Of Grammotology -
Martin Heidegger was well aware of the inadequacies of language, Frederick Neitzsche having analyzed them abundantly. His notion that "We don't speak language, language speaks us" is related to this problem. He nevertheless subjected language to further torture (as only the Germans can), until it confessed that Being is the Master, and language only the underling. His notion of erasure involved referring language back to Being. Being is prior to language and so is able to escape interrogation through some logic-
Derrida's notion of erasure involves denying that words are identical with things or thoughts, but only suggestive of them. Borrowing heavily from Ferdinan Sassure, Derrida pointed out that words have no meaning separable from the words used to define it, which also are dependent on other words, et cetera. These other words are attracted and repelled by a psychic equivalent of the electromagnetic force field, in turn keeping the words that define them at a distance, etc. As in any force field, a word can be changed by the change in a value remote from it.
Thus the word isn't to be trusted, not only because it may have been tampered with in the past, but also because words related to it may have met the same fate. However, being the biggest straw in the sea we are struggling in. the straw most be grasped. Derrida felt that in order to keeps the sinking ship of philosophy from going down, the surrounding bits of straw must also be grasped at. After all, are they not all buoying each other up? Thus it is the interconnectedness of words that creates a surface tension which allows us to skate over the surface of language.
But man created words (pace Heidegger) not to amuse himself, but to use. And if we find our dovetail joint sloppy, and suspect someone has used our chisel for a screwdriver, we must either get used to sloppy dovetails or sharpen our tools and find a way to prevent further abuse. This is Derrida's project. Knowing full well that his followers will not hesitate to use the methodological whetstone he intends to use against his predecessor against him, he pleads guilty in advance of using damaged tools, on the grounds of pursuing the greater good of bringing the real culprits to bar, and tightening the dovetail between words and things.
Derrida accepted Nietzsche's dismissal of the congruence between words and things or words and ideas. The word and the thing (or idea) that it reputedly refers to are not the same, but shared the merest conventional relationship. What should be focused on is not the "sameness" but rather the "difference" between a word and the words that surround it in the interconnected network that is language. By examining the relationship between a word and the many related words surrounding it, we can triangulate in on it and determine at what point it had been tampered with. This would necessarily be a painstaking process, with many erasures and corrections.
Since the past had presumably used a meticulous, rigorous, formal method (which Derrida compares to engineering), whose brittleness had manifested itself at the smallest tap of Neitzsche's hammer, Derrida's method would be characterized by a method borrowed from Claude Levi Strauss, "bricolage" suggesting a tinkering, handyman kind of project using whatever came to hand to tie things up.
The final result of this bricolage would necessarily be deferred until some future point in time. Derrida used these two notions of difference and deference (which are acoustically undifferentiated in French) to coin a new word "difference". These are the three master words of Derrida's project: difference, under erasure (sous rature), and bricolage.
The first metaphysical dogma to be questioned is truth, with its seeds in consciousness, seeking order in disorder, lest it slip back into the oh so tempting disorder. "A nerve stimulus first transcribed into an image! First metaphor. The image again copied into a sound! Second metaphor'. Language "leaps completely out of one sphere and into the middle of a completely different one".
A metaphor is establishing identity between dissimilar things. Making equal. "Truth is a mobile army of metaphors, metonymies, anthropomorphism....truth is illusions of which we have forgotten that they are illusions". The essential feature of thought is "fitting new material into old schemes...making equal what is new". The new wine becomes familiar in the old wineskin.
The subject is the second concept Nietzche questioned. It is the ghostly "doer" of that ghostly "deed", the thought. A mere grammatical corollary. Enter the will to power, that abstract, figurative warrior/poet leads the process-
Nietzche questioned the subject and truth. How can he trust himself to remain steadfast in the assault on western values when he has questioned that very self? How to shun falsehood when truth is an illusion? Nietzche recognized the problem. And this present treatise, I will not attempt to deny, shows the modern mode of a weak personality, in the untimeliness of its criticism, the unripens of its humanity, the too frequent transitions from irony to cynicism, from arrogance to skepticism". Nietzche's perspective on truth and his interpretation of the subject led him to believe that perhaps all existence was a matter of perspective and interpretation. How to cope as a philosopher?
One possibility is to reverse perspectives as often as possible, attacking your previous position. If successful this would question the notion of opposites: truth/falsity, metaphor/concept, body/mind, subject/object, all of which have more in common than in opposition. "Once you know that there are no purposes, you also know that there are no accidents, for it is only beside a world of purpose that a world of accident has any meaning. Let us beware of saying that death is opposed to life. The living is merely a type of what is dead, and a very rare type.
The ignorance that is knowledge is embraced. The knowledge that is ignorance is forgotten, thus passing the boundary of your own perspective. The Overman dances a dangerous dance in the great task. Forget history and start afresh. The Dance and the Dancer are one.
Freud's use of writing as a metaphor invited Derrida to use psychoanalysis as a metaphor for an analysis of writing, grammatology. "Following a schema that continuously a guide Freud’s thinking, the movement of the trace is designed an effort of life to protect itself by deferring the dangerous investment, by constituting a reserve. And all the conceptual oppositions that furrow Freudian thought relate each concept to each other like movements of a detour, within the economy of difference. The one is the other deferred, the one differing from the other.
Difference is "The continual postponement of that which is constituted only through postponement". What can that mean? This difference—structure being the structure (a structure never quite there, never by us perceived, itself deterred and different.) of the psyche, is also the structure of "presence", a term also under erasure". What gaul using one enigma as a metaphor for another enigma!
In 1929 Freud wrote "A Note upon the Mystic Writing Pad" (an actual writing toy), as an explication of his notion of the psyche. "I do not think it is too farfetched to compare the celluloid and waxed paper cover with the system pcpt-
Freud, in his 1899 "The Interpretation of Dreams" lists four techniques employed by the dream work to distort or "refract" the dream-
At the risk of piling confusion on top of confusion let me offer as a metaphor the very writing you see before you. It is an idea only beginning to take form out of the chaos which is the addition of Derrida to the rest of the contents of my psyche. My main idea is to make use of Derrida for my purpose, a "making equal" in the sense of ingesting, absorbing, assimilating, and incorporating. My will to power has no wish to be equal with Derrida, it wishes to make Derrida equal to it. To do this it must necessarily differentiate itself from Derrida. Deconstructing him, unraveling him back to the point where he "went wrong", detour him down the road I want to take, maintaining contact with his thought as far as possible, while still bending him to my will. To use him as my metaphor. The farther I detour from his thought, the harder it is to maintain our metaphorical relationship. At some point I will leave him behind for some other author (I may even be so bold as to say something "original" sometime) who I can detour down my road, perhaps parallel, but different from his.
At various places I have quoted directly from the translator's preface, sometimes using quotation marks, sometimes not. The former when I find a quote which establishes authority for a point I wish to make, the latter usually when it is a very good summation of the general point under discussion. I am trying to condense this book into my economy. My economy being how much work I want to go to (I could buy the Interpretation of Dreams if I thought it was (quoting Freud now) this is the dream’s navel, the spot where it reaches down into the unknown. The dream thought… Cannot… have any definite ending: they are bound to branch out in every direction into an intricate network of our world of thought." Or if that passage is where we can provisionally locate the text's moment of transgressing of the laws it apparently sets up for itself, and thus unravel—deconstruct—the very text. No doubt the unattributed quotes stand out stylistically. Again, this may be the point of contact between the condensation of the dream and the condensation of the text. I think it uncontroversial to maintain that a book is a condensation of the thing it describes. Even Joyce's Blooms day didn't exhaust the subject. Whether Finnegan Wake describes a moment or all eternity, it is still a condensation.
I will now segue seamlessly (in my dreams) to the topic of displacement/metonymy by following up on "the dream thought cannot have any definite ending...." I am writing on Derrida who wrote on Nietzsch who wrote on Heraclitus etc. etc. traceable back (another meaning of the "trace"?) in its grammar anyway, to proto-
Then the thought arose: I wonder if the unconscious remembers its thoughts through the closest t can come to materiality. I mean, after all, surely the dream must at least mean (whatever else it means) that somewhere neurons are firing. You can believe what you want, I believe that whatever the mind is, it doesn't work unless the brain works. Whenever a neuron fires, it makes it easier to fire again. (That is what habits are.) So maybe the dream is the unconscious' mnemonic device.
Then the thought arose: Could the unconscious be clarifying its thought through dreaming? But I couldn't think of any way to make that ghost materialize. Then the thought occurred to me: Freud, Derrida, and Holmes all place emphasis on the dog that didn't bark. The thing that isn't there, but should be, can often tell us as much as the thing that is there, but shouldn't be. Maybe that is why dreams are so confused, because there is no material substrate that they can get to reify their thoughts. Maybe that is why I seldom remember dreams unless I happen to wake up while having one. They all go into short term memory, but unless I wake up and consciously recall a dream, it doesn't get transferred to long term memory. Then I thought: Maybe the psychoanalytic examination is nothing but a posterior clarification of the dream in a material substrate....
Then I thought: Aren't we returning to the homunculus theory of the psyche? Isn't this metaphysics at its most odious? Then I thought: As long as we are still in the swamp, we just as well shoot some alligators and make a silk purse or two.
Bloom and Freud
Elisabeth Roudinesco sees Derrida as treading closely in Heidegger's footsteps. While Heidegger searches for the "origin" in Being, Derrida searches for it in the trace. Indeed. Heidegger's practice of deemphasizing the absolute authority of the text in favor of "what is achieved", and by advocating "loosening up" a " "hardened tradition" of "ontology" by a "positive destruction" (in the early version of "Of Grammatology" Derrida used the word "destruction" before he replaced it with "deconstruction") sounds very Derridean.
Because the author fancies himself sovereign, there is a point, Heidegger suggests, where his own conception of the text blinds him. "Descartes had to neglect the question of Being altogether"; "the doctrine of schematism....had to remain closed to Kant" Heidegger realizes that the author must blind himself (How Oedipal is it? This requires thinking through!) in order to make mom for his own statement (put under erasure), an idea Harold Bloom develops in his theory of the "anxiety of influence".
I am familiar with Bloom's notion only in a general way, but it goes something like: Freud was more profound than he knew in his discovery of the Oedipal Complex, for not only does it explain the dynamics of the human family, it can also be used to explain the content and process of literature. Every author works within a tradition with established "authorities." Bloom gives Shakespeare, Goethe, Dante, Plato, Plutarch, Machiavelli, and others as examples. These are the "gold standard" against which all others are measured. These "father figures" must be "killed" (by refuting or ignoring) in order for the "son" to find his place in the sun. Heidegger, for example, did not want to be seen as "just on more set of footnotes to Plato". He refuted Plato whenever he could, and ignored him where he was inescapable. Heidegger likewise recognized Nietzsche's authority and treated him similarly. Derrida trod the same path, with Heidegger one more "father" who had to be "killed" before the son could achieve his own authority. Derrida's notion of "erasure" is imposed whenever an authority is vulnerable, he is ignored at other points.
Marx pointed to the same phenomena (in the Eighteenth Brummaire, I believe) when he said "Man makes his own history, but he does not make it out of whole cloth. He must necessarily make it out of the traditions and practices inherited from the past. The ghost of the past weighs like a nightmare on the consciousness of the living." Marx also said in what may have been a counterstroke against his would be sons attempt to erase him, "I have sown dragon's teeth, and harvested fleas." This point to the prudence of waiting for the "father" to "die" before actually "killing" him. This may have been what Lacan was referring to when he spoke of the "second death", though that enigma must wait for another day.
"Like the analyst moving with his patient in the see saw of the "transference relationship", the deconstructive critic must "free and safeguard" the "intrinsic powers" of a problem" (Spivak's Heidegger)!' In Derrida's words:
"Readership must always aim at a certain relationship, unperceived by the writer, between what he commands and what he does not command of the schemata of the language that he uses. This relationship is not a certain quantitative relationship between the light and shadow, of weakness and force, but of a signifying structure that a critical reading must produce... [Without] all the instruments of traditional criticism critical production would risk developing in any direction and authorize itself to say almost anything. But this indispensable guardrail has always only protected, never opened up a reading."
"To take apart, to produce a reading, to open up the textually of a text. Derrida shares these procedural guidelines with Heidegger. Freud has pushed the procedure further—given him the means of locating the text's "navel", as it were, the moment that is undecidable in terms of the text's apparent system of meaning, the moment the text seems to transgress its own values." (Page xlix)
I think that this long quote is important enough to type out, but I have had difficulty in putting words to paper when trying to comment on it. The "transference relation" is one sticky point. In an effort to extricate myself I bought a copy of "The Freud Reader", Peter Gay (ed.), Vintage 1995 (here in after FR). I will have a look at Freud and come back to this sticky point.
Freud's early training as a physiologist led him to study the nervous system, hoping to use his findings to construct a general theory of the mind. He worked on a draft of "Psychology for Neurologists" throughout the summer of 1895. He never finished this draft, and in the fall turned his attention to a Psychology for Psychologists". Yet the editors of the Standard Edition of Freud's psychological writings are correct to say that "the Project, in spite of being ostensibly a neurological document, contains within itself the nucleus of a great part of Freud's psychological theories....the Project, or rather its invisible ghost, haunts the whole series of Freud's theoretical writings to the very end. (SE 1, 290) (FR 86-
In 1895 Freud trained in Paris under the great mesmerist Cheroot. His demonstration of hysteria's genuineness, its conformity to laws, its occurrence in men, and the production of hysterical paralysis and contracture by hypnotic suggestion greatly impressed Freud. Back in Germany Freud's exposition of these findings met with skepticism and the challenge to reproduce them. When he did he was met with applause, but no further interest was taken in him.
Freud established a private practice and began treating nervous patients with electrotherapy, which he soon gave up as worthless. He then turned exclusively to hypnotism to treat his patients. At first making only suggestive prohibitions to his patients, he soon began to ask his hypnotized patients questions regarding the origin of their symptoms. His recollection of a fellow Viennese psychologist's (Breur) success in treating a hysterical patient solely by inducing her to express in words the effective fantasy which she was at the moment dominated led him in this direction. Freud recalled that Breur was enthusiastic in reporting this case up to a point, when he became reticent. (FR,6-
Freud soon guessed the cause of Breur's embarrassment when one of his (Freud's) patients threw her arms around his neck and professed her love for him. After analyzing this phenomena Freud labeled it "transference" and saw it as one of psychoanalysts' greatest threats, yet one that was both inevitable and full of promise. Transference occurs in the process of analysis when repressed sexual thoughts are stirred up, brought into consciousness and attached to the therapist. This usually happens at a critical juncture in analysis, and Freud sees it as an attempt by the unconscious, to "resist" further meddling in its secrete places. It is seen as a symptom of the original disease and is treated as any other symptom. By all means the analyst must not return the patients advances, for this would be, for the patient, a mere acting out of her repressed desires, and not bring them to consciousness as is required. Nor should she be required to repress her feelings. This would be "just as though, after summoning up a spirit from the underworld by cunning spells, one were to send him down again without asking him a single question." Freud states as a fundamental principle that the longing should be allowed to persist and use the forces to impel her to work and make changes. (FR 234-
Continuing on with the same paragraph from which I have quoted extensively (pg xlix): "This desire for unity compels the author and the reader to balance the equation that is the texts system. The deconstructive reader exposes the grammatical structure of the text, that its "origin" and its "end" are given over to language in general (what Freud would call "the unknown world of thought") by locating the moment in the text that harbors the unbalancing of the equation, the sleight of hand at the limit of the text that cannot be dismissed simply as a contradiction."
Derrida sees Nietzsch, Heidegger, and Freud as proto-
Counter transference is the other side of the transference coin. It is something that endangers the analyst. In it the patient's profession of love is an "intrinsic power" which can summon up the spirit, not of repressed love from the unconscious, but of egotistic love from the conscious mind. The analyst feels himself a conquering "Don Juan" whose charm and brilliance make him irresistible. But Freud warns against this. The analyst "must recognize that the patient's falling in love is induced by the analytic situation" or the transference-
Turning to the deconstructive pole of the seesawing between freeing and safeguarding, I will assume identity between the analyst and the critic and identity between the patient and the author. I will assume identity between the "production" of a "signifying structure" by the critic and the production of a cure by the analyst. I will assume that Derrida's wish to use psychoanalysis as a metaphor for the deconstructive process is fully operational at this point. I will assume the transference relationship is part of Freud's technical apparatus with no theoretical function and will remain so in the deconstructive context. I will assume that Derrida not only wants to do deconstruction, but also wants to teach the technique, that part of his method is not to give answers but to show where they can be found, and that the traces of transference will prove valuable in the deconstruction of deconstruction. But rather pile further assumptions onto this already deep pile, I will await the point in the text itself where an opening up is offered. Freeing and safeguarding are one, as is the see and the saw.
Derrida’s first book was a translation of and long introduction to Husserl's "Origin of Geometry", a book in which Husserl probes the relationship between objective and subjective structures. Derrida, having "produced fully" Husserl's answer, declares that the object is present within the subject insofar as the possibility of objectivity is lodged within the subject's self-
That is, when the primordial consciousness first emerged from chaos it realized "I am"; consciousness "produced fully" the "eternal now" that was its being by met aphorizing the cycle birth, becoming, death into past, present, future. Discourse and history are made possible. Man differentiates himself from the animal.
Husserl places objective knowledge within the control of an "infinitely synthesizing directedness (intentionality) of the ego" an enticing phrase which, if produced fully might equate with the Freudian analyst mucking about in the unconscious until he comes up with a story that satisfies the patient. Derrida deduces from Husserl's metaphorical argument (second metaphor!) that "the nomadic [knowable] sense of every experience...must already be able to be expressed on a meaning. Sense must already be a kind of blank and mute writing which is reduplicated in meaning." For someone who wants to overthrow metaphysics, this sounds quite Platonic.
Spivak notes that Derrida is always able to "produce a counter reading out of [Husserl's] protective hedging. Perhaps all texts are at least double, containing within themselves the seeds of their own destruction." Derrida seems to be much closer to the "free" pole than the "safeguard" pole. (Or would "horn of a dilemma" be a better metaphor?) Why have not the "instruments of traditional criticism" not protected Husserl's text? Is his counter reading in any way related to the counter transference that Freud warned of?
Is Derrida perhaps laying the philosophical ground work which, when fully produced, will show the logic of "do as I say, not as I do", or does he perhaps intend to produce and then erase this trope, thus hoping that by pointing it out he will be excused its use?
In Section III Spivak introduces us, in a summary fashion, to the history and trends of structuralism. I won't attempt to summarize a summary, but I will touch on a few points that I may use later.
Spivak's structuralism finds its home in the study of the human sciences. "A structure is a unit composed of a few elements that are invariably found in the same relationship in the activity being described. The unit cannot be broken down into its single elements, for the unity of the structure is described not so much by the substantive nature of the elements as by their relationship. When Aristotle described tragedy as "the imitation of an action that is serious and also, a having magnitude, complete in itself..., with incidents of pity and fear, wherewith to establish catharsis of such emotions," he was describing the active structure of tragedy. We know Freud's psychic descriptions in terms of the narcissistic and oedipal structures."
"The study of human activity in terms of the structure of the sign we might call semiotics or semi logical structuralism. Can Derrida substitute the structure of writing (the sign sous nature) for the structure of the sign?"
These two quotes, taken from the second and third paragraphs of Spivak's section on structuralism, would seem to link (through metonymy) the very early days of structuralism (then known as theater) with its latest musings. Here is the question of interest to me: Is it possible, if so how is it possible, to achieve the catharsis of the early Greek theater solely through the use of the written word?
I should be surprised if this is not Derrida's quest as well given his interest in the relationship between the written and spoken word, his interest in Plato (who wrote voluminously) and Socrates (who never wrote), his interest in the origin of consciousness, and the origin of the written word and the spoken word.
Five pages along Spivak looks at Derrida's treatment of Michael Foucault's treatment of Descartes' treatment of madness, which I will look at. (Fourth metaphor!) Foucault (writing in the 60s when such trends were current) sees madness as differing from reason only in its inability to communicate its thoughts. Foucault sees Descartes as one of the exemplary separators of reason and madness with his idea of the cogito. Descartes not only founded his philosophy on the cogito, he founded consciousness on the cogito. For when primordial man first thought, he first was. For Foucault this was the dividing line between reason and folly. In that first thought he also achieved the potentiality of communicating that thought which (according to Derrida), when achieved, separated reason from folly. Thinking adds a temporal dimension to existence, and communication allows the systematization of madness. (Is this not the foundation of Freud's "talking cure"?)
Jacques Lacan is the great French psychoanalytic Freudian and re-
The thought of Derrida and Lacan share similarity at many points. In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, a certain tension exists between them. Lacan, distancing himself from many "perversions" arising from his thought, implicitly points to Derrida. Derrida, while acknowledging Lacan's influence, will not permit him the playfulness with terms which he allows himself. (Do as I say).
Lacer's relation to "Of Grammatology" is just that an understanding of has terms that he debates with Derrida will facilitate an understanding of the rest of the text the place of "truth" in discourse and the place of the signifier in general.
Lacan realizes that truth must be grounded outside discourse. Recall that the truth of words is only the result of a self-
Derrida's second point of disagreement with Lacan relates to the transcendental signifier. Derrida teaches us that when we teach ourselves to reject the notion of the primacy of the signified meaning over word—we should not therefore give primacy to the signifier word over meaning, a mistake he feels Lacan has made.
The signifiers in Lacan are the symbols that relate the subject through the structure of desire to the unconscious, a signifying chain (or metaphorical chain) that stretches back to a "shattered childhood", and thus has priority over the signified meaning. "The signifier alone guarantees the coherence of the entirety [of the subject] as an entirety." Each signifier in the subject is singular and indivisible. Derrida suggests that this shares a little too much with the common philosophical notion of the "idea". "To repeat our catechism: for Derrida, in contrast to this, the signifier and the signified are interchangeable; one is the difference of the other; the sin itself is no more than a legible yet effaced, unavoidable tool. Repetition leads to the simulacrum, not the same."
This third section of the introduction ends, interestingly enough, with Derrida and Lacan both putting their seal on their versions of the "truth" through the use of sexual metaphors. Lacan takes off from Freud's castration complex, making the claim that the "signifier...is by nature symbol only of an absence." The missing phallus is the signifier that can take the place of all signifiers, thus becoming the transcendental signifier. This system becomes known as "phallo-
Derrida's key term is "dissemination", employing a false etymology between semantic and semen, he offers a vision of textually that is a sowing that does not produce plants, but is simply infinitely repeated. A proliferation of always different always postponed meaning.
Derrida sees the division of the world into binary opposites, one side privileged and the other side denigrated, with a stable center holding them together, as the leitmotif of metaphysics. Structuralism is seen as a blow against a metaphysics already weakened by the work of Copernicus, Darwin, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Freud. And yet, says Derrida, classical structuralism (Saussure and Levi Strauss) privileged the spoken word and placed it in opposition to the written word, creating a logo centrism that reinforces metaphysics. The first part of "Of Grammatology" will "produce fully" this problem by erasing the distinction between writing and speaking.
One tactic in Derrida's battle against metaphysics is to refuse to let his concepts be used as concepts. He will not let his "master words" become centers around which binary opposites will inevitably be constructed. Thus he constantly renames "difference-
Another facet of the deconstructive battle against metaphysics is in the arena of literary \ philosophical (a distinction Derrida would erase) criticism. Traditional criticism seeks to show the unity of a text. Showing the dis-
The metaphor must be treated with caution. There is a tendency to see it as a "detour to truth" or a "substitute" for truth. There is a tendency to want to make the metaphor the new center. Like "truth", "metaphor is only a word, and words cannot serve as their own foundation. However, the metaphoric structure must be taken very seriously, and be seen as part of the textuelity (message) of the text.
The task of the deconstructive critic is to deliver a "reading that produces rather than protects...., to dismantle the metaphysical and rhetorical structures that are at work [in the text], not in order to reject or discard them, but to rein scribe them in another way." He is directed not to look for the ambiguous word or metaphor that can serve as a "lever" to shift the meaning of a text. "...[T]he relationship between the rein scribed text and the "original" text is not one of patency and latency, but rather the relationship between two palimpsest...Reading these resembles those x-
In giving up the "instruments of traditional criticism" Derrida has indeed given up the 'guardrail' without which 'critical production would risk developing in any direction and authorize itself to say almost anything." (Derrida's words). "The sense of the horizon of indefinite meaning, with the provisional anchor of the text never given up, has led to a handful of spectacular readings...adventurous...controlled acrobatics... impressive" We must wait for the text itself to explicate these adjectives.
Derrida seems to focus on "the minute particulars of an undesirable moment...Reading Foucault, he concentrates on three pages out of 673. Reading Rousseau he chooses a text that is far from central. Reading Heidegger, he proceeds to write a note on a note to Sein and Zeit." Perhaps his study of the "relationship of subjective and objective structures" in Husserl's "Origin of Geometry" led him to the conclusion that these metaphysical opposites were really inter-
NEXT: TO THE TEXT ITSELF
The End of the Book and the Beginning of Writing
Derrida has a rather broad definition of writing. "Everything for the last 20 centuries tended and has finally succeeded in being gathered up under the name of language and is beginning to let it be transferred to, or at least be summarized under the name of writing." What then is left for speech, the other pole of this metaphysical, binary opposition? For Aristotle, "spoken words are the symbol of mental experience". "This is because the voice, producer of the firs symbols, has a relationship of immediate and essential proximity to the mind." For Aristotle, "Written words are the symbols of spoken words". Written language would establish the conventions, inter-
Hegel takes up the thread, explaining that since sound is the least subjective of the senses, taking up whatever vibrations that occur to it and so transferring the interiority of objects to interiority itself, it imposes the least barrier between being and mind. The voice partakes of this intimate relationship in that in speaking one is at the same time hearing oneself speak.
Writing is accordingly debased into the mediation off mediation and as a fall into the exteriority of meaning. The ethos of the epoch insinuates that this relationship should be re-
Derrida next insists that "linguistic science cannot therefore hold onto the difference between signifier and signified -
Derrida treats the difference between the signifier and the signified, and the notion of the sign in general, as suspect, given that its genesis and history are coextensive with that of metaphysics, fallen for the last 100 years into disgrace. We have learned to live (if uneasily) and prosper without the notion of "truth" and "God." Can we part with the sign, which leads to the symbol, which leads to the metaphor, and according to Nietzsch, all "making equal" between the unknown and the known? Is it a question of how to throw out the metaphysical bath water without losing the metaphorical baby? If so, it is a problem that Spivak's introduction alerted us to by looking at Nietzsche's and Heidegger's attempt to get beyond metaphysics while still using metaphysical concepts.
To treat the difference between the, signifier the signified as suspect. The signifier is the voice and the signified is the mental experience both "take place" in the mind before the fall into substantiality. If the voice is the symbol of the mental experience, and if writing is the symbol of the voice, as Aristotle insisted, where can writing be placed in this hierarchy? Predictably, writing is bifurcated into divine or natural writing and human writing. The former is written in words of fire on the soul, and is knowable by the heart but not by the intellect. It is seen as divine prior to the enlightenment and as natural afterward. The scholastics, from start to finish, spent their time making the world, and particularly Greek thought "equal to" the Bible. After the enlightenment Rousseau and the Romantics spent all their time extolling the virtue of nature vis a vis culture. Human writing is seen as corrupted, fallen, and bad.
What will be the form of writing in the post theological, post Romantic, post Nietzschean world? Heidegger proposes Neitzsche as a model, but a Neitzsche still within the bounds of metaphysics, ' struggling, in his own way with the question of being, which Heidegger then proceeds to unveil. (Anxiety of influence in full Bloom.) Derrida proposes that this misreading of Nietzsch be allowed to grow like an alien within the body of mis-
Derrida takes his suspicion of the difference between the signifier and the signified a step further with the interrogation of Heideggerian philosophy. Heidegger grew in a metaphysical culture and so could not avoid absorbing some of its nutrients. In addition he studied for the priesthood before moving on to philosophy. Thus when he "evokes the voice of being" he can only have in mind the "words written in fire on men's souls", "the Book of God" or "the Book of Nature", "the truth within", etc., that philosophy had always privileged above human, technical writing. He evokes that voice, but finds it "silent, mute, insonorus, wordless." He questions logocentricism and finds it absent.
"From "The Introduction to Metaphysics" onward, Heidegger renounces the project of and the word "ontology". The necessary, originary, and irreducible dissimulation of the meaning of being, its occultation on within the very blossoming forth of presence, that retreat without which there would be no history of being which was completely history and history of being, Heideger's insistence in noting that being is produced as history only through the logos, and is nothing outside it, the difference between being and the entity all this indicates that fundamentally nothing escapes the movement of the signifier and that, in the last instance, the difference between the signifier and the signified is nothing." (pg. 22-
How are we to take Derrida's radical denial of any difference between the signifier and the signified? In an idealistic Berkeleyan sense? In an ultra-
That "strange indifference" between signifier and signified. The word "being" and its forms "to be" and "is" are the primary producers of Western metaphysics as the limitation of the sense of being within a sense of presence. That a syntactic and lexicological for could dominate our sense of being leads Derrida to a questioning of what constitutes our history and to what produced the notion of transcendence (beyond experience) that metaphysics (beyond the physical world) is based on. "The limitation of the sense of being within the field of being" indicates that other senses of being and other histories are possible. Heidegger was there first when, in "Zur Seinsfrage", he lets the word "being" be read only if it is crossed out. This leads to Derrida's "erasure" and "trace".
No difference between the sound vibrations that constitute a word and the mental image that they stand for. Difficult, though surely not impossible to conceive of, even if they do contradict the familiar interpretation of Descartes "cogito", i.e. the separation of mind and body. Further, since the sound vibrations exist outside the body and the mental image within, their unity would imply the unity of the body and the world. This is getting into unfamiliar territory, although Heidegger, in "Being and Time", seemed to be moving in that direction when he proposed that being-
What would be the advantage of one way of thought, mind/body differentiation, over another, mind/body unity? As that which man knows best, the body is the foundation of all metaphors. During Socrates' life the Athenians were defeated by the Spartans in the Peloponnesian War, leading the Athenians to radically reexamine their philosophy. Their science, limited though it was, suggested that the best way to advance was to divide a problem into ever-
Plato, in the allegory of the cave, divided the world into the world of appearance, or shadow, and the world of reality, or forms. The world of forms was transcendental and never changing. The world of appearance was immanent and constantly changing. In Phaedrus Plato launches the first of philosophy's many attacks on writing. Derrida follows Plato, Rousseau, and Saussure in their repeated attacks on writing, and finds them wanting. But why this attack on writing, at times reaching the vehemence usually reserved for heresy and sin? Heidegger, the premier philosopher of being, found a limitation on the sense of being that was imposed by language itself. In his words, "language speaks being."
Neitzsche, Heidegger, and Derrida all claim to be the first post-
In the beginning were the logos. Traditionally translated as "word", logos have an ambiguity and a centrality to Western thought that leads to constant re-
Heidegger began questioning his search for the origin and essence of "dasein", that for of being unique to humans, when he found that key terms that he wished to use changed their meaning radically over time. In the earliest Greek writing "beauty" seemed to denote "struggle" and "overcoming". Its meaning changed to represent "leisure" and "ease" at a later date, and only later did the physical attributes that we associate with the word become so associated in the Greek mind. This variability of key concepts ' what led Heidegger to cross out being, and led to Derrida's erasure. But as Heidegger's example of beauty shows, he and Derrida only do explicitly and overtly what has always been d e implicitly and covertly. Words retain their meaning as long as they serve the interest of the ruling ideology. It would be instructive to compare the earliest Webster diction with the British version in use at that time to compare the definitions of such key term king, royalty, democracy, rebellion, etc. That Daniel Webster represented the ideological interest of the new United States is beyond dispute. Following from this let me expand my understanding of "trace" to include the notion of fingerprints left at the scene of a crime and tracing a telephone call to its origin.
With this understanding philosophy's denigration of writing becomes straightforward. Plato, Rousseau, and Saussure all wrote when the dominant ideology was under attack. When they said "writing", only past writing was implied to be under investigation. Current writing expounded its understanding under the cover of speech. It wasn't until Neitzsche investigated self-
Ghambisco Vico held that the first religious leader convinced his fellows that thunder was the voice of God, a level of ideological complexity scarcely above the ideology of the club. If, as seems probable, thinking gets better with practice, then complexity feeds on itself. Competition among religions led from thunder to revelation, from the word to the Trinity. Writing started with business ledgers but, as Derrida points out, the literate soon realized that writing allowed the development of concepts and systems too complex for the unaided memory. Thus began philosophy, the ideological arms race, and the rulers love/hate relationship with writing. For unlike speech, writing left a permanent record of past stories, Gods, enemies, and words.
Derrida modifies the accepted meaning of writing to include speech by insisting that Saussure's notion of the arbitrary nature of the sign necessitated its institutionalization in a durable, even if phonetic, form. Thus the pre-
If Derrida can equate speech and writing, he cannot do without a concept "linked to incision, engraving, drawing, or the letter", which he calls the "graphic", the concept of which "implies the framework of the instituted trace". (pg. 46). The "trace" is that which is left after one understanding of being is "erased" and another is instituted. The "trace" is the relationship between "overcoming" and "ease" in Heidegger's examination of the history of the word "beauty". The trace is always "occulting" and "self-
Derrida links the trace to the concept of the "other" (pg. 47). In psychoanalysis the other is comprised of those aspects of the self which the ego cannot face, and so represses into the unconscious. In cultural studies the other is comprised of those imaginary attributes imposed on an alien culture to differentiate them and so define the mother culture. Similarly, in grammatology the other is that aspect of being erased by the new understanding. Derrida thus follows in the tradition of "negative identification", defining a concept by what it is not. The opposition of the old and the new understanding has meaning only after the possibility of the trace. That is, if no one noted a change in understanding there would be no change and then no history. The other is always already becoming in the constantly changing understanding of being.
Derrida reinforces his position by quoting from C.S. Peirce, another of the founders of semiology. Using slightly different terminology from Saussure, Peirce says "Symbols grow. They come into being by development out of other signs, particularly from icons. We think only in signs… If man makes a new symbol, it is by thoughts involving concepts. So it is only out of a symbol that a new symbol can grow. Peirce sees symbols developing meaning at three levels; the lowest is pure grammar, the condition of any meaning; in the middle, logic proper, responsible for the conditions of the truth of representation; at the highest is pure rhetoric, which ascertains the laws by which a sign gives birth to another, and especially one thought brings forth another. According to Peirce, manifestation does not reveal a presence, it makes a sign. The idea of a manifestation is the idea of a sign. Peirce goes very far in the de-
"To make enigmatic what one thinks one knows about the words "proximity", "immediacy", "presence",...is my final intention in this book" (pg. 70). The English empiricists held that there was nothing in the mind that was not first in the senses. To which the German idealists replied: except the very things that structure the mind, space and time. Purest invention of the Western mind, one can only wonder at the process of the development of the concepts of space and time. Is the non-
Science works with numbers (with their own syntax and logic) to manipulate reality, while philosophers do the same with words. Perhaps because mathematics is open to proof and philosophy leads to arguments, the creator of a new mathematical language is seen as a genius, while the creator of a new verbal language is more often viewed as a lunatic. If Derrida is often undecipherable, so are Kant, Hegel, Husserl, and Heidegger, whose work influences an everyday, whether we realize it or not. Whether Derrida is a fool using bombast to cover up the hollowness of his ideas, a prophet pointing to the new god, or lost in the wilderness looking for a place he has only heard of, is a question for the philosophers to decide.
Consciousness arose with the first thought: "I am". Time was developed with the linking of the eternal present of the "I am" with the "past" of birth and the "future" of death. Temporality is a product of the trace, but a trace whose meaning has shifted slightly in this new context. The (pure) trace is difference (pg. 62). Difference is a merging of meaning of the words differs and defers a relationship whose meaning will be decided in the future. Difference permits articulation of signs within and between orders of expression.
Saussure distinguishes between the "sound image" and the objective sound. The "sound image" is the "being-
This psychic imprint produces the elements that constitute the texts, the chains, and the systems of traces (pg. 65). The trace is the difference between appearing and appearance. But no concept of metaphysics can describe the trace.
Time is the synthesis of the sensory appearing and the lived appearing that permits difference to appear in a chain of signification. The trace is the relation between psychic imprints that are preconception, sermon protect, proclaim, and retain these psychic images. In a sense the trace holds the past, present, and future, but none of them absolutely, only in their synthesis. It is as if they lived present, chosen from among the plenitude of alternatives, keeps in itself the memory of those alternatives, while at the same time foretelling the future of those alternatives.
Spacing, the becoming-
The trace belongs to a signification written, in one form or another, in a "sensible" and "spatial" element called the exterior. It is the first opening to the exterior. "The outside, 'spatial' and/objective' exteriority that we believe we know... would not appear without the gramme, without difference as temporalization, without the non-
Part II of the book promises concrete examples to compliment the abstraction of Part I. While Derrida seems determined that no definitive interpretation emerge from his text, these examples should make a subjective interpretation less problematic, allowing an imposition of meaning onto some of his more enigmatic pronouncements.
One term's idiosyncratic usage has led to my repeated foundering on the Levinas chapter of "Writing and Difference" (The Metaphysics of Violence) is violence. On page 110 (in Of Grammatology) Derrida speaks of a society capable of obliterating the proper, that is to say a violent society. For writing, obliteration of the proper classed in the play of difference, is the original violence itself anterior to the possibility of violence in the current and derivative sense; the sphere of its possibility, the violence of arche-
Levi Strauss describes a tribe of pm-
Derrida chooses to express this violence of language in a sexual metaphor. The mere presence of the foreigner cannot not produce a violation of the virginal space of the peaceful society. (T)he aside, the secret murmured in the ear, the successive movements of the stratagem, the acceleration, the precipitation, a certain jubilation in the moment before the falling back which follows the consummated fault, when the sources have dried up (pg. 113).
We saw the use of the sexual metaphor earlier in Derrida's explanation of dissemination (falsely linked to semen), and Lacan's term phallo-
The horror invested in incest, fratricide, patricide, and infanticide derive from linking sex, death, and the family. Recall that all concepts are produced by precipitating a raw reality into a sign, and that attributes are gathered together from the chaotic infinity of possible attributes to form the concept. Other attributes could have been gathered, giving a different meaning to the concepts sex, death, and the family, or any other concept. Indeed other attributes were gathered throughout history, leaving a trace if preserved, causing consternation among the powerful lest their privileges be erased with the knowledge that their power words are written in the sand, can only be re-
Linking sex, violence, and language will be mom controversial than the preceding theory, itself speculative. Briefly, Derrida's concept of the violence of language shares some attributes with violence commonly gathered together under that term. Naming is something that is done to one, surnames often carry unwanted class distinctions, some superstitions link knowledge of a proper name to power over its owner. This linkage between the erased meaning of violence and its new meaning is quite tenuous to be at the base of a structure that will ultimately explain evil.
Sex, birth, and death are the big three metaphors in which any other concept is made equal to the life process. Birth and death are metaphors for beginning and end. None of these is experienced, properly speaking. Birth is pre-
Memory can be fragile or durable. Emotions and moods (Heidegger emphasized the importance of moods to being) color the creation, categorization, importance, and duration of memory. Lacan holds that a novel memory is held in storage as its nearest metaphorical equivalent while the memory searches for a better fit, the mind constantly returning to this nearest fit while the search is conducted lest it slip away. Does sexual innuendo work by muscling in on two unrelated concepts? Two billion years of the sex drive have given it quite a lot of power.
At this point I will introduce a concept that I will call the defile. It is somewhat analogous to the navel, the point Derrida sees leading to the text's unraveling. It shares attributes with erasure in that new terms take the place of old. The defile is the narrow place with high walls where a texts ideological freight can best be hijacked and taken down a detour. Like all hijackings this can be subtle or brutal.
Sex can act as a shock to the nervous system that resets the system (concept) and readies it for a change. Will Derrida accompany every erasure with a sexual passage? That would certainly make me more confident.
I will offer a couple of examples that may make what t am getting at a little clearer. Everyone knows of the scapegoat sent into the wilderness carrying the community's bad luck and evil influences. But the rest of the story is something else. The original scapegoat was a particularly ugly or deformed human being who, in a time of stress, was denounced by the community at large for whatever was bothering them. He was then taken to the wilderness where his genitals were whipped until he died. This form of torture was carried on after the goat replaced the human.
At some point societies have to put the past behind them or, like Lot's wife, they will be unable to act. Perhaps the sexual torment of the scapegoat was meant to reinforce the tenuous relationship between that ritual and the past?
Any strong emotion will work, with varying degrees of success, to color a memory’s retention and significance. Consider the Greek tragedy plays, popular for 500 years during the height of Greek culture, and carrying the ideological freight necessary for the formation of the Greek citizen. During 500 years there must have been much occasion to erase previous definitions and instill others. By Aristotle's definition a tragedy necessarily carried elements of terror and pity, and resulted in the catharsis of these emotions.
I am counting on repeated opportunities to defile Derrida, for there is still much to say about his ideology and mine.
Levi Straus and Rousseau are romantics, or idealist, who believe the worlds ills are produced by the exploitation of the savage by European civilization. The seek "an identification with all that lives, and therefore suffers", and yearn for a return to the unity of nature before its corruption by civilization. Civilization's faults are necessarily their own, and they lose no opportunity to abuse their character traits vis a vis those of the pm-
Levi Strauss' Marxist leanings open up the awareness that Derrida's structuralism bears a resemblance to Marxism. Let us take another look at "difference", that chameleon like word that takes on the coloration of its surroundings. Following up from Rousseau's hypothesis that "the primary function of writing is the enslavement of other human beings", Derrida quickly adds that "the power of writing in the hands of a small number, caste, or Clan, Is always contemporary with heirarchization , let us say with political difference...(and) of power deferred and abandoned to organs of capitalization..." Derrida sees society reaching a level where it is possible to defer presence, that is to say expense or production, and to organize production, that is to say, reserve in general. It looks like difference may explain the relations of production as well as the relations of language, or better.
In the chapter "The Exorbiant, Question of Method" Rousseau would seem to be the godfather, if not initiator of structuralism, He would erase the middle. "For mc there has never been an Intermediary between everything and nothing". Rousseau wants to use words with "surprising resources". His word is "supplant me". Is Derrida illuminating his own method when he analyzes Rousseau?
The chapter is quite dense, and can be read on suplament several levels: literary, social, structuralist.. A long quote would be appropriate, but beyond my economy. Spivak also focused attention here "but a signifying structure that a critical reading should produce". The critic should take every conceivable opportunity to subvert a system he cannot dominate, using only referents from within a text to open up a text. The critic doesn't "double" a text but attacks it, looking for words with "double" meanings. "Being held within" "logic" which he must respect "up to a point", he should not make references to any "metaphysical, historical, psychobiological, etc." concepts. "There is nothing outside the text". Behind all "flesh and bone... them has never been anything but writing". "What opens up meaning and language is writing as the disappearance of natural presence". Derrida is not obscure, given the theory he has laid out up to this point.
The Marxist Structuralist critic would create a world without a middle class like Rousseaus' utopian agricultural communes or Levi Strauss' primitive Brazilians. 1 will add Maoist la the Marxist Structuralist just above. Though nowhere mentioned by name (didn't Parade say something about absence?), his "trace" Is visible in the agricultural, bi-
"But what is the exorbitant?...What is exorbitant In the reading of Rousseali?....We wish to identify a decisive articulation in the logocentric epoch. For purposes of (his Identification Rousseau seems most revealing"...
Derrida lists his principles of reading (writing?). 'entirely negative, outlining by exclusion a space of reading that I shall not till here a task of reading" "the critic must recognize and respect all the classical exigencies or risk developing in any direction...it cannot transgress the text toward something other than it, toward a referent...(that) could have taken place outside of language…?
"There is nothing outside the text", so no was to check to see if deeds match words. Rousseau's objectification of the people in his real life is not to be examined. Or does he perhaps mean that the whole world constitutes his text are the objects of a certain reading? The image of Jim Jones brushing up on his Rousseau comes to mind. What would life he like in Rousseauville? "Psychological structures" and "psycho biographical" topics are so 6a outside the text as to rate a special admonitory comment. Psycho-
The following in italics: "The security with which the commentator considers the self-
Derrida sees three problem areas if Rousseau's (and his) criticism of writing is applied self-
Derrida wants to reach a point of exteriority with respect to logocentricism. (Page 161) The trace through metaphysics is unsure and the way must be felt. The departure is radically empiricist It proceeds like a wandering thought in the possibility of itinerary and method It is affected by its non-
"Genesis and Structure of the Essay on the Origin of Language" (EOL) is chapter 3 part IL The ELO is a rather obscure essay written by Rousseau but not published until after his death which Derrida must justify as the centerpiece of his Rousseau study.
Derrida begins by linking writing and onanism as two dangerous supplements. "Within the general structure of auto-
We saw that metaphysic's motif was distinguishing one from another. Will Derrida's project of overcoming metaphysics involve a dialectical movement toward merging such concepts as symbolizing/masturbation, inside/outside, doing/suffering, self/other? The philosopher who could lead this revolution would not be 'just one more set of footnotes to Plato" as Heidegger feared becoming, but would truly be a new beginning. (To be the first to burst upon that new ocean! Nietzsche). Derrida seeks to abolish writing through writing. Attaching writing to the bad attributes of masturbation could be a start to that end. Does he seek to legitimize masturbation? Rousseau wrote about his own masturbation, and we know that he gave his seven newly born children to orphanages. Inside/outside, signifier/signified, self/other, subject/object. Related concepts, all diametrically opposed but sharing more attributes within the pair than with surrounding concepts. How would this merging of concepts relate to Rousseau's stated aversion to all other than "everything" or "nothing"?
Rousseau, Levi Strauss, and presumable Derrida all saw utopia as a series of small, self-
When the elite dream of heaven, they dream of a structure frozen in time where they never more need fear the abyss of the mass. That Derrida's project contradicts human nature as we know it seems obvious, but without writing and reason how long before there is no "difference" between "everything and nothing"?
(Logocentricism’s) Last resort would be to dissolve sexuality into the transcendental generality of the structure 'touching-
What is this book anyway? A General's orders to his officers? A self-
(1' subsection) 'Writing, Political Evil, and Linguistic Evil... Desire desires the exteriority of presence and non-
One cannot separate the signifier from the signified, and, changing words one changes ideas...' Each word is surrounded by a 'horizon', a line separating attributes from non-
Rousseau sees civilization as a drifting away from nature. To return to nature is to constantly decrease the distance between nature and civilization, presumably by the method of effacement used by Rousseau and Levi Strauss, constantly denigrating the mother culture while extoling the primitive one. Erasing the former while supplementing the latter. Is this Derrida's 'inside' and ‘outside’? Does Derrida want to subject the pair mastery \ slavery to this treatment ? 'Pity' is surely a key word that Derrida wants to use. On page 173 `Rousseau affirms (in Discourse) unambiguously that pity is more primitive than the works of reason or reflection.' (pg. 174), 'the child's first sentiment is love of self, and his second which is derived from it is love of those about him.' This is `pity'. Analogous to pity is `amorous passion'. `If in fact pity is natural.... love or amorous passion is, on the contrary, not natural at all. It is the product of history and society... Amorous passion...limits our attachment to a single person. As always in Rousseau, evil here has the form of determination, of comparison and of preference. That is to say difference....What is cultural and historical in love is at the service of feminity: made to enslave man to a woman.' Pity toward everything living is to be expanded and amorous passion is to lose its energy in that direction.
When woman `despises the voice of her head, when she desires to usurp his rights and take command upon herself...that is the very form of usurpation...the paradigm of violence and political anomaly' (pg 178). (L)ove, the moral supplement, displaces the force of nature by substitution. It...Determines and orients the force of desire. Moral love, not having a biological foundation, is born of the powers of the imagination.'
If pity is fundamental in the second Discourse (Inequality Among Men, 1754) By the time of ELO (first published in 1781), pity needs activation by 'imagination...the power of anticipation that exceeds the given of the senses and takes us toward the unperceived....we are moved to pity by getting outside ourselves and identifying with a being that suffers.... The imagination is at the same time the condition of perfectibility-
(pg 183)Derrida sets up for Rousseau two sets of series working themselves out: (1) animality, need, interest, gesture, sensibility, understanding, reason, etc. (2) humanity, imagination, speech, liberty, perfectibility, etc...And the master name of the supplementary series: death.' The terms of the series is of less importance at this time than the fact that they end in death. `If it is now remembered that Rousseau gave the name of `terror' to the fear of death .... (Terror ad pity are linked to the Greek)...Tragic scene. (pg. 185)(Rousseau's) theory of innateness as virtuality or as naturality as sleeping potentiality. Not a very original theory to be sure, but one who’s organizing role is indispensable. It asks us to think of a nature not as a given, as a real presence, but as a reserve....at once beneficent and maleficent...virtues and vices, good and evil...If we desire beyond our power of satisfaction, the origin of that surplus and of that difference is named imagination.... nature is the equilibrium between reserve and desire.' The reserve is the 'limit' that Derrida (Rousseau ?) would have us approach...as we cannot enlarge the (world of reality) let us restrict the (world of ?pagination): Repression of desire as the key to happiness is thousands of years old, but nature as a reserve of potentialities seems to be new. The reserve is what I call 'chaos'. That infinity of possible attributes from which 'reality' is built. 'The imagination `is pure auto-
The imagination of the other opens a certain non-
Let us recapitulate. Derrida desires a small society living closer to nature, which is the reserve of all attributes. He sees differentiation and preference as the root of all evil. Happiness lies in the reduction of desire. The signifier (word) and the signified (concept) are the same. Change the word and you change the concept. All redefinitions are to work in the direction of lessening the difference between civilization and nature. Words change meaning (1) by being effaced or erased, after which they live a ghostly life, neither here nor not here, taking their characteristics from the surroundings they surface in. (2) by being merged with other words through the use of the imagination. (Is the latter used with emotions, and the former with the intellect?) Derrida would tailor emotional and intellectual life to fit the exigencies of his structure. `Perfectibility' means getting closer to a `reserve' that holds both beneficent and maleficent aspects. If love makes the present day world go round, a pity that seems close to smug self-
Earlier I said that in my version strong emotions help to create an articulation between tenuously linked concepts that result from merging dissimilar concepts. Emotions could be used to control people (is this not the Dionysusian method?) but emotions tend to trespass the borders set for them. I have in mind the cruelty and abandon associated with the dying away of the Dionysian festival. Also the early Medevial St. Vitus dance which broke out across Europe, its adherents danced them into frenzy, supported themselves by pillage, and left a trail of abandoned husbands, wives, children, and homes in its wake.
What if there were one emotion that you could tap into, which released a feeling which could then be filled with whatever content came to hand, to create a custom emotion ? I am thinking now of Buddhist Enlightenment, all religious conversions, out of body experiences, alien abductions, repressed memories, etc. Can I defile the psychoanalytic method and the transference relationship with the same brush I used above ? The linkage may be there.
(pg. 201) The mind sets a cadence via the interval between words. The rational mind gets advantage vs. the poetic language used earlier. The `accent and harmony' are what poetry lost in becoming speech. Poetry had 'power over the passions'.
(pg. 203) According to Rousseau (Derrida) philosophy leads society on a circular process that will eventually 'bring as back to a nature yet more secret, more ancient, more archaic' Progress consists in always taking us closer to animality while annulling the process through which we have transgressed animality.' What one cannot represent in the relationship of representation to the so called originary presence. The re-
(pg. 204) We come to pedagogy: 'According to Rousseau, the child is the name of that which should not relate in a way to a separate signifier, loved in some way for itself, like a fetish.' The example engraves itself in memory, 'waiting' to enter the heart. It may remain in memory without entering the heart, and conversely, because of the resemblance between the heart and memory.' Teach by imitating good action. 'The taste for and power of imitation are inscribed within nature.'
(pg. 206) 'Here the relationship among the child, animafity, and the man in society order themselves according to the structure and the problematic which we had such difficulty outlining in the analysis of pity, and it is not by chance : the same paradox -
(pg. 208) One cannot separate the (signifier's) effectiveness from the signified to which it is tied. It is not the body of the sign that acts, for that is all sensation, but the signified that it expresses, imitates, or transports...we are moved, 'excited' by the represented and not by the represented, by the expressed and not by the expression.' This points to the signifier/signified unity.
(pg 209) What makes music (an imitative art)? Melody.
(pg 216) Language is a structure...
(pg 217) 'Rousseau's opposition north/south being rational and not natural, structural and not factual, relational and not substantial, traces a language of reference within each language....language 'n general springs forth when passionate desire exceeds physical need, when imagination is awakened...the structural principal of a classification of language... (is that) the languages of the north are on the whole languages of need...the languages of the south...are on the whole languages of passion.'
(pg. 219) 'There is no social institution before language, it is not one cultural element among others, it is the element of institutions in general, it includes and constructs the entire social structure.'
(pg. 220) 'the people of the north are more industrious than the people of the south, because they cannot get on so well without being so, as if nature wanted to make matters equal by giving their understanding the fertility she had refused to their soil...the economy of nature...supposes that the sphere of necessity is itself complex, hierarchized, differentiated...We can find then, in every climate, material causes according to which the form of government which it requires can be assigned.'
In the past 20 pages I take Derrida to be laying out the heart of the story which will justify his new society by linking it to an ancient society. Greek rationalism usurped power from the age of poetry when speech linked to music had power over the passions. Expression forces the passions outside where they are painted by the imagination. Children are no longer to be loved as something separate, as a fetish. Learning should ideally enter the heart and not remain only in memory. The imagination brings the child out of animality, and the man out of the child, just as it broughtt pity out of nature.
Cadence and rhythm are important in evoking passions, but the signified, the thing out of represented, is most crucial. You cannot evoke a passion by representing a passionless object. Language is structural on the axis need/passion. Though Derrida states that this axis does not describe an actual language, he would seem to leave the door open to determining government according to climate. Also it appears that one's level of need is a function of one's place in the hierarchy. Derrida polarizes Rousseau's thought on the axis describe/declare. Thus he can, without contradiction, describe a society as pure, natural, and passionate and declares it to be less industrious, leaving open the option of manipulating a society described as ideal.
I see society as resting on a myth, a plausible story. In Western society this is the Greco-
(pg. 226) 'the more language is articulated, the more articulation extends its domain, and thus gains in rigor and vigor, the more it yields to writing, the more it calls writing forth. This is the central thesis of the Essay' (EOL). The more complicated a concept, the more necessary to write it down. 'The (written) word does not carry half the meaning: all the effectiveness is in the tone of voice [accents]: (Explaining what the south had retained of its language vs. the north i.e. the vowel accent). North's speeches `accentuated features have been gnawed through by the consonants'. I think this is the heart of the matter, why we have slipped away from nature.
(pg. 227) For while distrusting, and indeed because of that distrust, Rousseau wants to exhaust all of (writing's) univocity, clarity, and precision. These values are negative when they chill e expression of passion, but positive when they avoid trouble, ambiguity, hypocrisy.
(pg. 229) 'That progress' takes place for the worse and for the better'.
(pg. 229) III Articulation
(pg. 231) 'As it is evoked in the (EOL), the age of huts is much closer to nature...no more social structure than that of the family.'
(pg. 234) 'The endless movement [l'abime] of signification.' A definition of the 'abyss'.
(pg. 238) The metaphoric origin of speech'. Derrida warns us that Rousseau could be seen as contradicting earlier writing in this section if the logic of supplementary is not taken into account. Previously speech had been the direct result of imagination on passion.
(pg. 239) Watching 'an afflicted person you are not likely to weep. But give him the time to tell you what he feels and you will soon burst into tears. It is solely in this way that the effects of tragedy produce their effects.'
Derrida would answer with a resounding no my enquiry about the possibility of attaining the catharsis of the Greek tragic theater strictly in the written form. The voice presenting a passionate signified in song can draw out a passion to be 'painted' by the imagination. The steady degeneration of song into poetry into speech into writing sets the evocation of passion at ever farther removes from the originary experience of early civilization. The circularity of nature will eventually lead us back to a nature 'more secret) more ancient, more archaic', presumably a good thing. Will we be ruled by passion evoked by song? Is pity to be passion's 'shut-