The Problem of Transcendence in Heidegger and Derrida

Dissertation, University of Notre Dame (2004)
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This dissertation seeks to clarify the import of the transcendence problem in Heidegger and Derrida. The guiding suggestion of my interpretations of both thinkers is that following the development of this problem through their respective projects can help to demonstrate in each an underlying continuity in light of which their seemingly discrepant shifts in emphasis from early to late can be understood as moments of an ongoing hermeneutic task. ;My argument unfolds in four chapters and a brief conclusion. Chapter one motivates the project in view of the contentious standing of the problem in continental philosophy as it is characterized in the competing narratives advanced by Richard Rorty, John Caputo, and Rodolphe Gasche. ;Chapters two and three trace the problem through Heidegger's Denkweg. While Being and Time might seem to be the obvious place to start, I argue that the character of the problem is difficult to see without recourse to both the context in which the problem first arises, and the future interpretations of the problem toward which Being and Time proceeds. Accordingly, I attend to the emergence of the problem in Heidegger's dissertation and early lectures, and then leap ahead to its more explicit appropriations in the writings of 1928 where the provisional standing of fundamental ontology becomes increasingly apparent. In view of its past and future trajectories, then, I return to Being and Time to exhibit therein what I take to be latent indications of Heidegger's later disposition toward transcendence. ;Chapter four situates Derrida in terms of his debts to and departures from Heidegger. I argue that Derrida's debts in fact compel his departures; since he concurs that the transcendence of predecessor discourses necessitates their destruction in the name of advancing their undeveloped possibilities, he must dismantle Heidegger to do justice to him. In applying this insight to Derrida's project, I maintain, the careful reader can find traces of his later injunctions to "absolute responsibility" in his early affirmations of "infinite play". ;I conclude with a few brief remarks as to how this investigation might contribute to a richer understanding of contemporary continental philosophy
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