Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Much Ado About Nothing: Chapter 4: Part 2: Differance

1.) I don't care what he says, it's negative theology

In the seminal post-modern essay, Differance, Jacques Derrida utilizes self-reference as a strategy of articulation. It is here we encounter a difference which is perceptible only in the written form, a soft a, which is imbued with the French meanings of the verb to differ, and to defer, in English. It has both spatial and temporal qualities and is autological in the same way our paradox of self-describing statements is autological. It has the quality of that which it refers to.

It is here that we are met with the Derridean double-bind, which, while paradoxical is not the full fledged vicious circle that Russel encounters. There is a quality to differance which makes it atomic (by definition, by convention) in the sense that it is irreducible, it is an Origin.

"Differance is not simply rather indicates the middle voice."

In English, which has no middle voice (proper) the middle voice translates to something like:

"It broke", "It died", "He fell."

Every articulation of the "middle voice" then defers the agency, it hides the agent in a wishy-washy construction that children everywhere use when their mom says: "What happened to my lamp?"

"Uhhh... It broke."

So you see, the point of the middle voice in English, is to defer the agency of breaker, the killer, the pusher.

"It precedes and sets up the opposition between passivity and activity."

But of course it does. Differance is the origin of differences, a difference engine, a machine for analyzing differing, an analytical engine, which itself is anti-analytical. Derrida wants to define it externally to both concept and word, and see it instead as a violation of the order it is transgressing. Wherever it goes, it reeks havoc on the privileged and celebrates the marginalized notion, in this case the written word.

Never mind the fact that people have lived under written law for 3500 years, speech is the privileged form of communication according to anthropologists and so we have a difference which is only perceptible in writing. Never mind the fact that it is a word, if we define the term word in such a manner as to exclude it, we can conclude that it isn't one; never mind the fact that it is a concept, if our notion of differance is expansive enough to be concept-like. No, it is an assemblage, and we must see it in this manner, according to the rules of Derrida's game.

Forgive me, Jacques, I have my own game to play. And mine brings things together, instead of seeking to define itself in contradistinction to every other thing ever. Like a fly, we get caught in Derrida's web, which does in its own way bring things together, by describing itself as it describes itself, in a manner which is self-descriptive.

Now, I poke fun at Jacques (we're on a first name basis, now that he is dead) but I have a ton of respect for Differance, although I think teleologically it would be tantamount to reducing everything a polynomial, and if it is not a Turing Engine, then perhaps it truly is the difference engine Charles Babbage proposed and never created.

"It is a tomb that (provided one knows how to decipher its legend) is not far from signalling the death of the king."

Who is the king? Heidegger the nazi-philosopher king? Tammuz, the proto-Christ? Is anyone who assigns meaning or value to language a king?

All three of these are respectable possibilities, but the third if true, would absorb the other two in its web and be swallowed by the spider that tends it. The written word signals a kind of death we have made mention of before in our discussions on chaotics, to write a thing is to freeze it forever in the land of the dead, unchanging, unconscious, the realm of symbols and signs and names. For that is what we leave behind, our name, and all else is stuff, matter, life.

Derrida goes on to critique Saussure's structuralism by talking about what he leaves out: grammar. Saussure's system is there to deal with signs only and is well suited to do so, but Derrida always finds what is missing, what is marginalized, what is *not* there. The founding distinction between sense and intellect is now dismissed, or failing that, resists it in order to sustain it, by the play of opposites, similar to how Hegel would hope his dialectic functions.

In the interplay between speech and writing, speech vs. writing, sense vs. intellect, we are drawn to a more holistic understanding that is anti-interpretive, since interpretation freezes the meaning to one value.

This is why as soon as it becomes possible to say "well, this is just (negative theology) Derrida, always a step ahead, says this is not-negative theology. Differance resists the urge to be defined, terrified of the label, it's too slippery to pin to any name.

You can say this is Via Negativa certainly there is more similarity there than there is difference, but to pin it to a label is to kill it, to bury it. To interpret is likewise to murder it, and yet it seems to invite the attempt, even as it slides out of the grasp of language.

Derrida's definitions (even for the sign) are always negative, and he sets up his definitions like algorithms in an elaborated calculus which marginalizes the Integral by advancing the differential.

It is a language born out of paradox, a paradox that does not seek to resolve itself, but rather turn, revolve, play, elaborate, indicate, infer, apprehend. But the idea that there can be a knowledge or a writing which has as its object some truth, is anathema to Derrida's style, and in fact, the writing itself is the object and subject much like our favorite paradox $This sentence is false$. Differance is a word, it is a concept, but moreover it is a strategy employed for the sake of determining which values are privileged and at what other values expense.

The key issues in Derrida as they relate to $This Sentence is False$ are the negative definition of sign, the notion of the supplement and the metanym contained within the system which can be swapped out for the whole of it.

"This sentence" as we stated before, represents the whole sentence, and is the metanym referred to by self-reference. A careful analysis of $This sentence is false$ unlocks the key to Derrida's game, which is based on the transition from basic algebra to modern calculus which can deal with the infinite series algebra fails to fully describe.

One last point to be made is that in such systems meaning is reducible to this or that shape and then the mechanism of interpretation is supplanted by a mimicking of this or that structure, redoubled on multiple levels of meaning. Since a distinction is nothing more than a decision, we can unravel the web of traces backward and this is called Deconstruction. Construction, defined positively, is the series of insights that are capable of being wrought with just a compass and a protractor, which at once contain the bisection of the line, the Pythagorean theorem, and the insights of Free Masonry. It is in their dialectic that a new schema for interpretation should be born.

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