restricted access 4 The Time of Action
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FOUR The Time of Action From Phenomenology of Praxis to the Historicality of Being Our last chapter has shown how Heidegger’s early, phenomenological account of ethical virtue in its relation to ªthos and pathos initiates a certain displacement of Aristotle’s thought, bringing it into the dimension of the ekstatic temporality of human Dasein and its historicality. On Heidegger’s account, given the temporality of human existence, the emphasis must be on its open-ended, futural, and yet finite and situated character: the emphasis, in other words, is not so much on the already “having” of a virtue conceived as hexis, but on the extent to which any already acquired potentiality remains precisely that: potentiality, and thus must come into its appropriate unfolding or actualization, find its measure, in response to the (ultimately unforeseeable) circumstances of the moment. Our having-been happens, or is temporalized, from out of the future, even as it deflects the very unfolding of such futural Being; and this deflection or decision is our existing in, or as, the moment of the present. Who I can come to be—the unfolding of my very ªthos—will always depend in part on who, or how, I have already been: there is no escape from this thrownness of my very Being. Yet such thrownness is not only the result of my prior decisions and actions; the coherence of what will have been my “own” life story is, rather, from the outset and in advance exposed to, and inserted into, a historicality that far exceeds all individual decision making. The Being of a world into which I am thrown, long before I come to myself (that is, appropriate such thrownness) in any way or to any degree, is itself already historically determined by a temporality , or better, a destinal power, that far exceeds my own. In this and the following chapter, we shall try to make visible something of how Heidegger’s understanding of the temporality of human praxis develops, in his work of the 1930s, into an understanding of the Augenblick not only as the site of disclosure of a world, but as the site of the historical destining of world conceived 95 In memory of Hillary Johnson, 1975–1999 96 THE TIME OF LIFE as an event (or Ereignis) of Being. In the present chapter we shall attempt to trace something of this path by first recalling Heidegger’s characterization of the Augenblick in his 1924–25 reading of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, and tracing its development in subsequent phenomenological works of the 1920s. We shall then turn our attention to the reflections entitled Contributions to Philosophy (Of Ereignis), dating from 1936–38, an extremely rich and productive period of Heidegger’s work that is commonly regarded as marking a fundamental “turning” in his thought. What is at stake here is, we shall suggest, once again a certain displacement or shift in emphasis, in which the Augenblick is seen not only in regard to human action, but as belonging in advance, and always already, to a happening of world that exceeds human action and that indeed first calls it into Being. Not only is the time of the Augenblick—as already in the phenomenology of the 1920s—not that of a “now” or point in time that can be set before us or represented as one “moment” in a linear sequence of events; it is also now seen as historical in the sense of belonging to the Ereignis or event of the “history of Being,” that is, to the way in which Being happens and is destined to historical human beings. Human beings, on Heidegger’s account of the 1930s, first become historical and come to belong to a history through the happening of this event that is the address— the speaking—of historicality itself. The Augenblick or moment of authentic presence is the temporal moment in which we thoughtfully respond to the way in which Being addresses us. Whether thoughtful or thoughtless, our response to the address of Being is the essence of all human action. The time of the Augenblick, as the time of thoughtful action itself, is a time of genesis, creation, and passing away, of both natality and mortality: a time in which and out of which an action or a work first emerges that can then, subsequently , be taken up into a history or ordered within a chronology.1 THE MOMENT AS THE SITE OF HUMAN ACTION: HEIDEGGER’S READING OF...