Event and time; (Perspectives in Continental Philosophy) [1 ed.] 0823255344, 9780823255344

Contemporary philosophy, from Kant through Bergson and Husserl to Heidegger, has assumed that time must be conceived as

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Event and time; (Perspectives in Continental Philosophy) [1 ed.]
 0823255344, 9780823255344

Table of contents :
Preface to the Second French Edition
Translator's Note
Part I: The Metaphysics of Time
Part II: Time
Part III: Temporality

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nt and Time

Event and Titne

Series Board

James Bernauer Drucilla Cornell Thomas R. Flynn Kevin Hart Richard Kearney Jean-Luc Marion Adriaan Peperzak Thomas Sheehan Hent de Vries Merold Westphal Michael Zimmerman

John D. Caputo, series editor


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Event and Time





New York • 2014

Copyright© 2014 Fordham University Press All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means-electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other-except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher. Event and Time was first published in French under the title L'evenement et le temps by Presses Universitaires de France, © 1999 Presses Universitaires de France. It was reissued in 2012 with corrections and a new Preface by the author. The present English translation is based on the reissue, along with further additions from the author.

Cet ouvrage, pub lie clans le cadre du programme d' aide ala publication, beneficie du soutien du Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres et du Service Culture! de l'Ambassade de France represente aux Etats-Unis. This work received support from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States through their publishing assistance program. Cet ouvrage a beneficie du soutien des Programmes d'aide Franc;ais.

ala publication de l'Institut

This work, published as part of a program of aid for publication, received support from the Institut Franc;ais. Fordham University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party Internet websites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate. Fordham University Press also publishes its books in a variety of electronic formats. Some content that appears in print may not be available in electronic books. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available from the publisher. Printed in the United States of America 16 15 14

5432 1

First edition

-For Martin

ai cruµcpopa1 TWV av8pwrrwv axoucr1 KCTl OUKl wv8pwrro1 TWV cruµcpop£wv. -Herodotus, Histories "Ich" "Subjekt" als Horizont-Linie. Umkehrung des perspektivischen Blicks. -Nietzsche, Nachlasse, 1885-1886

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Preface to the Second French Edition Translator's Note

Introduction PART



xi xvii



§1. The Traditional Determinations of Time and Their Structural Dependence with Respect to the Phenomenon of Inner-Temporality 9 • §2. The Paradoxes of the Parmenides 18 • §3. Time and Inner-Temporality in Aristotle's Physics IV 38 • §4. Augustine and the Subjectivization of Time 67





§5. The Stakes for a Phenomenology of Time and Its Differentiation from the Metaphysics of Time 95




§6. The Aporiae of the Constitution of Time 98 • §7. The Ambivalence of Temporality in Sein und Zeit 103




§8. The Phenomenological Amplitude of the Concept of Change 109 • §9. The Inner-Temporality of Facts: First Approach to the Temporal Phenomenon 113 • §10. The Event as Guiding Thread 123 • §11. The Event as Temporalization of Time 128






§12. From Time to Temporality 149 • §13. The Having-Taken-Place and Memory 155 • §14. The Future and Availability 171 • §15. The Present and Transformation 185 • §16. The Temporal Meaning of Selfhood 192 • §17. The Mobility of the Adventure and Freedom 200 • §18. The Antithetic Phenomenon of Selfhood and Its Temporal Meaning. An Example: Traumatism 202 • §19. Recapitulation: The Articulation of Time and of Temporality 206 • §20. The Finitude of Temporality 213 • §21. The Unity of My Histories 227







Preface to the Second French Edition

When we are writing it, a book occupies our attention so much that it conceals everything else from our view; we need to be detached from it in order to begin to see it. This is what makes the gaze that we train on it so painful when time has passed, like the look upon a dear one with whom we have just begun to get acquainted at the very instant he is going away. We begin to discern all of its faults and limits. Whereas our love should be more severe, it becomes tainted with self-indulgence, if not with selfdelusion. Courage is necessary when publishing a book, but it is almost always out of weakness that one reissues it. Event and Time was the second panel of a dyptich, the first panel of which, Event and World, set out the main lines of an "evential hermeneutics," an elucidation of the human being from the viewpoint of a hermeneutical phenomenology that considers the capacity to experience eventsthat is to say, critical upheavals of his life as a whole-as one of the ownmost features of this living being. The question that oriented my research in this work-complementary to that of the first part of this inquiry and completing the entire enterprise-was the following: what must the phenomenological characteristics of time be in order that something like a radical newness could come to light in it? How must we conceive the break in time and the time of the break? Supposing that an essential plot is knit between event and time, how should we account for time in order to render intelligible the occurring of events in it, and how should we account for the event in order to make visible in it the temporalization of time? xi

Indeed, the event is not accessorily or accidentally temporal: declaring itself after the fact as the event that it was in light of its subsequent destiny, of its future, it is only the movement of its own taking time/temporalization [temporisationltemporalisationJ and only gives itself to a belated and retrospective experience. There is nothing gratuitous in the Levinassian paradox: "The great 'experiences' of our life have properly speaking never been lived." 1 They will only be lived after and according to the measure of the future that they open, of the fissure that they make in our own adventure. It is necessary, as a consequence, to rethink temporality itself in light of the event and of its phenomenality. This attempt is not without a relation to that undertaken by Bergson starting from an entirely different horizon of preoccupations and problems. The philosopher of duration had already isolated as characteristic of metaphysical approaches to time (and by "metaphysical" he meant acertain historical closure of what is thinkable for the Western mind) their complete failure to appreciate newness. The time of metaphysics is without any real surprise. But instead of accounting for this recovery of the very dimension of the new (of the radically new) by a "spatialization" of" duration" qua continuous bursting forth of unforeseeable newness, I gave a very different form to this intuition. That which determines the frame of thought in which the metaphysical approaches to time as a whole move is that time is apprehended there in light of concepts (change, passage, becoming, transition, flow, permanence) that only legitimately apply to inner-temporal phenomena. What metaphysics thus recovers is what one might call the "chronological difference," that which must be established between the (inner-) temporal features of the phenomena subjected to becoming and the features of time itsel£ In other words, metaphysics conceives time as such by "projecting" it, so to speak, in time. Clearly this thesis is not identical to that defended by Heidegger when he was determining the "vulgar" concept of time-that is to say, the interpretation of time reigning from one end to the other of the history of metaphysics (or, as he called it at the time of Sein und Zeit, of "traditional onto1ogy") , as "a sequence o f' nows ' w h"1ch are constant1y 'present-to- h an d' (vorhanden)." 2 What distinguishes my thesis from Heidegger's is not only, or even primarily, that such a concept of time is rather difficult to attribute to thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Kant, Husserl, or Bergson; it is, more fundamentally, that such a characterization of time-supposing that it can be historically attested-represents only a consequence of the more general specification that I put forward. In order that time may be "reduced" to a succession of nows, it is necessary that it be conceived in terms of succession-that is to say, that a concept be applied to it that posxii • Preface to the Second French Edition

sesses pertinence only for describing phenomena that unfold in time. Moreover, the flaw in the Heideggerian thesis is that it authorizes maintaining in place the difference between an originally "subjective" time (that which is characterized by starting from three "temporalizing" attitudes: expectation, retention, and making-present or enpresenting) and a time of things, or "world-time"; now, one of the theses that follows instead from my analyses is that the spiritualization/subjectivization of time that is accomplished first in Augustine and reigns up to and through Husserl and Heidegger is only, in turn, a consequence of the failure to recognize the "chronological difference." In order that time may be conceived as originally subjective, as identical to the movement of the expectation that changes itself into attention and of the attention that changes itself into retention, it is necessary that it be first understood and apprehended itself in light of inner-temporality. But all these indications remain formal for as long as we have not entered into the living detail of phenomenological analyses. The marking out of the main features of a metaphysics of time is, indeed, only the preliminary to an analysis of time as such, allowing us to give full consideration to the event and to its radical newness. How can we understand this newness? This problem is at the heart of the work that you will read, and it is impossible to resolve in a few words. It requires first of all an understanding of the level at which the question itself is posed. Not that of an objective analysis of phenomena in the physical objective world, but that of an experience of the phenomena such that they can be described in the first person: the newness of a fact that occurs suddenly and "takes me by surprise" has meaning only at the level of what Husserl called Lebenswelt, the life-world. The adequate formulation of this problem demands next that we understand how the failure to recognize the newness is structurally bound up with the frame of thinking in which the different metaphysics of time are set forth. In reality the metaphysics of time not only conceives of time in light of that which is inner-temporal, it also conceives of innertemporality in an inadequate way. This point is probably not explicit enough in Event and Time, and it would call for a recasting of certain of its descriptions. Indeed, the newness is not only a feature of the event in the strong sense that I give to this term-the event in the evential sense-but also and already a feature of what I call the innerworldly fact. What is more, this newness does not contradict the foreseeable character of certain facts. We can expect their occurrence, and they will not be any the less new at the moment in which they are brought about, for there will always be something unexpected in them, even if it is only their unique qualitative imprint. It is not enough to Preface to the Second French Edition •


describe inner-temporality on the basis of two series of phenomena: a parte subjecti, an expectation that changes itself into attention and an attention that changes itself into memory, and a parte objecti, a change of temporal status by virtue of which a fact is first "to come," then "present," and finally "past"; for, before occurring, a fact possesses no kind ofpresence whatsoever, not even that of an ens diminutum, of a being in representation; its future is not of the present in suspense, and its occurring in no way signifies a mere change of temporal status that would affect an immutable quasi-subject; the fact anticipated as future does not become present for the simple reason that it does not become-rather, it advenes or occurs, in such a way that, when it happens, its newness is complete: what we are dealing with is a pure bursting forth, a pure genesis, a change from nothing into something. Inner-temporality can be described as the becoming-past of the future only if one adopts the viewpoint of the already happened or occurred fact and describes it from such a viewpoint, thereby denying the most important difference that there is: that which opposes the possible and the actual, the future and the present. It is precisely this difference that the metaphysics of time has the tendency to hide. If the time of metaphysics can be characterized, in a first approximation, as the becoming-present of the future and the becomingpast of the present, it is first of all because the dimensionals of time (the future, the past, the present) are identified with the features of that which occurs in time ("being present," "being past"); but it is also, in the second place, because the very occurring of that which happens in time, its advent, is conceived as a mere change affecting something already there, already present or quasi-present, the future being thought of only as a present "in waiting." The time of metaphysics is a time in which everything "passes away" because nothing truly happens there, or, what amounts to the same thing, because what happens there only becomes, is already there virtually before happening and, consequently, in no way happens. Of course, the newness of the fact, if it prefigures that of the event, is nevertheless not identical with it. There is the newness of that which does not match with our expectations, at least up to a certain point-the newness of that which, even when foreseeable, always announces itself in a way that is qualitatively unique and unanticipatable; but there is also the newness of that which does not so much thwart our expectations as strike our projects as such at their root-by overturning them. Because it is not reduced to an unmatched expectation, because it is one with the overturning of our best-laid projects, those which gave shape to our existence as permanent self-projection, the in-breaking of the event brings with it a surprise that does not end with its occurring and that signifies a rupture of xiv •

Preface to the Second French Edition

meaning in the cohesion of our lives and our histories. The great events of our life never entirely lose their surprising character, which is their most lasting mark. It is to such events, to such a surprise and to such a novation, that the analyses of this book are in the first place dedicated. In taking them as the guiding thread, the goal is not only to analyze the time of the event, its structurally deferred occurring, but also the temporality of our experience itself-an experience that is not interrupted with the cessation of the fact, but is one with the continuous movement of an appropriation of it and of a distantiation with respect to it. This movement belongs to memory in its evential sense, not as a mere faculty of recollection, but as a memory of the possible that is also, and at the same time, a faculty of self-renewal under the constraint of what happens to us. By deepening this point Event and Time allows us to take a further step in relation to Event and World. Its epicenter is a conception of selfhood and freedom-related notions, since to be oneself is to manifest one's freedom, and inversely, to be free is to be fully oneself-as a capacity for self-transformation and transformation of one's existence, or, as I say in the book, of one's adventure. Since its first publication, some of these questions have been taken up and deepened in my book Laventure temporelle (Paris: Quadrige, 2010). Let me add that this edition of Event and Time includes a number of corrections of and modifications to the text. If, for a book that is rather difficult, its reappearance in a portable format is an enviable chance, it is above all for me the opportunity to once again measure the scope of what remains to be done. November 10, 2011

Preface to the Second French Edition •


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Translator's Note

This book is a partner to Event and World and thus shares much of that book's vocabulary. Whenever possible, I have used the same translations that Shane Mackinlay, the translator of Event and World, employed for key terms and concepts. The author, Claude Romano, was closely involved in the final preparation of this translation. He not only suggested corrections to each page of the translation but made many clarifications of and even corrections to the French text. In a sense this translation can be considered as something like a third edition of Event and Time. I would like to thank Claude Romano and the editors at Fordham University Press for the patience they showed during the long gestation of this translation.


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Event and Titne

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In his Notebooks, Paul Valery wrote, "The word time is only provisional." 1 It may still be so for us; but if this word is to resonate otherwise than as a mere incantation, it must be possible to submit it to an analysis that starts from the things themselves, from a phenomenon given to all and available for an interpretation. Does such a "phenomenon" exist? And, if so, is it separable from the history of its interpretation? Is there, in itself, independent of this history, "time" as such? Nothing is less certain. Valery's precaution is not in the least bit oratorical. There is no "question of time" that could be posed to us in a timeless manner. The question of what makes up the unity of the different phenomena generally grouped under the rubric of "time" cannot be resolved before it has even been posed. "Time" is first of all the chain of historically attested, successive interpretations of this "phenomenon." There is nothing "given" or immediately evident in this. But that time appears, in the unity of its phenomenal determinations, first of all as a problem, in no way signifies that the questioning of it would lose itself here in purely verbal quibbles, in a "nominalism" of principle, without any phenomenon susceptible to bearing the weight of a conceptual analysis. As Heidegger liked to say, it is precisely to the extent that "we have eyes with which to see" that a philosophical hermeneutics can surmount both historical tautology and nominalist quibbling in order to establish itself in this decisive place, in the space between experience and history, holding in one hand the guiding thread of the latter and diving into the former in search of answers. By 1

establishing a circular back-and-forth movement between history and experience, hermeneutics unfolds as phenomenology. In this sense there is no hermeneutics that, if it wishes to be philosophical, is not also, at the same time, phenomenological. This affirmation has its counterpart: phenomenology, in its turn, is only possible as hermeneutics. But what does this expression, "hermeneutic phenomenology," mean? "Phenomenology": to begin with, the word does not merely signify an orientation toward the "things themselves." It is true that this philosophical discipline is born from the precept of method according to which it is fitting to begin from phenomena, and from them alone, in order to furnish a description of them: "Don't go looking for anything beyond phenomena," wrote Goethe. "They are themselves [ ... J the doctrine." 2 Consequently, it is necessary to exclude, from the very beginning as nonpertinent, every consideration of a hypothetical order, which is to say, every explanation of what shows itself by means of assumed or alleged causes, every enterprise of "metaphysical" foundation of the phenomenal "given." The phenomenological method takes as a fundamental presupposition that a good description not only takes the place of understanding, but is this understanding itself. To describe a phenomenon beginning from itself is to understand, with regard to it, all there is to understand. In this regard the positive sciences are situated on another plane than philosophy: in their enterprise of explanation and prediction, they always presuppose at least an implicit phenomenology of their object. They cannot, in any case, substitute themselves for this phenomenology. Regarding this presupposition, hermeneutics brings an essential counterpart, which is equivalent to a bending of method: there are never any phenomena that would be given as such to description-there is no immediacy of a givenness from which one might expect all the light to come: every access to phenomena is irremediably mediated. We should renounce the myth of a "pure given," bound up with that myth (Cartesian and Husserlian) of a total absence of presuppositions of which description could avail itsel£ The transparency of an original contact with experience, which could be established through intuition, is here thoroughly discredited by the necessity of a historical detour and a historical course, only at the end of which the "phenomenon" will allow itself to be apprehended and "seen." The affirmation of the necessity of a critique-or even a "destruction"-of the tradition here goes hand in hand with the impossibility of every definitive interpretation-that is to say, an interpretation freed from every presupposition. But relativism in no way follows if the word signifies a variant of skepticism, the objective impossibility of deciding between several exegeses. Philosophical hermeneutics has at its disposal two criteria for de2


ciding between competing interpretations: namely, (1) their capacity to account for a more or less great number of phenomena (one interpretation is more powerful than another if it makes phenomena intelligible that the other interpretation, by virtue of its presuppositions, did not and could not take into consideration); and (2) their capacity to account for the same phenomena with more or less internal coherence. On one hand, power; on the other, coherence. These brief methodological considerations clarify the way of proceeding that this essay will follow. The attempt to elucidate the temporal phenomenon is preceded here because governed by two series of preliminary questions that bear on the history of the understanding of time and on its presuppositions. First: is there or is there not a nexus of common problems preordaining to the different doctrines of time their hermeneutic horizon, integrating them into an ensemble that one could qualify, in a very generic manner, with the label "metaphysics of time"? And, if so, in what do they consist? Second: how can we understand that time, from Augustine to Husserl and even to Heidegger, has been apprehended fundamentally as a "subjective" phenomenon, no matter how the subjectivity of the "subject" in question has been interpreted in each case? Is this "subjectivization" of time necessary? What phenomenal features of time confer on it its right and its justification? Is it even possible to give it a justification of any kind on the plane of phenomena? Isn't another interpretation of time possible and legitimate, or even required, by the aporiae that result from the first? What criteria must such an interpretation of time outside the subject satisfy? In these conditions, what prescribes for such an interpretation its guiding thread? I will attempt to answer, at least in part, these considerable and probably excessive questions in the first part of this work. Let me emphasize that these questions could never have been posed without the unavoidable contribution of Heidegger, to which frequent reference will be made. He is the one who was the first to advance the thesis of a unitary constitution of metaphysics based on the primacy of the present and of presence for the understanding of the meaning of Being. This guiding interpretation, which governs the apprehension of the temporal phenomenon since Aristotle, is designated, in Sein und Zeit, by the name "ordinary concept of time (vulgaren Zeitbegrijf)": "Thus for the ordinary understanding of time, time shows itself as a sequence of 'nows' which are constantly 'present-at-hand,' simultaneously passing away and coming along (eine Folge von standig 'vorhandenen,' zugleich vergehenden und ankommenden fetzt)." 3 But this thesis of a unitary constitution of metaphysics rooted in a community of interpretation of the temporal phenomenon cannot be accepted without Introduction •


further scrutiny; it calls for a critical testing that will occupy the first part of this essay. To go straight to the point: it does not seem possible to me to define the common hermeneutical horizon within which the attempts of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Kant, Hegel, Bergson, or Husserl take place in view of furnishing an elucidation of the "nature" of time, on the basis of the "ordinary concept of time" as Heidegger defined it. Even Aristotle, whose famous definition of time put forth in Physics, Book IV: rouro yap £crnv 6 xp6voc;, ap18µoc; KlV~CYEW