Un histoire d’un obscurantiste terroriste?
As the first chapter dealt with articulating a general sense of the Derridaean sollicitation, and the second chapter inscribed four strategically crucial citations— focal points of economic condensation, sites of passages of effervescent crucibles —through which was alluded the direction of the investigation into the reasonability of a sollicitation of science, the third chapter will afford a faisceau de faits of a perspectivized historical synopsis of Derrida’s oeuvre, before chapter four will make the hypothesis of the sollicitation of science supervene. Solely on such a conceptual, strategic, and historical backcloth is the reasonability of the hypothesis of the sollicitation of science legible.
In a conversation in 1994 Derrida made a retrospectively explanatory statement that for all posterity will re-mark his entire oeuvre, a statement as unveiling, as programmatic, as it was confessing: food for foes, but largely unnoticed by friends. For foes it revealed how ‘dangerous’ or ‘confused’ Derrida really was—obscurantisme terroriste, as Michel Foucault once had himself utter; for friends, in the degree to which it was given notice at all, it would risk marginalizing hundreds of interpretations already sanctioned and canonized by the proper archeions. Still it has not attracted the interest it deserves. I cite:
All I have done […] is dominated by the thought of a virus, what could be called a parasitology, a virology, the virus being many things. […] The virus is in part a parasite that destroys, that introduces disorder into communication. Even from the biological standpoint, this is what happens with a virus; it derails a mechanism of the communicational type, its coding and decoding. On the other hand, it is something that is neither living nor non-living; the virus is not a microbe. And if you follow these two threads, that of a parasite which disrupts destination from the communicative point of view—disrupting writing, inscription, and the coding and decoding of inscription—and which on the other hand is neither alive nor dead, you have the matrix of all that I have done since I began writing.
“All I have done is dominated by the thought of a virus.” Remarkable. “The matrix of all that I have done.” So much for all those solicitous ventures at breaking up his work in smaller, neat “phases,” shifts of cynosures. In all sorts of departments and institutions, be it relative literature, law, arts, architecture, film, theology, politics, philosophy, etc., many a scholar has thus unknowingly studied a new type of parasitology. The academia in total denegates this vibrant and extremely detailed form of “general” parasitology that Derrida’s oeuvre turns out to be; that shall nonetheless haunt academia, no less than the movements of auto-deconstruction is always already and everywhere uncircumventable. Paul De Man’s warning that “the impossibility of reading should not be taken too lightly,” is here more than fit. Reading is khôratic. Paul De Man is among the few that have understood the true lesson of Kant, his true significance: that any set of conditions of possibility is intricate, problematic, aporetic, impossible. The interview continues:
What I do with words is make them explode so that the non-verbal appears in the verbal. That is to say that I make the words function in such a way that at a certain moment they no longer belong to discourse, to what regulates discourse. […] And if I love words it is also because of their ability to escape their proper form, whether they interest me as visible things, letters representing the spatial visibility of the word, or as something musical or audible. […] Thus, I explain myself with the bodies of words—here I think that one can truly speak of ‘the body of a word’, with the reservations mentioned earlier, that it is a body that is not present to itself—and it is the body of a word that interests me to the extent that it doesn’t belong to discourse (p. 20).
This recollection of Derrida is rather general, admittedly. Still, it is precisely general, and as when Derrida collects into a sheaf [rassembler en faisceau] the directions of his work and the general system of its economy in the truly remarkable 1968 article “La différrance,” an article that reappeared in the 1972 Margins de la philosophie, here is yet another such attempt at reassembling his work into a faisceau. Twenty-six years pass and Derrida passes from différrance to virology, thus. Twenty-six years having passed, Derrida in 1994 finds it apposite to reassemble his entire oeuvre as a type of virology. This shift of faisceau is no break in Derrida’s thought. But the general system of economy of his thought has become more general and economical; hence the continuation, however sériature and elliptically metonymical, in Derrida’s thought will be maintained. In fact, both différance and virology signals one another, but the latter being the more encompassing. Viral “bio-logics” is already at work within the sign in general, what I shall propose to call virographematics, a fortiori any philosopheme or scienteme. In chapter four I will further elaborate on the notion of virographematics being integral to the sign in general, and why this applies no less to science and its scientemes than to, as Derrida convincingly has demonstrated, philosophy and its philosophemes. Making words explode so as to have the non-verbal appear in the verbal; inversely, here, things exploding making the verbal appear in the non-verbal. A parasitology or a virology, then, has dominated the deconstructive work of Derrida.
Already in 1954, in his very first substantial academic work, The Problem of Genesis in Husserl’s Philosophy, Derrida coined the term ‘dissimulated contamination.’ Already there, in the Preface to the 1953/54 Dissertation, the “collapse of the phenomenological enterprise” (xl) was boldly announced. Philosophy in a Time of Terror, whose idea was born only few weeks after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, is but yet another application of the viral, auto-immunitary logic to the phenomenon of terrorism; here, Derrida, employs his analysis to make things less obscure, to be sure. We thus have almost 5 decades of persistent scrutiny of the viral. There is no reason that this plain fact should be overlooked.
“The virus is in part a parasite that destroys, that introduces disorder into communication,” alas! As Derrida will say: those very conditions of impossibility are precisely what accounts for the narrower, more restricted conditions of possibility. What had not already Derrida said about ‘communication’ in Signature, Event, Context? Communication is far from being immune to parasitic work; writing is undoubtedly a substitutive, supplementary term for the viral, and as we know, what applies to writing applies, a fortiori, to speech and thought, in fact to experience in general. The outcome is a tainted thing, a thing of the neither-nor, of what I myself prefer to coin nigraphic. We shall come back to nigraphy and its pertinence.
Just suffice it for now to say that the viral, autoimmunitary logic applies no less to science and technology. Which is amply verifiable to us all. From our vantage point we can thus say that Kant was a very gullible man; but he had all reason to, since he was not at any fault: the Newtonian science was unequivocally successful, indeed. Its goodness, its usefulness was plenty, and no harm was there ever discernible. Therefore Kant simply assumed that knowledge is, that the simple and proper possibility of knowledge had already been demonstrated, Newtonian science spontaneously and naturally employed as highest court and truth witness, and that what presented itself as philosophy’s task accordingly was to establish, once and for all, the total and final set of conditions of possibility of knowledge. Today, however, such epistemic gullibility is not to be aligned simply with ignorance; it constitutes the highest crime against humanity.
Coming back to ‘communication,’ we surely are still Kantians, the heirs of Kant. The discursive paradigm relative questions concerning truth, semantics, knowledge, communication, etc., is fundamentally Kantian, still: to this date there does not exist one single research programme that addresses the very obvious relation between, one the one hand, the destructive, life-threatening wake of the most refined and advanced science history has ever seen, and, on the other hand, the epistemic foundations of this very same science. History’s judgment on us will no doubt be hard. Why are we not scientifically minded enough to judge our science according to its means and procedures? If we, with our very best scientific procedures and tools, measure science up against its full empirical impact on nature in general, we would find that our science must be in a serious predicament: it sure does not work the way we want and intend. And so, as long as we insist on the viability of the Kantian paradigm, we enforce ourselves, by that very same reason, to produce rhetorical and ideological tropes according to which science’s dysfunctionality is written off, in the best of cases and in the degree to which such destructive import is acknowledged at all, as mere eventual “side-effects.” Side-effects which that very same science, such as it is, then is claimed to be able to overcome, given time. Uncanny.
Derrida’s philosophical project commences with a retrograde reading of Edmund Husserl: his first major publication, Traduction et Introduction á L’Origine de la géométrie d’Edmund Husserl, appears in 1962 and is a veritable altercation and contretemps with what he in the 1974 Positions describes as the “most modern, critical and vigilant form” of Western metaphysics, namely Husserlian transcendental phenomenology, this all the more pointedly as he will choose what is arguably one of Husserl’s latest texts, the 1936 “Die Frage nach dem Ursprung der Geometrie als intentional-historisches Problem.” If in La voix et le phénomène: Introduction au problème du signe dans la phenomenology de Husserl Derrida reads Husserl’s Logische Unteruschungen, it is only to state that Die Frage is no deviation and that it undertakes what opened in 1900-01 even more radically. Already in that respect, by that gesture of retrospection, precisely by being rather reticent toward the origin and root of Husserl’s texere, Derrida’s Introduction strategically signals a decisive diversion from the master’s voice, a relationship that had its inception already in 1952 where his nascent interest in philosophy conflated with rereading Husserl. Derrida’s rereading is a rereading, witnessed e.g. in the 1968 lecture “Les fins de l’homme,” that certainly did not confluence to the contexts of the dominant anthropologistic and humanistic fashions in French post-war existentialism readings of Hegel, Heidegger, and Husserl; neither, however, was he under influence of Merleau-Ponty’s interpretations, which explains why he will not grant any unilateral privilege, as did Merleau-Ponty, to the Lebenswelt, history, and intersubjectivity of the later Husserl, that is to say, no systematic influence, then, if not that certain climate of Merleau-Ponty which looks for Husserl’s “unthought.” Nor did he confluence with the antihumanist upsurge surfacing that time. Derrida read otherwise, against any master’s voice. Husserl’s critique of anthropologism had gone completely unnoticed when Husserl first entered philosophy’s France; Derrida acknowledges already in 1954, in his master’s thesis Le probléme de la gènese dans la philosophie de Husserl, the strength of Husserl’s critique of transcendental no less than empirical anthropologism. Still, what ignites Derrida’s is not humanism or related matters per se; his work interrogates foundational thinking and practices related to conceptions of, e.g., thought, truth, meaning, presence, form, origin, etc., or, to say it short: ‘logocentrism.’ Humanism, and a fortiori anthropologism, e.g., is but one local effect among numerous effects of a certain belief system, a certain axiology. In the Avertissement to Le problème de la gènese dans la philosophie de Husserl, a 1990 ex post facto comment on a 1954 text, Derrida acknowledges a systematic continuance in his work by reference to a stability of a law which, in its literal formulation in this very first work, “will never have ceased, since, to command all that what [he] has tried to demonstrate, as if a kind of idiosyncrasy was already negotiating, in its own way, with a necessity that would always surpass it and that [he] would have interminably to reappropriate.” Almost 40 years, in 1990, of the same experience of disruptions of presence: in the fracture, in dem Riss, in the caesura, what takes place is not of debate and adversaries inside philosophy⎯what would amount to a gigantomachia peri tès ousias, a battle of giants for the conquest of the presence⎯but a struggle of one inside, rather, one another, the other, the other in oneself, the other other in oneself, taking place at the borderlines which at the same time dis-/conjuncts philosophy and nonphilosophy, Husserl and Derrida, breaking presence apart still making it possible. The battle of and for the present is necessarily contexed to an assumed proper but generally accessible past: what is present, what is truly present and presently true, can only come enter by way of already having locating the origin, an origin which always is of the past. The presence is the means through which to stabilize the teletube, the umbilical cord that traces us back, from which a nurse once cut us from: khōra. The battle of and for the present is always connect to a certain ‘radicalism,’ a radicalism that characterizes Husserl no less than Heidegger and Hegel, than, the entire philosophical history, not to say various political, scientific, and religious cultures. I will stress the fact that Derrida is a unique means to breach that magical spell cast.
Having his scrupulous occupation with Husserl surface professionally with his Introduction, it will last a great many years, but of which post 1977 marks an anxious inflection away from an acute addressing of phenomenology; irrespective of what spurs this inflection away, be it a branching off more in the sense of having accomplished what wanted or more in the sense of perceiving other even more urgent calls, I shall pursue the origin of Derrida through what at first may seem a thoroughly radicalist comportment.
If from 1954 to 1962 Derrida reads Husserl with the greatest vigilance, if in his first major text he decides to introduce Husserl’s latest text, if his writing will continue to systematically return to Husserl until 1977, I nevertheless contend that traces of Derrida’s transcendental and phenomenological vigilance never disappear in his writings⎯as, e.g., we referred from the 1990 Avertissement; haunting Derrida’s various post 1977 involvements these traces continues to witness to the origin of Derrida’s thought in the solicitation of the end of Husserl’s thought. As when already the Introduction constitutes an effective hauntology against which La Carte postale. De Socrate à Freud et au-delà of 1980 cannot but lift its visor; the postal principle was already there. It posts to, or better: from, future, and by such a cleaving upon cleaving creates future, or simulates what future is of. But as with any postal structure, the arrival is always already, a priori, “destinerrant.” But La Carte postale arrives displacing the Introduction in a fashion that is both violent to and affirmative of its tradition.
If now philosophy—in fact thought and letter in general—sends itself post cards, if communication in general involves the destinerrant postal principle, beyond any pleasure or reality principles, if it such displaces itself by never arriving simply as intended⎯a post card may always not arrive, and this possibility haunts even those arriving to someone at some point of time⎯, it should be recognized that such a predicament, or whatever one prefer to call it, is no less the case for science. If Derrida is said to have deconstructed philosophy, or at least demonstrated its deconstructability and the inevitability and irreducibility of such “deconstructicity,” then I contend that if one starts out with Derrida’s origin, originating with a farewell to phenomenology through reading Husserl’s testamentary Die Frage, and continues the posted, destinerrant displacements of this origin, up till 1977 and beyond, and beyond his death, then one will see that Derrida also invited us to think the deconstructibility of science. Of course, if science has freed itself, who knows that what extent, of a certain phonocentrism, it is still the case that it subdues to a certain logocentrism, or rather many forms of logocentrism; Derrida had already in Positions from 1981 suggested that logocentrism is even more deconstructable than phonocentrism.
His arguably very first thought in the Introduction is to conjugate writing and science in general, as insistently and persistently as possible⎯a project displaced but kept in the 1967 De la grammatologie as an impossible science of writing: there is no science of writing, there can be no such thing, due to writing itself no less than to science itself. And as De la grammatologie was often misread as to state grammatology as a science, Derrida found many an occasion to try to correct this misunderstanding and have his post arrive better. If now writing is irreducibly integral to science in general⎯what shown in the Introduction, with Husserl the great modern metaphysician behind his back since this is an idea that already struck Husserl, and most explicitly and daringly in Die Frage⎯, and if there can be no science of writing, there is no reason not to ask what writing does to science, writing being an element of ascientificity not only integral to science but as constitutive of it: there is no way to free the ideality of meaning to its universal possibility, no way to free scientific ideal objectivity from a simple and accidentally succession of individual consciousnesses where historical accumulation of knowledge is structurally impossible, except through the intervention of writing.
The succession, therefore, is certain: from criticizing science in its most vigilant and sophisticated metaphysical form, historically which remains to this day no less the transcendental phenomenology of Husserl than it did to Derrida in 1962 on, to criticizing the human and then the social sciences. Derrida was always after a certain conception of science in general; we will not hold that the ‘hard sciences’ in some mysterious or more mature way have managed to free themselves of what the ‘soft’ sciences still are plagued with. Derrida is after science in general, and in 1962 it seemed strategically right to enter the late phase of Husserl’s thought, where Husserl reaffirms but also deepens his first intuitions, deepens his phenomenology, by investigating into the origin of geometry, so as to find the general horizon of every being-sense. We will therefore not be surprised to find that mathematical sense is at stake; Derrida’s different solicitations, from here to there, anywhere in his texere, will affect mathematical sense no less than, say, humanistic or Marxist sense. It would be naïve to believe so; nothing is safe from différance. Still, we need, and especially today, booming with environmental crises as it does, to ascertain and even make a Rückfrage towards the original sense of Derrida’s Introduction. The sedimentations that tradition has layered his Introduction does not betray a prophetic hindsight; it reveals to us, however, the basic tools with which to come to understanding environmental crises, and also that Derrida himself did not ascertain the connection we are here about to make. Still, I would not be surprised will there come post mortem publications that suggest our own thoughts here.
I contend that La voix et le phénomène constitutes another important context for the epistemic, or scientifically pertinent, reading of Derrida I here propose. Husserl’s phenomenology cannot be understood as an isolated philosophical project⎯supposing that such isolate philosophy in general is possible. It is closely related to a project for a renewal of Husserl’s contemporaneous science, a science he deemed, together with a certain scientific telos of Europe, to be in crisis. This cannot be discarded when reading Derrida. The Introduction, from where Derrida’s own thought sparks, is clear in this respect, and it is clear that La voix et le phénomène constitutes the systematic and interested continuation of the project propagated in the Introduction. And so it is that Derrida’s thought, too, is immersed in scientific import, having science its context. If the Introduction commences a grafting of writing onto the scientific body in general, then La voix et le phénomène is pursuing this focus with a more fine-grained investigation of the sign, grafting indexicality in general into meaning, semeion, then Dissemination is a performance of a universally graftable and indexable meaning.