Friday, July 15, 2011


In one of our IPS discussions someone said: “Derrida didn't differance his difference.” In response I pointed to a few links, like this one that says:

“Deconstruction is not a method and cannot be transformed into one….it would be irresponsible to undertake a deconstruction with a complete set of rules that need only be applied as a method to the object of deconstruction because this understanding would reduce deconstruction to a thesis of the reader that the text is then made to fit. This would be an irresponsible act of reading because it ignores the empirical facticity of the text itself - that is it becomes a prejudicial procedure that only finds what it sets out to find. To be responsible a deconstruction must carefully negotiate the empirical facticity of the text and hence respond to it. Deconstruction is not a method and this means that it is not a neat set of rules that can be applied to any text in the same way. Deconstruction is therefore not neatly transcendental because it cannot be considered separate from the contingent empirical facticity of the particular texts that any deconstruction must carefully negotiate. Each deconstruction is necessarily different.”

“What is deconstruction? This question seeks the invariable being or essence of deconstruction; it seeks a clear and unequivocal meaning, an exact definition. However, does something like the deconstruction exists? Rather, says Derrida, there are many forms of deconstruction. Deconstructions. It is not possible to generate a fixed meaning that would remain constant when applied to various contexts (cf. Oger, p.38). This implies that deconstruction is not a method, system or theory in the traditional sense. Such concepts generally refer to a set of rules and methods that can continually be repeated and consistently applied. Derrida emphasizes that deconstruction is not a method because the strategy of deconstruction cannot simply be repeated, that is to say, independent of the (con)text that it addresses.

"This opens a 'double bind': the mere singularity (which precedes language) still needs to be invoked by language. By capturing something in language, one fails to appreciate its singular nature. However, it is the only means by which one can relate to the singular. Derrida calls this an original violence in language: the singularity is always already adopted into a generalized network. Incidentally, Derrida does not interpret this negatively precisely because a generalizing set of meanings may give access to the singular. The logical-discursive bases of meanings and our linguistic order are not devoid of ambiguities and indeterminations in which the singular presents itself.

"How is the singular expressed in Derrida's texts? Can it be expressed? Does not the singular always escape any expression, any (re)presentation? Perhaps it is better to speak of 'traces' of the singular. Derrida can at best draw our attention to certain traces of the singular, of what escapes generalities, conceptualizations, theories, frameworks, etc. How? One example. Provisionally. Exploring. Derrida does not hold on to conceptual master-words for very long. His vocabulary is always on the move. 'Différance', 'supplement', 'dissemination', 'parergon', 'pharmakon', 'hymen'; they do not remain consistently important in subsequent texts. Most of these terms are not conceived by Derrida himself; they are inextricably connected to the texts that he re-reads. He grafts his texts onto the text that he is studying and departs from words in that text. In this sense, Derrida's readings are exemplary, radically empirical and individual to the extent that they are beyond any possible development of theory. While the case is at once absolutely specific, it is also absolutely general in its significance because only one case such as this creates all that Derrida needs. In a certain sense, each of the terms can be substituted by the other, but never exactly; each substitution is also a displacement and carries a different metaphoric charge."

From Derrida’s SEP entry:

“Derrida discusses negative theology by means of the idea of “dénégation,” “denegation” or “denial.” The French word “dénégation” translates Freud's term “Verneinung.” With its negative prefix (“ver”), this German term implies a negation of a negation, a denial then but one that is also an affirmation. The fundamental question then…is how to deny and yet also not deny….it is a negation that denies itself. It de-negates itself.”

In my research today I also came upon this interesting passage of relevance here, from Jacques Derrida: Opening Lines (Routledge, 1998), a section of chapter 4 called “Negation and the infinite: two forms of relation”:

"It is in this way that we saw earlier that Derrida had discussed Descartes’ doubt…. The movement of doubt is a lifting of all possible determinations and localizations of experience: a lifting of limits, beyond any determination and thus beyond or prior to all contradiction (like the pharmakon). As such it is invulnerable to particular, historically determined forms of classification…it is, says Derrida, an excess towards the positive infinite and as such, it is a thinking beyond the totality of determinate things to Nothing. But the moment the point from which all limits can be lifted is talked of, it is in effect determined, and falls into history. Hence there is a movement between excess and fall into the determinate, a movement towards the ineffable, beyond time, and a fall into time” (148-9).

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