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ABYSSAL GROUNDS: LACAN AND HEIDEGGER ON TRUTH Author(s): Gabriel Riera Reviewed work(s): Source: Qui Parle, Vol.

9, No. 2, Special Issue on Lacan (Spring/Summer 1996), pp. 51-76 Published by: University of Nebraska Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20686047 . Accessed: 14/12/2011 10:11
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ABYSSAL GROUNDS: LACAN AND HEIDEGGER ON TRUTH


Gabriel Riera

justified. Is it enough to say,with Elisabeth Roudinesco, that the rela Lacan and Heidegger is simply an episodic event?' between tionship Or, against this anecdotal reduction of what appears to be a more

In thinking the linkbetween philosophy and psychoanalysis, the re lation between Heidegger and Lacan seems unavoidable. Yet, it is far less clear what form this link should take and how it might be

relatively controllable thematic repertoire that Lacan appropriates and reformulates to neutralize the "totalizing effects" of the Hegelian dialectic?3 Anecdotal reduction, conceptual homology, thematic il lustration. When thinking the relation between Lacan and Heidegger, it is necessary

intellectual "exchange," is it necessary, followingWil encompassing liam Richardson, to put the Lacanian subject (the subject of the un conscious) on the same levelwith Heidegger's Dasein?2 Or, in search ingforan intermediate position between these two approaches, might one, with Edward S. Casey and Melvin Woody, read inHeidegger a

will followthequestion analysistodaycrosspaths inthisspacing, I The questionof truth will provide converge. Heideggerian thinking
Qui Parle Vol. 9, No. 2, Spring/Summer 1996

to find a different path, a path thatwill allow one to introduce themark of a spacing. Given that philosophy and psycho inwhich Lacanian psychoanalysis and

of truth as the question

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the necessary

infrastructureto assess the relation between

Lacan and

I call this unfolding an "infra cepts. Following Rodolphe Gasche, structure," that is, "a complex set of conditions which brings the ideality of a whole or a system both into reach and out of reach, and which articulates the limits . . . of words and concepts."4 As I will on truth terrain reflection the of abandons show, Heidegger's to as in order think "truth" the unthought of philoso conceptuality

Heidegger. This essay focuses on the question of truthbecause Heidegger's a retrogression from presupposes unfolding of the question are more con to which "determinations" than conceptuality original

these concepts include: Dasein, entities, Being, time, as well as that which "gives" Being and time their "relation" Ereignis. Moreover, because "truth" isnot a concept but ratherone of Heidegger's "basic words," the unfolding of itsunthought "contents" also supposes a modification of truth: language. In this paper of what has been traditionally conceived as the locus

phy. As the unthought of philosophy, "truth" renders possible the condition of possibility of a series ofwords or concepts. ForHeidegger,

thatHeidegger's toOn the Way to Language, as well as to his narrative of the history of truth. By focusing on language and truth, and on language as I show how Heidegger, in his insistentdisplacements and truth, will reinscriptions of these concepts, brings not only Being and time "into itsown," but also language and truth in what he calls the "event of

I will pay close attention to the transformations concept of language undergoes fromBeing and Time

appropriation" [Ereignis], that is, an abyssal infrastructure. I call this infrastructure abyssal because, on the one

hand, is the condition of for makes time what Be and Ereignis possibility as truth and it ing, language possible, inasmuch brings them to their "own" or "proper" [eigen]; on the other hand, this bringing them to amounts to their disappearance. their"w" The "own"~ or "proper"~

isunderstood by Heidegger not as an immanent essence thatgrounds a permanence, but rather as that fromwhich Being and time come to themselves, an other which cannot be attained in or by the lan guage of Being. However, as a condition of possibility for the possi

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of thinking.

bilities of Being, language and truth,Ereignis is neither their ground nor their foundation. Ereignis interrupts any possibility of keeping those concepts as theywere and consequently points to another type This abyssal infrastructure, Iclaim, is also operative in a deci sive moment of Lacan's teaching, namely, the seminar entitled The Ethics of Psychoanalysis. This seminar ispunctuated by explicit and inparticular, Lacan's use of the implicit references to Heidegger crucial concept of the Thing [la Chose! das Ding]. Nevertheless, on theway to Heidegger, Lacan takes some decisive detours. I

Lacan

and Heidegger,

or Thinking

the Space Between

dent: a scene

In her Histoire de la Psychanalyse reduces the relationship between inwhich

en France, Elisabeth Roudinesco Lacan and Heidegger to an inci Lacan masters the situation while the Ger She writes:

man thinker remains both silent and motionless.

in the front seat, Heidegger remains but his wife still, complains. Sylvie transmits her fears to Lacan without success. On theway back, Heidegger re mains quiet all throughout the trip and his wife's com his sessions. Seated plaints grow while Lacan accelerates. The trip ends and everyone returns to their own homes [Le voyage prend fin et chacun retourne chez soi.] (H, 310)

Heidegger stays at la Prevote, after visiting the Cathedral at Chartres. Lacan drives his automobile at the speed of

someof hisearliertheoretical work through Heidegger to problems.


Lacan's own position regarding philosophical discourse is ambigu ous. For instance, when developing and formalizing the mathemes in his seminar L'Envers de Ia Psychanalyse, of the four discourses

For Roudinesco, this curious scene exemplifies the literal lack of Lacan and Heidegger, which is furthercorrobo between exchange rated in Lacan's teaching. Even ifsomething like an exchange did not take place, Lacan nevertheless borrowed a "language" from

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thinking and Lacanian psychoanalysis are coex tensive since, as Jean-Luc Nancy claims, they respond to the "neces . . . inasmuch as the time of a sity of an epoch general errancy of a to of the limit of all passage meaning, possible signification."6 that Heideggerian Lacan's declarations have led to a general misunderstanding about his relation with Heidegger's thought. This misunderstanding in Casey and Woody's appears study, "Hegel, Heidegger, Lacan: of Desire," which traces Lacan's at the time when Lacan

reference." Nevertheless, Lacan pays a last visit to "propaedeutic Heidegger after having developed the theory of the Borromean knot.5 These denegations and ambiguities, though, cannot obscure the fact

philosophy as the discourse of the master and In Encore, more situates his own discourse as an "antiphilosophy." over, Lacan reduces his relationship with Heidegger's thinking to a Lacan characterizes

Dialectic

Heidegger's philosophy "return to Freud." Their main thesis is that "psychoanalysis must find a thirdway between, or beyond Hegel and Heidegger" (D, 105). They conclude Heideggerian by claiming that Lacan dismisses both Hegelian resolutions as impossible or inadequate: and

uses of Hegel's and is articulating his

in this Of all the undertakings that have been proposed century, that of the psychoanalyst is perhaps the loftiest, because the undertaking of the psychoanalyst acts inour time as a mediator between ject of absolute theman of care and the sub knowledge.7

The authors point out that, since the dialectic of desire and the un conscious as a riddle of the mind are both missing from philosophi cal resolutions, Lacan legitimately points to the insufficiency of phi losophy. However, even though Casey and Woody make the prob lematic relationship between psychoanalysis the relation between Lacan and Heidegger tion.

and philosophy clear, needs further elucida

Casey's point of departure is to characterize the Lacanian sub ject as a "spoken subject," that is, a subject "created by the play of the signifier" and understood as "an effect of speaking." According who has insisted on the primacy of language over the speaking sub

toCasey, this ofHeidegger, conception is"rooted inthephilosophy

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"die ject" (D, 89). Casey goes so far as to homologize Heidegger's from the On to Lan and the essay Sprache spricht" "L6gos" Way guage with the distinction between discourse [Rede] and idle talk of Being and Time. This homol [Gerede] from paragraph thirty-four ogy is problematic because those determinations of language be

understood as a preparatory analysis for the formulation of the "fun damental question," the question of the meaning of Being. The ex pression "die Sprache spricht" belongs to the horizon of a reversal of the traditional interpretation of language; language ceases to be an object, a means at the disposal of human beings, and becomes "Be ing itself."Casey disregards how the concept of language ismodi

long to different horizons: the distinction between Rede and Gerede belongs to the horizon of the existential analytic of Dasein, which is

fied from Being and Time to the Vortrsge und Aufsstze. The shift is significant because in "die Sprache spricht," the concern isno longer with a concept of language, but rather with "undergoing an experi ence with language." It should be recalled that in Being and Time that is, it is derivative with language is a "founded phenomenon," respect to Rede (discourse, in the sense of both manifestation and

articulation): The existential-ontological foundation of language isdis course or talk [Rede]. . . . Discourse is existentially ... equiprimordial with state-of-mind and understanding is theArticulation of Discourse intelligibility.Therefore it underlies both interpretation and assertion . . .The way inwhich discourse is expressed is language [Sprache]. a totality in which dis Language isa totality ofwords course has a as an entity its of and own; "worldly" Being

within-the-world, this totality thus becomes something which we may come across as ready-to-hand [zuhanden]. Language can be broken up intoword-things which are present-at-hand [vorhanden]. Discourse is existentially

it ar language, because the entitywhose disclosedness ticulates according to signification, has, as its kind of a Being Being, Being-in-the-world [In-der-WeIt-sein] which has been thrown and submitted to the "world."8

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expression), and words still have the character of things. In "L6gos," a more "essential determination of language" Heidegger undertakes

as a de Logos, consequently, would not be language (understood In rivative concept) but discourse. Being and Time, Heidegger still conceives of language ina more traditional way (as an instrumentof

an interpretation of Heraclitus' fragment B50. This determi through which "the Greeks dwelt ... But they never nation of logos isone in included."9 In this essential determination, thought it Heraclitus a cancellation of Heidegger's equation language and truth requires and relegation of the classical predicates of language: vocalization [phond] and signification [semainen]. It isafter submitting these predi cates to a displacement that "the essential speaking of language"

can be displayed: saying as a "letting-lie-together-before [legein occurs as sagen]" (L, 64). The essential determination of language the elucidation of an infrastructureof disclosure: is present before and down into lays thatwhich it that is, puts those things back. Presencing presencing, nevertheless suggests: having come forward to endure in Logos unconcealment.

Because the lgos lets liebefore us what lies before us as such, itdiscloses what is present in its Altheia. This and lgos are presencing. But disclosure is as such, lie the Same. Ldgein letsAldth4a, unconcealed before us ... All disclosure releases what ispresent from concealment. isAldtheia. The A-Ldtheia

rests in Ldthe. L6gos is in It itselfand at the same time a revealing and concealing. (L, 70-71) inorder to un

Lacan and Heidegger. There isan additional complication in theway thatCasey reads the philosophical origins of Lacan's conception of the subject. For Casey, language in Lacan provides the "structure and limit" of the derstand the relation between appears as "ex-centric," as "alienated from himself." The origin of these formulations, according to Casey, appears "in Heidegger's

It is precisely this infrastructure thatwill be decisive

thesubject field in which thesubjectcomes tobe. Withinthisfield,

analysis of subjectivity in Being and Time. In his 1927 work,

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existence as Dasein: literally 'being Heidegger designates human there"' (D, 89). Given that he reads Heidegger's analytic of Dasein as an ana isproblematic. Indoing so, lyticof subjectivity, Casey's terminology he blurs the difference between Heidegger and the more phenom which depend on a philosophical discourses enologically-oriented fact that Casey rephrases the "ek conception of the subject. The static" nature of Dasein as subject is not inaccurate, but he does not indicate how Lacan modifies those concepts which, originating in the analytic of Dasein, Would are then imported by psychoanalytic discourse. such as moving from a different type of approach, Lacan to Heidegger, from to Lacan instead of proceeding

Heidegger us with new insights? In "Psychoanalysis and the Being provide Richardson explores what made Heidegger's Question," William to Lacan and what lightthis thought may throw thought so attractive argues that upon Lacan's own innovative insight. Richardson can provide a "formal [Seinsfrage] "Being-question" Heidegger's structure" to understand the notions of the Other and the uncon scious. This "formal structure" is that of Being as Ereignis-Aldtheia, sense. According to Richardson, in the Heideggerian us to think of the [Being as Ereignis-Aldtheia] permits Other in the dimension of Being without hypostasizing it in any way, firstand it,or ontifying it,or absolutizing it suggests a way to consider the un foremost because conscious When as a disclossive process. (P, 147, my emphasis) approach, Richardson's compared with Casey and Woody's has the advantage of taking us to a crucial moment of Heidegger's leaves behind thinking, viz. the topology of Being. Here, Heidegger we in find the derivative character of language that Being and Time, and embarks on an understanding of I6gos as discourse in the sense of manifestation.

to interpretation of Idgos allows Heidegger destruc this undertake the destruction of traditional logic. However, This truth [alethdia] and without "undergoing an experience with lan [Wesen] of language en guage."10 The rethinking of the essence

withouta more "original" tioncould notbe possible way of thinking

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ables Heidegger of Ereignis.

to think language, Being, and truthunder the name

Nevertheless, Richardson's placement of Lacan's Other in the dimension of Being, as well as his attempt to bring together the un conscious and the disclossive process signaled by the name of "Be ing as Ereignis-Aletheia," Richardson adds: need to be reevaluated, especially since

The Being of the symbolic order is not an ontic Other of theOther like a Super-Absolute, but the disclosure of the Other as such inkindsisinEreignis-Altheiawhich, as

157)

Idgos, is aboriginal

language and concealment

. .. (P,

Is this bringing together of the Being-question and Lacan's Other a legitimate claim? Would the "disclossive process" of Being as Ereignis Altheia be, fromwithout, the "formal structure" us to jus allowing a between Lacan and tify relationship Heidegger? Richardson's for mulation suggests that a certain translatability of Heidegger in Lacan seems to be possible." The question now becomes the extent of this that the is, translatability, question ofwhether the "formal structure" if it is indeed a formal structure of Being's Ereignis-Aldtheia can be translated from Heidegger to Lacan without any alteration. We must show whether this "formal structure" is appropriable, since

the question of appropriation is the question of Ereignis. Inorder to these must attention be paid towhat takes place in issues, explore Lacan under the name of truth.

Al6theia." What

type of relation does "Being as Ereignis" establish? Is ita relation of identity, of sameness, or is it rather a determination of Being understood as a more encompassing "concept," that is, Ereignis? In other words, is ita determination thatwould us to think of Being as the "fundamental" question? What the sense indicated above? Furthermore, what does still allow is the rela

Before approaching the question of whether to Heidegger's of is commensurate with Lacan's, we must pay close pology Being attention to Richardson's bringing together of "Being as Ereignis

tionbetweenBeingand Ereignisif one can say "Beingas Ereign is" in


the hyphen be

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tween Ereignis and Aletheia mean? How can Ereignis and Aldtheia name the same thing?And how, finally, can Altheia, being the same as Ereignis, be the same as Being? insights that Richardson's semantically charged formula tion may yield depend on how we unfold each of the terms at play, especially Ereignis. This formulation and itsusefulness depend above all on how we The

Ja thinking. As a limitof thinking, Ereignis is like a double-headed nus: on the one hand, itpoints to the inside of the limit and the closure itestablishes, while on the other hand, it indicates an out

understand the relation of the terms in question. If can be said with certainty about Ereignis, it is that it points something to a relation. Furthermore, we can say that it marks a limitbetween two spaces of thinking, that of metaphysics, and that of an other

whole

side to this closure.12 There are several possibilities for understand I ing and unfolding Richardson's formulation. However, will opt for one which is justified on the basis of the meaning of Ereignis for the of Heidegger's work, as well as on the basis ofwhat the think ingof Ereignis implies for Being and truth. Last Word

Ereignis, Heidegger's

In situating how the thinking of Ereignis affects the "Being-question," we may characterize the work of Heidegger as consisting of three covers moments. A first the period from Being and Time to the phase late 1930's and can be labelled as the period of fundamental ontol ogy. Fundamental ontology isdeveloped from the frame of both an existential analytic and the temporality of a privileged entity:Dasein. Because Dasein isan entity for which "Being isan issue," itsexisten tial structure may illuminate the understanding of the "Being-ques

tion." The question whole problematic.

withdrawalas its mode ofgranting itself. Thiswithdrawal privileged that for the whole Western of as implies Being isunderstood thought
presence. Finally, we may speak of a third period whose guiding

of the meaning of Being is the horizon of this In the second period, Heidegger abandons the horizon of Dasein and takes Being as itunfolds itself inhistory. What isdecisive now are themodes in which Being grants or "gives" itself and, above all, the "fact" of the forgettingof Being; that is, Being's

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a which Heidegger thinks the unthought thought isEreignis, period in as of Being's determination presence. This unthought concerns time as well as the relation determining Time and Being. The thinking of this relation opens the possibility of a wholly other commencement for thinking [andere Anfang]. in lightof this thirdmoment, Richardson's When considered

that is,by the covering up of Anwesung (the coming-into-presence); mutation of Anwesung into Anwesende (presence in the sense of permanence.) This mutation is the transformation of the "original experience of presencing" intoa metaphysics of presence (Platonism). in this thirdmoment is the question: is at stake forHeidegger What

(in the sense of permanence), and for this reason Being has been determined by time. Time is, therefore, the unthought of the "Being question." The "forgettingof Being" is not fortuitous but rather is the

expression "Being as Ereignis" is problematic for two reasons. To begin with, the first two moments (particularly the second) affirm that for thewhole of metaphysics the meaning of Being ispresence

"Why, how and where does something like time speak in Being?" In "Es gibt Sein" or other words, in thinking the provenance of Being"there is Being, in the sense that Being is given" - why, how, and where does time appear? In this case, the "Es"of Es gibt Sein refers to Time: Time is not. There is. Itgives time [Es gibt Zeit]. The giv that ing gives time is determined by denying and with of time-space holding nearness. Itgrants the Openness

what

gives true time an extending which opens and conceals. As extending is itself,the giving of a giving is concealed in true time. 13

and preserves what remains denied inwhat has-been, is withheld in approach. We call the giving which

If Being proceeds from "something" other than itself, it may be a and certain In that Being this case, Ereignis possess heterogeneity. the expression "as" in "Being as Ereignis" fails, at least partially, to do justice to this heterogeneity. Isay "partially" because inHeidegger there are several configurations of the "relation" Being and Ereignis.

one of theseconfigurations, In ofBeing [Es]are Beingand thegiving

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the same: Being gives itself itsown figures by and through the his own granting. In this line of thought, the expression "Being toryof its as Ereignis" could be understood as saying that Being, inasmuch as

assimilating Being to Ereignis since the of compresses Ereignis; thought Being is given by time, it more to accurate would then be say "Being as Time," or better still, "Time as Ereignis." Nevertheless this last expression fails to capture the inside of the closure. Moreover, the heterogeneity of Time and Ereignis. The thinking of Ereignis asks foran additional step back. The question - what gives the history of Being itsown provenance? points to a more "originary" giving of one is non-dependent upon time. its and of that Being history, must now follow Heidegger in his attempt to determine the determination of time, the condition for the history of Being. By We

of that same history. That is, ifEreignis points to the limit of this history of Being, by assimilating Being to Ereignis, then we are on

it is the giver of itsown figures, behaves as Ereignis. However, this understanding of Being may verywell be taken as one of the figures

now

case of Being, time "gives" itself itsown dimensions. And yet, that which "unifies" time is anything temporal. In this case, the Es of Es gibt Zeit points to an enigmatic anteriority, Ereignis: In the sending of the destiny of Being, in the extending of time, there becomes manifest a dedication, a delivering over into what is their own, namely of Being as presence

Es (the "giver") points to time (to the Es gibt Zeit.) And second, when the Es points to an anteriority other than Being and time. As in the

it should be clear that the thinking of Ereignis involves two "moments": first,the giving of Being (Es gibt Sein), that is, when the

and of time as the realm of the open. What determines both, time and Being, in their own, that is, in their be longing together,we shall call: Ereignis, the event of Ap propriation. One should bear inmind, however, that "event" isnot simply an occurrence, but that which makes . . . occurrence What lets the two matters any possible

what bringsthe two [Beingand Time] belong together,


into theirown and, even more, maintains and holds them

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(TB, 19)

in their belonging together ... is Appropriation

[Ereignis].

Ereignis names what makes Being and time come into their own [eigen], as well as the relation of the belonging-together of time and

sential" anteriority of Being and time, Ereignis could be referred to as the "truth" of Being and Time, Ereignis-Aldtheia. After this detour, we come back to the question of "truth," albeit in a very different "light." II Lacan with Heidegger? A common point of departure for both Heidegger and Lacan can be read in the way each unties the knot that traditionally has linked truth to knowledge. This untying allows them to re-think their rela tion with tradition and origins. Heidegger's well-known untying of

Being. But Ereignis is the name or the marker forwhat withdraws itself in the "event of (co)appropriation." Ereignis points to the thinking of an abyssal ground, but it isan abyssal infrastructurethat cannot be thought "as Being." As the "es

bility of being-in-the-world. This reassessment of truth transforms the traditional determinations of truth as intuition and assertion [Aussage] into secondary determinations, and puts an end to the history of philosophy as the history of this mutual dependency on truthand knowledge. Moreover, the displacement Heidegger accom

truth from knowledge leads him to assess the history of philosophy as the history of a dependency on a non-essential determination. In insofar as Being and Time, Heidegger accomplishes a displacement he thinks truthas being-uncovering, that is, as an ontological possi

plishes in Being and Time allows him to refine the "sameness" of Ldgos-Aldtheia. He thus establishes a kind of primal scene of thought, a pre-Platonic scene anterior to the "fall" of truth in theweb of the signifier. However, this narrative of the history of truth remains too de objections. Thus, Heidegger

of the word "truth" and cannot [aldtheia] pendentupon thehistory assess thepositionhe had put forth inBeing and Time:
resist a number of philological later re

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orthotes, as the correctness of representations and state ments. But then the assertion about the essential transfor mation of truth, that is, from unconcealment ness, is also untenable.4 to correct

In the scope of this question, we must acknowledge the in the sense of the open fact that aldtheia, unconcealment as ing of presence, was originally only experienced

As part of this shift,Heidegger's thought undergoes "an experience with language" that profoundly determines the relationship of truth as the unveiling of L6gos-Al6theia. In this experience with language, the topology of truth is redrawn. This redrawing can be read as a "going beyond the Greek" and as an opposition to the criteria of validation narrowly embraced by the sciences, including the disper sion of philosophy familiar to the "human sciences.""

language remains an instru Itexchanges this analytic for one in which language is the unfolding [wesen] of the being of things. The "experience with language" undergone in "The Nature of Language" is formulated succinctly in the "transfor [Das Wesen der Sprache] in which mation" thatHeidegger's guide-word [Leitwort] suffers: "Das wesen Die Sprache des Wesens." der Sprache of the guide-word a play, beckoning that points to ing from the firstturn of phrase, the second, since the latterdoes In the whole an opening comes into com in

Being and Time, an analytic ment at the service of man.

This topological reconfiguration of the truthof Being is formu lated in terms of a "task [Aufgabe] of thinking." This reconfiguration leaves behind the metaphysically-oriented analytic of language in

something which, we cannot presume not become

exhausted

at all ina simple reversal of the order ofwords of the first turn of phrase. (NL, 94; translation modified)

of By coming intoplaywithout being exhaustedby the reversal under the "logic" of Ereignis [Es phrases, thisopening is thought
gibt.] Das Wesen, Heidegger explains, has to be understood in its verbal sense as Es west: "it unfolds unfolding its duration."'6 Das wesen names the unveiling; it is the kin4sis of language, itshappen

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ingor "event" [Ereignis]. Insofaras language [Sprache] isunderstood as "event," as unveiling, itgives [gibt] to things their determinations. Itcould be said, therefore, that the "overcoming [Verwindung] of the Greek experience," that is, "the task [Aufgabe] of thinking"

one keeps in mind his harsh words respect to Heidegger, especially if on the question of ethics in the "Letter on Humanism."17 In spite of

imposed by this Verwindung, implies an ethics, at least an ethics of thinking. One may hesitate to use this term in its generality with

most decisive place.

the reticence one may feel in attributing to Heidegger an ethics of thinking, it is nevertheless in the domain of an ethics that Lacan's encounter with philosophy and with Heidegger takes am I referringhere to Lacan's Seminar on The Ethics of Psy to detect in this Seminar a series of gestures, op and reinscriptions that are characteristically

choanalysis. It is possible

Lacan explicitly refers his own of the Thing [la Chose] to Heidegger's das Ding. In fact, Lacan's treatment of das Ding has little to do with Heidegger's. As will become clear in what follows, Lacan's approach to the Thing has more to do with the Freud of the Entwurf as read through the elaboration Freud of the Beyond the Pleasure Principle, and also how both Freuds are read through Kant. Still, Heidegger's "presence" is felt through out the Seminar and particularly in Lacan's reading of Sophocles'

erations, displacements, Heideggerian. On several occasions

Antigone inview of presenting the unpresentable "line of sight [point de visde] that defines desire."18 Despite extensive references to the literatureon Antigone, Lacan does not mention Heidegger's reading of the Greek tragedy. Nevertheless, a careful reading of Lacan's in terpretation of Antigone shows that Lacan is attentive to the same in Sophocles' play that were analyzed by therefore invokes Heidegger. Heidegger where he himself seems to lead the discussion to a different path, that is, to das Ding as a condition of possibility of desire. He silences Heidegger when crucial articulations Lacan some important structural similarities are at play. This strategy should not make us lose sight of the fact that Lacan encounters Heidegger on a similar ground. Before analyzing Lacan's treatment of das Ding in greater de in the Seminar. In The

tail, letme point to some crucial articulations

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pears as the only practice able to handle what ethics has always left aside, namely, jouissance. And because psychoanalysis deals with it can disen what is intractable for the philosopher of the Good, tangle the question of theGood from themoral imperative, and open the way to a "more primordial" determination of both the "good" and the "Law." Lacan undermines some key articulations of the his

Ethics of Psychoanalysis, two discursive practices are encountered: as the field of on the one hand, ethics, that is, metaphysics, is treated the question of the Good; on the other hand, psychoanalysis ap

unthought of ethics, the Real. Lacan writes:

tory of ethical thinking (Aristotle, Bentham, Kant), whose presuppo sitions have served to justifypsychoanalysis' function and purpose. In this way, he opens an adjacent space fromwhich to think the

[A]s odd as it may seem to that superficial opinion which assumes any inquiry intoethics must concern the field of not of the unreal, I,on the contrary,will pro the ideal, if ceed deeply instead from the other direction by going more into the notion of the real [rdel]. Insofaras Freud's

position constitutes progress here, the question of ethics is to be articulated from the point of view of the location of man in relation to the real [rde/]. To appreciate this, one has to look atwhat occurred in the interval between Aristotle and Freud. (E, 11) It is clear that in his displacement and reinscription of the question of ethics, Lacan repeats some of the Heideggerian movements of the destruction of the history of ontology. Heidegger writes: We this task as one inwhich by taking the of question Being as our clue, we are to destroy the tradi tional content of ancient ontology untilwe arrive at those understand . .. (BT, 22-3)

which we achieved our first primordial experiences in

ways of determining the nature of Being Lacan, therefore, elaborates

whose horizon is thegood, is itself determined and simultaneously

an ethics of the analytic experience that is "anterior" and "more original" than the ethics of themetaphysical tradition. Lacan wants to determine how the economy of pleasure,

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some of Freud's as the pre insights, such ciple, Lacan dismantles must disentangle Freud ponderant importance of the superego. Lacan condi from Kant (the categorical imperative being a genealogical

short-circuited by a more "original" dimension of jouissance or of the "beyond pleasure." The articulation of an ethics of psychoanaly sis supposes an additional gesture within the general scope of Lacan's return to Freud. From the viewpoint of Beyond the Pleasure Prin

cause of desire [objet a], Lacan invokes das Ding [la Chose], through an explicit reference to Heidegger. However, Lacan's elucidation of to those of the das Ding, while reaching conclusions homologous abyssal

In his attempt to disentangle jouissance from the dialectics of desire, and to elucidate the relationship of jouissance to the object

tion of the Oedipus complex) but not without using Kant to disen from the Real any type of ontic representational content, found, tangle for example, in Melanie Klein's maternal figuration of the Thing.

is more Kantian than infrastructure of Ereignis-Al4theia, a ground similar to that of to Lacan is led Heideggerian. Although a use of Kant. On the Heidegger, he arrives only by way of double one hand, a formal Kantian argument allows Lacan to separate the a objects of desire from das Ding. This separation sustains desire at distance and gives desire only its"motility."On the other hand, Lacan the beautiful and the sublime unfolds Kant's aesthetic categories as overflowed and in or as the the sublime beautiful beautiful (the a as way of submitting the formal and terrupted by the sublime) transcendental Inother words, space. aspect of das Ding to a quasi-transcendental the Kantian categories of the beautiful and the sub

lime are put into play not inorder to secure the homeostatic nature of an economy of pleasure and of the good, but rather as a way to indicate the provenance of "pure desire." The way in which Lacan the Kantian categories of the beautiful and the sublime mobilizes has some structural similarities with Heidegger's with Heidegger's of art and the beautiful, that is, Kant. ing of There of Psychoanalysis thinking of thework non-aesthetic read

Lacan confronts isone of philosophy's The tragedy privilegedself


representations. Lacan's reading ofAntigone iscaptured in thewords

is an additional complication. The insights of The Ethics are put to the test in Lacan's reading of Antigone.

ABYSSAL

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67

the chorus uses to referto the young virgin daughter ofOedipus after Creon makes his sentence public. The words are: "Imeros Enarg6s," (the visible desire that emanates from the gaze of the young virgin); or, as Lacan phrases it, "visible desire." As Heidegger reminds us, as evidentia. The enargds is the same word that Cicero translates

word derives from ensrgeia: "thatwhich in itselfand of itself radi ates and brings itselfto light. But itcan only radiate if openness has granted" (EP, 66). The relation between Lacan and on how this Openness is understood and on Heidegger depends as we will itself. And how thisOpenness see, thatwhich gives gives already been itselfto be seen does so in an inscription, tying together beauty and truth,or beauty as the truthof desire. After this overview of the main articulations of Lacan's Semi

nar, the overdetermined character of his project becomes clear: on the one hand, Lacan aims to show that the economy of the good based upon the pleasure principle derives from an un-economic, excessive logic jouissance and the death instinct. Only by taking into account this dimension

other hand, the excess of a jouissance that points to das Ding is neither apprehensible nor can be represented. And yet, this excess which the interplay among may be hinted at through an artwork in will be mobilized. the beautiful, the good and truth

can psychoanalysis elucidate an ethics, break the mirror of imaginary solutions, and touch the Real. On the

III
Das Ding Lacan with Kant: On the Way toHeidegger

C'est la Chose qui se souvient de nous.


-Blanchot

that, something topologically speaking,issituated beyond thesym


bolic order, that is, beyond articulated. the chain of signifiers where desire is It should be recalled that desire proceeds from some the drive [Trieb]. Desire and drive belong to thing that exceeds it to disentangle them:

In The Ethics of Psychoanalysis,

one of Lacan's goals

is to elucidate

different and thecircumscription of the dimensions, Thing [das Ding]


will allow Lacan

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GABRIEL

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What

is the death

instinct? What

is this kind of law be

can only be posited as a final struc yond all law,which ture, as the vanishing point of any attainable reality? (E,

207)

The drive

toward the Thing. This drive is "beyond the law," beyond the sym would not be possible bolic order and the signifier. Nevertheless, it to say something about das Ding without the intervention of the sig

in question

is the death

instinct

the drive that tends

nifier. The signifier isa necessary evil. Therefore, the relationship of the signifier to jouissance and to das Ding takes the form of an apo . . .without the The signifier is the cause of jouissance to center is it how possible something which is signifier, . The signifier is what thematerial cause of jouissance?.. keeps jouissance at a distance.19

na:

There

retroactivelymay there be Thing-effects. The problem becomes, there of the Thing and the fact fore, how to explain the being-jouissance that desire does not have jouissance: Das Ding is thatwhich I will call the beyond-of-the-sig nified [le hors-signifid]. It isa function of this beyond-of

is no jouissance without language, but because of language there can be no jouissance of the Thing. Ifthe signifier is the cause of means that jouissance can only be itsafter-effect. jouissance, it Only

tionship characterized pression. (E, 54)

the-signified [le hors-signifid] and of an emotional rela tionship to it [d'un rapport pathetique a lui], that the sub distance and isconstituted ina kind of rela ject keeps its

by primary affect, prior to any re or

As an effect of the signifier, das Ding

is, nonetheless,

outside

excentricto the signifier. The typeof relationship ithas with the


signifier is that of "extimacy" [extimitd].2OThis strange inclusion that takes the form of an absolute exclusion will move desire and

While desireobeys the logicof the tracks. jouissancealong different

ABYSSAL

GROUNDS

69

As an absolute object of desire, das Ding opens thought to an a its dimension In this (as sense, itcould be abyssal priori cause). said that das Ding is the truth [aldtheia] of desire. Das Ding unveils itself in every desire. But, in concealing itselffrom desire, das Ding manifests itself indesire only by itsabsence. Das Ding is the absen tee of desire's rendezvous; without this play of (un)veiling, however, desire could not articulate itself in the signifier and could not be come a demand: Ifthe Thing were not fundamentally veiled, we wouldn't be in the kind of relationship to itthat itobliges us ... to encircle

symbolic order and therefore cuts off the subject from the Thing, jouissance obeys the Law of the unmasterable Thing.

or to bypass it [a la cerner, a la contourner] it to order conceive it. (E, 118)

in

No object of desire can manage to represent das Ding. The irrecov erable anteriority of the Thing supposed by the order of the signifier produces an unassimilable excess: a "lost" jouissance, which isboth cause of desire or "objet a" and a surplus of the real [plus-de-jouir]. Faced with this jouissance, the subject vanishes, as is the case in the structure of the phantasm ($o a). At this juncture, Lacan undoes the knotwhich ties truthand knowledge [connaissance]: das Ding can not be known or represented since the of desire that teem objects

around the gap of das Ding are phantasmatic. Only a "discours de la semblance" can emerge regarding the Real. Inother words, no dis course of knowledge ispossible, only a savoir. We are now in a better position to re-evaluate Richardson's formulation according towhich "Being as Ereignis-Aldtheia permits us to think of the Other in the dimension of Being without ... in it first and foremost itsuggests because any way, hypostasizing a way to consider the unconscious as a disclossive process" (P, 147, too late to its rendezvous

We have alreadyshownthat thetruth ofdesire isnot my emphasis). with das Ding and that das Ding is theunpresentable of anteriority
an object "lost" after the fact. Thus, das Ding unveils itself in desire but, at the same time, subtracts itselffrom the object of desire. Bear an ontic truth, that desire always comes

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GABRIEL

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mind, theOther cannot be placed "in the ing these considerations in dimension of Being as Ereignis-Al6theia," as Richardson would have

it. Rather, the a priori and absolute condition of desire would oc . . . as Ifthis is the case, then "the disclosure cupy this dimension. in Ereignis-Aldtheia," to use Richardson's words, such in kindsis in its has to be linked to the drive [Trieb], that death drive which,

pulsations and repetition, surrounds the empty space of das Ding without touching it. The subject seeks to fill the empty space of das Ding, but fades in the attempt. For Lacan, Antigone's figure illustrates "in an aes thetic form"what

no longer refersback to the symbolic order, but rather presents itself as thatwhich touches the void where desire originates. For Lacan, there are then twoways to assess sublimation, inas much as itpresents us with another side of the moral feeling and is evaluated according to the modalities with which itdeals with the void of the Thing. A firstassessment might be called a "reactive" sublimation, an imaginary solution that bars any hint of the field of das Ding: At the level of sublimation the object is inseparable from . . . [It] imaginary and especially cultural elaborations in them useful objects; it finds collectivity recognizes rather a space of relaxation where it may ina way delude on the itself of das colonize the field of das subject Ding,

forms the object of desire, suppresses its symbolic investment, and The object of desire becomes the object cause of desire. disfigures it. In thisway, the object of desire is affected by a strange surplus and

takes place once the object of desire is raised to "the dignity [dignitd] of the Thing" (E, 112). Antigone is the sublime figure of the sublimation of the drive. Antigone's jouissance trans

Ding with

(E,99)

imaginary schemes

[formations imaginaires]. the economy of pleasure

This imaginary solution

leaves untouched

aswell as thedependencyof thebeautiful upon thegood.Anticipat will notbe fully untilL'envers formalized de ingan elaborationthat thatthediscoursesof religion and science belong to thisregime of
la psychanalyse (themathemes of the four discourses), Lacan argues

ABYSSAL

GROUNDS

71

"reactive"

sublimation. Whereas the former avoids das Ding, the is there second latternegates it. However, type of sublimation which us order of from the the imaginary [de la sdrie de "purifies but through the intervention of an image [par I'imaginaire], I'intdrmediare d'une image]," which Lacan refers to as "Antigone's (E, 248). splendor [I'4clat d'Antigone]"

Antigone's Beauty, or "1'arrite de mort" Reactive access desire sublimation functions as a double barrier banning us from to the field of das Ding, and the field fromwhich the truthof is indicated by itsown withdrawal. By means of this double

barrier, the beautiful is subordinated to the good. Nevertheless, Lacan breaches this dependency of the beautiful on the good, since he situates the former "beyond the good": on the scale that separates us from the central field of if the desire, good constitutes the firststopping place, the beautiful forms the second and gets closer. Itstop us, but italso points in the direction of the field of destruction.

(E,217)

Lacan's

of the good. Thus we approach a non-pacifying, non-harmonizing aspect of the beautiful, not typically emphasized by normative read ingsof Kant. Because in Lacan the beautiful exceeds the economy of pleasure and points beyond representation, itbears the mark of an excess affecting the Kantian precession of the beautiful over the sub lime. In this sense the beautiful is sublime beforehand; it is over

rethinking of sublimation marks a passage from a moral of the common good to an ethics of psychoanalysis. At the same time, itsituates the beautiful beyond the principle of pleasure and the logic

flowed by the sublime and is the presentation of a pure excess. For Lacan "the function of the beautiful [is] to reveal to us the site of man's relationship to his own death, and to reveal itto us only in a blinding flash [dblouissement]" (E, 295). However, the "dazzle" is a Lacan situates Antigone in a space "between two deaths," a

one since "thebeautyeffectisa blindnesseffect" (E,203). blinding

from theperspective of a first spacewhich can onlybe illuminated


death, of an already being dead in life. It is from the space of the

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GABRIEL

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Antigone embodies 282).

two deaths" thatAntigone's beauty "tire son dclat." More of this beauty comes from beyond the pleasure the radiance over, or the economy of being. principle, the economy of the signifier, "between

"the pure and simple desire of death as such" (E,

upon herself to become homely within being."21 To become homely within Being and to become the embodiment of pure desire; these two propositions follow the schema of the coming into itsown or proper leigen]. In this schema, Being and desire vanish. The truthof Being and desire can only be "seen" after the fact, after Antigone either enters the limitof the "between comes two deaths" (Lacan) or be

This schema bears some structural similarities to Heidegger's course on Holderlin, he writes: "Antigone reading of Antigone. Inhis most is the uncanny in the supreme manner, namely in properly such a way that she takes itupon her in itsfull essence, in taking it

In this sense, the thinking of Lacan's extimacy and [extimitd] Heidegger's uncanny converge. In this appropriation, into one's own of one's most proper [eigen] coincides the coming with itsdisappearance. ducible distance.

the "uncanniest of the uncanny" (Heidegger). Inboth cases, there is an exteriority at play, an intimate kernel that can be appro or the establishment of an irre priated only by a radical departure

Work

schema is not simply Antigone's (the Moreover, Heidegger's heroine or the play). Fundamentally, his schema concerns the "ori as set forth in "The Origin of the gin" [Sprung] of the work of art of Art," a text Heidegger course on Holderlin: In a work, elaborated at the same time as his

[the] fact that it is a work, is justwhat is un The event [Ereignis] of its usual [das Ungewohnliche]. not does created simply reverberate through the being casts before itselfthe eventful fact rather the work work; projects before and around itself . . . The more solitarily the work, fixed in the figure, stands on itsown and the more cleanly itseems to cut all ties to human beings, the more simply the extraordinary thrust that thework is ac

work thatthework is as this work, thatthe [Ereignis]

ABYSSAL

GROUNDS

73

cedes

until then seemed familiar.22 I said above

to the open and the more essentially the un-famil radiates and so shines that which iarity [das Ungeheuere]

be another way of saying that the Lacanian a Thing presents topology not unlike that of Ereignis-Al6theia. And if the beautiful (albeit a beautiful surpassed by the sublime and, in this sense, excessive and also uncanny ungeheuere) arrives here, it so not unlike does Ereignis-Aldtheia. The beautiful indicates some thing about a relation according to the logic of unveiling and veil ing. But this veiling, as in the case of Ereignis, withdraws itself in its In this coming

of the Thing from desire. This would

that the Thing is the truthof desire, that the trace insists upon desire but at the same time it withdraws

own truth.

together of beauty and truth, Lacan and Heidegger converge through a certain reading of Kant's aesthetics. Both Heidegger and Lacan renderwhat can be called a sublime read

ingof the beautiful. That is, their reading retrieves a more originary determination of the beautiful as the sublime. Another way of ap proaching this reading of Kant is to say, as Eliane Escoubas does, that the results of the analytic of the beautiful and the sublime lead Kant to elaborate a notion of truthcloser to Aldtheia of Pure Reason. Without than to the Critique

more

a doubt, from this original notion of truthan in dex can be found in a term that recurs throughout The . . . In all Critique of judgement the term Einhelligkeit names the But of it says truth. cases, Einhelligkeit unity than the unity of truth.What does the hell of What situation gives place to the Einhelligkeit point to? of unanimity Einhelligkeit? It is the radiance or splendor

of hell. Einhelligkeit is the "advent" [herstellen] in the radiance, it is the one, radiant, what no one can fail to because it resides in shining, in de/on . . .The beautiful

see: the Evidence. Iftruth resides inEinhelligkeit, it is

and the sublime are "modes of Being" of this truth as "Modes of Being" of the "always coming-into-presence. true" . .. a summoning of the Open.23

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GABRIEL

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The truthof Kant's Critique ofludgment is, to follow Philippe Lacoue Labarthe, a "sublime truth." In its letting come into the Open, this "sublime the artwork is, for Heidegger, unbounded, the excessive.)4

truth" is also the truthof Heidegger's artwork, given that the Un-geheuere (the uncanny, the

The truth of das Ding is also un-geheuere. For this reason, in Lacan's analysis of the effects of the beautiful inAntigone, the beau tiful is always overflowed by the sublime: "the violent illumination, the glow of beauty, coincides with themoment of transgression or of realization of Antigone's Atd"(E, 281). It isat this limit "that the beam

gives [Esgibt] something to be seen, but only by withdrawing itself. The Es of Es gibt subtracts itself from itsgiving. It is precisely this event, or rather, the form of this event, which may justify the relation between Lacan and Heidegger.

isboth reflected and refracted .. ." (E, 248, my emphasis). The truth of das Ding, the truth of desire, in its sublime glittering of desire

I would

like to thank Juliet F.MacCannell

for her generous

comments

on an earlier

version of this paper. 1 Elisabeth Roudinesco, La Bataille de cent ans: Histoire de la psychanalyse en France, Vol. 2 (Paris: ?ditions du Seuil, 1986), hereafter cited as H, and Jacques Lacan, Esquisse d'une vie, histoire d'une syst?me de pens?e (Paris: Fayard, 1993), hereafter cited as JL. William in Psychiatry and the Being-Question" J.Richardson, "Psychoanalysis and the Humanities, Vol. VI (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1976), 139 59. Hereafter cited as P. Edward S. Casey and Melvin Woody, of "Hegel, Heidegger, Lacan: the Dialectic in Psychiatry and the Humanities, Vol. VI (New Haven, CT: Yale Univer sity Press, 1976), 75-112. Hereafter cited as D.

Desire" 4 5 6 7 8 9

Inventions of Difference: On Jacques Derrida Rodolphe Gasch?, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994), 7. On this last point, see JL, especially the section "Vibrant hommage ? Martin 291-306. Heidegger,"

de rien" in N. Autonomova, et. al., Lacan avec les Jean-Luc Nancy, "Manque (Paris: Albin Michel, 1991), 201-2. philosphes inD. Jacques Lacan, ?crits (Paris: ?ditions du Seuil, 1966), 105, quoted Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. JohnMacquarrie and E. Robinson (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1962), 204-5. Hereafter cited as BT. Martin Heidegger, "L?gos" in Early Greek Thinking: The Dawn of Western Phi

ABYSSAL

GROUNDS

75

10

trans. David Farrell Krell and Frank A. Capuzzi (San Francisco: Harper iosophy, and Row, 1975). Hereafter cited as L. in On the Martin Heidegger, "The Nature of Language" [Das Wesen der Sprache] to trans. Francisco: Here Peter Hertz and (San 1982). Row, Harper Way Language, after cited as NL.

structure" has todo with a "formal and goes beyond thefact 11 This translatability issue ofHeidegger's"L?gos" forthefirst of the Lacan translated thefirst that part
12 journal La Psychanalyse. For a detailed discussion in Heidegger and post of the concept of closure see Simon Critchley, The Ethics of Deconstruction: Derrida thinking, (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1993).

Heideggerian and L?vinas 13

14 Martin On Being and the TaskofThinking"in Heidegger,"TheEndofPhilosophy


and Time, trans. Joan Stambaugh Hereafter cited as EP. (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1972), 70.

On Being and Time, trans. Joan Stambaugh Martin Heidegger, "Time and Being" in (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1972), 10 & 16. Hereafter cited as TB.

15

Can

manner 16 17

this ever be sufficiently determined unless we experience al?theia in a Greek as unconcealment and then, above and beyond the Greek, think itas the EP, 71. opening of self-concealing?" Translation modified. Peter Hertz translates this locution as "it persists in itspres ence," thus attenuating the active sense of the German Wesen. NL, 95. In this context, it is important to note that an "overcoming [Verwindung] of Greek

mean? and especiallyprinciple of all principles "What does ground and principle

as well as the elaboration of an ethics as "first experience," philosophy," has been the task of Emmanuel L?vinas, who subtracts ethics from th?oria and transforms it into the condition of possibility of religion. See, Alain Badiou, L'?thique. Essai sur du Mal (Paris: Hatier, 1993). Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan. Book VII. The Ethics of Psycho analysis, trans. Dennis Porter (New York: Norton, 1997), 254. Hereafter cited as E. . . . Comment sans le signifiant, "Le signifiant, c'est la cause de la jouissance ... centrer ce quelque chose qui, de la jouissance, est la cause materielle le ce qui fait halte ? la jouissance." Jacques Lacan, Le S?minaire signifiant c'est Livre XX. Encore (Paris: ?ditions du Seuil, 1975), 27. Jacques la conscience

18 19

20

Lacan forged the neologism "extimit?" (extimacy) based on "intimit?." Jacques Alain Miller has given a more formal treatment to the topological aporias at play in that term; see his "Extimit?," Prose Studies 11:3 (December 1988), 121-31. Martin Heidegger, Holderlin's Hymn "The /sfer/'trans. W. McNeill Indiana 17. Press, 1996), Univeristy (Bloomington: and JuliaDavis

21 22

Martin Heidegger, "The Origin of the Work of Art," inPoetry, Language, Thought, trans. Albert Hofstadter (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1971), 65; translation modified.

23

Hereafter cited as OWA. See also Juliet "Love Outside the MacCannell, Limits of the Law," inNew Formations No. 23, Summer 1994, 32. "Cette notion plus originaire de la v?rit?, sans doute peut-on en trouver l'indice dans un terme qui revient sans cesse dans toute laCritique de la facult? de juger. . . le terme Einhelligkeit. l'unit? du Einhelligkeit dit, dans tous les cas, d'abord vrai. Mais ildit bien plus que l'unit? du vrai. Vers quoi, en effet, fait signe le hell de la clart? du hell. {^Einhelligkeit, c'est le 'faire venir' (herstellen) en la clart?, c'est

VEinhel'igkeit? donne lieu? l'unanimit? de YE/hhelligkeit? C'est Quelle situation

76

GABRIEL

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24

sont les 'mani?res d'?tre'de cette v?rit? comme venue-au-jour. 'Mani?res . . . convocation de l'Ouvert." Eliane Escoubas, 'toujours-vrai' Imago Mundi. 1986), 67-8. Topologie de l'art (Paris: Galil?e, in jean-Fran?ois Courtine, et. al., "La v?rit? sublime" Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, sublime d'?tre' du the artwork it is truth that is at work," and "Beauty is one way inwhich

l'un-clair, ce que nul ne peut manquer de voir: Y?vidence. Si la v?rit? r?side dans ... Le beau et le r?side dans le lumineux, le d?lon i'Einhelligkeit, c'est qu'elle

Du sublime (Paris: ofHeidegger in OWA: "Thus in Belin, 1988).Cf. the remarks


truth occurs as unconcealedness" {OWA, 56).