Makeshift: Phenomenology of Original Temporality, with Appendix: Reply to Kisiel

This essay was published by Philosophy Today in Vol. 47, No. 3, pp. 252-257 (Fall, 2003). The Appendix: Reply to Kisiel, ‘The Indication of “Makeshift” in an Interpretation of Heidegger’s Radical Phenomenology’ is intended as a reply to Theodore Kisiel’s criticism of the indication of ‘Makeshift’ as too revolutionary for Heidegger in his Review of  Heidegger’s Early Philosophy: The Phenomenology of Ecstatic Temporality, published by Bloomsbury in 2008.



When questions are raised about principles, the network of exchange that they have opened becomes confused, and the order that they have founded declines. A principle has its rise, its period of reign, and its ruin. Its death usually takes disproportionately more time than its reign.[1]

— Reiner Schürmann

In a summary of the Davos Disputation with Ernst Cassirer, and in his lecture on Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, Heidegger is documented as announcing the deaths of the principles of ‘reason’, logos, and ‘spirit’ as adequate “grounds” for a finite thinking rooted in existence. He rings the alarm bells – the “foundations of Western thinking” are in “crisis” – and are threatened with utter collapse. Heidegger makes these statements amidst the horizons of his own temporal existence and problematic, that of his radical temporalization of thought and of the exposure of these traditional grounds to their ‘tragic’ origin as aspirations of finitude. Cassirer contests Heidegger’s radical, temporal interpretation to Kant – any thought worth its salt must be open to the eternal. Despite his comments elsewhere that defer to the spirit of Cassirer’s criticism, Heidegger intimates possible readings of or engagements with the Kantian text which moves beyond “philology” or “scholarship” in the usual sense of cultivating or advocating a “school of thought” – or any attempt to identify the will as a ding an sich. Heidegger’s attempt to disclose an “unsaid”, to de-construct texts so as to retrieve the original temporality of the question, concerns not only Kant but, in light of the “Being and Time project”, other thinkers, such as Leibniz and Husserl, who are significant for his expression of a radical phenomenology – for his temporalist thinking.

In many ways, these many names are place-names, topoi, for the investigation of the historicity of thought in its significant junctures, reversals, transitions, convergences, transgressions. And there is a marked similarity in the treatment of these many thinkers as each is appropriated in the context of Heidegger’s “makeshift.”[2] As mentioned, Heidegger does not seek to be a “good scholar,” but to investigate various topoi of thought with respect to their disclosure of “matters themselves,” in their accentuation of the phenomenon of original temporality. In his activity of squatting these various topoi, Heidegger is in a destruktive, oppositional comportment with the “history of ontology,” but in such a way which seeks to learn from this trajectory of the questionable thesis that truth resides in the proposition and that the measure of truth is ultimately “logic.”

Heidegger’s radical phenomenology came into its own between the years of 1924-1929. The primary texts for the project are his published works of the period, the unfinished Being and Time (1926) and Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics (1929), his 1924 lecture, “The Concept of Time” to the Marburg Theological Society, and his many lecture courses of the period, such as History of the Concept of Time (1925), The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic (1928), The Basic Problems of Phenomenology (1927), and Phenomenological Interpretation of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (1928). There are also indications of this project in later texts which trace the continuity of Heidegger’s concerns-for instance, to the “Origin of the Work of Art” (1936), “The Anaximander Fragment” (1946), “Kant’s Thesis About Being” (1962), and still others.

Often in the unpublished lectures, we find unexpected formulations and previously unknown, unchartered investigations, such as Heidegger’s extended discussion of sexual difference in The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic. In the same lecture, Heidegger depicts his own Being and Time (Section 64) as an example of an “extreme model” of a principial explication of Eigentlichkeit.[3] These lectures are accentuated due to their rather neglected status in the current literature. While a few have focused on Heidegger’s work in this period, it is safe to say that the majority neglects the 1927-1928 lecture courses in favor of Being and Time and often very minute sections of this, Heidegger’s so-called “magnum opus.”[4]

Even Kiesiel in his admirable The Genesis of Heidegger’s Being and Time stops short in his journey-“right when it is getting interesting,” i.e., when it was on the verge of discussing Basic Problems of Phenomenology. Moreover, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics is rarely discussed in conjunction with Being and Time (in the sense of the “Being and Time project” projected in Heidegger’s outline of the unpublished sections of Being and Time), but has been co-opted in order to evoke the sterile debate of whether “Heidegger’s Kant” is the “real Kant.” In light of this reticence to “go all the way to the end,” Heidegger’s work lies in ruins, despite inquirers such as Sallis, Taminiaux, Krell, Sherover, and Schalow, who have attempted to understand “matters themselves.”

Heidegger’s 1920’s phenomenology begins with a specification of the phenomenon of original Temporality of the self, of existence (Dasein) in the lecture “The Concept of Time.” Heidegger seeks to displace the linear model of clock-time in order to excavate the singularity of authentic temporality. As he moves through the lecture, Heidegger calls on his audience to detach itself from the interpretation of time which sets an external standard, whether as the fluctuation of night and day, or as the sun dial, or finally, as the mechanical device on the wall which executes a repetition of the same. Each is beckoned to disclose in his or her own self an authentic “measure” of temporal existence.

These preliminary and schematic indications acquire increasing power and breadth in the confrontation with Husserl in Heidegger’s 1925 lecture course History of the Concept of Time. Heidegger charges that phenomenology, despite its rhetoric of the phenomena, has been co-opted and suppressed by traditional conceptualities, such as “reason,” “consciousness,” taken wholesale from the Cartesian orthodoxy, and a “common time” transplanted from mathematics, from the mathesis universalis. These heavily laden conceptualities obscure the original trajectory and intention of the phenomenological movement-“to the things themselves”-through the imposition of a “network of exchange”-that of a “logic” of discrete, linear identity.

Husserl, in his Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness is interested in the myriad phenomena of time-consciousness, but not in the temporality of consciousness itself. Husserl suppresses that which he designates as merely the anthropological dimension of existence in a quest for a pure consciousness-even though he confesses that any attempt to fulfill the intention of a mathematical infinite would, after a time, break down. Such suppressions of temporality and existence entail tacit theoretical and practical-existential-commitments. In the light of these affiliations, phenomenology is exposed as un-phenomenological.

Heidegger seeks to disclose the being of the being that we are via a destruktion of the terminologies which shroud any access to a formal indication of this phenomenon which seeks to express itself. Heidegger insists upon an original “unity” of intimate self-interpretation that is an expression of an authentic temporal existence. Heidegger rejects that which he indicates as a “mythology of consciousness” with its logic of severance in its assertion, in the manner of Rickert, Brentano, and Husserl, of the extremes of the psychic and physical. In a coup d’ grace, Heidegger points out an exception, that within the antithetical framework of consciousness, there is no way to tell if a hallucination is “real.”

Phenomenologically, a hallucination erupts amidst an intentional relation, of which the distinction between the physical and physical is posited as elements of an interpretation. Yet, within this relationship, a hallucination is merely another objective phenomena. There is no mark allowing one to step outside the intentional envelop. For Heidegger, being-toward-death is the mark which subverts the envelope of these of antithetical positions, pointing to a deeper severance of thinking-“consciousness”-from temporality. Heidegger insists that severance is a detour and evasion of the “matters themselves,” this existence of an ecstatic, temporal self that expresses its own be-ing.

In Being and Time, the existentials, or categories, of being-in-the-world-Care, being-toward-death, conscience, guilt, and the event of disclosure in anticipatory resoluteness, are finite expressions or characters of being-in-the-world, disseminations of one’s own singular be-ing, amidst this projection of oneself upon the horizons of one’s own indigenous historicity. These characters of being give expression of the specificity of the be-ing of existence as a condition prior to the modes of theoretical or practical being. It is the former which indicates the existence of the self, of this overwhelming moment of finitude, prior to the severance of the vorhanden and zuhanden. The emphasis upon the self-expression of existence entails a deconstruction of the severance which is merely a repetition of the representational or epistemological model.

That toward which Heidegger is pointing is the being of human existence as indicated in the existentiale, Care, a specific and original sense of being. This destruktion of severance intimates Heidegger’s engagement with Kant in his Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, in which sensibility and the concept are excavated, traced back, deconstructed, to a “common rooting” in the transcendental power of imagination (Einbildungskraft). If a makeshift phenomenology seeks to disclose the phenomenon of original temporality, via a reminder of its original desire, it also seeks to unearth the schematism of transcendental imagination (ecstatic temporality) as the source of conceptuality in Kant.

In the 1928 lecture Phenomenological Interpretation of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, Heidegger makes the distinction from the “sub-sumptive” model posited by Kant in his Critique of Pure Reason (a model which is forced to take its conceptuality from a “logic” that is ready-to-hand), a radical phenomenology discloses an expressive explanation for the emergence of an authentic conceptuality. For Kant, reason must always remain sequestered from temporality and its theoretical surrogate, the transcendental imagination. It is this distanciation of reason from temporality which in the end necessitates the architectonic of subsumptive judgment.

In this model, it is only violence which can account for the “unity” of knowledge. The expressive interpretation of the origin of the concepts entails the exposure of a pure, sensuous reason-one that cannot in the end be distinguished from the transcendental imagination-it is ecstatic temporality and its self-expression. In light of the transfigured scenario cast into relief in the expressive model, it becomes possible to lay out the situation of original temporality amid which existence can disclose an articulation of the ecstatic self amidst its world. Conceptuality becomes the self-expression of existence, of a being-in-the-world.

This topos of ecstatic self-expression is most fully expressed by Heidegger in his 1927 lecture course Basic Problems of Phenomenology.[5] Kant’s commitment to an a-temporal, non-sensuous reason has already been shaken through Heidegger’s tracing of the stems of understanding and sensibility to a common root of imagination, and more explicitly, his locating of the origin, and hence, legitimacy of a philosophical conceptuality in the expressive articulation of the schematism of pure imagination. For Heidegger, the very presence of a transcendental deduction in the Critique of Pure Reason is symptomatic of an inauthentic interpretation of conceptuality.

More problematic, however, for Heidegger, is the suppression of imagination not only in the second edition of the First Critique, but also in the two following Critiques. It is stated by Kant himself in his Critique of Practical Reason that imagination and temporality have no place in the “Kingdom of Ends.” Even in the Critique of Judgment, Reason-theoretical, practical, aesthetical-at the end of the day, will deploy the free-floating imagination for its own ends, as confessed in the “Dialectic of Aesthetical Judgment.” Beauty can serve a moral reason… but, nothing else besides.

The infrastructure of Kant’s segregation of reason or apperception from any immediate contact with temporality or imagination is indicated in the Basic Problems of Phenomenology as “Kant’s Thesis of Being.” This phrase does not merely indicate a “position” taken on a well accepted path of questioning, but is an excavation of Kant’s interpretation of being as position, as an object posited by consciousness. For Kant, the subject as apperception is that “ground” upon which all objects and experience achieve their unity. An a-temporal subject does not touch time-it posits beings that are “in time.” In the wake of Heidegger’s destruktion of this a-temporal subject, however, be-ing withdraws from the possibility of being a mere positing of consciousness. Existence, on the contrary, expresses its own intimate self-interpretation, prior to the severed stems of the theoretical and practical, of understanding and sensibility-prior to the opposition of consciousness and temporality.

In the Basic Problems, Heidegger underlines his destructive intent through an explication of the trajectories of ecstatic temporality. In a moment of anticipatory resoluteness, existence not only expresses its own self-interpretation, as a hermeneutics, but is also an expression of an overwhelming temporality and historicity. Beyond the domesticated time of a vanquished sublime, there lies a Temporality upon which being, existence is projected as are all thoughts about being and beings. Such a gesture indicates a radical temporalization of thinking.

APPENDIX: Reply to Kisiel
Reply to Theodore Kisiel’s Review of my Heidegger’s Early Philosophy: The Phenomenology of Ecstatic Temporality in which he criticises the indication of ‘Makeshift’ as too revolutionary for Heidegger
The Indication of “Makeshift” in an Interpretation of Heidegger’s Radical Phenomenology

A ‘makeshift’ (Behelf) is a temporal improvisation – to make shift with ‘what’ one has – also a shift-ing of one thing into another, change of character, transition, transfer to a differing ‘state’, ‘place’ – it is a dwelling for the time being. It is also a fore-seeing (pro-visio), project (Entwurf), an orientation, a formal indication for departure and be-ing. It concerns factical existence, yet, and this is ‘where’ the difference between Heidegger and Kant becomes most evident, it is not practical, in Kant’s sense, in that the being of Dasein is disclosed as Care. And, the meaning of Care is Temporality. Kant, fresh from his revisions of the Critique of Pure Reason in its second edition, clearly eliminates imagination (i.e., temporality), from any fundamental role in the Critique of Practical Reason. Throughout his persistent criticism of a sensuous ‘ethics of happiness’, whether of Aristotle, Epicurus et al., Kant warns his reader that any contamination of morality with interest, temporality, imagination, or sense, will undermine the ‘necessity’ and ‘universality’ of the moral law, and thus, will render [his own] categorical imperative – impossible.

For Kant, the noumenon, ding an sich, although it must exist, it cannot be known, just as one’s maxim will forever remain a secret from even oneself. But, this does not seem to have prohibited Kant from embracing a “practical” morality. Heidegger, in his turn, seeks to place temporality (transcendental imagination) and existential openness amidst the heart of a phenomenology of factical, lived existence, be-ing – indeed, into the heart of philosophy itself. Such a ‘placing’ is intimated in Heidegger’s indication of the meaning of Being in its own self-projection upon a horizon of ecstatic, original temporality (ursprüngliche Zeitlichkeit, or Temporalität). The radical character of Heidegger’s phenomenology is also revealed in his statement which began this study that any ontological-existential thinking – radical phenomenology – as an understanding of Being, will have an ‘ontic’ fundament, that of existence (Dasein). Temporality itself will thus be finite, and thought will necessarily be “makeshift”.

Kant writes in the Introduction to the Critique of Practical Reason, one of the sources for the title of this study, that one ought to tell a young man to be industrious and thrifty, so that when he is older, he will be able to provide for himself. Indeed, Kant declares that such a recommendation is not only ‘reasonable’, but is in fact a precept of pure, practical reason – an imperative issued from ‘reason’ itself. It is questionable however whether such comportments of industry and thrift, of this horison of the phenomenal world, could have any direct interface with the noumenal ends of reason. Yet, if we have no knowledge of the noumenal or of the invisible realm of the maxim, then how are we to prioritize one course of life in distinction from any other way of life – as long as it appears not to violate the moral law – indeed this law itself is a subject of longstanding contestation? Why for instance, in his Religion Within The Limits of Reason Alone, is Christian faith placed over all in Kant, as the exemplar of the numen, of the sacred? He himself admits in passing that the Pagan religions and Islam, as these fostered an aesthetic and discipline of the moral law, are also acceptable to reason.

Indeed, Kant does suggest another existential possibility, but only in contrast, and one which we are lead to believe he does not judge to fit into his ‘practical precepts of reason.’ He writes that some young man may expect he could ‘make shift with little,’ get about with ‘what’ gives itself, get on upon his ‘wits,’ ‘luck’ – surely not upon these timeless ingredients for practical and theoretical ‘reasons’. It is more of an improvisation – it is provisional, temporal. Yet, it is not only possible, but is uncannily indicative for Heidegger of an ecstatic open-ness toward a myriad of singular temporal meanings of existence. Such a ‘makeshift’, for Heidegger, would indicate a provisional (thrown) projection of self-understanding amidst being-in-the-world. In this way, a ‘makeshift’ would intimate, in a pre-philosophical manner and in the spirit of Heidegger’s early phenomenology of formal indication – thought with temporality at its core. Heidegger describes this as first philosophy in his 1928 lecture course, The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic, the “science sought after, the science that can never become a fixed possession and that, as such, would just have to be passed on. It is rather the knowledge that can be obtained only if it is each time sought anew.”

This portrayal of thinking as ‘makeshift’ is an obvious challenge to Kant’s own description of his own architectonic as having only to be ‘passed on.’ Heidegger himself expresses this indication at least twice. In a letter to Karl Jaspers in 1936, he expresses his despair that his thinking in comparison to the ‘Greats’ will only remain a ‘makeshift.’ A second reference occurs in his post-war essay, ‘Letter on Humanism,’ where he refers to the ‘makeshift’ character of moral ties, as having relevance for only the present day. However, in that he is also seeking to disclose the truth of being via a thinking which ‘lets being be,’ Heidegger embraces the finitude of a thought which holds itself in this abyss of original temporality – not seeking evasions, salvation, or escape from this topos of lived existence. Yet, even this self-expression of the phenomenon, as a thinking of be-ing, can be fathomed only in light of its ecstatic temporality and finitude, articulated already in Division Two of Being and Time. This is where Schürmann’s suggestion of reading Heidegger backwards becomes most pertinent. The “experience of durability” to which Heidegger alludes in his ‘Letter on Humanism’ is not that of thought but of being. In this way, thinking will be makeshift. Yet, in light of the insurmountable horizons of temporality, even this Being must be conceived as finite.

In this light, Husserl’s pregnant reference to ‘makeshifts’ in his 1905 lectures, edited in fact by Heidegger and published in 1928 as The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness, is pertinent not only to Husserl’s neo-Cartesian – ‘a-temporal’ – [consciousness], but also to the question of the temporal character of what Sherover has called a ‘hermeneutic structure of resoluteness’, in “Dasein and Temporality”. Husserl, speaking about the modes of time, memory and expectation, contends he can conceive of a ‘prophetic consciousness’ where ‘each character of the expectation’ is ‘before our eyes.’ Or, he says, where a plan is intentionally disclosed to such an extent that one already accepts it as ‘future reality’, as pure spontaneity. Yet, he adds, there will also need to be those other ‘unimportant things’, those ‘makeshifts’, which fill out a concrete image, and can, in that they are, be other than they are (my emphasis). Husserl states that such a ‘character’ is that of ‘being open.’ As we will see, it is this ‘openness’ which discloses this temporal meaning of Being (Sein).

That this makeshift character of finite understanding also pertains to the project of radical phenomenology – what we will designate as the ‘Sein und Zeit” project – will be the central thrust of this study. While the most radical insights into the makeshift character of thinking are clearly evident in Being and Time, the latter work, in its incompletion, fails to fully disclose the radical temporality of thought and existence. The “extreme model” of Being and Time,[6] a criticism from The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic must destroy its own language of transcendental structure so as to set free more fluid, flexible – or post-structuralist – articulations. Such expression is housed in the archives and translations of his many improvised lectures of the period – and by the differing languages or houses of being in his later writings. It is in this way that we can seek to comprehend the radicality of Heidegger’s first philosophy and may better appreciate the temporal character of his later turns and ways. It is here where his later works emerge for an understanding of the ‘Sein und Zeit” project – the “Being and Time project”. For while Heidegger seeks an experience of the [durable] in the ‘Letter on Humanism’, such an experience takes place upon a topos of piety and humility, of a thought which lets being be – or as the dedicated submission to the phenomenon in his early 1920’s lectures. In other words, such a thought not only seeks to destroy the history of ontology, but also seeks to de-construct itself. It is open to transfiguration – it is makeshift.

Such makeshift thinking, which inhabits the truth of Being, as the thrown projection of human existence, will remind us that the myriad trinkets of the logico-technological age, such as the smart phone, GPS, nuclear power or mass surveillance are themselves makeshift, and are thus destined for annihilation.  We are each day becoming aware of the poison in this gift of trinkets.


1. Reiner Schürmann, Heidegger on Being and Acting: From Principles to Anarchy (Indiana University Press, 1987), p. 15.

2. Heidegger expresses his fear that his philosophy will remain a makeshift in a letter to Jaspers in 1936. Rudiger Safranski, Martin Heidegger, Between Good and Evil (Canbridge: Harvard University Press), p. 317. Another reference to makeshift occurs in his “Letter on Humanism.” Martin Heidgger, Basic Writings, ed. David Farrell Krell (New York: Harper and Row, 1977), pp. 368-69. where he embraces this sense of radical temporality as a thinking which “lets being be.” Edmund Husserl, advocate of an a-temporality of the foundations of consciousness, stated in his lectures, The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness, ed. Martin Heidegger, trans. James S. Churchill (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1971), p. 80 [my emphasis].

3. Martin Heidegger, The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic, trans. Michael Heim (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992), pp. 189-90. Heidegger, in these lectures, sets forth one of the first criticisms of Being and Time in his characterization of an “extreme existential-ontological model.”

4. Dreyfus, for instance, in his rather “run of the mill” exegeses of Being and Time completely eclipses any question of the lecture courses from the period, and claims in his Being in the World to have been able to salvage for scrap a “phenomenological realism” from the first part of Being and Time, without either any consideration of ecstatic temporality in Part 2 (the subject matter of his sequel), or of Heidegger’s deconstruction of the realism-idealism dichotomy. Hubert L. Dreyfus, Being-In-The World: A Commentary on Heidegger’s “Being and Time,” Division I (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992), of which there was no sequel.

5. Frank Schalow suggests this term in his The Renewal of the Heidegger Kant Dialogue (Albany: SUNY Press, 1992), while Reiner Schürmann writes of a topology in his Heidegger on Being and Acting: From Principles to Anarchy (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987). I have adopted topos as an indication of the da of da-sein.

6. Heidegger, Martin. The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic, pp. 188-89.


Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. New York: Harper & Row, 1962.

_____. The Basic Problems of Phenomenology. Trans. Albert Hofstadter. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988.

_____. Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics. Trans. Richard Taft. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997.

_____. Phenomenological Interpretation of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Trans. Parvis Emad and Kenneth Maly. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997.

_____. “Letter on Humanism,” in Basic Writings. Ed. David Farrell Krell. New York: Harper and Row, 1977.

_____. The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic. Trans. Michael Heim. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992.

Husserl, Edmund. The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness. Ed. Martin Heidegger, trans. James S. Churchill. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1971.

Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason. Trans. Norman Kemp Smith. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1965.

Kiesiel, Theodore. The Genesis of Heidegger’s Being and Time. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

Krell, David Farrell. Intimations of Mortality. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1986.

Leibniz, G. W. Monadology. Trans. George Montgomery. LaSalle, IL: Open Court, 1990.

Safranski, Rudiger. Martin Heidegger: Between Good and Evil. Trans. Ewald Osers. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998.

Sallis, John. Spacings-of Reason and Imagination. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.

Schalow, Frank. The Renewal of the Heidegger-Kant Dialogue. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992.

Schürmann, Reiner. Des Hegemonies Brisees. Mauvin: Trans-Europ-Repress, 1996.

______. Heidegger on Being and Acting: From Principles to Anarchy. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.

Sherover, Charles. Heidegger, Kant and Time. Lanham, MD: Center for Advanced Research in Phenomenology and University Press of America, 1988.

2 thoughts on “Makeshift: Phenomenology of Original Temporality, with Appendix: Reply to Kisiel

  1. Thanks, as always James. With reference to Heidegger’s makeshift it seems clear to me, given Heidegger’s extraordinarily haphazard etymology that he is restless and unceasing in his determination to break out of the petrifying constraints of reason and logic. Sometimes treading heavily over the works he appropriates, Husserl for example, he shows that you can not only drive to the ‘things themselves’ but take a boat there or fly a plane.

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