Thursday, February 28, 2008

Nancy, Derrida, Blanchot, Work

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.
One is always tempted--and this "one" includes Derrida himself--to explain "work" (tekhné, craft, labor, art) in Blanchot's sense, primarily as he talks about it in The Space of Literature. But for necessary reasons this must be resisted, if one is to think a "work" that functions, labors, proceeds--in short, works. Nancy succumbs to this temptation while maintaining a distance from Blanchot, while Derrida does not and yet tries to make this temptation permanently possible: that is the difference between the two thinkers, and Derrida sketches it out brilliantly throughout On Touching--Jean-Luc Nancy in his constant references to Nancy's
 "exactitude" (this is how I would read those seemingly offhand remarks, that is).
Both think work that works, a work that purely functions without any respect for what it works on or what it produces by virtue of its work or--and this is the real key to thinking work that works--even without regard to its own functioning or operation. That is, both think a work that might always cease to function if it is to continue functioning purely: it must do so in order for it to be a work that operates without respect to its own functioning. Work without guarantee of the continued being of the work ("without reserve," as Derrida says): only this non-work in work would make work work (see my paper on Derrida and tekhné in The Gift of Death--where I precisely describe things in Nancy's way, due to the English translation--for a more coherent explanation of this).
Nancy explains this working or non-working of the technical in the following way, however:

The "reign of technology" disassembles and disorients the infinite sealing off of a Sense. In the same way, undoubtedly, as it disconcerts and displaces, endlessly, the completion of a "work," in such a way that technization could, in all rigor, be called "un-worked," or without work [dès-œuvrée].
-"A Finite Thinking," in A Finite Thinking, 26

The last term is Blanchot's. But notice how it turns our simple "non-work" into an "un-work," a
 failure of work to work that undoes what is working in its working. At the exact point (this is an example of the exactitude) at which there is work, there the work can just as equally as working it can be un-working itself.
This is crucial. For throughout the original text of "The Pit and the Pyramid," though the English translation by Alan Bass continually suggests this phrasing, Derrida will consistently avoid collapsing his explanation of the non-working of work into an un-working. In fact, he will never explain this non-working as non-working: if it is necessary for a machine or tekhné that works not work, this not-working is never simply the opposite or the undoing of work. It is not a negative of the term "work" at the heart of its operation. Notice how Derrida always moves between the words "travail," and "fonctionnerait," "marche," and, elsewhere in the text, "œuvre," so as to always attempt to equate one with the other and thereby disrupt their synonymous relationship--that is, so that one cannot name work a work that is un-work. Notice also that he starts precisely with Nancy's formulation "at the point at, at the moment in which," etc., only to move into this greater indecisiveness that is uniquely Derrida's own:

Or le calcul, la machine, l'écriture muette appartiennent au même syatème d'équivalence et leur travail pose le même problème: au moment où le sens se perd, où la pensée s'oppose son autre, où l'esprit [Hegelian Geist] s'absente de lui-même, le rendement de l'opération est-il sûr? ... et qui, en somme, en tant que négatif, mais sans apparaître comme tel, sans se présenter, c'est-à-dire sans travailler au servie du sens, réussirait? mais réussirait, donc, en pure perte?
Tout simplement une machine, peut-être, et qui fonctionnerait. Une machine définie sans son pur fonctionnement et non dans son utilité finale, son sens, son rendement, son travail... ce que Hegel, interprète relevant de toute l'historie de la philosophie, n'a jamais pu penser, c'est une machine qui fonctionnerait... L philosophie y verrait sans doute un non-fonctionnement, un non-travail, et elle manquerait par là ce qui pourtant, dans une telle machine, marche. Tout seul. Dehors.
-"Le puits et la pyramide," Marges de la philosophie, 126

I'll elaborate on this later, perhaps. It is enough to collect the three thinkers together for now.

Joyous inquiry?

 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.
A note on a recent comment on the last discussion of this translation: someone was exactly right in saying that I shouldn't forget that Nietzsche did have in mind the Provençal scholar-singers not only in his subtitle or other title to Die fröhliche Wissenschaft  (and I should note that, as I see it, we're first and foremost translating the phrase here, not the title of the book)--and, for that matter, always had the thinker qua poet (or, more specifically, lyricist) in mind. This I think does lend a little freedom to the translator of Wissenschaft--a case I have been trying to make for a while.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Praise for Rorty's Heidegger

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

"By specifying 'if there is one' recurrently"

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)?
-Politiques de l'amitié, «Aimer d'amitié : peut-être -- le nom et l' adverbe», 59

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 Politics of Friendship, "Loving in Friendship: Perhaps -- the Name and the Adverb," 38-9 (translation modified)

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.

"The new black"

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.
In other words, Democrats want to unify around all those ideas left behind with the takeover of Reagan, not in their practical aspect at all, but precisely around the utter impracticality of what they stand for. They want to restore some force to these ideas. Obama indeed believes these ideas have force. Clinton says they are words that need to be implemented. This is the difference and the difference is crucial. Democrats don't want to doubt the correctness of their ideas anymore: they look enviously over at the self-righteousness of the Republicans.
The issue isn't whether Clinton is more right about the nature of the ideas than Obama: Obama is in fact just as practical as Clinton in most respects when it indeed comes to implementing these ideas. The issue is the dangerous direction that this means the Democratic party could be headed on: the same route as the Republicans in the 80's and 90's. Democrats are tired of being the reality-check to the Republican party. And rather than confronting the problems that the ideas of the 60's and 70's have turned into--notably, the issue of identity--they want to restore the sense of the goodness or correctness of them. Clinton sees them as problems in the sense that they have to be implemented. Obama sees them as opportunities precisely in the same sense. The latter is what the Democrats want, regardless of whether the particular constitution of the ideas ideas themselves are practical or impractical in their conception to begin with.
That said, this is only an argument against the prevailing tendency of Rich and Dowd in their commentaries to belittle Clinton via contesting her pragmatism when they are really contesting her lack of their optimism about issues like gender and race. Thus, it is also against the dangerous language of fashion that Fey employs mistakenly to give body to the optimism that she really, beneath the word "new," is wonderfully standing for. In short, it is dangerous not in how Fey uses it (the point is actually that bitch was always the same as black), but in how it might be heard. That is, it is dangerous in how it is actually a reflection of the sad reality of what would appeal to the Left: they want to be able to have ideas be able have such inherent force and rightness again that they can be turned into a fashion even (see the current status of the environmental movement in its green living, etc.).
Of course there are many more reasons to vote for Obama than just this sense of his optimism in ideas, and this is reflected at the polls or at least in people's sentiments.  And there are many more reasons to vote against or for Clinton than her stance on the belief of these issues. The point is that Clinton isn't helping herself by saying comments like this in Providence, Rhode Island, parodying Obama:

“Now I could stand up here and say, let’s get everybody together, let’s get unified the sky will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing,” she said, to a smattering of giggles. “And everyone will know we should do the right thing, and the world will be perfect... But I have no illusions about how hard this is going to be. You are not going to wave a magic wand and make the special interests disappear.”
-"Clinton Turns from Anger to Sarcasm," from the New York Times

This is actually quite disgusting. The hardening of Hillary Clinton in this hour in her campaign against the hope in Obama's will only bring her message out less: it's utter inanity on her part. It makes the issues of the Left, which they are right in caring about (though perhaps not in the way they think about them), seem like a joke when they exceed the realm of policy and become beliefs, when, to these people, they are absolutely not.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"No, deconstruction is always on the side of the yes"

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.
This sense is the sense of those "initiated" into Derrida: the immediate followers who claim him as their own, who represent him, both before and after this event, as "deconstructivists," "deconstructionists," or "Derridians." We all felt and feel that these followers exist, even though for fear of betraying his thought they would perhaps never call themselves these names: they saw him, "live," and learned from his presence, from his voice, even as they learned that there is no presence and no voice--indeed, that there only may be, perhaps, this presence or this voice. They were assured that they learned, because the doubt could always be alleviated--in a wholly Cartesian way--by his reality right there in front of them, in his actions and gestures and words that are now (and then) recalled as anecdotes or asides, whether in print or in their own classes or elsewhere. As initiates, as the chosen, they too mime his style, try to incorporate his teachings--those words, that presence. It manifests itself in the most superficial ways, in constructions of phrases--often relying on an unstable vocabulary, "problematized" with neologisms or borrowings from other languages left untranslated, with almost paranoid avoidance of the word "is," with quotations marks, with the endless delaying of subordinate clauses, with puns and plays and unprofitable arbitrariness, with the performance of the content of the sentence or the endless self-reflexivity--and also, sometimes, with deeper import. One gets the sense that this miming is precisely what Derrida would not want: that it is all a sham doing disservice to precisely what is said by the thinker that has granted them, supposedly, the authority to speak in his name about the non-existence of authority. One feels that they ruined the movement, that they seek only self-aggrandizement. In short, one is deeply bitter about the deconstructivists, the deconstructionists, the Derridians.
What we never sense, perhaps, is that Derrida too is one of these people. Derrida does not exist and never did exist: there were only Derridians, deconstructionivists or deconstructionists who ruined the movement even before it could be started. The exculpatory gesture of blaming the "fall" of deconstruction--or at least its popularity--on the reception of Derrida (especially in America in its literature departments) and not on Derrida himself fails to grasp perhaps the most essential sense of everything that Derrida said.
At the same time, however, one wants to hold those who do indeed use his name (even without using it)--accountable. This perhaps is the easier part to grasp concerning this sense of Derrida. One wants (in a gesture similar to psychoanalyzing Freud or blaming Marx's vehemence on the squalid conditions in which he lived) to deconstruct the deconstructionist. This is not only just a desire: it is in fact the only way in which we know we can really hold these Derridians accountable in a way that would respect the Derrida that they claim for themselves, that they fake.
One can outline, then, this double bind: one must deconstruct anyone speaking in the name of Derrida, and yet Derrida is one of these people. The close circle around him, of those who heard him, is really constituted only with versions of himself, disseminated. But, then, how to get rid of those around him who annoy us so much, and, we sense, really indeed ruin deconstruction? We seem to hit at the real challenge for our thinking here: fundamentally, we can never really separate the author from his followers, even when he is declared or even declares himself dead. At this point, things become vertiginous and we perhaps must pull back a little.
But it is here with this pulling back that we can criticize, and really accost those who speak in his name, including Derrida himself. It is precisely when they use his thought that one should oppose them: not in the name of Derrida or what he really said, but in how they are seeking to pull back from the vertigo in which they locate themselves and send us off into reflection. To be a little more precise: the faker who merely follows Derrida would always be able to be opposed or resisted precisely to the extent that they pull back towards or fall back upon one or even a few Derridas. Their readings of his texts, their use of them, their miming of his style and manner and even thought can always and in fact only usefully be criticized precisely though movement of deconstructing the one--and indeed it is here that one sees the deep novelty of deconstruction: that one senses that psychoanalyzing Freud is just superfluous but that deconstructing the deconstructionist is, precisely in its superfluity and impropriety, proper--that is, precisely not by an appeal to what Derrida said but to the construction of a reading of what they (the Derridians) do there to expose how they rely on a fixed Derrida, a Derrida of Grammatologie, or Dissemination, or Glas, of whatever. One can expose in their gestures of faith to what this one Derrida--the Derrida upon which they fall back--said, the fact that this is only what one Derrida said, what one Derrida meant, what one Derrida acted like or performed. If they are a real Derridian--and it is questionable whether Derrida himself was this--they will appreciate what has happened. This is a trick at the same time as it is the most profound understanding of what deconstruction may be about: precisely not comfy positions in universities nor a sort of motivated politics in the streets. There are too many Derridas (even, and barely) for that.
This does not mean that one should simply say that a Derridian misrepresents another, different, Derrida of another text. It means that one must enter into another double bind--perhaps the same but perhaps different: one must prove that what was said or done by this "faker" or "follower" is a misrepresentation of the plurality of Derridas precisely because there is only misrepresentation of this plurality--and not, above all, by using the mere phrase, catchword, or shorthand-name "there is only misrepresentation," or something similar, for this would merely be citing a Derridian text and excluding others. One must prove the impossible, the insane, then. And therefore be a fellow follower, a fellow faker, another one who ruins the movement. But perhaps one can do this in neologisms less or even completely other than Derrida's. This indeed is what Derrida does throughout his corpus: tirelessly, he follows himself.
Derrida, then, was (perhaps) a pose, a performance. But (or, therefore) this means that his death does not matter for me, and yet matters all the more. It isn't that I could have experienced him, heard him speak, etc. if he were alive. It is precisely that I would have only experienced a fraud. And this is exactly what matters in this time after his death.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Marx as defender of the dialectic

In the Communist Manifesto, Marx defends the Hegelian dialectic. Or rather, he defends it against the attempt to break with it that is concentrated in capitalism. He exposes this attempt as really only a dialectical redoubling that does not escape from the dialectic.
We can see this in the passage where he recasts the Hegelian master/slave relationship into the bourgeoisie/proletariat relationship. The second is actually the truth of the former--that is, in less Hegelian terms, the bourgeoisie/proletariat relationship is the dialectical overcoming of the antagonism or contradiction between the master/slave relationship. Instead of exploiting the slave, the master here tries to take care of the worker so that the worker can continue to work. This allows both master and slave to work for the master's master, work itself. But what is crucial about this is that the "taking care of" here or "feeding" of the slave is only feeding the slave such that the worker's work--and not the worker himself--can continue. The emphasis is upon work abstracted from the existence of the slave that provides the work. Thus the slave sinks below the conditions that he would be under if he were wrapped up in the feudal master/slave dialectic, because the master here is not concerned with his existence--the master is "incompetent to assure the continued existence" of the slave, as Marx puts it. The slave cannot properly be a slave under capitalism. That is, it cannot be assured as to whether he will exist as a slave: his bare existence is threatened in the face of the abstract labor-power he temporarily embodies.
Thus what is going on is the attempt to dissolve the dialectic into a relationship where there will be no conflict, no dialectical conflict, between the master and the slave. A critique of capitalism, then would be the reassertion of the conflict or antagonism between the worker/slave and the master, and furthermore the assertion that the bourgeoisie is not a proper master. In other words, it would be a defense of the dialectic--not in order to resolve it again in the abstractions of Hegel, but to then direct it from this false escape from the dialectic into a socialist, and then communist, actual escape. I'll elaborate this more later. Here is the passage from the Manifesto--I've italicized the portion of the text that is explicitly under consideration:

Hitherto, every form of society has been based, as we have already seen, on the antagonism of oppressing and oppressed classes. But in order to oppress a class, certain conditions must be assured to it under which it can, at least, continue its slavish existence. The serf, in the period of serfdom, raised himself to membership in the commune, just as the petty bourgeois, under the yoke of the feudal absolutism, managed to develop into a bourgeois. The modern laborer, on the contrary, instead of rising with the process of industry, sinks deeper and deeper below the conditions of existence of his own class. He becomes a pauper, and pauperism develops more rapidly than population and wealth. And here it becomes evident that the bourgeoisie is unfit any longer to be the ruling class in society, and to impose its conditions of existence upon society as an overriding law. It is unfit to rule because it is incompetent to assure an existence to its slave within his slavery, because it cannot help letting him sink into such a state, that it has to feed him, instead of being fed by him. Society can no longer live under this bourgeoisie, in other words, its existence is no longer compatible with society.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

"Good news, everybody!"

Could it be true? Hubert Farnsworth of Futurama is based on Hubert Dreyfus of Berkeley's philosophy department?
Apparently an early writer for the show gave Farnsworth the first name Hubert because he took Dreyfus' courses. But, beyond this particular fact, aren't most of Farnsworth's mannerisms quite similar to those of Bert Dreyfus'?
One sees quite the parallel between Dreyfus' wonderful belief in the merits of phenomenology--not to mention the powerful analyses regarding motility and being in the world in general that he is able to elaborate with its help or through it--and the fun Farnsworth has with his Smell-o-scope. Also, they actually do look pretty similar, now that I think about it...

Here is a great interview with Dreyfus, where he talks about coming from the sciences to philosophy, the work of Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger, and teaching (his amazing comments there are in fact probably the least Farnsworthian, who likes to shut himself up in his lab).
Here is a wonderful paper of Dreyfus' on phenomenology in contrast to the (equally wonderful) work of Searle.
And here is a great paper on tele-presence: indeed, if Dreyfus were to go more in this direction, push his thought there, he would end up thinking things similar to Derrida. Cf. his reflections on tele-psychoanalysis in Psyche, volume I, Echographies, and elsewhere. Then again, if you put on anyone's thought you end up with Derrida. Sam Weber (the Derridian) is actually closer to the mark of what Dreyfus there elaborates.
And just for fun is a great picture of Michel Foucault (pictured with students from his philosophy seminar at UC Berkeley, October 1983: the students gave Foucault the cowboy hat as a gift), in an article in which Dreyfus talks about Foucault's visits to Berkeley.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Kant and the world

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.

This is generally in the right ballpark, and that is indeed where I was trying to get us in that post, but this problem, the unity of the manifold prior to representation in apperception, gets complicated and indeed is buttressed by the entire third Critique
Do we have reason to believe that this connection is unified simply by the existence of one perspective (speaking loosely, of course) upon the manifold? Or is this unity essentially issuing forth from the nature of the assumption we must make in order to do anything about the nature of the objective world itself? That is, the unity of the manifold must be assumed in an act of judgement regarding it: the unity of our perspective on it is thus dependent on this judgement itself being consistent. It is there that the Transcendental Deduction must find its completion and apperception really find itself issuing forth from a coherent point of view on the world. To support this reading, let's just refer to the famous introduction to the third critique where it specifically mentions the unity of the manifold in apperception with respect to reflecting judgement:

...There is such a manifold of forms in nature, as it were so man modifications of the universal transcendental concepts of nature that are left undetermined by those laws that the pure understanding gives a priori, since these pertain only to the possibility of nature (as object of the senses) in general, that there must nevertheless also be laws for it which, as empirical, may indeed be contingent in accordance with the insight of OUR understanding, but which, if they are to be called laws (as is also required by the concept of nature), must be regarded as necessary on a principle of the unity of the manifold, even if that principle is unknown to us.
-Critique of the Power of Judgement, Guyer and Matthews translation, 67 (5: 179-80), my italics.

The validity of the principle here is what is primarily in question. Indeed, Husserl notes this quite thoroughly in his The Crisis of the European Sciences. We should remark that it is actually quite useful to go there after the third critique, because it is really this problem that leads Husserl to posit the existence of a "life-world." He does not think that the third critique is able to answer this question sufficiently and still posits something about the world apart from any judgement. He must therefore look at the third critique to justify this, and out of it cull a pre-assumed "life world" that Kant fails to address. However, he does not do this to the extent we would wish it to be done. The question gets recasted, in a sense, but never explicitly read back into the place in which it originated, the third critique. Merleau-Ponty is a bit better about this, actually, and addresses specifically Kantian concerns often--turning to him next would be useful. But, frankly, all of phenomenology's concern with worldhood or the life world stems from this basic problem in the third critique. Indeed, Heidegger's assumption of the individuality of Dasein that gets given to me in being-to-death--its mine-ness, that brings Dasein away from a world at the same time as it involves Dasein in it authentically--could be said to stem from this problem, at least in the way it is carried out (and Heidegger indeed refers to the transcendental deduction in Being and Time, and his Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics is, after all is said and done, primarily concerned with the role of the third critique in this problem relating to the deduction). Anyway, all I'm trying to do here is redirect some musings earlier: I hope they were not that misleading (and I don't think they were).

Monday, February 11, 2008

Questions on Heidegger and Kierkegaard

On my Kierkegaard post below, a reader (Sean) posted a great comment:

Do you side with Kaufmann or Dreyfus? To what degree is Heidegger indebted to Kierkegaard? Does it really stop at thrown-ness? Or, can you trace all of Heidegger's existentialism back to 'Religiousness A' (a secularized version)? Isn't the real distinction exactly what anxiety reveals, is it the value of finite existence, or does is reveal an infinite - a sort of flipside to finite existence - as well? 

I was prompted to respond with the following, which is way-too-long--especially for a real non answer! Hopefully others have something to say besides this--which I invite you to do! Please excuse typos, etc:

The relationship of Heidegger to religion is a tricky one. This precludes it being any mere "secularized version" of a text of Kierkegaard. Furthermore, this would have to deal with how, for Heidegger, Kierkegaard relates to the Aristotelian structure of being-in-the-world and the rereading of Aristotle more generally that occurs in Being and Time, which is not an easy relation to figure out. In "The Hermeneutics of Facticity," an pretty early course (1924) Heidegger is outlining much of what will become Being and Time in its basic approach to interpretation, and he there cites Kierkegaard as prominent in the sense that it inspires his hermeneutical or interpretative task or way of getting at being. I think revisiting this nexus would probably give us some directions in conceiving *exactly how* Heidegger is thinking about Kierkegaard: one could say that the interpretative method that Husserlian phenomenology gets modified into would have to be conceived as more Kierkegaardian. In other words, it is obvious Heidegger is indebted to Kierkegaard massively--the real question is how. This is all one possibility--I'm really saying that I have no clue, and thus your question opens up a great avenue to pursue. Do you have any idea?
As to Kaufmann or Dreyfus, I'm not so familiar with the arguments of the former relating to Kierkegaard and their opposition to Dreyfus' readings: I think Dreyfus has a great interpretation of Kierkegaard though, and though I haven't listened yet to his lectures on death, guilt, and resoluteness in the Heidegger course this semester, I plan to--they should localize at least some of these problems within the Heidegger. I will say that I think Dreyfus is a little too quick perhaps to characterize Kierkegaard as merely the "existential" influence of Heidegger, as if all of Heidegger's concern with death and guilt were to stem from a concern that is able to be distinctly separated from his more Aristotelian concern in Division I. I'm not the first to criticize him in this way though: Blattner is the best at it, though perhaps going too far in the other direction and making the concerns of temporality and finitude (finitude being really what death is all about for Heidegger), the sole organizing theme of the book. Heidegger sees being as finite, and this is probably one of the central theses of the book: furthermore, he sees Aristotle saying the same thing long ago. He must elaborate how this is able to be so--and so that leads him to posit a Division I that will merge with the concern of Division II, death etc.
Kierkegaard figures there also because he breaks with Hegel--that should be noted. Hegel is Heidegger's archenemy--so anyone able to say that there is a nothingness and a freedom in nothingness, a possibility for a finite subject to relate to infinite possibility (whether God or not), possibility en abyme (as Derrida likes to say) or, conceived probably less rigorously, as drive and repetition of desire (which Lacan says and this is how I formulate it above), would not escape him in his reading of Aristotle. A great helpful book on this is actually Levinas' God, Death and Time--it is really clear and outlines certain concerns about infinity and finiteness in Heidegger and elsewhere that you touched on. Whatever you think of him, too, reading the section on Kierkegaard in The Gift of Death by Derrida is helpful, because he outlines pretty much a standard reading of the suspension of the ethical in relationship to death and shows how at this point one can relate it to concerns of finiteness and infinity. But I'm talking too much--what do you think?
One more thing... with regard to thrown-ness... of course it doesn't stop there, but I think that's the structure that is the best to think about with all this Kierkegaard stuff (as I say in later posts, though unsuccessfully--I stopped all this because it was getting too tough to think)... the real question is how this possibility beyond possibility that is experienced in the dread of nothingness *already exists or is factical* in Dasein. How possibility or futurity (to talk about it in temporal terms) is already within Dasein so that Dasein is thrown back upon it in its existence, so that it is thrown back upon its factical existentiality in its being-existential or projecting itself forward into nothingness, how projecting oneself forward into nothingness is throwing oneself back to the fact of one's nothingness (this all takes place in some remarks on nothingness that are really weird in Being and Time and have a lot to do with Hegel)--this relay, when conceived with respect to its facticity, is the real tough thing to think. Projection is easy--thinking facticity is the real tough stuff. And to Dreyfus' immense credit (I don't know how many people congratulate him on this--but everyone taking his course or exposed to his writings probably should, it is so so vital for understanding anything in Being and Time), this is what he thinks best and why he lays so much emphasis on Division I: it's there that we get a structure that is somehow, in its being structureed that way, already there (da), albeit falling and distracted, etc. This might answer your last question--why I actually don't think that it is so much about the what anxiety reveals. It is about the nature of this revealing as such that is the key for Heidegger. Others like Levinas will change what is revealed and then go back and read it into the structure of Dasein that Heidegger elaborates and show how it cannot be that way (this is what he does in the book I referred you to--but of course not with the rest of his philosophy, which is much more thought out [precisely with regard to what facticity would then have to be] than this one lecture). But for Heidegger, finitude or infinitude would have to announce itself before it is revealed in the revealing itself--the real trick is not deciding then whether revealing that is done in Dasein is finite or infinite, but by trying to let Dasein itself point the way towards answering this, which only then will take us to what is revealed. This leads, however, to the hermeneutic circle Heidegger points out famously. But, again, this is all too much: I'll post this as a separate new post, so it might be easier to find--and also so that others can perhaps get in on what you asked!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

"Practical criticism"

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:

That the one and only goal of all critical endeavors, of all interpretation, appreciation, exhortation, praise or abuse, is improvement in communication may seem an exaggeration. But in practice it is so.
-Practical Criticism, 10.

All this theorizing about the purpose of language is useless when we look at the actual method we employ when we go about reading: in practice, practically, its only motivation is to bring out the meaning in the phrase under consideration. Value judgments as to what it has produced come only afterwards. The whole thing turns on a distinction between theoria and praxis, and the fact that in any theorizing or evaluating there will always already be a practical act of reading that has taken place. There, in the space and time of that reading, which can always be reconstructed, took place the act of practical criticism.
People often say that practical criticism is defined by its claims to empirical objectivity. This is not so much false as it is misleading, because it fails to emphasize that phenomenon that Richards is always after: the reading that would be necessary to make a value judgement and that value judgements always presuppose. It is not really that this reading must have been empirical as that it must have taken place and had a definite, specifiable structure that we can always put back together. The call for practical criticism, then, is a call that people be accountable for the linguistic character of what they say, the practical act of reading that anything they say requires. In this sense, it is a call to recognize the alterity of language and its non-naturalness. Indeed, Richards will reinscribe this naturalness back into it by claiming that this linguistic site is fully recognizable (or not liable to play--thus the language with which Richards deals is not textual in the sense in which Derrida uses this word), but this I think can only be fully understood when we grasp that it stems from this sense of the practical. It isn't that Richards is an idealist when it comes to the nature of the linguistic element his mode of analysis presupposes so much as it is that the practicality of this mode, its call back to the precise structure of alterity always already related to in any act of language, happens to require a model of that alterity as a communicability that can be received totally. gilt es...

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.
-Wissenschaft der Logik (Lehre vom Sein), Kap. 1, B (Nichts)

I'll never get over this odd turn in Hegel's Science of Logic. It appears when he says "so gilt es als ein Unterschied:" it will count for us as a distinction or difference. Insofar as we can speak of Anschauen oder Denken, intuition or thinking, it will count for us whether something or nothing is intuited or thought. We'll count the difference between thinking of nothing and thinking of something (nichts oder etwas), that we can only suppose. And suppose specifically by speaking, by mentioning or referencing: erwähnen, seeking out or referring to something. Insofar as we can refer to intuition and thinking here, it will matter for us that either something or nothing is intuited or thought. Insofar as we can seek out a distinction, the distinction will count for us. By virtue of the distinction's merely being possible, it will count. The faith in the rationality or cunning of logos and dialectic here is a little too much for me. We'll seek out this distinction, and if we can seek it out--regardless of whether it actually counts or not--it will count for us. Therefore, nothing is or exists (es ist, es existiert): if there is this distinction for us, nothing exists at least in that distinction. Therefore it immediately passes into being. Nothing is not nothing just as much as pure being is nothing, because and only because this distinction between something and nothing in thinking is possible. Where does this distinction come from? Derrida will inscribe it precisely in this unthought possibility that Hegel seems so confident will begin his dialectic, in its pure virtuality without being and even without nothingness--but precisely not as a thought. For Derrida, this " gilt es..." is Hegel thinking differance.

Existence (and The Hermeneutics of Facticity)

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:

The being of factical life is distinctive in that it is in the how of the being of its being-possible. The ownmost possibility of be-ing itself which Dasein (facticity) is, and indeed without this possibility being "there" for it, may be designated as existence.
-Ontology--The Hermeneutics of Facticity, 12.

Existence leaps out of the facticity which it is or exists as (one begins to see how tough it is to talk about this stuff explicitly). This makes phenomena like historizing in Being and Time open out into its existentiality and not remain just a sort of mode of authenticity that emphasizes facticity, which is precisely the most necessary and most fruitful way to think about it. Furthermore, we see how the hermeneutical task is itself really a making-the-
phenomenon-exist for us:

It is with respect to this authentic be-ing itself that facticity is placed into our forehaving when initially engaging it and bringing it into play in our
 hermeneutical questioning. It is from out of it, on the basis of it, and with a view to it that facticity will be interpretively explicated. The conceptual explacata which grow out of this interpretation are to be designated as existentials.
-Ontology--The Hermeneutics of Facticity, 12.

In short, it is helpful to drive the term "existence" back into the
 phenomenon, its co-belonging with facticity, in order to get a handle on it--and in fact this itself is the task of hermeneutics for Heidegger. Like with Kant, just collecting terms together, or even dividing them up in order to explicate them ("ek-sistence") does not release what is gotten at by the terms into any significant understanding. If Heidegger does this after Being and Time, it is perhaps because he considers this hermeneutical task preparatory to the thinking to be carried out in that treatise. But what bears upon this is the relation between the hermeneutical task and the phenomenology he carries out there--which he specifies in the introduction.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Samuel Johnson on blogging


The boundless liberty with which every man may write his own thoughts, and the opportunity of conveying new sentiments to the public without danger of suffering either ridicule or censure, which every man may enjoy whose vanity does not incite him too hastily to own his performances, naturally invites those who employ themselves in speculation to try how their notions will be received by a nation which exempts caution from fear, and modesty from shame; and it is no wonder that where reputation may be gained, but needs not be lost, multitudes are willing to try their fortune, and thrust their opinions into the light, sometimes with unsuccessful haste, and sometimes with happy temerity.
-From "Introduction to the Harleian Miscellany: An Essay on the Origin and Importance of Small Tracts and Fugitive Pieces"

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Spivak, Derrida, Marx and the question of value

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:

For Derrida... capital is generally interest-bearing commercial capital. Hence surplus-value for him is the super-adequation of capital rather than a "materialist" predication of the subject as super-adequate to itself. This restricted notion can only lead to "idealist" analogies between capital and subject, or commodity and subject.
-in The Spivak Reader, 119

The distinction she makes between "materialism" and "idealism" is outlined in the first paragraph of that essay and should be recalled:

One of the determinations of the question of value is the predication of the subject. The modern "idealist" predication of the subject is consciousness. Labor-power is a "materialist" predication. Consciousness is not thought, but rather the subject's irredicible intendedness towards the object. Correspondingly, labor power is not work (labor) but rather the irredicible possibility that the subject be more than adequate--super-adequate--to itself, labor-power: "it distinguishes itself [unterscheidet sich] from the ordinary crown of commodities in that its use creates value, and a greater value than it costs itself" (Capital 1, 342).
-in The Spivak Reader, 109.

This is a lot to take in, but let's walk through it: Spivak is extremely careful with the words she uses and each signals a turn in thought that lends itself to our tracing it out.
It is obvious from the first sentence of the second quote (the first sentence of the first paragraph of the essay) that how the subject is predicated is, for Spivak, a way that the question of value can take on a particular valence or tone. In other words, a way the question of value can be asked can be in how the subject is predicated, how it is allowed or not allowed to be: the predication itself asks the question of value, so that what value is will resonate with how a subject is predicated.
Spivak then reproduces a distinction Marx makes in The German Ideology between the predication of consciousness and the predication of labor-power. As Marx says, the former predication "descends from heaven to earth," making "consciousness" into what "determines life" while the latter is involved in a movement of "ascending from earth to heaven," making "life" into what "determines ...consciousness" (The German Ideology, Amherst: Prometheus, 1998, 43). This is the sense in which the first is "idealist" and the second "materialist:" not because one or the other is a particular form of rigorous idealism or materialism but because the first has idealist and the second "materialist premises" (Marx, 43)--thus the quotes she puts around the words. What is "idealist" corresponds to a predication of the subject that presupposes the form of consciousness as primary and the labor power in life secondary, and what is "materialist" corresponds to a predication of the subject that presupposes the form of labor-power in the opposite way. What are these presuppositions, exactly? Nothing other than identity, self-presence in the case of idealism and difference or absence of presence in the case of materialism. This is why Spivak says that labor-power is not labor--not a thing or a present that would be identical to itself, like the conscious "I am"--but a "irreducible possibility:" labor-power is not, because it is only a difference between the subject and its object, what it needs. Thus, "super-adequation:" the converse of Spivak's proposition that the subject is super-adequate to herself according to labor-power is that the subject is that the subject is lacking something or is different than what it needs to be in order to be adequate. For Spivak, labor-power is a predication of the subject as a needing and making subject, a subject that can make more than it needs and, in "being" this ability, always "is" lacking something or needing something that would make it adequate to itself or identical. It is always already more than its identity to itself. If Derrida's consideration of capital "can only lead to 'idealist' analogies," as she says, then we see that Derrida's idealism must stem from presupposing here that consciousness as this self-identity is more primary than labor-power and difference as a predication of the subject.
We'll continue these reflections later... here is the transit they will make: capital presupposing identity in Derrida and escaping the real meaning of surplus-value, or the surplus itself. This "restricted" and not "generalizing" notion--Spivak especially chooses her words carefully here, referring to the distinction between a restricted and general economy--stems from an ambiguity in how differance appears only after or before there is super-adequation, and not precisely at the point of super-adequation itself. In other words, differance "is" not super-adequation, and thus Derrida presupposes that it exists in a completed form--in capital, rather than as labor power. This ambiguity is localized by Stiegler in Technics and Time, when he cannot place differance either before or after phusis with any clarity: does phusis arise from differance or afterwards? And is this a correct understanding of differance on the part of Stiegler--is not this indeterminacy precisely the determinacy of both the either and the or, of the perhaps?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Mourning after citation: re-membering

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?
It isn't by mistake that we are able to investigate these matters within a text that, in its name, is fascinated with death and life or death in life, and, in its opening (at least), is obsessed with quotations marks. "Living On" ("Survivre," in French, with the emphasis on the disjunction possible between "sur" and "vivre") links the dismemberment of the body (a condition of death or dying, an act that forces the passing from life to death or the dying in life) to the innermost workings and unworkings of quotations, as they disturb (among other things) speech act theory's popular "use-mention" distinction. This theory would make a quoted phrase--"In other words on living?"--into an act of mentioning, as opposed to a using of the phrase: when you quote, you don't use language but rather mention an instance of its use, they say. "In other words on living?" is (they continue) a sort of quotation or citation, purporting to explain the phrase "who's talking about living?" ("Living On" begins: "But who's talking about living? In other words on living?") while it elaborates it in another use that is not a use but a mentioning. However, Derrida contends that this mentioning never stops just with the whole of the phrase: it passes down to the instance of every word in the phrase. This disturbs the distinction between use and mentioning, because each instance of a mentioning would be indistinguishable from a use: each word, insofar as it refers (either uses or mentions), would be able to be a mentioning as well as a use. I'll clear this up later perhaps, but the point is that the language that can be used also always can be a mentioning. In other words, everything becomes quotable, and in doing so dismembers or disjoins in its rendering mentionable any use of language, word by word:

If it [the phrase "in other words on living?"] is a sort of quotation, a sort of "mention," as the theoreticians of "speech acts" feel justified in saying, we must understand the entire performance [or "mention"] "in other words on living?" as having quotation marks around it. But once quotation marks demand to appear, they don't know where to stop. Especially here, where they are not content merely to surround the performance "in other words on living?": they divide it, rework its body and its insides, until it is distended, diverted, out of joint, then reset member by member, word by word, realigned in the most diverse configurations... For example, several pairs of quotation marks may enclose one or two words: "living on," "on" living, "on" "living," on "living," producing each time a different semantic and syntactic effect; I still have not exhausted the list...
-from "Living On," in Deconstruction and Criticism, 62-3 (translation modified)

Now, dismemberment and disjoining, as the taking apart of a text through the assertion of citationality or infinite "mentionability" within what seems to be its coherent, closed, use, also resets these members that have been disjoined, "member by member" as Derrida says. What is this act of resetting through citation, through making citation not only surround but penetrate to the interior of every use of language? In other words, what is this act of resetting words at the point of there being infinite citationality or performativity in the use of words? "Member by member" it works what is unworked totally as a re-membering. Re-membering indeed describes this whole structure of taking apart and resetting, resetting indeed right at the point at which the disjunction or disjointedness between words is extended infinitely, so that any use of language is also its performance. In other words it is mourning, the remembrance of the dead, the putting back together of the person who has been taken apart in death, the preserving (one can even say materially, if one grants some materiality to thoughts of remembrance in one's head) of the other within one and yet only precisely at the point at which she or he can only exist through citation, through the performance of themselves, no longer in any fully constituted bodily presence. Mourning is citing, infinitely, so that each citation still has to refer to the deceased--who precisely is no longer there in the act of (or because of the act of) citing. Dis- or re-(these two prefixes are now synonymous, because the lack of the referent or the other that needs to be replaced is itself installed by the very interability in the "re")membering as this particular citational structure (citation infinitely extended, every bit and everywhere performative, so that in fact this mentioning, this performing of the referent/other without the referent/other, is its only use) is mourning.
Hopefully this connection is a bit illumined: it is hard to be faithful to Derrida and you see the necessity of his "obscurity" in his texts when you have to try and reconstitute them (especially amidst other work!)--namely, because you can't use the word "is" (in the speech-act sense of "use"), and because this very prohibition also manifests itself and is operated by how all the terms transform themselves. One can perhaps see two consequences of all this, though, which perhaps are one at their root (and yet of course everywhere and never fully able to be captured with a single word). 1) Derrida's opposition to and yet respect for the necessity of (perhaps more than Heidegger, who seeks to destroy this in Seinsgeschichtliche denken yet always grapples with how he can't) Hegelian Erinnerung, internalizing and self-appropriating acts of memory or memorialization in the negative movement of the Aufhebung. The consequence is that there is no appropriation or gathering up of the other into identity/sameness, no resolution in further work of the negative to the contradiction or difference between the same and the other. In other words, 2) it is wrong to say that mourning is the use of language (to recollect or memorialize the other, to bring him or her back into the sphere in which they can live with us but not as us, to reappropriate them and yet respect them in their death, in their otherness) at that point at which it is its performance, its mentioning. That is, the use of language to respect the other (or the referent) at the point at which this language is performance of the use of language to respect the other is not the  the performance of this language only. Language does not refer only to itself in being always a mentioning. If there is only mentioning, it is not the mentioning of one use, of one respect for the other. It is always indistinguishable, as a citation, from every other citation. To put it quite simply: every act of mourning is always not just my act of mourning. This does not mean it is communal: it means that it is never mine, my own. Why? Because every act is always only a performance: it is on par with anyone else's remembering of the other. In the "textual" terms we are also employing, every use of a word would be a mentioning, but then every mentioning would be indistinguishable in its use: the use would be only one--mentioning--but one only in the sense that there is no one use (there is only mentioning). No appropriation, no Erinnerung, and yet the necessity for appropriation as the only way to memorialize and mourn: this is the double bind. Every mourning then, must fail in its appropriation, must not appropriate enough or must appropriate too much of the other. But--and here is the "ethics" of this "textual" logic--mourning must fail to begin again, to begin in failing to begin, to begin more, to fail more: to fail to repeat the mourning is at once a crime and what always takes place, both an ethical failure and the only ethical injunction. One must always mourn more.