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  • Heidegger and the Radical Temporalities of Fundamental Attunements
  • Emily Hughes (bio)

In “Melancholia, temporal disruption, and the torment of being both unable to live and unable to die” (Hughes, 2020), I discuss the way in which the temporal desynchronization of melancholia can disrupt the melancholic’s relation to their own death and, on a Heideggerian interpretation, the meaning and significance of their life. In their thoughtful commentaries, Kevin Aho and Gareth Owen draw out some important points for further elaboration and clarification, the most pressing of which invoke Heidegger’s interpretation of time and the radical temporalities of fundamental attunements. As Aho anticipates, this is the conception of time that underpins my interpretation of melancholia and, because this is important to understanding the conception of death and demise I put forward in my article, it is this that I will focus on in the following response.

In “Heidegger on melancholia, deep boredom, and the inability-to-be,” Aho (2020) rightly emphasizes that to understand the temporality of attunements, it is important to grasp that for Heidegger Dasein “is time, the temporalizing event that opens up a space of meaning and possible ways to be in the world” (Aho, 2020, p. 215). This temporalizing event is composed of three temporal dimensions or “ecstases”: having-been (past), being-alongside (present) and being-ahead-of-itself (future) (Heidegger, 1984, p. 205/GA, 26, p. 266). The three ecstases are not consecutive or successive, which means they cannot be separated out into three separate sequential “moments” in time. The “future is not later than having been, and having been is not earlier than the present” (Heidegger, 1962, p. 401/GA, SZ, p. 350). Rather, the ecstases are inter-reliant and belong together as a unified totality. This means that at any given time, “Dasein is not only in the moment but rather is itself within the entire span of its possibilities and its past” (Heidegger, 2003, p. 169).

For the most part, Dasein is not aware of its time as being three-dimensional because it is absorbed in “ordinary time.” That is, time understood as a chronological sequence of present “nows” which can be measured by the clock. It is only when subject to the radical temporalities of fundamental attunements like anxiety, profound boredom, and melancholy that Dasein is wrenched out of its immersion in ordinary time. Initially, each fundamental attunement modifies or transforms Dasein’s threefold temporality in a distinctive way, by denying and withholding [End Page 223] certain ecstases in varied configurations and constellations, so that although some are refused, others are intensified. Briefly, Heidegger follows Kierkegaard in considering that anxiety temporalizes by denying the present and past, and attuning Dasein toward the ecstasis of the future, which becomes intensified (Heidegger, 1962, p. 395/GA, SZ, pp. 344–45). By contrast, as Aho demonstrates, profound boredom temporalizes by denying the past and withholding the future, while attuning Dasein toward the ecstasis of the present, which becomes intensified (Heidegger, 1995, pp. 152–153/GA, 29/30, pp. 228–29). Beyond his thematization of the distinct temporalities of anxiety and boredom, Heidegger notes that his thesis of the temporality of attunements can be expanded to other attunements, including those “founded existentially upon one’s having been; this becomes plain if we merely mention such phenomena as satiety, sadness, melancholy, and desperation” (Heidegger, 1962, p. 395/GA, SZ, p. 345). Although Heidegger does not pursue these analyses in any depth, he intimates here that melancholy can be seen to temporalize by denying or withholding the future and the present, and attuning Dasein toward the ecstasis of the past (having-been), which becomes intensified. This concurs with the initial stages of melancholic time that I discuss in my article.

Depending on the attunement with which Dasein finds itself affected, then, the three ecstases are modified in distinctive ways. Yet, what is critical for Heidegger is that, regardless of the particular configuration of refusal and intensification, all fundamental attunements ultimately come to disclose the unified threefold temporality of Dasein as a whole, because any single ecstasis that has been withheld or denied “presences immediately in its absence” (Heidegger, 1972, p. 13/GA, 14, p. 13...


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