I specialize in philosophies of time from the post-Kantian European philosophies of the 19th and 20th centuries, particularly in the German phenomenological tradition. My work investigates the dynamics of time as it is lived, with a focus on the structural features of the event that make that experience possible. As a result, my research is inherently interdisciplinary, exploring history of philosophy, social-political and feminist philosophies, and aesthetics through the lens of what I call liminal metaphysics.
For one, liminal metaphysics signals opposition to the modernist Eurocentric fixation on the end – of metaphysics, of history, of art. It takes the threshold or edge between systems to be its primary focus instead. The Nietzschean Übergang (transition) empowers us to think to the edge of what is possible for the “Western tradition,” splitting the unity of its self-identities apart to multiply significations and semblances, and to complicate rather than resolve relations to origins. As itself a philosophy of time, liminal metaphysics recasts the structure of time as cyclical, rather than linear or circular. Though commentators have addressed the inadequacy of the line to represent the movement of time from vantage points both classical and critical, they rarely problematize the circle, often deployed uncritically as an alternative to the line, without reference to its figuration of eternity. I argue that the figuration of mortal time, the time allotted to mortals within which to live and move, demands the geometric ellipse, whose arcs hold together through the dynamic tension of its dual foci, mirroring the inherent duplicity – if not multiplicity – of the self. The temporality of liminal metaphysics thus proves a fertile ground for conversation with contemporary feminist and other critical phenomenological theories of selfhood that emphasize multiplicity over reduction, and travel over stagnancy.
History of Philosophy: German Phenomenology
Insofar as closure by death furnishes limits largely responsible for the structural directionality and significance of our motion through time, my work takes a first figural focus on temporality in the philosophies of Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger. My current monograph project, Nietzsche’s Heidegger (under review at Palgrave Macmillan), conceptually begins with Heidegger’s early phenomenological articulations of ekstatic temporality, a tripartite, elastic structure whose modes interrelate to form the quasi-Husserlian horizons of mortal time. Though it has long been argued that Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence inspired Heidegger’s efforts to produce a phenomenological ontology that establishes an equivalence between being and time, the reduction of Heidegger’s famous treatment of Nietzsche to a summary of its guiding polemic has meant that the connection between the explicit and implicit dimensions of the engagement with Nietzsche remained little explored.
I move to explore both of these dimensions, taking my cue from Heidegger’s exceptional 1937 lecture course wherein his account of the structure of Nietzsche’s temporal event bears a striking resemblance to his own early, phenomenological work. To contend with this resemblance, I deploy Heidegger’s reading of Nietzsche as the retrospective lens through which to reopen the question of an implicit inspiration, which I trace not only through Heidegger’s Being and Time, but into the liminally metaphysical period to follow, which culminates in the 1929/30 lecture course, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics. Its effort to uncover the unifying horizon of originary temporality, I argue, is a performance of the thinking of eternal recurrence in fidelity to Nietzsche. This is both the core argument of my dissertation (2016) and of the corollary article, “And the Whole Music Box Repeats Eternally its Tune” (Gatherings, 2017), which highlights specifically the phenomenon of attunement as facilitating temporal travel. These efforts, construed historically, reassess Heidegger’s development in light of his notorious silence about the figures with whom his thought is most intimate, leaving open the question as to why such silence prevails.
For, though Heidegger’s canonical status is seldom in dispute, he remains a controversial, indeed polarizing, figure. Given the fact that the decade from Hitler’s rise to power to the end of the second World War is both seminal to Heidegger’s development and the high-water mark of his philosophical project’s entanglement with anti-Semitic fascism, its importance for assessing the value of Heidegger’s contribution to the history of philosophy cannot be underestimated. It becomes imperative to address the material conditions that produce this “thought,” with special attention to the resonance of a politics in the thought thus produced. With regard to this mandate, Nietzsche’s Heidegger reopens Heidegger’s treatment of Nietzsche from 1936 to 1942 – in the eponymous Nietzsche collection as well as in his private Black Notebooks – in order to discern its political implications, and to take up the need for a more sustained explanation of Heidegger’s telling silences. Filling a lacuna in the scholarship, I develop the politics of Heidegger’s Nietzsche “confrontation” to delimit evaluative criteria with which we should thoughtfully engage Heidegger’s philosophy. I argue that the early interest in Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence seduces Heidegger to an intellectual intimacy that is prolific. His star is on the rise. But when the time comes to reckon with the failure of the National Socialist project Heidegger saw as a potential vehicle for his philosophy, Heidegger distances himself by recourse to Nietzsche. Through a reading that foregrounds will to power, Heidegger portrays Nietzsche as the consummate metaphysician responsible for the dominion of planetary technology while simultaneously positioning himself as the one to overcome it, i.e., to erect a salvific German monument that would inaugurate a new beginning for philosophy. To this effort I contrast Heidegger’s intimately Nietzschean liminal metaphysics, which should not be cordoned off by appeal to a linear history of Heidegger’s works, but deployed operationally within a given text to discern the shape of its commitment to time and multiplicity.
With considerable thanks to the trailblazing work of Mariana Ortega, I have begun to explore the potential for a productive dialogue between the liminal metaphysics of Nietzsche’s Heidegger and contemporary feminist (particularly, Latina phenomenological) theory. As already a critical response to the history of philosophy in the “West” coincident with feminist studies that encourage us to thwart binaries, embrace ambiguity, and destabilize the naturalization of “essence,” liminal metaphysics methodologically construed is an efficacious tool for posing questions of ethical implication from out of “traditional” contexts. The symposium on Ortega’s In-Between: Latina Feminist Phenomenology, Multiplicity, and the Self (SUNY 2016) sponsored by the Heidegger Circle of North America (at SPEP 2019) made possible a direct conversation between Jennifer O. Gammage, Ortega, and myself, published in Philosophy Today (2021). My contribution responds to Ortega’s assessment of María Lugones’ concept of travel between worlds by linking the temporal contraction that makes such transport possible to the exigencies in the lives of women of color that, she argues, make it necessary. Our work together on this project occasioned the forthcoming interview of Ortega I was invited to conduct by diacritics for their thematic issue, “Heidegger Today.”
Finally, the intrinsic connection between meaning-making and art, i.e., between philosophy and creativity, is a special site of engagement in my work (as in my teaching). I am especially drawn to the parlay between cinema and philosophies of time, as my chapter , “It is there in the beginning… Melancholia, Time, and Death” (2019) attests. Moreover, any reading of Heidegger in conversation with Nietzsche – whether intimately or polemically – cannot be effective so long as it tries to stand apart from the question of art, which for Nietzsche is ranked higher than truth. Indeed, Heidegger’s own efforts to engage the question of what art is – how it relates to the ancient Greek concept of technē and what this means for the relation of being and human being – are strikingly Nietzschean. I track this in “Heidegger’s Nietzsche & the Origin of the Work of Art,” which I presented at SPEP (2021), and which was subsequently published in the Journal of Speculative Philosophy (2022). Likewise, my contribution to the symposium on Catherine Homan’s A Hermeneutics of Poetic Education (Lexington 2020) entitled, “Propriety to the Measure,” was published in 2022, in the special edition on Aesthetic Education of Pli: The Warwick Journal of Philosophy. Wedding the socio-political and aesthetic dimensions of my research, it first sketches the role of analogy in Homan’s analysis, then critiques the nostalgic recovery of origins that I worry animates Hölderlin’s poetry.
On the whole, my research is fundamentally interdisciplinary yet united in the elliptical conception of time distinctive of liminal metaphysics. Across its many potential applications, liminal metaphysics grounds temporal theory in its material-political conditions of production while deepening our understanding of those conditions through phenomenological investigation of the structures that temporally make them possible.