• sign
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    EDIT:
    This thread has wandered so I renamed it. I just want to talk about his ideas and related ideas here.

    ORIGINAL OP:

    Hi, everyone. I'm trying to figure out the essence of Derrida lately, and I've recently read Speech and Phenomena. I think it's pretty great. I'm looking into Of Grammatology too, which has some great passages, but I think Speech and Phenomena is beautifully concentrated.

    For those who might want to pick up some Derrida just now, here's a passage from the intro comparing Derrida to Wittgenstein.

    Derrida falls squarely within the movement which regards the role of utterances in actual discourse as the essence of language and meaning, and which therefore regards logic as derivative from rhetorical considerations. His penetrating consideration and ultimate rejection of the basic principles of Husserl's philosophy of language is the historical analogue of Wittgenstein's later consideration and rejection of his own earlier work... In both cases a work belonging to the first historical movement in the philosophy of language of the twentieth century is examined and found unintelligible, at least partly on its own terms; and the alternative to the rejected theory is one that belongs to the second movement, according to which rhetoric and the context of actual communication are an essential and ineradicable feature of all linguistic meaning. — intro

    That passage makes it all more approachable but leaves out its metaphysical edge in some sense. Here are a few thoughts at least inspired by my reading.

    The signs are aimed at situations. The signs are aimed at ears. The signs are aimed at a dark other who hears. The signs are launched from a dark other who hears.

    How about the infinite face as the incarnation of the voice? The voice as non-visual dimension of face? A dimension of meaning as music or music as meaning? If the subject is one more sign, then why do we insist that the subject signs? Because the signs come from a face. The signs come as part of an infinite face. Why is the face 'infinite'? Surely the 'message' of the face cannot be fixed in finite concepts. Is this all? Or is the face an image of the pregnant void itself? A nothingness as future or future as irrupting nothingness. The signs are there. Are they there is a way that can't be signed but only 'mined'? To 'mine,' to be a 'me' with what is still only mine. To 'mine' is to reach for and suffer the sign, to be the open place of the sign that ties itself to other signs. Signs can point beneath and behind themselves?

    How is meaning distributed between the words and in time? What is the 'resolution' of language? Is meaning ever trapped in perfect definiteness at an instant? Is an act of meaning ever perfectly repeated? If meaning is distributed, there is no master-word but only substitutions that may finally point at the distribution of meaning and structure of substitution itself as final, as the impossibility of some other finality, fulfilling the metaphysical quest as it snips its root. But this 'fulfillment' is subject to its own law. It's never perfectly repeated or stable.
  • sign
    245
    ...the sign is that ill-named thing, the only one, that escapes the instituting question of philosophy: ' what is ....?' — Derrida

    Why does the sign escape this question? I have my thoughts, but I wonder if others like this line and have something to say.
  • Terrapin Station
    9.1k
    Derrida falls squarely within the movement which regards the role of utterances in actual discourse as the essence of language and meaning, — intro

    What were some of the alternatives to that?
  • javra
    767
    How is meaning distributed between the words and in time? What is the 'resolution' of language? Is meaning ever trapped in perfect definiteness at an instant? Is an act of meaning ever perfectly repeated? If meaning is distributed, there is no master-word but only substitutions that may finally point at the distribution of meaning and structure of substitution itself as final, as the impossibility of some other finality, fulfilling the metaphysical quest as it snips its root. But this 'fulfillment' is subject to its own law. It's never perfectly repeated or stable.sign

    ...the sign is that ill-named thing, the only one, that escapes the instituting question of philosophy: ' what is ....?' — Derrida


    Why does the sign escape this question? I have my thoughts, but I wonder if others like this line and have something to say.
    sign

    Some musing:

    Meaning is equivalent to significance. Placing the etymology of sign-ificance aside, the term/sign of “meaning” (correction: significance ) is defined on Wiktionary as “the extent to which something matters [implicitly: to some set of subjects]” and as “importance [roughly: the extent to which something is, else is worthy of, being imported into oneself as conscious being from without … this due to the degree of affect and/or effect this something might have upon oneself]”

    So appraising is one way of arriving at the understanding that meaning is inextricably related to value—value itself always being relative to some given set of beings. The two are of course not synonymous, but there can be no meaning in the complete absence of value. So much so that I believe meaning is in all instances a complex relation of values.

    Values are again contingent upon, and relative to, subjects. Given the aforementioned, to objectify meaning is, then, to lose sight of what it is of what it consists of.

    Signs then are often arbitrary and, in and of themselves, meaningless. This is not to deny that we also often ascribe signs in manners limited by the wide array of meaning that exists prior to their being produced. But terms such as “cat” and “dog” are, as signs, fully interchangeable were it not for the values we associate with each. The meaning of signs—while at times conforming to the world that surrounds (e.g. a drawn crescent moon as sign for "moon" rather than "sun")—is nevertheless contingent on constructed realities, e.g. cultures, which are themselves the products of a multiplicity of individual value-appraising beings.

    So if I understand the latter question properly, signs elude the question of "what is …” because they are in one sense arbitrary and inherently meaningless while simultaneously also serving as anchors by which our communal, value-constructed meanings are tethered and stabilized, this across a given cohort of beings, on account of communal consent.

    This all being a rough draft version of my current perspectives.

    I haven’t read Derrida, btw.
  • sign
    245
    So if I understand the latter question properly, signs elude the question of "what is …” because they are in one sense arbitrary and inherently meaningless while simultaneously also serving as anchors by which our communal, value-constructed meanings are tethered and stabilized, this across a given cohort of beings, on account of communal consent.javra

    I like this. The signifier is 'noise' entangled with history, and therefore genesis and mortality. The signified is a timeless essence. The signified is incarnate in the signifier. The signifier is necessary though, since it's only the signifier that allows us to live meaning together.

    One of the themes I really like in S&P is the idea that Husserl is trying to finally get metaphysics right. He is correcting Plato. He offers an eternal subject gazing on pure meaning purified of all noise, history, genesis, mortality. On the other hand, he needs signs in their dirtiness to construct such a vision. The notions of 'pure meaning' and an eternal subject as pure present are an effect of language. Logic is rhetoric's construction of its most social intention. Truth seems intimately related to an ideal community, what we ought to believe, the to-be-believed. I've been reading Towards the Definition of Philosophy by Heidegger, which is amazing, and speaks on the issue of truth and value among other things. Heidegger is looking for a kind of conceptualization that can grasp the 'it worlds' and 'it values' without objectifiying it. At first he considers that the idea of 'something' is terribly abstract and maybe the essence of theoretical imposition on the life-flux. But he finds or argues eventually that an intention toward something as a bare something is itself an essential structure of that flow, a flow toward to the unknown something (the future as indeterminate possiblity, the to-be-clarified situation.)

    Another approach to the sign eluding the instituting question: the idea of the sign is the idea of categorization and distinction. The question 'what is....?' asks for signs. It is and asks for signification. It signifies the quest for its own nature. What does it mean to categorize categorization? Can we name the naming process? In some sense I just did. But I also just substituted 'category' for 'sign.' Signification connects to the movement toward the something mentioned above. Calling the sign 'matter' or 'mind' forgets that these distinctions are themselves instituted by signification. Calling the sign mind in matter or matter in mind might do the situation more justice. But does this get it right? Are we ever done saying what saying is? If we can say the origin of saying, then this origin is itself another sign that has saying as an origin.
    I haven’t read Derrida, btw.javra

    There are just so many thinkers to read and only so much time. Let me know if you want me to send you a link to a pdf of S&P. It's about 80 pages and is thought to contain essential Derrida.
  • csalisbury
    1.7k
    Calling the sign 'matter' or 'mind' forgets that these distinctions are themselves instituted by signification. Calling the sign mind in matter or matter in mind might do the situation more justice. But does this get it right? Are we ever done saying what saying is? If we can say the origin of saying, then this origin is itself another sign that has saying as an origin.sign

    We had a Speech and Phenomenon reading group here a while back. I don't know how well I remember it. The thing I most remember is that, perhaps appropriately, Derrida seemed to not quite be able to articulate what he wanted to say. There was a lot of close-reading of Husserl (ostentatiously scholarly?) punctuated by rhetorical flights, as though he couldn't quite wait to cut to the chase.

    I'm of two minds here. The first sides with Derrida. Any attempt to get at the essence, to get to pure philsophy, will be 'sullied' by the sign, which also carries with it some 'trace' of the nonessential (so history, the material, desire etc etc)

    The second sides with Husserl. Even if we have to rely on the inessential, or the compromised, to talk with one another - still we can use that to direct our attention to something. The event in which their is a shared focus of attention seems to exceed the signs themselves - in the same way the experience of a play exceeds the contingent collection of [actors, costumes, stage, etc].

    But. I think it is the case that any attempt to fix the truth, once and for all, and so 'have' it - that's doomed to failure. And it's probably fair to impart something of that desire to Husserl.

    But where Husserl seems to want to 'have' the truth, Derrida wants to seem to defer any shared understanding of anything. More precisely: Derrida seems to want to have personal control of the process of understanding and confusion. He wants to bring things right up to the limit of some event of shared meaning, then forestall it.
  • sign
    245
    The event in which their is a shared focus of attention seems to exceed the signs themselves - in the same way the experience of a play exceeds the contingent collection of [actors, costumes, stage, etc].csalisbury

    I like this. Husserl is grasping something 'sufficiently' real. There are essences. There is stable-enough meaning. Husserl is not cancelled. His distinctions are just revealed to be less absolute without losing all of their value.

    As for Derrida versus Husserl, I tend to see Derrida, an earnest phenomenologist-under-erasure, trying to improve on Husserl. IMV, he wants to be understood. He intends something. But what he intends troubles every attempt formulate it, this same troubling, exactly and stably.

    Derrida turns 'the principle of all principles' against any lapse of phenomenological vigilance.
    ...
    It seems to me that it is impossible to dissociate deconstruction, Derrida's thought itself as a whole, from the experience or test of language. As we shall we, this test of language is an aporia.
    ...
    At the very moment in which I undergo the aporia, I cannot ask what language is (the phenomenological question) or why language is (the ontological question), since these questions ask for an essence, for presence, for being, all of which, according to Derrida, are themselves made possible by language.
    ...
    The experience that Derrida is trying to bring forth is an experience --the 'making appear' or the presence -- of the irreducible void, of the difference or lack, which is original and yet not a foundation. So the experience of deconstruction must be conceived as the presence of the non-foundation.
    — Lawlor's Derrida and Husserl: The Basic Problem of Phenomenology

    From this perspective, I think it's even fair to think of Derrida as a negative theologian (and one too negative to embrace that as a final description.) The metaphysics of presence would then be framed then as a kind of idolatry or covering-over. As I read him so far, Derrida thinks that distinctions-under-erasure are necessary. He's still a 'Hegelian' in terms of determinate negation. He exists on top of Husserl, for instance, and he is only intelligible in terms of something like Husserl's project, as the revelation of what eludes it.

    Personally I relate to some kind of 'experience of language.' Language is there like the world. It precedes and speaks the 'subject' in some sense. It precedes and speaks every attempt to get behind it or found it on some essence. Nicholas of Cusa wrote of God as pure possibility (something like that). Perhaps the attempt to found language is an attempt to dominate and cancel the future as possibility, or to have possibility now in some concentrated, neutralized form. And perhaps point at a 'non-foundation' can't help but being 'guilty' of this. What is a theology that strives to reveal its own impossibility as its completion or its completion as a vision of its impossibility? Wittgenstein's 'thrust against language' comes to mind. And Heidegger's primordial prescience comes to mind, an attempt to look around the distortions of the theoretical gaze with a perfected theoretical gaze perfect in its a-theoreticality, the old gaze that wants to see around itself.
  • csalisbury
    1.7k
    IMV, he wants to be understood. He intends something. But what he intends troubles every attempt formulate it, this same troubling, exactly and stably[..]From this perspective, I think it's even fair to think of Derrida as a negative theologian (and one too negative to embrace that as a final description.) The metaphysics of presence would then be framed then as a kind of idolatry or covering-over.

    That seems like a fair, perhaps fairer, reading. Maybe its something of both? I'm thinking of something I quoted in my thread about trauma, where a therapist talks about situations in which there is an intent to communicate which is thwarted by - or at least at war with - a parallel intent to remain incommunicative.

    Two poems by Dickinson.

    "To fill a Gap
    Insert the Thing that caused it—
    Block it up
    With Other—and ’twill yawn the more—
    You cannot solder an Abyss
    With Air."

    "There is a pain - so utter -
    It swallows substance up -
    Then covers the Abyss with Trance -
    So Memory can step
    Around - across - upon it -
    As One within a Swoon -
    Goes safely - where an open eye -
    Would drop Him - Bone by Bone "

    The first seems to me more Husserlian, the latter more Derridian - but not sure on that.
  • csalisbury
    1.7k
    He's still a 'Hegelian' in terms of determinate negation. He exists on top of Husserl, for instance, and he is only intelligible in terms of something like Husserl's project, as the revelation of what eludes it.sign

    This is a good point. Speaking of Hegel - I think, if you read Husserl in terms of Phenomenology of Spirit, Husserl would be doing something like: trying to show how one can remain at the level of 'sense-certainty' where one can directly speak what one means. (tho this is definitely reductive)

    If I read POS correctly, its the story of how one negotiates the impossibility of saying directly what one means - very Derridean.

    I've been thinking recently that Sense Certainty is something like the beginning of the Duino Elegies - "Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the Angelic Orders?" The simple impossibility of communicating launches the whole complex machinery of thought.
  • sign
    245
    That seems like a fair, perhaps fairer, reading. Maybe its something of both?csalisbury

    Have you looked at Spurs? I may type up a quote, but perhaps you've looked at the part about the forgotten umbrella. I think that Derrida finds the openness he points at beautiful behind its possible terror. In some sense he seems like an evangelist carrying the good news of eternal rebirth in eternal death. So far I just keep findings modulations of Christian thought from Hegel onward. The thought of the sign is the though of the incarnation, of the enfleshing and making-mortal of 'god.' 'God' like meaning is distributed across mortals and time. Certain peak emotions remain more or less constantly present as possibility, even though conceptualization is historical. Religion's pictorial thinking might therefore have an edge in some ways on conceptual 'theology' (philosophy that aspires to saying 'it.')
  • sign
    245
    I'm thinking of something I quoted in my thread about trauma, where a therapist talks about situations in which there is an intent to communicate which is thwarted by - or at least at war with - a parallel intent to remain incommunicative.csalisbury

    That is a fascinating theme. In this case I think Derrida really wants to say it, but he's had or rather repeats an 'experience of language' that shows the non-quite-it-ness of every sign. I think the first poem is pretty close to this. Fail again. Fail better. And enjoy this 'failure' as our basic human opportunity. 'Man' as a not-quite futile passion to name himself. Man 'is' metaphysics. Or what separates us from the other mammals who indeed feel is a kind of infinite metaphorical-conceptual project of saying what is, including this same project that evolves as it articulates itself.
  • sign
    245
    This is a good point. Speaking of Hegel - I think, if you read Husserl in terms of Phenomenology of Spirit, Husserl would be doing something like - trying to show how one can remain at the level of 'sense-certainty' where meaning is present to itself. If I read POS correctly, its the story of how one negotiates the impossibility of saying what one means - very Derridean. I've been thinking recently that Sense Certainty is something like the beginning of the Duino Elegies - "Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the Angelic Orders?" The simple impossiblity of communicating launches the whole complex machinery of thoughtcsalisbury

    Beautiful. This makes sense to me. As I've been reading Derrida and Heidegger's 'breakthrough' lecture about 'pre-science,' I keep returning to Hegel, especially Kaufmann's translation of the preface. We go only on the surface when we take our fundamental signs for granted, as fixed entities. The instability of signs seems central for Hegel. Finite concepts point outward and exist fully only in an evolving relationship. Any account of what is has to finally take itself into account. Whatever it is that is can and even must try to figure out what it is. Reality is 'made of' questioning (among other things.) To think the real apart from the questioning of the real has practical advantages in some contexts but seems to pretty much avoid philosophy in any kind of higher sense of the word.

    More on the impossibility issue, I relate to a kind of repeating experience of solitude. No one will hear your finest words exactly as you intend them. In our best social moments this problem just vanishes for a while. Souls are transparent to one another. Everyone is really 'there,' in the same-enough beautiful place. Things are rarely this good, and for me music has tended to be involved. Drugs help too! The language of feeling is more universal perhaps. The 'absolute' is pointed at by a rock'n'roll lyric, a mix of image and sound (the birth of tragedy in the spirit of music.)
  • csalisbury
    1.7k
    Have you looked at Spurs? I may type up a quote, but perhaps you've looked at the part about the forgotten umbrella. I think that Derrida finds the openness he points at beautiful behind its possible terror. In some sense he seems like an evangelist carrying the good news of eternal rebirth in eternal death. So far I just keep findings modulations of Christian thought from Hegel onward. The thought of the sign is the though of the incarnation, of the enfleshing and making-mortal of 'god.' 'God' like meaning is distributed across mortals and time. Certain peak emotions remain more or less constantly present as possibility, even though conceptualization is historical. Religion's pictorial thinking might therefore have an edge in some ways on conceptual 'theology' (philosophy that aspires to saying 'it.')sign

    I haven't looked at spurs! What is the umbrella thing? I've heard reference to it, a few times, but still have no idea what its about. If you're down to type up a quote, I'd be down to read it.

    It's interesting that you reference christian thought - the idea of the sign as incarnation makes a lot of sense to me. But I've also heard the sign discussed in judaic terms, as the endless deferral of the messiah's arrival. Though---that deferral is often discussed as the deferral of parousia which is itself a christian term (I think?) denoting the second coming. So maybe: the space of language as a space of remembrance/forgetfulness which tends toward some future event (which is also a past event)?

    Very much in agreement that pictorial thinking (I might say 'scenic' thinking) has an edge on conceptual thought which..

    That is a fascinating theme. In this case I think Derrida really wants to say it, but he's had or rather repeats an 'experience of language' that shows the non-quite-it-ness of every sign. I think the first poem is pretty close to this. Fail again. Fail better. And enjoy this 'failure' as our basic human opportunity. 'Man' as a not-quite futile passion to name himself. Man 'is' metaphysics. Or what separates us from the other mammals who indeed feel is a kind of infinite metaphorical-conceptual project of saying what is, including this same project that evolves as its articulates itself.

    Yeah! And I'm really interested in how that becomes an evolution - how the failure to say it isn't just a continual retreading of the same, but somehow progresses.

    This is pretty speculative, and beyond the texts - but I've had this continual thing, in my life, of approaching 'scenes' that were too powerful for me, that I wasn't ready for. I have this vague idea that the being-outside-the-scenes (the space where language is sign- or trace- based) is the space where we fashion a self that is capable of returning to those scenes in a way that we can receive them, and be present to them, without being overwhelmed. Like : There's no passive relief and return, without a concomitant active struggle to be equal to it. So that the second-coming wouldn't simply repeat the first. The space between the two comings would be the space in which one hones one's ability to be consciously part of it. As though the point of life were to take responsibility of absence, to shape it, and bring it back into presence. Not quite saying what I'm getting at tho.

    Beautiful. This makes sense to me. As I've been reading Derrida and Heidegger's 'breakthrough' lecture about 'pre-science,' I keep returning to Hegel, especially Kaufmann's translation of the preface. We go only on the surface when we take our fundamental signs for granted, as fixed entities. The instability of signs seems central for Hegel. Finite concepts point outward and exist fully only in an evolving relationship. Any account of what is has to finally take itself into account. Whatever it is that is can and even must try to figure out what it is. Reality is 'made of' questioning (among other things.) To think the real apart from the questioning of the real has practical advantages in some contexts but seems to pretty much avoid philosophy in any kind of higher sense of the word.

    More on the impossibility issue, I relate to a kind of repeating experience of solitude. No one will hear your finest words exactly as you intend them. In our best social moments this problem just vanishes for a while. Souls are transparent to one another. Everyone is really 'there,' in the same-enough beautiful place. Things are rarely this good, and for me music has tended to be involved. Drugs help too! The language of feeling is more universal perhaps. The 'absolute' is pointed at by a rock'n'roll lyric, a mix of image and sound (the birth of tragedy in the spirit of music.)

    Yeah! again. I wonder if these moments are something like sustaining 'foreshadowings' of where things are heading. Part of my trouble, in the past, has been to cling too strongly to these moments, and to become devastated when they disappear. Maybe part of the progression also involves figuring out how to relate to them when they're absent. Like - St. John of the Cross talks about how part of the trouble for the aspiring mystic is being exposed to the divine, then becoming bereaved. For the early mystic this is overwhelmingly difficult. The closeness to god is so sweet that its absence is devastating. BUT - without this bereavement, he would never be able to untangle his spiritual knots and move forward.
  • csalisbury
    1.7k
    One last thing regarding signs. I may have quoted this on the boards before but -

    "The reshimu is the consciousness of knowing that one has “forgotten.” It is the consciousness which arouses one to search for that which he has lost, the awareness that God is “playing” with His creation, as it were, a Divine game of “hide and seek.” A forgotten melody lingers in the back of one’s mind, and although he is unable to remember it he continuously searches for it, and whenever he hears a new melody (that might be it) it is the reshimu which tells him that it is not."

    Thats the thing that would be lost in Husserl's project?
  • sign
    245
    It's interesting that you reference christian thought - the idea of the sign as incarnation makes a lot of sense to me. But I've also heard the sign discussed in judaic terms, as the endless deferral of the messiah's arrival. Though---that deferral is often discussed as the deferral of parousia which is itself a christian term (I think?) denoting the second coming. So maybe: the space of language as a space of remembrance/forgetfulness which tends toward some future event (which is also a past event)?csalisbury

    Wow. Beautifully said. I love the ending, and that resonates for me. The origin is anticipated. Speaking of forgetfulness, Derrida also mentions a forgotten conversation in Spurs. It was recounted to him, including some of the strange ideas he shared then, but he has no memory of it directly, only a memory of being told about it. And then Nietzsche forgot his umbrella. As Derrida indicates, nothing exlcudes reading the totality of Nietzsche in this once line. But who knows why he wrote this lonely line in his notebook? Who can claim the presence of that meaning act? Could Nietzsche himself even do it?

    I like the blend of deferral and incarnation. Is the incarnation ever complete? In a way I think Derrida is trying to say the incarnation in order to complete it. But the incarnation is perhaps always in progess because it is incarnation. To be incarnate is to be on the way to the anticipated origin or forgotten future.
  • sign
    245
    Very much in agreement that pictorial thinking (I might say 'scenic' thinking) has an edge on conceptual thought which..csalisbury

    I like 'scenic' in its emphasis on a world, a social context. The depth of the we tends to be forgotten. Or at least I overlooked it in prior more egoistic positions. In retrospect, my first concern was with burning down all external authority. I was trying to create a space of pure freedom, come to self-possession. This isolated and free ego is like God the Father, alone and outside of everything finite. As Feuerbach might say, this is god as man as opposed to god as men. The divine is fixed as a solitary object. Its image is the self in isolation. Any notion of a primordial 'we' is a threat to the ego's purity, a contamination. And a rigid conceptual thinking (that hasn't experienced the mortality, slippage, deferral, and anticipation in all living signs) can only understand this primordial we in terms of a device made of transparent aluminium, when what is intended is the nature of that rigid thinking itself 'toward' others-in-shared-world. The truth is something like what an ideal community believes, and the truth-bringer in seeking recognition imposes on the actual community in its name.

    What varies quite a bit is the tone of this imposition, so that maybe this imposition can instead be a gift. I have to admit that I love 'theology.' It speaks to something I might call essentially human in me. It's like a poetry of the real. It is constrained by being revelation of what is, and this is only possible if 'what is' can fall in love itself sometimes. (I know I rambled some here. I'm not as sober as I could be.)
  • sign
    245
    Yeah! again. I wonder if these moments are something like sustaining 'foreshadowings' of where things are heading. Part of my trouble, in the past, has been to cling too strongly to these moments, and to become devastated when they disappear. Maybe part of the progression also involves figuring out how to relate to them when they're absent.csalisbury

    I like to think of embers still hidden in the ashes. When I'm really doing philosophy (reading a book that is really doing it for me or writing paraphrases that confirm some kind of 'spiritual treasure'), I have a less Dionysion version of the experience. I listen to classic music when I do philosophy, so it's a different feel than the rock, hip hop, pop, and jazz that my friends and I would party with or within.

    This reminds me of your distinction above, incarnation and deferral. We try to get back to what we had once. And maybe it felt like 'what we had once' from the first time. There's a certain 'eternity' in some feelings, a kind of recognition and familiarity. Maybe because they can make one feel so at home on earth. Arriving for the first time back home.
  • sign
    245
    "The reshimu is the consciousness of knowing that one has “forgotten.” It is the consciousness which arouses one to search for that which he has lost, the awareness that God is “playing” with His creation, as it were, a Divine game of “hide and seek.” A forgotten melody lingers in the back of one’s mind, and although he is unable to remember it he continuously searches for it, and whenever he hears a new melody (that might be it) it is the reshimu which tells him that it is not."

    Thats the thing that would be lost in Husserl's project?
    csalisbury

    Wow. That's a powerful quote. Speaking only as a passinate reader who's trying to make sense of it all (and having only recently really looked int Husserl), I'd say that yes, Derrida seems to be adding that to Husserl, without denying Husserlian experience. The 'non-foundation' or void or space in which one remembers one's forgetting and searches.

    I been trying interpret Heidegger on the future and death lately, and 'darkness' seems like an important metaphor here. Is Derrida (after Heidegger) trying to impossibly shine a light on darkness? The darkness is the nothing, the indeterminate. Heidegger justifies the possibility of a pre-science in terms of the apparently still-too- theoretical conceptual grasping of 'there is something' being revealed as the hermeneutical structure of life itself toward this intended, indeterminate something. The future as possibility is the future as a darkness, a pregnant nothingness.
  • sign
    245
    I mention in conversation above that Derrida seemed like a negative theologian to me. I also see something like the progress of incarnation in iconoclastic 'atheistic' philosophy. In short the divine that is revealed is us who seek and speak about the divine. Negative theology can be thought of as undoing the alienation in positive theology, completing the positive theology that makes it possible, attaching to it a darkness that completes it.

    'Theology is the critical study of the nature of the divine [my emphasis].'

    To what degree is philosophy in one of its higher aspects a negative theology? 'I know that I know nothing.' Must we interpret this as 'I know that I don't know anything'? Or can know 'the' nothing? If the 'nothing' is the darkness of the other or the darkness of the future, then perhaps one can know it as unknown or as something one is never done finding the words for, perhaps as the something that makes trying to find the words for it possible. Am I a darkness that moves toward the light? Or perhaps a light that moves into the darkness, a torch that wants to see because it knows that it does not know (knows that it knows the nothing as a darkness, perhaps without admitting it.)

    'I know the nothing.' I see a darkness in the heart of the light, its optic nerve. What can I know? What is real? I know that there is a questioning. There are questions. Do questions exist? What a strange question, trailing a narrow conception of existence. Is the existence of questions more controversial than the existence of question marks? What does it mean to use language to seek a reduced form of the real beyond language? For language to ignore itself?

    When I used to object to any kind of 'spiritual' language, I understood this objection in terms of something like the phenomenological project (which I hadn't been exposed to.) Only what I could confirm 'within' was worth considering. I wanted to grasp the basic situation in its truth without the detour of suspicious constructions. One aspect of being critical is indeed the negation of arbitrary constructions. But it occurs to me that there is another aspect of being critical, which is (surprisingly perhaps) a being open. Surely denial is a 'sin' for any thinking that would be critical in its motion toward the valuable and authoritative. Why shouldn't we be just as likely to hobble our thinking with denial as with an inappropriate belief?

    If credulousness sees or pretends to see what is not really there (for the ideal community?), then denial is the refusal to see what is there (its own movement in a shared language toward something like an ideal community?) Since credulousness is so obviously a 'sin' for critical thinking, I focus on denial here.
    A certain kind of philosophy/theology denies or ignores its own movement away from itself toward the world with others who hear, along with a basic sense of its situation that makes that project intelligible.

    I have trafficked in demystification, philosophy as therapy or an under-laborer or garbage man. The question is whether one is honest with one's self about one's investment in this reduced goal. Perhaps saving the world from nonsense and hysteria is itself a hysterical, nonsensical goal. The therapist may grasp a certain falseness in his position. 'There is nothing to see here, folks.' And yet this 'nothing to see' is exactly what apparently needs to be shown (flaunted, advertised, a cause of pride.) 'The secret is that there is no secret.' Nothing is hidden, except the fact that nothing is hidden. Unveiling seems fundamental here. The philosopher unveils, sometimes in the spirit of gift-giving and sometimes in the spirit of law-bringing (ignoring the limits of this distinction to emphasize an 'opening' or 'closing' difference in intention.).
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    I think this 'negative theology' (of Derrida and others) addresses the 'infinity' of the other (not finite, not bounded.) To exist is to be open 'forward' toward the other and the future, the future as other and the other as future. Perhaps negative theology insists on this 'in-' which it attaches to the finite, darkness attached to what has already been successfully unveiled, completing (?) the unveiling by indicating the darkness in or of 'god,' which is perhaps nothing more than the dark place from which we listen and speak. Such 'completion' seems to plunge us back into life and time, into being on the way to an endlessly deferred completion. So it is and it isn't a final word. It is 'proper' to walk into that darkness as darkness, that possibility as indeterminate possibility, the incalculable and therefore genuine future, in which both our death and life wait.

    I mentioned gift-giving versus law-bringing above as two rough kinds of intention. I think this is delicate issue. It's seem easy enough to disguise law-bringing as gift-giving, and we can also think in terms of the unveiled law as a gift. I sometimes doubt my own openness as I stubbornly adhere to my own account of what is 'really' going on. But why should our intentions be more perfectly decidable than the sign or the text? This is more 'incarnation'. The darkness of the other is already there in the 'single' self. Derrida gets into Husserl's retreat to the soliloquy. Husserl has to deny that the self actually communicates with itself, can learn from itself. All such learning must be an illusion, since the self has to be so transparent to itself to no longer need signs and time --if this pure self is going to found a metaphysics of perfect presence of both the 'forms' and the self to the self. Ah, but my own motives are unclear to me. Am I really being open? Or am I imposing one more system ? Am I being phenomenologically 'sinful' by insisting on constructions as genuine phenomena accessible to anyone who'll really check? Should I be reading rather than writing now? Am I lost in vanity when I could be getting my learn on? I am not transparent to myself. I don't know what I will say before I say it.
  • javra
    767
    The question 'what is....?' asks for signs.sign

    I differ here in believing that it asks for meaning ... which is however only conveyable—be it to other or to self—through signs. But to me there is a distinct ontological differentiation between the two.

    There are just so many thinkers to read and only so much time. Let me know if you want me to send you a link to a pdf of S&P. It's about 80 pages and is thought to contain essential Derrida.sign

    Please do; thanks. However, while its likely good background to have, I should confess that I don’t have an aesthetic for Derrida-like philosophy; at least as I so far know. I instead prefer systematic approaches. For instance, regardless of what one makes of it as a body of understanding, I greatly admire Spinoza for attempting to make all his premises explicit for each and every conclusion in his Ethics.

    It’s a personal aesthetic preference and, as is always the case, when we each honestly follow our own individual aesthetic calling—regardless of how much we deviate from the norm in so doing—we each remain aligned to the truth that is us as well as to the truths with which we have yet to be fully acquainted. The aesthetic, after all, being as much an experience of pleasure as it is a calling toward that which is at once familiar and unknown—toward a heart’s home that awaits on the horizon, so to speak. My way of saying: to each of us our own aesthetic preferences and paths.

    But I’ll do my best to read through it as time allows. Thanks again.
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    I differ here in believing that it asks for meaning ... which is however only conveyable—be it to other or to self—through signs. But to me there is a distinct ontological differentiation between the two.javra

    I agree that it asks for a meaning. I guess one of the things I'm getting from Derrida so far is the impossibility of a perfect separation of sign from signified. As I understand it, this perfect separation is something like the heart of metaphysics. A pure meaning perfectly present to an ideal subject, who is so transparent to himself that he doesn't need the signifier anymore. He lives among forms purified of all contaminating sensuality, history, contingency.

    To be clear, I think the distinction (even in its imperfectness) is vital. This imperfect distinction makes the critique of it as imperfect possible in the first place. Perhaps what is at issue is a vision of certain inescapable entanglement of the signified and the signifier, the world and the subject, the reader and the text, and so on. Grasping this entanglement would have value as a kind of loosening up which is also a facing up to our endlessly at-least-a-little ambiguous situation.
  • sign
    245
    , I should confess that I don’t have an aesthetic for Derrida-like philosophy; at least as I so far know. I instead prefer systematic approaches. For instance, regardless of what one makes of it as a body of understanding, I greatly admire Spinoza for attempting to make all his premises explicit for each and every conclusion in his Ethics.javra

    I respect that. I love Hegel. I've had my doubts about Derrida, a kind of resistance to him. I felt the same way about Heidegger. Eventually I was won over in both cases. Derrida has been in the background for me for years, but I'm foregrounding him in a new way. All of these thinkers and blending in my mind. I keep reading one in the light of the others. If I had to pick a center, it might be Hegel. But Hegel is importantly added too or enriched for me by those who came after. (And yet I read them with Hegelian insights. ) Harold Bloom talked about a Shakespearean reading of Freud. That's the kind of thing.

    It’s a personal aesthetic preference and, as is always the case, when we each honestly follow our own individual aesthetic calling—regardless of how much we deviate from the norm in so doing—we each remain aligned to the truth that is us as well as to the truths with which we have yet to be fully acquainted. The aesthetic, after all, being as much an experience of pleasure as it is a calling toward that which is at once familiar and unknown—toward a heart’s home that awaits on the horizon, so to speak. My way of saying: to each of us our own aesthetic preferences and paths.javra

    I very much relate to this. The aesthetic is a call to the heart's home. And there may be a wisdom that draws us on. To find something beautiful and fascinating is to pre-understand its worth. An example: I don't all pretend to have fully understood Hegel or Derrida or any single thinker. Not at all. I respond to a call, read more and think more, and continue to be called back. I find a little more each time, a steady enrichment. In some ways nothing would be worse than getting to the end, knowing everything. That would be a kind of death. I'm tempted to speak of living well in terms of moving toward the call. For me this call must be from out of the dark but promising future. It is 'proper' (authentic, most 'us') for 'futural' beings to move into the future as darkness or pregnant nothingness.
  • javra
    767
    I agree that it asks for a meaning. I guess one of the things I'm getting from Derrida so far is the impossibility of a perfect separation of sign from signified. As I understand it, this perfect separation is something like the heart of metaphysics.sign

    What do you make of words that are at the tip of one’s tongue?

    Here I find a clear example of our awareness of an utterly non-phenomenal meaning—a meaning for which we momentarily do not know the sign for; a meaning which we momentarily cannot re-present. In the pre-Kantian sense of the word, this to me exemplifies our direct apprehension of the noumenal—itself a hidden aspect of all our apprehensions of the phenomenal which hold any type of significance for us. What I'm here aiming to illustrate is the logical possibility that the two are in some way separate and distinct in the here and now—this rather than as a hypothetical potential to be actualized only in some form of absolute state. In other words, though they are almost always intimately entwined, to me the word at the tip of one's tongue illustrates the complete separation between meaning and sign in the form of an experience available to all of us less than ideal subjects.

    And thank you for the link. :grin:
  • sign
    245
    What do you make of words that are at the tip of one’s tongue?javra

    Great question! I relate this to the dark place from which we speak and listen, a kind of 'nothingness' that haunts the 'ideal subject' and makes it impossible. This plunges us into the issue of time, of the 'living' temporality in Husserl and Heidegger, which is not clock time whose institution it makes possible.
  • sign
    245
    a meaning for which we momentarily do not know the sign for; a meaning which we momentarily cannot re-present.javra

    You may a fascinating point. Is this a defense of pure meaning? I can relate. But what's fascinating is our stretching toward this pure meaning. We want to clothe it in signs. Can we possess it without the signs? And do we ever quite possess it even with the signs?

    When I look at language in memory, I have the sense of a 'finite' resolution. Just as the eyes aren't perfect, so I experience meaning to be less than perfectly present and clear. Using the same analogy, I use my imperfect eyesight all the time without noticing its limitations. It's the same with language. But when I check I can experience something like a fading-out. My eyes and my mind can experience a kind of frustration or resistance.
  • sign
    245
    In the pre-Kantian sense of the word, this to me exemplifies our direct apprehension of the noumenal—itself a hidden aspect of all our apprehensions of the phenomenal which hold any type of significance for us. What I'm here aiming to illustrate is the logical possibility that the two are in some way separate and distinct in the here and now—this rather than as a hypothetical potential to be actualized only in some form of absolute state. In other words, though they are almost always intimately entwined, to me the word at the tip of one's tongue illustrates the complete separation between meaning and sign in the form of an experience available to all of us less than ideal subjects.javra

    I like the sound of this but I haven't quite grasped the first part. I like the 'noumenal' as a hidden aspect of all our apprehensions. I am open to greater and lesser separations of the signified from the signifier. We have to have some experience of this to install the distinction. And I suppose the mind is full of images too. So I will definitely confess the limits of the idea that perfect separation is impossible. I suppose that even this limited version of the theory would still be useful for bringing us to the awareness of how intertwined the meaning and the sign usually are.
  • javra
    767
    I follow that. I'd only add that many of a more literal mindset have problems with the term "nothingness"; rather than interpreting it as "no-thing-ness" they can only comprehend it as unbeing, or an absolute lack of presence. Using this figure of speech led me to a whole bunch of problems a long time ago. But whatever works in getting the meaning conveyed.

    Is this a defense of pure meaning?sign

    Yes.

    Can we possess it without the signs?sign

    To keep things simple, in a word on the tip of one's tongue, one knows exactly what one wants to say, so the meaning is possessed without the sign. Its just that one can't express it to anyone other or to oneself.

    And do we ever quite possess it even with the signs?sign

    I believe in certain, if not most all, cases we very much do so. I'd say that when we name an abstraction (e.g., world, or animal) we possess the meaning via the name. This, naturally, after we've associated the required meaning with what the name logically necessitates (e.g., neither rocks nor plants can be animals).

    To me, part of the complexity is in that different people create and project different meanings that yet correspond to the same sign used to convey meaning. As example, for one person, "animal" more or less means non-human mammal, whereas for those who are more scientifically inclined it will include sponges, insects, fish, birds, etc., and humans as well. Here, the same sign holds two different, though overlapping, meanings.
  • sign
    245
    I follow that. I'd only add that many of a more literal mindset have problems with the term "nothingness"; rather than interpreting it as "no-thing-ness" they can only comprehend it as unbeing, or an absolute lack of presence. Using this figure of speech led me to a whole bunch of problems a long time ago. But whatever works in getting the meaning conveyed.javra

    Good point. Yeah, Heidegger famously got himself mocked for his nothing that nothings. The poetic phrases are bad in that they can confuse but good in that they try to share the emotional charge.

    I believe in certain, if not most all, cases we very much do so. I'd say that when we name an abstraction (e.g., world, or animal) we possess the meaning via the name. This, naturally, after we've associated the required meaning with what the name logically necessitates (e.g., neither rocks nor plants can be animals).javra

    I agree with this. What I had in mind is the nature of this possession. What is it to think the idea of a tree? Of course we 'know.' We can have the experience right now. I vaguely picture a tree. I imagine typical uses of the word 'tree' in sentences. How does it sit in my mind when plucked from the flow of using it unselfconsciously?

    What I have in mind is something like a stream of experience with a certain elusiveness for itself.
  • javra
    767
    I agree with this. What I had in mind is the nature of this possession. What is it to think the idea of a tree? Of course we 'know.' We can have the experience right now. I vaguely picture a tree. I imagine typical uses of the word 'tree' in sentences. How does it sit in my mind when plucked from the flow of using it unselfconsciously?sign

    I'm not claiming these are easy questions to answer, but to me the key to obtaining answers is found in interpreting all meaning as complex relations of values. Among the most basic are those of positive valency (attraction toward) and negative valency (repulsion from). It's the relevancy something holds to the individual. But buried somewhere in all this is a parallel belief in some forms of universality as it applies to experience, regardless of the individual. This being what makes meaning communicable via signs.

    My laconic answer is then: to think the idea of a tree is to noumenally apprehend (with or without imagined phenomena) the value of a tree in relation to oneself, which would include its value in relation to its environmental context(s) as one is aware of them.

    What I have in mind is something like a stream of experience with a certain elusiveness for itself.sign

    I'm not sure if what I said addresses this. Could you elaborate if I misinterpreted?
  • sign
    245
    Among the most basic are those of positive valency (attraction toward) and negative valency (repulsion from). It's the relevancy something holds to the individual. But buried somewhere in all this is a parallel belief in some forms of universality as it applies to experience, regardless of the individual. This being what makes meaning communicable via signs.javra

    I very much agree with you here. This kind of thing is beautifully addressed in Towards the Definition of Philosophy (early and 'breakthrough' Heidegger). 'It values' What is philosophy after? 'Who' is philosophy? Is philosophy ever really just lonely old me? Is truth intelligible apart from others?

    The philosopher as person strives toward a kind of impersonality as the height of his own personality. Maybe I am creative, say something new. But I say it not only for myself (when I strive toward philosophy or truth). Why is the unveiling of truth valuable? I have a sense that these questions will activate in some a sort of allergy to anything eerie, but I don't have a kind of heavenly machinery in mind. What I mean is something like the 'I' who uses language is not exactly an 'I.' The subject that speaks this theoretical fiction of the subject is already plural in some sense, already speaking 'outward.' I don't possess the signs. I think in a language that is already open to others, perhaps as open to them as it is to me. I have to interpret my past self like one more text that is outside me (albeit with the help of memory.)
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