My research is situated at the intersection of temporal theory in the continental tradition and history of philosophy, with a specialization in the post-Kantian European philosophies of the 19th and 20th centuries. Investigating the dynamics of lived time, my work emphasizes the function of the temporal event specific to philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger. In so doing, I explore how human beings are moved by time, insofar as its closure by death furnishes limits in part responsible for the structural directionality of our “motion.”
My dissertation, “Thinking at the Limit of the Human: Nietzsche, Heidegger, and The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics,” is grounded in Heidegger’s early articulations of ekstatic temporality – his concept of a tripartite, dynamic structure whose modes interrelate to form the horizons of mortal time. Though it has long been argued that Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence inspires the young Heidegger, as a result of the largely polemical nature of Heidegger’s explicit treatment of Nietzsche in the late 1930’s and early 40’s, the connection between explicit treatment and implicit inspiration remains little explored. Yet, to the largely polemical body of work Heidegger produces on Nietzsche, there remains a telling exception: Eternal Recurrence of the Same (1937). Therein, Heidegger’s account of Nietzsche’s temporal event bears a striking resemblance to his own ekstatic temporality. My dissertation therefore deploys this exceptional reading as the retrospective lens through which to reopen the question of implicit inspiration, mobilizing a nuanced critique of Heidegger’s explicit treatment vis-à-vis the history of metaphysics.
Resisting the charge that Nietzsche consummates the history of metaphysics, the project affirms the positive features of Nietzsche’s “system” under the rubric of a metaphysics I designate liminal for its explanatory power on several fronts. First, liminal metaphysics signals opposition to the claim that the history of metaphysics decisively comes to an end. Further, it deploys the plasticity of Nietzschean ambiguity to think to the edge of what is possible for the Western tradition, splitting the unity of self-identity apart and multiplying significations, semblances, and disguises. Most distinctive of liminal metaphysics, however, is its recast of dynamic, mortal time relative to eternity. Where eternity is traditionally portrayed by the endlessly revolving circle, dynamic time demands the figure of the ellipse, constructed by rending the single focus of the circle into two foci that hold the constitutive arcs of the figure together in tension. Thus, if it is possible to portray Heidegger’s ekstatic temporality as elliptical, then it is possible to conceive of a certain young Heidegger as a liminal metaphysician in his own right.
This proves to be the Heidegger of the 1929/30 lecture course, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, whose effort to uncover the unifying horizon of originary temporality, I argue, is a performance of the thinking of eternal recurrence in fidelity to Nietzsche. My article, “…And the Whole Music Box Repeats Its Tune” advances precisely this point, specified through sustained attention to the phenomenon of attunement (Gatherings, 7 : 103-133). On the whole, by attending to Nietzsche, “Thinking at the Limit of the Human,” reassesses 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.
Indeed, though his canonical status is seldom in dispute, Heidegger rightfully remains a controversial, polarizing figure. Given the fact that the decade spanning from Hitler’s rise to power to the end of the second World War is both seminal to his development and the high water mark of his philosophical project’s entanglement with anti-Semitism, 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, my current work reopens Heidegger’s explicit engagement with Nietzsche between 1936 and 1942 in order to discern its political implications.
In the monograph, Liminal Temporalities: Nietzsche, Heidegger, and the End of Metaphysics, I 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 Auseinandersetzung with Nietzsche as the basis for a principle of selection to decide precisely which Heidegger should be carried into the future. Animated by a psychoanalytically leaning hermeneutic suspicion, 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 distances himself from his affiliation therewith by recourse to Nietzsche. What he initially regarded as the potential vehicle for his philosophy he identifies with (a misreading of) Nietzsche’s will to power. This scapegoating of Nietzsche therefore not only enables Heidegger to portray him as the consummate metaphysician who bears responsibility for the so-called dominion of planetary technology, it also positions Heidegger as the one to overcome it, inaugurating a new beginning for philosophy. Thus Nietzsche is revealed to be the figure upon which so much depends: the turn in Heidegger’s thinking, the mistaken source of his fascist desire, the transition to the “other inception,” and the promise of an alternative in liminal metaphysics. Christoph Schirmer of De Gruyter (Berlin) has solicited a proposal for the manuscript to be submitted at our next scheduled meeting at the Central APA.
The next stage of my research deploys liminal metaphysics to envision a productive dialogue between the temporal ontology of Nietzsche’s Heidegger and contemporary feminist testimonials from the margin. 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. My recent presentation, “Here and Elsewhere: The Ontology of World-Traveling” (April 2018), introduces this project, for which I owe a debt of gratitude to Mariana Ortega’s precedent setting In Between (2016). Building on Ortega’s foundational contribution, it engages 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. This work clears a path for feminist theory to bear critically upon Heidegger’s thought, but also to benefit from the resources of Heidegger’s early – thoroughly Nietzschean – thinking of time.
Whether in feminist contexts or in history of philosophy, by embracing the hidden Nietzsche, my work moves simultaneously in two directions. It grounds temporal theory in its material-political conditions of production, just as it deepens our understanding of those conditions through phenomenological investigation of the structures that temporally make them possible.