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.”

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