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The deconstruction of time

By David (David C.) Wood


Derrida's claim that there can be no concept of time that escapes from the sphere of the metaphysical presents us with three major questions: (1) Why does Derrida make this claim? What does he mean by it? (2) How, in the light of this claim ought we to read Husserl and Heidegger who aimed at just what Derrida rules out? (3) How can we square the claim with other things Derrida says about time and about metaphysics?\ud \ud We undertake a critical reading of the two major works on time by Husserl and Heidegger respectively, arguing that while each of these two texts does indeed subscribe to such metaphysical values as fundamentality, certainty, unity, identity and wholeness, they nonetheless make a substantial contribution to our release from the domination of 'the ordinary concept of time'. Furthermore, we argue, Derrida's own writing is marked by the same (perhaps inevitable) 'metaphysical' shadow, albeit in an exemplary self-conscious manner.\ud \ud To Derrida's claim about the impossibility of a non-metaphysical concept of time we reply (a) he elsewhere endorses a 'pluri-dimensional' temporality, and (b) when being careful, he admits that it is not concepts per se that are metaphysical, but their mode of textual articulation.\ud \ud From these two concessions our double strategy develops.\ud \ud I. His denial of an original, primitive time, coupled with his understanding of metaphysics in terms of textual articulation licences a programme for the description of temporal structures and representations of time, one abjuring any foundationalist pretensions, and resisting the temptation to spatializing interpretations.\ud \ud II. We redescribe the 'moment' in a way that breaks utterly with any representational element whatever. This approximates in temporal terms the time-dissolving moves found both in the latter Heidegger, and also in Derrida

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