A Metamodern Understanding of Time

Justin Carmien
36 min readDec 3, 2023

In the 1999 book Heidegger’s Temporal Idealism, William Blattner argues for something quite novel and interesting for his time. Blattner believes that Martin Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit (“Being and Time”) belongs to a philosophical project which can be exemplified by the philosophies of Plotinus, G.W. Leibniz, Immanuel Kant, and Henri Bergson. Blattner characterizes each of these thinkers, along with Heidegger, as a temporal idealist. Blattner follows the tradition in using the word idealism to denote a dependency on “man” (or human being). A temporal idealist understands that the being of time depends on human being. However, Blattner goes further. He also argues that Heidegger fails to answer the principal question of Being and Time — namely, “the sense of being” — because he has failed to explain the being of time on human being. The entire project hinges on Heidegger’s philosophy of time and Heidegger is, according to Blattner, a failed temporal idealist.

If both Blattner’s characterization and conclusion are correct, then Heidegger’s failure causes violence to much of the second division of Being and Time. Considerations on Geschichtlichkeit (“historicality”), for example, could be rendered worthless. What is more? — Heidegger’s failure may have consequence to the project of metaphysics generally. If Plotinus, Leibniz, Kant, Bergson, and Heidegger have each failed an account of the being of time, then the project of metaphysics loses much of its relevance. This would then have consequence to the metamodern project as well. If a transcendental architectonic of time fails during our time, then metamodernists may not have an original account of one of their principal objects, history. In that case, metamodern thought would be reduced to operating within postmodern understanding — which is, to be sure, an understanding of history in the sociological sense. Within this understanding, power is treated as “a causal mechanism between human animals in various forms of organization”, and history as the story of such mechanisms as they have transpired according to a calendrical metric. Within this paradigm of thought, the explanation of the being of time is glossed over and is left to physics. Yet, the political prescriptions which follow from this worldview strike us as unoriginal and exhausted. Returning to “science” reeks of liberal technocracy. Today, we must use philosophy to save ourselves from the oppression of “science”. Because of this, Blattner’s critique is not only relevant to metaphysicians, it is also relevant to metamodern political theorists and statesmen.

In this article, I will 1) affirm Blattner’s characterization of Heidegger as a temporal idealist. This will be done by repeating passages in which Heidegger affirms his ideal understanding of time and by recounting Blattner’s time definitions. From there, I will 2) confirm that Heidegger has failed to ground the being of time on human being, once accepting Blattner’s time definitions. However, from this departure, I will 3) freshly interpret the subject of Heidegger’s Being and Timeda sein. My original teaching of da sein will highlight a confusion in Blattner’s interpretation and may redeem Heidegger’s project. My next move will be to 4) correctly interpret the project which Heidegger undertakes in Being and Time, and 5) characterize Heidegger’s Jetzt-Zeit (“now-time”) as phantasmic. Finally, I will 6) argue that Heidegger’s explanation of the being of time is shallow, either due to his inability to forgo human being as the subject of metaphysics, OR because Heidegger’s writings which followed the publication of Being and Time (those which have abandoned metaphysical description) do not attempt an explanation of the being of time. Either reason may be valid once constructing a richer metaphysical architecture which can explain the being of time; this entails following Heidegger into his later works and displacing human being as the ground of the being of the world. I will make a final suggestion which can be arranged according to the following Kantianesque matrix,

Ursprünglich Zeit (“primordial time”) is transcendentally real;

Weltzeit (“world-time”) is transcendentally ideal; and,

Jetzt-Zeit (“now-time”) is phantasmic.

The explanation for the being of time offered in this article follows from the metaphysical architectonic previously announced through its subject matter, the πραξις-πολις.

1) Affirming Heidegger as a temporal idealist

My goals with this article require that I first confirm Heidegger as a temporal idealist. This is easily done. Roughly, we can say that Heidegger follows Kant, who understands nature as the totality of things “intellectualized” or, in Heidegger’s language, thematized. However, the difference of language is important. For, unlike Kant, Heidegger is not an idealist about objects in the world. Heidegger is critical of the psychical characterization of beings, including the skepticism which follows. Therefore, rather than imposing a theory of reality on the phenomena that show themselves to us, Heidegger suggests that we begin by reflecting on those phenomena and ask, what allows them to be the sorts of phenomena that they are? We might even say that Heidegger finds this approach to philosophical reflection virtuous. We call it phenomenology. Once guided by phenomenology, Heidegger finds that when phenomena have been thematically understood, they have also been released from their dependency on human being. From John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson’s translation of Being and Time, section 69b, we recall that,

“[Thematizing’s] aim is to free the entities we encounter within-the-world, and to free them in such a way that they can ‘throw themselves against’ a pure discovering — that is, that they can become ‘objects’. Thematizing objectifies.”

Taking an example from Blattner’s Heidegger’s Temporal Idealism, we can say that a quasar, in being a quasar, is not dependent on human being. Independence belongs to its constitution. In other words, phenomena which have been thematically understood are “thrown against” the Self, and this is what we understand colloquially as an object. Heidegger’s expression for the being of such objects is vorhandenheit (“presence-at-hand”). However, the question as to whether time can be thematically understood in terms of such thematic objectivity drives Heidegger into perplexing questions. Ultimately, he finds that such a determination would require further qualification. Recalling from Being and Time, section 80,

“The time ‘in which’ the present-at-hand is in motion or at rest is not ‘Objective’, if what we mean by that is the being-present-at-hand-in-itself of entities encountered within-the-world. But just as little is time ‘subjective’, if by that we understand being-present-at-hand and occurring in a ‘subject’.”

Heidegger is not prepared to answer to the “objectivity” or “subjectivity” of time. Rather, this question leads him to a more fundamental one. Section 80 continues with the question,

“Has [time] then any ‘being’?”

He answers himself in a roundabout way,

“In whatever way this question may be answered, we must first understand that temporality temporalizes something like world-time, which constitutes a within-time-ness of the present-at-hand.”

Heidegger’s roundabout answer is revealing. He is more concerned with a description of the “temporalizing” of world-time than he is in determining time’s objectivity or subjectivity. There is a reason for this. Heidegger correctly understands that nowhere in the world do we find the object time. When looking at the phenomena, time is not in the world. Rather, in order to find the location of time, Heidegger follows our everyday language as a clue. We talk of “making time”, “losing time”, and “taking time”, and we measure those times by use of present-at-hand objects. Time is read from the clock; but neither the clock nor the ticking of its pointers are time itself. Rather, the present-at-hand have a within-time-ness because they have been temporalized — or, we could say, because human being uses them to measure its time. So, is the “location” of time human being? If so, then we should ask about the subjectivity of time. Yet, Heidegger insists that “time” is earlier than any one human subject because time presents the condition of the “earlier”,

“Time is present-at-hand neither in the ‘subject’ nor in the ‘object’, neither ‘inside’ nor ‘outside’; and it ‘is’ ‘earlier’ than any subjectivity or objectivity, because it presents the condition for the very possibility of this ‘earlier’.”

The condition for time is Zeitlichkeit (“temporality”). And because time “presents” temporality, time is “earlier” than either subjectivity or objectivity. That is to say, time as temporality is earlier than any human subject. But what is temporality exactly?

Temporality is the ontological meaning of the being of da sein. In section 65 of Being and Time, Heidegger defines temporality as “the primordial ‘out-side-of-itself’ in and for itself”. Of course, out of context, the meaning of this definition is obscure. Yet, this small fragment tells us a lot. Whatever temporality is, it is outside of itself. What is “outside” temporality? — I have already made this clear: the world. Temporality “temporalizes” itself outside itself in the world. Which entity has “being-in-the-world” as its way of being? — da sein. Temporality temporalizes in “being here” (da sein). Therefore, da sein appears to be a modification of temporality. What else have we learned from Heidegger’s definition in section 65? Temporality is outside of itself only insofar as it is in the world for itself. This does not mean that temporality (as the ontological meaning of da sein) is “selfish” when temporalized in the world. Rather, in being projected into the future for itself, temporality temporalizes itself in the world (that is to say, it becomes what it is). Again, I repeat the definition: temporality is the ontological meaning of the being of da sein. OR, we could say that temporality is da sein when considered ontologically. And because temporality is earlier than the world (or prior to it), Heidegger calls temporality primordial. It belongs to transcendental explanation. You might consider the following illustration,

Finally, we can say that because da sein is a modification of temporality, and because da sein is the being of human being, then, according to Blattner, this qualifies Heidegger as a temporal idealist. You might also want to note that Blattner’s characterization of Heidegger is consistent with many of the statements which Heidegger made himself, exterior to Being and Time. Consider a passage from Einführung in die Metaphysik (“Introduction to Metaphysics”). There Heidegger writes,

“There is, in itself, the possibility that humans not be at all. There indeed was a time when humans were not. But strictly speaking, we cannot say: there was a time when humans were not. In every time, humans were and are and will be, because time only temporalizes itself insofar as humans are. There is no time in which humans were not, not because humans are from eternity and to eternity, but rather because time is not eternity, and time only temporalizes itself in each case in every time as human-historical.”

Heidegger’s position should be clear, and I can confirm Blattner’s characterization of Heidegger as a temporal idealist. However, temporal idealism suggests that the being of time is dependent on human being. Furthermore, temporality is da sein when considered ontologically. Therefore, temporality belongs to the explanation of being, rather than to the explanation of time. So, what relationship does Heidegger develop between temporality and time? In order to answer this question, I will turn towards the time definitions which Blattner lays out in Heidegger’s Temporal Idealism. To be sure that Blattner has correctly interpreted Heidegger, I will supplement his definitions with passages from Being and Time.

1.a) Ursprünglich Zeit (“primordial time”)

In the temporalizing of temporality, we have da sein. Da sein is translated as “being here”. Therefore, the temporalizing of temporality is the ecstatic moment of “the here and now”. I presume that Heidegger took this starting point for phenomenological investigation from his predecessor G.W.F. Hegel. In The Phänomenologie des Geistes (“the Phenomenology of Spirit”), Hegel begins with the immediacy of wholeness which is experienced in its “twofold shape as here and now”. I think any one of us will agree that when we say here or now and signal with our hands to the open space before us, that this is meant to refer to a simple wholeness. In this moment, we have the world. In addition, and much like Hegel, Heidegger is concerned with the fact that “the now” contains within it many nows. The future and the past are also present. Of course, this should not strike anyone as particularly profound. Obviously, the past is present in “the now” as a past, and the future can only ever be future in the present. Yet, that is not the whole story. Already, early in the introduction to Heidegger’s Temporal Idealism, Blattner identifies a past, present, and future which he calls “primordial temporality”. Blattner understands that primordial temporality is the starting point for developing an explanation for the being of time as we ordinarily think of it,

“In this book [Heidegger’s Temporal Idealism] I shall develop an account of primordial temporality (ursprünglich Zeitlichkeit) that is, I think novel. Primordial temporality is not what we would ordinarily call ‘time’. Primordial temporality is a manifold of nonsuccessive phenomena that explain ordinary time. The elements of the manifold go by the names ‘future’ (Zukunft), ‘beeness’ (Gesundheit), and present (Gegenwart). They are nonsuccessive in the precise sense that the future does not follow, succeed, or come after the present, which in turn does not follow, succeed, or some after beeness.”

Blattner is on the right track. Non-successive primordial time should explain the phenomena of time which we normally encounter in the world — that which Heidegger calls Weltzeit (“world-time”). So, what is world-time? What phenomena is Heidegger trying to explain in Being and Time?

1.b) Weltzeit (“world-time”)

World-time is the phenomenal time which everyone knows, whether explicitly or not. It can be characterized as socially meaningful times, such as dinner time or bed time. When we say something to the effect of “now is time for…”, we are suggesting world-time. Such time has “properties”; Blattner identifies world-time as significant, dated, spanned, and public. When we say “now is time for…”, we are suggesting a time which is significant. This is obvious. Even so, we may not immediately think of “the now” as dated, spanned, or public. This requires further qualification. Though, upon consideration, we may be able to see how saying “now” could be a very primitive form of event dating. To see how this primitive form might evolve into the form of event dating which we do with a calendar, let us turn to section 80 of Being and Time again. This passage will also address world-time’s spanned and public properties. The Macquarrie and Robinson translation runs,

“Saying ‘now’ is a discursive articulation of a making-present which temporalizes itself in a unity with a retentive [the past] awaiting [the future]. The dating which is performed when one uses a clock, turns out to be a distinctive way in which something present-at-hand is made present. Dating does not simply relate to something present-at-hand, this kind of relating has itself the character of measuring.”

“Of course, the number which we get by measuring can be read off immediately. But this implies that when a stretch is to be measured, we understand that our standard is, in a way, contained in it; that is, we determine the frequency of its presence in that stretch.”

“The idea of a standard implies unchangingness; this means that for everyone at any time the standard, in its stability, must be present-at-hand. When time is measured it is made public.”

Heidegger’s line of reasoning regards making world-time public by way of measurement. Calendrical dating is only possible on account of measurement, and measurement is only possible on account of a standard which makes the measurement an experience possible for anyone who wishes to measure. Therefore, world-time (as we know it) is significant, dated, spanned, and it is also public. This is the time which we use in our day-to-day lives; it is the time which we operate with when scheduling our Outlook calendars and making it to work “on time”. We also use one’s proper scheduling of this time to judge one’s character. The various phenomenal appearances of this time in our day-to-day lives is what Heidegger wishes to explain in Being and Time. Remember Heidegger’s phenomenological virtue: he sees phenomena and asks, “what allows them to be the sorts of phenomena that they are?” He looks towards a transcendental architecture to do so. At this point, another illustration may be helpful,

NOTE: For any of you who might suggest that standards do not require common agreements and are therefore not necessarily public, I direct you to Heidegger’s “privation” pattern of argument, especially as it is found in section 69b of Being and Time. Consider that in our lives, theoretical calculations are always a privation of πραξις (praxis). I presume it has always been like this, and for every human animal. Any private standardization of time, which may have been created prior to exposure to a public standardization of time, is hypothetical. Rather, we must think anthropologically and then historically about the development of standard measurement, and thus world-time’s publicness. I presume that, for example, solar time was in use far earlier than any surviving language today — including any “language” of time’s standard measurement. The human animal is a communal animal — certainly, primitive humans must have been, and likely more so than we modern individualists living today. Therefore, we can understand the publicness of world-time as a condition for an individual to be in his lonesome, reckoning with his time according to a “private” standard, whether some clock or calendar.

Now, beyond such day-to-day practical matters, we also have theories about time. And, to be fair, we have many of them. Obviously, some theories about time are quite unhelpful. Blattner might say that those theories offered by Plotinus, Leibniz, Kant, Bergson, and Heidegger are just that. But others, such as Albert Einstein’s mathematically derived space-time, are apparently very helpful. So, what about the object “time” as contained in theory generally? One theory which is of particular interest to Blattner is what Heidegger calls “the ordinary conception of time”.

1.c) The ordinary conception of time

Blattner understands the ordinary conception of time as a theory about time in which the past, present, and future succeed each other, and they do so in that exact order. This time is also characterized as an infinite “flow”. Time stretches for an eternity in both directions. Now, no matter how crude this theory may seem, Blattner assumes that this ordinary conception of time is ours. Therefore, Blattner expects that Heidegger must explain this particular conception of time. He firmly establishes this criterion for success. If Heidegger cannot explain this particular theory of time, then he has failed to explain the being of time. Furthermore, if primordial time is a nonsuccessive past, present, and future, and our ordinary conception holds that time is successive, then Heidegger owes us an explanation as to where the continuity of “ordinary time” comes from. Blattner’s reason is that, “after all, we have well worked-out mathematical conceptions of [time’s] continuity”.

2) Heidegger’s failure to explain sequentiality

Blattner has correctly understood Heidegger; he understands world-time as a modification of primordial time. To be sure, Heidegger speaks of the Umschlag (“changeover”) or the event when primordial time becomes world-time. For Blattner, the key to unlocking this event is sequentiality. Heidegger must explain how nonsuccessive primordial time becomes sequential through human being (da sein). OR, we could ask, how does the nonsuccessive primordial time become sequential in the world? Both sentences have the same meaning. Of course, in order to make this explanation, Heidegger writes a book which numbers several hundred pages. I do not have the luxury to repeat that explanation here. Therefore, I must illustrate parts of it instead.

We can imagine temporality as a substantial present-at-hand thing. Doing so will help to illustrate Heidegger’s explanation. When we do, we can imagine temporality as being projected. In being projected, temporality finds itself in “the now”. In finding itself in “the now”, temporality has been thrown into the possibilities available to it in “the now”. Those possibilities constitute the world. Some possibilities in the world are not available. But, in “pressing ahead” into the possibilities which are, temporality temporalizes as being-in-the-world (da sein). In doing so, temporality-now-da-sein takes up those possibilities which are zuhandenheit (“ready-to-hand”). Additionally, some of those possibilities are thematically understood. Thematizing allows temporality-now-da-sein to abbreviate or make more efficient the pressing into its possibilities. The ready-to-hand possibilities become present-at-hand things, which are still capsules of possibilities, only now with what we colloquially call “objective properties”. One of these objects which has proven especially efficient is a clock, which helps temporality-now-da-sein to orient itself through the day. Da sein understands solar time; the sun is understood in terms of the possibilities which are released in using it — and, based on the records in human history, we can presume that more refined possibilities are available when using it than without it. In fact, the more accessible the use of solar time is (such as when its being is replicated in a sundial or a wrist watch), the more refined the possibilities are for temporality-now-da-sein to press into the future. Primordial time is not sequential, but it is made up of possibilities (the future), those which are present (“the now”), and those which closed off (the past). By use of various containers of possibilities, or present-at-hand objects, a sequentiality of time can be themed and put to use for more refined and therefore “greater” uses.

Now, it should be said that Blattner finds it particularly surprising that Heidegger does not list sequentiality as a property of world-time — seeing as how the changeover requires adding sequentiality to primordial time. We recall that in chapter 3 of Heidegger’s Temporal Idealism, Blattner writes,

“It is notable that Heidegger does not list sequentiality along with datability, spannedness, significance, and publicness as a distinct feature of world-time. But, of course it is, sequentiality lies at the foundation of the distinction between primordial temporality and world-time. Given how important sequentiality is, therefore, it might strike one as odd that Heidegger does not list it and discuss it directly.”

“The reason for this peculiarity of the text is, I believe, that Heidegger associates sequentiality especially closely with spannedness, and as we shall see, his analysis of sequentiality can be found in his treatment of spannedness.”

Roughly, spannedness is defined by Heidegger as awaiting the future. The word “awaiting” suggests a psychical experience. While I wait, I experience a “span of time.” This is a good illustration of what Heidegger means. Then, according to Blattner, sequentiality is born from a quite literal interpretation of this psychical experience by way of “pressing ahead” into what it awaits. Blattner understands this pressing ahead by way of time-reckoning,

“Time-reckoning leads us to experience a span. Because da sein must arrange tasks during the day, so that da sein does one thing first, and another second, da sein confronts the now as the time to eat lunch, and the next one as the time to catch a cab to the official function. Da sein spans from the one task to the next. This results from arranging several tasks in time.”

For myself, I have taken note that Blattner understands time-reckoning to explain spannedness. For Blattner, it is exactly this explanatory model which Heidegger takes up; and it is this model which ultimately fails to ground the being of time. Blattner confesses that Heidegger’s explanation of sequence in terms of arranging tasks into order has, in fact, generated a sequence. Yet, for Blattner, this sequence is unfortunately not the right one,

“It has explained a chain of purposive references: x is in order to y, which is in order to z. But this is not the right sequence to make up the sequence of world-time times. It looks right, when we examine carefully chosen examples. On further examination, however, we can see that world-time times do not neatly form a purposive chain. Da sein does indeed need to pick up the chalk in order to lecture, and the then, when da sein is done writing on the chalkboard, does precede the then, when da sein is done lecturing. But suppose that right after the lecture da sein heads to the movies. As she lectures, the then, when the lecture is complete, is the then, the right time to go to the movies. But this sequence of world-time times is not imposed by any for the sake of which.”

“It is only the result of having to fit several tasks into a given time sequence. But, of course, it is precisely the sequentiality of time that we are trying to explain.”

You may dwell on Blattner’s conclusion for as long as you like. However, at this point, another concern has been made present. What we immediately notice is that Blattner is treating da sein as someone who lectures, goes to the movies, et cetera. Blattner even refers to da sein with the pronoun she. We can be sure that this choice of language is not arbitrary. Rather, it informs us as to Blattner’s very own understanding of what da sein is. Blattner treats da sein as a person. This is also indicated by the surnames which he chooses when exemplifying da sein: “Jones”, “Green”, and “Smith”. With this treatment in mind, we can better understand Blattner’s claims. When Blattner says that Heidegger is a failed temporal idealist, he is making the claim that Heidegger has failed to ground the being of time on a human animal. Blattner argues that Heidegger has failed to explain the being of time on a person and their personal life’s ultimate projection (for-the-sake-of-which). But does this treatment of da sein follow from Heidegger’s texts?

3) The “who” of da sein turns into its opposite

The last concluding question should suggest to you that I have understood da sein in a way other than Blattner. And, of course, a proper understanding of da sein is necessary for understanding Heidegger’s explanation of the being of time. Therefore, I now ask you to consider da sein. If we also allow ourselves a reification of da sein, then we can place that object in contrast to Blattner’s substantial treatment of da-sein-as-person.

Early in Being and Time, Heidegger makes clear that da sein is in each case mine. While this is well known, we should remind ourselves of the text. Recalling from section 25 of Being and Time, we remember,

Da sein is an entity which is in each case I myself; its being is in each case mine. Even if one rejects the ‘soul substance’ and the thinghood of consciousness, or denies that a person is an object, ontologically one is still positing something whose being retains the meaning of presence-at-hand, whether it does so explicitly or not. Substantiality is the ontological clue for determining which entity is to provide the answers to the question of the ‘who’ [of da sein].”

Heidegger’s thought seems to be this: when making the investigation into the being of time, we must admit that someone is making the investigation. When someone does, da sein presents itself as “mine”. So, the “who” of da sein is already informed by the “I” — whether I am Martin Heidegger or Justin Carmien. At the same time, we can see that the “I” is also a burden. After all, Heidegger himself warns that his methodology may present a certain deception,

“The assertion that it is I who in each case da sein is, is ontically obvious; but this must not mislead us into supposing that the route for an ontological interpretation of what is ‘given’ in this way has thus been unmistakably prescribed. Indeed it remains questionable whether even the mere ontical content of the above assertion does proper justice to the stock of phenomena belonging to everyday da sein. It could be that the ‘who’ of everyday da sein just is not the ‘I myself’.”

For this reason, Heidegger must confess that,

“The word ‘I’ is to be understood only in the sense of a non-committal formal indicator, indicating something which may perhaps reveal itself as its opposite.”

Now, because da sein presents itself as “mine” and because Heidegger acknowledges that da sein may perhaps reveal itself as its opposite, he is burdened with the task of constructing a terminology-set which is delicate enough to speak about da sein from this point in his development onward (that is to say, as the “who” of da sein turns into its opposite). In moving onward, Heidegger introduces the concept of mitsein (“being da sein with”). This is the being of the “everyday da sein”. Heidegger uses the phrase “everyday da sein” to distinguish from the authentic Self, the “I” who is making the investigation. Early in the development of Being and Time, Heidegger makes these moves, working his way through the burden imposed by his methodology. Then, once finally settling into the description of the transcendental architecture itself, he answers the “who” of da sein. Section 27 of Being and Time provides the famous formulation,

“The ‘who’ is not this one, not that one, not oneself, not some people, and not the sum of them all. The ‘who’ is the neuter, the das man.

So, if I were to say, “man’s place in the world is in subjection to God”, then the “man” I refer to answers the “who” of the da sein — which is, at the same time, mine, presuming then that I am a God-fearing Christian. Thus, da sein, as the temporalizing of temporality in the world, refers to the possibilities in “the now” which are available to das man (“the one”). Consider that even without having individualized some one in particular, we can understand that one can write with a pen, one can sit on a chair, and one can open a door. To make the point clear, one cannot write with the number three, sit on a cloud, or open a color. These are not possible. Without further qualification, we would not know what these statements mean.

NOTE: When looking at Being and Time with the advantage that I have, I would have been more pleased to find Heidegger simply developing his transcendental architectonic with an air of unapologetic subjectivity. This would have not only expedited the development of the transcendental architecture, but it would have also allowed for more honest terminology. In this case, we would have seen an explanation in which being-with would be derived from being-one. Being-one is the primordial existence of da sein. As is well known to any Heideggerian, the Self is a modification of das man. Without das man, there could be no authentic Self for which mitsein could show itself as belonging to the transcendental architecture. (I remember that mitsein has always struck me as off, ever since my first reading of Being and Time.) Of course, while my understanding is consistent with Heidegger’s meaning, all the same, I can accept that my reading of Heidegger’s burden of methodology might still strike you as questionable. I can imagine one or more of my readers siding with Heidegger. Perhaps you are one of them, saying to yourself that it is Justin Carmien who is confused; Heidegger’s methodology was necessary and it correctly informs the investigation into human being and the being of time. If this is the case for you, I will remind you that Heidegger keeps Hegel firmly in mind when composing Being and Time and, in doing so, transports more than he admits.

We can remember that in The Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel establishes distinctions between the “I”, “the other”, and the one who is making the investigation — the “We”. In Hegel’s dialectic, a moment of consciousness arises in which it understands the totality of sense-certainty as for “I”. Yet, that “I” does not make a distinction from you. The “I” is as much me as it is you. In this moment of the dialectic, “I” is anyone. The phrase “I see this” simply means “this can be seen”. I am aware of something like consciousness, for which the totality of sense-certainty is an object. Remembering A.V. Miller’s translation, we can recall that,

“When I say ‘I’, this singular ‘I’, I say in general all ‘Is’; everyone is what I say., everyone is ‘I’, this singular ‘I’.”

In the history of thought, Hegel first shows us how to rethink subjectivity in terms of “everyone”. Of course, Hegel does affirm Kant’s understanding of the “I” as a subject possessed with Reason. Yet, rather than as an individual trapped in (or totally constituted by a mind or consciousness) the braiding of the “I”, “the other” and the “We” in the Phenomenology of Spirit challenges us to see knowledge, truth, and beauty as something common and shared — something “objective”. Because of this, there should be no surprise that Hegel’s philosophy directs subsequent intellectual thought (including psychology and metaphysics) towards a sociological or anthropological form of investigation, and this includes Heidegger’s Being and Time too. Following Hegel, Heidegger understands that from this primordial everyone (da sein), the “event” of Umschlag (“changeover” or “modification”) occurs. In this moment, the Self is thematically presenced in “the now”. Perhaps an illustration may help to distinguish the interpretation I am making of da sein to that of Blattner’s,

This is not all. Heidegger not only follows Hegel into a phenomenology of the Self; he also follows his domain of explanation outright. This is important. There is a reason why Heidegger’s teacher Edmund Husserl had critiqued Heidegger for undergoing an anthropological project in Being and Time; Heidegger is not doing the Kantian subjectivist metaphysics which Husserl would have preferred. Rather, and much like Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, Heidegger’s Being and Time presents a narrative of speculative and historic anthropology. Once seeing Being and Time as more akin to Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit than to Kant’s Kritik der reinen Vernunft (“Critique of Pure Reason”), various “changeovers” or “events” can be properly understood as historical events. We can also remember that Heidegger’s lecture series, Prolegomena zur Geschichte des Zeitbegriffs (“History of the Concept of Time”) reads as a sketch for Being and Time. Heidegger is likely thinking of these historical events as states of evolutionarily punctuated equilibrium. Of course, important to our article here, is the state of equilibrium in which world-time is understood as a public phenomenon; it also includes the state in which time is understood according to the ordinary conception of time. In order to reinterpret Heidegger’s temporal idealism through a reading of the speculative historic-anthropology of Being and Time, I will next have you consider Heidegger’s γενεσις (“genesis”) of the ordinary conception of time.

4) Γενεσις and the ordinary conception of time

Heidegger’s speculative and historic anthropology has been encouraged by two themes, 1) temporality and 2) the ordinary conception of time. Temporality belongs to his transcendental explanation, and the ordinary conception of time belongs to our theoretical explanation — that is to say, “ordinary time” belongs to our theory of time. Heidegger must link these two thematic objects which, it should be noted, belong to two different domains of thinking (languages or logia). But this does not mean that Heidegger’s genealogy of the ordinary conception of time is “multidisciplinary”. Rather, when Heidegger writes of the genesis of the ordinary conception of time, he is strictly thinking of this genesis historically and anthropologically. And this is the case even though the genealogy strives at existential-ontological elucidation. We can be sure this is the correct reading. Consider that Heidegger’s explanation of the genesis is bound up with talk of “primitive” and “advanced” da sein. In section 80, we find the inception of the genealogy as a recapitulation of the entirety of the transcendental architecture of Being and Time. Fittingly, he begins with “primitive” da sein,

Da sein exists as something that has been thrown. Abandoned to the ‘world’ which is discovered with its facticial ‘there’, and concernfully submitted to it, da sein awaits its potentiality-for-being-in-the-world; it awaits it in such a manner that it ‘reckons’ on and ‘reckons’ with whatever has an involvement for the sake of this potentiality-for-being. Everyday circumspective being-in-the-world needs the possibility of sight (and this means it needs brightness) if it is to deal concernfully with what is ready-to-hand within the present-at-hand. With the factical disclosedness of da sein’s world, nature has been uncovered for da sein. In its thrownness da sein has been surrendered to the changes of day and night. Day with its brightness gives it the possibility of sight; night takes this away.”

“[Primitive] da sein awaits with circumspective concern the possibility of sight, and it understands itself in terms of its daily world; in thus awaiting and understanding, it gives its time with the ‘then, when it dawns…’ The ‘then’ with which da sein concerns itself gets dated in terms of something which is connected with getting bright, and which is connected with it in the closest kind of environmental involvement — namely, the rising of the sun.”

Since the development of the lightbulb, “advanced” da sein has not been dependent on the sun in this way, and even “intermediate” da sein achieved its possibility of sight by use of candles. Therefore, when Heidegger uses the phrase da sein in the above paragraphs, he is picturing “primitive” da sein. In this light, we can see that Blattner, like Husserl, is expecting too much Kantian subjectivism when he sees the dependency of world-time on primordial time as necessary in every instance of temporality. We remember that for Blattner, when da sein finishes lecturing, she then heads to the movies, and Blattner expects that a purposive chain connecting these events must be imposed by a personal or subjective for-the-sake-of-which. But when seeing Heidegger’s explanation as speculative historic-anthropology and when seeing da sein as “the one” which is explicitly not a unitary Self, then we can see that that dependency was required at some point in the history of human organization. But as our ancestors’ time-reckoning became “enhanced and strengthened” (Being and Time section 80), the more an interpretation of world-time as measured time was solidified. The reason for this is simply because measured time proved useful to da sein in pressing ahead into its possibilities, and thus the conception of the sequentiality of time came to being. (Consider that according to Heidegger’s speculative historic-anthropology, it is reasonable to assume that sequentiality might be proven unhelpful to some future da sein.) What Blattner cannot see is that as the sequentiality of time becomes pervasive to da sein’s understanding, the purposive (for-the-sake-of-which) dependency fades. However, because we can see this, then we can also see that the demand which Blattner holds to Heidegger is this: he wants an explanation of the being of time as it has advanced from “primitive” da sein to “advanced” da sein. He wants to see the historical narrative in which world-time became public (that is to say, measured according to a standard, such as the sun-as-standard, and thus described as “sequential”). Yet, the answer to that question would not belong to the transcendental architecture, but rather to a historical narrative pieced together by way of archaeological evidence. And, as we can see, this story is not necessary in a transcendental description of da sein.

NOTE: As strange as it may seem, for Heidegger, the “evolution” of world-time into its publicness is directly related to the being of space. Spending a few words on this relationship will shed greater light on the correct interpretation of our substantialized temporality-now-da-sein and the coming into being of the publicness of world-time. Let us again consider our temporality from the beginning of section 2) of this article. This time around, however, we should imagine numerous points of temporality instead of just one. Each one of these points are projected towards its possibilities. In pressing ahead into possibilities, the numerous temporality-now-da-sein are not only in the world, but also have “in hand” the possibilities which are available to them. This property of being “in hand” does not belong to any one point of temporality. Rather, in being-worldly, each thing “in hand” belongs to the totality of the world. Heidegger is clear: there is no such thing as a single item of equipment. This totality of ready-to-hand “equipment” is arranged in such a way that it is more or less accessible. This accessibility is the primordial kernel of the being of world-space. What temporality-now-da-sein finds is a world which is arranged in such a way which indicates a multiplicity of temporalities, each of which carries around with it its own accessibility. In other words, what is revealed through a network of “things” is an arrangement of possibilities, some which are more “ready-to-hand” and others which are less. We can describe this accessibility in terms of more and less accessible, and this constitutes distance. The network of things is the being of the spatiality of the world. This is also the explanation which Heidegger gives in Being and Time,

“The temporality of factical being-in-the-world is what primordially makes the disclosure of space possible; and in each case spatial da sein has — out of a ‘yonder’ which has been discovered — allotted itself a ‘here’ which is of the character of da sein. Because of all this the time with which da sein concerns itself in its temporality is, as regards its datability, always bound up with some location of that da sein.”

“Time itself does not get linked to a location; but temporality is the condition for the possibility that dating may be bound up with the spatially-local in such a way that this may be binding for everyone as a measure. Time does not first get coupled with space; but the ‘space’ which one might suppose to be coupled with it, is encountered only on the basis of the temporality which concerns itself with time.”

When I read this section, Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) time zones come to mind. Yet, when reading carefully, I see that this is probably not what Heidegger had in mind. All the same, elucidating Heidegger’s meaning by way of time zones might be helpful. Consider again da sein as the world and also as an accessibility-network of possibilities. From out of this network (or perhaps “temporality zone”), datability proves useful for aligning possibilities available to the numerous temporalities-now-da-sein. Dating (marking a location in space through the sun) strengthens “the one” of da sein as a “temporality zone” which then, through sophisticated forms of dating, has its “time zone” — its unified standard time for legal, commercial, and social purposes. (In many ways, Heidegger’s understanding of space may be even more radical than his conception of time.)

With this tangent now aside, let us return to the argument driving my development. Throughout sections 1) through 4) of this article, I have interpreted Heidegger’s explanation of the changeover from primordial time to world-time, thus saving Heidegger’s grounding of time (as we use it in our day-to-day lives) on human being. However, we may remember that Blattner is not so much concerned with the proof of world-time’s publicness as he is concerned with Heidegger’s explanation of time’s continuous flow. This property belongs to our ordinary conception of time. Our consideration on this issue will be short.

5) Jetzt-Zeit (“now-time”) and theoretical time

Blattner understands the object “time” as it belongs to the ordinary conception of time as Jetzt-Zeit (“now-time”). Now-time is defined by Blattner as the continuous ticking away of empty, purely quantitative moments. Blattner is also sure that this experience of now-time is not merely a phantom experience. Chapter 4 of Heidegger’s Temporal Idealism begins with the reflection,

“The tradition has not just made a mistake. Da sein does sometimes encounter times which are ‘contentless’.”

Of course, Blattner is correct. If Heidegger is committed to phenomenology, then he must account for the experience of this now-time phenomena. So, how does Heidegger explain it? For Heidegger, now-time is the phenomenon which occurs when one stares at a clock face, for example, and when time seems to “pass away into the future”. There is no significance to this time, and it seems void of any qualitative value which world-time exhibits. Heidegger’s reflection on time’s “passing” is found in Being and Time, section 81,

“Our talk of time’s passing-away gives expression to this ‘experience’: time does not let itself be halted. This ‘experience’ in turn is possible only because the halting of time is something that we want. Herein lies an inauthentic awaiting of ‘moments’ — an awaiting in which they are already forgotten as they glide by. The awaiting of inauthentic existence is the condition for the possibility of the ordinary experience of time’s passing away.”

Heidegger’s argument is that only because we have now-time — that is, a measured and therefore public (or “inauthentic” and not “mine”) time — can we experience time’s passing away. For Heidegger, when we are “authentically” involved in the world, the experience of time’s passing away is not had. If clocks were absent (including absent from our mind’s eye), we would not have any foundation for experiencing time’s passing away. With the totality of Being and Time’s speculative historic-anthropology in hand, we might say that Heidegger sees this passing-away experience not as the principal phenomenon to be explained, but rather the phenomenon to be explained away. In continuing our reflections on section 81, we can recall that Heidegger remarks,

“The principal thesis of the ordinary way of interpreting time — namely that time in ‘infinite’ — makes manifest most impressively the way in which world-time and accordingly temporality in general has been levelled off and covered up by such an interpretation.”

In other words, what is most impressive about our ordinary conception of time, and the passing away of “infinite time”, according to Heidegger, is the way in which that conception has covered up an understanding of temporality — which is, after all, the grounding existence of human being. I argue that Heidegger’s project in Being and Time is exactly this: to undo the wrongdoings of our ordinary conceptions about various phenomena if they do an injustice. It is clear that Heidegger believes that the ordinary conception of time performs an injustice. But what about other theories of time? What would Heidegger have to say about certain mathematical theories of time, such as Einstein’s space-time. This seems important. Therefore, let us now forget Blattner’s concern over the ordinary conception of time — it is a crude conception anyway. I am done with Heidegger’s Temporal Idealism. I now turn your attention to Heidegger and to theoretical conceptions of time generally.

Now, I never met Heidegger; he died a few years before I was born. And I have never read a reflection in which Heidegger speaks of space-time specifically. Nonetheless, what should be obvious is that Heidegger’s philosophy of time does not compete against any one mathematical conception of time. Rather, his philosophy of time seeks to show how theories about time are possible. If I understand Heidegger correctly, then even Einstein’s mathematical space-time is explanatorily dependent on Heidegger’s temporality.

At this point, my illustration can be finalized and presented,

Of course, even if Heidegger’s temporality explains the being of Einstein’s space-time, what does such an explanation do for us? Why consider a speculative history of the foundation for Einstein’s space-time, for example? Why not rather press ahead into the possibilities which that object has refined for us? What is the value of philosophical enlightenment when we have such good science. This is the right question. It sheds light on the purpose of Heidegger’s project. Heidegger is concerned about the loss of human being in the world. He believes this loss occurs when our various scientific theories obscure the metaphysical foundations of our scientific investigations. Today, when we find ourselves oppressed by “science” — when it is used by politicians, policy makers, and influencers — Heidegger’s Being and Time offers us relief. He offers a certain populist or democratic relief from a technocratic and authoritarian governance economy. At the same time, I can admit that if this were the only conclusion which could be drawn from this article, then it would not have been necessary. The “life philosophy” which prescribes a preservation of human being does not require a critique of Blattner’s Heidegger’s Temporal Idealism. However, Blattner’s explication of primordial time does provide us with a valuable tool for progressing the metaphysical architecture. As I stated at the inception of this article, we can (and should) advance metaphysics and a transcendental architecture of time into the metamodern political project. This is for the sake of fresh solutions to our inherited problems.

In the concluding section of this article, I will suggest that Heidegger’s philosophy of time is more relevant today than Einstein’s space-time, or whichever other mathematically derived theories of time we may have or may come to. Consider that Einstein’s space-time does not tell us anything about how to answer the human suffering which occurs because of our current political organizations.

6) First Economics and the πραξις-πολις

We can be sure that Heidegger, like Hegel and Marx before him, is a sociological thinker. And for good reason. We can see how sociology is an advancement over Enlightenment thinking, which is grounded in the treatment of “man” as a rational individual. The sociologists take account of the psychical, but also seek a more expansive description of the other, from the position of the “We”. At the same time, problematizing according to the sociological toolbox preserves within it a bias which treats the human animal with special priority. This bias can be traced back to the Ancient Greeks, from where our German writers found their inspiration. It is perhaps Aristotle who, above all, may be blamed. Yet, today this bias is difficult to maintain. What is required of a metamodern metaphysics is a new subject matter which can account for the phenomena of not only the human animal, but also non-human animals, machines, intelligent programs, and even algorithms as well. We must expand subjectivity once again, just as Hegel before Heidegger.

When looking at the form of Hegel’s expansion as a guide, we are reminded of Hegel’s Knecht (usually translated as “bondsman” or “servant”), which first realizes self-consciousness by working with the thing as the common mediated simplicity which binds it to the Herr (“lord”), to the world, and to self-consciousness itself. For both Hegel and Heidegger, das ding (“the thing”) is the common medium. When Heidegger moves beyond Being and Time, he does so in order to prioritize the common medium. The thing belongs to Heidegger’s pre-intellectualized commercium. This commercium includes you and me, but also every other ready-to-hand thing. Yet, of all the things available in this commercium, the being of the sun, as a capsule of possibilities, takes special priority. In fact, Heidegger had already acknowledged as much near to his abandonment of Being and Time. In section 80 (of 83), Heidegger describes man’s subjection,

“The dating of things in terms of the heavenly bodies which shed forth light and warmth, and in terms of its distinctive ‘places’ in the sky, is a way of assigning time which can be done in our very being with one another ‘under the same sky’, and which can be done for ‘everyman’ at any time and in the same way…”

I pay close attention to the description of man’s subjection “under the same sky”. “Being with one another…under” indicates that Heidegger became aware that a transcendental architecture which insists on the “equiprimordial” features of human being as the subiectum and subject matter of metaphysics is too shallow. We should not be surprised that Heidegger abandoned Being and Time just as this subjection announced itself. Not only did his approach and method bear the burden of the “I”, but it also bore the burden of the “We” of human being. (I can agree with Victor Farias’s characterization of Heidegger, the pagan.)

We have inherited the German metaphysical tradition (that is to say, the modern tradition) beginning with Immanuel Kant. However, this tradition has been abandoned with Heidegger, who himself proclaimed the “end” and “consummation” of metaphysics. However, when returning to Heidegger’s paganism today, we find that his understanding of the “end” and “consummation” of metaphysics is due to the fact that his transcendental architectonic simply was not rich enough. During the construction of Being and Time, his thinking circled around-and-around the sphere of modernity’s “man”. Heidegger did not permit himself to write of the commercium during this period, because he was committed to a subjectivist metaphysics. He was all-too modern. However, in releasing ourselves from subjectivist metaphysics, we are allowed to make this distinction. It requires that we adopt a position like Hegel’s. Once we accept a certain unapologetic subjectivity, we can again construct a theory of time unburdened by Being and Time’s methodology. I understand that this theory of time will allow us to freshly encounter our suffering and circumvent our exhausted social, psychological, economic, and political framing of problems.

At the beginning of this article, I had suggested a matrix by which to order the time-definitions offered by Blattner. We will now repeat it so that it can be seen with new meaning,

Ursprünglich zeit (“primordial time”) is transcendentally real (is independent of human being);

Weltzeit (“world-time”) is transcendentally ideal (belongs to human being);

Jetzt-Zeit (“now-time”) is phantasmic; and finally,

Theoretical time, which is empirically real (that is, follows from experience, and describes something which has been “thrown against” the Self).

In thinking about the name of the discipline which treats of the commercium, we can turn towards Aristotle’s metaphysics, τα περι της πρωτης φιλοσοφιας (that is, “the [writings] concerning first philosophy”). Of course, René Descartes offers a more English-friendly term for this realm of thought: prima philosophia. And so, following the Latinized expression, we might say that we are here doing prima economics — prime economics. However, for ease of translation into English, let us simply name the thinking space of the commercium as first economics. In the thinking space of first economics, we must abandon Heidegger’s temporality, if by that we mean to suggest a transcendental description of the being of “man”. Yet, primordial time, as treated by Heidegger and Blattner, retains its value. We must reconsider primordial time afresh, this time through the subiectum and subject matter of first economics philosophy — that which has been previously announced as the πραξις-πολις.



Justin Carmien

Public speaker on metaphysics, political philosophy, and political metamodernism