Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Derrida/TS part 2

Derrida sought to destroy metaphysical hierarchy. How did he intend to do that? He did it by creating a method of reading a text, a critical tool that would allow him to dissect and destroy any hierarchy simply because it was a hierarchy. That tool was known as "deconstruction." To reconstruct one takes apart, in the sense of destroy; destruction = destruction.

Hierarchy is based upon the binary opposition. That means hierarchies are like stacks of couplets, each contianing a major term and suppolamental term:

God/
evil

up/
down

male/
female

the assumption is that the term on top is the "major term" the "real" thing, the one on the bottom is tacked on or er zots, or somehow inferior. A hierarchical metaphysics is constructed out of these binaries. These are among the categories we use to order our perception of sense data; and thus to order the world. We can see this in the atheist metaphysics of scientism:

Objective/
subjective

empirical/
logical


Derrida inverts the couplets. The "inferior term" is taken as the superior term, and the assumption is made that the hierarchy is false. But what move allows this? He accomplishes this move by the realization of the principle of "differance." This is not my dyslexia at work. He spells it with an "a" in order to out over the point that there is more to it than just "difference" as we understand it. That is, difference is the basis of meaning in language. Meaning of signifier is based upon the difference in one signifier and another. That means we call a "tree" a "tree" not because it is intrinsically endowed with treeness, but because we don't call it a "frog," a "bat" or an "elephant." The meaning of these terms, what they refer to, is totally arbitrary. Thus meaning arises through difference. Derrida uses this point as the staging ground for a multiple assault on all of Western thought. He derives from it the notion that meaning derives from absence (difference is absence) rather than presence. So Plato is screwed, the Platonic theory is crap. This is so because the meaning of truth in Platonic terms is presence, the proximity to the forms, remember? So the presence of the forms in our thinking is our nearness to truth. The closer the ware to what we recall of the forms the closer we are to truth. He sets up a hierarchy of presence in which speaking is closer to truth than writing.

Derrida destroys this hierarchy of presence by demonstrating that derives from absence (difference = absence because there is no presence of meaning in the signifier). He finds that meaning is never present. Meaning is always absent and sought after, always different and differed. He makes a pun on differ and deffer. Meaning is differed in that language has multiple meanings (why he likes puns) and one can never be sure that the meaning of a statement is always off stage waiting to come on, and when it does it only refers to another meaning. Life a child who always asks "why" the answer is never available, it's always in the next question, and the next, and the next. It's flickering away always. He uses the phase "always already," meaning is already absent.

Deconstruction works by finding a contradiction in the thesis and using that to flip over all the meanings. The classic Derridian example is the distinction in Rousseau between nature and nurture, the natural and civilized. Rousseau says that we can have natural morality we can be naturally good and naturally happy by being spontaneous and rooted in nature. He also says, however, that civilization is good because it nurtures us and gives us a basis in education and understanding. This is an inherent contradiction and Derrida exploits it to show that all of Rousseau's ideas are meaningless. In fact he shows that all meaning is meaningless. Everything falls apart, there is no grand edifice of truth that can stand before the onslaught of deconstruction. If one takes deconstruction seriously one must, to be totally consistent, just wind up sitting in a corner and never speaking and never assuming anything.

I ended part 1 with his statement that logic cannot be secured by logical argument He undermines logic and reason in this way and reduces them to ashes. Thus the final step in deconstruction is to show that there is no meaning, there is no truth all lies in ruin. His main objective is to destroy the Transendetal signifier because that is the essence of Platonic meaning,t he big idea at the top of the hierarchy that secures meaning and makes sense of all other marks that make sense of the world.He is quite aware that the TS equals God, he says so himself. This is his ultimate triumph over Christianity. It's a supreme moment for atheism, but of course the American scientifically obsessed, philosophically challenged atheists could never appreciates it. Once you come to truly understand Derrida and your faith survives it, nothing in the nature of an intellectual argument can ever threaten your faith again.

How does one survive it? One of the major pastimes in graduate school for student just encountering Derrida is to sit around trying to deconstruct Derrida. Everyone does this and everyone thinks he's the first person to think of it. You can just tell when student's understanding is reaching critical mass and she/he is about to say "Hey, let's deconstruct him!" Derrida knew this, and he traded in it. Its' one of the features that assured that people wanted to study him more. But it doesn't matter if you deconstruct him because it only proves his point. Since he says there is no truth there is no ultimate reality there is no meaning, ti doesn't matter if what he says is untrue and not meaningful. Except for one thing: you don't have to make the final step. If you are to reverse Derrida then you don't want to prove that he has no ultimate meaning, you want to prove that he does have meaning and he's just wrong. This is can be done by using his method, but not using the final step. Don't conclusion there's no meaning, just show that his meaning is wrong.

Derrdia follows Heidegger in almost everything. Almost every step he makes can be seen in Heidegger's Parmenides book. Both thinkers say that metaphysics is undeniable. Derrida wants to explicate the end of metaphysics, but he also says there is no hope of escaping metaphysics. Even language itself is metaphysical. We cannot help but do metaphysics. That means metaphysical hierarchies are inescapable which means the TS is inescapable. Thus the choice we have is to assume there is a TS or to fall silent and never speak, never try to think coherently.But we cannot live with that choice. Because we have to assume it, we can't live without it, we should assume there is a Transendental signifier, and as Derrida points out, that's just a truncated version of God.













2 comments:

met said...

that was good explication, Meta

J.L. Hinman said...

hey thanks man