Being Trauma: A Lesson from Heidegger’s Kant-Book


Late last spring into early last summer, while I  was also continuing to read Michel Henry’s L’essence de la manifestation, I reread, after a number of years, Heidegger’s “Kant-Buch” (“Kant-book”), as it is often referred to, in the original German–Kant und das Problem der Metaphysik (Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics), first published in 1929, just two years after the appearance of Sein und Zeit (Being and  Time).  As my reading of Henry’s book generated a number of entries in my philosophical journal, only some of which were directly relevant to my continuing work with the idea of trauma (for one of which, see my preceding post), so did my rereading of Heidegger’s Kant-Buch engender various entries, of which the following, with the date I originally wrote it, is the only one that has more than a passing reference to trauma. 

Before proceeding to that entry, readers might appreciate a reminder that by the term Dasein, Heidegger tells us early in Being and Time, he means that being that each of us–each human being–is.  The literal meaning of the term, as Heidegger often reminds us in his own usage of it, is “Being-[the ‘-sein‘ of the German term]there [the ‘Da-‘].


Saturday, July 5, 2008

It just struck  me for the first time with its full force that by “metaphysics of Dasein” Heidegger does not mean a metaphysics about Dasein, but, rather, the metaphysics–the “transcendence,” the passing beyond beings–that is Dasein.  He says that clearly toward the end of the Kant-Buch (p.231), the reading of which just this morning triggered that insight in me.

In effect,then, Heidegger’s use of the phrase “metaphysics of Dasein” points to what I would now think of as the traumatic essence (in the sense of Heidegger’s usage of ‘Wesen‘ [whereby it carries a strong verbal connotation, as of the bringing together into one of an-wesen, to be present, and ab-wesen, to be absent:  “essence” as the unitary-unifying “sence” of “ab-sence” and “pre-sence,” so  to speak]) of Dasein:   Dasein, as Da-sein, is the wounding of/amidst beings by and with which the place is first cleared and set up for beings to be–the place of letting beings be.

Heidegger goes on in the same general passage (on pp.  232-233) to discuss how, as Entwurf [project, or projection:  literally, forth-cast], Seinsverständnis [understanding of Being:  for Heidegger, Dasein is characterized by always having some sort of understanding, however vague and undeveloped it may be, of what Being–what “to be”–means] is always and necessarily a matter of ripping (entreissen) what is projected (which is first and foremost, as Henry helps me to see, Being, not beings) from out of forgottenness.  What does that say, if not the traumatic essence/nature of Being itself!

And as traumatic in this way–as trauma itself:  “the” traumatic–Being is necessarily (as Entwerfen in Entwurf [pro-jecting, casting forth, in the pro-ject, the forth-cast, we might say]) finite.  Indeed, its finitude is precisely this, its traumatic structure = its structuring structure as the traumatic as such.

What’s more, Heidegger then goes on (p. 234) to note that “everydayness” is how forgetting of Being manifests itself.  That is,  “everydayness”is precisely the sort of numbing in the face of the traumatic that is inseparable from the traumatic as such–from what is precisely traumatizing in the traumatic.  Indeed, as just such numbing, everyday forgottenness of the traumatic is the “work” of the traumatic as such–it is the traumatizing it inflicts.

And precisely because the traumatic, in and as traumatizing, is the working and being-at-work and in-play of such forgetting and forgottenness–such forgetting of the forgotten–any coming to face the traumatic must be remembering, re-internalizing (Wiedererinnerung) of what has been thus forgotten (p. 233 [in my own translation from the German]: “The fundamental-ontological ground-cast of the metaphysics of Dasein as the laying of the ground of metaphysics is therefore a re-membering [Wiedererinnerung]”).

Published in: on February 20, 2009 at 3:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s