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Heidegger and Derrida: Reflections on Time and Language.

Rapaport, a professor of literature, differs from many literary critics interested in the thought of Jacques Derrida insofar as he seeks to locate Derrida within the philosophical tradition and problematic out of which Derrida's ideas, so significant for critical theory, emerge. While Rapaport considers Derrida in relation to thinkers as diverse as Hegel, Nietzsche, Freud, Husserl, Blanchot, Joyce, and Celan, he focuses his attention on Heidegger, and Derrida's reflections on Heidegger, for there the relation between time and language central to Derrida's deconstructionism is most fruitfully to be examined.

Rapaport claims that there are two traditional interpretations of Heidegger between which Derrida moves. The first interpretation sees the turn to

temporality announced for Part 2 of Sein und Zeit, and intimated in Part 1, as sublating, supporting, and at the same time purifying the ontological project of Part 1 through an even more rigorous "de-struction" of the history of philosophy and critique of ontology. The second sees in Heidegger's destruction of the history of philosophy not so much a critical rejection of that history as a more original appropriation of it. Derrida's position, according to Rapaport, is "distinctive" because it sides with neither interpretation but "plays with their 'difference' of opinion and thereby takes on many directions or perspectives which would appear to be merely incompatible" (p. 7) but are not.

Rapaport, seeking to show that deconstructionism is continuous with the more radical side of Heidegger's thought, examines in detail and against the background of Derrida's more straightforwardly philosophical works (Le voix et le phenomeme, L'origine de la geometrie, and De la grammatologie) a broad range of Derridian texts: "Ousia et gramme," "La differance," "La mythologie blanche," "Les fins de l'homme," "Pas," "Le retrait de la metaphore," De l'esprit, La carte postale, "D'un ton apocalyptique adopte naguere en philosophie," "Des tours de Babel," "Shibboleth," "Ulysse gramophone: Deux mots pour Joyce," "La main de Heidegger (Geschlecht II)," and "The Time of the Thesis: Punctuations." In these works, the "middle-of-the-road" Derrida at times suggests that Heidegger envisioned a revolutionary notion of temporality but failed to bring it to philosophical fruition, and, indeed, resisted doing so because he wanted not truly to overcome the metaphysical tradition but to maintain an existential, ontological dimension in his own thought. At other times, for example, in his later treatments of Heidegger, the "conservative" Derrida himself moves toward retaining the existential, ontological dimension he had criticized in Heidegger. At yet other times, the "radical" Derrida suggests that Heidegger did not genuinely conceive a revolutionary notion of temporality at all and that the development of the temporal clue announced in Sein und Zeit required completion through deconstructionism's assimilation of Heidegger's ontological difference to differance and language.

Derrida's intent, according to Rapaport, is to avoid stating a simple (logocentric) thesis stipulating the historical relation between Heidegger and deconstructionism--indeed a thesis could not be stated on Derrida's own principles. Derrida instead explores different and undecidable historical perspectives by considering and reconsidering Heideggerian texts at different times and in different contexts so that their affinities and antagonisms, their turnings toward and away from one another and toward and away from deconstructionism, are opened for reflection. In this manner Derrida reveals the radical Heidegger's and his own conceptions of temporality: conceptions which "attempt to break the spine of tradition as a teleological structure that reduces philosophy to just so many things to be serially apprehended" (p. 258), conceptions which lack the "familiar notions of chronological development or historization" (p. 14), and conceptions which foreclose the possibility of totalizing claims. It is in language, more specifically in paronomasia, that the indeterminability of identity and difference, the flux of temporal relations, and the interplay of temporal horizons reveal themselves in a manner which "radically breaks with our everyday sense[s] of experienced time" (p. 127), chronology, ends, and history.

Rapaport uncritically assumes throughout his book the essential correctness of Derridian and deconstructive readings of Heidegger (and other philosophers); he asserts, but never argues, that non-Derridian approaches to Heidegger are incomplete or inadequate. But it remains an outstanding issue whether what Rapaport calls "Derrida's patient and meticulous readings of philosophy" (p. 22) are also careful and defensible interpretations of those other philosophers. Moreover, as Claude Evans has pointed out (in his Strategies of Deconstruction [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991]), the success of Derrida's deconstructive positions depends on the plausibility of the readings he gives of other philosophers. Similarly, the correctness of the Derridian readings of Heidegger is an essential element in establishing the relation between Derrida and Heidegger for which Rapaport argues. Consequently, to those who have already boarded the deconstructive train, Rapaport's book will no doubt provide illuminating and insightful interpretations of the relation between Derrida and Heidegger--interpretations fundamentally sympathetic to deconstructive approaches to philosophy. But this book will probably not convince others to jump on that already moving train.
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Author:Drummond, John J.
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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