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  • Deconstruction and the Metrics of Clinical Time
  • Jared Russell (bio)

The event—which in essence should remain unforeseeable and therefore not programmable—would be that which exceeds the machine. What it would be necessary to try to think, and this is extremely difficult, is the event with the machine.

—Derrida, For What Tomorrow

This essay assembles a series of notes on Heidegger’s expanded notion of “thinking,” on Derrida’s expanded notion of “writing,” and on what it means to speak of psychoanalytic “technique.” In the first section I sketch out Heidegger’s reflections in “The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking” (2002), relating these to themes developed in Being and Time (1996) and Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics (1990), as well as to Derrida’s development of an expanded notion of “writing” in the three volumes that announced him as a major thinker in 1967 (I will limit my focus to Of Grammatology [1976]). In the second section I explore themes in Derrida’s later work—specifically, the essay “Telepathy” (2007)—that explicitly take up the relationship between deconstruction and psychoanalysis and which concern Freud’s comments about unconscious communication and his comparison of the analytic relationship with the mechanism of the telephone. In the final section, in an effort to deepen an appreciation of the relationship between “thinking,” “writing,” and clinical practice, I offer a close reading of a series of important essays by the contemporary British Kleinian, Dana Birksted-Breen. Birksted-Breen’s work [End Page 21] is among the most powerful projects—one of several, though it would take many more readings to demonstrate this—where the contemporary psychoanalytic literature appears to be heading in a direction anticipated by deconstruction, yet without recognizing that this is the case. By introducing key Heideggerian and Derridean themes to analysts not already familiar with them, I hope with this essay to contribute to accelerating that process.

The End of Philosophy and the Task of Writing

At the opening of “The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking,” Heidegger remarks: “The title designates the attempt at a reflection which persists in questioning. The questions are paths to an answer. If the answer could be given, the answer would consist in a transformation of thinking, not in a propositional statement about a matter at stake” (2002, 55). In this way Heidegger announces that what follows will not constitute a manifesto. No simple answer will be given that could instruct us on what the coming task for thought is. The answer will instead involve a transformation of the one who asks. There is no way to determine in what this transformation will “consist,” only that it will “persist” in questioning. Since transformation is not an event that can be given immediately, what follows will be an open-ended attempt not at answering the question but at working through what it means that we are able to pose the question in the first place. Heidegger thus intimates that the task of thinking will require an effort to abandon the framework that opposes questions and answers. This will be in order to open “paths” that facilitate enduring transformation and change. The task of thinking will be to cultivate the openness of pathways for transformation over time. This effort cannot be settled by the end of our reading of the essay; its success will be determined by its lingering persistence later on.

Characteristically, Heidegger identifies philosophy with metaphysics. The intrinsic link between metaphysics and representational thinking is the generalization of the Aristotelian concept of [End Page 22] time as a linear, progressive series of now-points. “Metaphysics,” Heidegger writes, “thinks being in the manner of representational thinking which gives reasons” (56). To give reasons is to give causes that by definition precede effects and which explain (as a way of appearing to control) those effects by governing them from a distance. This distance authorizes itself with reference to the concept of “origin.” A cause is the origin of an effect, and in such a way that establishes an irrefutable hierarchy. Both causes and effects appear as past and present now-points that communicate with one another: a cause is a “now...


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