Professor Hugh J. Silverman, Department of Philosophy, Stony Brook University

Spring Semester 2006 (Mon & Wed 5:20-6:40)

Protocol # 9

Ousia and Grammē: The Question of Time and Temporality

February 22, 2006

Protocol by Joe Son and Arsalan Memon (revised by HJS)


The lecture began with a quote from Ousia and Grammē:

Such a différance would at once, again, give us to think a writing without presence and without absence, without history, without cause, without archia, without telos, a writing that absolutely upsets all dialectics, all theology, all teleology, all ontology.  A writing exceeding everything that the history of metaphysics has comprehended in the form of the Aristotelian grammē, in its point, in its line, in its circle, in its time, and in its space.


The binary pair of speaking and writing is important. What is the difference between speaking and writing? Originary writing (arche-writing) is writing that is neither on the side of speaking nor on the side of writing, but is between them. In 1967, Derrida published Writing and Difference. The French title is, l’Écriture et la différence. The et could also be heard as est -- not just "is" but also "and." The is and the and heard in the title of the book are important because it has to do with the binary pair, identity/difference. When using the word est (is), then it is determinative denoting Identity whereas when the word et (and) is used, it is conjunctive belonging togetherness.

Getting back to the quote, the words "at once" and "again" are temporal and they repeat without presence/absence. In a word, Heidegger’s Being and Time is about how Being exists in a temporal way. Everything that 'is,' exists in time, but Being of beings has to do with temporality or the way of being in time. There is difference between "being in time" and "temporality" as the "way of being in time." This temporality is exstasis or going outside of what is given.  When it is ecstatic, it goes outside time as the time of beings. 


The ordinary or vulgar conception of time is contrasted with Heidegger’s concept of Temporality as within timeness. Temporality is any being's relation to time. In this important binary pairing of being/time as space/time, time is given priority over space.  As a being, that which is present or being now is present as ontic (beings).  It cannot be a being without being present. The German word Anwesenheit has built within it wesen as essence. Now what is the essence of that which is present?  Presence is a way of talking about Being of beings in time. It is indeed a question of presence and absence. With absence (Abwesenheit), the being is more present (in thought). The "ab" in Abwesenheit means “away from” and wesenmeans “essence,” hence, to be away from essence. But what about time? 

In relation to time and presence, Derrida talks about three philosophers: Aristotle, Husserl, and Bergson. Aristotle thinks of time in terms of nun or the now-points. Time is understood as linear or in terms of a concept of a line. Time, for Aristotle, is a temporal line.  Aristotle is able to talk about a "point in time." Husserl writes extensively on the subject of time in his book, Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness. He thinks of time through the tripartite structure, retention (past oriented)―intention (present)―protention (future oriented). Any "now" has the protention and retention of time, which has to do with the horizons of the present. Class ended with a discussion of time in Aristotle and Husserl. Bergson will be covered in next class.