Notes for Jacques Derrida Dissemination
Key concepts: anagrammatic writing, structural constraint, trace.
Related theorists: Bogost, Plato, Tanaka-Ishii, Zizek.
Full page visual textual image resembling hierarchical, layered traversal common to software structures and networks that could be illuminated via centered HTML heading tags except 7 are needed.
This (therefore) will not have been a book.
(3) These texts are assembled otherwise; it is not my intention here to present them.
We can study how Derrida assembles texts, although his method if converted to software would nonetheless be bounded by recognizable characteristics, enframed as these texts however they were assembled are dynamically made present in virtual realities; he admits the book form cannot effectively theorize what I will concretize decades of thoughts as computational media, including that which which he writes his books.
(3) the book form alone can no longer settle—here for example—the case of those writing processes which, in practically questioning that form, must also dismantle it.
(61) First version published in Tel Quel, nos 32 and 33, 1968.
Suggestion that texts imply ergodic features.
A text is not a text unless it hides from the first comer, from the
first glance, the law of its composition and the rules of its game. .
. . it is simply that they can never be booked, in the present,
into anything that could rigorously be called a perception.
(63) The dissimulation of the woven texture can in any case take centuries to undo its web: a web that envelops a web, undoing the web for centuries; reconstituting it too as an organism, indefinitely regenerating its own tissue behind the cutting trace, the decision of each reading.
It is no surprise that the beginning of Platos Pharmacy contains hyperlink residue of starting with Kolaphos as if continuing after a jump from another text, remembering the appearance of the title page italic HORS LIVRE, diminishing size words to the asterisk of the hyperlink coming back in tiny PREFACING. The first reading, printed from a PDF of just Plato's Pharmacy is complemented with the context of the entire book. Babylon web tool translates out work as “except book.” It is supposed to represent being in motion picking up the next thing read through sustaining the thought.
(63) (note 1) TN. It should be noted
that the Greek word kslaphos, which here begins the essay on
Plato, is the last word printed in Littré's long definition of the
French word coup, with which the Hors-livre has just playfully
(64)The reading or writing supplement must be rigorously prescribed, but by the necessities of a game, by the logic of play, signs to which the system of all textual powers must be accorded and attuned.
(65) To a considerable degree, we have already said all we meant to say. . . . We will keep within the limits of this tissue: between the metaphor of the histos and the question of the histos of metaphor.
So much for histos, the word to contemplate becomes pharmakon; will it be resumed after the long detour soon to be announced?
(65) If we then write a bit: on Plato, who already said in the Phaedrus that writing can only repeat (itself), that it “always signifies (semainei) the same” and that it is a “game” (paidia).
Take off from Phaedrus implying continuing with Statesman, although different experience for those unfamiliar with it that Derrida presumes is the default thing evoked by the preceding reading: is taking off in this way like or unlike hyperlink operation, maybe a very advanced form of associative linking, recalling how there are a number of forms according to Bogost or Montfort like for Barthes listening?
(65) The example we shall propose of this will not, seeing that we are dealing with Plato, be the Statesman, which will have come to mind first, no doubt because of the paradigm of the weaver, and especially because of the paradigm of the paradigm, the example of the example—writing—which immediately precedes it. We will come back to that only after a long detour.
New connotation for interpreting Phaedrus, not longer dismissing it as badly composed following Diogenes Laertius.
We will take off here from the Phaedrus.
We are speaking of the Phaedrus
was obliged to wait almost twenty-five centuries before anyone gave
up the idea that it was a badly composed dialogue.
(67) In 1905, the tradition of Diogenes Laertius was reversed, not in order to bring about a recognition of the excellent composition of the Phaedrus but in order to attribute its faults this time to the senile impotence of the author.
(67) This is, in particular, the case—and this will be our supplementary thread—with the whole last section (274b ff.), devoted, as everyone knows, to the origin, history, and value of writing. . . . In truth, it is rigorously called for from the one end of the Phaedrus to the other.
Logographer ghost writing a type of programming in which another person is caused to speak words whose effect is the desired outcome of the program: is Plato speaking of the seductions of programming?
Let us read this more closely. At the precisely calculated center of
the dialogue—the reader can count the lines—the question of
. . . The logographer, in the strict sense, is a ghost
composes speeches for use by litigants, speeches which he himself
does not pronounce, which he does not attend, so to speak, in person,
and which produce their effects in his absence.
(69) The khairein takes place in the name of truth: that is, in the name of knowledge of truth, and, more precisely, of truth in the knowledge of itself.
(70) This brief evocation of Pharmacia at the beginning of the Phaedrus—is it an accident? . . . Pharmacia (Pharmakeia) is also a common noun signifying the administration of the pharmakon, the drug: the medicine and/or poision.
Pharmakon writing antisubstance resisting philosopheme: what does it mean now that this mysterious antisubstance is instantiated in the transformation of source code to machine instructions for execution by alien beings (Bogost)?
(70) Only a little further on, Socrates compares written texts Phaedrus has brought along to a drug (pharmakon). . . . The pharmakon would be a substance–with all that that word can connote in terms of matter with occult virtues, cryptic depths refusing to submit their ambivalence to analysis, already paving the way for alchemy–if we didn't have eventually to come to recognize it as antisubstance itself: that which resists any philosopheme, indefinitely exceeding its bounds as nonidentity, nonessence, nonsubtance; granting philosophy by that very fact the inexhaustible adversity of what funds it and the infinite absence of what founds it.
Socrates moved by software, programming, preferring to execute object code than hear an extemporaneous, admittedly inferior paraphrasing.
(71) The leaves of writing act as a pharmakon to push or attract out of the city the one who never wanted to get out, even at the end, to escape the hemlock.
Reading and walking also done in Symposium; Derrida is concerned with how many different ways pharmakon has been translated, and why.
(71) A spoken speech—whether by Lysias or by Phaedrus in person—a speech proffered in the present, at the presence of Socrates, would not have had the same effect. Only the logoi en bibliois, only words that are deferred, reserved, enveloped, rolled up, words that force one to wait for them in the form and under cover of a solid object, letting themselves be desired for the space of a walk, only hidden letters can thus get Socrates moving.
Can this passage into philosophy be tied to programming philosophy into popular digital culture as yet another way around the problem Derrida poses by concretizing it as working code, and what to make of the comparison between the ignorant, accidental use of drugs and medical techniques read in books with the surface enjoyment technological comportment Turkle argues is the very result of postmodern thought being true, in the sense of accurately describing this evolution of the human condition?
Hence, for example, the work pharmakon.
In this way we hope to display in the most striking manner the
regular, ordered polysemy that has, through skewing, indetermination,
or overdetermination, but without mistranslation, permitted the
rendering of the same word by “remedy,” “recipe,” “poison,”
“drug,” “philter,” etc. . . . It is a difficulty inherent in
its very principle, situated less in the passage from one language to
another, from one philosophical language to another, than already, as
we shall see, in the tradition between Greek and Greek; a violent
difficulty in the transference of a nonphilospheme into a
philosopheme. With this problem of translation we will thus be
dealing with nothing less than the problem
of the very passage into philosophy.
(72) As opposed to the true practice of medicine, founded on science, we find indeed, listed in a single stroke, empirical practice, treatments based on recipes learned by heart, mere bookish knowledge, and the blind usage of drugs.
(73) Books, the dead and rigid knowledge shut up in biblia, piles of histories, nomenclatures, recipes and formulas learned by heart, all this is as foreign to living knowledge and dialectics as the pharmakon is to medical science.
(73) All the subjects of the dialogue, both themes and speakers, seem exhausted at the moment the supplement, writing, or the pharmakon, are introduced.
Derrida does not tarry on the response by Phaedrus to Socrates question of whether they could discover the truth themselves rather than inquire what the ancients said in myth: seems like flip side of C compiler self-compilation account given by Tanaka-Ishii, an inevitable programmed outcome.
(74-75) The truth in writing, that is, as we shall see, (the) nontruth, cannot be discovered in ourselves by ourselves. And it is not the object of a science, only of a history that is recited, a fable that is repeated. . . . One thus begins by repeating without knowing – through a myth – the definition of writing, which is to repeat without knowing. This kinship of writing and myth, both of them distinguished from logos and dialectics, will only become more precise as the text concludes. Having just repeated without knowing that writing consists of repeating without knowing, Socrates goes on to base the demonstration of his indictment, of his logos, upon the premises of the akoe, upon structures that are readable through a fabulous genealogy of writing. As soon as the myth has struck the first blow, the logos of Socrates will demolish the accused.
2. The Father of Logos
Writing as object is artifact that makes other artifacts, a tool or set of materials.
Let us freeze the scene and the characters and take a look at them.
Writing (or, if you will, the pharmakon)
is thus presented to the King. . . . And this work is itself an art,
a capacity for work, a power of operation.
(76) The pharmakon is here presented to the father and is by him rejected, belittled, abandoned, disparaged.
Paternal position for power of speech is a structural constraint; pharmakon of writing rejected.
(76) Even if we did not want to give in here to the easy passage uniting the figures of the king, the god, and the father, it would suffice to pay systematic attention–which to our knowledge has never been done–to the permanence of a Platonic schema that assigns the origin and power of speech, precisely of logos, to the paternal position. . . . But the fact that “Platonism,” which sets up the whole of Western metaphysics in its conceptuality, should not escape the generality of this structural constraint, and even illustrates it with incomparable subtlety and force, stands out as all the more significant.
Father is the speech producer (disseminator, reproducer, transmitter) from the writing text.
(77) Logos is a son, then, a son that would be destroyed in his very presence without the present attendance of his father. His father who answers. His father who speaks for him and answers for him. Without his father, he would be nothing but, in fact, writing.
Critique of Robin translation leads to overall point about uniqueness of original Greek sustaining an ancient thought by play in ambiguity of words like pharmakon.
(78) Logos--”discourse”--has the meaning here of argument, line of reasoning, guiding thread animating the spoken discussion (the Logos). To translate it by “subject” [sujet], as Robin does, is not merely anachronistic.
Logos as spoken (orality) always in context, whereas written words naturally decontextualized; logos also engendered via human breath and silent reading until formant synthesis can create simulacral audible phenomena.
An animal that is born, grows, belongs to the physis.
Linguistics, logic, dialectics, and zoology are all in the same
(80) The father is always father to a speaking/living being. In other words, it is precisely logos that enables us to perceive and investigate something like paternity.
Complex meditation on structural relations between the logos, the father, the good, capital and connection of tokos, product, birth, child and potentially token: can it be argued a fortiori that, since this kind of thinking is so unique for humans, that it would be even more unlikely if not impossible to be thought by machines?
The figure of the father, of course, is also that of the good
it is indebted to: the father who is also chief, capital, and
good(s). Or rather the
Greek means all that at once. Neither translators nor commentators of
Plato seem to have accounted for the play of these schemas. It is
extremely difficult, we must recognize, to respect this play in a
translation, and the fact can at least be explained in that no one
has ever raised the question. . . . Tokos,
which is here associated with ekgonos,
signifies production and the product, birth and the child, etc. This
word functions with this meaning in the domains of agriculture, of
kinship relations, and of fiduciary operations. None of these
domains, as we shall see, lies outside the investment and possibility
of a logos.
(82) The good (father, sun, capital) is thus the hidden illuminating, blinding source of logos.
(83) From the foregoing passage we should also retain the fact that, along with the account (logos) of the supplements (to the father-good-capital-origin, etc.), along with what comes above and beyond the One in the very movement through which it absents itself and becomes invisible, thus requiring that its place be supplied, along with difference and diacriticity, Socrates introduces or discovers the ever open possibility of the kihdelon, that which is falsified, adulterated, mendacious, deceptive, equivocal.
(84) Logos is thus a resource.
(84) We will let these yarns of suns and sons spin on for a while. Up to now we have only followed this line so as to move from logos to the father, so as to tie speech to the kurios, the master, the lord, another name given in the Republic to the good-sun-capital-father (508a).
3. The Filial Inscription: Theuth, Hermes, Thoth, Nabu, Nebo
Plato leveraged structural laws, resulting in specific possible combinations of mythemes.
Our intention here [citing Borges, Joyce, and Borges again] has only
been to sow the idea that the spontaneity, freedom, and fantasy
attributed to Plato in his legend of Theuth were actually supervised
and limited by rigorous necessities. The organization of the myth
conforms to powerful constraints. . . . Plato had to make his tale
conform to structural laws. . . . What we wish to do here is simply
to point to the internal, structural necessity which alone has made
possible such communication and any eventual contagion of
(86) It must open onto the general problematic of the relations bewteen the mythemes and the philosophemes that lie at the origin of western logos. That is to say, of a history–or rather, of History–which has been produced in its entirety in the philosophical difference between mythos and logos, blindly sinking down into that difference as the natural obviousness of its own element.
(87) The configurative unity of these significations—the power of speech, the creation of being and life, the sun (which is also, as we shall see, the eye), the self-concealment—is conjugated in what could be called the history of the egg or the egg of history.
(88) Whatever he [Thoth] has to enounce or inform in words has already been thought by Horus. Language, of which he is depositary and secretary, can thus only represent, so as to transmit the message, an already formed divine thought, a fixed design.
(89) This type of substitution that puts Thoth in Ra's place as the moon takes the place of the sun. The god of writing thus supplies the place of Ra, supplementing him and supplanting him in his absence and essential disappearance.
(90) During the reign of Osiris (the sun-king), Thoth, who was also his brother, “initiated men into arts and letters,” and “created hieroglyphic writing to enable them to fix their thoughts.”
Relation between writing and death common in other Greek philosophers; also relation to joker, floating signifier, putting play into play.
For it goes without saying that the god of writing must also be the
god of death.
(92-93) The system of these traits brings into play an original kind of logic: the figure of Thoth is opposed to its other (father, sun, life, speech, origin or orient, etc.), but as that which at once supplements and supplants it. Thoth extends or opposes by repeating or replacing. By the same token, the figure of Thoth takes shape and takes its shape from the very thing it resists and substitutes for. But it thereby opposes itself, passes into its other, and this messenger-god is truly a god of the absolute passage between opposites. . . . Sly, slippery, and masked, an intriguer and a card, like Hermes, he is neither king nor jack, but rather a sort of joker, a floating signifier, a wild card, one who puts play into play.
(94) Science and magic, the passage between life and death, the supplement to evil and to lack: the privileged domain of Thoth had, finally, to be medicine.
(94) The god of writing is thus also a god of medicine. Of “medicine”: both a science and an occult drug. Of the remedy and the poison. The god of writing is the god of the pharmakon.
4. The Pharmakon
The pharmakon is the program and the pharmakeus is the programmer: make this detailed positioning of Platonic portrayal of Socrates, including the accusation of Agathon, the story of Diotima in which Eros is likened to Socrates, and Alicibiades portrait of Socrates.
Structurally constrained chain of significations meaningfully defining play of play, contrary to play in meaning of technical terms; on a continuum with appeal to arbitrary and changeable meaning of programming variables, even product names, populated with strange cases like thryristor?
The word pharmakon is
caught in a chain of significations. The play of that chain seems
systematic. But the system here is not, simply, that of the
intentions of an author who goes by the name of Plato. The system is
not primarily that of what someone meant-to-say
Finely regulated communications are established, through the play of
language, among diverse functions of the word and, within it, among
diverse strata or regions of culture.
(96) The possibilities and powers of displacement are extremely diverse in nature, and, rather than enumerating there all their titles, let us attempt to produce some of their effects as we go along, as we continue our march through the Platonic problematic of writing.
Complex reading of pharmakon like supplement in Of Grammatology.
(96) (footnote 43) With a few precautions, one could say that pharmakon plays a role analogous, in this reading of Plato, to that of supplement in the reading of Rousseau.
Translation cancels out productive resources of ambiguity and context, whereas a glossematic system works differently: link this to Tanaka-Ishii differentiating being centric and doing (interface) centric types of OOP; destroying anagrammatic writing, neutralizing differentiation afforded by Greek textuality also seems related to Montfort and Bogost, and others, describing programming tricks to cleverly leverages platform constraints.
(97) Its translation by “remedy” nonetheless erases, in going outside the Greek language, the other pole reserved in the word pharmakon. It cancels out the resources of ambiguity and makes more difficult, if not impossible, an understanding of the context.
Violent and impotent translation leaves original anagrammatic writing untouched for Derrida to interpret now.
If Plato's text then goes on to give the King's pronouncement as the
truth of Theuth's production and his speech as the truth of writing,
then the translation remedy
Theuth into a simpleton or a flimflam artist, from
the sun's point of view.
. . . Their discourse plays within it, which is no logner the case in
the rendition that, more than “medicine” or “drug” would have
done, obliterates the virtual, dynamic references to the other uses
of the same word in Greek. The effect of such a translation is most
importantly to destroy what we will later call Plato's anagrammatic
to destroy it by interrupting the relations interwoven among
different functions of the same word in different places, relations
that are virtually but necessarily “citational.” . . . Textuality
being constituted by differences and by differences from differences,
it is by nature absolutely heterogeneous and is constantly composing
with the forces that tend to annihilate it.
(99) Such an interpretative translation is thus as violent as it is impotent: it destroys the pharmakon but at the same time forbids access to it, leaving it untouched in its reserve.
Compare the never harmless remedy of technologized remembrance to Zizek chocolate laxative: painful pleasure and artificial.
There is no such thing as a harmless remedy. The pharmakon
never be simply beneficial.
(99) For two reasons, and to two different depths. First of all because the beneficial essence or virtue of a pharmakon does not prevent it from hurting. . . . This type of painful pleasure, linked as much to the malady as to its treatment, is a pharmakon in itself.
Doctors of Cos would deplore cyborgs for their unnatural prostheses; necessity built into word choice, evidenced by parallel examination of Timaeus and Phaedrus.
(99-100) Then again, more profoundly, even beyond the question of pain, the pharmaceutical remedy is essentially harmful because it is artificial. . . . Plato is following Greek tradition and, more precisely, the doctors of Cos. The pharmakon goes against natural life: not only life unaffected by any illness, but even sick life, or rather the life of the sickness. . . . Writing does not answer the needs of memory, it aims to the side, does not reinforce the mneme, but only hypomensis. And if, in the two texts we are now going to look at together, the formal structure of the argument is indeed the same; if in both cases what is supposed to produce the positive and eliminate the negative for this is inscribed in the sign pharmakon, which Robin (for example) dismembers, here as remedy, there as drug. We expressly said the sign pharmakon, intending thereby to mark that what is in question is indissociably a signifier and a concept signified.
Writing like self-compiling compiler, since it must found the possibility of systematicity; similar to problems of dealing with self reflexivity in programming languages covered by Tanaka-Ishii, and Derrida will milk the ghost in other writings, exceeding all classical models of reading, writing itself, so begin by finding and reading it.
It is not enough to say that writing is conceived out of this or that
series of oppositions. Plato thinks of writing, and tries to
comprehend it, to dominate it, on the basis of opposition
such. In order for these contrary values (good/evil, true/false,
essence/appearance, inside/outside, etc.) to be in opposition, each
of the terms must be simply external
the other, which means that one of these oppositions (the opposition
between inside and outside) must already be accredited as the matrix
of all possible opposition. And one of the elements of the system (or
of the series) must also stand as the very possibility
of systematicity or seriality
general. And if one got to thinking that something like the
writing—far from being governed by these oppositions, opens up
their very possibility without letting itself be comprehended by
them; if one got to thinking that it can only be out of something
like writing—or the pharmakon—that
the strange difference between inside and outside can spring; if,
consequently, one got to thinking that writing as a pharmakon
simply be assigned a site within what it situates, cannot be subsumed
under concepts whose contours it draws, leaves only its ghost to a
logic that can only seek to govern it insofar as logic arises from
it—one would then have ti bend
into strange contrortions what could no longer even simply be called
logic or discourse. All the more so if what we have just imprudently
called a ghost
no longer be distinguished, with the same assurance, from truth,
reality, living flesh, etc.
(104) Every model of classical reading is exceeded there at some point, precisely at the point where it attaches to the inside of the series. . . . Such a functional displacement, which concerns differences (and, as we shall see, “simulacra”) more than any conceptual identities signified, is a real and necessary challenge. It writes itself. One must therefore being by reading it.
Resistance to technogenesis and synaptogenesis, conjoining living mind with not alive traces; model of soul as dynamic, autochthonous wax tablet versus static external imprints (Kittler and others).
The imprints (tupoi)
of writing do not inscribe themselves this time, as they do in the
hypothesis of the Theaetetus,
in the wax of the soul in intaglio,
thus corresponding to the spontaneous, autochthonous motions of
psychic life. Knowing that he can always leave his thoughts outside
or check them with an external agency, with the physical, spatial,
superficial marks that one lays flat on a tablet, he who has the
writing at his disposal will come to rely on it.
(105) It would be better to assert that the written traces no longer even belong to the order of the phusis, since they are not alive.
(105) Letting itself get stoned [medusee] by its own signs, its own guardians, by the types committed to the keeping and surveillance of knowledge, it will sink down into lethe, overcome by non-knowledge and forgetfulness.
(106) This is Plato's definition of the sophist. For it is above all against sophistics that this diatribe against writing is directed.
(107) The sophist thus sells the signs and insignia of science: not memory itself (mneme), only monuments (hypomnemata), inventories, archives, citations, copies, accounts, tales, lists, notes, duplicates, chronicles, genealogies, references. Not memory but memorials.
(108) Contrary to what we have indicated earlier, there are also good reasons for thinking that the diatribe against writing is not aimed first and foremost at the sophists. On the contrary: sometimes it seems to proceed from them. Isn't the stricture that one should exercise one's memory rather than entrust traces to an outside agency the imperious and classical recommendation of the sophists?
(108) One must thus minutely recognize the crossing of the border. And be fully cognizant that this reading of Plato is at no time spurred on by some slogan or password of a “back-to-the-sophists” nature.
Texts and technology studies needs to disrupt archive memory model, as Hayles does with presence/absences, inside/outside, living/nonliving, mneme/archive, original/type in direction of Clark extended mind. Memory needing signs to recall the non-present hints at operations between short and long term memory. Fetching from long term memory involves signs, making function calls and returning values in previously undefined or default initialized variables of program variables. Beside the archive the database looms as new model of mind and component of model of thought. Danger of type passing for original characteristic of programming variables and RAM in addition to the phonic signifier.
The boundary (between inside and outside, living and nonliving)
separates not only speech from writing but also memory as an
unveiling (re-)producing a presence from re-memoration as the mere
repetition of a monument: truth as distinct from its sign, being as
distinct from types. The “outside” dos not begin at the point
where what we now call the psychic and the physical meet, but at the
point where the mneme,
instead of being present to itself in its life as a movement of
truth, is supplanted by the archive,
evicted by a sign of re-memoration or of com-memoration. . . . Memory
is finite by nature. Plato recognizes this in attributing life to it.
As in the case of all living organisms, he assigns it, as we have
seen, certain limits. A limitless memory would in any event be not
memory but infinite self-presence. Memory
always therefore already needs signs in order to recall the
with which it is necessarily in relation. The movement of dialectics
bears witness to this. Memory is thus contaminated by its first
But what Plato dreams
is a memory with no sign. That is, with no supplement.
(109-110) Its slidings slip it out of the simple alternative presence/absence. That is the danger. And that is what enables the type always to pass for the original. . . . And writing appears to Plato (and after him to all of philosophy, which is as such constituted in this gesture) as that process of redoubling in which we are fatally (en)trained: the supplement of a supplement, the signifier, the representative of a representative. . . . The signifier of a phonic signifier. While the phonic signifier would remain in animate proximity, in the living presence of mneme or psuche, the graphic signifier, which reproduces it or imitates it, goes one degree further away, falls outside of life, entrains life out of itself and puts it to sleep in the type of its double.
(110) Thus, even though writing is external to (internal) memory, even though hypomnesia is not in itself memory, it affects memory and hypontizes it in its very inside. . . . The pharmakon is that dangerous supplement that breaks into the very thing that would have liked to do without it yet lets itself at once be breached, roughed up, fulfilled, and replaced, completed by the very trace through which the present increases itself in the act of disappearing.
(111) Nevertheless, between mneme and hypomnesis, between memory and its supplement, the line is more than subtle; it is hardly perceptible. On both sides of that line, it is a question of repetition. Live memory repeats the presence of the eidos, and truth is also the possibility of repetition thorugh recall.
(111-112) What is repeated is the repeater, the imitator, the signifier, the representative, in the absence, as it happens, of the thing itself, which these appear to reedit, and without psychic or mnesic animation, without the living tension of dialectics. . . . Sophistics, hypomnesia, and writing would thus only be separated from philosophy, dialectics, anamesis, and livign speech by the invisible, almost nonexistent, thickness of that leaf between the signifier and the signified. . . . The difference between signifier and signified is no doubt the governing pattern within which Platonism institutes itself and determines its opposition to sophistics.
Philosophers are also writers, and writing guards laws.
How indeed does the dialectician simulate him whom he deonounces as a
simulator, as the simulacrum-man? . . . Through this economy of
signs, the sophists are indisputably men of writing at the moment
they are protesting they are not. But isn't Plato one, too, through a
symmetrical effect of reversal? . . . As another sort of guardian of
the laws, writing guarantees the means of returning at will, as often
as necessary, to that ideal object called the law. We can thus
scrutinize it, question it, consult it, make it talk, without
altering its identity. All this, even in the same words (notably
is the other side, exactly opposite, of Socrates' speech in the
(113) The italicized Greek words amply demonstrate it: the prostagmata of the law can be posited only in writing (en grammasi tethenta). Nomothesia is engrammatical. The legislator is a writer. And the judge a reader.
Speech (logos) is also pharmakon, in fact its quintessence.
Despite these similarities, the condemnation of writing is not
engaged in the same way by the rhetors as it is in the Phaedrus.
If the written word is scorned, it is not as a pharmakon
to corrupt memory and truth. It is because logos
a more effective pharmakon.
This is what Gorgias calls it. . . . Sorcery (goeteia),
psychagogy, such are the “facts and acts” of speech, the most
fearsome of pharmaka.
(116) But before being reined in and tamed by the kosmos and order of truth, logos is a wild creature, an ambiguous anamality.
Interesting to find equivocation of persuasive speaking and drugs in Gorgias.
Such persuasion entering the soul through speech is indeed a
and that is precisely what Gorgias calls it: [quoting] The effect of
speech (tou logou dunamis)
upon the condition of the soul (pros ten tes psuches
is comparable (ton auton de logon)
to the power of drugs (ton pharmakon taxis)
over the nature of bodies (ten ton somaton
(117) The reader will have paused to reflect that the relation (the analogy) between the logos/soul relation and the pharmakon/body relation is itself designated by the term logos. The name of the relation is the same as that of one of its terms. The pharmakon is comprehended in the structure of logos. This comprehension is an act of both domination and decision.
5. The Pharmakeus
Evidence that Socrates is a pharmakeus; claims the the argument from the Lysis is actually a really poor argument.
But if this is the case, and if logos
already a penetrating supplement, then isn't Socrates, “he who does
not write,” also a master of the pharmakon?
(117) Socrates in the dialogues of Plato often has the face of a pharmakeus. That is the name given by Diotima to Eros.
Make this part of symposia programming (code and configuration) to accentuate the dimensions of the arguments being made about venomous Socrates.
In that same dialogue, Agathon accuses Socrates of trying to bewitch
him, to case a spell over him (194a). The portrait of Eros by Diotima
is placed between this exclamation and the portrait of Socrates by
(118-119) And when they don't act like the venom of a snake, Socrates' pharmaceutical charms provoke a kind of narcosis, benumbing and paralyzing into aporia, like the touch of a string ray (narke): [quoting Meno] In my opinion you are well advised not to leave Athens and live abroad. If you behaved like this as a foreigner in another country, you would most likely be arrested as a wizard (goes). (Meno, 80a-b)
(119) Socrates arrested as a wizard (goes or pharmakeus): that will have to wait.
(119) Socratic irony precipitates out one pharmakon by bringing it in contact with another pharmakon. Or rather, it reverses the pharmakon's powers and turns its surface over—thus taking effect, being recorded and dated, in the act of classing the pharmakon, through the fact that the pharmakon properly consists in a certain inconsistency, a certain impropriety, this nonidentity-with-itself always allowing it to be turned against itself.
(120) The fear of death is what gives all witchcraft, all occult medicine, a hold. The pharmakon is banking on that fear. Hence the Socratic pharmacy, in working to free us from it, corresponds to an operation of exorcism, in a form that could be envisaged and conducted from the side and viewpoint of God.
(121) To seek “among yourselves” by mutual questioning and self-examination, to seek to know oneself through the detour of the language of the other, such is the undertaking presented by Socrates, who recalls the Delphic inscription (tou Delphikou grammatos), to Alcibiades as the antidote (alexipharmakon), the counterpotion.
(124) The Socratic word does not wander, stays at home, is closely watched within autochthony, within the city, within the law, under the surveillance of its mother tongue. This will take on its full significance further on, when writing will be described as errancy as such, mute vulnerability to all aggression. In nothing does writing reside.
Dialectics draws philosophemes from deep background fund of differance of the play of pharmakon in the pharmacy; first appearance of the word.
(127-128) The pharmakon is the movement, the locus, and the play: (the production of) difference. It is the differance of difference. . . . Already inhabited by differance, this reserve, even though it “precedes” the opposition between different effects, even though it preexists differences as effects, does not have the punctual simplicity of a coincidentia oppositorum. It is from this fund that dialectics draws its philosophemes. . . . It is also this store of deep background that we are calling the pharmacy.
6. The Pharmakos
Myth of writing as parasite: can it return to mythical position of mere excess, amusement, through its own operation, writing?
It is part of the rules of this game that the game should seem
. . . The purity of the inside can then only be restored if the
are brought home
exteriority as a supplement, inessential yet harmful tot he essence,
a surplus that ought
to have come to be added to the untouched plenitude of the inside.
The restoration of internal purity must thus reconstitute, recite—and
this is myth as such, the mythology
example of a logos
its origin, going back to the eve of the pharmakographic
aggression—that to which the pharmakon
not have had to be added and attached like a literal
itself inside a living organism to rob it of its nourishment
pure audibility of a voice. . . . Writing must thus return to being
what it should
never have ceased to be:
an accessory, an accident, an excess.
(128) The pharmaceutical operation must therefore exclude itself from itself.
(129) It is in the back room, in the shadows of the pharmacy, prior to the opposition between conscious and unconscious, freedom and constraint, voluntary and involuntary, speech and language, that these textual “operations” occur.
Compare search for missing word to Hayles machine-enhanced reading of Only Revolutions; analyze the structural gap.
Curiously, however, there is another of these words that, to our
knowledge, is never used by Plato. If we line it up with the series
we will no longer be able to content ourselves with reconstituting a
chain that, for all its hiddenness, for all it might escape Plato's
notice, is nevertheless something that passes through certain
of presence that
can be seen in the text. The word to which we are now going to refer,
which is present in the language and which points to an experience
that was present in Greek culture even in Plato's day, seems
strikingly absent from the “Platonic text.”
(130) In a word, we do not believe that there exists, in all rigor, a Platonic text, closed upon itself, complete with its inside and its outside. Not that one must then consider that it is leaking on all sides and can be drowned confusedly in the undifferentiated generality of its element. Rather, provided the articulations are rigorously and prudently recognized, one should simply be able to untangle the hidden forces of attraction linking a present word with an absent word in the text of Plato. Some such force, given the system of the language, cannot not have acted upon the writing and the reading of this text.
(130) The word in question is pharmakos (wizard, magician, poisoner), a synonym of pharmakeus (which Plato uses), but with the unique feature of having been overdetermined, overlaid by Greek culture with another function.
Pharmakos as scapegoat overdetermined by culture for a specific context, and thus not present in Platonic writings due to this bias; compare to overloaded functions of OOP that may or may not appear in code.
The character of the pharmakos
been compared to a scapegoat.
(130 footnote 56) This is doubtless the moment to point out, in connection with the clear necessity of bringing together the figures of Oedipus and the pharmakos, that, despite certain appearances, the discourse we are holding here is not in a strict sense a psychoanalytic one. This is true at least to the extent that we are drawing upon the same textual stores (Greek culture, language, tragedy, philosophy, etc.) which Freud had to begin by tapping and to which he never ceased to refer. It is precisely these stores, this fund, that we propose to interrogate here.
Suggests in footnote that Freud and subsequent psychoanalytic approaches constrained by their focus on evil from above leave rich interpretive potential, like the neutered translation, safe for reterritorialization in the same and less popular texts; likewise critical programming rereads humanities tradition and applies this methodology to default philosophies of computing.
footnote 56) In the person of the ostracized, the city expels what in
it is too elevated, what incarnates the evil which can come to it
from above. In the evil of the pharmakos,
it expels what is the vilest in itself, what incarnates the evil that
menaces it from below. By this double and complementary rejection it
delimits itself in relation to what is not yet known and what
transcends the known: it takes the proper measure of the human in
opposition on one side to the divine and heroic, on the other to the
bestial and monstrous.
(133) These parasites were as a matter of course domesticated by the living organism that housed them at its expense. [quoting Frazer] “The Athenians regularly maintained a number of degraded and useless beings at the public expense; and when any calamity, such as a plague, drought, or famine, befell the city, they sacrificed two of these outcasts as scapegoats.”
(133) The origin of difference and division, the pharmakos represents evil both introjected and projected.
(133-134) These exclusions took place at critical moments (drought, plague, famine). Decision was then repeated. But the mastery of the critical instance requires that surprise be prepared for: by rules, by law, by the regularity of repetition, by fixing the date. This ritual practice, which took place in Abdera, in Thrace, in Marseilles, etc., was reproduced every year in Athens. And up through the fifth century. Aristophanes and Lysias clearly allude to it. Plato could not have been unaware of it.
All these coincidences and never a use of the word pharmakos by Plato seems odd.
(134) The date of the ceremony is noteworthy: the sixth day of the Thargelia. That was the day of the birth of him whose death—and not only because a pharmakon was its direct cause—resembles that of a pharmakos from the inside: Socrates.
7. The Ingredients: Phantasms, Festivals, and Paints
Transforming divination, myth into logos, reasoned argument.
It is a manteia,
Socrates suggests (275c).
The discourse of Socrates will hence apply itself to the task of
translating that manteia
philosophy, cashing it on that capital, turning it to account, taking
account of it, giving accounts and reasons, upholding the reasoning
of that basileo-patro-helio-theological dictum. Transforming the
(135) Writing thus only intervenes at a time when a subject of knowledge already possesses the signifieds, which are then only given to writing on consignment.
(137) The signs of writing functioned within a system where they were supposed to represent the signs of voice. They were signs of signs.
(137) The silence of the pictorial or sculptural space is, as it were, normal. But this is no longer the case in the scriptural order, since writing gives itself as the image of speech. Writing thus more seriously denatures what it claims to imitate.
Compare phantasma simulacrum of writing to discretization in programming and transcoding and Sterne resonant tomb, including significance of being quasi magical operations by technical wizards.
In general, phatasma
copy of a copy) has been translated as “simulacrum.” He who
writes with the alphabet no longer even imitates. No doubt because he
also, in a sense, imitates perfectly. He has a better chance of
reproducing the voice, because phonetic writing decomposes it better
and transforms it into abstract, spatial elements. This
the voice is here both what best conserves it and what best corrupts
it. . . . Ambivalent, playing with itself by hollowing itself out,
good and evil at one—undecidably, mimesis
akin to the pharmakon.
No “logic,” no “dialectic,” can consume its reserve even
though each must endlessly draw on it and seek reassurance through
(139) And is it happens, the technique of imitation, along with the production of the simulacrum, has always been in Plato's eyes manifestly magical, thaumaturgical.
(140) The antidote is still the episteme.
(140) The work pharmakon, then, also designates pictorial color, the material in which the zoographema is inscribed.
The Heritage of the Pharmakon: Family Scene
(142) We have now penetrated into another level of the Platonic reserves. This pharmacy is also, we begin to perceive, a theater.
(143) It is all about fathers and sons, about bastards unaided by any public assistance, about glorious, legitimate sons, about inheritance, sperm, sterility. Nothing is said of the mother, but this will not be held against us.
Versus artificial languages, writing is death, fixed; programming permits dynamic production of auditory and visual phenomena capable of supporting living writing imagined by ancients such as Plato in Phaedrus.
Writing is not an independent order of signification; it is weakened
speech, something not completely dead: a living-dead, a reprieved
corpse, a deferred life, a semblance of breath. The phantom, the
phantasm, the simulacrum (eidolon,
of living discourse is not inanimate; it is not insignificant; it
simply signifies little, and always the same thing. . . . Uprooted,
anonymous, unattached to any house or country, this almost
insignificant signifier is at everyone's disposal, can be picked up
by both the competent and the incompetent.
(144) At the disposal of each and of all, available on the sidewalks, isn't writing thus essentially democratic?
Consider how machine protocols situate and enforce privileges to uprooted writing; interesting link of orgy of democracy to cathedral and bazaar of FLOSS.
Democracy is orgy, debauchery, flea market, fair, “a bazaar
of constitutions where one can choose the one to make one's own”
(145) Desires, says Plato, should be raised like sons.
(145-146) Writing is the miserable son. . . . His impotence is truly that of an orphan as much as that of a justly or unjustly persecuted patricide.
(145 footnote 69) The orphan is always, in the text of Plato—and elsewhere—the model of the persecuted creature. We had begun by stressing the affinity between writing and mythos created by their common opposition to logos. Orphanhood is perhaps another side of their kinship.
Writing primarily signifies the absence of the writer, in contrast to recorded performance.
Writing, the lost son, does not answer this question—it writes
(itself): (that) the father is not,
that is to say, is not present.
(148) All Plato's writing . . . is thus, when read from the viewpoint of Socrates' death, in the situation of writing as it is indicted in the Phaedrus. These scenes enclose and fit into each other endlessly, abyssally. The pharmacy has no foundation.
(149) While presenting writing as a false brother—traitor, infidel, and simulacrum—Socrates is for the first time led to envision the brother of this brother, the legitimate one, as another sort of writing: not merely as a knowing, living, animate discourse, but as an inscription of truth in the soul. . . . But it is not any less remarkable here that the so-called living discourse should suddenly be described by a “metaphor” borrowed from the order of the very thing one is trying to exclude from it, the order of its simulacrum. Yet this borrowing is rendered necessary by that which structurally links the intelligible to its repetition in the copy, and the language describing dialectics cannot fail to call upon it.
Really about two kinds of writing, an easier discussion today when meaningful distinctions between computationally intensive versus contractive communication forms for writing communication can be made (Applen and McDaniel).
According to a pattern that will dominate all of Western philosophy,
good writing (natural, living, knowledgeable, intelligible, internal,
speaking) is opposed to bad writing (a moribund, ignorant, external,
mute artifice for the senses). . . . Metaphoricity is the logic of
contamination and the contamination of logic. . . . then it can be
said that philosophy is played out in the play between two kinds of
writing. Whereas all it wanted to do was to distinguish between
writing and speech.
(149) at the risk of dissemination.
Seeds and gardeners analogies for dissemination also well exemplified describing spread of software, viruses.
On the one hand cultivation, agri-culture, knowledge, economy; on the
other, art, enjoyment and unreserved spending.
(152) Writing and speech have thus become two different species, or values, of the trace.
(153) Transgression is not thinkable within the terms of classical logic but only within the graphics of the supplement or of the pharmakon.
(154) Socrates knows that he will never be a son, nor a father, nor a mother. The knowledge the go-between needs for matchmaking should have been the same as the knowledge the midwife needs for delivering.
Speaking and writing both deal with the trace; good and bad senses of play equates to dialectical and nondialectical trace.
(154-155) Hence the dialectician will sometimes write, amass monuments, collect hupomnemata, just for fun. But he will do so while still putting his products at the service of dialectics and in order to leave a trace (ikhnos) for whoever might want to follow in his footsteps on the pathway to truth. The dividing line now runs less between presence and the trace than between the dialectical trace and the nondialectical trace, between play in the “good” sense and play in the “bad” sense of the word.
9. Play: From the Pharmakon to the Letter and from Blindness to the Supplement
Contained play could also be compared to sense of communication theory as another example of how computer technology easily instantiates forms difficult for human writing, where it must become serious and hence erase itself, as in serious games.
The best sense of play is play that is supervised and contained
within the safeguards of ethics and politics. This is play
comprehended under the innocent, innocuous category of “fun.”
(156) Only logio peri onton can be taken seriously. As soon as it comes into being and into language, play erases itself as such.
(157) Not only are his writings defined as games, but human affairs in general do not in his eyes need to be taken seriously.
Could this play be like practicing programming, even writing games, but avoiding playing them: classic problems that are difficult to express and solve with writing are routinely solved in computer architecture, programming languages, and coding conventions, as the following three as well.
Play is always lost when it seeks salvation in games. We have
examined elsewhere, in “Rousseau's era,” this disappearance of
play into games. This (non)logic of play and of writing enables us to
understand what has always been considered so baffling: why Plato,
while subordinating or condemning writing and play, should have
written so much, presenting his writings, from
out of Socrates' death,
as games, indicting
in writing, lodging against it that complaint (grahe)
whose reverberations even today have not ceased to resound.
(158) In these three cases, in these three “eras” of the repetition of Platonism [Plato, Rousseau, Saussure], which give us a new thread to follow and other knows to recognize in the history of philosophia or the episteme, the exclusion and the devaluation of writing must somehow, in their very affirmation, come to terms with:
1. a generalized sort of writing and, along with it,
2. a “contradiction”: the written proposal of logocentrism; . . .
3. the construction of a “literary work.”
(158-159) Thus it is that the “linguistics” elaborated by Plato, Rousseau, and Saussure must both put writing out of the question and yet nevertheless borrow from it, for fundamental reasons, all its demonstrative and theoretical resources.
(159) They give him a better grip on things; that is, he can use them to explain dialectics—but he never “comes to grips with” the writing he uses.
(159) We noted earlier that tupos can designate with equal pertinence the graphic unit and the eidetic model.
Trace receptacle for appearances like variable pointers, data structure typed and untyped computer memory arbitrarily assigned by the operating system or CPU hardware instantiating the three natures in the substrate that is like Ulmer chora: literality sustains structural relations in cosmogony, politics, linguistics, and materially in machine circuits, schematism of perceptibility (Kittler on the last act of human writing).
all these things “require” ([Timeaus]
that we define the origin of the world as a trace,
that is, a receptacle. It is a matrix, womb, or receptacle that is
never and nowhere offered up in the form of presence, or in the
presence of form, since both of these already presuppose an
inscription within the mother. . . . [quoting] For the present we
have only to conceive of three natures: first, that which is in the
process of generations; secondly, that in which the generation takes
place; and thirdly, that of which the thing generated is a
resemblance naturally produced. . . . The khora
big and everything that is disseminated here.
(161) Inscription is thus the production of the son and at the same time the constitution of structurability. The link between structural relations of proportionality on the one hand and literality on the other does not appear only in cosmogonic discourse. It can also be seen in political discourse, and in the discourse of linguistics.
See Manovich NMR to analyze whether distinction between cultural and/or software conventions provides structure for play to transpire. Fitting that the invocation of Theuth in Philebus founds grammar (and Phaedrus graphics), both of which can be studied as manifest in programming languages (Tanaka-Ishii).
(162) Structure is read as a form
of writing in an instance where the intuition of sensible or
intelligible presence happens to fail.
(162) It occurs in the name not of the invention of graphics but of grammar, of the science of grammar as a science of differences.
Contrast need of writing for play to mechanism provided by the Symposium to simulate multimedia (Castells real virtuality).
(163) The play of the other
within being must needs be designated “writing” by Plato in a
discourse which would like to think of itself as spoken in essence,
in truth, and which nevertheless is written.
(164) It takes superhuman strength. And one runs the risk of madness or of being considered mad in the well-behaved, sane, sensible society of grateful sons.
Resorts to examples from semiotics (relations among letters) to provide metaphors for ontological questions, the deliberate method Tanaka-Ishii uses to ponder the semiotic/grammatological questions themselves that otherwise cannot differentiate each others extent, grammar and ontology.
The discourse [of the Stranger in Theaeteus],
then, is off. Paternal logos
upside down. It is then by chance if, once “being” has appeared
as a triton ti,
a third irreducible to the dualisms of classical ontology, it is
again necessary to turn to the example of grammatical science and of
the relations among letters in order to explain the interlacing that
weaves together the system of differences (solidarity-exclusion), of
kinds and forms, the sumploke ton eidon
which “any discourse we can have owes its existence” (ho
logos gegonen hemin)(259e)?
(166) The distinction between grammar and dialectics can thus only in all rigor be established at the point where truth is fully present and fills the logos. . . . And that is the difference that prevents there being in fact any difference between grammar and ontology.
At stake is a Latour list stretching across Western intellectual history to computed binarism.
(167) Just as Socrates supplements and replaces the father, as we have seen, dialectics supplements and replaces the impossible noesis, the forbidden intuition of the face of the father (good-sun-capital). . . . The disappearance of that face is the movement of differance which violently opens writing or, if one prefers, which opens itself to writing and which writing opens for itself. . . . And which by the same token threatens the domestic, hierarchical interiority of the pharmacy, the proper order and healthy movement of goods, the lawful prescription of its controlled, classed, measured, labeled products, rigorously divided into remedies and poisons, seeds of life and seeds of death, good and bad traces, the unity of metaphysics, of technology, of well computed binarism. . . . In other words, what does Platonism signify as repetition?
Thanks Tanka-Ishii for laying out the stakes (types of signification, reflexivity, recursion) that mirror the aims of living writing: the foundational work is hard for humans, easy for machines, with side of non-philosophy instantiated in programmable machines to contain undecidables as initial states of variables and registers; what Plato was not clever enough to articulate and Derrida can only do with the entire material operation of his work as a one-off, hard coded example, the synergistic positive feedback of living writing, is routinely done by programming. At the next pass the tricky things can be studied again.
The disappearance of the Face of the structure of repetition can thus
no longer be dominated by the value of truth. On the contrary, the
opposition between the true and the untrue is entirely comprehended,
within this structure or this generalized writing. The true and the
untrue are both species of repetition. And there is no repetition
possible without the graphics
which supplies, for the lack of a full unity, another unit that comes
to relieve it, being enough the same and enough other so that it can
replace by addition. . . . Here repetition gives itself out to be a
repetition of life. Tautology is life only going out of itself to
come home to itself. Keeping close to itself through mneme,
But on the other hand, repetition is the very movement of non-truth:
the presence of what is gets lost, disperses itself, multiples itself
through mimemes, icons, phanasms, simulacra, etc. Through phenomena,
already. And this type of repetition is the possibility of
becoming-perceptible-to-the-senses: nonideality. This is on the side
of non-philosophy, bad memory, hypomnesia, writing. Here, tautology
is life going out of itself beyond return. Death rehearsal.
Unreserved spending. The irreducible excess, through the play of the
supplement, of any self-intimacy of the living, the good, the
(169) Conceived within this original reversibility, the pharmakon is the same precisely because it has no identity. And the same (is) as supplement. Or in differance. In writing. If he had meant to say something, such would have been the speech of Theuth making of writing as a pharmakon a singular present to the King.
But Theuth, it should be noted, spoke not another word.
The great god's sentence went unanswered.
Row of dots as a new narrative frame begins.
After closing the pharmacy, Plato went to retire, to get out of the
sun. He took a few steps in the darkness toward the back of his
reserves, found himself leaning over the pharmakon,
decided to analyze.
(169) Holding the pharmakon in one hand, the calamus in the other, Plato mutters as he transcribes the play of formulas. In the enclosed space of the pharmacy, the reverberations of the monologue are immeasurably amplifed. The walled-in voice strikes against the rafters, the words come apart, bits and pieces of sentences are separated, disarticulated parts begin to circulate through the corridors, become fixed for a round or two, translate each other, become rejoined, bounce off each other, come back like answers, organize their exchanges, protect each other, institute an internal commerce, take themselves for a dialogue. Full of meaning. A whole story. An entire history. All of philosophy.
(169) “he ekhe touton ton logon . . . the sound of these arguments rings so loudly in my head that I cannot hear the other side.”
(170) In this stammering buzz of voices, as some philological sequence or other floats by, one can sort of make this out, but it is hard to hear.
(170) He listens, means to distinguish, between two repetitions.
Curious final account of subject generation in Second Letter via synergistic positive feedback of living writing recursing in mind of Plato, perhaps attempting to describe the experience of reading before long habituation to writing and subvocalization, again mirroring descriptions in Tanaka-Ishii of lambda calculus processing of self-referential, recursive algorithms.
(170) One still has to take note of this. And to finish that Second Letter: “ . . . and why there is not and will not be any written work of Plato's own. What are now called his . . . Sokratous estin kalou kai neou gegonotos . . . are the work of a Socrates embellished and modernized. Farewell and believe. Read this letter now at once many times and burn it.
Derrida, Jacques. Dissemination. Chicago: University Press, 1981. Print.