Privation, Excess and Lack in Sein und Zeit


The following is a footnote from a recent paper on Sein und Zeit that refers to an ongoing discussion with my colleague Martin Becker regarding how to think about privation in Heidegger and Benjamin’s work. The coincidence of lack and excess, of void and opening, is, I think, an important part of what might be called an apophatic element of Heidegger’s thinking, following my advisor (at least I think).

“Logically it makes no ‘apparent’ sense to speak of a lack in Heidegger’s schema, since privation does not signify a relationship to a reality of fullness that one reaches in the future. There is only this contingency of Dasein upon its ‘now,’ having been thrown into the world, toward that which is unrealizable, and without a decision of Dasein’s own. Yet I am not sure that we need the contrast between ultimate fullness and lack in order for the latter term to remain logically sensible. ‘Excess’ and the impossibility of ‘outstripping’ likewise typically rely upon a contrast between what is realizable and what is beyond realization. In the sense that excess names a purely ontological feature of Dasein’s Being-in-the-world, and not a theological eschaton, excess does not refer to any-thing that lies beyond a deficient present. Such a rendering would mistake both excess and privation as present-at-hand terms. Rather, excess names the immanent fact of Being unable to overtake that toward which one is oriented, and the fact of this inability to overtake is what we can properly call the primordial lack.”

A Brief Note on the Difference Between Liberalism and Leftism

A number of people on social media and in the news today have been expressing anger at the Sanders campaign for refusing to withdraw from candidacy moving into the Democratic National Convention. The campaign–so the complaint goes–has lost any serious chance at the Democratic nomination for the presidency, and should withdraw, because any refusal to withdraw at this point only serves to undermine party unity in the face of its opposition to Trump in the general election. This complaint is based on two related assumptions:

  1. That the only point to Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the presidency was to actually win the presidency.
  2. That disrupting the vote against the presumptive Republican nominee (Trump stand in here, but if it had been Cruz or anyone else, I don’t think we can imagine that the rhetoric would differ) is a tacitly conservative move, because the political arena is circumscribed by two electoral options.

These two assumptions seem predicated, however, on forgetting the terms of Sanders’ original run, and on foreclosing a host of alternative conceptions of politics. In the first case, those angry with Sanders’ continued run have forgotten that the original goal of the Sanders campaign was never to directly seek the presidency. The massive outpouring of support and momentum that made his nomination appear to be a real possibility during the primary season came as no less of a surprise to Sanders campaigners than it did to the political punditry. Instead, Sanders originally campaigned in a bid to pressure the Democratic platform in a leftward direction. This is not to say that the real possibility of gaining the nomination didn’t come as a pleasant surprise, or that it was hypocritical to reach for that goal while it appeared possible. Insofar as exerting platform pressure was the initial goal, however, and insofar as the tradition for Democratic candidates moving into the DNC after the primaries is to reposition rightward in an attempt to prepare for the general election, maintaining the campaign as long as possible is completely consistent with that goal, and building party unity would in fact be antithetical to that goal.

This, in turn, brings up the second issue: is disrupting the unity of the Democratic party a tacitly right-wing move, insofar as anything that’s not beneficial to the Democrats is beneficial to the GOP? While I’d hesistate to directly identify Sanders and leftism, what these reactions seem to obscure are a few fundamental differences between liberal and leftist politics, and those differences are worth reiterating, because they’re a helpful proxy for the obscured premise of the reactions in question.

It’s a basic tenet of any left theory of politics that the State, and thus electoral politics, are not the primary locus of political struggle. This is because, insofar as left theory incorporates some form of a critique of capital, it also entails a critique of the form of the liberal State. What this means, in brief, is that in contrast to liberalism, where the apparatus of the State (rightly ordered, of course) is taken to be the very thing that makes politics possible, leftisms have to theorize a locus for politics that logically precedes the State. The State has to have a genesis. Now, obviously, different forms of leftism are going to identify the key locus of politics, or the key antagonism that politics must address very differently. But it’s only for the liberal–who, by necessity, sees the form of the State as a condition for politics to be legible at all–that there are only two options, and that to harm the Democratic party is to benefit the right. For leftists, not only is the Democratic party itself part of “the right,” but the location of political antagonism is to be found elsewhere, as is the locus of political struggle. Involvement in the electoral process may or may not be tactically pertinent, but either way, it’s not the plane upon which politics plays out, as leftist movements have historically understood.

Not Enough Time is Time Enough – iPhone Notes

I think it is strange that, upon reflecting on my life, I think my time so short. I have no other reference for my life-time that what I-am. What I am is finitude, I am only ever someone born and someone who will die. I am always dying. So why is it that I feel my time is too short, that life doesn’t last long *enough?* I think this is part of the tension of what Heidegger calls Dasein’s being-toward-death, which is being-toward-possibility itself insofar as I never experience my own death as an event. The entirety of who I am is only intelligible as finite, ‘finite’ names the unitary phenomenon of my being born, my dying and the anticipation of my death. That I never am outside of anticipation discloses the entirety of my Being as temporality.

So what do I make of my feeling that there is never *enough* if I have no reference to anything other than who I am? What do I make of this pressure I feel? It seems that this pressure is simply the phenomenological texture of time, of my life, for-me. I am this pressure, my relationships to others are this pressure, the world for-me is this pressure.