Notes for Derrida Of (De la) Grammatology
Key concepts: abbreviation of signs, active forgetfulness, arche-writing, auto-affection, bricolage, consciousness, decentering, death of the festival, deconstruction of presence, differance, episteme, eschatological parousia, grammatology, gramme, grapheme, graphie, hinge, idealization, instrumentalism, interiority of exteriority, jouissance, logical time of consciousness, logocentrism, metaphor, neume, pharmakon, phoneme, phonocentrism, phonologism, sound-image, subject, supplementarity, transcendental signified, trace, under erasure, writing, writing by furrows.
Related theorists: Condillac, de Saussure, Descartes, Freud, Hayles, Hegel, Heidegger, Husserl, Landow, Levi-Strauss, Manovich, Nietzsche, Plato, Rousseau, Spivak, Warburton.
Looking at the Contents page of the English translation by <noun> apparently divides the work of Derrida and others, despite the lxxxix page number for the Preface.
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
(ix) Derrida's first book was a
translation of Edmund Husserl's “Origin of Geometry,” with a long
(x) Any prefatory gesture, abstracting so-called themes, robs philosophy of its self-moving structure.
(xii) Any preface commemorates that difference in identity by inserting itself between two readings.
(xiii) And if the assumption of responsibility for one's discourse leads to the conclusion that all conclusions are genuinely provisional and therefore inconclusive, that all origins are similarly unoriginal, that responsibility itself must cohabit with frivolity, this need not be cause for gloom. Derrida contrasts Rousseau's melancholy with Nietzsche's affirmative joy precisely from this angle.
(xiv) “sous rature,” which I translate as “under erasure.” This is to write a word, cross it out, and then print both word and deletion.
(xiv) Derrida directs us to Martin Heidegger's Zur Seinsfrage as the “authority” for this strategically important practice.
(xv) “Being” is the master-word that Heidegger crosses out. Derrida does not reject this. But his word is “trace” (the French word carries strong implications of track, footprint, imprint), a word that cannot be a master-word, that presents itself as the mark of an anterior presence, origin, master. For “trace” on can substitute “arche-writing”, or “differance,” or in fact quite a few other words that Derrida uses in the same way.
(xvi) But, in a certain way, he also sets up Being as what Derrida calls the “transcendental signified.”
(xvi-xvii) we would notice that there is no necessary reason why a particular sound should be identical with a “thought or thing”; and that the argument applies even when one “speaks” silently to oneself. Saussure was accordingly obliged to point out that the phonic signifier is as conventional as the graphic.
(xvii) The structure of the sign is determined by the trace or track of that other which is forever absent.
(xvii) Derrida, then, gives the name “trace” to the part played by the radically other within the structure of difference that is the sign.
(xvii) we begin to see how Derrida's notion of “sous rature” differs from that of Heidegger's. Heidegger's Being [crossed out] might point at an inarticulable presence. Derrida's trace [crossed out] is the mark of the absence of a presence, an always already absent presence, of the lack at the origin that is the condition of thought and experience.
(xviii) It is the strategy of using the only available language while not subscribing to its premises, or “operating according to the vocabulary of the very thing that one delimits.”
(xviii) There is some similarity between this strategy and what Levi-Strauss calls bricolage in La pensee sauvage.
(xix) Levi-Strauss contrasts the bricoleur to the engineer. . . . The anthropologist must tinker because, at least a Levi-Strauss argues in Le cru et le cuit, it is in fact impossible for him to master the whole field. Derrida, by an important contrast, suggests that the field is theoretically, not merely empirically, unknowable.
(xix) For Derrida, then, the concept of the “engineer” “questioning the universe” is, like Hegel's father-text encompassing the son-preface, or Heidegger's Being as transcendental signified, “a theological idea,” an idea that we need to fulfill our desire for plenitude and authority.
(xx) All knowledge, whether one knows it or not, is a species of bricolage, with its eye on the myth of “engineering.”
(xx) This undoing yet preserving of the opposition between bricolage and engineering is an analogue for Derrida's attitude toward all oppositions - an attitude that “erases” (in this special sense) all oppositions.
(xxi) his acknowledged “precursors” - Nietzsche, Freud, Heidegger, Husserl.
(xxiii) As Nietzsche suggests, this need for power through anthropomorphic defining compels humanity to create an unending proliferation of interpretations whose only “origin,” that shudder in the nerve strings, being a direct sign of nothing, leads to no primary signified.
(xxiv) it is possible to discover an affinity between Derrida's practice in Of Grammatology and Nietzsche's interpretation of value systems as infinite textuality.
(xxiv) The “subject” is a unified concept and therefore the result of “interpretation.”
(xxviii) If one is always bound by one's perspective, one can at least deliberately reverse perspectives as often as possible, in the process undoing opposed perspectives, showing that the two terms of an opposition are merely accomplices of each other.
(xxix) Nietzsche's undoing of opposites is a version of Derrida's practice of undoing them through the concept of “differance.”
(xxix) Perhaps Nietzsche's greatest insight in the face of the inescapable boundary is an exhortation to the will to ignorance.
(xxx) This imprudence, constantly attempting to bypass the prudence of stabilizing through “interpretation,” is amor fati, the love of what Derrida calls “the game of chance with necessity, of contingency with law.”
(xxx) It [knowledge] is a vertiginous movement that can go on indefinitely or, to use Nietzschean language, return eternally. This precarious “forgetfulness,” “active forgetfulness,” is what Derrida emphasizes in Nietzsche's Over-man.
(xxxii) What Nietzsche's style brings off here is, to borrow a Derridean pun, what the stylus performs when, in the gesture of “sous rature,” it deletes and leaves legible at the same time.
(xxxiii) It is as if Derrida discovers his Nietzsche through and against Heidegger.
(xxxiii) Heidegger develops a thoroughly coherent reading of Nietzsche and reminds us again and again that to consider Nietzsche incoherent is simply not to grasp that his master-question is the same as that of all Western metaphysics: “What is the being of the entity?” It is as if Heidegger, philosopher of that special nostalgia for the original word, resolutely refuses to recognize that Nietzsche's consistency is established by virtue of an active forgetfulness the conditions for which are also inscribed in the Nietzschean text.
(xxxiv) For him, Nietzsche remains a metaphysician who asks the question of being, but does not question the questioning itself!
(xxxv) Derrida thinks there might be profit in pushing through a rigorously Heideggerian reading of Nietzsche - a reading that would develop into its ultimate coherence the Nietzsche who actively forgets the terrible text of his own “knowledge.” At the limit such a reading would break open, “its form re-cover its absolute strangeness, and his text finally invoke another type of reading.”
(xxxv) Derrida's own critique of Heidegger on Nietzsche - “La Question du style” seems to move around an apparently unimportant moment in the Heideggerian text. The strategy of deconstruction, as we shall see later, often fastens upon such a small but tell-tale moment.
(xxxv-xxxvi) Derrida's careful reading disengages a more complex collection of attitudes toward woman. Derrida breaks them into three and suggests that each Nietzschean attitude is contiguous with a psychoanalytical “position” - a modality of the subject's relationship with the object.
(xxxviii) Derrida does not look a psychoanalysis as a particular or “regional” discipline, but a way of reading that unscrambles “the founding concept-words of ontology, of being in its privilege.” For his purposes, in other words, it is not a science that necessarily provides a correct picture of the psychic norm and prescribes cures for the abnormal, but rather teaches, through its own use thereof, a certain method of deciphering any text.
(xxxix) Something that carries within itself the trace of a perennial alterity: the structure of the psyche, the structure of the sign. To this structure Derrida gives the name “writing.” . . . The sign must be studied “under erasure,” always already inhabited by the trace of another sign which never appears as such.
(xxxix-xl) “Writing,” then, is the name of the structure always already inhabited by the trace. This is a broader concept than the empirical concept of writing, which denotes an intelligible system of notations on a material substance. This broadening, Derrida feels, is accomplished by Freud's use of the metaphor of writing to describe both the content and the machinery of the psyche. . . . What we think of as “perception” is always already an inscription. . . . In the “Note,” Freud undermines that primary bastion of selfhood - the continuity of time-perception - both more boldly and more tentatively; our sense of the continuity of time is a function of the discontinuous periodicity of the perceptual machine and, indeed, a perception of nothing more than the working of that machine. . . . Thus, within the Freudian thematics of the psyche, perception is an “originary inscription.”
(xli) Nietzsche puts “knowing” under erasure; Freud “the psyche,” and Hiedegger, explicitly, “Being.” As I have argued, the name of this gesture effacing the presence of a thing and yet keeping it legible, in Derrida's lexicon, is “writing,” - the gesture that both frees us from and guards us within, the metaphysical enclosure.
(xlii) Freud has dismantled the sovereignty of the self; his topographical description allows him to suggest the production of that self in the structuring of the text of the psyche.
(xlii) The notion of an “economic” presentation of a mental process is pertinent to a reading of Derrida.
(xlii) Economy is not a reconciliation of opposites, but rather a maintaining of disjunction.
(xliii) Relating this delaying mechanism to the economy of opposites, Derrida writes: “Following a schema that continually guides Freud's thinking, the movement of the trace is described as an effort of life to protect itself by deferring the dangerous investment, by constituting a reserve. And all the conceptual oppositions that furrow Freudian thought relate each concept to the other like movements of a detour, within the economy of difference. The one is only the other deferred, the one differing from the other.”
(xliii) This passage is taken from the essay “La difference.” It emphasizes the presence of Freud in the articulation of what comes close to becoming Derrida's master-concept - “differance” spelled with an “a.” . . . This difference - being the structure (a structure never quite there, never by us perceived, itself deferred and different) of our psyche - is also the structure of “presence,” a term itself under erasure.
(xliii) Since the difference between “difference” and “differance” is inaudible, this “neographism” reminds us of the importance of writing as a structure.
(xliii-xliv) In “La difference,” Derrida relates the thought of difference to Nietzsche, Freud, and Heidegger. But he seems most moved by the Freudian breakthrough. The disjunction between perception and the permanent trace seems to make thought itself a difference of perception.
(xliv) His text became the violent and deliberate playground of difference. Freud allowed Derrida to think that the philosophic move did not necessarily require a Nietzschean violence.
(xlv) Differance/writing/trace as a structure is no less than a prudent articulation of the Nietzschean play of knowledge and forgetfulness.
(xlv-xlvi) Derrida is fascinated by Freud's notion that dreams may treat “words” as “things.” . . . in Glas, where the individual phonemes/graphemes constituting words are often evoked out into an independent dance. Derrida pushes through to an extreme Freud's own method of attending to the “syntax” of a dream text.
(xlvi) In The Interpretation of Dreams, he lists the four techniques employed by the dream-work of the psychic apparatus to distort or “refract” the dream-thought (psychic content) to produce the pictographic script of the dream: condensation, displacement, considerations of representability, and secondary vision.
(xlvi) Freud suggests further that where the subject is not in control of the text, where the text looks super-smooth or superclumsy, is where the reader should fix his gaze, so that he does not merely read but deciphers the text. . . . At that point there is a tangle of dream-thoughts [navel] . . . Derrida's “advance” on Freud . . . if, however, we have nothing vested in the putative identity of the text or dream, that passage is where we can provisionally locate the text's moment of transgressing the laws it apparently sets up for itself, and thus unravel - deconstruct - the very text.
(xlvii) Derrida urges the importance, for grammatology, of a psychoanalysis that has freed itself from an attitude that sees all textuality as a dispensable source of substantive evidence.
(xlvii) the institution of grammatology through the recognition of systematic “repression” of writing throughout the history of the West cannot be taken as a psychoanalytic endeavor on a macrocosmic scale.
(xlviii-xlix) Heidegger already points toward the relationship between his own, and the grammatological methods, by ignoring, in his practice or reading, the absolute authority of the text. . . . (It is interesting to note that, in the first published version of De la grammatologie, Derrida uses the word “destruction” in place of “deconstruction.”)
Spivak: questions for texts and technology on deconstructive reading exposing grammatological structures of texts: is it the text or the authors ignorance; what of slips of the keyboard, and that which is covered over by error correction tools; can these slips be automatically detected?
(xlix) The deconstructive reader
exposes the grammatological structure of the text, that is “origin”
and its “end” are given over to language in general (what Freud
would call “the unknown world of thought”), by locating the
moment in the text which harbors the unbalancing of the equation, the
sleight of hand at the limit of a text which cannot be dismissed
simply as a contradiction. In the Grammatology's
reading of Rousseau, this “moment” is the double-edged word
“supplement.” In La pharmacie de Platon,
it is the double-edged word “pharmakon” as
well as the absence of the word “pharmakos.”
In Derrida's brief reading of Aristotle's Physics
it is the unemphatic word “ama,”
carrying the burden of difference.
(xlix-l) One important difference between Heidegger and Derrida lies in their concepts of time. . . . Time is still the model of pure auto-affection, where something ideal - Being as such - is produced without having to relate to an object. . . . But time itself seems more effectively crossed out for Derrida through the Freudian suggestion that time is the discontinuous perception of the psychic machinery.
(l) All three proto-grammatologues. Nietzsche a philosopher who cut away the grounds of knowing. Freud a psychologist who put the psyche in question. Heidegger an ontologist who but Being under erasure. It was for Derrida to “produce” their intrinsic power and “discover” grammatology, the science of the “sous rature.” That sleight of hand is contained in the name itself, “the logos of the gramme.” The gramme is the written mark, the name of the sign “sous rature.” “Logos” is at one extreme “law” and at the other “phone” - the voice. As we have seen, the gramme would question the authority of the law, deconstruct the privilege of the spoken word. The word “Grammatology” thus appropriately keeps alive an unresolved contradiction.
(li) Yet one might wonder if the thought of “writing” in Derrida is not a sort of answer to the question of “geometry” in Husserl.
(li) Husserl surrounds this idea of difference with a constituting subject, a subject that generates and is therefore the absolute origin of the structure of difference.
(lii) One of Husserl's most original insights is that speech can be genuine without “knowledge,” that the relation with the object that “animates the body of the signifier” need not be “known” by the speaker or hearer through direct intuition.
(liii) Derrida “produces” an ostensibly most anti-Husserlian reading of Husserl: for Husserl, as we have seen, the voice - not empirical speech but the phenomenological structure of the voice - is the most immediate evidence of self-presence. In that silent interior monologue, where no alien material signifier need be introduced, pure self-communication (auto-affection) is possible. Derrida shows that, if Husserlian theory is followed rigorously, a procedure Husserl himself seems unwilling to undertake, the structure of speech or voice is seen to be constituted by the necessary absence of both the object and the subject. It is constituted, in other words, by the structure of writing.
Derrida's preface starts here.
(lxxxix) The first part of the book, “Writing before the Letter,” sketches in broad outlines a theoretical matrix. It indicates certain significant historical moments, and proposes certain critical concepts.
Is there any point in reading Derrida without Rousseau, noting irony that Wikipedia notes in the preface to this would-be volume Rousseau wrote that the Essay was originally meant to be included in the Discourse on Inequality but was omitted because it, was too long and out of place, and a frightening web site is reached using Google to find this text, what appears to be a fee-based aid for writing essays on particular topics. (www.exampleessays.com/viewpaper/36870.html)
(lxxxix) These critical concepts are put to the test in the second part, “Nature, Culture, Writing.” This is the moment, as it were, of the example, although strictly speaking, that notion is not acceptable within my argument. . . . It is a question of a reading of what may perhaps be called the “age” of Rousseau. A reading merely outlined; considering the need for such an analysis, the difficulty of the problems, and the nature of my project, I have felt justified in selecting a short and little-known tract, the Essay on the Origin of Languages. I shall have to explain the privileged place I give to that work. . . . reading should free itself, at least in its axis, from the classical categories of history - not only from the categories of the history of ideas and the history of literature but also, and perhaps above all, from the categories of the history of philosophy.
Writing before the Letter
Grammatology seeks to liberate thinking from ethnocentrism of logocentrism controlling concept of writing, metaphysics, and science.
This triple exergue is intended not only to focus attention on the
everywhere and always, had controlled the concept of writing. . . .
. . controlling in one and the same order:
concept of writing .
. . 2. the
history of (the
. . 3. the
concept of science.
(4) By alluding to a science of writing reined in by metaphor, metaphysics, and theology, this exergue must not only announce that the science of writing - grammatology - shows signs of liberation all over the world, as a result of decisive efforts. . . . The idea of science and the idea of writing - therefore also of the science of writing - is meaningful for us only in terms of an origin and within a world to which a certain concept of the sign (later I shall call it the concept of sign) and a certain concept of the relationships between speech and writing, have already been assigned.
(4-5) the wanderings of a way of thinking that is faithful and attentive to the ineluctable world of the future which proclaims itself at present, beyond the closure of knowledge. . . . For that future world and for that within it which will have put into question the values of sign, word, and writing, for that which guides our future anterior, there is as yet no exergue.
The End of the Book and the Beginning of
(6) Socrates, he who does not write – Nietzsche
(6) This inflation of the sign “language” is the inflation of the sign itself, absolute inflation, inflation itself.
Gramme/grapheme is the basic element/unit revealed by grammatology, not to be ousted by cybernetics until is historico-metaphysical character is exposed.
If the theory of cybernetics
by itself to oust all metaphysical concepts - including the concepts
of soul, of life, of value, of choice, of memory - which until
recently served to separate the machine from man, it must conserve
the notion of writing, trace, gramme [written mark], or grapheme,
until its own historico-metaphysical character is also exposed. Even
before being determined as human (with all the distinctive
characteristics that have always been attributed to man and the
entire system of significations that they imply) or nonhuman, the
or the grapheme
would thus name the element.
(10) But beyond theoretical mathematics, the development of the practical methods of information retrieval extends the possibilities of the “message” vastly, to the point where it is no longer the “written” translation of a language, the transporting of a signified which could remain spoken in its integrity.
The Signifier and Truth
(11) As has been more or less implicitly determined, the essence of the phone would be immediately proximate to that which within “thought” as logos relates to “meaning,” produces it, receives it, speaks it, “composes” it.
Logocentrism also phonocentrism.
This notion remains therefore within the heritage of that
logocentrism which is also a phonocentrism:
absolute proximity of voice and being, of voice and the meaning of
being of voice and the ideality of meaning.
(13) The difference between signified and signifier belongs in a profound and implicit way to the totality of the great epoch covered by the history of metaphysics, and in a more explicit and more systematically articulated way to the narrower epoch of Christian creationism and infinitism when these appropriate the resources of Greek conceptuality.
Paradox that natural writing is named by a metaphor, and all we have is fallen writing, the dead letter (Phaedrus).
all that functions as metaphor in
these discourses confirms the privilege of the logos and founds the
“literal” meaning then given to writing: a sign signifying a
signifier itself signifying an eternal verity, eternally thought and
spoken in the proximity of a present logos. The paradox to which
attention must be paid is this: natural and universal writing,
intelligible and nontemporal writing, is thus named by metaphor.
(15) As in the Phaedrus, a certain fallen writing continues to be opposed to it. There remains to be written a history of this metaphor, a metaphor that systematically contrasts divine or natural writing and the human and laborious, finite and artificial inscription.
(17) Writing in the common sense is the dead letter, it is the carrier of death. It exhausts life. On the other hand, on the other face of the same proposition, writing in the metaphoric sense, natural, divine, and living writing, is venerated; it is equal in dignity to the origin of value, to the voice of conscience as divine law, to the heart, to sentiment, and so forth.
(17) Natural writing is immediately united to the voice and to breath. Its nature is not grammatological but pneumatological.
(18) The idea of the book, which always refers to a natural totality, is profoundly alien to the sense of writing. It is the encyclopedic protection of theology and of logocentrism against the disruption of writing, against its aphoristic energy, and, as I shall specify later, against difference in general.
The Written Being / The Being
(19) One cannot get around that response, except by challenging the very form of the question and beginning to think that the sign is [crossed out] that ill-name thing [crossed out], the only one, that escapes the instituting question of philosophy: “what is . . .?”
(19-20) Reading, and therefore writing, the text were for Nietzsche “originary” operations. . . . There has to be a transcendental signified for the difference between signifier and signified to be somewhere absolute and irreducible. . . . The word “being,” or at any rate the words designating the sense of being in different languages, is, with some others, an “originary word” (“Urwort”), the transcendental word assuring the possibility of being-word to all other words.
(22-23) nothing escapes the movement of the signifier and that, in the last instance, the difference between signified and signifier is nothing. . . . Western metaphysics, as the limitation of the sense of being within the field of presence, is produced as the domination of a linguistic form. To question the origin of that domination does not amount to hypostatizing a transcendental signified, but to a questioning of what constitutes our history and what produced transcendentality itself.
Writing is forgetting of the self, exteriorization, in contrast to interiorizing memory.
Writing is that forgetting of the self, that exteriorization, the
contrary of the interiorizing memory, of the Erinnerung
opens the history of the spirit. It is this that the Phaedrus
writing is at once mnemotechnique and the power of forgetting.
Naturally, the Hegelian critique of writing stops at the alphabet. As
phonetic writing, the alphabet is at the same time more servile, more
contemptible, more secondary . . . but it is also the best writing,
the mind's writing.
(26) Nonphonetic writing breaks the noun apart. It describes relations and not appellations.
Linguistics and Grammatology
(27) Writing is nothing but the representation of speech; it is bizarre that one gives more care to the determining of the image than to the object. - J. J. Rousseau, Fragment inedit d'un essai sur les langues
(27) The science of writing should therefore look for its object at the roots of scientificity.
(29) The science of linguistics determines language - its field of objectivity - in the last instance and in the irreducible simplicity of its essence, as the unity of the phone, the glossa, and the logos.
The Outside and the Inside
(32) In effect Saussure limits the number of systems of writing to two, both defined as system of representation and oral language, either representing words in a synthetic and global manner, or representing phonetically the elements of sounds constituting words.
(34-35) Writing would thus have the exteriority that one attributes to utensils; to what is even an imperfect tool and a dangerous, almost maleficent, technique. . . . It is not a simple analogy: writing, the letter, the sensible inscription, has always been considered by Western tradition as the body and matter external to the spirit, to breath, to speech, and to the logos. And the problem of soul and body is no doubt derived from the problem of writing from which it seems - conversely - to borrow its metaphors.
(35) Thus a science of language must recover the natural - that is, the simple and original - relationships between speech and writing, that is, between an inside and an outside.
Language is writing, inverting speech to be its speculum.
What is intolerable and fascinating is indeed the intimacy
intertwining image and thing, graph,
and phone, to the point where by a mirroring,
inverting, and perverting effect, speech seems in its turn the
speculum of writing, which “manages to usurp the main role.” . .
. There is an originary violence of writing because language is
first, in a sense I shall gradually reveal, writing.
(39) That a speech supposedly alive can lend itself to spacing in its own writing is what relates it originarily to its own death.
(40) The empty symbolism of the written notation - in mathematical technique for example - is also for Husserlian intuitionism that which exiles us far from the clear evidence of the sense, that is to say from the full presence of the signified in its truth, and thus opens the possibility of crisis. This is indeed a crisis of the logos.
Logocentrism as epoch of full speech suppresses reflection on origin and status of writing, leaning on mythology of natural writing, preventing Saussure from determining integral and concrete object of linguistics.
(43) This logocentrism, the epoch of the full speech, has always placed in parenthesis, suspended, and suppressed for essential reasons, all free reflection on the origin and status of writing, all science of writing which was not technology and the history of a technique, itself leaning upon a mythology and a metaphor of a natural writing. It is this logocentrism which, limiting the internal system of language in general by a bad abstraction, prevents Saussure and the majority of his successors from determining fully and explicitly that which is called “the integral and concrete object of linguistics.”
The Outside Is [crossed
out] the Inside
(46) Even before it is linked to incision, engraving, drawing, or the letter, to a signifier referring in general to a signifier signified by it, the concept of the graphie [unit of a possible graphic system] implies the framework of the instituted trace, as the possibility common to all systems of signification.
(47) In Saussurian language, what Saussure does not say would have to be said: there is neither symbol nor sign but a becoming-sign of the symbol.
We think only in signs according to Saussure.
From the moment that this is meaning there are nothing but signs. We
think only in signs.
(51) Science of “the arbitrariness of the sign,” science of the immotivation of the trace, science of writing before speech and in speech, grammatology would thus cover a vast field within which linguistics would, by abstraction, delineate its own area, with the limits that Saussure prescribes to its internal system and which must be carefully reexamined in each speech/writing system in the world and history.
(51) By a substitution which would be anything but verbal, one may replace semiology by grammatology in the program of the Course in General Linguistics . . . . It will liberate the semiological project itself from what, in spite of its greater theoretical extension, remained governed by linguistics, organized as if linguistics were at once its center and its telos. . . . The linguistic sign remained exemplary for semiology, it dominated it as the master-sign and as the generative model: the pattern.
(52) Let us ask in a more intrinsic and concrete way, how language is not merely a sort of writing, “comparable to a system or writing” - Saussure writes curiously - but a species of writing.
Pure trace is difference, conditioning plenitude, permitting articulation of speech and writing; cannot be described by metaphysics.
(62-63) The (pure) trace is difference. It does not depend on any sensible plenitude, audible or visible, phonic or graphic. It is, on the contrary, the condition of such a plenitude. Although it does not exist, although it is never a being-present outside of all plenitude, its possibility is by rights anterior to all that one calls sign (signified/signifier, content/expression, etc.), concept or operation, motor or sensory. . . . It permits the articulation of speech and writing - in the colloquial sense - as it founds the metaphysical opposition between the sensible and the intelligible, then between signifier and signified, expression and content, etc. . . . Of course, the positive sciences of signification can only describe the work and the fact of difference, the determined differences and the determined presences that they make possible.
Sound-image is what is heard.
what is heard;
not the sound
but the being-heard of the sound. Being-heard is structurally
phenomenal and belongs to an order radically dissimilar to that of
the real sound in the world.
(63) Now the “sound-image,” the structured appearing of the sound, the “sensory matter” lived and informed by difference, what Husserl would name the hyle/morphe structure, distinct from all mundane reality, is called the “psychic image” by Saussure.
(65) The trace is the difference which opens appearance and signification. Articulating the living upon the nonliving in general, origin of all repetition, origin of ideality, the trace is not more ideal than real, not more intelligible than sensible, not more a transparent signification than an opaque energy and no concept of metaphysics can describe it. And as it is a fortiori anterior to the distinction between regions of sensibility, anterior to sound as much as to light, is there a sense in establishing a “natural” hierarchy between the sound-imprint, for example, and the visual (graphic) imprint?
(67) It is the problem of the deferred effect (Nachtraglichkeit) of which Freud speaks.
Consider Freud dreamwork: Derrida goal is to make our immediate understanding of presence enigmatic by deconstruction of consciousness.
spacing cannot occur as
the phenomenological experience of a presence.
It marks the
dead time within
the presence of the living present, within the general form of all
(68) Perhaps it is now easier to understand why Freud says of the dreamwork that it is comparable rather to a writing than to a language, and to a hieroglyphic rather than to a phonetic writing.
(70-71) To make enigmatic what one thinks one understands by the words “proximity,” “immediacy,” “presence” (the proximate, the own, and the pre- of presence), is my final intention in this book. This deconstruction of presence accomplishes itself through the deconstruction of consciousness, and therefore through the irreducible notion of the trace (Spur), as it appears in both Nietzschean and Freudian discourse. And finally, in all scientific fields, notably in biology, this notion seems currently to be dominant and irreducible.
(71-72) If the trace, arche-phenomenon of “memory,” which must be thought before the opposition of nature and culture, animality and humanity, etc., belongs to the very movement of signification, then signification is a priori written, whether inscribed or not, in one form or another, in a “sensible” and “spatial” element that is called “exterior.” Arche-writing, at first the possibility of the spoken word, then of the “graphie” in the narrow sense, the birthplace of “usurpation,” denounced from Plato to Saussure, this trace is the opening of the first exteriority in general, the enigmatic relationship of the living to its other and of an inside to an outside: spacing. The outside, “spatial” and “objective” exteriority which we believe we know as the most familiar thing in the world, as familiarity itself, would not appear without the gramme, without difference as temporalization, without the nonpresence of the other inscribed within the sense of the present, without the relationship with death as the concrete structure of the living present.
Signified always already in position of the signifier.
(73) That the signified is originarily and essentially (and not only for a finite and created spirit) trace, that it is always already in the position of the signifier, is the apparently innocent proposition within which the metaphysics of the logos, of presence and consciousness, must reflect upon writing as its death and its resource.
Of Grammatology as a Positive Science
(74) On what conditions is a grammatology possible? Its fundamental condition is certainly the undoing [sollicitation] of logocentrism. But this condition of possibility turns into a condition of impossibility. In fact it risks destroying the concept of science as well. Graphematics or grammatography ought no longer to be presented as sciences; their goal should be exorbitant when compared to grammatological knowledge.
(74) On the condition of knowing what writing is and how the plurivocity of this concept is formed. . . . from the trace to the graphie.
(74) the questions of origin carry with them a metaphysics of presence.
(74-75) But the question of origin is at first confounded with the question of essence. It may just as well be said that it presupposes an onto-phenomenological question in the strict sense of that term. One must know what writing is in order to ask - knowing what one is talking about and what the question is - where and when writing begins. . . . Without venturing up to the perilous necessity of the question on the arche-question “what is,” let us take shelter in the field of grammatological knowledge.
Algebra: Arcanum and
(76) In all its forms, overt or covert, this theologism, which is actually something other and more than prejudice, constituted the major obstacle to all grammatology. . . . The history of the alphabet is accepted only after recognizing the multiplicity of the systems of script and after assigning a history to them, whether or not one is in the position to determine it scientifically.
(79) Within a certain historical epoch, there is a profound unity among infinitist theology, logocentrism, and a certain technicism. The originary and pre- or meta-phonetic writing that I am attempting to conceive of here leads to nothing less than an “overtaking” of speech by the machine.
Overtaking of speech by the machine is the technicism of our epoch.
(81) The greatest difficulty was already to conceive, in a manner at once historical and systematic, the organized cohabitation, within the same graphic code, of figurative, symbolic, abstract, and phonetic elements.
Science and the Name of Man
(82) This instrumentalism is implicit everywhere. Nowhere is it as systematically formulated, with all the attendant consequences, as by Marcel Cohen: Language being an “instrument,” writing is the “extension to an instrument.” The exteriority of writing to speech, of speech to thought, of the signifier to the signified in general, could not be described better.
(83) Not only does the theory of writing need an intrascientific and epistemological liberation, analogous to the one brought about by Freet and Warburton, without touching the layers of which we speak there. Now a reflection must clearly be undertaken, within which the “positive” discovery and the “deconstruction” of the history of metaphysics, in all its concepts, are controlled reciprocally, minutely, laboriously. Without this, any epistemological liberation would risk being illusory or limited, proposing merely practical conveniences or notional simplifications on bases that are untouched by criticism.
(83) What seems to announce itself now is, on the one hand, that grammatology must not be one of the sciences of man and, on the other hand, that it must not be just one regional science among others.
(84) But one cannot think them without the most general concept of the gramme. That is irreducible and impregnable. If the expression ventured by Leroi-Gourhan is accepted, one could speak of a “liberation of memory,” of an exteriorization always already begun but always larger than the trace which, beginning from the elementary programs of so-called “instinctive” behavior up to the constitution of electronic card-indexes and reading machines, enlarges difference and the possibility of putting in reserve: it at once and in the same movement constitutes and effaces so-called conscious subjectivity, its logos, and its theological attributes.
(85) A war was declared, and a suppression of all that resisted linearization was installed. And first of what Leroi-Gourhan calls the “mythogram,” a writing that spells its symbols pluri-dimensionally; there the meaning is not subjected to successivity, to the order of a logical time, or to the irreversible temporality of sound.
War suppressing resistances to linearization; pluri-dimensional mythogram, for example: relate to suspicion by Mcgann of OHCO textuality thesis.
(86) these limits came into being at the same time as the possibility of what they limited, they opened what they finished and we have already named them: discreteness, difference, spacing. The production of the linear norm thus emphasized these limits and marked the concepts of symbol and language. . . . If one allows that the linearity of language entails this vulgar and mundane concept of temporality (homogeneous, dominated by the form of the now and the ideal of continuous movement, straight or circular) which Heidegger shows to be the intrinsic determining concept of all ontology from Aristotle to Hegel, the meditation upon writing and the deconstruction of the history of philosophy become inseparable.
End of linear writing is end of the book.
The end of linear writing is indeed the end of the book, even if,
even today, it is within the form of a book that new writings -
literary or theoretical - allow themselves to be, for better or for
worse, encased. It is less a question of confiding new writings to
the envelope of a book than of finally reading what wrote itself
between the lines in the volumes.
(87) The meta-rationality or the meta-scientificity which are thus announced within the meditation upon writing can therefore be no more shut up within a science of man than conform to the traditional idea of science. In one and the same gesture, they leave man, science, and the line behind.
The Rebus and the Complicity of
(88) a certain privilege should be given to research of the psychoanalytic type.
(88) Reflection on the essence of mathematics, politics, economics, religion, technology, law, etc., communicates most intimately with the reflection upon and the information surrounding the history of writing. The continuous vein that circulates through all these fields of reflection and constitutes their fundamental unity is the problem of the phoneticization of writing.
Problem of phoneticization of writing calls for privileging psychoanalytic types of research; consider primitive scripts of cultures without writing.
Within the structure of a pictographic tale for example, a
representation-of-a-thing, such as a totemic blazon, may take the
symbolic value of a proper name. From that moment on, it can function
as appellation within other series with a phonetic value. Its
stratification may thus become very complex and go beyond the
to their immediate usage. Going beyond this real consciousness, the
structure of this signifier may continue to operate not only on the
fringes of the potential consciousness but according to the causality
of the unconscious.
(89) Thus the name, especially the so-called proper name, is always caught in a chain or a system of differences.
(90) We shall now discover the complexity of this structure in the so-called “primitive” scripts and in cultures believed “without writing.”
(91-92) If one wishes really to penetrate to the thing that, under the name of writing, separates much more than techniques of notation, should one not get rid, among other ethnocentric presuppositions, also of a sort of graphic monogenetism that transforms all differences into divergences or delays, accidents or deviations? . . . What must it be in order to signify the eclipse of what is good and of the father? Should one not stop considering writing as the eclipse that comes to surprise and obscure the glory of the word?
Incompetence of science and philosophy: thought means nothing, what we have not begun, broached only in the episteme, walled-in within presence.
Indeed, one must understand this incompetence
science which is also the incompetence of philosophy, the closure
. . . this unnameable movement of difference-itself,
that I have strategically nicknamed trace,
could be called writing only within the historical
that is to say within the limits of science and philosophy.
(93) In a certain sense, “thought” means nothing. Like all openings, this index belongs within a past epoch by the face that is open to view. This thought has no weight. It is, in the play of the system, that very thing which never has weight. Thinking is what we already know we have not yet begun; measured against the shape of writing, it is broached only in the episteme.
(93) Grammatology, this thought, would still be walled-in within presence.
Nature, Culture, Writing
Introduction to the “Age of Rousseau”
(97) What privileged place does Jean-Jacques Rousseau occupy in the history of logocentrism?
(97) Rousseau's work seems to me to occupy, between Plato's Phaedrus and Hegel's Encyclopaedia, a singular position. What do these three landmarks signify?
Derrida positions Rousseau between Plato and Hegel as landmarks in history of logocentrism, where consciousness defined as experience of pure auto-affection.
Ideality and substantiality relate to themselves, in the element of
by a movement of pure auto-affection. Consciousness
is the experience of pure auto-affection.
. . . From Descartes to Hegel and in spite of all the differences
that separate the different places and moments in the structure of
that epoch, God's infinite understanding is the other name for the
logos as self-presence. . . . That experience lives and proclaims
itself as the exclusion of writing, that is to say of the invoking of
an “exterior,” “sensible,” “spatial” signifier
(98) Descartes had driven out the sign - and particularly the written sign - from the cogito and from clear and distinct evidence; the latter being the very presence of the idea to the soul, the sign was an accessory abandoned in the region of the senses and of the imagination.
(99) The names of authors or of doctrines have here no substantial value. They indicate neither identites nor causes. It would be frivolous to think that “Descartes,” “Leibniz,” “Rousseau,” “Hegel,” etc., are the names of authors, of the authors of movements or displacements that we thus designate. . . . I draw my argument from them in order to isolate Rousseau, and, in Rousseauism, the theory of writing
(99-100) If I have chosen the example of the texts of Claude Levi-Strauss, as points of departure and as a springboard for a reading of Rousseau, it is for more than one reason; for the theoretical wealth and interest of those texts, for the animating role that they currently play, but also for the place occupied in them by the theory of writing and the theme of fidelity to Rousseau. They will, therefore, in this study, be somewhat more than an exergue.
The Violence of the Letter: From Levi-Strauss to Rousseau
(102) A text always has several epochs and reading must resign itself to that fact.
(102) In linguistics as well as in metaphysics, phonologism is undoubtedly the exclusion or abasement of writing. But it is also the granting of authority to a science which is held to be the model for all the so-called sciences of man. In both these senses Levi-Strauss's structuralism is a phonologism.
To Levi-Strauss, Rousseau is the founder of modern anthropology; Derrida emphasizes the eschatology of the proper.
he reads Rousseau as the founder,
not only the prophet, of modern anthropology.
(106-107) Ellipsis of the originary writing within language as the irreducibility of metaphor, which it is necessary here to think in its possibility and short of its rhetorical repetition. The irremediable absence of the proper name, Rousseau no doubt believed in the figurative initiation of language, but he believed no less, as we shall see, in a progress toward literal (proper) meaning. “Figurative language was the first to be born,” he says, only to add, “proper meaning was discovered last” (Essay). It is to this eschatology of the proper (prope, proprius, self-proximity, self-presence, property, own-ness) that we ask the question of the graphein.
The Battle of Proper Names
Writing and Man's Exploitation by
(138) Self-presence, transparent proximity in the face-to-face of countenances and the immediate range of the voice, this determination of social authenticity is therefore classic: Rousseauistic but already the inheritor of Platonism.
Weakness of bricolage is justifying its own discourse.
The only weakness of bricolage
but, seen as a weakness is it not irremediable? - is a total
inability to justify in its own discourse. The already-there-ness of
instruments and of concepts cannot be undone or reinvented. . . . The
idea of the engineer breaking with all bricolage
dependent on a creationist theology.
(139-140) To recognize writing in speech, that is to say difference and the absence of speech, is to begin to think the lure. There is no ethics without the presence of the other but also, and consequently, without absence, dissimulation, detour, difference, writing. The arche-writing is the origin of morality as of immorality.
“. . . That Dangerous Supplement . . .”
Genesis and Structure of the Essay on the Origin of Languages
I. The Place of the “Essay”
(167) Originary differance is supplementarity as structure.
Will need to introduce Derrida's 'differance' so it can be used in sentences.
(167) This movement of the effacement of the trace has been, from
Plato to Rousseau to Hegel, imposed upon writing in the narrow sense;
the necessity of such a displacement may now be apparent. Writing is
one of the representatives of the trace in general, it is not the
trace itself. The trace itself does not exist.
(To exist is to be, to be an entity, a being-present, to on.) In a way, this displacement leaves the place of the decision hidden, but it also indicates it unmistakably.
Writing, Political Evil, and Linguistic Evil.
Speech as something whose specificity as one among asymptotically limitless possibilities seems free of gross overdetermination by any feature/cause within its surrounding environment (other, not-itself).
(168) Among all these representations, the exteriority of liberty and nonliberty is perhaps privileged. More clearly than others, it brings together the historical (political, economic, technological) and the metaphysical. Heidegger has summarized the history of metaphysics by repeating that which made of liberty the condition of presence, that is to say, of truth. And speech always presents itself as the best expression of liberty.
Significance for texts and technology studies: Derrida identifies and helps loosen the bias favoring speech that Ong and others helped reveal in the first place as a component of human communication that can be meaningfully differentiated from literacy.
(168) The Essay on the Origin of Languages opposes speech to writing as presence to absence and liberty to servitude. . . a classicist ideology according to which writing takes the status of a tragic fatality come to prey upon natural innocence, interrupting the golden age of the present and full speech.
The historicity of language is but not the favoring of speech shaped Rousseau essay and the modern genealogical form of analysis (not sure what this note intended).
(168) Rousseau concludes thus: These superficial reflections, which hopefully might give birth to more profound ones, I shall conclude with the passage that suggested them to me: “To observe in fact and to show by examples, the degree to which the character, customs, and interests of people influence their language, would provide material for a sufficiently philosophical investigation.” (Remarks on a General and Reasoned Grammar, by M. Duclos).
Difficulty of pedagogy of language inseparability of signifier and signified.
(170) The difficulty of the pedagogy of language and of the teaching of foreign languages is, Emile will say, that one cannot separate the signifier from the signified, and, changing words, one changes ideas in such a way that the teaching of a language transmits at the same time an entire national culture over which the pedagogue has no control, which resists him like the already-there preceding the formation, the institution preceding instruction.
Does rigorous distinctions separating thing, meaning and sigh relate to the discussion of types of hyperlinks taken up by Landow, noting, too, that Rousseau was occupied with the study of music?
(170) And this entire theory of the teaching of languages rests on rigorous distinctions separating thing, meaning (or idea), and sign; today we would speak of the referent, the signified, and the signifier. . . . “each thing may have a thousand different signs for him; but each idea may have only one form.”
The Present Debate: The Economy
(186-187) Imagination alone has the power of giving birth to itself. . . . It is the other name of differance as auto-affection.
(187) Rousseau delineates man out of this possibility. Imagination inscribes the animal within human society. It makes the animal accessible to human-kind. . . . That which is lacking in what Rousseau calls the animal is the ability to live its suffering as the suffering of another and as the threat of death.
(187) Thought within its concealed relation to the logic of the supplement, the concept of virtuality or potentiality (like the entire problematic of power and the act) undoubtably has for its function, for Rousseau in particular and within metaphysics in general, the systematic predetermining of becoming as production and development, evolution or history, through the substitution of the accomplishment of a dynamis for the substitution of a trace, of pure history for pure play, and, as I noted above, or a welding together for a break. The movement of supplementarity seems to escape this alternative and to permit us to think it.
The Initial Debate and the Composition of the Essay.
The Interval and the Supplement.
The Engraving and the Ambiguities of Formalism.
The Turn of Writing.
(226) Writing is at the North: cold, necessitous, reasoning, turned toward death, to be sure, but by that tour de force, by that detour of force which forces it to hold on to life. In fact, the more a language is articulated, the more articulation extends its domain, and thus gains in rigor and in vigor, the more it yields to writing, the more it calls writing forth. This is the central thesis of the Essay. The progress of history, the degradation which unites with it according to the strange graphic of supplementarity, goes toward the North and toward death: history effaces vowel accent, or rather represses it, hollows out articulation, extends the power of writing. That is why the ravages of writing are more felt in the modern languages:
. . . .Our tongues are better suited to writing than speaking, and there is more pleasure in reading us than in listening to us. Oriental tongues, on the other hand, lose their life and warmth when they are written (Chap. 11; italics added)
The oriental corpse is in the book. Ours is already in our speech.
Can there be any parallelism between the representation of computer languages as formatted source code versus their object/machine form or actual physical substrate?
(226-227) Cancellation amounts to producing a supplement. But as always, the supplement is incomplete, unequal to the task, it lacks something in order for the lack to be filled, it participates in the evil that is should repair. . . . Writing - here the inscribing of accents - not only hides language under its artifice, it masks the already decomposed corpse of language. . . . Accents are, like punctuation, an evil of writing: not only an invention of copyists but of copyists who are strangers to the language which they transcribe; the copyist or his reader is by definition a stranger to the living use of language. . . . Especially but not only within the musical order, the moment of transcription is the dangerous moment, as is the moment of writing, which in a way is already a transcription, the imitation of other signs; reproducing the signs, producing the signs of signs, the copyist is always tempted to add supplementary signs to improve the restitution of the original. The good copyist must resist the temptation of the supplementary sign.
The Inscription of the Origin.
(235) Everything in language is substitute, and this concept of substitute precedes the opposition of nature and culture: the supplement can equally well be natural (gesture) as artificial (speech).
(243) Let us observe the play of the tenses and modes at the end of Chapter 4 which describes the ideal of the language of origin: [quoting] It would resemble Chinese in certain respects, Greek and Arabic in others. If you understand these ideas in all their ramifications, you will find that Plato's Cratylus is not as ridiculous as it appears to be (italics added).
(244) The stage thus described in the conditional is already that of a language that has broken with gesture, need, animality, etc. But of a language that has not yet been corrupted by articulation, convention, supplementarity.
(244) To the degree that needs multiply, that affairs become complicated, that light is shed [knowledge is increased], language changes its character. It becomes more regular and less passionate. It substitutes ideas for feelings. It no longer speaks to the heart but to reason. For that very reason, accent diminishes, articulation increases.
No phonemes before the grapheme: typical Derridean gnomic formula.
(245) Writing will appear to us more and more as another name for this structure of supplementarity. . . . one should be assured of what Saussure hesitated to say in what we know of the Anagrams, namely, that there are no phonemes before the grapheme. That is, before that which operates as a principle of death within speech.
Derrida approaches topics dear to computer programmers and systems engineers questioning ridiculously supplementarity, desire, logical time of consciousness. I will step you through my meditations on Derrida so you can decide for yourself how much Derrida to study. I suggest studying Derrida intensively over Rousseau, de Saussure, Freud or Heidegger. Look at what he talks about: “the logical time of consciousness.” Look what he says later (in logical time), when you read Of Grammatology: “These are, of course, questions that can only be asked.” Not answered. Questions that can only be asked, not answered, are ridiculous. We move on, do not divert to investigate “the logical time of consciousness” (even though we can by studying and writing computer software). Not if it is not a human desire, dream, fantasy, is it a “question that can only be asked,” as Derrida states. We are back to questions raised in Plato's Phaedrus about “questioning ridiculously,” which on my reading is simply Socrates offering up the build versus buy question concerning writing, ta grammata. From the standpoint of real time constraints both deadlines and 'short times' this resolves into the poller software stepping through a fifteen to twenty minute presentation computing with necessary short times to get all the way through the poll giving minimum (but adjustable) short times (shortest possible durations) for each of the main questions or points being presented in the poll, in this case, on Derrida.
(245) Using the word and describing the thing, Rousseau in a way displaces and deforms the sign “supplement,” the unity of the signifier and the signified, as it is articulated among nouns (. . .), verbs (. . .) and adjectives (. . .) and makes the signified play on the register of plus or minus. But these displacements and deformations are regulated by the contradictory unity - itself supplementary - of a desire. As in the dream, as Freud analyzes it, incompatibles are simultaneously admitted as soon as it is a matter of satisfying a desire, in spite of the principle of identity, or of the excluded third party - the logical time of consciousness. . . . These are, of course, questions that can only be asked.
Eschatological parousia as presence of full speech within consciousness.
(246) And when Hegel will proclaim the unity of absence and presence, of nonbeing and being, dialectics or history will continue to be, at least on the level of discourse that we have called Rousseau's wishing-to-say, a movement of mediation between two full presences. Eschatological parousia is also the presence of full speech, bringing together all its differences and its articulations within the consciousness (of) self of the logos. Consequently, before asking the necessary questions about the historical situation of Rousseau's text, we must locate all the signs of its appurtenance to the metaphysics of presence, from Plato to Hegel, rhythmed by the articulation of presence upon self-presence. . . . All this interplay of implications is so complex. . . . There is not, strictly speaking, a text whose author or subject is Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
(247) The alibi and the in illo tempore are no longer Chinese or Greek, but the child.
(247-248) To speak before knowing how to speak, such is the limit toward which Rousseau obstinately guides his repetition of origin. . . . The child—the concept of the child—is the concept of one who has no more than one language because he has only one organ.
Child without speech; writing is a second organ so speaking and writing is united, into the order of the supplement, exploiting changing between languages: consider Clark extended cognition.
The child will know how to speak when one form of his unease can be
substituted for another, then he will be able to slip from one
language to another, slide one sign under another, play with the
signifying substance; he will enter into the order
of the supplement,
here determined as the human order: he will no longer weep, he will
know how to say “I hurt.”
(248) Articulation, wherever one finds it, is indeed articulation: that of the members and the organs, difference (in the) (self-same) [propre] body.
Neume is pure vocalization, according to the dictionary of music.
Such a breath cannot have a human origin and a human destination. It
is no longer on the way to humanity like the language of the child,
but is rather on the way to superhumanity. . . . It is the neume:
form of an inarticulate song without speech, whose name means breath,
which is inspired in us by God and may address only Him.
(249) Let us reread all these pages [of Rousseau's Reveries]: they speak the sorrow of time torn in its presence by memory and anticipation. The pleasure [jouissance] of a continuous and inarticulate presence is a nearly impossible experience: “scarcely is there, in our most living delights, a moment where the heart can truly say to us: I wish this moment should last forever” [pp. 112-13].
Pleasure as jouissance of self-presence, pure auto-affection: like that which never ceases to not have been writing itself of Lacan, here the neume.
The pleasure [jouissance]
of self-presence, pure
uncorrupted by any outside, is accorded to
(251) The neume, the spell of self-presence, inarticulate experience of time, tantamount to saying: utopia. Such a language—since a language must be involved—does not, properly speaking, take place. It does not know articulation, which cannot take place without spacing and without organization of spaces. There is no language before differences of locale.
(255) If there was then a slight shift from the Discourse to the Essay, it is the result of that continuous sliding, that slow transition from pure nature to the birth of society.
That “Simple Movement of the Finger.” Writing and the Prohibition of Incest
Seems to be struggling toward infinite force of logotropos instantiated now in machine language code.
A nearly nonexistent force is a nearly infinite force when it is
strictly alien to the system it sets going. The system offers it no
resistance; for antagonistic forces play only within a globe.
(257) It certainly concerns God, for the genealogy of evil is also a theodicy. The catastrophic origin of societies and languages at the same time permitted the actualization of the potential faculties that slept inside man.
Rousseau psychosocial history per Derrida is of civilization and consciousness, connecting, after the continuous festival, age of signs to prohibition of incest, the blank in The Social Contract.
The supplement can only respond to the nonlogical logic of a game.
That game is the play of the world. The world had to be able to play
freely on its axes in order that a simple movement of the finger
could make it turn upon itself. . . . The consequent “luck” and
evil of writing will carry with them the sense of play. But Rousseau
does not affirm
He resigns himself to it, he retains its symptoms in the regulated
contradictions of his discourse, he accepts it and refuses it but
does not affirm it.
(260) Society is created only to repair the accidents of nature.
(260) Human war has the effect of reducing the war of natural elements.
(261) In the North, in winter, when it is cold, need creates convention.
(261) In the South, the movement is inverse, it no longer leads from need to passion but from passion to need.
(263) Before the festival, in the state of pure nature, there is no experience of the continuous; after the festival the experience of the discontinuous begins; the festival is the model of the continuous experience. All that we can fix in the conceptual oppositions is therefore society formed on the morrow of the festival.
(263) What follows the festival? The age of the supplement, of articulation, of signs, of representatives. That is the age of the prohibition of incest.
(264) The function of the prohibition of incest is neither named nor expounded in The Social Contract but its place is marked as a blank there.
Prohibition of incest is hinge between nature and culture.
Society, language, history, articulation, in a word supplementarity,
are born at the same time as the prohibition of incest. That last is
the hinge [brisure]
between nature and culture.
(266) The natural woman (nature, mother, or if one wishes, sister), is a represented or a signified replaced and supplanted, in desire, that is to say in social passion, beyond need.
(267) The festival itself would be incest itself if some such thing—itself--could take place; if, by taking place, incest were not to confirm the prohibition: before the prohibition, it is not incest; forbidden, it cannot become incest except through the recognition of the prohibition.
(267) This birth of society is therefore not a passage, it is a point, a pure, fictive and unstable, ungraspable limit.
Writing is the differance between desire and pleasure.
Language, passion, society, are neither of the North nor of the
South. They are the movement of supplementarity by which the poles
substitute each other by
by which accent is broached within articulation, is deferred through
difference is nothing but the differance between desire and pleasure.
does not, then, concern only the diversity of languages, it is not
only a criterion of linguistic classification, it is the origin of
languages. Rousseau does not declare it, but we have seen that he
(268) From here on, I shall constantly reconfirm that writing is the other name of this differance.
From/Of the Supplement to the Source: The Theory of Writing
(269) Let us close the angle and penetrate within the text to the place where writing is named and analyzed for itself, inscribed within theory and placed in historical perspective. Chapters 5 “On Script,” and 6 “Whether It Is Likely that Homer Knew How to Write,” perhaps a little artificially separated, are among the longest in the Essay, in any case the longest after the chapter on the formation of southern languages. . . . And that Homer knew how to write, at any rate that he knew writing, as the the episode of Bellerophon in the Iliad seems to testify? . . . “What is more, there are few traces of the art in the remainder of the Iliad. But I venture to suggest that the whole Odyssey is just a tissue of inanities and stupidities that would be dissolved by changing a letter or two. Instead, the poem is made reasonable and fairly continuous, by presuming that these heroes did not know how to write. Had the Iliad been written, it would have been sung much less.”
(269) Thus a thesis without which the entire theory of language would founder had to be saved at all costs.
(270) Such is the situation of writing within the history of metaphysics: a debased, lateralized, repressed, displaced theme, yet exercising a permanent and obsessive pressure from the place where it remains held in check. A feared writing must be canceled because it erases the presence of the self-same [propre] within speech.
The not-I, external, exterior signs.
The Originary Metaphor
(275) In a word, he [Rousseau] restores to the expression of emotions a literalness whose loss he accepts, from the very origin, in the designation of objects.
(275) And it is the inadequation of the designation (metaphor) which properly expresses the passion.
(277) He is situated there by an entire naïve philosophy of the idea-sign.
(280) Language adds itself to presence and supplants it, defers it within the indestructible desire to rejoin it.
(280) Articulation is the dangerous supplement of fictive instantaneity and of the good speech: of full pleasure [jouissance], for presence is always determined as pleasure by Rousseau. The present is always the present of a pleasure, and pleasure is always a receiving of presence. What dislocates presence introduces differance and delay, spacing between desire and pleasure. Articulated language, knowledge and work, the anxious research of learning, are nothing but the spacing between two pleasures. “We desire knowledge only because we wish to enjoy” (Second Discourse).
The History and System of Scripts
To Condillac, subject emerges under age for writing.
Under the name of writing, Condillac
readily of the possibility of such a subject, and of the law
mastering its absence. When the field of society extends to the point
of absence, of the invisible, the inaudible, and the immemorable,
when the local community is dislocated to the point where individuals
no longer appear to one another, become capable of being
imperceptible, the age of writing begins.
(282) The first sign is determined as an image. The idea has an essential relationship to the sign, the representative substitute of sensation. Imagination supplements attention which supplements perception.
(283) The onto-theological idea of sensibility or experience, the opposition of passivity and activity, constitute a profound homogeneity, hidden under the diversity of metaphysical systems. Within that idea, absence and the sign always seem to make an apparent, provisional, and derivative notch in the system of first and last presence. The sign is always a sign of the Fall. Absence always relates to distancing from God.
(284) From this point of view, pictography, the primary method that employs one sign per thing, is the least economical. . . . The advantage of hieroglyphs—one sign for many things—is reduced to the economy of libraries.
(284) According to Warburton, it was already for economic reasons that cursive or demotic hieroglyphics were substituted for hieroglyphics properly speaking or for sacred writing. Philosophy is the name of what precipitates this movement: economic corruption which desacralizes through abridging and effacing the signifier for the benefit of the signified.
(285) This effacement of the signifier led by degrees to the alphabet. This is also Condillac's conclusion.
(285) It is therefore the history of knowledge—of philosophy—which, tending to multiply books, pushes toward formalization, abbreviation, algebra.
To Warburton and Condillac, economic requirements of expanding information and knowledge (as philosophy, become consciousness, subjectivity) drove evolution of writing through pictograph, hieroglyph, abbreviated hieroglyph, alphabet to formalized algebras based on idealization (Baudrillard simulacra); the cyberspace epoch, where data storage economies are transformed by extreme inscription and high speed automatic computing, seems to consummate a long historical movement.
Science—what Warburton and Condillac call philosophy here—the
eventually self-knowledge, consciousness, would therefore be the
movement of idealization:
an algebrizing, de-poetizing formalization whose operation is to
repress—in order to master it better—the charged signifier or the
linked hieroglyph. That this movement makes it necessary to pass
through the logocentric stage is only an apparent paradox; the
privilege of the logos is that of phonetic writing, of a writing
provisionally more economical, more algebraic, by reason of a certain
condition of knowledge. The epoch
a moment of the global effacement of the signifier: one then believes
one is protecting and exalting speech, one is only fascinated by a
figure of the techne.
. . . Or if one prefers, here Hegel's formula must be taken
literally: history is nothing but the history of philosophy, absolute
knowledge is fulfilled. What exceeds this closure is nothing:
neither the presence of being, nor meaning, neither history nor
philosophy; but another thing which has no name, which announces
itself within the thought of this closure and guides our writing
here. . . . The concept of repression is thus, at least as much as
that of forgetting, the product of a philosophy (of meaning).
(286) Whatever it might be, the movement of the retreat of the signifier, the perfecting of writing, would free attention and consciousness (knowledge and self-knowledge as idealization of the mastered object) for the presence of the signified. The latter is all the more available because it is ideal. And the value of truth in general, which always implies the presence of the signified (aletheia or adequatio), far from dominating this movement and allowing it to be thought, is only one of its epochs, however privileged. A European epoch within the growth of the sigh; and even, as Nietzsche, who wrenches Warburton's proposition from its environment and its metaphysical security, would say: of the abbreviation of signs.
(287) Philosophy is the invention of prose. Philosophy speaks prose, less in excluding the poet from the city than in writing.
Derrida notes that passing through the logocentric stage was a byproduct of phonetic writing, hinting that it is being surpassed; likewise organization of the textual surface determined by movement of hand, whereas the visual economy of reading could be by furrows.
(287) It is a matter of writing
The furrow is the line, as the ploughman traces it: the road—via
by the ploughshare. The furrow of agriculture, we remind ourselves,
opens nature to culture (cultivation). And one also knows that
writing is born with agriculture which happens only with
(288) Writing by the turning of the ox—boustrophedon--writing by furrows was a movement in linear and phonographic script. . . . Why did the economy of the writer [scripteur] break with that of the ploughman?
Writing and reading largely determined by movement of hand.
Thus, for example, the surface of the page, the expanse of parchment
or any other receptive substance distributes itself differently
according to whether it is a matter of writing or reading. An
original economy is prescribed each time. In the first case, and
during an entire technological era, it had to order itself according
to the system of the hand. In the second case, and during the same
epoch, to the system of the eye. In both cases, it is a matter of a
linear and oriented path, the orientation of which is not indifferent
and reversible in a homogeneous milieu. In a word, it is more
conventional to read than to write by furrows. The visual economy of
reading obeys a law analogous to that of agriculture. The same thing
is not turn of the manual economy of writing and the latter was
predominant during a specific era and period of the great
phonographic-linear epoch. The fashion outlives the conditions of its
necessity: it continued till the age of printing. Our
writing and our reading are still largely determined by the movement
of the hand. The
printing press has not yet liberated the organization of the surface
from its immediate servitude to the manual gesture, and to the tool
(289) If one calls reading that moment which comes directly to double the originary writing, one may say that the space of pure reading is always already intelligible, that of pure writing always still sensible.
Linear temporality imposed on speech by the form of inscription; other forms of consciousness and subjectivity may arise from acculturation to other forms of writing; the best examples of such transformations, first hinted at by new media like cinema, radio, television, now ubiquitously enabled by computer technologies (see Hayles and Manovich).
It is not enough to say that the eye or the hands
speak. Already, within its own representation, the voice is seen and
concept of linear temporality is only one way
form of successivity is in return imposed upon the phone,
upon consciousness and upon preconsciousness from a certain
determined space of its inscription.
(291) Breaking with linear genesis and describing the correlations among systems of script, social structures, and the figures of passion, Rousseau opens his questions in the direction that I have indicated.
Rousseau buys into Platonic critique of writing as like painting, as a pharmakon, seeding later work of Derrida.
There is never a painting of the thing itself and first of all
because there is no thing itself. . . . The original possibility of
the image is the supplement, which adds itself without adding
anything to fill an emptiness which, within fullness, begs to be
replaced. Writing as painting is thus at once the evil
the remedy within
the phainesthai or
Plato already said that the art or technique (techne)
of writing was a pharmakon (drug
or tincture, salutary or maleficent). And the disquieting part of
writing had already been experienced in its resemblance to painting.
. . . Zoography has brought death. The same goes for writing. No one,
and certainly not the father, is there when one questions. Rousseau
would approve without reservations.
(294) In its proper instance, attention to the internal specificity of the organization always leaves to chance the passage from one structure to another. This chance may be thought, as it is here the case, negatively as catastrophe, or affirmatively as play. This structuralist limit and power has an ethico-metaphysical convenience.
The Alphabet and Absolute
(295) Thus graphics and politics refer to one another according to complex laws.
(296) In criticizing representation as the loss of presence, in expecting a reappropriation of presence from it, in making it an accident or a means, one situates oneself within the self-evidence of the distinction between presentation and representation, within the effect of this fission. One criticizes the sign by placing oneself within the self-evidence and the effect of the difference between signified and signifier.
(296) The legitimizing instance, in the city as in language—speech or writing—and in the arts, is the representer present in person: source of legitimacy and sacred origin.
(297) The evil of the representer or of the supplement of presence is neither the same nor the other. It intervenes at the moment of differance, when the sovereign will delegates itself, and when, in consequence, law is written. Now the general will risks becoming a transmitted power, a particular will, preference, inequality.
(299) What I have just noted within the political order is applicable also to the graphic order.
Birth of graphic order mirrors political, phoneticization using letters with no inherent significant put together according to certain rules.
Access to phonetic writing constitutes at once a supplementary degree
of representativity and a total revolution in the structure of
representation. Direct or hieroglyphic pictography represents the
thing or the signified. It already paints language. It is the moment
located by all historians of writing as the birth
through, for example, the picture puzzle [rebus
a sign representing a thing named in its concept ceases to refer to
the concept and keeps only the value of a phonic signifier. Its
signified is no longer anything but a phoneme deprived by itself of
all meaning. . . . This synthetic character of representation is the
pictographic residue of the ideo-phonogram that “paints voices.”
Phonetic writing works to reduce it. Instead of using signifiers
immediately related to a conceptual signified, it uses, through the
analysis of sounds, signifiers that are in some way nonsignifying.
which have no meaning by themselves, signify only the elementary
phonic signifiers that make sense only when they are put together
according to certain rules.
(299) Analysis substituting painting and pushed to insignificance, such is the rationality proper to the alphabet and to civil society. Absolute anonymity of the representer and absolute loss of the selfsame [le propre]. . . . But then, how can we explain the allusion to the trader who is in fact never named in the classification of the three conditions and thus seems to have no appropriate era?
(299-300) The trader invents a system of graphic signs which in its principle is no longer attached to a particular language. This writing may in principle inscribe all languages in general. . . . Alphabetic writing concerns itself only with pure representers. It is a system of signifiers where the signifieds are signifiers: phonemes. The circulation of signs is infinitely facilitated.
(300) This independence with regard to the empirical diversity of oral languages confirms a certain autonomy of the growth of writing.
Money and phonetic writing exemplify absolute anonymity of abstraction in which meaning only arises through arrangement of elementary signifiers under regime of certain rules.
(300) This movement of analytic abstraction in the circulation of arbitrary signs is quite parallel to that within which money is constituted. . . . The critical description of money is the faithful reflection of the discourse on writing. In both cases an anonymous supplement is substituted for the thing. . . . If “the sign has led to the neglect of the thing signified,” as Emile says speaking of money, then the forgetfulness of things is greatest in the usage of those perfectly abstract and arbitrary signs that are money and phonetic writing.
Bureaucratic model of political decentralization relying on virtual center in written laws rather than persistence through living voice of citizens.
(302) Political decentralization, dispersion, and decentering of sovereignty calls, paradoxically, for the existence of a capital, a center of usurpation and of substitution. In opposition to the autarchic cities of Antiquity, which were their own centers and conversed in the living voice, the modern capital is always a monopoly of writing. It commands by written laws, decrees, and literature.
The Theorem and the Theater
(303) The consonant, which is easier to write than the vowel, initiates this end of speech in the universal writing, in algebra.
(303) The universal characteristic, writing become purely conventional through having broken all links with the spoken language—such then would be absolute evil. With the Logic of Port-Royal, Locke's Essay, Malebranche, and Descartes, Leibniz was one of Rousseau's primary philosophic readings.
(305) There are two sorts of public persons, two men of spectacle: on the one hand the orator or preacher, on the other the actor. The former represents himself, in him the representer and the represented are one. But the actor is born out of the rift between the representer and the represented. Like the alphabetic signifier, like the letter, the actor himself is not inspired or animated by any particular language. He signifies nothing. He hardly lives, he lends his voice.
(305) it is not illustrated by the actor alone (representer emptied of what he represents) but by a certain society, that of the worldly Parisians who have, in order to find themselves there, alienated themselves in a certain theater, theater of a theater, play representing the comedy of that society.
Signifier as death of festival.
(306) The signifier is the death of
the festival. The innocence of the public spectacle, the good
festival, the dance around the water hole, would open a theater
(307) Do better yet: let the spectators become an entertainment to themselves; make them actors themselves; do it so that each sees and loves himself in the others so that all will be better united. Letter to M. d'Alembert.
Spectators entertaining themselves: SCA, social networks, role playing games, reversing death of the festival by the entertaining signifier.
That festival represses the relationship with death; what was not
necessarily implied in the description of the enclosed theater.
(307) And Rousseau's text must constantly be considered as a complex and many-leveled structure; in it, certain propositions may be read as interpretations of other propositions that we are, up to a certain point and with certain precautions, free to read otherwise.
(308) But more precisely, the open air is the element of the voice, the liberty of a breath that nothing breaks into pieces. A voice that can make itself heard in the open air is a free voice, a clear voice that the northern principle has not yet muzzled with consonants, not yet broken, articulated, compartmentalized, and which can reach the interlocutor immediately. . . . The winter substitute of the festival is our dance for young brides-to-be.
(310) Rebirth, resurrection, or reawakening always appropriate to themselves, in their fugitive immediacy, the plenitude of presence returning to itself.
(311) Rousseau would like to separate the awakening to presence from the operation of imagination; he always presses on toward that impossible limit. . . . There is no unique and full present (but is there presence then?) except in the imagination's sleep.
(311) Rousseau himself articulates this chain of signification (essence, origin, presence, birth, rebirth) on the classical metaphysics of the entity as energy, encompassing the relationships between being and time in terms of the now as being in action (energeia).
(312) What is thus eluded is the fact that representation does not suddenly encroach upon presence; it inhabits it as the very condition of its experience, of desire, and of enjoyment [jouissance].
(312) Then the letter. Writing is the evil of representative repetition, the double the opens desire and contemplates and binds [re-garde] enjoyment. Literary writing, the traces of the Confessions, speak that doubling of presence. Rousseau condemns the evil of writing and looks for a haven within writing. . . . Writing represents (in every sense of the word) enjoyment. It plays enjoyment, renders it present and absent.
Artificiality of algebraic writing consummated in computer languages (perhaps by Ong avoids their study), alienation for Rousseau, which Derrida concludes in his digression on Leibniz universal characteristic represents the very death of enjoyment, recalling Platonic myth of Theuth in Phaedrus.
(312-313) This entire digression was necessary in order to mark well that, unless some extrinsic desire is invested in it, Leibniz's universal characteristic represents the very death of enjoyment. It leads the representer to the limit of its excess. Phonetic writing, however abstract and arbitrary, retained some relationship with the presence of the represented voice, to its possible presence in general and therefore to that of a certain passion. A writing that breaks with the phone radically is perhaps the most rational and effective of scientific machines; it no longer responds to nay desire or rather it signifies its death to desire. It was what already operated within speech as writing and machine. It is the representer in its pure state, without the represented, or without the order of the represented naturally linked to it. . . . The telos of the alienation of writing has in Rousseau's eyes the form of scientific or technical writing, wherever it can act, that is to say even otuside of the areas reserved for “science” or “technology.” It is not by chance that in mythology, the Egyptian in particular, the god of sciences and technologies is also the god of writing; and that it is he (Thoth, Theuth, Teuthus or his Greek homologue Hermes, god of the ruse, of trade, and of thieves) whom Rousseau incriminates in the Discourse on the Arts and Sciences.
The Supplement of (at) the
(314) The supplement is neither a presence nor an absence. No ontology can think its operation.
Derrida claims his contribution is showing the interiority of exteriority of system of writing developed by Rousseau and Saussure.
As Saussure will do, so does Rousseau wish at once to maintain the
exteriority of the system of writing and the maleficent efficiency
with which one singles out its symptoms on the body of the language.
am I saying anything else? Yes, in as much as I show the interiority
which amounts to annulling the ethical qualification and to thinking
of writing beyond good and evil; yes above all, in as much as we
designate the impossibility of formulating the movement of
supplementarity within the classical logos, within the logic of
identity, within ontology, within the opposition of presence and
absence, positive and negative, and even within dialectics, if at
least one determines it, as spiritualistic or materialistic
metaphysics has always done, within the horizon of presence and
reappropriation. Of course the designation
that impossibility escapes the language of metaphysics only by a
hairsbreadth. For the rest, it must borrow its resources from the
logic it deconstructs. And by doing so, find its very foothold
(314) One can no longer see disease in substitution when one sees that the substitute is substituted for a substitute. Is that not what the Essay describes? “[Writing substitutes] exactitude for expressiveness.”
(315) But if Rousseau could say that “words [voix], not sounds [sons], are written,” it is because words are distinguished from sounds exactly by what permits writing—consonants and articulation. The latter replace only themselves. Articulation, which replaces accent, is the origin of languages. Altering [for the worse] through writing is an originary exteriority. It is the origin of language. Rousseau describes it without declaring it. Clandestinely.
Origin of language in writing and death of speech?
A speech without consonantic principle, what for Rousseau would be a
speech sheltered from all writing, would not be speech, it would hold
itself at the fictive limit of the inarticulate and purely natural
cry. Conversely, a speech of pure consonants and pure articulation
would become pure writing, algebra, or dead language. The death of
speech is therefore the horizon and origin of language.
(315) But Rousseau could not think this writing, that takes place before and within speech. To the extent that he belonged to the metaphysics of presence, he dreamed of the simple exteriority of death to life, evil to good, representation to presence, signifier to signified, representer to represented, mask to face, writing to speech. But all such oppositions are irreducibly rooted in that metaphysics. Using them, one can only operate by reversals, that is to say by confirmations. The supplement is none of these terms. It is especially not more a signifier than a signified, a representer than a presence, a writing than a speech. None of the terms of this series can, being comprehended within it, dominate the economy of differance or supplementarity. Rousseau's dream consisted of making the supplement enter metaphysics by force.
Metaphysics of presence cannot express the economy of differance or supplementarity, for which Derridean philosophy is required as a starting point, but perhaps what is realized through technology better expresses; subjectivity as at stake, since dreaming and wakefulness also contested through this study of writing.
Revisit dreams given as philosophy to dreaming in code.
(316) The opposition of dream to wakefulness, is not that a representation of metaphysics as well? And what should dream or writing be if, as we know now, one may dream while writing? . . . Rousseau adds a note [in Emile]: “. . . the dreams of a bad night are given to us as philosophy.”
Derrida, Jacques. Of Grammatalogy. Trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1976. Print.