Thursday, August 19, 2010

Derrida - Writing and Difference (Essays 4-7)


Violence and Metaphysics: An Essay on the Thought of Emmanuel Levinas
  1. Introduction
    1. Derrida begins by suggesting that, while the questions whether philosophy is over and what type of thought comes after the demise of philosophy are questions that are unanswerable philosophy, they are the questions that should truly be pondered by those that still call themselves philosophers.
    2. It should be pondered as a question that has not yet be trivialized by already having a ready-made answer, with absolute initiality.
    3. The difference between retaining the question as a question and not doing so is "the difference between philosophy as a power and adventure of the question itself and philosophy as a determined event or turning point within this adventure."
    4. Husserl and Heidegger, despite their dissimilarities, both tried to call us back to the untraditional nature of the philosophical tradition, the return to philosophical thought that retains its initiality.
      1. Both Husserl and Heidegger see the beginning of philosophy, for better or worse, with Plato and the Greeks; they both recognize that the founding concepts of philosophy are Greek, most importantly that of Being.
      2. Both Husserl and Heidegger aim for a reduction metaphysics, in their respective ways.
      3. Both Husserl and Heidegger dissociate ethics from metaphysics, rejoining it with something prior and thus reducing its ethical specificity.
        1. Husserl and Heidegger thought that these motifs must be central to any philosophical endeavor.
        2. It is important to explore them at this point that Western philosophy, Greek concepts, are taking over the whole world.
        3. Moreover, these concepts are not merely philosophical, rather they are "the possibility of our language and nexus of our world."
    5. Levinas, however, sets himself against these motifs.
      1. He wishes to move outside of the Greek site of philosophy, away from the Greek logos towards prophetic exaltation. He seeks to move away from the Greek fixation and the Same, the One, the Totality, which he sees as warlike.
      2. At the same time, he wants to define his thought as metaphysical.
      3. He also wants to reestablish the relationship between ethics and metaphysics. Ethics and metaphysics will be basic, unsupported by anything else.
    6. The question between Husserl and Heidegger, on the one hand, and Levinas, on the other is "the powerful will to explication of the history of Greek speech."
      1. Husserl and Heidegger are the foremost representative of this tradition.
      2. Levinas tries to break free, but not really by returning to Jewish theology or mysticism, but by trying to return to experience itself.
        1. What he finds as most basic in experience is Others.
      3. It is from within this problematic that Derrida wants to engage in a partial commentary on Levinas's thought.
  2. The Violence of Light
    1. From Levinas's earliest work on Husserl a suspicion of the "imperialism of theoria" is already present, Being is already predetermined as an object even in a phenomenolgy that was supposed to jettison presuppositions and 'return to the things themselves.'
      1. At this point, however, Levinas's objection to Husserl is not entirely developed for a number of reasons.
      2. At the same time, a break that cannot be reconciled is already indicated.
        1. Levinas objects that "one cannot simultaneously maintain the primacy of the objectifying act and the irreducible originality of non-theoretical consciousness."
      3. While objecting to Husserl's theoreticism, Levinas also rejects mysticism. He neither wants distant objectification, nor mystical union.
    2. By 1930 Levinas towards away from Husserl towards Heidegger. Indeed, he adopts many Heideggerian themes in his critique of Husserl.
      1. Heideggerian activity vs. Husserlian passivity
      2. Heideggerian temporality vs. Husserlian anti-historicism
    3. But then he begins to distance himself from Heidegger too.
      1. Heidegger, while rejecting Husserialian theoreticism and objectivity, retains the structure of inside-outside and comprehension, which make it possible.
      2. Levinas does not deny the inside-outside distinction, but wants to find something prior to this division, a metaphysics of exteriority.
      3. Levinas also see his resistance to Heidegger as away of resisting the unification that has been part of Western thought since Parmenides, instead he wants to move towards a more basic pluralism.
        1. Levinas, thus, moves to consider the other and original difference.
        2. In order to establish these theme he must see the individual as originally in solitude and then suddenly confronting an other.
        3. Levinas wants this encounter to be without intermediary, but also without pure communion. A proximity to the other in which distance is maintained.
        4. In order to do this Levinas needs to contest 'formal logic' and the law of non-contradiction. He must assert 'neither…nor.' He must challenge the language of Western philosophy.
    4. Levinas, importantly, resists the metaphor of light that underpins Western philosophy.
      1. This metaphor undergirds, the Same, the One, the Totality that permeate Husserl and Heidegger's thought.
  3. Phenomenology, Ontology, Metaphysics
    1. In 'Totality and Infinity' Levinas moves from the critical mode to a more positive development of his conception of the encounter with the other.
      1. "Levinas calls the positive moment which takes itself beyond the disdain or disregard of the other, that is, beyond the appreciation or possession, understanding and knowledge of the other, metaphysics or ethics. Metaphysics transcendence is desire."
      2. The relationship to the other is characterized by desire. This desire is distinguished from Hegelian desire. It is desire that resists consummation. It is respect and knowledge of the other as other.
      3. This motivates Levinas's focus on the face as opposed to the ego; the ego is always the same, the face is always different.
      4. In order to resist Hegel, Levinas also has to do away with historicity. History is the march of the same. Levinas wants to affirm a radically different encounter.
      5. The encounter with the other is the only encounter possible for man, the only way to get outside of himself. There is no way of conceptualizing the encounter, because it is utterly unique and originary.
      6. Being face to face with the other, being-with while maintaining separation, proceeds all other forms of social organizations. Levinas calls it religion. It is the beginning of ethics.
        1. This ethics is immediate respect for the other himself/herself, without passing through the universal as in Kantian ethics.
        2. In order to make this description of the encounter with other work, Levinas reworks the metaphors of seeing and light that have been used in the Western tradition.
          1. Levinas is trying to move away from the dominance of Being and the Same, which infects even Heidegger's philosophy.
            1. A focus on Being removes focus from the other as other.
        3. In a way then Levinas is interrogating the language of Western philosophy.
      7. If the encounter with the other is prior to all thought, and if this encounter gives rise to ethics, then ethics is metaphysics and first philosophy.
    2. Levinas opposes Totality with Infinity; and Infinity is encountered in the face of the other.
      1. The sight of the face to face encounter must also be supplemented by hearing.
      2. Levinas is very close to Hegel in prioritizing sight and hearing in the encounter with the other, but he also tries to distinguish himself.
        1. Anti-Hegelian thinkers must come dangerously close to Hegelianism.
      3. The other is given in his/her face. The face is not a metaphor for something beyond it; the face is presence.
        1. Thus, the living speech of the human face is given priority. Correlatively, the written and the work are subordinated for Levinas.
        2. Derrida questions this relationship of priority. He also suggests ways in which Levinas's thought might be more consistent if it gave writing priority.
          1. It would be more consistent with his Hebraism and with his focus on original finitude.
          2. Moreover, it would fit with his idea of the encounter with the Other as other, which is really an encounter with absence as opposed to presence; absolute alterity is absence.
        3. The encounter between the I and the other is not really an encounter between to equal men. Because the encounter with the other is the opening up of infinity, it is the encounter with God.
          1. Levinas does not think that this is a detour into theology, it is still phenomenology, in encountering the other, we encounter God. Human beings are the trace of God.
          2. The face of God disappears in showing itself. Man's face is the resemblance who makes himself present by being absent.
  4. Difference and Eschatology
    1. Derrida now turns to "questions of language and the question of language." He thinks that his is a major preoccupation of Levinas's thought.
    2. Of the Original Polemic
      1. All of the questions that Derrida is going to ask about Levinas's thought are already questions that Levinas poses to himself
      2. Levinas often identifies the ego with the same and sometimes opposes this identification. This is connected with his opposition to subjectivism, he wants to find away that is neither subjectivism nor objectivism. He opposes himself to Kierkegaard as well as Hegel. But in order to do so, he needs to make use of the language of the philosophical tradition which he is given, there is no thought before language, and then try to bend it.
        1. At the same time, however, Levinas sometimes seems to return to categories that he had rejected earlier in his work. Why does Levinas have to make use of concepts that he rejects in order to destroy them?
      3. The same dynamic is at work with the concept of exteriority, Levinas seems to abandon earlier due to its spatiality, it only to make use of it later.
        1. Is this because there is not philosophical though which is not, at least at first, within the structure of the Inside-Outside.
        2. Derrida claims that one needs to make use of the of traditions concepts in order to supersede them.
          1. "Therefore, one can, by using them, use up tradition's words, rub them like a rusty and devalued coin; one can say that true exteriority is non-exteriority without being interiority, and one can write by crossing out, by crossing out what already has been crossed out: for crossing out writes, still draws in space."
          2. Inside-Outside is embedded in language and cannot be done away with, it must be destroyed by using it .
          3. More generally, philosophical language is embedded in natural language and cannot be easily, if ever, disentangled from it.
          4. Levinas's entirely endeavor is problematically related to language in that he wants the other to be absolute other and positively infinite, something which cannot be thought or stated.
          5. For some reason, this idea of infinity is incompatible with the face and related to death and mortality, and then God comes into the picture. (As should be clear, I am not sure what is going on here.)
          6. Levinas runs into all these problems because he does not resort to negative theology, which is a resignation that language is inadequate. He believes in the encounter, in which God is met face to face so he is committed to speaking.
          7. Levinas is committed to speaking because he believes that silence allows for the worst violence.
    3. Of Transcendental Violence
      1. Metaphysics cannot escape phenomenology even when it tries to critique phenomenology, especially when it "seeks to be discourse and instruction."
      2. How can Levinas use phenomenology as method without taking aboard all of its presuppositions, the very presuppositions, that Levinas hope to do away with?
      3. This is most true with the concept of intentionality
        1. Husserlian Intentionality is caught up in theoreticism and the objectivity
          1. This creates problems for Levinas's attempt to see infinity, what is revealed in the encounter with the other, as positive infinity
      4. Additionally, phenomenology rejects all sorts of commandments, it is simple open to experience, this means that it does not mesh well with Levinas's attempt join ethics with phenomenology.
      5. Derrida also claims that Levinas does not really avoid Husserl's commitment to theoreticism and the primacy of the consciousness of the object.
      6. The major debate between Husserl and Levinas seems to be whether the other is an ego, Levinas claims that doing so limits the alterity of the other.
        1. Derrida claims that Husserl is more careful then Levinas take him to be in respecting the alterity of the other.
        2. Husserl, in fact, by basing his apprehension of the other on the ego, shows how his language is legitimate, Levinas does not do so. Levinas would resist this because he sees it as violent, but Derrida suggests that there may be a foundation of violence to every ethics.
      7. Derrida then explore whether Husserl's formulation which sees the other as another ego is more coherent than Levinas's which sees it as infinitely other.
        1. The other can only be the other if he is, in a certain way the same, if he is an other ego.
        2. Somehow we get into a discussion of discourse as violence, I am not sure how. In any event, this discursive violence is necessary in order to avoid worse violence, which is silence.
        3. It seems that Husserl recognizes the irreducibly egoic essence of experience, while Levinas tries, impossibly, to deny it.
        4. The living present is also violence, it to does not allow the other to be unless it is the same.
      8. In sum, and cutting around many detours, 'Levinas's metaphysics presupposes the transcendental phenomenology that it seeks to put into question.'
        1. At the same time, however, it does effectively put it into question. This refers Derrida's main point early on that quite possibly it necessary to use a particular language in order to question it.
    4. Of Ontological Violence
      1. There seems to be a similar movement in Levinas's relationship to Heidegger
      2. Levinas criticizes Heidegger for subordinating the relationship to the other to the relationship to Being.
        1. But Being is not separable from beings, for Heidegger, in a way that would allow one to speak of priority and subordination.
          1. Being is not being among others
          2. Furthermore, Being is not a relation of knowledge and does not teach us what beings are
      3. Levinas uses the language of Heidegger's ontology even when tries to dismantle it
        1. He presupposes Heidegger discussion of Being even when he tries to assert the priority of the encounter with the other.
        2. "The metaphysics of the face therefore encloses the thought of Being, presupposing the difference between Being an existent at the same time as it stifles it."
      4. We then get into a discussion of 'sites,' though I am not sure how, the following quote seems interesting, though I don't understand its place in what preceded it.
        1. "The sacred is the "only essential space of divinity which in turns opens only a dimension for the gods and the god"…This space….is within faith and atheism. Both presuppose it. "It is only on the basis of the truth of Being that the essence of Divinity must be thought. It is only in the light of the essence of Divinity that once can think and say what the word 'God' must designate.""
      5. Derrida now moves back to the idea that violence is intrinsically wrapped up in speech.
        1. Predication is the first violence.
        2. Thus, Levinas taken in his most extreme form would want a language without phrases, one that would eschew predication and just let things be.
          1. It is when language tries to articulate things that it become violent - x is y
      6. Now there is a discussion about Being and God, about Being as presupposition of all questions, similarly in the Middle Ages, where God was equated with Being, some theologians thought that God was the presupposition of all questions and therefore could not really be put into question.
        1. Similarly, "by making the origin of language, meaning, and difference the relation to the infinitely other, Levinas is resigned to betraying his own intentions in his philosophical discourse. The latter is understood, and instructs, only the first permitting the same and Being to circulate within it."
      7. Levinas tries to jettison all of the philosophical baggage of the tradition by engaging in a genuine empiricism, but his thought is still caught up in the connection between experience and presence.
        1. At the same, because empiricism is non-philosophy it does serve to shake the philosophical tradition.
        2. At the same time (again), by speaking, in order to avoid the worst violence, Levinas engages with the Logos and is then drawn back into philosophy.
        3. Greek language is not neutral, it ineluctable draws those that use it into its thought.
        4. The question of whether we are Jews are Greeks raises many questions that we can't possible address or answer, of course.

         
    "Genesis and Structure" and Phenomenology

     
  5. Derrida begins by considering the problems that arise when one comes to studying a body of work with predetermined conceptual frames, such as 'Genesis' and 'Structure,' with which to shape the inquiry.
    1. Using such conceptual frames may be useful, but that it also is an act of aggression an infidelity.
    2. This is even more the case with the thought of the figure that Derrida intends to discuss here , namely Husserl.
      1. Husserl, under the phenomenological banner of 'returning to the things themselves,' rejected the 'dialectical' attitude in which the scholar considers other's arguments and makes a case for his own view.
      2. Instead, he tried to lay himself open to observing 'the things themselves.'
      3. This allows him to remain "respectful of that which remains open within structure," that is, it prevents him from trying to force messy phenomena into a predetermined structure.
  6. Husserl would have denied the opposition between 'Genesis' and 'Structure,' instead he would say that different phenomena require different concepts.
  7. A central concern of Husserl's was 'fidelity to the theme of description,' attending to the things themselves as opposed to importing foreign conceptual frameworks.
    1. According to Derrida, "the image of this fidelity to the theme of the description can be found in Husserl's (at least apparent) fidelity to himself all along his itinerary." This seems to mean something like Husserl's commitment to the fidelity of the theme of description can be seen in the way he tried to make sense of the developments in his thought as a progressive, continuing deepening of insights, as opposed to divergent and polemical arguments.
      1. In particular, Husserl did not see himself as involved in a structure vs. genesis debate. Instead, he though that his different investigations used different concepts because of their subject matter.
  8. However, Derrida claims that, despite Husserl's claims to the contrary, he was very much caught up in a debate over conceptual frameworks. It is this debate that makes his different inquiries progress and allows him to make new discoveries.
    1. This debate which is manifest in Husserl's thought, and which threatens to violate the basic principle of his thought, moves him toward "a metaphysics of history in which the solid structure of a Telos would permit him to reappropriate, by making it essential and by in some way prescribing its horizon, an untamed genesis which grew to greater and greater expanse, and seemed to accommodate itself less and less to phenomenological apriorism and to transcendental idealism."
      1. I am not entirely sure what that means, but it seems to mean that Husserl's thought moves in direction in which it recognized unconstrained 'becoming' and that this did not fit with the static nature of his previous commitments.
      2. Thus, there is a movement from structure to genesis.
    2. This debate is manifest in two ways: interior to his own thought and exterior, in his debate with the followers of Dilthey and Gestaltism, both forms of structuralism.
    3. Thus, Husserl continuously tries to reconcile:
      1. Structuralism - a comprehensive description of a totality
      2. Geneticism - a search for the origin and foundation of the structure
  9. Indeed, Derrida claims that the phenomenological project was born out of the failure of this reconciliation.
    1. This tension, between structuralism and geneticism, is evident in Husserl's earlier work Philosophie and Arithmetik
      1. In discussing mathematics, Husserl rejects the extreme logical conclusions of both structuralism and geneticism. He does this by rejecting both an approach which sees the origin of numbers in a psychological act (geneticism) and an approach which sees numbers as some form of transcendental apriori (structuralism).
      2. Instead, Husserl wanted to find a way to account for numbers that combined the activity of the psychological-geneticist approach with the passivity of the logicist-structuralist approach.
  10. This attempt to combine activity and passivity is, according to Derrida, a central feature of Husserl's thought. It is, thus, also the attempt to combine structure and genesis.
    1. The first move in the phenomenological process, is structuralist. It is a negation of psychologistic-genetic considerations about mental acts.
    2. At the same, however, Husserl sets himself against the earliest purely structuralist projects - that of Dilthey and Gestaltism.
      1. Husserl criticized Dilthey's 'World-view philosophy' as a historicism that falls into relativism or skepticism.
        1. Dilthey's thought fails to account for philosophy, which, it seems, is the search for the Idea of Truth in the Kantian sense, an idea that eludes an finite actualization.
        2. More basically, Husserl rejects Dilthey because Dilthey attempts to found normativity on the basis of factuality.
  11. Derrida now returns from his discussion of Husserl's polemics with those outside of his field (Dilthey) to consider how the debate between structuralism and geneticism manifested themselves in the phenomenological method itself
    1. The first phase of the phenomenological process is static and structural in its design
      1. This is, as discussed above, the bracketing of genetic-psychological considerations in the consideration of the phenomenological object.
      2. It is thus typified by stuctural closure.
      3. At the same time, in the second phase there is a recognition of the opening or 'becoming' of phenomenological experience.
        1. What is experienced is always infinitely open.
    2. Derrida then explains how the tension between closure and opening is present in a number of areas of Husserl's thought, including the noetico-noematic correlation and the morphe-hyle correlation.
      1. This is also a shift backwards and forwards between structure and genesis.
  12. Derrida now returns to consider Husserl's opposition to the other structuralist project of his time - Gestaltism
    1. It seems that Husserl rejects Gestalt psychology because, despite its commitment to structure, it is a form of pure geneticism. Phenomena are explained by mental acts, albeit those which are structurally constituted.
  13. Derrida then considers how, despite Husserl's opposition to psychological geneticism, genetic ideas influenced his phenomenological method:
    1. The logical route - in which Husserl tries to undo the effects of scientific and theoretical structures on phenomenological observation
    2. The egological route - in which the genesis of the ego itself in its relation to an object as such is rediscovered
    3. The historico-teleological route - which is the unveiling of Reason itself through history, in particular in the discovery of the phenomenological method.
  14. According to Derrida, these genetic ideas actually constitute for Husserl a new type of metaphysics, true metaphysics.
    1. This metaphysics is, however, more genetic than structural.
    2. It is animated by a Telos, which is an Idea in the Kantian sense, in that it is an infinite practical task that resists finite actualization.
    3. This Telos is not a static structure, rather it is "structurally genesis itself, as origin and becoming."
  15. Derrida closes with some reflections about how it is not possible to ask about how structure in general and genesis in general in Husserl's, or it seems anyone's, thought work
    1. Rather it is necessary to observe the different manifestations of genesis and structure and the productive tensions between them
    2. (I am sure there is more here in the closing paragraphs, but I can't seem to get it.)

       
    La parole soufflée


     
  16. This essay is a discussion of Atonin Artaud, the French playwright, actor poet, and theatre director. To put it very briefly, Derrida does three things in this essay:
    1. He criticizes previous discussion of Artaud that seek to dissolve his individuality, either as a clinical case, an example of a style of thought, or even an instance of 'individuality.'
    2. He presents Artaud's work as an attempt to dissolve the classical distinction between signifier and signified, in all of its iterations.
    3. However, he criticizes Artaud's work for itself falling into a metaphysics of presence, in which all meaning must be fully present and in which difference and absence are denied.
  17. Derrida begins by discussing the work of Blanchot, Foucault, and Laplanche who have all investigated the relationship between clinical discourse and critical discourse.
    1. Holderlin and/or Artaud are the subjects of their discussions of the relationship between these two discourses.
    2. Derrida claims that while it true the clinical and critical discourses, discussions of madness and the work, respectively, are intertwined and distinct, as these thinkers hold, there is an even more basic way that they are similar.
      1. Both clinical and critical discourse reduce a work or a thinker to an case or an example.
      2. The individual work or thinker is reduced to either a medical case or a literary/philosophical example.
        1. In the clinical case the thinker or the work is exposed to psychomedical reductions
        2. In the critical case the individual, his or her experience, is stripped away in favor of a 'universal essence of thought.'
      3. Derrida illustrates this with some of Blanchot's critical comments on Artaud
        1. A key point in Derrida's criticism of Blanchot is that even when Blanchot tries to express that there is something not captured by either the critical or the clinical discourses, he ends up assimilating that which is left over in yet another totalizing discourse - that of individuality.
          1. In Blanchot's descriptions of Holderlin's or Artaud's individuality is a generic individuality
      4. According to Derrida, Laplanche and Foucault makes similar moves identifying unicity, or individuality, and exemplarity.
    3. In closing this part of the essay, Derrida claims that he does not mean to bluntly criticize Blanchot, Laplanche, and Foucault for not sufficiently protecting individuality and uniqueness from reductions.
      1. The generic silence in the face of the unique is a constitutive part of commentary, whether clinical or critical
      2. In order to do away with it commentary itself must be done away with.
      3. This can be done by interrogating the seemingly basic concepts that support clinical and critical commentary, such as madness, work, psyche, text, example, and essence, exposing the unity prior to these differences.
  18. Derrida now moves to his own discussion of the Artaud (much of this discussion deals with specific aspects of Artaud's work that I am not familiar with, I will try to distill the main points)
    1. Artaud teaches us this unity prior to dissociation that destroys the possibility of clinical and critical commentary
    2. Artaud's art resists commentary because it no longer a route to something other than itself, either clinical case or critical example
    3. His art is not an expression of something other than itself, it a pure creation of life. In this sense, Artaud works to break down the dualist metaphysics of West.
      1. Artaud, thus, wants to make sure that his speech is not spirited away (souffle) from his body as something that can be commented upon
      2. Souflee also means inspired . Artaud wants to create an art that is not inspired by something prior, and other, then itself.
      3. Indeed, all speech is problematic in that it lacks originality. It is always stolen from, and secondary to, the language in which it is spoken.
    4. In his art Artaud wants to try to find away to surmount these difficulties. He wants to find a good inspiration, which is no secondary to any other. This is what he calls life.
      1. He wants to try to restore the unity of life, of flesh, in his theatre.
      2. Artaud sees himself as alienated even from his own body.
      3. The unity of life and of flesh has been destroyed by the Other, the Thief, God, who has alienated Artaud from his own body.
        1. God deprives us of our nature, he is he who has always spoken before us, making our speech secondary
        2. Artaud sees God as that which steals value from this world, from actual life
        3. God is the opposite of the creative artist, stealing originality from the him, making him secondary - God is Satan
      4. The unity of the creative artist with his work is compared to the separation of the artist from his work, the work is then likened to feces
      5. Artaud wants to do away with metaphor, which is a work serving as a signifier for some signified which is elsewhere
    5. Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty is meant to save the unity of life, of the flesh
      1. Artaud aims to do this by reducing the organ, or organization. The Occidental Theatre like Western Metaphysics is built out of organized articulations (author-text/director-actors), which destroy unity. Metaphysically, this is the dismembering of the unified flesh into articulated organs, which leads to the dualism of mind and body.
      2. According, to Derrida Artaud is drawn to the theatre because in the theatre there is no dead letter, there is no separation of text and meaning. In the theatre, the letter is incarnated, a bloody tattoo.
      3. Indeed, later Artaud relinquishes the idea of an incarnated letter, for the notion of speech unbound by letters and writing. He hopes to revive onomatopoeia, words fully joined with their meaning. This is the stigmata as opposed to the bloody tattoo.
      4. Through his Theatre of Cruelty Artaud wants to make meaning fully present in the art.
    6. While one might think that this would lead to an anarchical, improvisational, and free-form genre of theatre, this is not what Artaud creates. Instead, the plays that he writes are a formal and authoritarian.
      1. He tries to do away with the Occidental Theatre and its Western Metaphysics by embracing the themes and forms of writings of non-Western cultures.
        1. Writing is alienated from speech as well as Artaud adopts a form of hieroglyphics
        2. The actors in their customs with their completely circumscribed movements form a type of living hieroglyphics.
      2. According to Derrida, in this Theatre of Cruelty Artaud attempts to create an entirely closed and determined system, in which all play and difference is repressed.
        1. "Only through writing made flesh, only through the theatrical hieroglyphic, could the necessary destruction of the double take place…Discourse can now be reunited with its birth in a perfect and permanent self-presence" (193)
    7. However, Derrida claims that Artaud does not accomplish this 'permanent self-presence' in the Theatre of Cruelty.
      1. Artaud plays were in fact written texts, that were fixed before being performed
      2. They could not be identical with themselves as their was a temporal difference between their composition and their performance.
    8. Artaud's work, while trying to destroy Western Metaphysics, are actually complicit with it.
      1. While trying to destroy the doubling of signifier and signified, it embraces the quest for full presence and absence of difference.
      2. (Once again, I am sure there is more in the last page or so, but I just can't seem to understand what Derrida is getting at, there seems to be a return to themes mentioned at the beginning of the essay in which Derrida writes about concepts necessary for commentary, such a text, madness, psyche, etc.)

       

     

    Freud and the Scene of Writing

     
  19. This text is a fragment of a lecture about how some of Derrida's ideas as articulated in "Of Grammatology" could be placed within the field of psychoanalysis.
  20. Derrida gives a very sketchy account of the first part of the lecture, which dealt with the concepts of "presence" and "archi-trace"
    1. The destruction of logocentrism (Derrida's project) is not a psychoanalysis of philosophy.
      1. This is despite appearances because the Derrida's project is interested in repression and suppression - the repression and suppression of writing in Philosophy. This repressions and suppression is a central aspect of philosophy; it constitutes it as episteme and "of truth as the unity of logos and phone."
      2. It is also, like all psychoanalytic repressions, an unsuccessful repression, writing is still evident in philosophy, despite philosophy's attempt to do away with it.
        1. Writing is a metaphor that returns time and time again in European philosophy
      3. Writing is repressed because it threatens presence and the mastering of absence. Writing is absence and repetition as opposed to pure presence.
    2. Derrida is, however, reticent to use Freudian concepts because they themselves are part of the of the history of Western metaphysics, of logocentrism, which tries to subordinate writing to speech.
      1. It is, therefore, necessary to perform a deconstruction of the metaphysical concepts and phrases in Freud's work.
      2. The meaning of presence in Freud's work needs to be explored.
      3. Aim is to see how the Freudian concepts of writing and trace still belong to Western metaphysics of presence.
  21. Derrida then introduces his aim for the central part of this essay: "to locate in Freud's text several points of reference, and to locate, on the threshold of a systematic examination, those elements of psychoanalysis which can only uneasily be contained within logocentric closure, as this closure limits not only the history of but also the orientation of the "human sciences," notable of a certain linguistics."
    1. Thus, it seems that Derrida's goal is to see how Freud's work is constrained by logocentric presuppositions, how it pushes up against the limits of that framework, sometimes seeming to go beyond it, but only haphazardly and not with self-awareness.
    2. It is not surprising that at pivotal moments Freud gropes around for the metaphor of a script that is not subordinate to the spoken word (presence).
      1. More directly, eventually psychical content comes to be represented by a text that is irreducibly graphic, as opposed to phonetic. This is the famous writing machine that develops in his "Note on the Mystic Writing Pad."
        1. So what we want to look into is what must a text be and what must a psyche be for Freud at this point, if the psyche can be represented as a writing machine.
  22. Breaching and Difference
    1. This section charts, in great detail, the progression of Freud's thoughts about the proper model for the operation of the psyche from 1895 in the "Project" to "Note on the Mystic Writing Pad" in 1925.
    2. A central metaphor that comes up in Freud's writing to describe his progress is that of breaching, or path-breaking.
    3. The most basic transition is from a model that strives to be naturalistic, involving neurons, through one that focuses on energy, to the writing machine.
      1. While this is a radical transformation, the writing machine realizes the general conception that Freud had envisioned in the "Project."
      2. The central problematic for Freud, which he constantly tries to solve through his different models for the psyche, is how to combine the continuous receptivity of the psyche to new experiences with its retention of all previous experiences.
        1. In his early naturalistic model, Freud splits these two functions up between two different types of neurons, those that offer no resistance to experience, which allow for continuous receptivity, and those that do and must be breached by experience, these allow for memory.
          1. This model is not entirely satisfactory for reasons that Derrida is not clear about and leads on to a new model based on deferring dangerous cathexes, energy.
          2. Thus, deferring, or the non-originary, is made to be the origin of life, of presence.
          3. There is a transition from a model that tries to be physiological to one that tries to account for the psyche in terms of spacing, traces, and breaches.
          4. This eventually leads to one that is based on the ciphered space.
  23. The Print and the Original Supplement
    1. Machine and Writing becomes central aspects of Freud's model independently before they come together as the Writing Machine
    2. Freud begins to understand dreams as some form text that needs to be translated.
      1. He goes back and forth between seeing this dream text as written in a phonetic script or a script that is prior to writing, entirely graphic.
      2. Importantly, he begins to the see the psychic text as understandable/translatable not according to a system of representations between the text and something, rather by a system of relations in the text.
        1. This breaks down the signifier/signified understanding of language as well as respects its materiality.
        2. It is also limits its translatability.
      3. More importantly, Freud begins to understand, according to Derrida, the unconscious text not as some text that is actually present in the unconscious and is then translated in being made conscious. Rather, it is a textual archive that is always already transcribed and translated. It is never present, it is always already absent.
      4. Correlatively, "since the transition to consciousness is not derivative or repetitive writing, a transcription duplicating an unconscious writing, it occurs in an original manner and, in its very secondariness, is originary and irreducible."
    3. More generally, "That the present in general is not primal, but, rather, reconstituted, that it is not the absolute, wholly living form which constitutes experience, that there is no purity of the living present - such is the theme, formidable for metaphysics, which Freud, in a conceptual scheme unequal to the thing itself, would have us pursue. That pursuit is doubtless the only one which is exhausted neither within metaphysics nor within science."
  24. Dioptrics and Hieroglyphics
    1. At the same time that Freud is moving in the direction of a more graphic text, his ideas about the sort of structure the psyche must be are developing.
    2. He moves from a focus on physiological localization to one of optics - an optical machine.
    3. We can still at this stage that he is still grappling with how to unite the two functions of the psyche and the memory, how the "system can accurately retain modifications of its elements and yet remain perpetually open to the reception of fresh occasions for modification."
    4. Freud also begins to see that in dreams the traditional relationship between writing and speech is inverted. The writing that is a dream "exceeds phonetic writing." Dream writing is hieroglyphics, not derivative from speech. Speech finds itself within this prior scriptural site, not determining it.
    5. Thus, we see both metaphors, that of the machine and that of writing, developing and converging.
      1. Writing is more and more seen as non-representational and non-phonetic, but as constituted by the relations between its elements.
      2. The machine begins to be "taken up in terms of scriptural concepts."
      3. In the "Note on the Mystic Writing Pad"
        1. The two metaphors come together
        2. The two functions of psyche and memory and united.
  25. Freud's Piece of Wax and the Three Analogies of Writing
    1. Freud makes three analogies between the psyche and a writing apparatus
      1. In the first analogy, Freud retains the traditional connection between writing and memory. Writing is not memory, it is an aid to memory.
        1. All classical writing tools only satisfy one of the requirements
          1. Paper once it is written is not receptive to new additions
          2. Slates which can be erased do not preserve traces
      2. In the second analogy, Freud introduces the Mystic Writing Pad
        1. The Mystic Writing Pad is a pad with two layers. The first is transparent, the second is opaque and made of wax. When the first layer is pushed against the second, say by writing with a stylus, marks appear on the transparent layer. By lifting the first layer off of the second layer, the marks seem to disappear, and the pad can be written on again. However, if one looks closely at wax one can see that previous marks remain on it. It's a little like an etch a sketch.
        2. It thus satisfies both requirements.
        3. The transparent sheet is the perceptual aspect, the wax sheet is the memory or unconscious.
        4. Furthermore, the transparent sheet serves to protect the wax sheet.
        5. Moreover, while experience is created by the impact of stylus on the transparent sheet, the marks really come from the wax sheet, from memory.
          1. "'Memory' or writing is the opening of that process of appearance itself. The "perceived" may be read only in the past, beneath perception and after it."
      3. In the third analogy, temporality and spacing, deferral, are explored in the Mystic Pad and in the psyche.
        1. Temporality is part and parcel of the operations of the Mystic Pad. (First, the stylus presses against the transparent sheet, then the transparent sheet makes contact with the wax sheet, then the wax sheet causes marks to form on the transparent sheet…later, the transparent sheet is separated….)
          1. So too, the psyche is not pure atemporal presence, it is intrinsically temporal.
        2. Moreover, Freud finishes the 'Note' by claiming that if we imagine one had writing on the Mystic Pad and the other occasionally lifting the transparent sheet, then we have a good model of the psyche.
          1. Derrida takes this to mean that the psyche is not unitary or simple, it is always multiple.
            1. "We must be several in order to write, and even to "perceive"…The subject of writing is a system of relation between strata: the Mystic Pad, the psyche, ,society, the world. Within that scene, on that stage, the punctual simplicity of the classical subject is not to be found"
      4. At the same time as Freud makes this deep and novel analogies he is bound by traditional metaphysics. He still sees the Mystic Pad as an apparatus, a memory aid, that must be used by something living, the human being.
        1. Moreover, he sees the Mystic Pad as representing, or a metaphor for human memory. Thus, he is still trapped in the signifier/signified relation.
      5. In this text, then, Freud performs for us the scene of writing, by writing and erasing, by breaking-through, but then retreating.
        1. Then Derrida makes a connection between breaking-through, breaching, and sex, which I don't exactly follow in this context, though the connection between breaching and sex in general is clear.
  26. Derrida now gives a very sketchy summary of the last part of the lecture, which concerned the arch-trace as erasure, "erasure of the present,..of the subject."
    1. The Freudian concept of trace needs to be extracted from the metaphysics of presence in which it ensconced.
      1. A trace is the erasure of self-hood, an inerasable trace is not trace, it is full presence.
      2. This radicalization of the concept of trace could be helpful in a number of areas beyond the deconstruction of logocentrism, including:
        1. The psychopathology of everyday life - slips of the pens as distinct from verbal Freudian slips.
        2. A history of writing
        3. A becoming-literary of the literal - psychoanalytic study of literature could see the text as text as opposed to signifying a psyche behind the text.
        4. Psychoanalytic of graphology - this study would take account of the developments in the three previous field, this has been undertaken to some extent by Melanie Klein. But, it should be developed to explore all of the different discussions of writing.

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