No, I am talking about the absolute arrivant, who is not even a guest. He surprises the host–who is not yet a host or an inviting power–enough to call into question, to the point of annihilating or rendering indeterminate, all the distinctive signs of a prior identity, beginning with the very border that delineated a legitimate home and assured lineage, names and language, nations, families and genealogies. (Jacques Derrida, Aporias 34)
To say “I am a Jew” or to say “I am a Christian” or to say “I am this and that,” and by “this and that” we mean any form of being that has been culturally produced, politically produced, historically or historiologically produced–that is insistent existence. It is existing, alright, but it is a form of existing where ontical identifications have been made primary and defining. We call that in-sistence, a dwelling that is primarily or exhaustively concerned with our ontical relations, our relations to beings, to entities. Of course the same is true if we primarily think of ourselves as professors, or engineers, or federal agents. Of if we think about ourselves in terms of the identitarian register, whatever it is we claim under that determination. This does not mean we should not do it (we would do it anyway)–it only means that, as long and for as long as we do it, we live in insistence as a mode of being, and we exclude or neglect ex-istence, which calls for a different relation to beings as such, that is, to Being.
Being cannot be grasped, cannot be retained, we get a glimpse of it as a clearing-in-withdrawal, it can only be the ground of a questioning. We access it in the slackening of insistence for the sake of existence, that is, for the sake of something in us which constitutes us more fundamentally than any insistent allegiance–and that constitutes everything else as well.
This is the reason that Heidegger, in Section 16 of The Beginning of Western Philosophy, says that an approximation to ex-istence, that is, to ex-istent existence from in-sistence, insistent existence, is first of all to be understood as a liberation: “Assuming that the Being of humans came to existence, then a transformation of them has occurred. In the transition to existence, they are determined on the basis of existence. And existence as understanding of Being is letting-be: freedom. The transition to freedom leads to lack of shelter, thus to a liberation from something to something” (70).
Liberation to the freedom of existence. Heidegger does not talk about what makes some human beings capable of taking the step from insistence to existence. He claims it is a universal capability, even though not everybody acts on it. Those who do step into a letting-be which enables not just oneself but all beings to be what they are, in freedom.
“The questioning directed to Being is the basic act of existence; this questioning inaugurates the history of humans as existing humans” (72). And yet we choose, generally and for the most part, to withdraw ourselves from it. “We can withdraw from it only in the way the wanderer, distancing himself more and more from the spring, semblantly dissolves every relation to it and yet perishes precisely through and on this relation of distancing himself” (73).
Some of us, for whatever reason, get a bitter taste of the emptiness and hollowness of insistence. We can certainly double down and perish from it, heroically or abjectly. But we can also understand that the exclusion from insistent shelter opens up the field of freedom. It is a difficult freedom, but there is no other freedom.
Heidegger says: “To be actually existent means for us: to become the ones we are” (74). Far from “persevering” in identity, becoming the ones we are also means becoming mortal and becoming timely. It is a simple matter: to give up our exclusive dependence on insistence for the sake of existence, in difficult freedom. So that, by becoming the ones we are, we also let all beings be what they are.
What does the Greek morning have to do with it? If we are enabled “to begin again the unbegun beginning” (74), to recover originary freedom, and if that is the “essential task” of our lives, we do it out of our own resources. We have nothing else, short of the boring and anxiety-producing refuge in insistence.
The Greek morning is only a historical referent. But it is also a historical referent. It helps.
But I wonder whether this difference between insistence and existence, which repeats of course the difference between Leitsfrage and Grundfrage, and ultimately repeats the ontological difference in its second, non-metaphysical modality, should be read as aporetic: as both necessary and impossible. Perhaps Heidegger would not deny its aporetic character–both insistence and existence cross each other’s borders, and they do it all the time, perhaps time itself is the ceaseless aporetic crossing of the borders between insistence and existence and back to insistence–but I think he would still insist on the absolute need for the paradoxical experiencing of the aporia as such (I call it paradoxical because, in principle, there could be no ex-perience of the a-poros). Perhaps the Parmenidean fourth way is the experiencing of the aporia created by the impossible difference between the first way and the third way. As usual, I fail to locate the second way in this uncanny map.
Unless . . . the second way is the way of what Derrida calls the arrivant in the epigraph above, of whom he says: “it no more commands than is commanded by the memory of some originary event where the archaic is bound with the final extremity, with the finality par excellence of the telos or of the eskhaton” (34). Death, in other words, which is no longer insistent or existent, but rather marks the passage from existence to non-existence. Non-existence is no longer the opposite of insistence, not quite, since it is mediated by existence. And yet perhaps non-existence, as the most proper possibility of Dasein, which is aporetically the possibility of its impossibility, the certain possibility of its impossibility, determines in advance the flight from existence to insistence, through anxiety and fear. Insistence would be in a way a warding-off of non-existence and not so much a flight from existence. If both existence and insistence are modalities of being, non-existence is the border upon which they both crash and lose their impossible purity and reach exhaustive contamination.
The second way of Parmenides, the impracticable way, the impossible way, the way of no-way–is it not the way of death?
Dasein‘s most proper possibility (death) is also its impossibility (the impossibility of existence)–this is the aporia. In Aporias Derrida, at the end of a vertiginous analysis of Heidegger’s existential analytics of death, links this up with what he calls “a universal Marrano, if one may say, beyond what may nowadays be the finished form of Marrano culture” (74). Why is that?
Derrida has exposed in his analysis that Heidegger must impossibly hold to his distinction between the authentic and the inauthentic, which is the difference between existence and insistence, “as well as that among the different forms of ending: dying properly speaking, perishing, and demising” (77): “These distinctions are threatened in their very principle, and, in truth, they remain impracticable as soon as one admits that an ultimate possibility is nothing other than the possibility of an impossibility and that the Enteignis always inhabited Eigentlichkeit” (77). There is no existence without insistence, which means that the distinction does not hold.
Derrida gives the name of “Marrano,” with a capital m, to what we may call the vortex of disappropriation for any possibility of authenticity. In a clipped and all–too–rushed manner Derrida concludes his 1992 Cérisy lectures by claiming that the analytics of death in Being and Time does not exceed the Christian experience, “indeed, the Judeo-Christiano-Islamic experience of death to which the analysis testifies” (80): “this fundamental questioning cannot protect itself from a hidden bio-anthropo-thanato-theological contamination” (79). From that perspective, the deconstruction of the existential analytic, which is also the deconstruction of the existence-insistence polarity, is a marrano adventure. Derrida concludes: “Let us figuratively call Marrano anyone who remains faithful to a secret that he has not chosen, in the very place where he lives, in the home of the inhabitant or of the occupant, in the home of the first or of the second arrivant, in the very place where he stays without saying no but without identifying himself as belonging to. In the unchallenged night where the radical absence of any historical witness keeps him or her, in the dominant culture that by definition has calendars, this secret keeps the Marrano even before the Marrano keeps it. Is it not possible to think that such a secret eludes history, age, and aging?” (81).
Incidentally, this seems to me the textual site where Derrida links deconstruction and the marrano position, thereby inserting himself, autographically, as a marrano thinker within the history of thought. But his critique of Heidegger, which he makes extensive to Freud and Levinas (“The same could be said for Freud’s and Levinas’s thought, mutatis mutandis. . . . the only characteristic that we can stress here is that of an irreducibly double inclusion” 80), is in fact the accentuation of an already explicit, perhaps still inchoate marranization of thought, already active in Heidegger in the original displacement from insistence with entities to the outside of an ex-istence “in the unchallenged night”–and the argument could be repeated for Freud and Levinas. If so, Derrida’s universal Marrano, il y vas d’un certain pas (6), is a figure of difficult freedom whose drive would have intensified the voiding out of the double inclusion into the double exclusion where the secret of existence could live on, in a wait for the arrivant unentangled by falsely hospitable contamination.