24 June 2014

Presencing, absencing, disclosing, hiding

Being and Time from 1927 is Heidegger's most famous book, his magnum opus. The book's primary message, as the title indicates, is that 'being' means 'time'. The meaning of being itself, and not merely the being of beings, is a temporal one: three-dimensional temporality (Zeitlichkeit) as Dasein's Da: the clearing (Lichtung). Later on, however, Heidegger makes a shift, pronouncing that time is only the "provisional name" (Vorname) for _alaetheia_, the open truth of being. The focus shifts to the play of disclosing and hiding (including only partially or distortedly disclosing) within the open clearing of _alaetheia_. The temporal dimensions of this play fade away, and Heideggerians go along with this 'development', letting it retreat into obscurity in their scholarly recounting of the 'development' of Heidegger's thinking.

But, seen clearly and simply, the clearing never loses its temporal character, so the threefold play of disclosing and hiding criss-crosses with the play of presencing (in the present) and twofold absencing (refusal by has-beenness, and withholding by the future). So there are 3x3=9 possible phenomenal combinations in toto. Human being itself (Dasein) is this ecstatic exposure to the all three temporal dimensions 'simultaneously' within which disclosing/hiding play. It's worthwhile doing some phenomenological finger- or rather, seeing-exercises to bring this multiplicity of play clearly to light:


i) You can entirely forget an incident, such as your having received a letter from your aunt many years ago (refused presence and hidden).
ii) You can have an entirely clear memory of a past incident, such as your first day at school (refused presence and disclosed).
iii) You can partially or wrongly recall an incident, such as your hike through the Jamieson Valley (refused presence and partially or distortedly disclosed).

The present

iv) Something in your present surroundings may be entirely hidden to you, such as what's behind that door over there (presence at present and hidden). (What's behind that door over there could be disclosed to you without its being sensuously present to your eyes; sensuous presence is only one kind of presence that traditionally has been, and still is, privileged.)
v) You can be entirely aware of what's presently going on around you in the current situation (presence at present and disclosed). This is called presence of mind.
vi) You can be only partially or mistakenly aware of what's presently going on around you, such as misrecognizing a street or a person you meet (presence at present and partially or distortedly disclosed).

The future

vii) You may be totally unaware of an event that's approaching you, such as the tax department's sending you a notification alleging tax evasion (withheld presence and hidden).
viii) You may clearly see an approaching event, such as a book you're expecting any day in the post (withheld presence and disclosed). This does not amount to being able to predict exactly when it will arrive.
ix) You may be only partially or mistakenly aware of an event that's approaching you, such as who's going to show up at the party on Friday (withheld presence and partially disclosed).

These trivial exercises in seeing show that the criss-crossing play of presencing/absencing and disclosing/hiding is richly complex, multiple. Each of us plays along in this play, easily differentiating its various plies, as long as we are mindful of the time-clearing. Life's movement is this mindful play. The time-clearing is the same as the mind, the Da.

Further reading: 'Out of your mind: Parmenides' message' and 'Being Time Space'.

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