Thinking about Derrida's "The Pit and The Pyramid" (Margins of Philosophy) together with a remark of Jean Luc-Nancy's in "A Finite Thinking" (in his amazing book of the same name) elucidated a few things for me and also made them more intriguing.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Another title, suggested by my wonderful colleague (and accomplished translator) Sand Avidar-Walzer. I like the active nature of "inquiry," albeit it sounds still too mentalistic or intentional in the sense of subjective. But having intention at all is I think a definite step up from "knowing." This is why I enjoy the French savoir, which, though certainly remaining mentalistic or subjective carries with it a greater sense of intending or willing, which I think Nietzsche is after. Of course, the question for me is less how to stay true to the literal text as to grasp that text while also grasping the sense. If one could develop this translation of fröhliche Wissenschaft a little more, we might be getting there.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
I know it isn't a popular opinion, but I think there is much to be said for Rorty's pragmatist interpretation of Heidegger. Why? Well, it makes the claims that Hubert Dreyfus' interpretation of Heidegger is pragmatist sound absolutely foolish. Dreyfus isn't a pragmatist. He is a phenomenologist. And if people are going to accuse his phenomenology of being too pragmatic, too unconcerned in the more "transcendental" issues Heidegger is bringing up, well, they should probably not call Heidegger a phenomenologist then. And if they do that, they miss precisely what Heidegger was doing with phenomenology even in the introduction to Being and Time. In other words, they should probably think of him as a Kantian, which is just as absurd as not calling him a phenomenologist.
Rorty, then, shows what a real pragmatist interpretation of Heidegger would have to be. And he does so precisely by taking Heidegger's more "transcendental" remarks seriously. If he is errs in his interpretation, it is precisely in not considering Heidegger's phenomenology in the way Dreyfus does--in short, by considering only his more "Kantian" transcendental statements (for what it is worth, he errs in the opposite direction with Derrida and Nietzsche, by not considering these claims enough). In short, Dreyfus, far from being a pragmatist, actually combats the position of Rorty continuously, in my view.
And this already is how Rorty can be extremely useful, as I said. But he is most useful in this manner when he interprets (quite rigorously, I might add) the claims Heidegger makes regarding truth, particularly in "Vom Wesen der Wahrheit" but also in Being and Time. While one may disagree with his conclusions about the correspondence theory of truth in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, in considering Heidegger he has to flesh out exactly what a sort of non-correspondence theory of truth would have to be. If one can get past his statements that sound like relativism--which they are not, because they are pragmatist (Rorty I think enjoys or finds useful--like Derrida--being scandalous [I later took this word back, cf. my comment below] and always makes his pragmatist claims sound as relativist as possible, while always opposing relativism--perhaps to show, quite nobly I think, that pragmatism can oppose relativism right at the limit where the two might come together)--Rorty is exactly right in saying that a non-correspondence theory of truth in Heidegger is an attempt to get outside the power struggles that correspondence theories of truth since Plato have made us enter into. On Rorty's reading, then, one can see in a different way why Heidegger would so vigorously oppose Nietzsche. It is not because of a sort of leveling-down of all things into expressions of objectivity that Heidegger is opposing primarily but the fact that in Nietzsche truth is always a form of dominance. Eliminating or toning-down this dominance-structure in truth is Heidegger's objective--or is at least one of them. This is a hard thought for many Heideggerians to think, I think. But it is extremely rewarding, because one doesn't then have to disclaim that non-correspondence truth is just an other type of truth that, as it were, supervenes upon the truth that is correspondence, as Dreyfus tends to do in order to make Heidegger a bit more palatable there. Indeed, in the end, Dreyfus is right that Heidegger isn't calling for something totally different than the correspondence theory of truth to all of a sudden take over our dealings with truth. Correspondence has a particular role to play still. And so Rorty I think is ultimately wrong when it comes to what Heidegger is claiming, precisely because he does not see this role other than as a mere means that pragmatists' non-correspondence dealings with truth will employ. But he is extremely useful for going a little beyond Dreyfus to flesh out the possibilities that are there.
Of course, someone who thinks Dreyfus is full of it to begin with for not dealing with Division II (an inane criticism, since he is always dealing with it) and more "transcendental" statements (again, which he always does) will not learn anything from Rorty in this respect. And thus one can see why their being closed-off to this interpretation, thinking that they are really "going beyond" the supposedly watered-down Anglo-American Heidegger, is mere self-righteousness. One should emphasize that Stiegler and Derrida (and, now that I think about it, John Sallis and Jean-Luc Nancy) are some examples of thinkers who did remain open to this Heidegger, and one can see by the amazing nature of their interpretation that it is quite profitable to do so. If they break with Heidegger on certain issues, one could make the case that they are precisely breaking with this effort of Heidegger to remove power from truth: they assert that power is still around even in Heidegger's truth, and this is why they keep calling themselves more Nietzschian than Heideggerian (Derrida goes so far as to call for the rescue of Nietzsche from a Heideggerian interpretation--cf. the opening pages of Of Grammatology).
Sunday, February 24, 2008
The following, I think, is a not so much a crucial as a just definitive paragraph from The Politics of Friendship regarding everything that Derrida is consistently or recurrently (récurrente) trying to do. I put it up both in the French and English (modifying the translation in slight, but crucial, ways):
En précisant «s'il y en a» de façon récurrente, en suspendant la thèse d'existence partout où, entre un concept et un événement, vient s'interposer, doit en vérité s'imposer pour y être endurée, la loi d'une aporie, d'une indécidabilité, d'une double contrainte (double bind). C'est le moment où la disjonction entre le penser et le connaître est de rigueur. C'est le moment où l'on ne peut penser le sens ou le non-sens qu'à cesser d'être certain que la chose advienne jamais ou que, même s'il y en a, elle soit jamais accessible à un savoir théorique ou à un jugement déterminant, à quelque assurance du discours et de la nomination en général. C'est ainsi que nous dison régulièrement, mais nous purrions multiplier les exemples: le don, s'il y en a, l'invention, s'il y en a, etc. Cela ne revient pas à concéder une dimension hypothétique ou conditionnelle («si, à supposer que, etc.») mais à marquer une différence entre «il y a» et «est» ou «existe», c'est-à-dire les mots de la présence. Ce qu'il y a, s'il y en a, n'est pas nécessairement. Cela peut-être n'existe ni ne se présente jamais, et pourtant il y en a, il peut y en avoir. Peut-être, encore que le peut-être français soit peut-être ici trop riche de ses deux verbes (le pouvoir et l'être). La possibilité originale dont nous parlons ne s'efface-t-elle pas mieux dan les adverbes d'autres langue (vielleicht ou perhaps, par exemple)?
By specifying "if there is one" recurrently, by suspending the thesis of existence wherever, between a concept and an event, there comes to interpose itself -- and it must in truth impose itself there to be endured -- the law of an aporia, an undecidability, a double bind. This is the moment when the disjunction between thinking and knowing is de rigueur. This is the moment when one can think sense or non-sense only by ceasing to be sure that the thing ever occurs, or -- even if there is such a thing -- that it would ever be accessible to theoretical knowledge or determinant judgement, any assurance of discourse or of nomination in general. Thus we regularly say -- but we could multiply the examples -- the gift, if there is one, invention, if there is any such thing, and so forth. This does not amount to conceding a hypothetical or conditional dimension ("if, supposing that, etc.") but to marking a difference between "there is" and "is" or "exists" -- that is to say, the words of presence. What there is, if there is one or any, is not necessarily. It perhaps does not exist nor ever present itself, nevertheless, there is one, or some, there is a chance of there being one, of there being some. Perhaps, although the French peut-être is, perhaps, too rich with its two verbs (to be able/possible [pouvoir] and being [être]). Would not the original possibility we are discussing efface itself better in the adverbs of other languages (vielleicht or perhaps, for example)?
The last two sentences should not be forgotten. The conceptual knots that they are tying together are quite complex. What does Derrida mean by "rich" (riche)? And why the stress on the (two) verbs (making up one word) as compared with (singular) adverbs (of which we are given two examples).
But the statement that should ring in one's ears is the one regarding marking a difference between "there is" and "is." "There is," or "il y a," which is really Heidegger's phrase "es gibt" (cf. the "Letter on Humanism," especially) and "is:" the distinction between how being gives itself over to being, rather than remaining, as Heidegger wanted it to be, the realm of a similarity between this "there is" or this giving and being, a similarity beyond or prior to any identity between beings, a realm of the same, made or enowned into the same by enowning--this must be marked with a difference that is just as prior as the same. If the same is identity beyond or prior to identity, the identity of identity (cf. "Identity and Difference"), this difference is difference prior to difference, difference of difference. This is why asserting or marking this difference isn't advocating that everything become hypothetical: Derrida is not being any more hypothetical than Heidegger when he is saying that "there is" a similarity between being and that originary enowning that, prior to being, gives being by virtue of this similarity. Heidegger cannot say that "there is" this giving through similarity, this "there is," just as much as Derrida cannot say that "there is" this giving through this difference.
Tina Fey's awesome segment this week on Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update" probably understands what people like Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich (especially today's column) can't in all their Clinton-bashing: that Democrats want to rally around an issue, a cause, a hope of some sort, and that Clinton--unless one declares "Bitch is the new black"--just seems to ignore this want or need. She differentiates herself, that is, in precisely the wrong way from Obama: in making her campaign about experience and practicality rather than a cause or several causes, she is seen as being indifferent to the spirit of hope in ideas that the Democrats currently have. More precisely, she gives Democrats the feeling that she thinks all Democratic issues are alike in the sense that they are implementable in a policy. Democrats now want to assert--against years and years of Republican distortions--that they have intrinsic good. It is indeed the worst case of wanting to feel self-righteous: they want to feel as self-righteous as Republicans. This doesn't mean they are voting for Obama out of guilt or anything: it is just that a call for unity around an issue is seen as courageous because it assuages doubts about the rightness of the idea in the first place. Thus the inane calls for Clinton to try and "transcend gender" as much as Obama is "transcending race"--as if this were possible or even is being done by Obama. What this statement really means is that Clinton should give us hope of making gender something that should be transcended again as much as Obama is with race. Thus Fey's comment: Clinton has to say that she stands for something larger than herself about which she can always be impractical or believe in more radically than any policy's ability to implement an openness to it. Fey is reminding us, and her, that this "something" is her gender.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
I only became aware of Derrida after his death. Ten months transpired since the foreclosure of the possibility, almost infinitely remote, but still, nevertheless, present, of the chance to meet him, to learn from him directly, to be taught by a presence and by his voice. No doubt he would have said and did say that this possibility was foreclosed long before this event (and) while he was still alive. But as I think about Derrida and the utter insanity of this and many other of his assertions--for, let's face up to it, they are insane demands he puts forth, insane in the sense that the impossibilities they seek to ground us within what, perhaps, is incompatible with any notion of a sane or coherent consciousness or existence (as well as, it should be noted, any notion of ground that is not ungrounded, abyssal, in the sense of the Ab-grund in German)--I wonder whether these months in which I missed his presence do matter, in a sense of mattering or meaning that Derrida would perhaps never accept and perhaps tirelessly resisted.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Could it be true? Hubert Farnsworth of Futurama is based on Hubert Dreyfus of Berkeley's philosophy department?
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
I wasn't exactly clear or even exactly right in my post below on Kant, when I said that the unity of the perspective from which the manifold is represented as connected is the real place where apperceptive synthesis is at work:
...we have to understand that, for Kant, this is really where the power of representation, the whole process of eventual synthesis and connection of representation, originates and is at work--but not yet as itself. In other words, connection as an act is really located here, in the unity: connection itself just issues forth from this act of unifying that is not yet action, not yet reducible to the power of representation as such.
Monday, February 11, 2008
Sunday, February 10, 2008
I always found it odd that I.A. Richards used Coleridge's phrase "practical criticism" to describe the method of his interpretation, because Richards' sense of "practical" cannot translate into Coleridge's so easily. This is because it is very specifically tied to a notion of communication that is more technical and more reified than Coleridge's. For Coleridge, language is logos, the revelatory word. For Richards, it is a thing, a medium. This is not to say that Richards thinks language cannot provide access to God. It means that Coleridge and Richards are going in opposite directions: Coleridge wanted to restore to the task of criticism (in the face of its proliferation in the literary magazines) its spiritual and philosophical basis. Making it more precise was only a means to this. Thus the language itself does not communicate in Richards sense. It conveys one up to the Almighty, even if it takes place here on earth. For Richards, the primary goal is communication irrespective of what is revealed. Though this is perhaps an overemphasis of where he really stands, this goal needs to be stressed in order to get at the real sense sense of the word "practical." He specifies it quite clearly:
Insofern Anschauen oder Denken hier erwähnt werden kann, so gilt es als ein Unterschied, ob etwas oder nichts angeschaut oder gedacht wird. Nichts Anschauen oder Denken hat also eine Bedeutung; beide werden unterschieden, so ist (existiert) Nichts in unserem Anschauen oder Denken; oder vieldmehr ist es das leere Anschauen und Denken selbst; und dasselbe leere Anschauen oder Denken also das reine Sein. -- Nichts is somit dieselbe Bestimmung oder vielmehr Bestimmungslosigkeit und damit überhaupt dasselbe, was das reine Sein ist.
Facticity and existentiality: the alternation between these terms is a constant feature of every analysis in Being and Time, and tracking their appearance and disappearance, their use and their constant reinterpretation is a great way to ensure that one reads that treatise attentively. But existentiality, despite Heidegger's efforts, can be said to remain underdeveloped there--no doubt because it is intrinsically hard to think and the later parts of the treatise that would give it a fuller and more explicit definition are missing. This of course does not mean that it is not thought in Being and Time, or that it is not developed and investigated as a structure, just that it is often less foregrounded in propositional statements and definitions than facticity. Supplementing this lack are the refinements made to it immediately afterward in Was ist Metaphysik?, and especially with respect to Sartre's interpretation of existence in the Brief über den "Humanismus," that place heavy emphasis on interpreting existence as ek-sistence, standing-outside-of-itself. But perhaps this refinement is a bit too rigid with respect to what Heidegger is getting at in Being and Time, and therefore less helpful. What is needed is, of course, a good reading of Being and Time--in which ek-sistence as existence is indeed fully developed--but also perhaps a look at the earlier, clumsier lecture notes. In these Heidegger is less interested compared to his published texts for rigor with respect to how he speaks of being (not caring as much, that is, whether he says the obviously wrong phrase "being is"), and thus he is more likely to define it explicitly in a sort of rough and ready fashion. This brings it more into relief as a phenomenon equiprimordial (gleichursprunglich) with facticity: because Heidegger does not have to talk about it with respect to Sartre's interpretation of it (which more and more should not be dismissed as a misinterpretation but a necessary interpretation and modification), it is seen more clearly as interconnected with facticity. All this is to say that a reading of the following sentences from the 1923 Freiburg course The Hermeneutics of Facticity could seriously help the reading proposed above:
Friday, February 8, 2008
Thursday, February 7, 2008
I'll outline here a basic point that Gayatri Spivak makes about Derrida and Marx in "Scattered Speculations on the Question of Value" that does not cease to be relevant even today when thinking about all the concepts we inherit from Derrida--most notably (and was there any other concept he gave us? and was it ever a concept?) differance. We'll see that it is picked up, a decade later, by Bernard Stiegler, for essential reasons. Spivak lays out the point simply, in the strict terms of Marx:
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
What is the connection in Derrida's oeuvre between mourning and citation? That is, between something like the remembering of the deceased and the quotation of another? How can this event surrounding death be so textual? Or, more generally, how can a more "ethical" concern of Derrida towards the end of his career (even though it appears in some of his earliest work) find itself already implicated in the logic of his earlier "metaphysical/post-metaphysical" writings (even though it is featured even in his last interview) via the particular transit or opening that the shoring up or juxtaposition of these terms constitutes?