue is rapidly expanding. Possibly the best recent study of Heideggers doctrine of original temporality is William Blattner, Heideggers Temporal Idealism (Cambridge University Press, 1999).



Heidegger on boredom and modernity

Daseins care (Sorge), where care is defined as the unified whole that makes intelligibility possible in the first place.3 As a phenomenologist Heidegger also has a lot to say about how we experience time, about what it means to pass time, and indeed what it is to be living with time. Though related in ways that will be explored in some detail, these are separate issues from that raised in Being and Time and immediately related writings, which is:what is time as such? In this chapter I will not aim at trying to reconstruct the details of Heideggers theory of original temporality. Rather, what will interest me are the much less explored links which Heidegger, in the late 1920s, starts to forge between modernity (and in particular the technologically modernized society) and the temporally determined attunement of boredom. In the posthumously published Contributions to Philosophy, considered by many to be his second Hauptwerk , Heidegger contends that the hidden goal towards which rationalized modernity is aiming its unacknowledged essence, as it were is total boredom.4 Heideggers interest in the phenomenon of boredom no doubt resonates with Webers vision of a loss of meaning. With this in mind, I now turn to his attempt, in the 1929 lecture course The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, to show that profound boredom has the ability to bring about conditions for Daseins authentic reappropriation of its own existence. I argue that Heideggers argument ultimately fails because his construal of authenticity is too wedded to the conditions he seeks to transcend to be able to represent an overcoming of them.

Towards a theory of boredom

Heidegger distinguishes between three different forms of boredom: being bored by something, being bored with something, and profound boredom.5 Each represents a specific form of temporalization a
3 See Being and Time , p. 237, where Heidegger defines care as follows:The formally existential totality of Daseins ontological structure whole must therefore be grasped in the following structure:the Being of Dasein means ahead-of-itself-Being-already-in (the-world) as Being-alongside (entities encountered within-the-world). 4 Martin Heidegger, Contributions to Philosophy (From Enowning), trans. Parvis Emad and Kenneth Maly (Bloomington and Indianapolis:Indiana University Press, 1999), p. 109. 5 Heidegger emphasizes that boredom must be understood as an attunement (Stimmung). As such it is neither a mental state that can be objectified and encountered as a psychological entity, nor something inner as opposed to the outer. Rather, attunements ontologically determine the being of Dasein . They are, as Heidegger puts it in The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics:World, Finitude, Solitude , trans. William McNeill

Towards a theory of boredom


specific way of existing temporally. The first form may be closest to what we ordinarily mean when we apply the predicate bored to someone. In being bored by something, it is possible to identify a situation as being boring, and time, as indicated by the German for boredom, Langeweile (literally translated as long while), seems to slow down. In being bored by we find ourselves trying to pass the time, make it go quicker. In order to better understand what this involves, it is worth quoting Heideggers example in full.
We are sitting, for example, in the tasteless station of some lonely minor railway. It is four hours until the next train arrives. The district is uninspiring. We do have a book in our rucksack, though shall we read? No. Or think through a problem, some question? We are unable to. We read the timetables or study the table giving the various distances from this station to other places we are not otherwise acquainted with at all. We look at the clock only a quarter of an hour has gone by. Then we go out onto the local road. We walk up and down, just to have something to do. But it is no use. Then we count the trees along the road, look at our watch again exactly five minutes since we last looked at it. Fed up with walking back and forth, we sit down on a stone, draw all kinds of figures in the sand, and in so doing catch ourselves looking at our watch again half an hour and so on.6

Using the station and the train which is to arrive in four hours as his example, what Heidegger describes is a typically modern experience of being desynchronized in relation to an event whose occurrence is scheduled to take place in accordance with a formal arrangement of a specific kind. If operating adequately, the train follows the schedule, and each individual passenger must plan and organize her actions so as to be at the station in due time (that is, neither too early nor too late). When arriving, the train is not there for the individual passenger (in the sense that we would say that another person, when meeting with the passenger, is there for him); rather, it is there because this is when it is supposed to be there. Being strictly based on clock-time as well as on the requirement that the trains movements will make it possible for it to be at the various stations on time, the time of the train is indifferent to the time of the passenger.
and Nicholas Walker (Bloomington and Indianapolis:Indiana University Press, 1995), p. 67, the fundamental ways in which we find ourselves disposed in such and such a way. The employment of the term attunement presupposes the more elaborate analysis in Heideggers Being and Time , pp. 17279. 6 Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics , p. 93.


Heidegger on boredom and modernity

What is the boredom that is being driven away, or sought to be driven away, in the attempt to pass the time at the station? One might think that it consists in the waiting for the train, and that being bored by is a kind of waiting. However, the mere fact that not every waiting is boring shows that the boredom cannot consist in the waiting as such. Waiting can be boring, yet it can also, as for example when an athlete is waiting to perform in an important competition, be full of excitement and suspense. Being bored must therefore consist in something else. It is true that had the passenger in Heideggers example not been forced to wait, he would not have been bored. However, it does not follow that the boredom consists in the waiting as such but only that the waiting in question is of a sort that brings about, or is a condition for, the emergence of boredom. Of what sort, then, is the waiting in question? One suggestion that seems to turn things around might be that the waiting at the station is such that one is forced into the particular situation (one has no choice but to wait), and that one therefore becomes impatient. The claim would then be that what oppresses the passenger such that he finds himself being bored is the unpleasant experience of being impatient, and of wanting to escape from impatience. However, again Heidegger draws an important distinction. Impatience may or may not accompany boredom; thus, it is necessarily neither identical with it, nor a constituent property of it. One can be bored and feel apathetic or resigned without a trace of impatience. It is of course true that while seeking to stave off ones boredom one may easily get impatient, yet that is not the same as holding that there is an identity or intrinsic connection between impatience and boredom itself. Whatever being bored by is, it seems to involve a peculiar form of temporal slowness. However, the mental operation of grasping the fact that time is moving slowly is not the same as being bored. One may, as when listening intently to music, keep grasping that fact without being bored. To be sure, the passenger keeps looking at his watch, thus expressing an overwhelming desire precisely to pass the time and make it move more quickly. Yet looking at the watch does not make time pass more quickly. On the contrary, all it does is to indicate that his boredom is increasing. The more frequently he looks at his watch, the more bored he is likely to be. In order to pass the time, he should, for one thing, not be occupied with clock-time. Because it will be gone as soon as he stops being oriented towards clock-time, the objective length of time (in this case four hours) is

Towards a theory of boredom


not relevant in accounting for his boredom; nor, strictly speaking, is the fact that its progress is slow (for, as mentioned, lived time can have the quality of being experienced as slow even when there is no boredom). It is rather that it is too slow, leaving the passenger in limbo: Becoming bored is a peculiar being affected in a paralyzing way by time as it drags and by time in general , a being affected which oppresses us in its own way.7 According to Heidegger, we should now begin to realize that being bored by must be rooted in the way in which time temporalizes itself for Dasein . Consider the attempt to pass the time by reading the timetable, walking around, and so on. The project in this case is to speed time up by finding a way of being diverted from it. The passenger wants to be occupied. Alluding no doubt to his analysis of absorbed coping in Being and Time, Heidegger contends that this being occupied with manifoldness, something gives our dealings with things a certain direction, fullness.8 According to the account offered in that work, to be actively and intelligibly engaged in something that is ready-tohand (zuhanden) is only possible on the basis of a tacit understanding of a context consisting of a complex set of reference-relations. Thus, in Heideggers terminology, to make use of something (a tool ein Zeug) is not only to know what it is for (its in-order-to), but also to know the toward-which of its serviceability and the for-which of its usability. A pen can be disclosed only through knowing how to use it (that is, to write with it), yet for the activity of using it to be intelligible, it must also refer to (and make intelligible) the availability of ink, paper, writing desks, and so on. Ultimately, the writing is undertaken with the goal of producing a text, and the text is in some sense or another for Dasein itself.9
7 Ibid ., p. 98. 8 Ibid ., p. 100. I borrow the notion of absorbed coping from Hubert Dreyfus, Being-inthe-World:A Commentary on Heideggers Being and Time, Division i (Cambridge, Mass.:MIT Press, 1991), p. 67. Heidegger himself emphasizes repeatedly that Dasein is predominantly immersed in or absorbed by the situation in which it finds itself. As Dreyfus (p. 67) puts it, there is awareness but no self-awareness. See Heidegger, Basic Problems of Phenomenology, trans. Albert Hofstadter (Bloomington:Indiana University Press, 1982), p. 297: Self and world are not two entities, like subject and object ... but self and world are the basic determinations of Dasein itself in the unity of the structure of being-in-the-world. In History of the Concept of Time , trans. Theodore Kisiel (Bloomington:Indiana University Press, 1992), p. 197, Dasein is said to be nothing but ... concerned absorption in the world. 9 I am here giving the roughest possible summary of Heideggers analysis of the worldhood of the world in Being and Time , pp. 11422.


Heidegger on boredom and modernity

Although Heidegger is alluding to his earlier analysis of environmentality and worldhood, he does not presuppose its validity at any detailed level. It is enough to say that the emptiness char acterizing being bored by will be eliminated in so far as Dasein finds itself occupied such that its activities allow it to become immersed in the things at hand in the immediate environment. In plainer language we might say that dealing with things, interacting with them along normatively structured lines, counteracts any feeling of being bored by. The problem for the passenger is that the station with its environment is present in such a way as to preclude absorbed coping. The station, the road, the rows of trees, and all the other items he encoun ters, leave the passenger completely in peace.10 It is important to see that it is not the station itself which does this, but the manner in which it is presented to the passenger in this particular situation. No longer useful, the station has lost its character of being something with which the passenger can engage. It has, as it were, become abstract. When we leave to catch a train, we do not expect, as in this case, the station to be a station in general that is indifferent to our pragmatic interests; rather, we expect there to be a station that can meet our demands and be of use to us. Just as, to make reference to a central claim from Being and Time, the theoretical attitude is dependent upon, and derived from, a practical attitude (the predisposition and ability to successfully do things with things), so our expectation of what a thing is is primarily a function of the manner in which we would use it.11 When we arrive four hours early for our train, the station does not fulfill our expectations of it.12 Not only is there nothing to do, but the normal routes of interest and concern going to the ticket counter to purchase a ticket, checking that the train is on time, positioning ourselves on the right platform, getting on the train, and so forth are blocked; thus, the pragmatically effected organization of the environment starts to disintegrate, leaving the station to become uninteresting, boring, ultimately abandoning us to ourselves.13
10 Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, p. 102. 11 In Being and Time , pp. 10206, Heidegger analyzes the relation between practical and theoretical comportment in terms of a breakdown in everyday modes of concern. Equipment which is ready-to-hand (zuhanden) may, for different reasons, become conspicuous , obtrusive , or obstinate . The result is that what is ready-to-hand reveals aspects of itself that are present-to-hand (vorhanden) The item becomes available as an object to be isolated from its context and inquired about as such. 12 Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics , p. 104. 13 Ibid ., p. 103.

Towards a theory of boredom


At this point, Heidegger starts to formulate a provisional conclusion. The reason why the station refuses itself is that time refuses it something. It is not the course of time the four hours which is boring. Nor is it the station as such. Rather, it is what we might call the temporal determination of the station its failure to present itself, or be presented, in a time that allows it to be put to use that generates what Heidegger calls the being held in limbo in coming to be left empty which characterizes being bored by. If the station had presented itself in its correct time, then the conditions for being bored by would not be present. Becoming bored is thus the fact that particular things, in what they offer us or do not offer us and in the way that they do so, are in each case co-determined by particular time , in each case have their particular time.14 For somea thing to be boring in this sense, it is necessary that we come across it at the wrong time. Conversely, for something not to be boring in this sense, we need to come across it at its particular time. Boredom, Heidegger concludes, is only possible at all because each thing, as we say, has its time. If each thing did not have its time, then there would be no boredom.15 The conclusion is provisional for several reasons. First, the whole phenomenon of boredom has not yet been explored, and Heidegger will immediately go on to explore other versions. Only when all its forms have been revealed can each be understood completely. Second, the notion of temporality at stake here has still not been examined in any depth. It will soon become apparent that the notion of original temporality plays an important role in accounting for the experience of time when being bored by. Third, Heidegger will have more to say about the relation between being held in limbo and being left empty. Despite these qualifications, there are questions arising from the conclusion which should be addressed. One is whether Heidegger can be right in holding that nothing can be boring as such, or more boring as such than other things. It follows, after all, from the claim that being bored by something is a function of not encountering it in the right time that the predicate boring is never applicable to things considered independently of their temporal determination. Yet is there not evidently a sense in which we are generally entitled to say, for example, that watching a piece of ice melt is boring, or that
14 Ibid ., p. 105. 15 Ibid .


Heidegger on boredom and modernity

listening to Professor X is more boring than listening to Professor Y? We would in cases of this sort not be able to claim that coming across ice or listening to Professor X in their specific time would make any difference. At least to me and like-minded persons, they are simply boring, and that is that. In Heideggers defense, one could argue that the essential point of his analysis is not that every situation (that is, every presentation of an object to Dasein in a given context) has its time (and that encountering it in its right time would preclude the possibility of being bored by it), but the somewhat different claim that boring situations are such that they do not permit any engagement, immersion, or absorbed coping. If it is the latter claim which is decisive, then his theory could surely account for why the melting ice and Professor X are boring. They are boring because regardless of temporal determination, they do not offer any opportunity to engage, instead leaving us in limbo and feeling empty. However, this line of defense is problematic because it weakens Heideggers overall claim to be able to show that all three forms of boredom can be interpreted in terms of temporality. Another problem is that it fails to cohere with every aspect of Heideggers analysis. He really does claim, as we have seen, that boredom is only possible at all because each thing, as we say, has its time. Thus the station, in Heideggers example, refuses itself, because time refuses it something. Another way of salvaging Heideggers position would be to put pressure on the point being made in the objection about situations being boring independently of any time constraints. Consider the melting ice. The objection hinges in this case on the claim that there can never be a proper time to encounter melting ice such that this process can engage us. Yet is that really the case? Could we not imagine ourselves being interested in the process of ice melting simply because it takes place on the first day of spring after a hard winter that for a long time has left us yearning for warmer weather? Likewise, would not the bad Professor X be interesting and engaging precisely if we came across him in an hour of genuinely needing to know what he, as an authority within his field, actually has to tell us about a specific subject? Indeed, would it not be sufficient for Heidegger to have established that being excited by something is to be engaged with it in such a way that time does not drag; and, conversely, that when bored by something it must be because the framework we happen to have in which to place the object such that it exists in its proper time does

Towards a theory of boredom


not permit a specific item at a specific moment in time to be engaging? He would then not have to presuppose that each thing either has or has not a proper time in which to engage with it, and that this, as it were, is inscribed into it as an objective feature of some sort. Rather, all he would have to presuppose is that boredom can be a possibility only if and when some kind of temporally determined framework, containing a set of expectations about when certain things or events are proper, can be applied. The station has its time for a passenger right before the train is about to depart, because that is when he needs it; the melting ice has its time for someone enjoying the onset of spring, because that is what this person desires; the professor has his time in relation to someone who listens intently because what he has to say is of some significance to this listener. However, if this is right, then the issue of what constitutes the framework in which things are proper and improper becomes pressing. While talking about the station not fulfilling our expectations of it, Heidegger does not say anything about how such expectations come into being, or, more importantly, about how they reflect something of a genuinely normative nature. Indeed, what does it mean to say, as Heidegger does, that things evidently have their time in each specific case?16 We have seen that it would be a non-starter to consider this issue independently of Dasein itself. The station would not be able to have its time that is, the time when it does not present itself as boring, and when it is possible to use it unless passengers exist who needed to catch trains at specific times, and who expected that the station had the requisite features to permit this to occur. It should also be evident that what the stations time might be is not only a function of the particular travelers needs and interests, but of socially endorsed norms. While the right time is the time when the traveler needs it, it would not be possible to be satisfied by the station unless it functioned the way a station should; and what that means is not up to the individual traveler to decide. Indeed, what it takes for something to be a wellfunctioning station is largely a matter of social agreement and convention. I may, of course, have my own views about the kinds of stations I prefer and related issues that reflect my own beliefs, values, and practices, but it is not up to me to decide whether or not a station is a place where one can buy train tickets, depart and arrive with trains, expect trains to operate in accordance with a pre-given schedule, and so on.
16 Ibid .


Heidegger on boredom and modernity

It is possible for a station to have its time because there are shared public routes of interest, embodied in our average comportment and judgment. In their absence it would not make sense to introduce normative language (that is, that for every station there is a right and a wrong time) in the first place.17 A final issue that needs to be addressed with regard to the analysis of being-bored-by is its universality. Qua phenomenological, it is on the one hand intended to offer a categorical intuition of the phenomenon and hence provide insight into its essence.18 On the other hand, however, I have already pointed out how the example seems to indicate that what Heidegger has in mind is a genuinely modern experience namely of an individual whose course of action (showing up at the station) is desynchronized in relation to a formal or procedurally structured event (the train arriving on schedule). One might object that it only appears to be a discussion of a specifically modern experience because Heidegger has chosen a one-sided example. He could instead have focussed on an imaginary situation that was designed so as to have been able to take place in a pre-modern context, say for instance that of a man waiting at dawn for another man to meet him in order to conduct a transaction. Yet do these two examples offer an equivalent experience of waiting (and being bored)? One difference between them hinges on the recourse to clock-time. While Heideggers example, with the train being expected at a specific time, is predicated upon the availability of clock-time, the pre-modern example refers to a setting in which peoples activities are structured with reference to natural cycles in this case the fluctuations of night and day. Although the very idea of desynchronization seems applicable in the pre-modern context in so far as one of the two men who have agreed to meet each other at dawn may get to the meeting point at, say, noon instead of dawn, its effects on the individuals involved are much more direct and palpable when activities are organized with reference to clock-time. Incessantly checking ones watch in order to assure oneself that time is indeed passing, as in Heideggers description of being bored by, is expressive of a qualitatively different experience of time from that of the pre-modern agent, who in the example may be waiting, though not in the sense of facing a specific number of hours or minutes that, one by one, need to pass. The modern agent at the station is bored
17 I tried to argue this in Chapter 1. 18 Heidegger, Being and Time , p. 58:Thus phenomenology means ... to let that which shows itself be seen from itself in the very way in which it shows itself from itself.

Towards a theory of boredom


when confronted with the very length and drabness of abstract time; the pre-modern agent, while waiting, does not relate to a succession of now-points that seem to slow down but to what we could think of as extended nows the now of dawn, the now of noon, and so forth without a calculable time gap to be filled. Of course, the introduction of clock-time as a system of social coordination of action plans has made it possible to avoid waiting completely.19 If the passenger in Heideggers example had arrived at the station on time, then there would obviously have been no waiting and no boredom. The very possibility, however, of clock-based desynchronization structures participation in the social realm in such a way as to create the exact conditions for being bored by. The claim is not that pre-modern settings rule out boredom. They most probably do not. It is rather that we need to be cautious when extending our current concept of boredom to contexts in which the social realm is not organized with reference to clock-time. A related point in favor of reading Heidegger as a theorist of modern boredom is that clock-based desynchronization goes hand in hand with an increased technicization of everyday life. As already intimated, the arrival of the train is an anonymous event. Like the factory worker, the white-collar office worker, the soldier, the doctor, and everyone else in a classical modern setting, in order to plan and act rationally the passenger needs to adjust his actions in conformity with requirements stemming from the application of mass-scale technological procedures. In Contributions to Philosophy, Heidegger enlists calculation (the technologically generated capacity to organize events with reference to quantitative measures), acceleration (greater speed at all levels of production and human transaction), and the outbreak of massiveness (the bureaucratic ability to treat everyone similarly by applying formal procedures as well as the remarkproduction units and consumption patterns) as central able scale of elements in accounting for this tendency.20 In line with the analysis of being bored by, he also suggests that the need, in particular, for acceleration, a constant increase of speed in every sector of society and in every type of activity or what he refers to as the restlessness
19 For historical and sociological discussions of the implications of this claim, see Anthony Giddens, Time and Social Organization, in Anthony Giddens (ed.), Social Theory and Modern Sociology (Stanford University Press, 1987), pp. 14065, and Norbert Elias, ber die Zeit (Frankfurt:Suhrkamp, 1988). 20 Heidegger, Contributions to Philosophy , pp. 8485.


Heidegger on boredom and modernity

of the always inventive operation is itself driven by the anxiety of boredom.21 Just as the passengers craving for things to speed up is the flip side of his feeling of emptiness, so society at large craves more speed and efficiency as the result of a general fear of falling prey to boredom.

Being bored with something

The second form of boredom being bored with something is, according to Heidegger, more original or deeper than the first because it touches on the essence of Dasein.22 Let us consider his example:
We have been invited out somewhere for the evening. We do not need to go along. Still, we have been tense all day, and we have time in the evening. So we go along. There we find the usual food and usual table conversation, everything is not only very tasty, but tasteful as well. Afterward people sit together having a lively discussion, as they say, perhaps listening to music, having a chat, and things are witty and amusing. And already it is time to leave. The ladies assure us, not merely when leaving, but downstairs and outside too as we gather to leave, that it really was very nice, or that it was terribly charming. Indeed. There is nothing at all to be found that might have been boring about this evening, neither the conversation, nor the people, nor the rooms. Thus we come home quite satisfied. We cast a quick glance at the work we interrupted that evening, make a rough assessment of things and look ahead to the next day and then it comes:I was bored after all this evening, on the occasion of this invitation.23

The most glaring difference between this example and the one describing the passenger is that nothing here seems boring. The station and being present at it waiting for the train were boring in a straightforward sense. There was an immediately evident answer to the question: What is boring you? Here, however, there are no particular objects or events that in any determinate manner can be identified as boring. On the contrary, the things that go on at the evening party are entertaining. They all seem to be nice, tasty, lively, charming, witty, or amusing, and the guest is totally
21 Ibid ., p. 85. 22 Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics , p. 107. 23 Ibid ., p. 109.

Being bored with something


involved. Thus, unlike the passenger, for whom time was running slowly, passing the time is here never a problem. Indeed, time seems to run quickly, and the guest, whom we must imagine has not been consulting his watch very frequently during the party, is surprised that it is already time to leave. Why is it, then, that the evening itself has been boring?24 How is it possible to be bored when nothing in particular has been boring? Indeed, why call this boredom? Is Heidegger thinking of a slightly blas character who feels he has visited too many such parties? Or is it perhaps the bourgeois coziness that is boring? Both suggestions presuppose that the right question to ask is why the guest has been bored. He is bored, one might think, because something is present that can provide him with a reason to be bored. Yet, if geared towards disclosing the actual circumstances that predisposed the guest to boredom, the analysis would revert to the position of being bored by. It would no longer be an instance of being bored with. Heidegger therefore turns his attention to the experience of temporality itself. Unlike the passenger at the station, the guest does not force himself to pass the time. His time does not drag. While entirely inconspicuous, it is rather that the whole evening consists in passing the time, and the feeling at the end of it is the boredom of having done nothing but passing the time. Hence boredom and passing the time become intertwined in a peculiar way.25 As such, what is boring is unknown. While something is boring, it is indeterminate, without shape or form. What this means becomes clearer if we consider Heideggers distinction between being held in limbo and being left empty. Although both are said to belong to boredom as such, their relation is not yet spelt out. The passenger was being held in limbo by the dragging time, permitting no involvement with the station, thereby leaving him empty (or bored). The guest, however, is being held in limbo not by time as it drags but by an indeterminate It. The boring It does not imply that certain activities (in the first form of boredom, boarding the train) have become impossible; rather, it is something that characterizes the very manner in which the guest relates to the activities on
24 Ibid ., p. 110. Recalling a repeated, though suppressed yawning, he has been bored with the evening. 25 Ibid ., p. 113.


Heidegger on boredom and modernity

offer (the smoking, the conversation, and so on). Rather than arising from the impossibility of engaging, the emptiness that fills him is to be understood, Heidegger argues, as a peculiar and unobtrusive slipping away from himself towards whatever is happening. There is participation the guest smokes, drinks, and enjoys the conversa tions yet the self is not present to itself as taking part in these activities: In this chatting along with whatever is happening we have ... left our proper self behind in a certain way. In this seeking nothing further here, which is self-evident for us, we slip away from ourselves in a certain manner.26 A stillness, Heidegger writes, spreads into Dasein and diffuses it.27 The imagery of slipping away from oneself seems to suggest that Dasein is in some way responsible for its own being. It can be itself or lose itself. While implicit, it is likely that what lies behind the imagery of slipping away from oneself is the view, developed in Being and Time and elsewhere, of Dasein as an entity that, rather than being exclusively determinable with reference to a set of state-characteristics (objective properties), is a self-determining structure that relates to itself as a possibility of being.28 For Dasein to be someone in particular, it must be possible for it to be that someone as a possibility of being. Dasein is what it understands itself as; it is the possibility of being that it has adopted, projected itself into, or interpreted itself as being:
Dasein has always made some sort of decision as to the way in which it is in each case mine [je meines]. That entity which in its Being has this very Being as an issue, comports itself toward its Being as its ownmost possibility. In each case Dasein is its possibility, and it has this possibility, but not just as a property [eigenschaftlich], as something present-at-hand would. And because Dasein is in each case essentially its own possibility it can , in its very Being, choose itself and win itself; it can also lose itself and never win itself; or only seem to do so.29

To choose oneself is to be authentic: it is to individuate oneself become someone in particular by making a decision concerning ones own being such that one fully and actively bears responsibility for the totality of ones existence. On the other hand, not to own up
26 Ibid ., p. 118. 27 Ibid ., p. 122. 28 I borrow the term state-characteristics from Blattner, Heideggers Temporal Idea lism , p. 39. 29 Heidegger, Being and Time , p. 68.

Being bored with something


to that responsibility is to be inauthentic: it is to passively accept as ones self-interpretation a potentiality for being that is handed over by das Man, the anonymous set of roles and self-interpretations that are available to us as members of a particular community. Thus, the consti tutive responsibility for ones own being is covered up. Inauthenticity, in other words, is a form of self-delusion. An equally central claim in Being and Time is that Dasein is proximally and for the most part, that is, in its everydayness, inauthentic. Dasein , Heidegger argues, is characterized by falling; it tends to be absorbed in the world, thereby disclosing the world through the three modes of das Man:idle talk, curiosity, and ambiguity. The falling of Dasein , Heidegger writes,
does not express any negative evaluation, but is used to signify that Dasein is proximally and for the most part alongside the world of its concern. This absorption in ... [Aufgehen bei ...] has mostly the character of Being-lost in the publicness of the they. Dasein has, in the first instance, fallen away [abgefallen] from itself as an authentic potentiality for Being its Self, and has fallen into the world. Fallenness into the world means an absorption in Being-with-one-another, in so far as the latter is guided by idle talk, curiosity, and ambiguity. Through the Interpretation of falling, what we have called the inauthenticity of Dasein may now be defined more precisely.30

As mentioned, Heidegger offers little or no direct evidence to the effect that the 1929 analysis of being-bored-with should be interpreted in light of the previous and more familiar account of falling in Being and Time . Indirectly, however, the evidence is fairly strong. In the 1929 analysis, he uses expressions such as leaving oneself behind (Sichzurcklassen), abandoning oneself to whatever there is going on, and a slipping away, away from ourselves toward whatever is happening.31 Contrasting this with some form of authenticity, the proper self, he writes, is left behind in a certain way.32 In The Concept of Time (1924), in which Heidegger makes his first reference to the topic of boredom, the connection between what he then calls
30 Ibid ., p. 220. 31 Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics , pp. 11819. 32 Ibid ., p. 119. On the same page Heidegger contrasts absorption with the resolute openness [Entschlossenheit] of our whole Dasein in such a way that we could rest our existence on such an occasion. In Heidegger, Being and Time , p. 343, resolute openness is defined as a distinctive mode of Daseins disclosedness. It is that truth of Dasein which is most primordial because it is authentic (ibid .).


Heidegger on boredom and modernity

absorption [Aufgehen] in the present and boredom is fully explicit.33 Boredom as such is understood in terms of absorption in the present, cutting us off from any sense of the past and the future. I shall return to the temporal significance of absorption in the present. The important thing for the moment is that Heidegger seems to align his account of being-bored-with with the existential structure of Dasein: though hidden from view by how things have been publicly interpreted by das Man, Dasein is being-bored-with when falling that is, in its inauthentic everydayness. Now if this is correct, then it seems to indicate that Dasein proximally and for the most part is bored. That, however, would seem like an extravagant and exaggerated claim. Is Heidegger really holding that inauthentic Dasein as such is bored? While perfectly possible, there is indirect evidence to the effect that Heidegger distinguishes between different kinds of absorption, not all of them involving what we would think of as boredom. One such distinction would be between different contexts of absorption, and, concomitantly, between the different types of comportment corresponding to them. We have seen that Heidegger understands the falling of Dasein in terms of three phenomena:idle talk, curiosity, and ambiguity. Idle talk, curiosity, and ambiguity are defined as inauthentic and therefore degenerate versions of discourse, sight, and interpretation, the three primordial ways in which Dasein is said to disclose its there.34 Central among these is curiosity, which seems to play a special role in accounting for boredom. In Being and Time , curiosity is described as effecting a form of uprooting whereby the act of seeing becomes a goal of its own:
Care becomes concern with the possibilities of seeing the world merely as it looks in order to bring it close to itself in the way it looks. Dasein lets itself be carried along solely by the looks of the world ... In this kind of seeing, that which is an issue for care does not lie in
33 Martin Heidegger, The Concept of Time , trans. William McNeill (Oxford:Blackwell, 1992), p. 16:Dasein as concernful present resides alongside whatever it is concerned with. It grows weary in the what, weary to fill up the day. Time suddenly becomes long for Dasein as being-present, for this Dasein that never has time. Time becomes empty because Dasein, in asking about the how much, has in advance made time long, whereas its constantly coming back in running ahead toward the past never becomes boring. Although Heidegger complicates the matter significantly by bringing in the three modalities of time past, present, and future there can be no doubt that he connects boredom with Daseins concernful present, residing alongside whatever it is concerned with. 34 Heidegger, Being and Time , p. 210.

Being bored with something


grasping something and being knowingly in the truth; it lies rather in its possibilities for abandoning itself to the world.35

Although, as Heidegger points out, the theme of curiosity can be traced back to Augustines Confessions, in which curiosity is understood as an expression of boredom, it does seem to play a role in accounting for one particular feature of modernity, namely its constant provision of, and obsession with, entertainment and means of distraction.36 In Contributions to Philosophy, Heidegger refers to this as a demand for life-experience (Erlebnis).37 Life-experience, he writes, must be understood as the basic kind of machinational representing and of residing therein: life-experience means making what is mysterious, i.e., what is stimulating, provocative, stunning, and enchanting which makes the machinational necessary public and accessible to everyone.38 If we return to the analysis of boredom, then this is the point where Heidegger starts to emphasize that the orientation towards presence includes not only an abandoning of oneself to whatever there is going on, but a particular modification of temporal experience: Dasein , he writes, becomes exclusively preoccupied with the present.39 One might think that this would mean that temporality is experienced as a succession of instants along the lines of the vulgar conception of time being described in Being and Time.40 However, Heidegger seems to distinguish between this conception and a sense of time not as flowing but as standing:
In general, time is almost constantly familiar to us as passing and determinate, but standing time is indeterminate and unfamiliar. In this
35 Ibid ., p. 216. 36 For Augustines interpretation of concupiscentia , see Confessions , trans. R. S. PineCoffin (Harmondsworth:Penguin Books, 1961), book 3. 37 It should be noted that life-experience is not a particularly good translation of the German word Erlebnis . Life-experience seems to suggest something transformative, a real experience that not only uncovers reality but changes the experiencing subject more like the German Erfahrung. Erlebnis , by contrast, is more fleeting, carrying less significance. 38 Heidegger, Contributions to Philosophy , p. 77. 39 Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics , p. 123. See also the discussion of distraction in Heidegger, Being and Time , p. 398:Through the awaiting which leaps after ... the making-present is abandoned more and more to itself. It makes present for the sake of the Present. It thus entangles itself in itself, so that the distracted nottarrying becomes never-dwelling-anywhere . 40 Heidegger, Being and Time , pp. 47280.


Heidegger on boredom and modernity

indeterminate unfamiliarity, standing time stands into the situation, and precisely this specific chattering and having time for whatever is going on lets time stand and leaves it standing. It does not tarry too long a while [verweilt] in its course, it does not drag, but simply whiles [weilt] and endures.41

Heidegger is here trading on an obvious paradox, for how can a now be enduring in this manner? Is Heidegger referring to a succession of nows that are experientially indistinguishable from one another? If so, what would that mean? Obviously, the nows must be distinguishable from one another in terms of mere clock-time:the guest could always look at his watch and ascertain that many moments or slices of time have passed. Another and more promising approach to what Heidegger means by standing time would take into account that being present to the situation in this way is no longer to stand in any experiential relation to the future and the past, to what is to come and what has been:Entirely present for whatever is happening, we are cut off from our having-been and from our future.42 It is not as though ones having-been and ones future are factically removed; rather, the future and the having-been are dissolved into the mere present:Havingbeen and future do not become lost, it is not that they are not there at all, but they become modified in the peculiar manner of becoming enchained within the mere present.43 Thus, the temporal horizon shrinks dramatically, leaving only a sense of the present now as being indefinitely extended. Again it may seem as though Heidegger is drawing on results from Being and Time that are not made explicit but at best only hinted at. We have seen that he understands being-bored-with in the light of his earlier analysis of falling. At this point he may be understood as applying his temporal understanding of falling to the phenomenon of being-bored-with. Very briefly, while in Being and Time understanding is defined as a mode of comportment that is directed towards the future, and moods are made possible by the temporal modality of having-been, the third constitutive item of Daseins primordial structural totality (or care-structure), namely falling, has its existential meaning in the Present .44 In falling and making present (vergegenwrtigen), Dasein is alienated from the very
41 Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, p. 122. 42 Ibid ., p. 124. 43 Ibid ., p. 125. 44 Ibid ., p. 397.

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possibility of projecting itself authentically into the future. It fails to disclose itself in light of possibilities it itself has authenticated as its own. Instead Dasein slips passively into a position of projecting itself upon that with which one can concern oneself, or upon what is feasible, urgent, or indispensable in our everyday business.45 Dasein , Heidegger argues, simply awaits whatever is to take place in accordance with the pre-given interpretive schemata provided by the anonymous they-self. On the other hand, with regard to the having-been, falling Dasein , rather than bringing itself back to possibilities that can be authentically appropriated as its ownmost possibilities, tends to forget or reify its own past as a mere sequence of events for which it is not responsible. As in the analysis of beingbored-with, the temporal horizon shrinks in favor of the present. In its most extreme form, Dasein abandons itself to whatever is going on by seeking to be distracted and refusing to dwell anywhere.46 What is boring in being-bored-with is precisely the standing now and the way it sets us in place and summons us.47 In its indeterminacy and unfamiliarity, the standing now leaves us empty while simultaneously holding us in limbo. Boredom of this kind is thus to be understood as springing neither from the environment, nor from some psychological predisposition, but from the original temporality of Dasein .

Boredom and authenticity

In much of his discussion of the three types of boredom, Heidegger fails to identify the basis on which progression from one level to the next takes place. There seems to be no such thing here as a dialectical development through negation and subsequent determination at a new and deeper level, nor does Heidegger suggest that the boredom he describes gets increasingly more intense or involving as one moves from one stage to the next. These are not stages that agents are understood to be moving through, nor does Heidegger ever argue that they are mutually exclusive. You can enter straight into any one of them without experiencing the others. In his examination of the third form of boredom, however, he argues that what makes one form more profound than another is that it is more completely rooted in Daseins own original temporality. The analysis of boredom, he maintains, will
45 Ibid ., p. 386. 46 Ibid ., p. 398. 47 Ibid ., p. 126.


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allow us to understand time itself in its essential depths.48 The third and final form of boredom, profound boredom or it is boring for one, will reveal the full essence of boredom.49 The appeal to the notion of essence (Wesen) may give the misleading impression that only profound boredom is a fully real form of boredom. Yet if not fully real, how can the two other forms be accounted for? Since Heidegger has provided the essential criteria for instances of boredom to be identified as either being-bored-by or beingbored-with, it would seem that profound boredom cannot be more essential:they all have a specific essence. What Heidegger appears to suggest, however, is that profound boredom is more essential because it is more immediately or directly connected to the essence of Dasein , which is original temporality. In contrast to the previous analyses, Heidegger does not really offer an example of this third form of boredom. Profound boredom, he claims, does not lend itself to be characterized in terms of a specific situation or occasion; indeed, it neither bears any intrinsic relation to the situation in which it may erupt, nor does it involve any implied attempt at passing the time.50 On the contrary, this attunement tends to emerge out of the blue, in just any situation. While refusing to offer an elaborate example, Heidegger does point, however, to a type of experience that may involve profound boredom. Walking through the streets of a large city on a Sunday afternoon, he writes, may be boring for one.51 It is tempting to interpret this occasional reference to urban space as an expression of the critique of modernity that seems to inform much of his discussion of boredom. Following the classical modernist writers on boredom, Kierkegaard, Baudelaire, and Simmel, the passage may be read as proposing a connection between rootless urban living and boredom. Rather than a proper example, Heidegger presents a formula:It is boring for one . [Es ist einem langweilig.] In German, this formula is also a colloquial expression, reflecting Heideggers desire to construct his analysis with reference to everyday intuitions. The words it and one suggest indeterminacy and unfamiliarity:in profound boredom, Dasein experiences something anonymous and indefinable
48 Ibid ., p. 133. 49 Ibid ., p. 134. 50 In The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics , p. 141, Heidegger refers to a certain feeling of timelessness, in which one feels removed from the flow of time. 51 Ibid ., p. 135.

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in relation to which its own sense of identity, of being someone in particular with a particular set of traits and characteristics, starts to dissolve:It for one not for me as me, not for you as you, not for us as us, but for one . Name, standing, vocation, role, age and fate as mine and yours disappear.52 An emptiness creeps into Dasein that is different from both the emptiness at the station, which had to do with the lack of a particular fulfillment, and from the emptiness at the dinner party, which was a function of letting oneself go with whatever took place. The emptiness emerging in profound boredom sets Dasein radically apart from whatever offers itself or what Heidegger also refers to as beings as a whole. Dasein is here alienated and indifferent, in a sphere of its own, isolated from the world of everyday concern and circumspection.
For with this it is boring for one we are not merely relieved of our everyday personality, somehow distant and alien to it, but simultaneously also elevated beyond the particular situation in each case and beyond the specific beings surrounding us there. The whole situation and we ourselves as this individual subject are thereby indifferent; indeed this boredom does not even let it get to the point where such things are of any particular worth to us. Instead it makes everything of equally great and equally little worth .53

Loss of personal identity, being relieved of our everyday personality and elevated beyond the particular situation these are hardly features ordinarily associated with boredom. Read in a certain light, this sounds more like a description of severe mental disorder. Despite the dramatic and perhaps misleading language, Heideggers purpose is not to contribute to an account of mental disorders. He is engaged in neither psychology nor in psychiatry. Rather, what he is getting at is an existential modification of Daseins being-in-theworld, an attunement that effects a general estrangement from everywithout there being a thing that is otherwise taken for granted, yet themselves. One complete loss of reality. Things tellingly refuse cannot engage with them, and there is no particular reason to do so, because, as he claims, discriminations on the basis of worth appear
52 Ibid . 53 Ibid ., p. 137. Although Heidegger refuses to provide an example, it is not difficult to find literary representations especially within the modernist tradition that would seem to match such a description. It should be enough to mention Jean-Paul Sartres Nausea , Albert Camuss The Stranger, and Maurice Blanchots Thomas the Obscure .


Heidegger on boredom and modernity

meaningless. There is no reason to do this rather than that; hence every possible course of action seems pointless. One may want to claim that as a general description of the underlying attunement of modern agents, this is not a very promising conception. Although the view that Heidegger is referring to some sort of mental disorder should probably be discarded, it seems difficult to attribute profound boredom to modern agents as such, even if this boredom is said to be asleep or unconscious.54 The discussion of boredom is strictly phenomenological, aiming to disclose the essence of boredom as it emerges in conjunction with Heideggers thinking about modernity. The fact that Heidegger is making such a strong assertion about the pervasiveness and profundity of boredom must therefore be understood with the analysis of modernity, and in particular the idea that modernity is the reign of machination, involving a wholesale renunciation of Daseins responsibility for its own being, in mind. Heidegger acknowledges that his view will meet with resistance. The proposition that there is a fundamental indifference (or loss of motivation) as well as incapacity to enter into significant engagements and commitments pertaining to contemporary Daseins being-in-the-world seems to fly in the face of the most basic facts of modernity.
Have we become too insignificant to ourselves, that we require a role? Why do we find no meaning for ourselves, i.e., no essential possibility of being? Is it because an indifference yawns at us out of all things, an indifference whose grounds we do not know? Yet who can speak in such a way when world trade, technology, and the economy seize hold of man and keep him moving? And nevertheless we seek a role for ourselves. What is happening here? we ask anew. Must we first make ourselves interesting to ourselves again? Why must we do this? Perhaps because we ourselves have become bored with ourselves?55

The many tasks and challenges of modern life may prevent people from acknowledging their boredom. It therefore seems possible to be profoundly bored and yet active in the superficial sense of frequently taking part in various types of endeavors. Such a reading, moreover, is consonant with the larger strands of Heideggers attempt to locate profound boredom within the framework of his diagnosis of modernity.
54 Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics , p. 65:Awakening means letting an attunement be, one which, prior to this, has evidently been sleeping, if we may employ this image to begin with in accordance with linguistic usage. 55 Ibid ., p. 77.

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It is, however, not easy to square with the earlier characterizations of profound boredom in terms of severe psychopathology. In order to obtain a more coherent grasp of this category, we need to consider more carefully its philosophical meaning. We have seen that the word one in It is boring for one refers to indifferent, anonymous Dasein. But what does Heidegger say about the more mysterious word it? The it in It is boring for one, he insists, is not a mere absence, a nothing; nor can it be equated with some illusory intimation that might be the result of mental disorder. On the contrary, the emptiness and indifference implied by the it amounts to a positive (and thus meaningful) refusal (Versagen) on the part of beings as a whole which lends itself to phenomenological description. What, then, is Dasein being refused? Heideggers answer is that the telling refusal of being as a whole points to the possibilities of doing and acting that were within Daseins reach, but which were not seized upon in a way that was distinctively its own. The general sense of indifference and meaninglessness that seems to have permeated Daseins experience of the world that the world has ceased to be of genuine interest is a reflection, then, of Daseins own passivity as, in its inauthentic state, it fails to choose and take responsibility for its own self-definition and self-understanding. Heideggers crucial claim is that the impoverishment that profound boredom brings about reveals to Dasein that it itself is responsible for its own being. By stripping Dasein of its inauthentic reliance on das Man, and by disrupting the everyday absorption in the world of its concern, it brings Dasein face to face with itself as a free entity that ultimately, and on its own, must define itself as someone in particular. As Heidegger puts it, this It is boring for one first brings the self in all its nakedness to itself as the self that is there and has taken over the beingthere of its Da-sein. For what purpose? To be that Da-sein .56 Although the argument in The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics is made in the form of a lecture and lacks the rigor of Being and Time , there can be little doubt that profound boredom plays a role in the first work that is homologous with that played by anxiety in the second.57 Like profound
56 Ibid ., p. 143. 57 For Heideggers discussion of anxiety, see in particular Being and Time , pp. 22835. On p. 232, Heidegger writes that Anxiety individualizes Dasein for its ownmost Being-in-the-world, which as something that understands, projects itself essentially upon possibilities. Therefore, with that which it is anxious about, anxiety discloses Dasein as Being-possible , and indeed as the only kind of thing which it can be of its own accord as individualized in individualization.


Heidegger on boredom and modernity

boredom, anxiety makes Dasein experience particular objects and persons in the world as insignificant and uncanny; thus Dasein , rather than remaining absorbed in possibilities provided by das Man , turns towards itself and the fact that its own being is an issue for it. Both profound boredom and anxiety are held to reveal Dasein as a totality or, more specifically, in terms of the care-structure which makes up the essential unity of Daseins being: its existence as thrown projection fallen into the world. They reveal that Dasein (disclosed through its attunements) is always already in a world in which it aims to realize some existential possibility; and its fallenness shows it to be absorbed in the world of publicly determined concern. boredom and anxiety deprive Dasein of its unproblemaProfound tized, fallen preoccupation with the world (of the present) and opens it to the possibility of appropriating its own being in a manner that takes into account its essential ungroundedness. They thereby reveal the ahead-of-itself-Being-already-in (-the world) as Being-alongside (-entities-encountered-in-the-world)58 which Heidegger identifies as the care-structure (Sorge). Moreover, Heidegger claims that both profound boredom and anxiety disclose Dasein as an entity whose existence and capacity to disclose the world as intelligible to itself are predicated upon its threefold temporal ecstasies:into the future, the past, and the present. In the moment of vision (Augenblick), which temporal can only take place through the manifestation of the full horizon, Dasein discloses itself as a being that is and has to be; Dasein , that is, discloses itself in an entirely self-chosen possibility of itself that defines it here and now for action in a specific situation. Heideggers account of profound boredom raises a number of questions. Its call for action is quite similar to the steely rhetoric found in many other German right-wing thinkers in the years leading up to Hitlers accession to power, including members of the George-Kreis, Ernst Jnger, and Carl Schmitt.59 The reference being made to an external calling (Anruf ) which, as Heidegger writes, has the ability to instill terror into our Dasein, reinforces the impression of there being a veiled political message here.60
58 Ibid ., p. 237. 59 For a brilliant account of the activities and commitments of the George-Kreis , see Robert E. Norton, Secret Germany: Stefan George and His Circle (Ithaca, N.Y. and London:Cornell University Press, 2002). 60 Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics , p. 172. I discuss this issue in Espen Hammer, Being Bored:Heidegger on Patience and Melancholia, British Journal for the History of Philosophy 12:2 (2004), pp. 27795.

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Rather than embarking, however, on a discussion of Heideggers politics in the years around 1930, I will instead focus on the very notion of transformation (Umschlag). Is Heidegger able to defend the idea that profound boredom carries with it a potential for such an extraordinary type of self-transformation? Certainly, at an ontic level it may seem difficult to accept that someone who suffers from deep and profound boredom a boredom which Heidegger, with a nod to pseudo-Aristotles famous account in Problemata , also characterizes as a form of melancholy can suddenly, and only through auto-affection, be brought to the point of being able to make a firm decision on which to base future action.61 It seems, on the contrary, that no one who is this passive and deprived of contexts in which to engage meaningfully would be able to act. By describing profound boredom in terms of being deprived of contexts and resources for acting, Heidegger effectively denies himself the means he would need in order to show how Dasein can appropriate itself as a free and active entity. As Heidegger points out, for Aristotle the melancholic tends to be someone who is disposed for greatness (ethos-peritton) in the arts or in statesmanship. Likewise, psychoanalytic theories of melancholy have recourse to notions such as the manic-depressive complex, involving sudden transformations from states of withdrawal and passivity to states char acterized by intense bursts of energy and resolve. However, Heideggers theory cannot easily be mapped onto such ontic theories, in particular because his position is ontological, but also because the notion of mania has nothing to do with self-determination. The manic subject suffers from a psychic compulsion over which she has no control; thus, such a person can neither be free nor authentic. Even if we accept that Heideggers position is ontological and therefore difficult to assess in the light of psychological accounts of boredom, which are ontic, there is another and deeper problem with it. Consider the following tension in Heideggers overall account. On the one hand, it is clear that the study of boredom as such was motivated by a desire to offer a fundamental critique of modernity. The culture of modernity represents in extremis a rejection of Daseins full temporal horizon and therefore a one-sided concentration on presence hence the metaphysical reduction, effected by technologys dominance, of the world to its representational correlate. For Heidegger, this is
61 Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics , p. 183. For pseudo-Aristotles text concerning the nature of melancholy, see Jennifer Radden (ed.), The Nature of Melancholy:From Aristotle to Kristeva (Oxford University Press, 2002), pp. 5760.


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intimately connected to the metaphysics of presence which, in Being and Time, he announces has dominated the history of Western metaphysics, and which his fundamental ontology was designed to criticize and eventually overcome. The metaphysics of presence, as epitomized in the age of machination, creates a framework within which agents experience the flow of time as consisting of separate instants, each present to the subject in precisely one fleeting instant, the ongoing succession of which makes up times passing and duration. The very notion of progress, with reference to which moderns estimate the value of their individual and collective activities, is itself made possible by the metaphysics of presence in so far as the latter provides the ontological basis for viewing the temporal flow as a linear succession of now-points that invites human agents to effect change by realizing their plans in an open and malleable future. Now Heidegger is deeply skeptical of the value of progress, arguing that it not only commits us to a shallow concentration on the present and the future without any regard for past possibilities that can be appropriated, but that it ideologically screens problems of modernity such as conformity and inauthenticity. As we have seen, Heidegger even suggests that since the appeal to progress is an outgrowth of the latest configuration of the history of being the machine age of consummate nihilism and since what this configuration implies is a metaphysics of presence, it must follow that Dasein stands in danger of lapsing into profound boredom as a result of its inability or unwillingness under such conditions to take responsibility for its own being. The tension here arises when we consider the nature of the proposed remedy. The language Heidegger uses is strongly oriented towards notions such as freedom, self-liberation, decision, and action. If anything, the model he presents us with entails a voluntarism that, while purged of a metaphysics of the subject, may seem to fall easily in line with precisely the modernism he wants to overcome. This point becomes particularly pressing when considering Heideggers claim, in Being and Time and elsewhere, that the future, and hence understanding, has an existential priority over the past and the present.62 Since Dasein determines its own how its projecting of itself into a particular existential possibility by authentically running ahead of itself, it can only come back to its past and present as having determined itself in a particular way; thus,
62 See, for example, The Concept of Time , p. 14E, where Heidegger states that the fundamental phenomenon of time is the future .

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past and present are functions of the future. It is only possible to seize authentically on a past possibility, and thereby exist authentically in the present, when Dasein has made a commitment with regard to its own being. This puts an enormous emphasis, however, on Daseins capacity to decide and thereby enact its freedom. Despite his intention to show a way out of rationalized modernity, Heidegger remains implicitly committed to the modernist placement of man in a concrete historicity, a historical time, that, when fully secularized, stretches indefinitely into the future, leaving the modern agent to pursue goals relation to his or her capacity for autonomy. exclusively in While the 1929 account of boredom remains dependent on a voluntarist understanding of freedom, an essay from the following year, On the Essence of Truth, shows Heidegger rapidly developing a somewhat different position.63 Where freedom once was equated with resolute existence, it now becomes interpreted as setting oneself free for what is manifest in the open, as letting-be, and thus, to quote Otto Pggeler, as immersion into the open of unconcealment and of what is unconcealed in it.64 Leading ultimately to the later thinking of serenity (Gelassenheit) with its orientation towards passivity and guardianship, Heidegger here starts to embark on what might be a more radical and genuine critique of modernity. On this basis, we may think of the analysis of boredom as transitional. Though containing many valuable insights, it is ultimately flawed and should be seen as contributing to Heideggers decision to rethink and ultimately transform the fundamental categories of his own early philosophy.
63 Martin Heidegger, On the Essence of Truth, trans. John Sallis, in Pathmarks , ed. William McNeill (Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 148. 64 Otto Pggeler, Martin Heideggers Path of Thinking, trans. Daniel Magurshak and Sigmund Barber (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press International, 1987), p. 76.

9 A mode r n i st c r i t iqu e of po st mode r n t e m por a l i t y

Since the late 1970s, many philosophers and social theorists have argued that the classical, modern temporality (with its linear concep tion of time, organized around a normative account of progress) no longer is a dominant cultural form. As the discourse of postmodern ity entered the stage in the 1980s, it became widely assumed that Western societies have entered into either a second, transformed modernity, or a condition beyond the modern altogether most often referred to as postmodern.1 On the basis of the claim that these societies have indeed transformed themselves more or less radically along such lines, this discourse tried to diagnose, assess, and in vari ous ways spell out the cultural and political implications of this shift. My theme in the following is the temporal dimension held to be cen tral to this new social and cultural formation. I suggest that there are good reasons to think that our temporal understanding has in fact undergone a change both at the individual and at the larger, col lective level. I reject, however, the widespread notion that postmod ern culture in various ways is resistant to critique, arguing that an adequate response will have to follow modernism in looking for and analyzing cultural production capable of transcending the various continuities and ideologies provided by this culture. While no doubt highly unfashionable, I will claim that the modernist space which should not be confused with the failures of modernist architecture, or with the spirit of rationalization and functionalism that pervaded modern city planning and design continues to provide potentials

1 The notion of second modernity has been used mainly by Ulrich Beck and Anthony Giddens.


A modernist critique of postmodern tempor ality 189

for anticipating new forms of life existing outside the perimeters of homogeneous temporality. The debates surrounding the notion of the postmodern have been complex and, because of their predominantly interdisciplinary char acter, often difficult to come to grips with. Some of them have been based on presuppositions that lack proper grounding in empirical evidence, while others, playful and ironic, have been conducted in ways that are difficult to square with a commitment to serious aca demic engagement. There has been a great deal of cynicism concern ing calls for social change, yet also a tendency, especially in cultural theory, towards downplaying or even rejecting the very possibility of establishing a normatively grounded stance that may permit the for mation of a critical analysis.2 Postmodernists have typically denied that there can ever be any transcultural standards of validity. In dis carding the search for such standards they have rejected objectivism and deliberately refused to accept notions such as truth or reference. However, proponents of postmodernism have rarely been impressed by the fact that such recommendations must be made in a norma tive language, involving context-transcending reason-giving, and, in general, much postmodern theorizing has been blatantly self-contra dictory. I will therefore neither deal much with such proponents, nor with the artworks and stylistic preferences they have commended, but move directly to some of the leading theoreticians of the postmod ern condition that is, the accounts being offered of the social and cultural features of this brand-new dispensation.3 In particular, I will discuss writings by Fredric Jameson. In his analyses, which follow the early Frankfurt school in focussing on the interpenetration of econ omy and culture, the notions of time and time-consciousness, as well as the claim that these have undergone profound changes, have been center stage.

2 This was true of someone like Niklas Luhmann, but even Jean-Franois Lyotard and Jean Baudrillard, although both of them regularly displayed a deliberate pense 68 attitude towards certain phenomena, offered very bleak accounts of contemporary Western societies as being static and devoid of political energy beyond the mere tech nocratic decisions of their elites. 3 As is often observed, the term postmodernism is very slippery. It initially referred to a certain style of architecture that rejected high modernism, was then transported into literary studies, and, in the 1980s, became associated with various forms of critiques of Western universalism and objectivism. What interests me, however, is the social analy sis coming out of this discourse.

190 A modernist critique of postmodern tempor ality

The time of the present

The interpretation of modernism in terms of rational self-mastery and progress has attracted a number of both immanent and tran scendent criticisms. The discussion of this paradigm started with the German idealist responses to the Kantian system and has generated a complex and long-standing discourse of modernity in which the val ues of Enlightenment modernism have been variously defended and, most emphatically in Nietzsche and Heidegger, debunked. According to Habermas, these values (say of freedom, equality, and reciproc ity), if cast as commitments speakers bring to bear when engaging in rational debate, are alive and institutionally secured in the dif ferentiated state of cultural modernity.4 In the most recent twists in this discussion, however, the Enlightenment version of modernity has been viewed as expressive of deep structural tendencies inherent in Western civilization such as the technological will to power, the violent expansionism of Western imperialism, or, more abstractly, the triumph of subjective reason. The postmodern account asks us to accept, and in some cases cherish, those tendencies that seem to point towards a final overcoming of modernity. On its conception, the well-known narrative of self-mastery and progress, emancipation and transcendence, critique and objectivity, is now both meaningless and repressive. In his 1994 study The Seeds of Time , Fredric Jameson thus claims that with the advent of the postmodern, signifying the end of mod ernist values and orientations, our socially constituted conception of time has undergone a profound transformation.5 From its linear con figuration, corresponding to the values of progress and instrumental reasoning, lived time has now taken the form of an endlessly pro tracted present . According to Jameson, postmodern societies have, on the one hand, done away with every vestige left over from modern ity of a relationship to the past. These are societies that have broken completely with the continuities and expectations of past times. In practically every area of life, tradition plays next to no role anymore,
4 This is the central thesis of Habermass account of modernity in writings such as The Theory of Communicative Action , 2 vols., trans. Thomas McCarthy (Boston:Beacon Press, 1985) and The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, trans. Frederick C. Lawrence (Cambridge, Mass.:MIT Press, 1987). 5 Fredric Jameson, The Seeds of Time (New York:Columbia University Press, 1994). See also The End of Temporality, Critical Inquiry 29:4 (2003), pp. 695718.

The time of the present


and when it seems to play a role, then it is typically as a result of com modification. On the other hand, the sense of the future as imply ing a set of promises and projects to be realized the determinate, planned future of both technocratic reason and social utopianism has equally been eliminated. From having, in classical modernity, understood the future in terms of the rational realization of present plans, formed to match up with given values and preferences, agents in postmodern societies only vaguely relate to the future, and not seldom by expecting simply the end of time in the form of a glo bal catastrophe. This might be because they fail to see the future as holding up prospects for a better life, more social justice, and the like, but Jamesons claim is fundamentally about the loss of a concep tion of time as linear and thus capable of sustaining a commitment to the idea of progress. Time is no longer experienced as inevitably taking us to a better or even different place. The horizon of expect ation has shrunk dramatically. Jameson adduces a number of thoughts and arguments to back up these claims. Most strikingly he appeals to the coexistence of rapid technological development and standardization. As the example of fashion amply demonstrates, rather than implementing genuine social change, much technological innovation recycles old ideas, caters for mass markets, and plays up to unquestioned assumptions. Much of the new technology being introduced can be sold only through the cre ation, mainly via advertising, of artificial demands and needs. These demands and needs, however, will inevitably be indexed to, and sat isfied by, the production and distribution of the specific commod ities that are designed to meet them; thus the consumer is primarily responding to the system of production and its interest in further sales and profits. Of course, the cycles of consumption do demonstrate a tre mendous amount of apparent change, and the technologies and com modities that dominate everyday life are certainly different from what they were a generation or even a decade ago. However, in the fran tic race for more consumer goods it becomes virtually impossible to present the essentially new that which resists the familiar patterns of commodification and advertisement, being capable of reconfiguring the fundamental parameters of human experience and self-interpre tation. Mass-market targeting entails cultural homogeneity and ultim ately the evisceration of traditional oppositions such as urban/rural, progressive/regressive, liberal/conservative, and so on. When modern technologies are everywhere, and when the lifeworld is technicized

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throughout, the very idea of being modern or more modern than others loses its meaning.6 This observation finds theoretical support in Jean-Franois Lyotards more famous claim that the grand narrative frameworks of modern temporal organization and legitimation have withered, leav ing only a sprawling plurality of pragmatically functional, yet exter nally unauthorized, systems in their wake.7 While classical modernity appealed to universalist narratives of progress and demystification, the postmodern condition involves absorption in the present and a more or less complete loss of modernitys utopian promises the uni versalisms of nature, objectivity, the unconscious, or unconstrained subjective experience and expression. As Jameson sees it, the ubiquity of simulacra mass-produced, identical commodities whose origin in human labor has been successfully effaced means that, even if they were attempted, meta-narratives of the classically modern sort would have nothing to refer to and hence, ultimately, be illusory. As much of the talk in Roland Barthes, Jean Baudrillard, and others about the death of the referent indicates, there is no longer room for con ceptions of transcendence pointing beyond the apparently seamless web of commodified social reality.8 The meta-narratives disappear as postmodernism, in Jamesons expression, becomes the cultural logic of late capitalism, and as any alternative to this logic vanishes from the horizon.9 Jameson further argues that with the crisis in historicity and the loss of a collectively binding ability to place oneself and ones projects within a larger historical framework constituted by narratives
6 Jameson, The Seeds of Time , p. 11: The modern still had something to do with the arrogance of city people over against the provincials, whether this was a provinciality of peasants, other and colonized cultures, or simply the precapitalist past itself:that deeper satisfaction of being absolument moderne is dissipated when modern technolo gies are everywhere, there are no longer any provinces, and even the past comes to seem like an alternate world, rather than an imperfect, privative stage of this one. 7 This, I take it, is the central claim made in Jean-Franois Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge , trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Minneapolis:University of Minnesota Press, 1999). 8 Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham, N.C.:Duke University Press, 2003), pp. ixx:Postmodernism is what you have when the modernization process is complete and nature is gone for good. It is a more fully human world than the older one, but one in which culture has become a veritable second nature. 9 The idea of postmodernism being the cultural logic of late capitalism is, as the title suggests, central to Fredric Jamesons account in Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism .

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that appeal to transcendent goals, postmodern culture tends to obtain its markers of identity and coordination in the spatial rather than the temporal realm.
The crisis in historicity now dictates a return, in a new way, to the ques tion of temporal organization in general in the postmodern force field, and indeed, to the problem of the form that time, temporality, and the syntagmatic will be able to take in a culture increasingly dominated by space and spatial logic. If, indeed, the subject has lost its capacity actively to extend its pro-tensions and re-tensions across the temporal manifold and to organize its past and future into coherent experience, it becomes difficult enough to see how the cultural productions of such a subject could result in anything but heaps of fragments and in a practice of the randomly heterogeneous and fragmentary and the aleatory.10

For Jameson, the dominance of space and spatial logic means several things. It means, in particular, that speed takes on a new significance. Speed can be thought of as the rate of change (symbolic or physical) of an object or process. While such change traditionally requires time, many of the dominant technologies in todays society aim at eliminat ing time and therefore waiting almost completely. Lived time no longer stands in opposition to clock-time; instead the two have merged into one. While clock-time was always spatially inflected in that it is subject to the measurement of the relation between two objectively existing systems or processes (most obviously the movement of the earth versus the sun), temporality, Jameson argues, has now become a function of speed.11 Time, then, is experienced as a function of how quickly some thing can happen or be done. However, as the speed such as with the availability of air travel and broadband connectivity increases, the space being traversed (whether symbolically or physically) becomes compressed. According to another theorist, Paul Virilio, the most farreaching consequence of this compression is a severely distorted abil ity to experience a surrounding environment as an extended, complex whole.12 When continents are crossed no longer on foot or on horse back, in trips lasting weeks and months, but in a plane journey of a few hours, the experience of their very materiality the forests and the mountains, the cultures and the weather tends to be replaced by
10 Ibid ., p. 25. 11 Jameson, The Seeds of Time , p. 8. 12 See in particular Paul Virilio, Open Sky, trans. Julie Rose (London and New York:Verso, 1997), pp. 2234.

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exposure to bits of abstract information:that of the map, say, on the in-view screen indicating the aircrafts progress, or that of the captains announcements. Based on procedures that are set in advance, they essentially function so as to repeat the events which the procedures regulate. For Jameson, the substitution of singularity for procedurality creates a time of repetition in which nothing essentially changes. On every flight the aircraft crosses the continent in exactly the same way, according to exactly the same procedure. The spatial logic thus creates a sense of irreality or virtualization. One can, as it were, be everywhere at the same time without really being anywhere. While increasing the speed of human endeavors and exchanges, this has a fragmenting effect on peoples everyday lives; and as they strive to achieve ever greater speed (taking on more activities per day, covering longer distances more frequently in their travel, buying more things, and so on), they may also and this is one of the many par adoxes of postmodern time-consciousness become aware of a decrease in their sense of mobility and movement. Suddenly, and despite the vir tual speed, it is as if they are standing still. We run as fast as we can in order to stay in the same place, writes the cultural historian Peter Conrad.13 At the jogging machine, for instance, when time is rigorously monitored and the pulse kept in check while watching TV and listening to ones iPod, there can be no real movement:the personal triumph is abstract, the mere saving, possibly, of a few minutes of time that would otherwise have been wasted by running in the park instead.14 In previous social theorists like Georg Simmel and Walter Benjamin, the inability to achieve a sense of direction and movement, despite ones speed and the frequency of experiential episodes, was conceptualized in light of the many violent stimuli characterizing metropolitan living.15 Since these stimuli cannot easily be integrated into a stable narrative pattern able to provide coherence and meaning, they can never, these thinkers argued, constitute genuine forms of experience (Erfahrung) but will remain disconnected and essentially meaningless bits of mostly
13 Peter Conrad, Modern Times and Modern Places:How Life and Art Were Transformed in a Century of Revolution, Innovation and Radical Change (New York:Knopf, 1999), p. 6. 14 I borrow this example from Hartmut Rosa, Beschleunigung: Die Vernderung der Zeitstruktur in der Moderne (Frankfurt:Suhrkamp, 2005), p. 193n. 15 Walter Benjamin, On Some Motifs in Baudelaire, in Illuminations , trans. Harry Zohn (New York:Schocken Books, 1969), esp. pp. 15760. Georg Simmel, The Metropolis and Mental Life, in On Individuality and Social Forms (Chicago and London:University of Chicago Press, 1971), pp. 32439.

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sensory intake (Erlebnis).16 According to Simmel, the subject responds to the stimuli by having recourse to abstraction and adopting a blas attitude. The city-dweller, he argued, is typically more distant than peo ple in the countryside. Rather than responding emotionally to events, the city-dweller tends to trade in irony and generalities. Benjamin, on the other hand, refers to the gambler. Like the contemporary viewer of television or player of video games, the gambler is not involved with her identity and life history; in line with Heideggers phenomenological description of the being-bored-with characterizing the guest at the dinner party, all she does is to let herself be carried away by the inten sity of the moment.17 While taking place in a protracted present, there is no presence to whatever is going on. The sense of a standstill, that rather than unfolding progressively in accordance with autonomously chosen projects that are realized instru mentally postmodern temporality involves a prolongation of an essen tially unchanging present in which movement is predominantly virtual, is intimately linked to a loss of affect and therefore also to depression. As Jameson and others describe it, the postmodern subject appears to exist in a contingent quasi-reality that does not promote a high level of self-understanding or engagement. Thus, in the postmodern novels of contemporary writers such as Michel Houellebecq, Bret Easton Ellis, and Douglas Coupland the focus is always on the external and imme diate; and rather than cultivating narratives that may link identities and projects, such that subjects are shaped by their self-interpretations as active beings, the characters in these novels simply respond to what ever happens to be presented to them. Satisfaction of immediate or base desire is all they seem able to care about. They do not long for something else, nor are they nostalgic except in the most ironic of ways, and without much of an inner life they are either vaguely content or depressed.
16 The distinction between Erfahrung and Erlebnis can be traced back to Dilthey, whose influence on both Simmel and Benjamin was considerable. 17 Compare the following passage in Giorgio Agamben, Infancy and History: On the Destruction of Experience , trans. Liz Heron (London and New York:Verso, 2007), pp. 1516: For modern mans average day contains virtually nothing that can still be translated into experience. Neither reading the newspaper, with its abundance of news that is irretrievably remote from his life, nor sitting for minutes on end at the wheel of his car in a traffic jam. Neither the journey through the nether world of the subway, nor the demonstration that suddenly blocks the street ... Modern man makes his way home in the evening wearied by a jumble of events, but however entertaining or tedious, unusual or commonplace, harrowing or pleasurable they are, none of them will have become experience.

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In his culturally oriented account of this new and affectless imme diacy, Jameson introduces a telling contrast between two well-known paintings, one from high modernism and the other from postmodern ism: Vincent van Goghs A Pair of Boots and Andy Warhols Diamond Dust Shoes. The van Gogh painting, depicting a pair of peasant boots, re-creates, Jameson argues, the whole missing object world which was once their lived context.18 As Heidegger argues in the 1936 essay The Origin of the Work of Art, the painting points beyond itself to some vaster reality which replaces it as its ultimate truth, thereby showing up a certain kind of depth that calls for a hermeneutical approach. The Warhol painting, however, while decorative, is as glossy and shiny as a piece of advertising (and, of course, Warhol did make use of adver tising techniques in his work). Rather than pointing beyond itself to utopian possibilities latent in the image, it turns centrally around com modification, and particularly around what Jameson refers to as the emergence of a new kind of flatness or depthlessness, a new kind of superficiality in the most literal sense, perhaps the supreme formal feature of all the postmodernisms to which we will have occasion to return in a number of other contexts.19 One may feel hesitant about following Jameson in drawing conclu sions about social change from these paintings. Do they really offer independent support to Jamesons theory of a shift from the modern to the postmodern? Or has he just picked them because they con firm his theory? Because of the easy availability of counter-examples (it can, after all, be debated how representative Warhols work really is), it seems that rather than providing evidence of a historical shift, they mainly serve to illustrate what Jameson means by the advent of the postmodern. What is particularly striking about the Warhol paint ing is how it renounces both the historical dimension and the uto pian aspiration that mark van Goghs painting. It is not entirely devoid of affect, feeling, or emotion indeed of subjectivity in some wider sense of the word. However, the image transforms these sentiments, making them feel frivolous and exhilarating in the way that advertise ment images convey or express emotions. In contrast to the van Gogh experience, the Warhol experience represents the complete victory of superficiality over depth.20
18 Jameson, Postmodernism , p. 8. 19 Ibid ., p. 9. 20 For a completely different reading of Warhol, characterizing his work as a celebra tion of American everyday life, see Arthur Danto, Andy Warhol (New Haven:Yale University Press, 2009).

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In determining how the temporality of the postmodern should be analyzed, Jameson points to the nature of contemporary capitalism. The postmodern, he argues, is best viewed as the cultural logic of late capitalism, where late capitalism signifies the total dominance, both culturally and psychologically, of the social form of the commodity.21 Under current circumstances the commodity is wholly devoid of its erstwhile references to needs, origin, and production. Lacking any element of transcendence beyond its mere exchange value, it figures as the main explanatory device for defining the temporality of the postmodern:the commodity exists beyond history and indeed beyond concrete human projects and self-understanding entirely. It confers on social life an abstract and alien quality that stands counter to the creation of identities based on coherent narratives referring to both past and future. Commodification thus brings about a relative isola tion of the present from the protentively and retentively constituted flow of time, the paradox of speed and stasis, as well as fragmentation and a loss of affect. While Jameson offers a historical account of the emergence of the postmodern, Lyotard simply points to what he sees as the disappear ance of meta-narratives. This process, he believes, must be treated as a fact about current societies, explaining the shift from the modern to the postmodern. However, as long as the postmodern is defined in terms of the absence of meta-narratives, it becomes circular to hold that its explanation is the waning of meta-narratives. By depicting the loss of meta-narratives as being itself a grand historical narrative, Lyotard, moreover, clearly contradicts himself. In order to understand such a seismic cultural change, it seems necessary to go beyond the level of cultural production itself. In Jamesons account, it is axiomatic that what Marx called the base (the relations and mode of production) generates its own superstruc ture, including the culturally transmitted and regulated schemes for relating to time. In Chapter 2 I similarly argued that reference to the rise of capitalism will have to be crucial in any attempt to explain and
21 Arguing that capitalism has been radically transformed from a classical entrepre neurial to a corporate phase, Jameson follows Ernest Mandel in talking about late capitalism rather than just capitalism. According to Jameson, in late capitalism many of Marxs most important theorems are no longer applicable. Most importantly, the superstructure is more intensely commodified than Marx thought it could be, and capitalism, which is now corporate and transnational, is more dynamic and better equipped to absorb crises.

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understand the development of a modern conception of time. The instrumental orientation underlying much modern behavior can only be theorized with this in mind, and by extension this reasoning is likely to be valid for the postmodern as well. However, Jamesons model is not without problems of its own. In particular, it seems to leave no room whatsoever for theorizing the complexities of identity formation. In line with Louis Althusser and other writers on ideology, he thinks of identity formation exclusively in terms of subjection to the requirements imposed by the dominant social apparatuses.22 Such an account is unpersuasive, however, in particular because it so uncompromisingly rules out the very possi bility of spontaneity. The subject, for Jameson, is radically heterono mous:it simply conforms to the ruling ideology, and it is never clear on what basis there can be resistance to it. However, while subjection in Jamesons sense is likely to be a widespread phenomenon, it can not itself be accounted for without some notion of spontaneity. The subject is always to some extent, at least, responsible for the norms it accepts as valid for itself, and therefore also for the beliefs to which it commits itself. Of course, most of our beliefs have not undergone extensive scrutiny, and neither should they. The point is simply that having a belief a belief which is ones own and not simply a false attri bution of some sort presupposes the standing responsibility to be able to provide a rational authorization of the belief. Actively asserted beliefs do not simply come about because of the triggering of some causal mechanism or because of brainwashing or whatever objectively describable process has taken place. To accept a belief is in the final instance to undertake a commitment to provide the inferences and reasons necessary to demonstrate that it ought to be accepted by other rational beings, and this is a normatively oriented activity, presuppos ing the use of reason. In one sense it is obvious that Jameson will have to accept the pos sibility of taking up a normative stance. As a Marxist, he must be com mitted to the possibility of criticizing capitalism in its current form. The problem arises as soon as one asks how normativity, on his view, can be accounted for. According to Jameson, the semi-autonomy that Herbert Marcuse, for example, assigned to the sphere of culture has
22 I am here thinking in particular of Louis Althussers famous essay Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses, in Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2001), pp. 85126.

Ernst Bloch on anticipatory consciousness


today been eliminated; thus, few or no spheres of resistance exist that are not already inscribed in, or constituted by, the cultural logic of late capitalism.23 The system is total. Jamesons recent work instead offers readings of popular genres such as science fiction, arguing that in the absence of normatively based critique, we must attend to those intimations of utopia that already exist within capitalist mass culture.24 This is a variant, no doubt, of Ernst Blochs appeal to popular culture as embodying genuine longing for a better society. It suffers, however, from a naive belief in the possibility of popular cultural resistance. Even if science fiction embodies a latent utopian desire, it is hard to see why it would not itself be completely determined and compromised by the totalizing postmodern hegemony itself. The question I now want to raise is whether resources for a nor matively based critique can be developed with reference to Marxist thinkers preceding Jameson. By going back to two figures Bloch and Adorno who have directly influenced Jameson, I hope to show that such critique is indeed possible, and that it should be cultivated by current social analysis.

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Examining various responses to what I have called the time of modern ity, I argued that Kant and contemporary Kantians do not offer an alternative that is able to point beyond the problems of temporal alien ation and disenchantment, and I further criticized Hegels account of the temporalized absolute. Neither Schopenhauers concept of tran scendence, nor Nietzsches account of affirmation, nor Heideggers account of authenticity has turned out to be fully satisfactory. The only positions that have so far suggested an alternative to the linear, dis enchanted time of modernity are those, such as Simpsons, that draw
23 For Herbert Marcuses classic account of this point of view, see his essay The Affirmative Character of Culture, in Negations:Essays in Critical Theory, trans. Jeremy J. Shapiro (Boston: Beacon Press, 1968), pp. 88133. In Postmodernism , Jameson devotes chapter 6 to addressing the issue of critique and utopianism. In an extended interpretation of paintings by Robert Gober, he finds (on p. 171) articles that slowly take on the positive and active value of conscious resistance, as choices and symbolic acts that now repudiate the dominant poster-and-decorative culture and thereby assert themselves as something emergent rather than something residual. On p. 180, however, he admits that, while widespread, such Utopianism is an ideology. 24 See Fredric Jameson, Archeologies of the Future:The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions (London and New York:Verso, 2005).

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on Aristotle, as well as the early Nietzsches account of mythical time. Both, however, have turned out to be unstable, especially because of their reliance on the problematic idea of some kind of return to premodern forms of sociality. Postmodern time, on the other hand, is a time of the present, an indefinite prolongation, as it were, of the now, involving the para dox of standstill in a world of speed and acceleration. Postmodern agents are, we might say, in a condition of what Heidegger calls being bored with something:while entirely present to whatever is happen ing, they are, as he puts it, cut off from [their] having-been and from [their] future.25 Rather than the heaping upon one another of indi vidual now-points that characterizes modern temporality, there is only the stretched [now] which stands in this peculiar being stretched.26 Time becomes an expression of nihilism, a loss not only of meaning but of the very capacity to experience events as meaningful. Postmodern time may seem rather different from modern time with its (typically instrumentally defined) progression of now-points. The former involves an enduring now, while the latter is linear, com posed of successive now-points. However, the fact that both modern and postmodern time are founded upon the neutralized now-point (whether enduring or transient) suggests that postmodern time is best thought of as an extrapolation, or perhaps culmination, of what was already contained in modern time. In both, time is a cipher of mean inglessness, a threat to the very self whose lack of engagement, while essentially the same, is only more manifest in the postmodern than in the modern dispensation. In both, time is a hostile, alien element that perpetually fragments the self, obstructing any binding commitment, any opening for the genuinely new, the event that can be experienced as meaningful and that can provide possibilities for responsible, com mitted action. What has not yet been considered is the possibility of reconciling oneself with the nature of modern time though not as providing transition through the perpetual reproduction of identical temporal items or as the seemingly prolonged now, but as a dynamic force promising open-endedness and change. We have seen that the late
25 Martin Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude , trans. William McNeill and Nicholas Walker (Bloomington and Indianapolis:Indiana University Press, 1995), p. 124. 26 Ibid ., p. 125.

Ernst Bloch on anticipatory consciousness


Nietzsches project of affirming time and its it was contains, at least in part, that ambition. It seeks to show how the desire for revenge against times passing can be overcome, and how our temporal economy can be transformed in a life-affirming manner. What Nietzsche does not adequately address, however, is the general problem of meaning aris ing from modernitys manifest loss of plausible sources of moral and ethical authority. Rather than demonstrating how the modern subject can be reconciled with time, Nietzsche places it in a position of radi cal mourning, of turning away from the past in favor of pure, futural creation. Now can there be a reconciliation with time that avoids this pitfall? In a series of works, the German philosopher and Marxist theor ist Ernst Bloch has proposed that regardless of agents manifest self understanding, human consciousness is fundamentally anticipatory; in each moment of conscious life, there is a relation to the Novum as that which breaks with the present and promises material or spiritual satisfaction. While homogeneous, linear time represents an indefinite repetition of essentially identical and neutralized moments, the antici patory attitude accounts for a time of transcendence or bifurcation in which every given moment contains within itself an irreconcilable element, pointing beyond the existing situation. Time, Bloch seeks to demonstrate, equals hope hope that the wishes and yearnings of the past will come true.27 From Blochs visionary, allusive writing, it is far from easy to make out the exact implications of this claim. Bloch displays little patience with the rigor expected in standard scholarly work, and he rarely anticipates the sort of objections that, in academic discourse, leads to the drawing of distinctions, the qualification of contentious claims, and the scrutiny of inferences. His work is not beyond interpretation, however, and in the following I will try to spell out, clarify, and even defend certain key elements of his position. Blochs early work, especially the first edition of his highly acclaimed The Spirit of Utopia of 1918, can be read as a critical reflec tion on Marxism. Rather than accepting the austere economism and technological determinism endorsed by Karl Kautsky and much of the Second International, which he finds reductive, Bloch seeks to
27 See Emmanuel Levinass interpretation of Bloch in God, Death, and Time , trans. Bettina Bergo (Stanford University Press, 2000), p. 96:Time is pure hope . It is even the birthplace of hope.

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highlight and explore mans deliberate desire for liberation.28 For Bloch, history is not exclusively a sphere of necessity the inevitable dialectic, as orthodox Marxists will have it, of relations of production and productive forces but, rather, the progressive development of a consciousness of, and indeed also demand for, freedom. Unlike Kant and Fichte, however, Bloch never interprets freedom simply as rational self-determination. Rather, the question of freedom must be related to the claims people make as embodied and materially dependent crea tures of need. Drawing his inspiration from Hegels vision of a recog nition of self in absolute otherness and blending this with messianic motifs such as the resurrection of the flesh, Bloch seeks to articulate a materialism that can take into account both mans distinctive form of finitude as an embodied being and his attendant quest for happiness.29 Full freedom, according to Bloch, is equated with the complete over coming of self-alienation spiritually and materially. Through its account of class division and eventual crisis of capit alist exploitation, Marxism seeks to explain how oppression can be
28 The nature of Blochs Marxism has been a constant theme in the critical literature on his work. According to Leszek Kolakowskis Main Currents of Marxism , vol. iii (Oxford University Press, 1978), pp. 42149, Blochs Marxism is that of a desperate believer who, having failed to provide Marxism with sufficient evidence and explanatory power, irresponsibly resorts to a quasi-religious utopianism that performs the function of a religion, and its efficacy is of a religious character (p. 526). In his book The Marxist Philosophy of Ernst Bloch (London:Macmillan, 1982), Wayne Hudson, by contrast, argues that Kolakowski reads too much irrationalism into Bloch:Bloch is neither a philoso pher nor a Marxist if he advances an intellectually irresponsible gnostic futurism, or a wholly out-of-date identity metaphysics. Indeed granted this interpretation, the prob lem is not to show that Bloch is not a Marxist, but to explain how he could ever have imagined that he was a Marxist at all (p. 209). Bloch himself warned repeatedly against reifying Marxism and turning it into a closed, static system. See, for example, his com ment in Ein falscher Sozialismus ist kein Sozialismus, in Rainer Traub and Harald Wieser (eds.), Gesprche mit Ernst Bloch (Frankfurt:Suhrkamp, 1975, p. 139 (translated by Peter Palmer in Ernst Bloch, Essays on the Philosophy of Music [Cambridge University Press, 1985], pp. xviiixix):Properly speaking, a Marxist philosopher must also be a philosopher; and he who is a philosopher must, in order to be one, be either a Marxist or, involuntarily, an ideologist of the ruling classes. If Marxism is not philosophy it is Vulgar Marxism, and will soon become counter-revolutionary. There is a fine phrase of Isaac Babel, the great Russian writer who was done to death by Stalin: Banality is counter-revolution. Marxism would become banal if it became static. 29 Bloch is at this point indebted to Marxs claim in the 1844 Paris Notebooks about com munism being the genuine resolution of the conflict of man with nature and of man with man, the true resolution of the conflict between existence and essence, objectifi cation and self-affirmation, freedom and necessity, individual and species. See Karl Marx, Early Political Writings , ed. and trans. Joseph OMalley (Cambridge University Press, 1994), p. 79.

Ernst Bloch on anticipatory consciousness


overcome and socially contingent obstacles to the universal realization of genuine happiness and self-fulfillment eliminated. It does not, how ever, provide an account of the demands and claims that anticipate a utopian future. A subjective dimension, present, according to Bloch, in figures like Plato, Kant, and many other pre-Marxist thinkers, must therefore be combined with the objective dimension of historical materialism. While often obscure about the exact relation between these two dimensions, Bloch believes that historical change and devel opment can be understood only in so far as its anticipatory moments and energies are disclosed.30 The philosophy of hope the historical excavations of concrete moments of utopian consciousness expressed in private and public life, art, religion, science, and philosophy, as well as in social and political movements, permeating the bulk of The Principle of Hope is predicated upon this belief. The logical key to the relation between the subjective and objective dimensions of history consists in distinguishing between the opposing modalities of possibility and necessity.31 Pointing to Aristotles notion of entelechy, Bloch contends that an entity can be comprehended only in processual terms, as the dynamic opposition of morph and hyl, form and matter, where the former is the objective potential or latency (Latenz) displayed in the latter.32 A thing can be viewed as the realization of certain potentials, yet it will also contain layers of other potentials. Not all potentials bear a relation to the things essence, and some are indeed contingent; thus every object, as well as history itself, carries within itself the possibility of non-realization or nothingness. If, however, the objective potentials, those that are expressive of the real essence or form of the object, come to be realized, then the object itself emerges as fully real. What Bloch calls the Not-Yet-Conscious the anticipatory consciousness I just mentioned is an awareness of the objective potentials inherent in what is not yet fully realized, manifest ing and expressing the latency of historical existence in general. The objective potential is grounded in past development (or what Bloch
30 Bloch tends to refer to the relation between the subjective and the objective factor as being dialectical. They interact in unruly ways and cannot be understood in isola tion from one another. For more on this issue, see Vincent Geoghegan, Ernst Bloch (London and New York:Routledge, 1996), p. 33. 31 For Blochs elaborate discussion of this opposition, see his Tendenz, Latenz, Utopie (Frankfurt:Suhrkamp, 1978). 32 Matter, strictly speaking, carries the potential for being realized in accordance with the form. However, since the potential is always for some determinate mode of selfrealization, it must be understood with the form in mind.

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sometimes refers to as tendency), although it is also staking out the routes of future development. We are now faced with one of the major difficulties of Blochs think ing. Unlike most historicist thinkers of the late nineteenth and twenti eth centuries, including both Marxists and Nietzscheans, Bloch is an unapologetic essentialist. He believes that for each object in the world there are (objectively existing) necessary and sufficient conditions for it being what it really is; and any object that does not meet these con ditions is less real than the fully actualized, ideal entity that instanti ates all of them.33 Although, as in traditional readings of Marx, these conditions are grounded in history (as particular forms of conflict, say, or forms of technological development) rather than inscribed in a Platonic heaven, they necessarily determine future development. The challenges facing such a view are considerable. Despite the emphasis on activity, motion, and development, it seems to imply, most problematically, a form of historical determinism that, while dif ficult to defend on its own terms (indeed the reference to objectively existing tendencies seems to bring him closer to Kautskys objectivism than Bloch himself realizes), threatens to render the philosophy of the Not-Yet-Conscious redundant or even incoherent. For how can com mitments be articulated the way Bloch, in his encyclopedia of human hope, believes artists and thinkers have done, unless the agent can be held responsible for them? If history deep down is a necessary process of objective self-development and self-articulation, and if desires and hopes are merely causal effects of this process, then no subject would ever be responsible for them; thus there would be no real stance or commitment at all.

33 Ernst Bloch, Dialectic and Hope, New German Critique 9 (1976), p. 8:S is not yet P, the proletariat has not yet been sublated [aufgehoben], nature is not yet a home, the real is not yet articulated reality:this Not Yet is in process, indeed it has attained or is beginning to carve out its skyline here and there. See also Martin Jay, Marxism and Totality: The Adventures of a Concept from Lukcs to Habermas (Berkeley and Los Angeles:University of California Press, 1984), p. 184:Bloch, to be sure, frequently tried to distinguish the abstract utopianism of the Fouriers and Saint-Simons attacked by Marx from his own concrete utopia based on real tendencies in history. But the level on which those real tendencies was supposed to exist was other than, or at least not equivalent to, the socio-economic, where Marx (and Lukcs) had argued they should be sought. As a result, Bloch could argue that even an analysis that distin guished between apparent and essential levels of the socio-economic whole was still too empirical because it failed to grasp the deeper level of possibility, of objective hope, beneath.

Ernst Bloch on anticipatory consciousness


In line with the view of rationality that was presented in Chapter 1, the fact of human desire, as opposed to animal need, involves an apper ceptive awareness that this-thing-that-is-F is what one believes or desires. Desires can therefore be questioned; unlike animals or automatons, we do not act upon them via brute necessity. Qua conceptualized or con ceptually structured, however, the desire for F demands rational articu lation, and reasons are needed in order to grasp and see the desire as ones free commitment to attain or achieve F. Blochs determinism would render these reasons incomprehensible. If my hope for a world more compatible with fundamental norms of justice were not determined by commitments that have been freely adopted by me as the outcome of a process of reflection, then it would simply be present as an indetermin ate need. While it may be felt, I would not be able to demonstrate why such a goal should be pursued. Nor would I be responsible for it:strictly speaking, it would not be my commitment. From the standpoint of rea son, it would be like any arbitrary wish or fancy. However, much of Blochs account of anticipatory consciousness can be retained without a commitment to essentialism and historical determinism. A better approach, it seems, is by way of an account of reification. When the normative structures of human life and minded ness break down or appear not to offer a viable form of life (which, for Bloch, is the case in capitalist societies, with their incessant transform ation of use-value into exchange-value, and their putative exploitation of human labor), such human orders of meaning need to be subverted and interpreted against their dominant coding. Studying cultural expressions, Bloch tends to see them as unreflectively exhibiting hope for a more adequate social order. In what he understands as relics of historical being, the subconscious dimension of desire- and wish-for mation, items can be localized and identified that, if decoded prop erly, point towards the overcoming of the present, alienating order. The Not-Yet-Conscious and the utopian image-traces of which Bloch speaks anticipate a state in which mankind is no longer alienated, and in which the subject, as Hegel puts it, is capable of recognizing itself in absolute otherness. The state of non-alienation occurs when the subject is able to see itself as fully at home in, and responsible for, the structures of meaning that make up the social order. It seems possible to hold such a view without having to subscribe to the idea of realobjective possibility. We may, then, think of Blochs cultural relics as offering a form of relief when the more common and institutionalized procedures of

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reflection and normative positioning have been stalled. In line with his expressionist commitments, Bloch describes this stalling as a darkness of the lived moment (eine Dunkelheit des gelebten Augenblicks).34 In such an occlusion, he argues, an anticipatory desire may emerge that can help to reposition the agent in relation to his or her commitments. In order to describe what he means by such a desire, Bloch draws on an enormous amount of references, both cultural and psychological, ranging from daydreams and emotions to artistic and political move ments, and he also distinguishes his own account of desire from that found in psychoanalysis.35 For Freud, the human psyche certainly con tains a wishful element. The night-dream, most paradigmatically, is both a manifestation and a satisfaction of a wish. While the so-called latent dream-content, containing the real dream-thoughts, is directly expressive of the wish, the manifest dream-content, being the result of the dreamworks process of condensation and displacement, pro vides an illusory fulfillment of the first-order wish itself.36 According to Freud, the wishes being played out in night-dreams stem from the unconscious:they are forbidden and repressed wishes that, since they cannot be tolerated by the ego, eventually find outlet in the form of symptom-formations. Freud further maintains and this is the point at which Bloch starts to take issue with him, or at least distinguish his own account of desire from his that unconscious wishes are archaic. Those wishes that seek outlet in dreams, parapraxes, and neurotic symptoms are precisely those of an infantile nature, and on Freuds view we are destined to be preoccupied with these wishes throughout our entire life. The psyche is thus said to be organized around a compulsive drive towards repetition (Wiederholungszwang). Bloch cannot accept this.
[Freud] understand[s] the unconscious solely as something past in his torical development, as something that has sunk down into the cellar and only exists there. [He] recognize[s], even if the regression has an extremely different nature and extension, only an unconscious that
34 See Bloch, The Spirit of Utopia , trans. Anthony A. Nassar (Stanford University Press, 2000), p. 192. 35 Ernst Bloch, The Principle of Hope , vol. i, trans. Neville Plaice, Stephen Plaice, and Paul Knight (Cambridge, Mass.:MIT Press, 1986), pp. 77113. 36 Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams , trans. James Strachey (London and New York:Penguin Books, 1991), p. 381: We have introduced a new class of psy chical material between the manifest content of dreams and the conclusions of our enquiry:namely, their latent content, or (as we say) the dream-thoughts, arrived at by means of our procedure. It is from these dream-thoughts and not from a dreams manifest content that we disentangle its meaning.

Ernst Bloch on anticipatory consciousness


moves backwards or underneath the already existing consciousness; [he] in fact recognize[s] no pre-consciousness of a New.37

Blochs point may function as a useful antidote to later attempts, such as those of Cornelius Castoriadis and Herbert Marcuse, to make the Freudian unconscious serve as a reservoir of energies whose outlet may bring about a renewal of the political imaginary.38 The Freudian unconscious is fixated on archaic objects, and rather than rejecting them completely will always attempt to find substitutes. Bloch, how ever, takes a different view. There must, he argues, be an experience that triggers both ones sense of alienation and ones sense of hope that it can be brought to an end. Such an experience must not only be proleptic but avoid the logic of repetition that we find in Freud. A figuration of such an experience is to be found, Bloch contends, in the daydream. As opposed to the night-dream, which weaves its ancient patterns of disguised satisfactions of infantile desire, the day dream tends to be genuinely anticipatory, capable of breaking with the existing horizon of what it is pertinent, expedient, or even pos sible to expect. Imaginatively reconfiguring a set of expectations, the daydream is capable of harboring a utopian dimension, a desire for the radically New:
This always means:the night-dream lives in regression, it is indiscrim inately drawn into its images, the daydream projects its images into the future, by no means indiscriminately, but controllable even given the most impetuous imagination and mediatable with the objectively Possible. The content of the night-dream is concealed and disguised, the content of the day-fantasy is open, fabulously inventive, anticipating, and its latency lies ahead .39

From a Freudian point of view, Blochs distinction between nightdreams and daydreams cannot be accepted. On Freuds account,
37 Bloch, The Principle of Hope , vol. i, p. 64. 38 Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization:A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud (Boston:Beacon Press, 1974); Cornelius Castoriadis, Crossroads in the Labyrinth , trans. Kate Soper and Martin H. Ryle (Cambridge, Mass.:MIT Press, 1984). For book-length accounts of the Freudian left, see Helmut Dahmer, Libido und Gesellschaft: Studien ber Freud und die Freudsche Linke (Frankfurt:Suhrkamp, 1973) and Joel Whitebook, Perversion and Utopia:A Study in Psychoanalysis and Critical Theory (Cambridge, Mass.:MIT Press, 1995). For a critique of Marcuses conception of liberation, see Espen Hammer, Marcuses Critical Theory of Modernity, Philosophy and Social Criticism 34:9 (2008), pp. 107193. 39 Bloch, The Principle of Hope , vol. i, p. 99.

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daydreams and night-dreams are governed by exactly the same logic.40 Bloch, however, never identifies the basis on which he distinguishes so sharply between these two sorts of dreams. Another difficulty is that not all daydreams are anticipatory in the sense he outlines. Some, as he himself admits, are nostalgic while others do not in any way point beyond the present. According to Bloch, proleptic daydreams (to be distinguished from analeptic ones) have four essential characteristics: (1) they involve the ego being in control; (2) the ego freely embarks on an imaginary journey; (3) the ego seeks world-improvement; and (4) the journey is carried to its conclusion such that all relevant wishes and wants are fulfilled.41 Now I may well be satisfying all of these criteria if I dream of arriving in a shiny, happy place where everyone drives BMWs and wears Gucci sunglasses. A dream like this, however, would hardly point beyond its own social preconditions, namely present-day capitalist con sumerism, and would hardly qualify as genuinely utopian. Similarly, a reader of Tolkien may daydream of a fantasy land of knights and dragons, and the pursuit of great deeds and honor. Nothing about this fantasy seems either anticipatory or politically very progressive. In view of this impasse one may be surprised to learn that such ideo logical hopes (that is, hopes that merely express particular interest, or hopes that seem to place the agent within a narrow cycle of admin istered consumption) can be revealed as having an anticipatory core. Undoubtedly, this is an extreme version of a traditional Marxist argu ment. The classical nineteenth-century bourgeoisie was, for example, according to this line of thinking, committed to the universal validity of precisely those rights which served to secure the existence of its own private property, yet, even when protective of a particular segment of the population to the exclusion of others, these rights anticipate a bet ter life-form in which all individuals enjoy secure ownership of prop erty.42 However, Blochs account of anticipation goes further than this. Even those, he insists, who dream of beauty with the sole purpose of becoming more readily marketable entertain a genuine wish. One may wonder what anticipatory value this wish, which appar ently serves to identify with the interests of the oppressor, may have. As I will soon show, this issue reveals one of the most stark differences
40 The only interesting, yet, for this discussion, irrelevant difference is that the so-called reality principle is more dominant in daydreams than in nightdreams. 41 Bloch, The Principle of Hope , vol. i, pp. 8899. 42 Ibid ., p. 152.

Ernst Bloch on anticipatory consciousness


between Bloch and Adorno. For Adorno, the Novum the nonideological other can be adequately expressed only in a rational medium ultimately (but by no means exclusively) in aesthetic form . An important requirement imposed on this medium is that it must be capable of withstanding easy co-optation by industries or agencies bent on manufacturing desire. It must be negative, as in capable of negation. Blochs account of time-consciousness is not entirely invalidated by these reflections. In The Spirit of Utopia , he draws attention to the phe nomenon of amazement . Amazement, he maintains, is a peculiar modi fication of the flow of experience a stirring43 whereby something unknown or not fully grasped makes itself felt in the form of some thing like a promise or demand. It is worth quoting in full a strange but telling passage from The Spirit of Utopia in which Bloch seeks to bring out and exemplify what he means by such a psychic irruption:
A drop falls and there it is; a hut, the child cries, an old woman in the hut, outside wind, heath, an evening in autumn, and there it is again, exactly, the same; or we read how the dreaming Dmitri Karamazov is astonished that the peasant always says a wee one, and we suspect that it could be found here; Little rat, rustle as long as you like; / Oh, if there were only a crumb! and upon hearing this small, harsh, strange line from Goethes Wedding Song we sense that in this direction lies the unsayable, what the boy left lying there as he came out of the mountain, Dont forget the best thing of all! the old man had told him, but no one could ever have come across something so inconspicuous, deeply hidden, uncanny within the concept. No horror, image or feeling fully includes or concludes here; one can see that it is not only the great dis coveries, the sails of great ships still below the horizon to the average eye, that the genius of the not-yet-conscious foresees, that populate his utopian space. More deeply, it is the values of amazement that are carried by the state of presentiment, and ultimately reflected:something small, the kernel within so much impressive empty emballage, a Messiah who appears not in a flash but warm and nearby, as our guest, the discarded cornerstone within a metaphysical perspective, the wafting, compre hensible-incomprehensible symbol-intentions of the tua res agitur as a whole.44

While Blochs expressionistic writing may be difficult to interpret, some points are relatively straightforward and should be taken into
43 Bloch, The Spirit of Utopia , p. 192. 44 Ibid ., p. 193.

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account. One is that Bloch attempts to articulate a relation to the future which is different from that of the Kantian vision of rational self-determination. Amazement opens a horizon of possibility nei ther by bracketing past demands and affiliations, nor by being an element of the subjects self-affirmation in rational, transparent, and autonomous decision-making. Unlike the Kantian emphasis on activ ity, futurity is here considered as being passively achieved, in an act of receiving. At the same time both surprising and fragile (a drop falls and there it is), it thus figures a time not of domination and instrumentally achieved progress but of hope and the promise of ful fillment. Another crucial point is that amazement breaks out of linear, homogenous time, while nevertheless resisting the Platonic desire for a counter-world of pure immutability. Unlike Schopenhauers quest for the timeless, a transcendence that escapes the temporal altogether, amazement brings about a transcendence within the temporal realm itself, a kind of bifurcation or divergence that, while surprising, does not involve mere becoming, randomness, unpredictability, or chance, but, rather, a concrete relationship to an imagined otherness. It effects such a transcendence by relating the subject to the transient particu lar for which both Platonism and Kantianism fail to account. Suddenly there is an experience not of the already classified item the repeat able item appearing within homogeneous time but of something uniquely irreplaceable and singular that nevertheless carries a specific significance. In addition, by breaking out of repetition on the basis of encounters with past fragments that point beyond themselves, amaze ment escapes the fateful dialectic of mourning and melancholia. The almost aggressive mourning that we witnessed in the late Nietzsche prevents the subject from being addressed by demands existing out side its own experimental deliberations. By contrast, Blochs amazed subject does not seek to break with the past but, rather, to uncover its utopian potentials. Rather than mourning the past, it seeks to resur rect it from the destructive consequences of the imposition of linear, homogenous time. On the other hand, because amazement accepts and even affirms times passing, it harbors no inherent desire for an identification with the bygone. Thus it avoids the melancholic attach ment we encountered in Schopenhauer. Michael Theunissen has proposed a set of categories that may serve to identify the precise meaning of this peculiar form of futurity.45 We
45 Michael Theunissen, Negative Theologie der Zeit (Frankfurt:Suhrkamp, 1991), p. 63.

Ernst Bloch on anticipatory consciousness


need, Theunissen argues, to distinguish between three fundamental ways of relating to the future. In what he calls Propulsivitt (propulsiv ity), we are futural simply by virtue of lifes inherent forward-moving character. Our biological make-up is hardwired to grow, change, and transform itself until life comes to an end. In Protensivitt (protensiv ity), on the other hand, we are intentionally directed to the future:we desire and believe. Protensivitt connects present and past experi ence with the future in that, for example, we tend to desire what past experience has told us is good or pleasurable, and expect what we know from experience will happen in a given set of circumstances. It thus attempts to determine the future on the basis of present plans, desires, and beliefs. Prospektivitt (prospectivity), however, relates to the future in the mode of a constitutive passivity or receptivity; it represents, Theunissen maintains, an openness towards the future that is akin to waiting, a letting-oneself-be-exposed-to-the-very possibility-of, or a mode of temporal existence in which elements of the present are not being reproduced or projected into the future. By means of Prospektivitt, we let (in the German meaning of Verweilen and Erwarten) the future arrive in its full openness and difference. Blochs notion of amazement can be characterized in terms of what Theunissen calls Prospektivitt. It entails a break with a homogeneous or repetitive temporal structure, thereby bringing about conditions for a sudden emergence of the new or utopian content. A distinction must be drawn, however, between, on the one hand, mere chance and arbitrariness, and, on the other, the kind of anticipatory consciousness that Bloch and Theunissen seek to determine. For Nietzsche, a proper commitment to the value of affirmation requires the ability and will ingness to see the random event being repeated over and over again indefinitely. Likewise, in Bergsons equally influential account of cre ative evolution, the openness of any living being to becoming means the same as openness to interruptive invention and radical contin gency. Life brings duration, memory, and consciousness to the world; thus, time is an opening up of being, the medium in which the new can occur.46 On this basis, Elizabeth Grosz refers to a time of difference,
46 Henri Bergson develops this thought in a number of contexts. See for instance the fol lowing formulation in The Creative Mind:An Introduction to Metaphysics , trans. Mabelle L. Andison (New York:Citadel Press, 1992), p. 93:Thus the living being essentially has duration; it has duration precisely because it is continuously elaborating what is new and because there is no elaboration without searching, no searching without groping. Time is this very hesitation.

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a time of excess, superfluity, of causes, the profusion of causes, which no longer produces singular or even complex effects but generates events, which have a temporal continuity quite separate from that of their causes.47 While Bloch shares with these thinkers an emphasis on time as a force of change and not just a mere medium of movement, he seeks to link temporal experience to a broader and more classical problem of experience. For him, arbitrariness and random becoming as such would not in any way be liberating. Indeed, for Bloch, capit alism itself has contingency as one of its most fundamental operative principles. Based on calculation and measured risk-taking, capitalism not only permits but encourages a historically unprecedented degree of contingency. However, the changes taking place within this sys tem displace experience outside the self. The changes, according to Blochs Marxist account, tend to generate alienation: indeed, under capitalism consciousness is fundamentally alienated. Blochs notion of amazement is therefore implicitly an element of an account of experi ence, and in particular of the crisis of experience that not only Marx but the German Romantics, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Heidegger saw as an inevitable consequence of rationalized modernity. Amazement is a sudden foreshadowing of what unconstrained, undistorted experience would amount to, if it existed. While contingent and therefore modern (in the sense that I have explored, that being modern means to accept contingency as the general mode of presentation), the claim is that it points beyond the contingency of capitalism itself towards other social possibilities latent in the present.

Experience, beauty, transcendence

We have seen that although Bloch offers a suggestive account of antici patory time-consciousness that promises to escape many of the prob lems besetting the other central positions under discussion in this book, his theory is fraught with difficulties. It is dependent on a prob lematic appeal to essentialism; it makes unsubstantiated claims about the teleological nature of human history and its purportedly neces sary course; and it fails to distinguish properly between mere wish ful thinking and a genuine utopian consciousness. What is required,
47 Elizabeth Grosz, Becoming ... An Introduction, in her own edited volume Becomings:Explorations in Time, Memory, and Futures (Ithaca, N.Y. and London:Cornell University Press, 1999), p. 4.

Experience, beauty, tr anscendence


therefore, is a position that, while able to retain, justify, and further articulate this interest in anticipatory time-consciousness, avoids these difficulties. Theodor W. Adorno, the luminary and leading figure of the early Frankfurt school, was intellectually close to Bloch. However, unlike Bloch, Adorno never developed anything like a theory of timeconsciousness, and he was extremely skeptical of the kind of exalted, positive utopianism that one finds in Bloch. Indeed, Adornos thinking is more commonly associated with topics like social domination, mass culture, and the meaning of modernist art.48 That said, in the follow ing I will nevertheless bring out and defend certain key aspects of what I understand to be his contribution to the question of modernity and time-consciousness. While neither explicit nor easy to piece together, this contribution needs to be searched for in the margins, requiring quite a lot of constructive labor. I will first set out my proposal the bare essentials of what I take to be Adornos argument and then start pondering its implications. In the introduction to Negative Dialectics, Adorno defines his goal as that of defending and bringing to awareness the ephemeral and tran sitory against the rigid general concept.49
The matters of true philosophical interest at this point in history are those in which Hegel, agreeing with tradition, expressed his disinter est. They are nonconceptuality, individuality, and particularity things which ever since Plato used to be dismissed as transitory and insignifi cant, and which Hegel labeled lazy Existenz.50

While useful, Adorno thinks, in mans struggle to control and domi nate a hostile environment, generalities and universals ultimately conspire to generate false continuities. They define objects as though

48 For some recent attempts to offer a unified philosophical interpretation of Adorno, see Jay. M. Bernstein, Adorno:Disenchantment and Ethics (Cambridge University Press, 2001); Simon Jarvis, Adorno:A Critical Introduction (Oxford:Polity Press, 1998); Espen Hammer, Adorno and the Political (London and New York:Routledge, 2005); Lambert Zuidervaart, Social Philosophy after Adorno (Cambridge University Press, 2007). 49 Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics , trans. E. B. Ashton (New York:Continuum, 1973), p. 8. In characterizing his thinking as a battle against universals, Adorno may seem like a nominalist. Nominalism, after all, is the view that only particulars exist. Adornos claim, however, is not that universals do not exist but that conceptual think ing tends to efface its dependence on sensuous particularity, thereby privileging identity over non-identity. 50 Ibid .

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they were ideal, thereby failing to record the qualitative difference marking every individual object. However, they also screen the fact that all objects are temporal and undergoing change. It is this latter point which I want to bring into focus. Although Adorno does not offer an explicit theory of time-consciousness, his whole philosophy is circling around the question of transitoriness and ephemerality. This orienta tion is of particular importance when it comes to human subjectivity and the question of experience. The human subject displays continu ity:despite a perpetually shifting flux of representations, it remains, at least to some degree, identical with itself over time.51 In Kant, perhaps the most important classical thinker for Adorno, the ability to retain a sense of oneself as identical over time is accounted for by introdu cing the famous but difficult doctrine of the original synthetic unity of apperception. On a rough outline of this doctrine, the subject remains identical with itself over the course of a certain time period in so far as it, throughout, is capable of being conscious of itself as actively synthe sizing a given material according to an invariant set of self-prescribed rules.52 Although Adorno does not exactly reject this model (he cer tainly retains a notion of spontaneity), he tries to demonstrate that the subject harbors a potential for being less continuous with itself than Kants model implies.53 In moments of temporal disruption, the sub ject responds to impacting objects not by rigorously grasping or syn thesizing them in accordance with its own categories (which, in Kant, is what ultimately secures the subjects identity over time), but by being
51 This view, of course, is disputed in Hume and others. Here I simply take for granted that it is possible to talk about some degree of identity (whether numerical or other wise) over time. 52 Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason , trans. Norman Kemp Smith (London:Macmillan, 1986), B135:I am conscious of the self as identical in respect of the manifold of representations that are given to me in an intuition, because I call them one and all my representations, and so apprehend them as constituting one intuition. This amounts to saying that I am conscious to myself a priori of a necessary synthesis of representations to be entitled the original synthetic unity of appercep tion under which all representations that are given to me must stand, but under which they have also first to be brought by means of a synthesis. 53 See, for example, the following passage in Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment , trans. John Cumming (New York:Verso, 1979), p. 26:According to Kant, philosophic judgment aims at the new; and yet it recognizes nothing new, since it always merely recalls what reason has always deposited in the object. But there is a reckoning for this form of thinking that considers itself secure in the various departments of science secure from the dreams of a ghost-seer:world domination over nature turns against the thinking subject himself; nothing is left of him but that eternally same I think that must accompany all my ideas.

Experience, beauty, tr anscendence


attentive to their alterity. Thus, for Adorno, temporal discontinuity is intimately connected to a vision of unconstrained experience. By criti cizing the domination involved in categorizing and classifying the given according to self-given rules serving to create continuity and generality, Adorno discovers the significance of the sudden, the ephemeral, and all the ways in which the subject can go beyond itself and break with its normal sense of homogeneity and homogeneous time. In thinking about time, Adorno was indebted to Walter Benjamins distinction between homogeneous, empty time and now-time. In his famous but difficult 1940 Theses on the Philosophy of History, Benjamin wrote that History is the subject of a structure whose site is not homogeneous, empty time, but time filled by the presence of the now [ Jetztzeit]. Thus, to Robespierre ancient Rome was a past charged with the time of the now which blasted out of the continuum of history.54 The idea of the continuum of history, unfolding in homoge neous, empty time, is essentially synonymous with that of natural his tory (Naturgeschichte), or mythical time, which both Benjamin and the early Adorno employ. For Benjamin, natural history is mythical in that it is cyclical:it repeats certain patterns that are structured by violence and oppression. At times, particularly in the early work, this violence is understood in theological terms, as the separation of fallen, human language (a language of concepts and generality) from the language of the divine (which, for Benjamin, is a language of names and singu larity). At other times, however, especially in his later work, Benjamin blends the theological motifs from his early writings with materialist ones, claiming with Marx that human history is a form of pre-history, the perpetual transformation of potentially free human self-creation into unintended necessities, social structures that, in their capacity for oppression, appear as unchanging as nature itself. The presence of the now or now-time is found in those redemptive moments occurring within the continuity of history that do not unfold in accordance with the pre-given patterns of violence but which are disruptive and able to point towards radically other social and historical formations that later interpreters can relate to and employ with an emancipatory purpose.55
54 Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History, in Illuminations , trans. Harry Zohn (New York:Schocken Books, 1969), p. 261. For a systematic treatment of Benjamins account of history, see Ralf Konersmann, Erstarrte Unruhe:Walter Benjamins Begriff der Geschichte (Frankfurt:Fischer, 1991). 55 See Richard Wolin, Walter Benjamin:An Aesthetic of Redemption (Berkeley:University of California Press, 1994), p. 126.

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Thus, Robespierre, Benjamin maintains, treats ancient Rome as a res ervoir of such redemptive moments and possibilities. They are, as it were, immanently transcending moments that in potentially liberating ways can re-emerge at other times in history. They can also, however, represent images of the dead that in order to confront the tradition and wrest it away from conformism must be rescued. Thus, Benjamin wants to brush history against the grain, thereby unlocking those previously unacknowledged possibilities that, in his dramatic formula tion, blast open the continuum of history.56 Such possibilities occur not in a time of continual transition but, rather, when time stands still and has come to a stop.57 From the perspective of the historian, they tend to be buried under the ruins of historical development and pro gress; thus, Benjamin urges the progressive historian to look beyond the standard conceptions of continuities and epochs, and even to dis card the very notion of progress itself. The time of progress, Benjamin writes, has been pictured, first, in terms of
the progress of mankind itself (and not just advances in mens abil ity and knowledge). Second, it was viewed as something boundless, in keeping with the infinite perfectibility of mankind. Third, progress was regarded as irresistible, something that automatically pursued a straight or spiral course.58

Benjamin is in some senses not at all dismissive of the idea of pro gress. He no doubt applauds such developments as liberation from tyranny and oppression, or increases in material welfare. He is deeply critical, however, when the ideology of progress presents structures of domination as liberation. Progress conceived in mere instrumen tal terms, as the increased domination of men over things, and of men over other men, represents a lapse into myth, and ultimately into barbarism. For Benjamin in his most Marxist moments, the cap italist system of exchange, with its naturalization and reification of social relations, testifies to this general transformation of life into something static and unchanging. In his early work, however, includ ing The Origin of the German Tragic Drama , he provides a theological account of historical development, arguing that history is essentially postlapsarian, a Verfallsgeschichte , with everything that appears to offer
56 Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History, pp. 257, 262. 57 Ibid ., p. 262. 58 Ibid ., p. 260.

Experience, beauty, tr anscendence


reasons to reconcile oneself with its immanent workings beauty in particular being illusory, and his later and most materialistic work remains heavily dependent on theology.59 I will not follow the intricacies of Benjamins thinking about time and history except to note that Adorno no doubt appropriates his jux taposition of continuous, mythical time and now-time, or the time of transcendence. Unlike Benjamin, however, who tends to couch this opposition in theological and, at least in part, rather obscure and intractable terms, Adorno understands it anthropologically, in terms of, on the one hand, his concepts of domination and identitarian rea son and, on the other, his notion of mimesis, to which I will return in a moment. Following Freuds reflections on the origin of civilization, in the opening chapters of the Dialectic of Enlightenment Adorno (together with Max Horkheimer) maintains that the measures of self-denial and repression required for individuating oneself vis--vis nature were of necessity so harsh that the goal of liberation that they promised was immediately lost sight of. Rather than pacifying mans relation with nature and creating a harmonious and free social environment, mans instrumental pursuit the method of rational calculation and con trol ceased to be a means (of liberation), instead becoming an end in itself. Any moment of enlightenment or progress, Adorno argues, is therefore inextricably interwoven with instances of regression; thus, history itself becomes a perpetual process of homogenization whereby the incommensurable is excised in the name of immanence, utility, and abstraction.60 In Chapter 2, I drew on Koselleck, Weber, and Lukcs in order to suggest that Western modernity does indeed display essential features cohering with such a picture. Modernization can precisely be viewed as the procedurally and instrumentally effected conquering of the horizon of expectation such that every dependency on nature or tra dition linking agents to a pre-given space of experience becomes suspended, if not altogether relinquished. I now want to suggest that Adornos reflections on mimesis, and more particularly natural beauty, is capable (a) of offering a normatively grounded basis for criticizing the homogenous time of modernity, and (b) of holding up a vision of
59 How and to what extent theology plays a role in Benjamins work has been a mat ter of heated debate. For a good overview, see John McCole, Walter Benjamin and the Antinomies of Tradition (Ithaca, N.Y.:Cornell University Press, 1993). 60 Adorno and Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment , pp. 1213.

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another time, a time of the other, in relation to which experience can be reconfigured. While difficult to defend, in his posthumously published Aesthetic Theory Adorno holds that there is a manner of relating which evades the standard alternative of either cognitively processing (identifying or classifying) or utilizing (using something for a certain purpose) things. Confronted, he maintains, with the naturally beautiful (a pris tine landscape, say, or a seascape), we may experience something that, while not fully transcending the circle of human domination and cal culation (after all, a considerable degree of domination is necessary in order to consider an object in this way), goes beyond it to the point of intimating a form of metaphysically charged otherness. Since every day time-consciousness, and indeed history itself, is, as we have seen, deeply shaped by such practices of domination, the experience of natu ral beauty represents (and here Adorno draws directly on Benjamin) a form of suspended history, a moment of becoming at a standstill.61 Central to the account of natural beauty is Adornos concern with mimesis, which he characterizes as a particular form of receptivity whereby the object, rather than being immediately subsumed under a generic term, is attended to to the point of identifying with it.62 The key interest is to locate a passivity, an orientation towards given ness, differing from everyday forms of reified thinking and resist ing our natural desire to instrumentalize and dominate. In contrast, however, to Benjamins association of mimesis with pure passivity, an openness towards the world without any conceptual mediation what soever, Adorno maintains that mimetic encounters are not withdrawn from conceptuality altogether, or from horizons of meaning medi ated by conceptuality. They are, in other words, not ineffable. Viewed from within the space of reason, however, such encounters will appear
61 Theodor W. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, trans. Robert Hullot-Kentor (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), p. 71. 62 In Aesthetic Theory, p. 54, Adorno characterizes mimesis as the nonconceptual affin ity of the subjectively produced with its unposited other. He often sees mimesis as the activity of imitation or mimicry. However, in Negative Dialectics , p. 45, he explicitly relates it to knowledge:A discriminating man is one who in the matter and its con cept can distinguish even the infinitesimal, that which escapes the concept; discrimi nation alone gets down to the infinitesimal. Its postulate of a capacity to experience the object and discrimination is the experience of the object turned into a form of subjective reaction provides a haven for the element of mimetic knowledge, for the element of elective affinity between the knower and the known. In the total process of enlightenment this element gradually crumbles. But it cannot vanish completely if the process is not to annul itself.

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irrational, for when they occur, the experiencing subject will typically not be in a position to accept epistemic responsibility by integrating the encounters in a situation-independent chain of rational reasoning or reflection. They therefore seem to arise outside the space of reasons, which, perhaps, is why Benjamin was led to believe that they in fact do so. Adornos view seems to be that such encounters, rather than being unrationalizable, are candidates for being acknowledged in such a way as to give rise to situation-independent reason-giving activities.63 The encounters, which arise within horizons of meaning mediated by conceptual capacities, carry significance, though not in a conceptually determinate manner. Thus, in contrast to Benjamins notion of pure passivity, which Adorno believes is based on an untenable appeal to the immediately given, there must be some sort of interplay between passiv ity and activity, although not the kind that would privilege conceptual activity over sensuous passivity. While capable of conceptualizing the encounter (say, with a tree, by taking the object of awareness to be a tree, being prepared to apply the predicate tree to it, and, finally, in so doing, taking epistemic responsibility for the act of predication), the agent at the same time is confronting a complex set of sensations that remain resistant to conceptually mediated objectification in the form of general concepts.64 Bringing them explicitly to awareness may require a different synthetic achievement than the one obtained by providing general concepts. Thus, in his aesthetics, Adorno suggests that art works may in some cases be capable of providing a synthesis (and thus form) wholly indexed to the object itself.65 The object of the mimetic encounter, Adorno argues, is close and at the same time distant, both determinate and indeterminate, both classifiable and uniquely sin gular. Adornos more general standpoint, then, is that all the various and intricate ways in which we interact with the world as embodied
63 I am here drawing on John McDowells response to Hubert Dreyfus in What Myth? Inquiry 50:4 (2007), p. 340. Thanks to Martin Shuster for making this connection explicit to me. 64 Thus, in Negative Dialectics , p. 193, Adorno introduces the idea of a somatic moment that, while potentially part of consciousness (and therefore continuous with its rational capacities), ultimately transcends consciousness:While sensation is a part of consciousness, according to the cognitive principle of styling, its phenomenology unbiased, under the rules of cognition would have to describe it equally as that which consciousness does not exhaust. 65 Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, p. 176:Artworks synthesize ununifiable, nonidentical ele ments that grind away at each other; they truly seek the identity of the identical and the nonidentical processually because even their unity is only an element and not the magical formula of the whole.

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beings smell, touch, see, hear, and so on are always already related to the normative realm of conventions, rules, and expectations. The natural and the social are, as Cavell puts it, mutually absorbed.66 For Adorno, then, while the event of being exposed to alterity involved in the time of heterogeneity is passive in that it does not depend on any deliberate conceptual engagement (or what Benjamin and Adorno call intention), there should, as Brandom and others would emphasize, ultimately be a rational framework within which it can be taken up; if not, judgments referring to the event will never be able to establish a full and determinate authority or normative signifi cance. It will never be possible to establish a candidate for anything like objective and intersubjective acceptability. Only in fully conceptu alized and conceptually articulated domains such as art criticism and philosophy, Adorno argues, is an event like this finally being taken up in such a way as to provide agents with the possibility of explic itly acknowledging the judgments referring to them as binding. When approached reflectively, all the contexts, including that of relating to natural beauty, in which human beings may experience alterity are possible occasions on which to make judgments and thus commit one self to claims for which one is able to take full rational responsibility. Adorno is not at all denying that some sort of authority (the nature of which I will discuss in a moment) also manifests itself at a more primordial level, beyond the inferentially structured level of concep tual justification. On the contrary, that is precisely his view. There is significance, arising within a horizon of meaning ultimately medi ated by but not reducible to conceptuality, although the primordial level of encounter does not necessarily permit full conceptual grasp and determination. Adornos point is that the establishment of full authority presupposes not only a mimetic encounter but discursive interpretation and reflection as well. Benjamins mistake is to make authority a matter of intuition only, as though the non-predicative and the predicative levels of authorization could be dealt with separately. For Adorno, however, the non-predicative can only be adequately and fully approached from within the predicative. It is through language that we approach what is not language.67
66 Stanley Cavell, This New Yet Unapproachable America: Lectures after Emerson after Wittgenstein (Albuquerque, N.M.:Living Batch Press, 1989), p. 44. 67 Adorno, Negative Dialectics , p. 53: Concepts alone can achieve what the concept prevents.

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Natural beauty can in certain respects be viewed as Adornos ver sion of Schopenhauers theory of beauty, though without the complete loss of self in the other and the Platonic conception of transcendence understood to be its hallmarks. Faced with items displaying natural beauty, the aesthetic subject experiences a form of immanent tran scendence that leads to the disruption of ordinary time-consciousness. Unlike the time of domination and control, what is beautiful flashes up in nature only to disappear in the instant one tries to grasp it.68 Adornos conception of natural beauty is indebted to Benjamins reading of Baudelaire and Proust. In his 1939 essay On Some Motifs in Baudelaire, Benjamin claims that both Baudelaire and Proust were interested in retrieving a lost time of promise that they believed to be embodied in objects of no obvious utilitarian purpose. In Proust this retrieval takes place most famously in the first section of In Search of Things Past when the narrator tastes the madeleine pastry and, by virtue of the mmoire involontaire , is transported back to the glorious past of his childhood in the town of Combray. In Baudelaires poetry, there are similar types of events being evoked, in particular as the poet establishes correspondances capable of recovering images of past life carrying a redemptive meaning. With everyday experience being viewed as impoverished and reified, such epiphanic experiences stand out from the empty, disenchanted time of the everyday, promising the fulfillment of a wish. Like Adorno, Benjamin stresses the suddenness and heterogeneity of such moments. They are, he writes, to be compared to
a shooting star, which plunges into the infinite distance of space ... The period of time encompassed by the instant in which the light of a shoot ing star flashes for a man is of the kind that Joubert has described with his customary assurance. Time, he says, is found even in eternity; but it is not earthly, worldly time ... That time does not destroy; it merely completes.69

The conception Benjamin seems to appeal to is of something that, while irretrievably lost, can nevertheless break as a fragment through the chronology of events ordered in disenchanted time, signifying the emergence of collective and authoritative events embodying hope. Neither Benjamin nor Adorno holds that what is lost will somehow
68 Ibid ., p. 72. 69 Walter Benjamin, On Some Motifs in Baudelaire, in Illuminations , p. 179.

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be brought back. On the contrary, the encounter primarily serves the purpose of reminding us of the circumstances in which we ordinarily find ourselves; it functions as memento mori that despite its lack of real ity contains a promise. We see, then, that Benjamin and Adorno not only seek to locate a form of Prospektivitt inherent in our experience of time (Prospektivitt , remember, relates us in a mode of passivity and anticipation towards the future, making hope possible), but also to consider the past as containing in itself an other time what Proust calls time regained which, while appearing only in the most sudden, fragmentary, and fleeting encounter, has the character of being eternal. On their view, time contains and embodies such discontinuities. They call out for a redemption of the past in so far as they urge us to do justice to those who have been afflicted by injustices. However, they also point forward to a state in which those injustices have been overcome and genuine happiness made possible. Together, the recollective and the anticipa tory dimensions of this double diachronicity make up the temporal horizon of what one, for lack of a better name, might call a politics of the now. They are, as Habermas puts it, the punctual breakthroughs that undermine the always-the-same and run perpendicular to the continuum of history.70

This is not the place to further explore Adornos complex aesthetic theory. Narrowing my discussion of the aesthetic to the issue of nar ration, I will instead interrogate the specific authority or normative significance at stake in Blochs, Benjamins, and Adornos accounts of redemptive, temporally heterogeneous encounters. As we have seen, a particularly striking feature of postmodernity is how narration and with it the provision of structure and order in human experience has entered into a state of crisis. Postmodern time is a time of fragmentation, of an empty continuum. Rather than allowing for the experience of a meaningfully ordered, organic sequence of events that can be narrated and communicated in a rela tively authoritative manner, such a time frame corresponds to the
70 Jrgen Habermas, Consciousness-Raising or Rescuing Critique, in Gary Smith (ed.), On Walter Benjamin: Critical Essays and Recollections (Cambridge, Mass.:MIT Press, 1991), p. 101.

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succession of essentially isolated and private events, and thus to a social order in which the very fabric of experience has ceased to be structured in a fully intelligible and coherent fashion. In his essay The Storyteller:Reflections on the Works of Nikolai Leskov, Benjamin diagnoses such a loss of experience in terms of the supplanting of the wisdom of the story that is, the ability to use narrative for purposes of counsel by anchoring experience in meaningful and authoritative epi sodes by information:Every morning brings us news of the globe, and yet we are poor in noteworthy stories.71 Despite the enormous increase in the availability and speed of information, there is very lit tle, if any, of it which holds out any promise of reconstituting time as an organic sequence linking a collectively sanctioned space of experi ence with a meaningful horizon of expectation.72 Benjamin writes with considerable nostalgia of the decline of the integrated fabric of experience that he thinks is likely to have been characteristic of pre-modern, communal forms of social life. In dis cussing Simpsons Aristotelian account, I took issue with the tendency to reject modernity by favoring a vision of time borrowed from an ide alized past. Rather than the Romantic yearning for the past that seems to express itself through it, Benjamins conception of time and narra tive ultimately calls for an immanent critique of current social life. If read in conjunction with Benjamins interpretations of Baudelaire and Proust, and of how these writers challenge empty, repetitive, linear time by invoking a disruptive time of otherness, it is possible to gener ate a critical account of narration and experience. We saw in Chapter 1 that narratives do several things. For one, they make it possible to actively situate ourselves in relation to a set of events that, rather than having to be interpreted in terms of mere external succession, can be grasped as our story. This may be thought of as the apperceptive character of story-telling: it permits agents to conceive of themselves as authors of their own lives, with events being taken up such that they can be viewed as the outcome of intentions, plans, or projects reflecting who they are. On this basis narratives function to affirm or restructure ones sense of identity, making possible the
71 Benjamin, Illuminations, p. 89. 72 Benjamin is here drawing explicitly on Georg Lukcss Theory of the Novel , and in particular the notion of time becoming a problem once the immediate connection between meaning and everyday practice (life) has been severed. According to both Lukcs and Benjamin, the emergence of the novel takes place as a response to the loss of such a transcendental home.

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formation of autonomous selves selves that are able to see themselves as implicated in, and in part responsible for, what has been and is going on in their lives.73 Of course, no agent can ever claim to achieve full responsibility. All lives are full of contingency, and proud declar ations of autonomy are as often eclipsed by the offering of narratives as they are confirmed by them. All lives are also full of what Heidegger calls inauthenticity. Instances of inauthenticity occur when the narra tives we offer turn out not to reflect our sense of who we really are, or, in particular, when narratives have been imposed upon us, perhaps unreflectively, by the circumstances in which we happen to find our selves. This is the experience which Tolstoy captures in The Death of Ivan Ilyich when, at the end of his life, Ivan realizes that the life he has lived was never his own, and that, therefore, he has not really lived at all. All he has done is to play out other peoples narratives other peoples expectations of him. While, as in Ivans case, this realization may bring about greater authenticity and self-awareness, such discov eries are almost always disillusioning or even heart-breaking. However, without the capacity for narrative, in which the narrator works out both what he (perhaps despite appearances) can take himself to have been the author of and what was merely the result of thoughtlessness, lack of reflection, or mere conformity to prevailing conventions and attitudes, it would not be possible to cultivate a free self and sense of selfhood.74 It is in and through the narratives we bring to the table that we come to delineate the grounds on which we stand, the plights, powers, and possibilities on the basis of which we may be able to think of ourselves as free for practical purposes. Narratives also confer form on a set of events; they make possible the representation of a set of events as unified and, most importantly, meaningful. Without such unification (of past, present, and future) we would not be able to grasp the events in question as elements in our own story. In telling the story of our own education, for example, not only do we synthesize, select, and order events such that they meaning fully take on a unity, but we manage to bring ourselves into a position
73 See David Carr, Time, Narrative, and History (Bloomington:Indiana University Press, 1991), pp. 6162, To be an agent or subject of experience is to make the constant attempt to surmount time in exactly the way the story-teller does. It is the attempt to dominate the flow of events by gathering them together in the forward-backward grasp of the narrative act. 74 I take this to be one of Richard Eldridges central points in The Persistence of Romanticism: Essays in Philosophy and Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 7984.

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from which we can view them as at least potentially our own. We thus see a chain of events as meaningful. Years of walking through corri dors, finding seminar rooms, writing papers, living in student dorms, relating to professors, and so on, start to emerge as our education to become a doctor or a lawyer. Such an apperceptive creation of form and coherence involves drawing on a number of publicly available material inferences. Story-statements carry various implications. The paper I write as a student is of significance not only on its own terms, but as a requirement that must be satisfied in order to obtain a degree. A story-statement referring to this paper thus makes sense in relation to such temporally structured inferences. In Chapter 1 I suggested that Brandoms model of understanding the role of such material inferences can be used to theorize and map the intricate yet vulner able ways in which we schematize time and make sense of it for our selves. What we say carries important, meaning-providing implications which both structure a specific practice and throw light on the person committing herself to them. I also suggested, however, that Brandoms intersubjective negotiation thesis that content must be interpreted wholly in terms of commitments and entitlements of inference that themselves must be viewed in terms of communal rules governing each application of a concept should be abandoned. While content can be understood as a function of material inferences in the sense that agents, when making a move in a language game, implicitly commit themselves to a specific set of inferences, it does not follow that their behavior is governed by inferential rules. Conceptual content, rather, is mainly determined by the actual use to which a concept is being put in any given situation. Since concepts must allow projection into ever new contexts, they must be both flexible and stable. They must be flexible enough to permit the projection, and they must be stable enough to guarantee the possibility of understanding. Since this, as I argued in Chapter 1, cannot be accounted for with reference to rules (no rule would be able to circumscribe and determine every possible projection), it is necessary to consider the actual practices of employ ing concepts. Speakers cannot rest their case for the correctness of a particular application on an appeal to rules. In order to make sense they will have to speak as representative speakers do. They will have to accept the existence of a shared form of life within which words can be meaningful. They will, however, do so on the basis of their own, subjective response and interpretation, involving the possibility of mis understanding and isolation.

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Revealing hitherto unacknowledged relations and events, narratives can incorporate and preserve a privilege for first-person experience. In such contexts appeals to inferentially articulated and rationally structured contents will often be insufficient to account for the mean ing at stake. The suddenness of an aesthetic encounter may not seam lessly lend itself to such articulation. Rather, as Bloch, Benjamin, and Adorno argue, such encounters will tend to challenge the normatively based, consensual level of inferentially structured commitment and content. They require our acknowledgement. According to Stanley Cavell, acknowledgment is an act which brings a person to recognize salient features of her relation to other persons or things. In one of his examples, acknowledgment takes place when someone suddenly recognizes that somebody else is in pain. Such rec ognition is not a matter merely of knowledge that is, justification on the basis of perceptually available evidence. In knowing that the other is in pain, I must acknowledge what I see and hear (the others expres sions) as expressions of pain .75 If I objectify the other, then such an acknowledgment cannot take place. What I can then register is only the sensible manifestations of pain the wound, say, or the groans. I show that I understand by offering to help, provide care, etc. In short, acknowledgment implicates me in the fate of the other; it is a relation that singles me out, and requires me both to empathize and context ualize. I may start providing a history, perhaps of my own wrongdoing, thus identifying the salient features of my relation to the other and the senses in which I may stand in debt to this other, and I may need to offer an account of myself in the form of a confession of some sort. Adornos and Benjamins notions of alterity delineate contexts in which such acknowledgment may lead us to reconstruct our nar rative identity. They compel us to tell other stories stories, perhaps, that are defined by their nonsynchronous synchronicity or utopian character. Their authority, however, the sense we have that they make a claim on us or motivate us in some way, must be interpreted along lines
75 Stanley Cavell, Must We Mean What We Say? A Book of Essays (Cambridge University Press, 1976), p. 263:But why is sympathy expressed in this way? Because your suffer ing makes a claim upon me. It is not enough that I know (am certain) that you suffer I must do or reveal something (whatever can be done). In a word, I must acknowledge it, otherwise I do not know what (your or his) being in pain means. I say more about Cavells notion of acknowledgment in Stanley Cavell: Skepticism, Subjectivity, and the Ordinary (Oxford:Polity Press, 2002), pp. 6376.

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other than those of conceptually mediated justification. To be sure, in thinking and criticism such encounters are given a conceptual form. However, the sublime moment of encounter which a good narrative is capable of evoking takes place through acts of identification that, while ascribable to the self such that the self can be aware of itself as freely performing them under conditions it accepts as valid, are not in any way structured consensually. As in Adornos model of mimetic response, the relation in which we stand towards the event is internal to its mode of representation. We could not represent to ourselves what Bloch calls a stirring unless the unknown X that engenders it placed us in a position of relating to a promise or demand of some sort. The unsayable X the Dont forget the best thing of all! remaining incon spicuous, deeply hidden, uncanny within the concept76 beckons us to accept that something unknown is worth waiting for:the astonish ment anticipates a reconfigured relationship to something; undoing order and narrative, it draws us towards something that mere deter minate knowledge (transmitted via predication and general concepts) would be powerless to disclose and motivates us to take up a stance of expectation and hope.77 Although others may well find themselves cap able of sharing the experience, the material inference from the deter minately unknown X to the existence of a promise is neither universal nor objective; it constitutes itself exclusively as the result of our own response to X and the particular reality in which X announces itself to us; and it is not possible to hold X to be a reason for the establishment of the promise. X, then, is experienced as authorizing us to accept something, and hence to commit ourselves to something normative, because it itself is authoritative.78 It grants authority to the acceptance of the promise, though without being reflectively available in the way reasons are. X simply happens. It is an event.
76 Bloch, The Spirit of Utopia , p. 193. 77 In The Realistic Spirit:Wittgenstein, Philosophy, and the Mind (Cambridge, Mass.:MIT Press, 1991), p. 285, Cora Diamond, I think in a similar vein, introduces the notion of a promissory meaning, the sense of an indeterminate possibility supposed to break free of ordinary constraints on meaning. With promissory meaning it is impossible to know in advance what will count as fulfilling the promise. As with falling in love, for example, only experience can tell. It cannot be explained or defined. 78 I briefly register the similarity between the account I present here and Kants dis tinction, in The Critique of the Power of Judgment , between determinative and reflective judgment. Whereas determinative judgments are subsumptive, operating in accord ance with universal rules, reflective judgments start out from the particular and search for the corresponding universal.

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Of course, I could start to account for this experience by placing it within a philosophical (or, more generally, discursive) context. I could, as indeed I do, draw on Benjamin or Adorno in order to explain why good reasons can be offered for being attentive to that which caused the astonishment. In order to purport to be objectively binding, it requires an account. Without reasons I would not be able to demand that others should accept that the existence of the promise is author ized by this particular experience. However, the initial encounter is not without its own authority. The non-predicative authority the authority exuding from the indeterminate, mysterious X while irre sistible, arises from within the specific kind of relationship I have to this X. In appealing to this X, I cannot presuppose the existence of socially established material inferences that will rationally allow me to say that the promise is real. The responsibility therefore rests on my own capacity to receive and process the demand. When inviting oth ers to accept it, all I can do is hint at something. The story I tell will then deviate from its more conceptually understandable route (say the causal this because of that or the standard rhetoric of well-known tropes and figures), thus reaching an inferential caesura such that pos sibilities of experience that are not socially structured may emerge. Alluding to Max Webers theory of authority, Jay Bernstein characterizes the authority revealed in such experience as charis matic:Charismatic authority is the authority of the material axis of the concept; it relates to that component of ethical concepts in which they relate directly to worldly experiences, and where those experi ences are imposed upon the perceiver as demanding a response of a certain kind.79 In Webers work, charismatic authority is character ized by a lack of available, explicit justification.80 Charismatic leader ship tends to be exercised when both traditionally and legally rational established authority have withered; and it institutes new rules not by appealing to old ones but by being experienced as immediately binding. Charismatic authority brings with it a promise of reorientation and renewal of a social space. It is easy to see why Bernstein thinks that the
79 Bernstein, Adorno:Disenchantment and Ethics , p. 327. 80 Max Weber, The Theory of Social and Economic Organization , trans. A. M. Henderson and T. Parsons (New York:Free Press, 1966), p. 359:It is recognition on the part of those subject to authority which is decisive for the validity of charisma. This is freely given and guaranteed by what is held to be a sign or proof, originally always a miracle, and consists in devotion to the corresponding revelation, hero worship, or absolute trust in the leader.

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concept can be used to characterize the nature of such encounters as that described by Bloch. While the X beckons us to accept something as binding, it represents something new that, while far from transcend ing all possible forms of conceptual engagement, cannot be accounted for within the existing space of consensually established material infer ences. However, for the same X to achieve validity beyond the immedi ate encounter (which would be for the claim imposed upon us by this X to be able to aspire to objective validity), a transition to the level of reason-giving would be required. This, then, is the level of interpre tation, explication, theorizing, reflection, and critique the level at which justifications can demand rational assent. It is worth noticing that Weber did not consider the exercise of cha rismatic authority to be able to satisfy the typically modern require ments of individual autonomy and rational accountability. On Webers account, charismatic authority tends towards the religious or prophetic register; thus, rather than seeking to convince through argumentation (such that the audience is free to consider the evidence presented as well as the inferences that are drawn), it aspires to generate conversion and self-transformation. Rather than rational insight, it has to rely on dogmatic faith. However, the use I would like to put it to is wholly secu lar and geared, ultimately, towards conceptually mediated account ability. Rather than advocating a lapse out of secular modernity, the point is to criticize modernity from within. From the vantage point of an outside observer, the experience described by Bloch cannot be rationally challenged. For someone not attuned to the possibility of such an experience, it will appear incomprehensible, meaningless, or at least in some way devoid of any authority or claim. For such a per son the experience may be interpreted as an empirical modification of the recipients mental state but not as a demand imposed upon him by the object of the encounter. However, for someone who is subjected to the objects aura and acknowledges its demand upon him, while employing other concepts to interpret and describe it, and, ultimately, placing the experience within other rational connections such as to be able to reason about it, it will be possible to relate rationally to the object. The subject undergoing the experience will have been both open and responsive to it. In line with the Cavellian idea I introduced in Chapter 1 concerning first-person authority, there will have been displayed a responsibility for ones own words, and for the implications these words carry. However and this is the major point the open ness and responsiveness must be analyzed in conjunction with the

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subjects rational capacity, as the occasional yet important disruption of expected routes of consensually established conceptualization, cap able of establishing a claim that does not in any direct sense rest on, or conform to, socially binding commitments. I thus presuppose some degree of continuity between conceptual and intuitional awareness, while also warning against the reduction of intuitional particularity to conceptual generality and regularity. Narratives, then, organize according to constraints that we, as a community, impose upon the material being narrated, and which the individual, in telling a story, or in experiencing a situation, bring with him in interpreting the material, and yet they may also allow for dis coveries, surprises, and forms of acknowledgment that counteract the organic structuring of the story. The account I invoke therefore has aesthetic features, in that it focusses on privileged encounters and their bearing on narrativity, although it is not dependent, as some people argue Adornos account is, on a specific conception of art or even on modern art. If one accepts that human reality is necessarily structured along narrative lines, with material inferences linking and organiz ing events in a meaningful way, then the aesthetic will simply be the dominant mode in which we experience the relevant disruptions to the normal flow of time. It will constitute the typical instance on the basis of which someone can rethink, and in some cases redefine, their position, but rather than requiring for its emergence an artwork of some sort, its force can, as Bloch and Adorno maintain, be felt in any situation in which the object of experience reveals the characteristics I have just been exploring. The experience of disruption is logically independent of any reference to artworks or aesthetic appreciation in the narrow sense. We have seen how both Schopenhauer and the late Nietzsche pro mote responses to the problems of modern temporality that are of an essentially aesthetic nature. I have distinguished the position I cur rently seek to articulate from that of Schopenhauer by pointing to two issues. For one thing, whereas Schopenhauer invokes a Platonic notion of transcendence, involving recourse to the notion of eternally subsisting forms or ideas accessible in aesthetic intuition, Benjamin and Adorno maintain that transcendence should be thought of in terms of disruption and fragility. It is the discovery of a heteroge neous temporality, bringing about its own genuine experiences and with conditions of experience different from those of everyday forms of apprehension. For another, whereas Schopenhauer believes that

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aesthetic transcendence can be attained in the absence of categorial conditions for experiencing any empirical object berhaupt , Adorno, in particular, considers the experience of transcendence in conjunc tion with the subjects full range of rational capacities. Of course, with the late Nietzsche the situation is quite different. Rather than following Schopenhauer in rejecting or negating tran sitoriness, he contends that it should be fully and unconditionally affirmed. According to Nietzsche, the strong, healthy individual turns not to the unchanging or ideal but to the passing and becom ing. So what exactly, a skeptic might ask, is the difference between my favored position and that of the late Nietzsche? I have pointed to the heroism implicit in Nietzsches stance. Awareness of modern tempor ality is supposed to be able to lead to a higher form of authenticity. It follows, I suggested, that the project of reconciling oneself to the transience and fragility of things, perpetually mourning the bygone, is ultimately aimed at strengthening the egos sense of power. This aim, I argued, takes an extreme form. The final goal, for Nietzsches bermensch , is to be able to address all events every contingent lit tle happening as his , the result of his own choice, his own inter pretative projection. I willed it, the bermensch joyfully exclaims. In my reading, Nietzsche stylizes this extreme self-centeredness as a species of near-pathological narcissism. Locked inside his space of private (and therefore arbitrary) playfulness, Nietzsches bermensch is unable to accept any authority or bindingness that does not stem from his own solitary acts of will. Thus, whereas Bloch, Benjamin, and Adorno point to experiences that involve encounters with forms of authority that, rather than being self-chosen, impose a demand on the self, Nietzsche remains oblivious to any form of authority beyond the range of the all-devouring, self-centered subject. In Nietzsche, everything revolves around the idea of activity; in Bloch, Benjamin, and Adorno, by contrast, the relevant activity is always tempered by passivity, patience, and attentiveness. In Adornos terms, what Nietzsche lacks is a proper understanding of the nature of experi ence. In line with the KantFichte tradition, Nietzsche overstates the capacity for self-determination, making it the basis for his account ing not only of interpretation but of human sensibility in general, while unduly downplaying the role of nature, alterity, and differ ence. Of course, the bermensch is not averse to these things; and, if anything, Nietzsche is adamantly dismissive of the Platonist suspi cion towards the senses. However, for Nietzsche, the senses should

232 A modernist critique of postmodern tempor ality

be viewed as essentially active functions of the will. They stake out possibilities and are creative. In contrast to Nietzsches emphasis on creation, Adornos notion of Erfahrung (experience) is related to the notion of undergoing something, and even to suffering. Erfahrung, for Adorno, is necessarily transformative. If I experience something in the emphatic sense of Erfahrung, then by definition I have come out of the experience a different person. I have called for a critique of the dominance of clock-time or objec tive time, arguing that modernization brings about a steady transfor mation and erosion of the structures of material inference whereby a lived, concrete relationship to temporality becomes possible. However, when suggesting that the model I have tried to articulate in this chap ter can be useful in showing how agents may resist the colonization of objective homogeneous time, I have not intended to deny that objec tive reckoning with time presupposes the capacity to draw material inferences. If my friend tells me that he will stop by four hours after Jane leaves the house, then, as far I understand the utterance, I will know that Jane will leave the house four hours prior to his visit. My claim has been that as modernity fosters a calculative and instrumen tal attitude, our dealings with time become more abstract and quan titative. Time becomes objectified and approached independently of the agent-relativity it enjoys when persons relate to it in their everyday lives. It is precisely this kind of homogenization and neutralization, with all the consequences we have looked at, that the disruption model is able to challenge. In referring to disruption, I therefore mean the disruption of those structures of lifeworldly temporal engagement that have become ossified or objectified, withdrawn from individual responsivity and agent-relativity. Of course, no one in their right mind would object to the very existence of practices for precisely measur ing and calculating time. The achievements it has made possible are undeniable, and no well-ordered and complex modern society could exist without them. What I have scrutinized and objected to is the neu tralization, homogenization, and blankness also accompanying the emergence of homogeneous time. We have seen how the theorists of postmodern time describe time in terms of an extended present that, on the one hand, is shut off from the past and, on the other, reduces our relation to the future to the foreclosed now of organization, regulation, and colonization. While such a time is completely objectified, the time of the other, as invoked by Benjamin and Adorno, points to the continued existence of

Narr ation


lived temporalities of nature, in bodies and environments, that stand opposed to the social, economic and technological colonization of time. In breaking with the commodified, instrumentalized time per meating the fabric of everyday existence, it is possible to gain access to alternative, unruly temporalities that, fragile though they may be, may hold a critical promise of change. It should not be difficult to anticipate why theorists sympathetic to the kind of analysis of postmodern societies that we find, say, in Jameson will remain unimpressed by such an appeal. A possible claim, after all, following from this analysis, is that in such societies there can be no transcendence, alterity, or transgression, and that for any act of pretending to achieve this a co-optation will have taken place that gen erates nothing but pseudo-experience. I used an argument like this to criticize Blochs positive utopianism, which I argued cannot and does not distinguish properly between ideology and genuine transcend ence. Bloch demonstrates very little of the suspicion towards popular culture and media that one finds in Adorno, who argues that tran scendence requires some sort of rational medium whereby an act of negation can take place. On Adornos view, the high modernist art of Schnberg, Beckett, Kafka, and others has the capacity to at least par tially resist co-optation. However, since I have not based my argument on an appeal exclusively to the experiences associated with such art, or to the aesthetic register in the narrow sense, one may ask what it is that really distinguishes this argument from the one we find in Bloch. My view is that, while I take inspiration from his phenomenological account of amazement, Bloch is too uncritical about the content of dis ruptive experience, believing that anything might do the job when in fact experiences of disruption are always going to be rare and difficult, arising in contexts other than those of popular culture and everyday exchange. In interpreting Adorno, moreover, I resisted the emphasis on high modernist art while appealing to the exceptional encounter with what he calls beauty of nature. It seems to me that the model of experience that can be derived from analyzing such encounters does point beyond the everyday and can never be completely co-opted or colonized. While different from the Schnberg or Beckett experience, it contains its own negativity, and, as Adorno maintains, all great art imitates the beauty of nature.81
81 Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, p. 72: Art does not imitate nature, not even individual instances of natural beauty, but natural beauty as such.

234 A modernist critique of postmodern tempor ality

According to another cultural theorist, Barbara Adam, the time-ismoney assumption permeates every aspect of daily life as naturalized and unquestioned fact.82 Yet she also writes that as the abstract and the lived become inseparable, we need to redirect a social theory of time towards discontinuity.83 I have tried to show that Benjamin and Adorno offer models for theorizing such discontinuity. In Adorno, and this is another important point against Jamesons totality-claim, these discontinuities are not havens of meaning in a heartless world. On the contrary, the encounters he invokes often provide the experi ence of not possessing objects or events that permit the weight of an experience (Erfahrung) to emerge. Discontinuity is a form of negativ ity, an absence, which is ultimately, he argues, inscribed within a logic of illusion (Schein). From within the immanent framework of ideology, aesthetic experience anticipates rather than presents the real. Many promises of transcendence ranging from tourism to media and drugs seem precisely to offer the kinds of false forms of imme diacy that Jameson, following Adorno, rightly refuses to count as lib erating. The point which can be made and Adorno is adamant in doing so is that there is a genuine distinction to be drawn between such false forms of immediacy and experiences that point beyond them. The Italian philosopher Massimo Cacciari refers to the medi eval concept of nunc instantis, the dimension of a temporary interim period, which in its fullness is so temporary, but also so present, that it can hardly be noticed as an instant of time and yet for this very reason is completely transitory.84 Cacciaris presumption is that there will always be occasions on which the flow of time stops and the unex pected emerges, allowing one to get in touch with another self an identity reassembled from fragments that, withdrawn from duration, opens a transitional space in which radically other possibilities may assert themselves. A critical look at the temporality of postmodern societies will need to incorporate this insight. Although the high modernist quest for transcendence that formed the driving element of Adornos thinking is no longer culturally dominant, one may look for other and more contemporary art-practices capable of interrupting the flow of homo geneous time. In the final instance, however, a critique of postmodern
82 Barbara Adam, Time (Oxford:Polity Press, 2004), p. 142. 83 Ibid ., p. 143. 84 Massimo Cacciari, Zeit ohne Kronos (Klagenfurt:Ritter Verlag, 1986), pp. 13839. See also Helga Nowotny, Time:The Modern and Postmodern Experience , trans. Neville Plaice (Cambridge:Polity Press, 1994), pp. 15153.

Narr ation


temporality will have to take the form of more straightforward social and political acts of reflection. This is the point at which the very forces that promote a colonization of time must be exposed and pub licly challenged. How can we avoid practices that lead us to treat time exclusively in terms of a quantitative resource that can be used and allocated? Do our socio-economic relations need to be restructured? Do we need other and more democratized spaces in which individuals can approach time differently? And must not these spaces lie outside those of the market, science, and traditional politics that is, the con ventional contexts of modernization altogether?85 I have indicated why I think that both the Kantian/modernist project of self-reflexive rationalization and the Aristotelian/anti-modernist project of recon ceptualizing practice as internal to socially and historically constituted goods beyond reflection fail. What we need, rather, is an approach that seeks to criticize modernity from a standpoint internal to its own framework and ideals, yet does not fall back upon the self-stultifying logic of an instrumentalized temporal orientation. Perhaps what will ultimately testify to the possibility of dislocation and otherness will be the pure and random play of signifiers that we call postmodernism itself, which, as Jameson puts it, no longer produces monumental works of the modernist type but ceaselessly reshuffles the fragments of preexistent texts, the building blocks of older cul tural and social production, in some new and heightened bricolage.86 A fundamental task for theorists and critics of culture might thus be to track down and make conceptually available the experiences desig nated by such bricolages, and to show how they in some instances may be able to point beyond themselves.
85 See Ulrich Beck, The Reinvention of Politics:Towards a Theory of Reflexive Modernization, in U. Beck, A. Giddens, and S. Lash (eds.), Reflexive Modernization (Cambridge:Polity Press, 1994), pp. 155. 86 Jameson, Postmodernism , p. 96.

C onc lusion

In 1940, John Dewey wrote:

The uncertainty of life and ones final lot has always been associated with mutability, while unforeseen and uncontrollable change has been linked with time In the late eighteenth and the greater part of the nineteenth centuries appeared the first marked cultural shift in the attitude taken towards change. Under the names of indefinite perfectibility, progress, and evolution, the movement of things in the universe itself and of the universe as a whole began to be take on a beneficial instead of a hateful aspect Aside from the Christian idea of a millennium of good and bliss to be finally wrought by supernatural means, the Golden Age for the first time in history was placed in the future instead of at the beginning, and change and time were assigned a benevolent status.1

Much of this book has been about precisely this shift its implications and consequences, and in particular the hypothesis that the fear of contingency, uncertainty, and death, which I have examined in terms of the problems of meaning and transience, did not go away with secularization but were in fact exacerbated by what Dewey calls the acceptance of change. The focus throughout has been on the philosophical ramifications of the transition, instigated and perpetuated by modernity and modernization, from a world in which the conception of timeless essence over and above human history enjoyed undisputed authority to a world dominated by the complete historicization of all being. On the basis of an account of the social experiences marking
1 John Dewey, Time and Individuality, in The Human Experience of Time:The Development of Its Philosophic Meaning, ed. Charles Sherover (New York University Press, 1975), pp.42021.




this transition, I have sought to understand and discuss the most important philosophical responses to it, assuming that modernity can and indeed has posed problems not only of interest in literature and the arts, or in such fields as sociology and political theory, but that are of a genuinely philosophical nature, requiring philosophical concepts for their elaboration and assessment. The wager has then been that the problem of modernity (its meaning, its possible justification considered as a collective project) can fruitfully be explored via the issue of temporality. I have not been claiming that temporality is the key to the philosophical discourse of modernity as such. However, I do hope to have demonstrated its tremendous significance for the post-Kantian European tradition of intellectual reflection upon modernity. Taking the various views into account, let me summarize the results and then offer some final thoughts about their implications. I started out by trying to establish that, for human agents, temporality necessarily has a social (and therefore also historical) dimension. In human practices and actions, natural time is humanized, thereby becoming a form of intelligibility that weaves together past, present, and future, and narratives bring structure and representational unity not only to actions but to events as well. Time is anthropologically temporalized in many ways: there are the daily biological rhythms; there is the cycle of life through adolescence and maturity to old age and death; and there is the transindividual time of periods and historical epochs. In all three contexts the modal shape of our lives and the meaning we are able to experience will inevitably have a temporal dimension. I then drew on this account in order to make at least conceivable the idea of a specifically modern form of temporality. I argued that modernity generates conceptions of human time as increasingly quantifiable, a linear series of nows, where the future, with its goals to be actualized, attains priority over the past and its accumulated space of experience. The notion of lived time experienced (in line with the ideologies of progress) as a continuous rupture with the past was then analyzed in terms of notions such as modernization and purposiverational action, requiring temporal organization to be calculative and forward-looking. The dominant temporal configuration in modernity is clock-time, the empty ticking away of transitory units of time that irreversibly and irretrievably distance us from the past. Modern time thus generates the dual problem of meaning and transience that I argue occupy the thinkers I deal with later in the book. For one thing,



as the present is increasingly disconnected from structures of collective historical understanding and geared towards a linear progression towards an unknown future, it becomes incapable of securing a sense of stable meaning. Indeed, as the narratives that both individually and collectively relate actions and evaluations to a fabric of collective meaning unravel in the face of progress, the modern self tends to experience a sense of fragmentation, melancholy, and boredom. For another, as modern time is a time of perpetual transition, of the evernew of the mere passing of homogeneous moments, the sense of transitoriness, I submitted, is stronger and existentially more devastating than that which, in pre-modern societies, gave rise to various types of metaphysics of counter-worldly immutability. In the accelerating world of modernity, there is never enough time. Having reached this plateau in my exposition, I started to examine what I regard as the most central and significant contributions to a critical discourse geared towards the dissatisfactions arising from modern structures of temporality. I briefly considered a Kantian solution, arguing that its attempt to differentiate between instrumental reason and the pursuit of autonomy ultimately does not address the issues of meaning and transience. The Kantian view of agency is itself geared towards a progressivist understanding of history and a disenchanted conception of temporality; hence it does not represent an alternative. I also briefly considered an Aristotelian rejoinder, arguing that its call for a reinstatement of tradition and virtue fails to provide a plausible account of how, and at what cost, modernity can be rejected. Hegel is a key figure in the discourse on temporality and modernity. In his philosophy of spirit he brings to the fore a grandiose attempt at countering the emptiness of mere historical time by arguing that time itself is the medium in which the absolute, or spirit, is actualized. Against Kants conception of time as a marker of human finitude, Hegel construes time as the progressive unfolding of spirit. I analyzed his arguments about time and showed how they inform his thinking about historical time. I then contrasted this view with the analyses of modernity that we encounter especially in the Phenomenology of Spirit. By interpreting enlightenment modernity as the victory of empty universalism, Hegel at least implicitly argues that the time of modernity is a time of meaningless progression in which the self and its attachments are perpetually being uprooted in order to satisfy the demands of the universal. My thesis is that Hegels metaphysical commitments with regard to time are being challenged by his actual assessment of



modernity. Ultimately, this amounts to a self-contradiction from which there is no escape. Schopenhauers account of temporality can, as I suggest, be read as a response to Hegel. Rejecting Hegels pan-rationalism, Schopenhauer replaces the conception of spirit with that of will, thereby precluding the possibility of viewing time as inherently carrying forward the development of a rational structure. Unlike Hegel, Schopenhauer defines time in terms of succession and focusses on the existential implications of transitoriness. In seeking to remedy the nihilism arising from these implications, Schopenhauer introduces a notion of aesthetic transcendence. Taking issue with this position, I argued that in acts of such transcendence there is nothing to be seen and, moreover, that his Platonism does not really involve a transcendence beyond time so much as a continuous reproduction or repetition of sameness. I finally argued that Schopenhauers rage against time commits him to a position that ultimately must be described, with Freud, as melancholic. My discussion of Nietzsche takes up two chapters in this book. I first dealt with the early Nietzsches account of myth and mythical time and how he uses this to present an alternative to modern time. The early Nietzsche adopts the view that modern time is essentially disenchanted. He argues, however, for a radical cultural upheaval involving the implementation of mythical time. I suggested why this model is implausible (among other things it lacks institutional practices that moderns can find authoritative) and went on to examine the later Nietzsche. Here, the problem of temporal disenchantment, and in particular the problem of transience, is given a radically new twist. Unlike Schopenhauers melancholy position, Nietzsche seeks a way to affirm the passing of time, to mourn it. The search for this higher kind of authenticity is marred, however, by Nietzsches desire to shed every authority all the ties that bind the subject to the world and to others. I suggested that this move generates its own crisis: the Nietzschean bermensch is precluded from detecting any authorized meaning or framework of value that would make it possible to experience individual events as meaningful. The worry about boredom arising from the late Nietzsches ecstatic celebration of lightness and detachment is given an explicit treatment in Heideggers 1929 seminar on boredom, his most extended discussion of what it means to live in and with time. In boredom (which is a variation of what I refer to as the problem of meaning), time becomes conspicuous in its drabness and emptiness. I analyzed Heideggers



thinking about boredom its significance and relation to his account of modernity and concluded that his understanding of authenticity, with its emphasis on the future and on active comportment, fails to challenge the basic structure of modern time that gives rise to boredom. Boredom continued to be a topic in my discussion of theories aiming to grasp the nature of postmodern economies of time. The basic intuition informing these accounts is that temporality is no longer configured along modernist lines. From the progressive linearity of modernist temporality, we have moved towards an extended continuum determined neither by a space of experience nor by a horizon of expectation. According to the argument I tried to develop from my readings of Bloch, Benjamin, and Adorno, there can be a sense of time which, on the one hand, avoids the instrumentalization of homogeneous time, while, on the other, does not aspire to immutability or (as in post modernity) lapse into some form of empty repetition. I characterized this other time as a time of reconciliation. Transcending homogenous time, it announces itself as a sudden influx of the ephemeral and different, beyond thematization and instrumentalization. For Bloch, such a time is linked to hope. For Adorno (following Benjamin), it is connected to a search for the non-identical, items that hold a special interest, exert a special authority, without domination. The experiences that testify to the existence of such an other time are rare and intangible. I suggested that Adorno locates them in various forms of aesthetically oriented encounters, in particular those that involve items of natural beauty. My Adornian argument is thus vulnerable to critique from those who simply do not recognize this category or would want to appeal to more tangible forms of evidence. I argued, however, that the crux of the argument does not consist in some sort of appeal to the ineffable but to a conception of experience. Adornos wager is that experience in modernity is stultified and reductive, and that it stands in need of being reconfigured. I argued that an account of what such a reconfiguration would entail could provide normative resources for criticizing postmodern temporality. The issues examined in this book are no doubt complex. The worries about time and modernity are intricately connected to com plicated and controversial questions of modernization, selfhood, and alienation; and although I have insisted that some form of philosophical discourse of modern temporality can be reconstructed, I have not



been claiming that my version is the only one that carries any degree of plausibility. Nor have I been claiming that my readings necessarily do full justice to the authors and positions at stake. Some of them, such as the discussions of Hegel and Nietzsche, could easily have justified book-length studies of their own. Others, such as the reconstruction of modern temporality, may ultimately need a lot more fine-tuning. The results are therefore provisional: while purporting to stake out one way of considering the issues at stake, they are meant to serve as an exhortation, expressing my desire to see more research addressing these issues. As I hope to have shown in this book, time is a fundamental component in any assessment of modernity. We need conversations that are capable of bringing issues of modernization, subjectivity, and time together. Their subject matter, ultimately, should be the time of our lives the implications of our finitude.

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I nde x

A une passante (Baudelaire) 11011 absolute, the 75, 8687 absolutism 8889 absorption in the present 17677 acknowledgment 226 actions 28, 3738 seealsopraxis Adam, Barbara 234 Adorno, Theodor W. 21322, 240 on art 233 Dialectic of Enlightenment 4849, 86 on false forms of immediacy 69 and Hegel 97 Novum 209 aesthetic avantgardism 14445 aesthetic illusion 115 aesthetic phenomenon 145 aesthetic state 159 Aesthetic Theory (Adorno) 21819 affective action 45 agrarian societies 27, 13940 Ahlheit, Peter 34 alienation 207 self- 77, 84, 88, 202 temporal 5357, 199 all presentable being 7273 amazement 20910 amour-propre 62 animals, sense of time of 14647 Anthropologie in Pragmatischer Hinsicht (Kant) 60 anticipatory consciousness 20112 anxiety 17172, 18283 Apollonian elements, and Dionysos 13637 appearances 72, 12930 apperception 214, 223 aristocracy 88 Aristotle 6970, 121, 238 absolute 75 on destructiveness of time 55

entelechy 203 and Hegel 77 modalities of time 155 praxis 7, 66 on space 80 seealsoneo-Aristotelianism art 9596, 11516, 120 Adorno on 21920, 233 Nietzsche on 130, 159 postmodern 196 Augustine 39n.6, 75 Confessions 1, 177 authenticity 31 inauthenticity 224 authority 89, 130 Adorno on 220 Benjamin on 220 charismatic 22830 of Dionysos 135 of narratives 22630 rejection of 159 autonomy seeself-determination Bacchus seeDionysos Baudelaire, Charles 37, 111, 221 beautiful day example 22 beauty 11819, 21720 natural 21722 seealsoart; natural beauty Being and Time (Heidegger) 16162, 175, 17879, 18687 beliefs 198 Benjamin, Walter 21522 on authority 220 experience 22122 literature 22122 on narratives 223 postmodernism 195 transcendence 122 Bergson, Henri 211


Bernstein, Jay 65n.20, 22829 Bildung 8890, 93 Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music, The (Nietzsche) 12738, 142 Blanqui, Auguste 150 Bloch, Ernst 199212, 227, 233, 240 Bohrer, Karl-Heinz 111 Bon, Gustave le 150 boredom 56, 89, 110, 23940 seealsoHeidegger brain 104 Brandom, Robert 1925

death 109 seealsoloss; mourning Death of Ivan Ilyich (Tolstoy) 224 Demeter 13334 democratization of skepticism 56 Der Abschied: Theorie der Trauer (Bohrer) 111 desire 61, 102, 116, 147, 20511 destructiveness of time 55, 9798, 109 desynchronization 163, 17072 Dewey, John 236 Dialectic of Enlightenment (Adorno/ Horkheimer) 48, 86, 217 Diamond Dust Shoes (painting) (Warhol) 196 dinner party example of boredom 17273 Dionysos 13238, 156 Dionysos-Zagreus 13233 discontinuity 234 disenchanted time-consciousness 3, 5556, 11314 Schopenhauer on 110, 120 dualism 15 Dhring, Eugen 150 dwarf, in Thus Spoke Zarathustra 15053 eating example of purposive-rational action 6768 Eckermann, Goethes conversations with 75 ecstasy 118, 135 education (Bildung) 88 Elements of the Philosophy of Right (Hegel) 77, 8384, 9495n.58 Eliade, Mircea 13843 Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences (Hegel) 7778, 8182 enjoyment seepleasure Enlightenment 38, 72, 8990, 130, 190 and religion 86 entelechy 203 Epicureanism 114, 156 Erfahrung 232 seealsoexperience errors 20 eternal presence 12021 eternal recurrence, doctrine of (Nietzsche) 14854 eternal return 12527 eternity eternal presence 12021 Hegels view on 78, 9596 and nature 7576 and present 82 events 2728 historical 35

Cacciari, Massimo 234 capitalism 4449, 197, 212 care 162 Carr, David 30n.18 Case of Wagner, The (Nietzsche) 13435 causality 103, 108, 116, 119 Cavell, Stanley 173n.6, 24, 220, 226 charismatic authority 22830 child, cosmic 154 choosing ones self 17475 Christianity 7475, 77, 88 Christ compared to Dionysos 132 Eliade on 14142 Schopenhauer on 100 seealsoGod; religion circle example if intuition 11617 class (social) 110, 20203 clock-time 34, 16, 16n.4, 3738, 5152, 55, 237 and desynchronization 163, 17072 and postmodernism 193, 232 commodification 4647, 53, 190, 197 Concept of Time (Heidegger) 17576 Confessions (Augustine) 1, 177 Conrad, Peter 194 contingency 4042, 51, 69, 142 Contributions to Philosophy (Heidegger) 162, 17172, 177 cosmic time 10910 creative evolution 211 Critique of Judgment (Kant) 11819 Critique of Pure Reason (Kant) 19, 104 culture (Bildung) 88 curiosity 17677 Cursus der Philosophie (Dhring) 150 cyclical time 89, 2627 Eliade on 13940 Nietzsche on 137 seealsoeternal recurrence; repetition; return Dasein 16162, 17487 daydreams 20708

everyday time seesocial time evil 10001 experience (Erfahrung) 195 factory example temporal mediation 33 false forms of immediacy 69 family example of temporal mediation 3334 Farewell: A Theory of Mourning, The (Bohrer) 111 Faust (Goethe) 75 finitude 8, 5152, 55, 68, 95, 114 Kant 7275 Frank, Manfred 13233 freedom 88, 90 Schelling on 101 and secularization 141 French Revolution 89, 9293 Freud, Sigmund 63, 97, 122 desire 20608 future 37, 5253, 60, 112, 18687 postmodern 191 and time of ends 66 Gay Science, The (Nietzsche) 148 Geist 8, 100 seealsospirit Genealogy of Morality, The (Nietzsche) 155 general will 89 George-Kreis 184 Germany 92, 142 Giddens, Anthony 3435 God 7375 seealsoreligion Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 7577 Goodstein, Elizabeth 56 Greece 150 polis 8588 seealsotragedy Grosz, Elizabeth 21112 Guignon, Charles 31n.19 guillotine 9091 seealsoFrench Revolution Guyer, Paul 104n.17 Habermas, Jrgen 16n.4, 5860, 64, 145, 190, 222 Hacking, Ian 17 happiness 61, 63 Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich 8, 73, 238 Geist 8 metaphysical account of time 7385 on modernity 8586 Schopenhauer on 99103 Heidegger, Martin 9, 51, 16162 on A Pair of Boots 196


boredom on being bored by something 16263 on being bored with something 17279 profound 17987 on Kant 72 on Nietzsches account of revenge 15460 on the present 121 on primordial time 32n.20 heres 81 Highest Good 63 historicity 17 Jameson on 19293 Nietzsche on 14448 history Benjamin on 21517 Bloch on 20204 Hegel on 74 Nietzsche on 138 as spirit 83 Hlderlin, Friedrich 132 hope 222, 240 horizon of expectation 4142 Horkheimer, Max 48, 86, 97, 217 Horstmann, Rolf-Peter 79n.21 how, the 161, 18687 ice melting example of boredom 168 Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose (Kant) 6163 ideal points 82 ideas 116 identity 3132, 8788, 19798 loss of 181 and praxis 6667 idleness 6162 immediacy, false forms of 69 immutability 121 In Search of Things Past (Proust) 221 inauthenticity 224 seealsoauthenticity indifference 18283 inferential relations 2123, 27, 3336, 5657 instrumental rationality 44 intellect 104 intoxication 133, 135 Introduction to the Philosophy of History (Hegel) 83 intuition 77 Kant on 14, 76 Schopenhauer on 10304, 11617 seealsowill-less knowing It 17374 It is boring for one 18081, 18384 it was 15556, 158, 201

Jameson, Fredric 18993, 235 Jena lectures 77, 8687 judgment 19 kairos 68 Kant, Immanuel 7, 238 apperception 214 on beauty 11819 on ideas 116 intuition 14, 76, 104 on judgment 19 on metaphysics 7273 Schopenhauer on 10305 on time of modernity 6066, 6970 knowing, will-less 11720 knowledge 107 seealsoacknowledgment Koselleck, Reinhart 3944, 54n.31 language 2325 laziness seeidleness leaving ones self 175 Left Hegelians 95 Leibniz, G.W. 152 Les Fleurs du mal (Baudelaire) 111 lifeworld imperatives 16n.4 limbo 16566, 17374 linear time 2526, 52 and Eliade 140 literature 56, 111 Bohrer on 115 postmodern 195 loss of ones self 174 seealsomourning Lwith, Karl 54n.31, 74, 77 Lukcs, Georg 5, 4648 Lyotard, Jean-Franois 192, 197 MacIntyre, Alasdair 2930 making use of something for boredom 165 Marx, Karl 43, 4748, 53 Marxism, and Bloch 20103 material inferences 24 materiality 82 meaning 4, 6, 5657 Bohrer on 114 Heidegger on 9 and sacrifice 63 time of 6668 mediation, temporal 3336 melancholia 12224, 185 mental illness 185 meta-narratives 197 metaphysics, Kant on 7273 middle class 110 mimesis 21720

modern subject, Hegel 8991 modernism 190 seealsopostmodernism modernity 1112 Hegel on 8586 time of 23 seealsoHabermas; Kant modernization, process of 3849 moment, appreciation of the 75 morality, Hegel 92 motion 81 mourning Freud on 12223 and it was 158 and Nietzsche on 11415, 13334, 158, 201 Mourning and Melancholia (Freud) 12223 music 97, 116 seealsoWagner Myth of the Eternal Return, The (Eliade) 13843 Napoleonic expansion 92 narcissism 123 narratives 7, 11, 2832, 22235 and inferential relations 36 meta- 197 natural beauty 21722 nature 71 Adorno on 217 Goethe on 7577 spirit as 83 Nazi Germany 142 Negative Dialectics (Adorno) 21314 negativity 81 negotiation 21 neo-Aristotelianism 6668 Neuzeit 3941 Nichomachean Ethics (Aristotle) 66 Nietzsche, Friedrich 89, 12527, 23132, 239 doctrine of eternal recurrence 14854 and Eliade 13843 and mourning 11415, 201 revenge 15460 seealsoWagner nihilism 11415, 127, 13132 nobility 88 non-alienation 205 Not-Yet-Conscious seeanticipatory consciousness novels seeliterature Novum 201, 209 now 77, 7980, 82, 95, 153, 155, 178, 237 postmodern 200 seealsopresent nunc instantis 234

object-subject split 10607 omnis determinatio est negatio 80 On Transience (Freud) 123 Origin of the German Tragic Drama, The (Benjamin) 121 Origin of the Work of Art, The (Heidegger) 196 Pair of Boots, A (painting) (Van Gogh) 196 Parmenides (Plato) 78 past 112 modernity as breaking with the 59 seealsohistoricity; history perceiving I 106 perceptibility 10708 Phenomenology of Spirit (Hegel) 8794, 23839 Philosophical Investigations (Wittgenstein) 23 Philosophy of Nature (Hegel) 74 physical time 1118 Physics (Aristotle) 77, 155 Plato 7778, 12122 pleasure 6061 seealsohappiness poetry seeBaudelaire; Goethe Pggeler, Otto 18687 polis 8588 postmodernism 910, 18889 Bloch and anticipatory consciousness 199212 narratives 22235 and the present 19099 praxis 7, 6668 present 55, 112 absorption in 17677 and animals sense of time 14647 as a boundary between past and future 108 and eternity 82 Hegel on 77, 82 Heidegger on 121 postmodernism 19099 primordial time 32n.20 profane/sacred history 138, 141 professor example of boredom 16768 profound boredom 17987 progress 3, 40, 5354, 62, 6466, 73, 18687 promises 27 proprieties 2022 propulsivity (Propulsivitt) 211 prospectivity (Prospektivitt) 211, 222 protensivity (Protensivitt) 211 Proust, Marcel 5, 22122 psychoanalysis 122, 185 pure will 107 purification of the natural self 88 purposive-rational actions 3738, 44, 4653, 56, 110 Pythagoras 150 railway station example of boredom 16366, 16972 rational self-determination 58 reason 79n.21, 10001 relativity, theory of 1415 religion 71 and Enlightenment 86 Hegel and 9394 seealsoChristianity; God Remembrance of Things Past (Proust) 5 repetition 97, 113, 13843, 152, 194 seealsoreturn representation of objects 10607 resolute action 160 return 113 Dionysos 13238 eternal 12527, 13843 seealsorepetition revenge 15460, 201 reversible, everyday time as 3435 Ricoeur, Paul 28 right opportune time 68 Roman Empire 39n.6, 88 rules, and norms 19 sacred/profane history 138, 141 sacrifices 63 Sartre, Jean Paul 55 satisfaction, moment of 51, 5355 saving time 5153 Schaeffer, Jean-Marie 119 Schelling, F.W.J. 101 Schopenhauer, Arthur 8, 158, 239 on Hegel 99103 time theory 10310 science 1415, 26, 38, 4243 and Nietzsche 12930, 137 Science of Logic (Hegel) 74 Secular Age, A (Taylor) 38 secularization 14142 Seeds of Time, The (Jameson) 19093 self choosing ones 17475 leaving ones 175 losing 174 purification of natural 88 and singular actions 35 self-actualization 79 self-alienation 77, 84, 88, 202 self-determination 73, 140, 142, 22324 rational 5866 serenity 187



time-consciousness 2, 7, 1832, 44 disenchanted 3 and Heidegger 9 time-structures of everyday life 3435 Tolstoy, Leo 224 traditional action 45, 47, 56, 6669 tragedy 126 transcendence 23031, 234 seealsoSchopenhauer transcendental idealism 72 transformation 185 transitoriness 45, 4243, 55 and Hegel 74, 91 and Nietzsche 89 On Transience (Freud) 123 and Schopenhauer 8, 111 transvaluation of all values 131 tree example 219 bermensch 23132, 23940 Un-Grund 101 understanding 104 Untimely Meditations (Nietzsche) 14547 value-rational action 45, 47 Van Gogh, Vincent 196 Virilio, Paul 193 volont gnral 89 Wagner, Richard 12728, 13435, 14243 waiting, and boredom 164 Warhol, Andy 196 wasting time 46, 5152 Weber, Max 2n.3, 4446, 5455 charismatic authority 22829 will general 89 and ideas 116 and it was 15556 and power 131, 15455 pure 107 Schopenhauer on 98, 10103, 107 and bermensch 23132 will-less knowing 11720 will-less knowing 11720 seealsointuition Williams, Bernard 54n.31 Wittgenstein, Ludwig 2324, 126 work, Kant on 63 World as Will and Representation, The (Schopenhauer) 9799, 109 Wright, Georg Henrik von 28 Zarathustra 14852, 15960

sexual desire 102 sexual gratification 123 significance seemeaning Simmel, Georg 56, 152, 195 Simpson, Lorenzo C. 6669 singular actions, and self 35 slave-morality 155 social constructivism 1617 social time and physical time 1118 as reversible 3435 seealsotime-consciousness space and Hegel 80 and Jameson 19394 and Schopenhauer 108 space of experience 4142 speed 4143, 51 and boredom 165, 17172 and postmodernism 19394 Spinoza, Baruch 80 spirit 73, 8285, 8789, 94 seealsoGeist Spirit of Utopia, The (Bloch) 201, 209 standing reserve (Bestand ) 51 Stone, Alison 8182 story-statements seenarratives Storyteller: Reflections on the Works of Nikolai Keskov, The (Benjamin) 223 subject-object split 10607 subjectivity 8588 succession 10809 systemic imperatives 16n.4 Taylor, Charles 6n.8, 38, 49 technology 4243, 6869, 19192 and clock-time 3 as solution to social ills 128 Technology, Time and the Conversations of Modernity (Simpson) 6669 temporal mediation 3336 Terror, the 89 Theory of the Novel, The (Lukcs) 5 Theses on the Philosophy of History (Benjamin) 215 Theunissen, Michael 121, 21011 Thucydides 54n.31 Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Nietzsche) 15052, 155, 15960 Timaeus (Plato) 77 time of ends 66 time of meaning 6668 time of modernity 23