Included Image - Revival of the Goddess of Reason, Darwin Leon, www.darwinleon.com
NOBLE M. NOTAS[i]">http://www.authorsden.com/fckeditor/editor/fckeditor.html?InstanceName=detailedsummary&Toolbar=Custom#_edn1" name="_ednref1">[i]
The Controversial Structure
Jacques Derrida deconstructed structuralism and revived an ancient dynamic dialectic under cover of “post-structuralism,” thus he was a post-modern philosopher of Heraclitean temperament.
Structuralism had been the rage but it smacked of the metaphysical rigidity of the nebulous permanencies of ontology. Structure was another name for the outcome of a presiding being, in itself unmoved, but at once the motivating principle from which systems are supposedly derived; such as, figuratively speaking, the principle of the line, which is in truth an invisible non-dimensional point, somehow present throughout the extent of the line, which is itself an unseen, imagined object, deemed to be, for example, the principle of a visible arch, when curved, or, for example, the principle of a visible edge of a table when straight. The history of an idea or concept i.e. an object of thought is a series of such points or imagined beings under cover of different terms.
“The entire history of the concept of structure,” posited Derrida in Writing and Difference, “must be thought of as a series of substitutions of centre for centre, as a linked chain of determinations of the centre. Successively, and in a regulated fashion, the centre received different forms or names. The history of metaphysics, like the history of the West, is the history of metaphors and metonymies. Its matrix … is the determination of Being as presence in all senses of this word. It could be shown that all the names related to fundamentals, to principles, of the centre have always designated an invariable presence – eidos, archê, telos, energia, ousia, essence, existence, substance, subject, alêtheia, transcendentality, consciousness, God, man, and so forth.”
Derrida pointed out that the concept of structure was, up to a certain point, as old as the hills of Western thought - which he calls the Episteme (Thought). Both the concept and our name for structure have, like a venerable old tree with a sign on it, roots “thrust deep into the soil of ordinary language.” The Epistêmê plunges deep into the fertile linguistic soil to incorporate the structural concepts below and elaborate figures of speech above. “The structure of structure, although it has always been at work, has always been neutralized or reduced… by a process of giving it a center or of referring it to a point of presence, a fixed origin… to orient, balance, and organize the structure… to make sure that the organizing principle of the structure would limit what we might call play of the structure… play of the elements inside the total form. And even today the notion of a structure lacking any center represents the unthinkable itself… (T)he center also closes off the play which it opens up and makes possible. As a center, it is the point at which the substitution of contents, elements, or terms is no longer possible… At the center, the permutation or transformation of elements… is forbidden…. (T)he center, while governing the structure, escapes structurality. This is why classical thought concerning structure could say that the center is, paradoxically, within the structure and outside of it. The center is at the center of the totality, and yet, since the center does not belong to the totality… the totality is elsewhere. The center is not the center. The concept of centered structure, although it represents coherence itself, the condition of epistêmê as philosophy or science, is contradictorily coherent. And as always, coherence in contradiction expresses the force of a desire.”
The notion of a contradictory coherence is standard fare. For instance, an individual is at the perspectival center of his circumstances and is dependent on his existence as such on the resistance of those circumstances to the motive force or “desire” that would cause him to persevere eternally without impedance if only he could, but he cannot because if he did he would not exist. As Heraclitus observed early on, all things come to pass through the compulsion of strife; if there were no strife, all things would cease to exist.
Inasmuch as the nondimensional center or point or principle of a structure or system or organization is self-contradictory because it is not in itself a structure, static logicians, who believe A cannot be both A and not-A, believe they have good cause to deny its existence. Yet a dynamic logician, who is willing to admit to the logically absurd reality of a continuity between extremes, or a coincidence or union of apparent opposites, might point out that the non-dimensionality of the principle of a line—the point continuously present in the line and referred to in its particular infinitudes by pointing clumsily to one small place along the line or another—does not disprove the ideal being of an entity whose concrete existence as a unit is denied.
In fact, the concept of the point derived from pointing at points is imminently practical. The principle of an arch in a bridge cannot be directly seen but may be imagined and idealized by the drawing of a line through a series of points, and it may be discovered, for instance, that a catenary arch, the form we see in the St. Louis arch, a form that can be mathematically expressed in short order, may best sustain the weight of its structure and those who rely upon it to traverse an impediment. But can the metaphysical beings of ontology do the same, at least metaphorically speaking? A human being, who must have faith in the ground under him in order to walk, must have faith in transcendent or general being as well, the structure or center of the universe, to imagine and build an airplane and actually fly over the facts below.
If the essence of human nature is thinking if man is a rational animal who needs to communicate his thoughts for his species to survive. Then philosophy is talk about talk; postmodern thinkers speak of the “universe of discourse” as if that is all there really is. Sociologists naturally borrowed paradigms from the field of linguistics in their search for the underlying structures of a variety of sociological phenomena. Given the elements of speech, a virtually infinite variety of sentences can be produced from definite rules of syntax and grammar hence it follows that other forms of behavior might have a fundamental structure from which their apparent diversity is derived.
Nothing and only nothing is absolute, and even then the notion of nothing is only relatively absolute inasmuch as the negative or the nonexistent is dependent on positive existence. Chaos or Nothing might be the origin of all things; but order somehow emerges out of chaos and elaborates itself, giving form to all sorts of stuff. Since chaos has no structure, chaos cannot be the principle Derrida hails as the systemic center unless it is the absolutely absurd Structure or Logos from which all logical structures fall. If that were so, he is talking about nothing, or capital Nothing if you please, the universal god in the machines, the god that does not exist if what Heraclitus said is true : “This universe, which is the same for all, has not been made by any god or man, but it always has been is, and will be an ever-living fire, kindling itself by regular measures and going out by regular measures.” All there is, then, is eternal change, the fluctuations of an infinite number of possible structures or forms.
Agnosticism or Atheism
Exclusive structures or dogmatic constructions are repressive creations. They depend for their structures on excluded content hence the repressed is always implied by the creation of the structures and shall invariably return with destructive consequences unless deconstructed. But the structure or Center of structures cannot be deconstructed. It is indestructible, thus in itself irrational—inexpressible in a ratio or comparison with something other than itself. Reason as we define it is a historical construction. The attempt to understand reason tries to be reasonable about reasoning, but reasoning cannot be understood any more than can the man who reasons or any of his other passions for that matter. It is Unreason that leads to the One, and Reason to the Many. Johann George Hamann, a Christian mystic, said: “I am close to suspecting that the whole of philosophy consists more of language than of reason, and the misunderstanding of countless words, the personification of arbitrary abstractions.” And, “The light is in my heart but as soon as I seek to carry it in my head it goes out.” The Christian is skeptical of all but God, the ultimate personification of arbitrary abstractions, the illogical Logos that makes fools of the faithful.
When Derrida spoke of the “undestructibility” of democracy, hospitality, friendship, justice, democracy, he referred to the inchoate origin, the affinity of the many with the one. Theologians are interested in Derrida’s blathering about the Impossible if not Nothing for an understanding of the Absurd cannot be understood by reason but only through a leap of faith. Derrida at times appears to be a frustrated metaphysician. He was a sort of atheistic rabbi for whom the name of the one-god was important because it was a way of naming the unconditional indestructible. His pursuit of the indestructible reveals his desire for permanence, the absolute he loved so much that he could not cease and desist from destroying the conceptions besmirching its immaculateness. Nothing is permanent, so he was left empty-handed, yet with a feeling that something must be there although impossible to grasp, the Impossible. His transcendence was in intuited feeling instead of the ideal archetypes or false mental idols his iconoclasm would smash until nothing was left but the indestructible, absolute Other that is not objective at all but is the ground of all.
He wanted to get at the Thing of the things-in-themselves, to Being or God or the like. This coincides with the phenomenological project of destroying conceptions of being with critical analysis because all efforts to conceive of being are bound to fail: ontology, the science of being, is a false science because it is impossible to have carnal knowledge its disincarnate subject, being. We may beg the question by asserting the existence of being while denying its explanations. Since phenomenology is the science of experience, and we do have an experience of being ourselves, one might say a religious experience of the presence of some sort of absolute being, a phenomenalist true to his phenomena would describe that subjective experience without affirming or denying the objective existence of being-in-itself. Of course there may be no such thing in reality regardless of the experiential implications.
Judging from his pursuit of the Impossible Being, Derrida obviously had faith in the existence of that absolute something or rather Nothing that ontology failed to grasp intellectually. Apprehension of the impossible, absolute thingness of things is delayed or deferred (différance - the ground of change) by their differences. It is impossible to know the thing-in-itself, although one can try to grasp the slippery subject, and always fail because of its lack of qualities, falling into the cosmic crack between everything. Although skeptical of metaphysical absolutes, criticism can be constructive, analyzing or breaking down things to find out how they work through the internal contradicting, and reconstructing or synthesizing another system to obtain a better result – this is where the deconstructionists have deplorably failed, degenerating into cynical and popular dogmatic skepticism.
Derrida’s obsession with making much of difference by perpetually drawing differences was deemed irrational, divisive, and destructive of consensus and social harmony, therefore unethical. Never mind that to recognize, account for and analyze differences of opinion is a rational process and one of the pillars of democracy. What could be more democratic, in the sense of equal opportunity, and rational, in the sense that everyone might have his and her ration or fair share, than the celebration of multiplicity? Did not the eternal rationalist and cockeyed optimist, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz do the same? Did he not reconcile the interests of the many individuals, each standing alone, with their common interest in individuality, in the category of one? But the Lords of English at Cambridge adhered to the absolute, unmitigated truth, and militated against the perverse proposal that Derrida be awarded an honorary degree in 1992—we note that he was being considered for the Nobel Prize for Literature shortly before he died, and that President Chirac praised him for his contributions to the intellectual life of France.
Derrida did not raise one difference over the others, say Right over Left, except to reverse or subvert stated hierarchies in order to demonstrate that what can be raised high in a text can be set low, and vice versa, to demonstrate that no meaning is final, no concept is absolute, no value is permanent or eternal. He emphasized change over permanence, a sort of dynamic differentialism that struggles to know perfect, the impossible – Nothing is perfect. His admirers claim his ultimate political target in celebrating difference or pluralism was totalitarianism of any kind.
Still, his detractors insist that Derrida, following the tracks of ancient sophisticated, dialectical devils, used reason to raise the worst thing as the best, to make the weaker argument the stronger, and the like; or at best, they cultivate a dangerous ethical relativism that tends to topple all gods and social goods, leading to the demoralization and degeneration of civilization, especially when one of the plural factions, say a racist or ethnocentric party, reverts to the barbarian tribal principle, that might is right, to terrorize all, suspend civil constitutions, and establish arbitrary tyranny in defiance of the tolerant pluralism that allowed it to seize power. [ii] ">http://www.authorsden.com/fckeditor/editor/fckeditor.html?InstanceName=detailedsummary&Toolbar=Custom#_edn2" name="_ednref2">[ii]
The names we have for things fail to make them comprehensible. Things in themselves, as Kant reiterated, are inapprehensible and inconceivable. Now the difference between things is in their relation to one another, as in the ethical relation, the sexual relation, the relation to others, to whom one owes a responsibility for one’s own individuality, for without another one would not be one. But Derrida is responsible only for himself here, for he narcissistically places the other within himself, therefore the responsibility to the other may never be fulfilled. No universal law can suit the individual; reconciliation of the many to the one is the death of the many. The self or knower alone, without another, cannot know itself, hence to know thyself absent others is a never-ending, self-critical project, known primarily by what it is not, a not that is virtually nothing yet is everything, is Nothing or Being – the Being is the feeling of nothing.
We may name things as we will, but in truth we do not really know who we are, what the self really is, if anything, or what the true nature of the universe is, or what, if anything, god is if not a projection of the unknown self. Uncertainty about these matters proves a doubter to be of sounder mind than fanatics whose certainty inspires them to destructiveness. Doubt as well as faith is necessary to our survival. The presumably omnipotent Supreme Being, the absolutely self-motivated or uncaused cause, does not have to have a reason for anything at all, for it precedes all things, hence has no cause to think. Yet mobile, mortal, rational human beings have good cause to doubt at length in an ever-changing world that preceded and shall succeed the fleeting existence of their race by eons; doubt moves men and women to exercise their reasoning power to extend their lives, and they would live forever if only they could. The human being stands upright with head in the heavens to survey the world in general. The individual shares that general perspective with others; I do not stand alone for I alone do not exist; the very I or unity of self-consciousness is a social process of the fluctuating universe of discourse. However that may be, the very want of clarity and certainty of language for the complete understanding of causes (reasons) moves us to reason all the more in order to clear up the fear and doubt and confusion that motivate us to help ourselves and thus our kind. The fact that there is no perfect system of self-help does not stop us from doing our best to help others by helping ourselves, and to fill at least one bookshelf with self-help books.
The world religions organize fear and hope into faith, yet the foundational fear is bound to persist and to give reasonable people further cause for uncertainty despite their faith, further cause for doubt, not only about the things of this world but about transcendental entities that are never fully known or adequately represented as realities because they are imaginary. God may exist not as an existential reality but as ideal representation, not as first cause but as final cause. The ultimate standard, whether it is God’s law, the law of nature, or the correlation of the two, forever eludes our grasp. Simply calling the social mores natural or divine does not prove their moral worth. Love and kindness may come naturally by divine order, but so does hatred, despite the fact that we would absolve God of evil by blaming it on ourselves, or call evil good; but theodicy cannot turn evil into good: we may rationalize evil until doomsday, but it is impossible to rationally vindicate anyone for the pain and sin of this world—the beginning and end of the reasoning process that draws the ratio between good and evil is doubt, and that is as it should be if we are to survive our errors.
Indeed, the original sin of humankind is in the imperfection of the part in comparison to whole; if it were not for the individuality that naturally inclines it to error, the newborn baby would be innocent of such sin. Goodness is not merely knowing what one does best and doing it as one’s career, or in suiting one’s purpose in all honesty; we have an honest-to-goodness devil within that suits the purpose of his career as well. We may attribute the original sin of being different to Derrida’s Différance, and inquire as to whether or not the inchoate source from which differences are drawn and existence thus caused is good. We would beg askance of nothing. To be or not to be is the better question.
God’s creation may be perfect, but we should not presume to fully understand its creator, if there is one, or to explain the divine plan. Wisdom is in knowing that we do not know ultimate things, thus leaving the future open for change. It is the true believers who make war on the world, and not the skeptics. The low tolerance for uncertainty in certainty certainly has motivated a great deal of violence in our world. People of faith, who are faithful because everything is uncertain, have nothing to prove to themselves or to others, and their faith is expressed in deeds. Religious bigots are people of little faith or bad faith. More often than not we find the pious at war with the world. We are seldom surprised when the do-gooder is caught with his pants down in unseemly places. The world’s greatest atheists are hardly infamous for iniquity. Incredulous and skeptical people are not as well know for doing evil as credulous, superstitious people who are more than willing to destroy lives for unseen things, for arbitrary causes, unaware of their ambiguity and repressed ambivalence.
Nothing is Final
Derrida challenged the notion that any particular order is necessary or final. Space and time are categorically fused. We observe that order is a relational quality and not a thing in itself; the term ‘order’ names a verb, the ordering process or way of doing things. We use a set keyboard, known as the QWERTY keyboard for the fixed mechanical order of its letters, to mechanically produce the linguistic order of our language, but another typewriter system might do as well – in fact there is a more efficient keyboard-lettering system, one that apparently matches the natural law of our physiology, but who wants to change now given the cost of the changeover in time and money, especially since the gain in efficiency is rather minor?
The human brain is far more complex than a typewriter or computer, and the ‘god’ or ‘will’ in the machine, when unhindered by orthodoxy, loves to play and to experiment, to give the lie to all structures and truths. And this lying god who would fain deny all order when hindered for long shall revolt and be called Satan for whispering in the ear of the tyrant in us all. Youth tends to rebellion against received authority, and wants to be an authority in its own right; that is, to do its own research and arrive at its own conclusions.
Alas for the principle of freedom, for our contemporary conclusions most resemble the classical ones, and classical rationalism is rooted in the irrational. The human being is a moral animal, i.e. a rational animal who believes he knows the difference between good and evil, and calls his sophisticated casuistry ethics. Moral improvement over the millennia has been minimal. Despite high technology, man is still a lowly mortal creature; indeed, he appears corrupted or demoralized by the power over nature won from the advancements in objective sciences; whether there is really any such thing as progress remains an open question as we appear hell bent on destroying the world and everything in it. Research into the universe of our discourse invariably leads to what others have said on the same subject, and one becomes trapped in history, in mental culture, which is, after all, the collective memory without which we would perish as human beings. By the time we find out what is really going on, it is almost too late.
A great deal of time is seemingly wasted reinventing the wheel, but sometimes new and useful ground is covered when it is rebuilt and the axle greased, or at least we hope so along with the logically orthodox Zoroastrians, whose good twin finally overcomes the evil twin. When push comes to shove, bad habits might be broken and the behavior of those who have been doing wrong so long that they think wrong is right change for the better. Hence the wheel must be challenged and retarded at every revolution lest the race be crushed.
Derrida was necessarily familiar with the classical turns of humanism, which are very difficult to master; and within that liberating narrative he found the Impossible, a sort of impossible center or crisis critical of every angle and arc as history rolled merrily along, presumably forward, that everyone might be freed of divisive differences. He heard the irrational screams from the rubble of wrecked Europe. She had careened towards the light at the end of the historical tunnel; not realizing that she was in reverse, she lost her bearings and crashed.
Reason is not everything; it is a part of a passion at most.[iii] Faith in reasoning alone can lead one astray, particularly when Reason is affixed as an idol to the dashboard and the Heart no longer encompasses the course. Surely there must be some other course than the seemingly rational one that led to the great calamity where havoc and panic and murder and mayhem ran amok, as if the world could not turn without bloody contradiction. Derrida, conditioned to skepticism and cynicism by a philosophical discourse that never seemed to arrive at the absolute truth because it is a creature of humankind and therefore fashioned by historical circumstances, was already familiar with ambivalences, antinomies, ambiguities, absurdities, the so-called opposites or seeming contradiction which in continuous coincidence work the machines. ">http://www.authorsden.com/fckeditor/editor/fckeditor.html?InstanceName=detailedsummary&Toolbar=Custom#_edn3" name="_ednref3">[iii] Faith in reasoning alone can lead one astray, particularly when Reason is affixed as an idol to the dashboard and the Heart no longer encompasses the course. Surely there must be some other course than the seemingly rational one that led to the great calamity where havoc and panic and murder and mayhem ran amok, as if the world could not turn without bloody contradiction. Derrida, conditioned to skepticism and cynicism by a philosophical discourse that never seemed to arrive at the absolute truth because it is a creature of humankind and therefore fashioned by historical circumstances, was already familiar with ambivalences, antinomies, ambiguities, absurdities, the so-called opposites or seeming contradiction which in continuous coincidence work the machines.
Derrida was fascinated by the alternatives to everything; the more incoherently expressed the better. Surrealism was not surrealistic enough. At bottom reality was logically absurd: it was impossible for reason to get to the bottom of it. The notion of the Absurd, felt keenly by Gustav Flaubert, the frustrated romantic turned realist, and developed by Albert Camus, frustrated philosopher turned novelist, both of whom were well versed in the classics, was really nothing new, notwithstanding the German pool table and the English put on the French cue ball.
Derrida saw his opportunity in the Land of Opportunity, slapped together his texts, hustled the intellectual market, overturned the big trick and came out on top. For that he is denounced by the losers as an enemy of Western civilization, but what he did is at the basis of that civilization; that is, if proper European civilization is, as Pope Benedict thinks, founded mainly on Greek culture and the critical and skeptical philosophy that demonstrated that only the wise know they are ignorant of the alpha and omega of ultimate things.
Like Derrida, The Greek philosophers might as well be charged with playing “mere” language games; they certainly loved their riddles. Of course his detractors are offended most of all by his style, which they called “postmodern”, much to his dismay. But he should not have been offended, for there is some truth to the term: when strictly applied to architecture, Postmodernism implies a classical restoration, albeit somewhat disheveled under modern guise. Derrida’s freestyle does cloud the fact that he is offering up the same old dishes but differently sauced and garnished; well, some things never change, like the bay leaves which the Pythias at the oracle of Delphi chewed with good effect—the priests translated their ravings into ambiguous, bad poetry. In any case, Derrida’s allegedly unreasonable or anti-Enlightenment approach was tethered to traditional standards, employing well the tried and proven methods of the ancient skeptical masters.
Victor Cousin advised us to emphasize the greatness of great men after they pass away, and to overlook their shortcomings. Our fathers may have sinned, but their deeds were great, so let us accentuate the positive. Nothing is perfect: Every being has its faults, and great beings have more defects than others. Now great thinkers may not be great doers; indeed, they may do little more than criticize the works of their forebears. Still, it is bad manners to drop deconstructive bombs on their funeral processions.
The disciples of genuine masters must cut the cord and do their own thing, put their own twists and turns and spins on the same old thing. Yea, the disciple devours his yogi and sits on his mat; for Jacques Derrida that was not a hateful project but a painstaking, loving endeavor that would in time reconcile its unwholesomeness with its holy end, the death that seems impossible after waking up time and time again: Jackie had the dreams of a boy, of “dreaming of making love, or being a resistance fighter in the last war blowing up bridges or trains,” until Jacques, in his maturity, wanted “one thing only, and that is to lose myself in the orchestra I would form with my sons, heal, bless and seduce the whole world by playing divinely with my sons, produce with them the world’s ecstasy, their creation – I shall accept dying if dying is to sink slowly, yes, into this beloved music.”
Jacques Derrida died of pancreatic cancer in Paris on October 9, 2004, at age 74. He was an example of the Representative or Great Man of Philosophy ala Victor Cousin, the French eclectic who stole Hegel’s soup. He was post-Modern philosophy’s rock star; postmodern in this sense, that he was a classical philosopher in neoteric garb, a dandy who dazzled and corrupted the youth with skepticism for the authority we necessarily receive at birth whether we like it or not, doubting dogmatic authors who thought they knew everything in truth, but in truth knew absolutely nothing at all, least of all themselves and their gods; wherefore he continued the Socratic project of putting absolute authority to death, picking its metaphysical corpus apart and laying its authors to rest while mourning their passing into the Impossible—Comte’s Great Being, if you prefer. His ‘Deconstruction’ is considered to be a rite of passage for a generation of rebellious children. He personified the politically divisive French school that undermining traditional standards; his followers allied themselves with gay rights, feminism, and Third World causes.
Derrida’s deriders associate him with the counter-Enlightenment, anti-Kantian, anti-philosophe, anti-humanist mode of thought with its right-wing authoritarian antipathy to liberal democracy, inherited by the New Conservative movement in Germany, a conservatism rooted in the line of thinking of the likes of Joseph de Maistre, J.D. Herder and his friend Johann George Hamann, supposedly culminating in the Nazi Party in Germany and the neoconservative movement in the United States. [iv] In other words, Derrida was purportedly a diabolical French agent of the German Romantic corruption of the democratic principles of the French Revolution, and an anti-humanist ally of Germany’s neoconservative anti-intellectuals of the 30s. His celebration of cultural differences undermines universality and thus constitutes a threat to imperial democracy, presumably the only reasonable and therefore valid universal form of civilization capable of the toleration of differences. The United States of America, the sole superpower and epitome of high civilization, is democracy incorporated. Derrida’s detractors said that he, like the flotsam-and-jetsam postmodernists, hated America’s guts and wished all along for the fall of the military-industrial complex’s Twin Towers of Either-Or reasoning: One is either good and therefore for Us, or evil and therefore against Us; one must either buy this or buy that; by all means we must buy into our consumer democracy; all those who do not lead productive lives as consumers are defined by the surgeon general as mentally ill and therefore need the subsidized drug industry.">http://www.authorsden.com/fckeditor/editor/fckeditor.html?InstanceName=detailedsummary&Toolbar=Custom#_edn4" name="_ednref4">[iv] In other words, Derrida was purportedly a diabolical French agent of the German Romantic corruption of the democratic principles of the French Revolution, and an anti-humanist ally of Germany’s neoconservative anti-intellectuals of the 30s. His celebration of cultural differences undermines universality and thus constitutes a threat to imperial democracy, presumably the only reasonable and therefore valid universal form of civilization capable of the toleration of differences. The United States of America, the sole superpower and epitome of high civilization, is democracy incorporated. Derrida’s detractors said that he, like the flotsam-and-jetsam postmodernists, hated America’s guts and wished all along for the fall of the military-industrial complex’s Twin Towers of Either-Or reasoning: One is either good and therefore for Us, or evil and therefore against Us; one must either buy this or buy that; by all means we must buy into our consumer democracy; all those who do not lead productive lives as consumers are defined by the surgeon general as mentally ill and therefore need the subsidized drug industry.
A philosopher who apparently believes in nothing and therefore says nothing useful may be criticized as an infidel even though he has faith in Nothing; for example, the October 21, 2004 obituary in The Economist: “The inventor of ‘deconstruction’—an ill-defined habit of dismantling texts by revealing their assumptions and contradictions—was indeed, and unfortunately, one of the most cited modern scholars in the humanities…. It is not that Mr. Derrida’s views, or his arguments form them, were unusually contentious. There were no arguments or really any views either. He would have been the first to admit this. He not only contradicted himself, over and over again, but vehemently resisted any attempt to clarify his ideas. ‘A critique of what I do,’ he said, ‘is indeed impossible.’”
Socrates’ declamation against the followers of Heraclitus may be quoted in that context: “If you ask one of them a question, they draw out enigmatic little expressions from their quiver, so to speak, and shoot one off; and if you try to get hold of an account of what that one meant, you’re transfixed by another novel set of metaphors. You’ll never get anywhere with any of them.”
Derrida and his ilk used deconstructionist techniques to defend martin Heidegger and de Mann hence they are they derided: “The playful evasiveness of deconstruction masked its moral and intellectual bankruptcy.”
He denied his responsibility for the irresponsible behavior of his followers, including those literature teachers who, “armed with a new impenetrable vocabulary, and without having to master any rigorous thought, they could masquerade as social, political, and philosophical critics.”
His critics claim that his radical skepticism promises reconstruction after deconstruction but never delivers, hence is by no means creative destruction or constructive criticism, but is in reality dogmatic skepticism, hence utterly nihilistic. The deconstructionists therefore would not com-promise or contribute to com-promise or mutual give and take, which is a democratic process.
He allegedly condoned Nazism by not condemning his dead friend Paul de Man, who had in his youth had written anti-Jew articles in Belgium for the Nazis. One of his articles seemed to advocate a final solution: “A solution to the Jewish problem that aimed at the creation of a Jewish colony isolated from Europe would entail no deplorable consequences for the literary life of the West.” Professor De Man had lied at Yale, where he was a member of the literature department: he claimed he was a refugee from Europe, and insinuated that he had been a member of the Belgian resistance. Derrida deconstructed his friend’s articles in such a way that led him to conclude they were not anti-Jewish, leading one critic to say that deconstruction could prove Hitler was not anti-Jewish.
Derrida believed that with the death of a friend one loses the significant other who opens up the world for us. “There come moments,” he said, “when, as mourning demands, one feels obligated to declare one’s debts. We feel it our duty to say what we owe to friends.” In The Work of Mourning, as a writer who writes because he reads, he recognizes his debt to other writers by way of mourning them with his words. Derrida wrote well of friendship, the affection people have for each other despite or because of the differences between the one and its others. Loyalty is the prime virtue of friendship. But he said that personal integrity demands that we admit the faults of our friends when defending them, rather than deceiving ourselves and others because we believe we are always right in love no matter the defects of its object; if he were true to his word, he approved of Paul de Man’s faults by not admitting them.
And it is claimed that, in defending Heidegger, Derrida stooped to describing Nazism, which is opportunistic and has no set philosophy, as a rational philosophy, condemning Heidegger only for his faint adherence to humanism.
Hence Derrida, for defending his friend and being influenced by the philosophy of being and time of Heidegger—a member of the Nazi party—was accused of fostering racism and fascism. To add insult to injury, he is accused of being a “postmodernist” and thus associated with terrorism because postmodernist Baudrillard remarked that the destruction of the World Trade Center, the binary symbol of the military-industrial complex, fulfilled in fact the wishful thinking of people fed up with the arrogance of the sole superpower. Derrida himself rejected the description of the September 11 attacks as an act of “international terrorism” because the concept labeled “international terrorism” was too vague to identify the specific nature of the subject of discourse. Incidentally, he opposed the French war in Algeria and Vietnam, and the U.S. wars on Vietnam and Iraq. He opposed apartheid, defended Czech dissidents, and supported the rights of African immigrants in France.
Maurice Blanchot was allegedly one of Derrida’s heroes. Blanchot supported Petain during the decline of democracy in France, and advocated terrorism and anti-Jewism. Georges Bataille, another hero to Derrida, was averse to reason and advocated fascism as a charismatic martial means of glory and unity. Derrida’s concept of the ‘Other’ was influenced by Bataille’s view, that otherness transcends the political and economic considerations of the money-loving, utilitarian, bulging-belly bourgeoisie hated by communists and fascists alike.
Now Derrida’s deconstruction of grand traditional narratives is deemed to be intellectual terrorism, tantamount to the Nazi book-burnings. And the will to physical violence is imputed to Derrida from his conceptual deconstruction of metaphysical notions; i.e., his radical criticism of dogmatic positions by using opposition to turn them upside down and inside out. Furthermore, Derrida is derided as a violent man for restating platitudes attributing progress to revolution and justice under the law to violent enforcement.
Language and Style
Derrida proposed that the meaning of texts is not in the words themselves but in their relations. Those relations change: words are added and subtracted, their meanings change, and those meanings fluctuate by interpretation; not even the author knows his meaning. Since language is multi-vocal and vents a plurality of unique interests despite a universal mode of expression, nothing is final: There is no such thing as absolute truth, nor is there a singular meaning of a complete sentence; everything metaphysically said may be misinterpreted and reinterpreted. Human life is inherently ambiguous, hence speech is fraught with internal contradictions that, when carefully examined, constitute layers of multiple meanings. Pointing that out will help to confuse people.
Derrida was derided by finalists who wanted traditional finality in their respective English departments, but he was praised by the critical climbers for he preferred to elevate the many over the one, to replace the ideally one and only meaning of literature and life with multiple interpretations. After all, if literature and its texts have multiple meanings capable of virtually infinite interpretation, every innovative literary critic has an opportunity to become a noteworthy critic as well as a philosopher of note, and might even preside over his or her own English department some day.
One way to rid the society of the linguistic domination of its high priests is to make a joke out of it, to not take it serious, to play with it, to philosophize freely with it hence denying that philosophy is scientific, something reasonable and prior to language that must therefore be separated from the play of language in order to represent truth in some concise, terse, formulaic manner. Deconstructionists do not want to take life seriously; they want to play with things. But their worst critics say deconstructionists would rather talk about everything than fight for rights; thus in their intellectually intolerant tolerance they leave the dominant oppressive power intact; they want to talk about talk instead of doing something useful; they are conservative in the sense of regression to babbling childhood; their talk about personal identity in multicultural diversity is vain and subjective, deludes people into thinking their own lifestyle is righteous, and leads to ethnocentrism when challenged. Literary professors who imitate Derrida’s style set themselves up falsely as philosophers with profound insight into human issues.
We learn from the literary gossip that some people who knew Derrida believed they saw the devil in his eyes and that he deliberately pursued a program he knew would madden everyone who belonged to his school. His deconstructionism is a diabolically difficult school, no doubt because he did not pretend to be teaching a course for that school. Indeed, his explanations of his philosophy were murky. “Deconstruction, if such a thing, takes place as the experience of the impossible.” Moreover, he could not define deconstruction: “Deconstruction, if such a thing, takes place as the experience of the impossible.”
Moreover, language professors who wanted everything spelled out for them in short sentences did not like the way Derrida he wrote; his literary style was repugnant to their sensibilities. He deliberately used dense, complex, and circular language. His prose is turgid and baffling, with single sentences running into three pages, and footnotes even longer. Even worse, he infuriated intellectuals with his insistence that the meaning of a set of words is never fixed and clear, for language is inherently ambiguous. Hence he was charged with corrupting the youth with nihilism, a charge he vehemently denied. We shall see which way the universe of discourse will turn when they take the helm.
[i] Noble M. Notas is the nom de plume used by David Arthur Walters for academic notations
[ii] Humanists, for whom the rational human being is the alpha and omega of discourse, worked to constitute rational safeguards that would prohibit, for the sake of the universal, any particular faction from seizing power and holding permanent sway over the body politic. A democratic constitution shall afford all parties in opposition to any party holding power a chance to take seats in legislative bodies, and, if the majority of the people so will or tolerate it, to preside over the state from time to time. The authors of relatively democratic institutions warned against the emergence of particular factions and parties lest they stray from the common good and overthrow the constitution. Two major parties ordinarily emerge in a relatively free atmosphere, the left and right wings of the political vehicle; both extremities are affixed to the central body. All too often the two major parties, who find it necessary to compromise somewhere in the middle to preserve their relative interests in keeping the body in flight, wind up playing musical chairs, simply rotating in and out of power in order to share the spoils of powerful offices. Coincident to the population explosion of the industrial-scientific revolution, big political parties dominated by bosses became necessary to organize the masses and to educate them to the issues; needless to say, the education was simplistic and often exploitative, suiting the motives of power brokers rather than the needs of the people. The major U.S. parties, both of which recognize the same founding father, are essentially the same in their “neo-liberal” principle or organized greed; voters are given virtually the same candidate with different names and party affiliations; true , differing ideological campaign stances are taken, but radical reform is rendered impossible when the candidate takes the oath of hypocrisy, stating he will do the will of the so-called People instead of following his prejudice – but the general will is so diverse and in itself incomprehensible that the elected official can and will do pretty much what he wants whether it be in the public interest or not, and most people will not be any the wiser until someone gets caught with their hands in the cookie jar or in other inappropriate places.
[iii] The Light of the Enlightenment, idolized Reason, has been overheated and is bound to set the world ablaze and scorch the earth, incinerating the natural environment and social organisms, each of which had its own, individual or cultural center of life – so much for the relativistic notion that one outfit is as good as another. Public reason claimed as the common good rejects the differences of others, disrespects otherness. Humankind must be liberated from the tyranny of reason and its oppressive either-or mechanic; given the native hypocrisy of the human race, every individual is at odds with itself and the others in the war of all against all; the doctrine of individualism, which would universalize all individuals under the rubric, category-of-one, is a collective farce. One may resort to myth, magic, martinis, madness and religion to restore the person to exalted status, but there is no better agent for dissolving the nefarious leveling influence of unitary reason than the analytic acid of critical reason liberally applied to the perverse perfusions of so-called liberals – every person, conservative or liberal, would be liberated from his limitations.
Of course to use Reason against itself and to set dogma against dogma is blasphemy, but Man seems originally bound and determined to contradict himself ad infinitum – columnists on both sides of every division feed on human ambiguity, hypocrisy, contradiction. Language, given its relation to reason, is in itself violent, a war by abstract means; philosophical writing is virtual suicide in advance of the fact: a philosophical book is bomb and its author a suicide-bomber. May the best or worst man win, for one is as good as another, and likewise his relative ethic and culture. Finally, might is right; hence rightists lash themselves together as a Total under chimerical central authority and are this time called fascists, patriots under Pater instead of liberal democrats led by a Caesar or communists by a revamped Tsar. Ideological lines may be drawn between the political organizations, but in the final critical analysis – that of the battlefield where man degenerates to brute and reduces civilization to rubble – all are the same in violence, devastation, death. Once the ground is leveled, the messiah may appear to compensate for violent, competitive patriarchy; then and only then shall a feminine center of attention hold, dispelling dystopia and giving birth to the New Man in Utopia. Yes, something must be coming from all of this, something much better than presently recalled from past presents, but it cannot appear until the slate is wiped cleaned – expectant Nothing is pregnant with meaning because we are used to waking up.
The unifying property of reason is found in modern empirical science where all sane inquirers cannot help but agree as to the result of a scientific experiment, or that the same factors applied to the same circumstances have the same result. Comte and the French ideologues propounded the possibility of a scientific social science that would be the ultimate or queen of the sciences, since Man would be its natural beneficiary. Scientific metaphysics
[iv] The neoconservative or pseudo-conservative ideology defends particular interests against the universalizing tendency of humanism, which allegedly liberates people only to enslave them. European conservatives insisted that there is no such being as humanity, that the generalized ‘Man’ humanists abstract from human beings and idolize simply does not exist except as a figment of their liberal imagination. Humanism, as far as the neoconservatives were concerned, was responsible for the revolutionary violence that eventually resulted in massive crimes against humanity and the threat of nuclear annihilation. From their particularistic perspective, the cult of reason, with its obsession with liberating everyone in the world by spreading democracy throughout the world whether the spheres of interests like it or not, is sophisticated violence and oppression.