(a) From Writing to Arche-Writing
I use words to mean anything I want them to mean.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Far from repeating such a radical gesture as Alice in her effort to be master of the situation and hence of the signification of her words, Derrida’s usage of the term “writing” as an expansion from “language” has nonetheless already exceeded its own proper meaning. This excess must now be recognized and not simply pointed towards by metaphor as in the previous section. We cannot with “writing” extend our thought to the space of an originary inscription, or a non-derivative articulation not dependent on the “experience,” “will,” work or intention (vouloir-dire) of a present consciousness immediately present to itself. The term writing is limited in its essence to this derivation. Yet that which Derrida is aiming to describe proceeds beyond and indeed attempts to explain the possibility and constitution of such a “presence.” As he says, in using the term “writing” one remains “necessarily within the domain of science and philosophy”; that is, within the domain of the Logos. In order to move his discourse towards the “roots,” “origins” (which are of course at the same time “non-roots” and “non-origins”) of Logos itself, it is necessary to not utilize terms, if possible, that will immediately, by definition, usurp the excess (efface it) in giving meaning itself to the discourse. Yet, to be meaningless is not as such Derrida’s aim, needless (perhaps) to say. The issue is to show the conditions of the possibility of Logos and hence of truth, as these terms are understood within the tradition of Western thought, or metaphysics itself. It is not however a simple step outside of metaphysics (which would also be outside of language) that is required here. It is also more than the simple “putting under erasure” of the “concept of writing” as such. That which Derrida aims toward is more than a “sort of writing,” or something that both is and is not a writing. The limits of writing are inscribed in its relation to speech (as other than speech) and in relation to the subject (author) as the “writer of writing.” Both of these relations must be put in question in order to follow Derrida at this point. We can no longer assume them nor allow them to “control” our discourse or our analysis here. Therefore, we propose to indicate the significance (paradoxically perhaps) of the shift from “writing,” for Derrida, to that space of “arche-writing.” Derrida explains the move in this way:
The “rationality” ... which governs a writing thus enlarged and radicalized, no longer issues from a logos. Further it inaugurates the destruction, not the demolition but the desedimentation, the deconstruction of all the significations that have their source in that of the logos. Particularly the signification of truth.1
It is significant to note that Derrida still employs here the term rationality, albeit in quotation marks. That which “governs a writing thus enlarged” is therefore comparable to a “rationality,” but is not a rationality. It is not Logos that governs its own constitution and therefore not Logos that founds the conditions of the possibility of “truth,” for Derrida. But of course it is Logos that governs truth as such. The distinction allowed by the usage of quotation marks is precisely what is at issue here, and it will become crucial to understand the shift that occurs when one speaks of the difference between “rationality” and rationality, for example. This is not a transcendental reduction but also not dissimilar to it. In the reduction, certain paralysis of usage occurs, a certain bracketing, a certain exclusion, but one which Husserl himself admitted “changed nothing.” For instance, he reduces the “life-world” in order to approach the constituting structure of the transcendental ego. Derrida, of course, does not focus on such issues except in order to reach beyond or beneath them. The parallel here is that, where Husserl sought to explore the conditions of the possibility of the constitution of the object-as-such (for consciousness as such), Derrida seeks to explore the conditions of the possibility of constitution of the as such by Reason itself. One might reasonably expect therefore that his discourse cannot be subjected to the dictates of Reason in its effort to extend to its (necessarily non-reasonable) conditions of possibility. But we must proceed with caution here, since it is a journey that paradoxically requires that Reason be invited to come along—but always and necessarily a posteriori. Derrida, too, insists explicitly that the “need for Reason” cannot be avoided, but that its usurpation of our approach must be resisted “as long as possible.” The danger is always that in making such an attempt the discourse will simply become “meaningless” and leave no trace before being therein comprehended (as incomprehensible) by Reason. Therefore, with the phenomenological reduction as our model here, we must describe the process at the same instant as it is exposing itself in the description. Yet this task in intrinsically impossible, just as the performance of a transcendental reduction on the transcendental reduction. Thus the structural limits of description make themselves felt. With this we move towards what Derrida calls arche-writing.
From then on, to wrench the concept of the trace from the classical scheme, which would derive it from a presence or from an originary nontrace and which would make of it an empirical mark, one must indeed speak of an originary trace or arche-trace. Yet we know that that concept destroys its own name and that, if all begins with trace, there is no “originary” trace.2
The term “trace” here is “another name” for that which Derrida calls “writing,” we should recall. The paradigm is the same however in the shift from trace to arche-trace, as from writing to arche-writing. It is the extension of the same concept to utilize it “strategically”; that is, structurally rather than “literally.” That is, the movement from writing to arche-writing is the shift from writing as such to that which is “like” writing, only more so in a way and hence not “writing,” properly speaking, at all. What is happening here, we suggest, is the shift from the is structure of the Logos to the as structure of that which founds it, for Derrida. We are performing the same gesture in describing “writing” in terms of the term “trace,” but we must show the necessity of this displacement which “puts things in place,” as we proceed to deepen or extend our analysis here. But why is this the “concept that destroys its own name” here? And is this also true for “writing” in its move to “arche-writing”? This problem presupposes a certain notion of the concept as synonymous with the “name”: that is, the “proper name,” the notion of identity itself, as excluding difference (its other). Yet how can a concept destroy its own name? If it is doing the destroying here, then is it not also the victor in the end of the “battle of the proper name”? The battle here is not dissimilar (in structure) to that of the master/slave dialectic for Hegel. The difference is, of course, that for Hegel the constitution of the concept is the result, not the beginning, and the beginning is the non-concept or that which is not yet named, but will be. For Derrida, the opening of the battle is the concept in struggle with itself. This presupposes a certain duplicity within that which admits of no duplicity. A certain double already there, yet unacknowledged, unrecognized. Indeed it is in the “end” the recognition of this inner duplicity as essential to the concept which destroys it, for Derrida. Therefore the destruction is not of the “name as such,” in a certain sense, but of the name of the “concept”; that is, of the “concept as name,” of the concept as the proper name of the name, as its sense, its meaning, its prescriptive circumscription and limit. We transgress these limits with Derrida and arrive at a more originary origin. Also only a posteriori, since of course we are already within the realm of the Logos—or the world according to Reason. The problematics of the origin of origin as an essential non-origin will be addressed with respect to the trace as such in the upcoming section. Of course, the issue will be that the trace-as-such is also a contradiction in terms and does not, indeed cannot (properly speaking) exist.
Yet Derrida retains the “proper” in his movement beyond Reason and not only as the legacy or face of the past that “allows itself to open to the future.” The “proper” is essentially irreducible, we suggest. As he says, the issue is concerning a “rationality” which “governs a writing.” We are certainly not free of structural constraints in this formulation. Quite the contrary. We are moving towards an ultimate law, an ultimate structure which itself has no other. (The same problem as concerns Derrida in terms of the Absolute Spirit or Geist in his criticism of Hegel, by the way.) Although still using the “old names,” Derrida explains the significance of this structure and of its primordiality in terms of science, the epistéme, and objectivity as such:
Writing is not only an auxiliary means in the service of science—and possibly its object—but first, as Husserl in particular pointed out ..., the condition of the possibility of ideal objects and therefore of scientific objectivity. Before being its object, writing is the condition of the epistème [my emphasis].3
Thus the question of writing cannot, due to structural constraints, answer to the question of truth. It cannot answer to science: to linguistics (for example), which makes of it an object-of-study. An “ology.” This is why, as Derrida says, Grammatology is still within and therefore falls victim to the system of Western thought known as metaphysics, or in short: Logos. Thus we will not speak here of Grammatology. It is that which gives rise to “ology” that we wish to speak of. But what sort of primordiality is this, and how can its existence be proven or established, rather than simply described and posited as such? Can one prove or disprove Derrida’s claims as such? Are they weighable on the “scales of Reason”? Or do they not exceed and put those same scales in question? As he says, the “thought of the différance [another name for arche-writing] is that which in the play of the system never has weight.” It is that which falls through the net of Logos—yet it is not simply force, the idiom or thought, as we described earlier. We are dealing with a structure here, albeit one which includes the above triad of elusive problems. Derrida explains:
Arche-writing, at first the possibility of the spoken word, then of the “graphic” in the narrow sense, the birthplace of “usurpation” ... this trace is the opening of the first exteriority in general, the enigmatic relationship of the living to its other and of the inside to an outside: spacing [my emphasis].4
He further claims that arche-writing is the “articulation of the living on the non-living.” But first how can we describe the possibility of the spoken word, its preconditions, without moving immediately into a psychology of speech, or perhaps a transcendental psychology of the spoken as such? Husserl had similar problems in distinguishing transcendental phenomenology from transcendental psychology, as we know. But the subject of speech is not at all the issue here. We must rule out the notion of speech as the property of a subject, or writing as that of an author, or movement as a result of a “Prime Mover.” With such formulations we must arrive at Nietzsche’s notion of the will which ultimately wills itself—not unlike Geist either fundamentally—and thus return to a metaphysics of Being and Presence and the problems of consciousness as it relates itself to an object which is fundamentally “its” object. It is beyond such a will to power and the power of the will that Derrida is pushing us here. The “possibility of the spoken word” is the possibility of spacing and timing, the possibility of “articulation in general,” as “habitation,” he claims. “Indeed we speak of inscription in general, in order to make it quite clear that it is not simply the notation of a prepared speech representing itself, but inscription within speech and inscription as habitation always already situated.”5 We might justifiably return to the inscriptions of “Now is the noon” and “here is the tree,” as Hegel’s opening words in the movement towards Absolute Knowledge. What escaped him here, Derrida claims, is the movement of writing itself. He described everything else, but paradoxically did not or could not explicate that which pushed his discourse onwards to everchanging formulations. It was more than Geist, as we shall see presently.
Yet how are “inscription in general” or arche-writing to be understood as the foundation of Logos (albeit denied and effaced therein)? What is “inscription in general” for Derrida? And is this not in itself a contradiction in terms? Indeed we might suggest first that it is necessarily a contradiction in terms. The problem of contradiction or, more precisely, of non-contradiction as one of the two founding principles of philosophy as such, is the issue here. (The other founding principle being that of analogy, as Aristotle explicated at some length, also paradoxically, as we shall see later). That which is a “contradiction in terms” is more exactly a contradiction within a term. It is the “concept that destroys its own name,” as we discussed earlier. The need to adhere to this principle of philosophy here must also be suspended, at least for the moment. The “term,” “word” for Derrida, is precisely that which houses its own contradiction, its own destruction (according to philosophy). It is the locus of the violence that suppresses (makes mute, speechless) its other, which nonetheless lives within the term—albeit illegitimately for the Logos. We might well ask what else lives under the roof or within the house of Being, which Heidegger called language or metaphysics as such. That which does not “properly” exist there but also “exists nowhere else,” Derrida claims. But concerning “inscription in general,” why is this a contradiction in terms for Derrida and yet also against Derrida? Because inscription is intrinsically non-general—there can be no such “thing” as “inscription in general,” or which is the same thing, inscription as such. The terms “in general” and “as such” belong inextricably to the system of thought controlled by metaphysics. It is Logos that constitutes the possibility (at one level at least) of the “in general,” of the “as such.” We must keep this opening in mind as we proceed further along Derrida’s path, and search for further hidden “forks” in the road leading back (onwards) to Reason.
More precisely for Derrida, the possibility of inscription in general, or all signification, is a function of différance (another name for archewriting) in the following sense:
Différance is also the production of these differences, of this diacricity from which linguistics comes from Saussure and all the structural sciences which have taken it as their model have reminded us that they were the condition of all signification and of all structure [my emphasis].6
Thus we should realize several things here. First, différance is a productive and therefore active movement, and second that its products are the “differences” of which Saussure speaks in describing the possibility of meaning in general in language. Meaning is that “space” between the terms, their relations and interrelations within a “chain of signification.” Thus we are not to focus on the terms as such, but on their relations to one another. That is precisely: their differences wherein their meanings lie. Yet how are these differences produced as such, aside from simply the movement of language as such? As we have shown, Derrida extends the issue beyond language, and thus the problem of meaning in general must be treated in terms of inscription in general, and in terms of the production of differences in general. Yet what allows for this production, we repeat? First, we must remark that meaning is here seen as an effect, a result, a product, an a posteriori, and not self-originating. Although it may be true for Derrida, as for Merleau-Ponty, that “we are condemned to meaning,” it is precisely this condemnation as such—the fall of thought into the Logos—which is in question here. One might initially be tempted to view the production of differences as result of the “Same,” in a classically metaphysical formulation. From the One we arrive at the many. Indeed the many (differences) are considered, by Hegel for instance, as products of the One and hence in the end must return to the One: return from the “detour of differences” back to that realm of the Same—the essential condition of their appearance as such. This is not the case for Derrida however. Writing for him is instead, as arche-writing, radically originary. This means that nothing precedes it, nothing founds it, and nothing ultimately controls it. Paradoxically, it is this ultimate power which allows it to “fall victim” to the structure and structurality (the formation of form) which characterizes metaphysics. We shall explore later this excess, which is simultaneously a lack, in terms of its economy. At present it is crucial to point out that arche-writing, for Derrida, is that “structure” which, for example, allows for the possibility of a description of something which Hegel called Geist. It is the condition for such a name as such, and yet also that which exceeds it. More precisely, Derrida describes the constitution of differences by différance (archewriting) as an inaugural movement: as that which institutes for the first time that which did not exist prior to that movement:
It is because it is inaugural that writing is dangerous and anguishing. It does not know where it is going; no wisdom keeps it from this essential precipitation towards the meaning that it constitutes and which is initially its future.
It is not however capricious except by cowardice. There is nonetheless no insurance against this risk. Writing is for the writer, even if he or she is not an atheist, but if one is a writer, a maiden voyage and without grace [my emphasis].7
Thus we return to “writing” as our model for “arche-writing.” Evidently Derrida is speaking on two levels (at least) here in his description. In both senses, we have a notion of a blindness which is intrinsic to the structure/movement of writing as such. Its lack of direction is its freedom and its danger; it is that which opens the possibility of writing and yet potentially, at least, closes off the possibility of a future radically other (not a future present) than the present or the past. Writing thus “makes” a difference, at the same time as it produces differences, or meaning as such. Meaning here, it should be recalled, must be understood in Husserl’s sense of the term as “object,” as the structure of the intention (vouloir-dire). In addition, we should add, writing therein produces identities: or those ‘objects’ which we can and indeed do name. Writing therefore à la fois produces or constitutes that which we cannot any longer consider writing, or even arche-writing. Writing, in its movement, therefore creates a shift which alienates, isolates, or exiles itself from its own recognition. Writing effaces itself in its “being-written.” This is so because “writing as such” does not exist, is not an entity, and can never become an object, nor therefore an “object for science.” Neither can one develop a phenomenology of writing, since it necessarily eludes that which Husserl called experience—the immediate presence of the object to consciousness. All of these last terms must be seen in this context as necessarily obsolete.
Derrida speaks of writing, or in particular of arche-writing for us, at this juncture, as a sort of opening to exteriority as such. Later he will consider it in terms of the spatiality of space: that movement which is spacing itself, which grounds the possibility of what Kant has described as the “a priori intuitions of [both] space and time.” But first, what is this “exteriority” for Derrida? Does this term itself not also situate our issue within that same metaphysics we had sought to leave behind, or exceed? Indeed Derrida speaks of the movement of writing as a descent, yet also the movement of thought into metaphysical formulations as the “fall” of thought. How are we to understand these metaphors, classical as they are, for a “fall” from one place to another? The issue here for Derrida is the following:
Writing is the issue as the fall of meaning out-side of itself: metaphor ‘for-otherness-in-view-of-otherness-here-down’, metaphor as metaphysics where being must hide itself if one wishes the other to appear.8
As one might expect, the descent of one “side” is simultaneously the ascent of “another,” of the same thing. Writing for Derrida is here very similar to the movement of Geist which Hegel describes. But in reverse. It is the fall of meaning outside of itself: which is to say the shift from meaning to non-meaning, but not to a simple nonsense, as we mentioned earlier. The fall of thought into “metaphysics” is a parallel but reversed movement therefore. This movement is also, however, a function of the movement of arche-writing or différance as such. It takes no sides in the struggle between “identity” and “difference.” It constitutes both simultaneously and as complimentary, or in struggle, if one prefers. Thus one might perceive the constitution of meaning by (according to) the Logos as a fall of non-meaning into meaning. And in addition, one might conceive the therein-constituted meaning as further (or later) being capable of (or inescapable from) a fall subsequently into non-meaning. One might be tempted to sum up this double process in the words of the Anaximander fragment—but one should not, we suggest. Nietzsche’s translation of this fragment, subsequently retranslated into English runs as follows:
Whence things have their origin, there they must also pass away according to necessity; for they must pay penalty and be judged for their injustice, according to the ordinance of time [my emphasis].9
The “justice” he imposes on this movement is too akin to the Reason and logic of metaphysics, we suggest, and the Ultimate Good as the ultimate expulsion of difference from the same. Instead we are perhaps closer to that which Nietzsche referred to as “beyond good and evil,” and the difficulty of judgment as such. The double movement allows for the notions of good and evil as such; it therefore allows for ethics as such to be constituted a posteriori to the structure of metaphysics. Derrida is not unaware of this danger as a danger and as a freedom, as we have already intimated in terms of writing in particular. But for history in general, he also admits:
To recognize writing in speech, that is to say différance and the absence of speech, is to begin to think the lure. There is no ethics without the presence of the other, but also and consequently, without absence, dissimulation, detour, différance, writing. The arche-writing is the origin of morality as of immorality. The non-ethical opening of ethics. A violent opening [my emphasis].10
This violence, as we have shown, is the violence of the proper name. But we have also shown that this violence is not so much a death as a contamination; that which makes “purity” and “impurity” possible. It is thus a short step to the recognition of the conditions of the possibility of ethics (in general) as also, at the same instant, the conditions of the impossibility of ethics. The presence of the other, indeed the presence of the subject to itself, as the condition of ethics, is precisely that which Derrida has revealed as the myth of metaphysics—indeed that which constitutes the possibility of metaphysics—but also that which is fundamentally false. (What false could mean in this context must remain necessarily unclear and imprecise.) The simultaneous condition of ethics here is the presence and absence of the other, of the subject to itself: in short of mediacy—of différance and of writing. It is this presence/absence relation which is precisely that movement of arche-writing itself. But we shall explore this in greater detail shortly. For the moment we must recognize: (a) that we have not here overcome the need or the possibility of an ethics, but (b) that we must turn towards a radically new foundation for the same, one which is of necessity beyond metaphysics as such. The terror instilled in such an approach is described by Derrida himself in the following admission: “... writing cannot be thought outside the horizon of intersubjective violence.”11 Indeed we call each other names—both properly and improperly—in order to have what we call society and what Husserl called intersubjectivity. It is the possibility of the constitution of intersubjectivity as such that the question here and thus necessarily the limits of metaphysics in this regard. We have always already transgressed them, but it is perhaps Derrida who is one of the first to attempt to describe such a transgression (a) as necessary but thus also (b) as past. The age of metaphysics. The epoch of différance is—as with thinking—“that which we know we have not yet begun.” Perhaps.
We must now address that which Derrida calls the trace, as yet another name for arche-writing, another name for différance. It is with the trace however, in particular, that we shall approach what Derrida points towards as the “radical past,” which is radically other than the present part, as we shall explore presently.
(b) The Radical Past: The Trace
If the trace refers to an absolute past, it is because it obliges us to think a past that can no longer be understood in the form of a modified presence, as a present-past. Since past has always signified present-past, the absolute past that is retained in the trace no longer merits the name ‘past’ [my emphasis].12
The radical past of the trace is therefore not a past that has been “forgotten” in the sense that it was once present. It is neither a sort of “future” that can be made present, or brought into “consciousness.” The “form” of the trace exceeds both possibilities, for Derrida. It is, however, not absent-as-such, since this too would necessitate the relation of the trace to the present as its other, which is also not the issue to be treated here. Thus how are we to localize this nebulous “concept,” which indeed is not a concept as such, if it intrinsically escapes all preconditions for formalization? We intend first to examine the roots of this notion for Derrida as they appear in Husserl, Levinas, and Freud. The similarity of the “trace” to temporalization as such, for Husserl, to “the trace of the other” for Levinas, and to the “magic writing pad” for Freud will be examined initially here. We hope in this process to illustrate the profound though subtle differences between Derrida’s “trace” and “les traces des autres.” The movement from Husserl to Levinas to Freud, and finally beyond Freud by a “return” (which is not a return) to Husserl also parallels that of Derrida himself on this issue, we suggest. His own work began with the opening in Husserl which pushed him beyond the latter’s own phenomenology, properly speaking, and is at present (1981) concerned with the unconscious in Freud, as beyond that which Freud himself formalized due to the latter’s reliance on metaphysical presuppositions and preoccupations. Levinas occupies a central position in this transition only in a figurative and symbolic sense, since he à la fois puts in question “the metaphysics of presence,” with his treatment of the relation of totality and infinity, yet in the end returns to an Absolute Presence as the absolute foundation that allows for this absence which exceeds all possibilities of totalization. Levinas is therefore significant for Derrida: (a) in terms of the concept of the trace itself, and also (b) in terms of the former’s simultaneous recognition of the limits of metaphysical closure and his reciprocal reversal and self-effacement in the return to a metaphysical foundation. We should also recall that the “overcoming of Husserl” is simultaneously a borrowing from him as well. Derrida thus never performs a critique of those he “overcomes,” since his tools of operation are borrowed precisely from each position therein treated. This paradox of a non-method, as deconstruction presents itself, will also be examined here as the development (which is not a development) of the notion (which is not a notion) of the trace as such (which does not exist as such). This double movement is precisely that which Derrida has expressed above in his usage and subsequent discrediting of the term “past” to describe the relation of “trace” to the present. But as with Derrida, we cannot move directly to our “object” of discussion, or we shall expose all too soon that “it does not exist” and therein short-circuit or abort that which we herein shall be attempting to conceive.
(i) Husserl and the Time of the Trace
We must then situate as a simple movement of the discourse the phenomenological reduction and the Husserlian reference to a transcendental experience. To the extent that the concept of experience in general—of transcendental experience in Husserl in particular—remains governed by the theme of presence, it participates in the movement of the reduction of the trace.
But that must come to terms with the forces of rupture.
In the originary temporalization and the movement of relationship with the outside, as Husserl actually describes them, non-presentation or depresentation is as “originary” as presentation. That is why a thought of the trace can no more break with a transcendental phenomenology than be reduced to it [my emphasis].13
This “originary temporalization” for Husserl, we should recall, is the “movement of protention and retention (of consciousness)” which constitutes temporality itself. This movement is what constitutes the “Now” according to Husserl, and it is the condition of the possibility of the very space/time of evidence and truth itself. It is the “Now” in which perception as such occurs, but the “Now” is not itself a perception. It is a constitution which allows for the possibility of perception. We can describe it always only “after the fact.” But what is the relation of the trace here, for Derrida, to this movement of temporalization in Husserl? Why is it that the trace can “no more break with transcendental phenomenology than be reduced to it”? And if this is the case, how can we situate the trace in terms of this same phenomenology? Can one be inside and outside of phenomenology at the same instant? Derrida says yes. It is the non-necessity of “making a choice” which is at issue here. But first the trace and temporality must be shown as similar yet not reducible to each other.
As consciousness constitutes the Now for itself, it extends itself as protention towards the not yet Now and “holds” this in itself. As “time itself” shifts, the protended becomes a retention and a new protention takes its place. As the moment of the Now, the protended and retained “as not yet past” are synthesized into the present. Therefore the notion of presence is here revealed as a constitution of the not-actually-future (beyond the present) and the not-yet-past (after the present). As Husserl says of retention in particular: “... it is already clear that the retentional ‘content’ is, in the primordial sense, no content at all.”14 The notion of “contents” of consciousness (or perception) is founded on this movement from protention to retention and its synthesis into the Now, and therefore neither retentions nor protentions can be properly named “contents” or perceptions. They are perhaps protoperceptions, but this helps little in the comprehension of this process. Indeed the process itself is, even for Husserl in a certain sense, incomprehensible. As he says:
We can only say that this flux is something which we name in conformity with what is constituted, but is nothing temporally “objective.” It is absolute subjectivity and has the absolute properties of something to be denoted metaphorically as “flux,” as a point of actuality, primal source point, that from which springs the “now,” and so on.... In the lived experience of actuality we have the primal source point and a continuity of reverberation. For all this, names are lacking [my emphasis].15
Even Husserl, as we have seen, must “resort” to the metaphoric as his means of pointing toward that for which “all names are lacking.” This “absolute flux” is, however, considered to be absolute subjectivity in the sense, we suggest, of the absolute of subjectivity. Certainly the constitution of the present by the subject is an effaced, and indeed self-effacing process. We are “always already” in the Now, in the moment of the present it seems. It is only when we consider a “something” that is extended in time, that we are able to catch a glimpse of this protentive-retentive primordial synthetic process.
It is not for nothing therefore that Derrida calls the trace (which is analogous to that which for Husserl “all names are lacking”) the originary non-origin of origin. Origin, we should recall, is embedded in the signification of a simplicity, a unity, a certain primordiality that is founded on the one. Yet, as Husserl has shown, there is a certain movement or flux beyond this oneness that allows for its constitution. This movement might plausibly be seen as the movement of the trace itself. As Derrida says: “the instituted trace cannot be thought without thinking the retention of difference within a structure of reference where difference appears as such.”16 Further: “The trace ... articulates its possibility in the entire field of the entity, which metaphysics has defined as the being-present starting from the occulted movement of the trace. The trace must be thought before the entity.17 Yet several paradoxes must immediately appear at this point which include: (i) if the trace must be thought before the entity, as the movement of the flux before the Now, then how can one name it as movement, which is already an “entity,” a name, a something; and (ii) how can this movement (apparently ultimately singular as it is) be considered the non-origin of origin (pure and simple)? Or is there an “other” for the trace? Does it divide itself? or multiply itself or dissimulate itself? Indeed Derrida will answer that the movement of the trace is necessarily “occulted.” It removes itself from the “scene of writing” in its simultaneous constitution of it. Yet how is this possible, and why is it considered a non-origin if in fact it is a more primordial one, if Derrida and Husserl are correct here? The problem is more than one of terminology here—yet also that. The movement of protention and retention (to return to Husserl, our model here for the moment) is at one and the same instant a single movement and yet also a double movement. What this means, in a certain sense, is that it has always already begun. That is, one does not “begin” with a protention that recedes into the background and becomes a retention, and then another protention, etc. The retention is always already there in a certain sense, and hence the protention is always in terms of an already “retained” retention. The protention is thus in a certain sense a “result,” an effect, and so therefore is the retention. What this involves is to not conceptualize the process within a framework of classical metaphysics—i.e., of cause and effect, or more precisely, of linear causality: or in short, of Newtonian mechanics. We must put that formalizing apparatus in brackets at this point. What is at issue is rather that which “cybernetics” today more precisely understands. This is a double or “circular” causality, such that a mutual, reciprocal adjustment occurs the result of which is a zero or steady state. In metaphysical terms what this means is that the “present” is a result; the starting point for truth and evidence is a product. That in short the “origin” is not, in a more radical sense, the origin. Indeed one could move in two directions at this point. One would be to change the meaning of “origin” so as to make it no longer a simple unitary formulation (to be realized as double, as reflexive). Or one could accept the current definition and refer to that which founds the origin as a “non-origin.” This confusion is what Derrida has attempted to “put in place” with his reference to the notion of trace as an arche-synthesis which becomes the “origin of origin.” As he says:
The trace is not only the disappearance of origin—within the discourse that we sustain and according to the path we follow it means that the origin did not even disappear, that it was never constituted except reciprocally by a non-origin, the trace, which thus becomes the origin of the origin [my emphasis].18
In its relationship to the sign, as distinct from the symbolic, the trace is what Derrida will call the “becoming-sign of the symbol.” The same process of occulation or self-effacement occurs in this case, he claims. The difference between a sign and a symbol, as taken from Husserl, requires that the symbol retain a certain “natural relationship” or intrinsic connection to that which it symbolizes. In Saussurean terms, this means a certain intrinsic, non-separable relation of signifier to signified. The “becoming-sign of the symbol” is thus, for Derrida, the separation of a signifier from signified, such that the possibility of a transcendental signified (essence, eidos, concept as such) is therein constituted. The movement of the trace is that which allows for this shift that is also we should recall the foundation of philosophy as such, in particular with reference to Plato and the formation of the Forms. Indeed the idea of the “as such” is precisely this “having-become sign of the symbol.” The sign is thus also representative in its essence, of: (a) an essence that is not itself and hence (b) of the lack which it itself is. The symbol does not have such a function. It cannot have, by virtue of its very structure. Such a lack, or space, has not yet been constituted. Is it not ironic therefore that Derrida terms “animality” that form of life wherein the “symbolic” is not yet an issue, or has not yet been constituted. It is where immediacy still reigns and the différance has not yet opened the realm of repetition, of representation, nor therefore of the symbolic.19 The difficulty here should be recognized as one of contextual variation rather than an essential stumbling block in the understanding of the difference between sign and symbol for Derrida. When he speaks of “animality,” it is in relation to “humanity” as such, and in this context the symbolic represents the possibility of representation. It is to be considered in general with respect to the non-symbolic. The distinction of sign and symbol is properly “beyond animality” as an issue, as a whole, since the symbol in its relation to the sign, although more “animal” than “human” (in the classical sense of these terms), is still nonetheless a “human” quality. It is still in the realm of representation, but in a different sense than that of the sign. The symbol represents that immediacy we illustrated as “characterizing” animality, but it is not that same animality. The symbolic, in its immediate intertwining of signifier and signified, is thus not “animality” as such but in a certain sense “represents” that animality as such. As we shall illustrate more fully later, it is not possible for “humanity” to be “immediately related” to itself. The relation to itself is always already a function of the trace, of différance, which also therefore opens the space of representation and repetition. In short, the space of what Husserl calls “internal time consciousness,” although the trace is not identical to this, for Derrida. He parts company with Husserl on this matter in a very profound way, although never absolutely, and hence never in opposition (as such) to Husserl.
The concept of the trace is thus not equivalent to that of retention, of the becoming-past of that which had been present. One cannot think of the trace—and hence of différance—starting from the present or from the presence of the present.20
It is true in the end that Husserl’s formulation of retention and protention as the constituting movement of temporality itself returns ultimately to a foundation of the present. That which is “retained” in the retention was originally “present” for consciousness, even though, evidently, not present as such. The problem is that consciousness as such is still the ultimate filter of that which allows itself to be constituted in what is later called “perception.” For Derrida, we should recall, “perception as such does not exist.”21 What this means is that the “role” of retention in this process must be seen as radically dissimilar to that which it plays for Husserl. Derrida relies here on what Levinas will call the “trace de l’autre,” which was never present, and also on what, for the moment, we will call that which is “unconscious,” as it plays its part in the constitution of consciousness. The non-conscious is not capable of being held in the grasp of phenomenology as such, of the Husserlian variety at least, since consciousness (whether transcendental or empirical) is always the gateway to that which will become “its” object. In this sense Husserl is still trapped in what Nietzsche called the “stamp of being on becoming.” As Derrida says: “As the phenomenology of the sign in general, a phenomenology of writing is impossible. No intuition can be realized in the place where the ‘whites’ indeed take on an importance.”22 Levinas too realized this, as we shall explore now.
(ii) Levinas and “La Trace de l’Autre”
Derrida seems to have acknowledged his debt to Levinas on numerous occasions, including the recent article entitled, “En ce Moment Même dans cette Ouvrage Me Voici.”23 Yet he is not within the orbit of Levinas’s thinking at the most fundamental level. The similarity is described by Derrida himself in the following admission:
I relate this concept of the trace to what is at the centre of the latest (1963) work of Levinas and his critique of ontology: the relationship to the illeity as to the alterity of a past that was never and can never be lived in the originary or modified form of presence. Reconciled here to an Heideggerian intention ... this notion signifies ... the undermining of an ontology which, in its innermost course, has determined the meaning of being as presence and the meaning of language as the full continuity of speech.24
We must therefore consider that which “is at the centre of Levinas’s latest (1963) work” in terms of “the trace of the other,” since it is in this essay in particular that Levinas describes most clearly that which he considers the term “trace” itself to signify. He begins with a consideration of the “Me” as the term of identification par excellence and hence the origin of all phenomena of identity as such. The Me is what constitutes the identity of identity in traditional metaphysics, he claims. It is as Kant insisted, the “I think” which unites all a priori intuitions a priori. And so with Descartes. Even Hegel situates the role of “my consciousness” at the center of the movement of knowing itself. It is this center that Levinas, as with Heidegger, hopes to displace. The space for the “Other” as other must be inscribed therein he claims. It is the Other as “le tout autre,” not my Other, and therefore not dominated by the subject-object formulation as the object-as-immediately present formulation which characterizes metaphysics as such. Levinas thus insists upon a place for the “unknown” as unknowable. A place where infinity will always exceed totality as such.25 Totality might here be considered the movement of consciousness towards its “object” in an effort to appropriate it. To name it, for Derrida. Infinity is that which is intrinsically unnameable. That which will never, can never be appropriated. It is “le tout autre.” But this is not an “out there,” a spatial beyond which “infinity” in this sense refers to. It is “the most immediately” present (to use Heidegger’s formulation) and therefore that which necessarily escapes us (to use Hegel’s formulation). Levinas himself explains this movement in the following way:
The heteronomous experience that we are searching for would be an attitude which cannot be converted into a category and for which the movement towards the Other is not recuperated in identification, and does not return to its point of departure.26
But what is this “départ sans rétour”? It is that which exceeds the formulation of totality, yet is to be found paradoxically “within” this. What is in question here is thus a certain interiority as a certain exteriority. Indeed the metaphysical opposition of interior/exterior is “powerless to comprehend” this issue. As Levinas says, in terms of the Same, the Other is that which in the Same never returns to that same Same. It is the Other in the Same which is left unsaid in the saying; it is the “blank part of the text” as both part of of the text and, in a certain sense, apart from the text. It is, in Derrida’s terminology, the margins of philosophy, and not of philosophy. It is that Other which philosophy will never understand, never assimilate, and never radically be rid of in its expulsion of the Other from the Same. It is, for Levinas, the following:
The work radically considered is in effect a movement of the Same towards the Other which never returns to the Same.27
We should beware of this capitalization in Levinas’s discourse as an indication of where Derrida will part company from him. The “Même” and “Autre” are here necessarily the same as such and the other as such. An important consideration to keep in mind as we proceed.
Levinas shifts the notion of the Other to the schema of a temporality where the other becomes the Radical Past. It is that which is/was/will never be present-as-such. His basis for this shif is in terms of an inheritance of the “Me” which “I must accept and recognize” and of an influence/responsibility on/of the “Me” which “extends beyond my death.” It is in this sense that the Me is situated temporally with respect to “others” for Levinas. What mediates his discourse is surely a notion of ultimate responsibility and hence ultimate guilt, in Heidegger’s sense of the term. The “Absence of the Other” is not my fault, but it is surely “my responsibility,” Levinas tells us. The other is thus a sort of burden that the Me must carry, albeit an absent other. The not-yet others and the already-having-been others are surely not present-with-me, but their burden and influence on me is therefore all the heavier. One must include “them” in that which one calls the “Me” and therein recognize their distance from me: indeed, more precisely, my distance from them. They will never be present-as-such with me. This is structurally essential for Levinas. He thus seems more concerned with others-in-general than the others with which I cohabit the earth at the time of my life. He turns therefore toward a radical and generalized responsibility that Derrida has shown28 profoundly misses “my responsibiity” as such, in particular: that is, in terms of my life. Responsibility in general is a more subtle way of evading that same responsibility as such and must be recognized as such a reversal. Responsibility as such is thus a more profound, the most profound perhaps, form of irresponsibility and avoidance of being-with others in the very claim to be “more radically” with and respectful, indeed reverant, of others as others-in-general. The Absent Other is not in this sense a past or future generation for Derrida, as it seems to be here for Levinas. The latter states his position on this rather clearly in the following:
To be for a time which would be without me, to be for a time after my time, for a future by which the famous “to-be-for-the-dead,” to-be-for-after-my-death” would not be a banal thought which extrapolates its proper duration but the passage to the time of the Other.
This is ethics itself.29
Not for Derrida, as we have shown. However the similarities must still be pursued here. Levinas continues with his description of the other as trace; indeed the trace of the other as trace, and in terms of that which he names le visage. We should point out first that le visage is not translatable into English as simply “the face” without a violent (in this context) reduction of its meaning. Le visage is “a facing” more precisely; it is an opening of the face and is therefore expression as well as face as such. Le visage, for Levinas, is thus the opening for the possibility of ethics. It is that calling of the Same to the Other which he describes, paradoxically to be sure, as an imposition:
The face [le visage] imposes itself on me so that I cannot be deaf to its call nor forget it—I wish to say that I can not cease to be held responsible for its misery. Consciousness thus loses its first place [my emphasis].30
The condition of this displacement of consciousness from itself—the first place—is thus a certain guilt as it looks into the face of the other. The guilt is a function of the misery it sees there. Such a model for the condition of intersubjectivity as a foundation for an ethics must be somewhat suspicious, we insist. The face of the “other” is surely not intrinsically a miserable face for which one holds oneself necessarily responsible. The gesture is indeed one of a certain humanity here, without doubt, but as a general relation of self and other it cannot be sustained, we insist. Even for Derrida, the excess of the “other” is not a plea for help by the helpless, but a joy, a play, an enjoyment that seeks to be shared. It is the opening of desire, not of guilt. However the structure of the trace is what we must return to here as our primary concern. The beyond of le visage is what Levinas calls the trace, as “the trace of the other.” It is what exceeds the said, and indeed the sayable. It is “the entire Infinity of the absolutely other-escaping ontology.”31 Derrida would agree thus far. Further, Levinas claims:
The trace is not a sign like any other. But it also plays the role of the sign.... it signifies outside of all intention to make a sign and outside of all projects to which it could be aimed.
Further we have an authenticity at stake here:
The authentic trace, on the contrary, disorders the order of the world. It appears as super-imposition. Its original significance designs itself in the impression which is left by that which had wanted to efface its traces in the care to accomplish a perfect crime, for example. That which has left traces in effacing its traces, not having wanted to say anything or do anything by the traces that were left. It has disordered the order in an irreparable way. It has absolutely passed. To be inasmuch as to leave a trace is to pass by leaving, to absolve oneself.32
Thus we have the most precise convergence of Derrida and Levinas. The radical past emerges again as the “never-to-be,” never-having-been present (to consciousness as such). It disorders the order; it destroys the possibility of the “perfect crime” (which is metaphysics’ intent, for Derrida). The “perfect crime” would be the possibility of leaving “no trace” whatsoever. For the past to be “over” totally once it is past. Paradoxically, to not leave the possibility of a retention. Yet it is the retention as present-past which we sought to overcome in our advancement from Husserl to Levinas here. The significance of the trace is here the difference between the past and the radical past; it is that which is “not caught” in the retention, yet that which the retention as being retained signifies. It is the intrinsic signification, representation, repetition which is being signaled here, although Levinas does not speak in such terms.
He describes the “same movement” or structure instead in terms of the other as “person,” as “personal,” and hence the excess (which is the trace) as the relation of the Me to that opening which penetrates my selfness and opens me to that which is “not me.” But the other is profoundly another me here. It is not otherness as such of which Levinas speaks. It is the “face” of the other. It is the eyes of the other into which I gaze and realize “my limits” in the very act of extension of myself. I cannot, in a profound sense, return to the other of “my” past and save him. He has already drowned. He is already “not here.” This structure is therefore essentially one of a guilt that is thus instilled by a certain helplessness of the Same to reach the Other. The tragic is therein inscribed for Levinas, and in an irreducible fashion; the Other has been lost or is “not yet” for him. The Other is therefore not reachable.
For Derrida, the implications of this “movement of the trace” are radically dissimilar at this point. His focus is not on the “humanism” latent in Levinas’s description and therefore exceeds the notion of “Other” as another me. The “Other” as “tout autre” for Derrida is thus more general, paradoxically, than for Levinas. The excess of the “Other” is therefore extended to that which is not “modeled” on the “me”; for instance, the animal, the sign, and “the play of the text of the world.” We shall return to this extension shortly, but first the point at which Derrida most radically separates himself from Levinas must be made evident. This is in terms of that which ultimately orients “la trace de l’autre.” It is once again, as one might expect, Presence.
Levinas returns to his point of departure (also paradoxically) via the works of Marcel and Buber, wherein God is brought into the discourse as its foundation, in a similar manner to that of Descartes. It is the condition of the “tutoiment” as an intimate approach to the Other which Levinas situates in the notion of Presence. Indeed the “Presence of God” is a function of the “trace of the other.” The Presence of God is, as we know, precisely that presence which does not appear yet makes its “presence known” or indeed felt. As Levinas tells us: “He only shows Himself by His trace, as in chapter 33 of Exodus. To go towards Him is not to follow His trace which is not a sign; it is to go towards Others who stand in His trace.”33
We should recall that for Derrida one of the aims of deconstruction is the “desedimentation of onto-theology” and that “the name of God is the name of indifference itself.” Thus Levinas has returned to metaphysics, in spite of his apparent departure from it, in situating the “trace of the other” as a function of the “Same”—as indeed capitalized. The sense of the Same can be easily seen here as that of the One; both philosophy’s and theology’s goal of description, yet also (until Hegel at least) that which it could never reach. It is not surprising therefore that Levinas is aiming toward an extension beyond Hegel with his notion of “infinity” as beyond all totality. Paradoxically again, he returns to a “totality,” albeit never conceivable as such, which is founded on the Presence of Consciousness to itself (albeit perhaps God’s own). This totality in the end exceeds even “infinity”; indeed also in Levinas’s senses of these terms. For Derrida, however, a certain distance must be taken from these claims as shown earlier. What must be saved, however, is the notion of the trace and the notion of a past that “was never present” and will never return to the present (or to itself). The movement of the trace is therefore inscribed within Levinas yet in turn, in effect, effaced also therein. It is in this opening that we can situate Derrida, yet must therefore extend our own description beyond that “overlap” with Levinas. The closure which Levinas implicitly begins with and explicitly finalizes his claims with is not acceptable to Derrida, and therefore neither is it possible for us to reduce the trace according to Derrida to the trace according to Levinas. The differences must therefore be recognized as more profound than the apparent similarities. Thus we move on toward that which Freud has called the “unconscious” and the “scène de l’écriture,” according to Derrida.
(iii) Freud and the Written Trace
With the alterity of the unconscious, we have to do not with modified horizons of the present—past or future—but with a past which has never been present and which will never be.34
Derrida’s reading of Freud in terms of the trace attempts to reveal a structure which was (a) described by Freud in his writing; yet (b) was not known as such by Freud himself due to his reliance on metaphysical concepts to explicate his findings. In spite of this discrepancy, or perhaps due to it necessarily, Derrida points toward the notion of the trace, or writing as arche-writing, in Freud as both used by him and as that which “uses him.” This is not a simple reflexivity of the written and the writer, however, but a more profound structure which Derrida insists is at the root of both the dream and wakefulness, at the heart of metaphysics as such, and that which allows for the constitution of what we call the “present-as-such” or consciousness, as distinct from the unconscious. This structure is neither conscious nor unconscious, therefore, but that movement which allows for this distinction. It is the “movement of the trace” as it (a) inscribes itself and (b) therein effaces itself. The double aspect of this movement was described by Freud himself in terms of what he called “psychic writing,” and it is this “origin” to which we must now turn in order to understand Derrida’s simultaneous reliance on and abandoning of this same formulation.
Freud’s concern with the notion of trace began with his earliest writings, which focused on the problem of memory. “Memory,” he said, “has a capacity for being permanently altered by single occurrences.35 The difficulty here (which remains Freud’s concern thirty years later) is, as Derrida points out, “the necessity of accounting simultaneously ... for the permanence of the trace and the virginity of the receiving substance, for the engraving of the furrows and for the perennially intact bareness of the perceptive surface: in this case the neurones.” “It would seem,” Freud continues, “therefore, that neurones (the basis of memory) must be both influenced and unaltered, unprejudiced [my emphasis].” The difficulty here is the problem of writing in one term or place or topology (metaphoric or otherwise) two seemingly contradictory possibilities. In terms of classical metaphysics, the difficulty is insurmountable. The principle of non-contradiction rules out immediately the housing of “A” and “–A,” or as in this case, the “permanence of the trace” and the “virgin, unaltered surface” within one term. Yet memory as such seems to exhibit such qualities, Freud insists. Freud thus shifts the model to a twofold structure such that some neurones “retain no trace” while others, at a “deeper” level, retain all traces. The trace here is thus considered as virtually synonymous with memory itself. The trace for Freud, at this point, is little more than the opening of memory to storage, to the constitution of a reserve of experiences which in turn play a role in all “future,” that is, “new, virgin” ones. It is this constitution of a “reserve” as the work of the trace which will become significant for Derrida, as we shall see shortly.
The crucial aspect of the twofold structure for Freud centers around a notion of “differences of force,” such that the “trace itself” is a result of a difference in force rather than a determined plentitude. As Derrida says: “Memory thus, is not a psychical property among others; it is the very essence of the psyche: resistance, and precisely thereby, an opening to the effraction of the trace.”36 The “difference” here which allows for the constitution of memory is between the “forces of resistance” and the “forces of breaching.” In some cases the resistance is too strong and the trace is forgotten, while in others the breaching overcomes this resistance and a memory trace is implanted, or imprinted. Thus the force of repetition itself makes itself felt here since its power is precisely that of “breaking through” the forces of resistance.
Derrida translates this process in terms of the idea of deferral and of Freud’s subsequent concern with Thanatos and Eros in terms of the pleasure principle and its being overcome by the reality principle. As he says: “All these differences in the production of the trace may be interpreted as moments of deferring. In accordance with a motif which will continue to dominate Freud’s thinking, this movement is described as the effort of life to protect itself by deferring a dangerous cathexis, that is, by constituting a reserve.”37 We shall see that this “reserve” in its effort to “protect life” is paradoxically also the principle of death as différance. It is that which allows for the constitution of an economy which makes life “livable.” Yet, différance in this sense is also that which opens life’s intimate, though deferred, relation to death. It is that which allows Derrida to say that “life is death (deferred).” More precisely, the notion of the trace, as utilized at this juncture in Freud, contains the notion of life’s simultaneous protection and threatening of itself by virtue of its capacity for repetition which is: (a) that which constitutes a reserve, a memory; yet (b) also considered the “death instinct,” in the sense that the “compulsion to repeat” is a compulsion to “master.” Thus Derrida says: “Life must be thought of as trace before being determined as presence.” But we are already ahead of ourselves here. The problem of presence as a result for consciousness will arise again shortly. At this point we must turn towards the non-origin of origin as Derrida finds it in Freud.
We should recall that this more primordial foundation which is simultaneously a non-foundation was also found in Husserl and Levinas, according to Derrida. But with Freud we approach a deeper connection in terms of the problems of writing and the trace as such with respect to the “dream-work.”
Freud’s concern with dreams relies heavily on written, that is scriptural, metaphors which are themselves modeled on hieroglyphic rather than phonetic forms of inscription. This is no accident, Derrida insists, since the dream work is not comparable to anything we might term translation from one “language” to “another.” Nor does the interpretation of dreams allow itself to be based on such a process. The “origin” of the dream is not “in” the unconscious, no more than it is “in” consciousness, Freud tells us. It is instead a fundamental non-origin. This process therefore is revealed as an idiosyncratic structure such that “each dreamer invents his own grammar.”38 There is no standard “code” for the interpretation of dreams, since the meaning of each particular symbol therein is inscribed in terms of the subject in particular and his/her own particular biography and psychic foundations. The train in Freud’s dream is therefore not identical to the train in Derrida’s, for instance. The meaning of each term is not translatable from one context to another, but rather is strictly and irreducibly localized in each particular context. This “situatedness” of each term is more typically characterized in hieroglyphic, symbolic script than in languages of the “West” (phonetic), since the signified in the latter has been severed from the signifier in order that the notion of meaning as such, in accordance with metaphysical demands, could be established. It is therefore this “originary” writing that dreams “represent” which will be of concern to Derrida. It is the “inaugural movement,” which does not represent a full presence but which in turn allows for its constitution. We must pursue the dream work therefore in order to perceive that which, according to Derrida, is the “common root” of both dreams and wakefulness—indeed it is the space of différance where there are no differences.
As we have shown, the “conscious text” of the dream is not a translation from an “unconscious one” but is in a certain sense already “original,” if we can still rely on this word to signify something for us. As Derrida says, “the notion of text here extends beyond the choice of ‘conscious’ or ‘unconscious’ to something more fundamental.”
The conscious text (recounted by the dreamer) is thus not a transcription, because there is no text present elsewhere as an unconscious one to be transposed or transported. For the value of presence can also dangerously affect the concept of the unconscious. There is then no unconscious truth to be rediscovered by virtue of having been written elsewhere. There is no text written and present elsewhere which would be subjected, without being changed in the process, to an operation and a temporalization ... which would be external to it, floating on its surface. There is no present text in general, and there is not even a past present text, a text which is past as having been present. The text is not conceivable in an originary or modified form of presence. The unconscious text is already a weave of pure traces, differences in which force and meaning are united—a text nowhere present, consisting of archives which are always already transcriptions.39
The notion of the “nowhere” of the text in terms of this topography (which is ultimately not a topography) of Freud’s model for the dream work and its interpretation must now be addressed. Freud himself proposes the well-known model of the mystic writing pad as a structure analogous to that which he earlier called “psychic writing.” This “writing pad” shows what Derrida has claimed as the fundamental absence of the text to be precisely a Freudian notion, and indeed one which Freud himself had some difficulty to respect in his formulation as description of the process itself. This model includes therefore the “work of consciousness,” just as it explicates the foundation of the possibility of dreams and therefore the “work of the unconscious.” Just as memory “breaches” this distinction, so too does the notion of “psychic writing” as demonstrated by this model. The “mystic writing pad” is composed of a wax slab, a sheet of wax paper and a thin celluloid sheet which covers the paper. If one is to inscribe “something” upon the pad, one uses a stylus, not a pen or pencil or anything which contains ink. A certain pressure and a certain formation of form are all that are required since the “letter” or inscription becomes visible by a process of reversal. With pressure exerted on the celluloid, the wax slab becomes imprinted, and this inscription in turn is “sent” back up to the original celluloid via the mediation of the wax paper which “picks up” the inscription from the wax slab. In order to “erase” the inscription, all that is needed is to lift the celluloid on which it appears from the wax paper and it is “cleared,” as if new once again. The “stain” or the imprint, however, remains on the wax slab and cannot be erased. Neither can it ever become visible, however, except in “certain lights.” In brief, this is the model Freud and, in turn, Derrida use to explicate a process of the psyche they both see as foundational. We propose here to suggest a few problems in terms of this same model which both seem to overlook. First, the double movement of “memory” as: (i) the permanent imprint of the trace, and yet (ii) the constantly virgin opening to new impressions seems to be a function only of “external” influences. Indeed the subject is herein “written upon” before it realizes or indeed recognizes (as a form of repetition always after the fact) that which it writes. What this model implies therefore is (a) a certain passivity of the subject in terms of its relation to the “external” world, and indeed a certain division between internal and external which we suggest is inadequate; (b) a certain manipulation therefore of the subject by the “world as such,” and (c) a certain lack of responsibility of the subject to its inscription, which is indeed prescriptive in terms of its action. The subject is, in short, in this model necessarily a “victim.” Its actions are always already inscribed by the “other”; indeed by otherness itself. The “imprinting” so well explicated in terms of the world to consciousness does not return full circle or ellipse such that the subject also inscribes itself upon the world, which in turn inscribes itself upon the subject. Is it not this reflexivity or “circular causality,” characteristic of cybernetics, which Derrida himself is aiming towards with his notion of différance as economy? The exchange in terms of the “writing pad” model seems however to be short-circuited.
In addition there seems to be a strange sort of economy where nothing is lost between the wax slab and the “appearance of the inscription” on the celluloid sheet of consciousness. Indeed Freud admits of the problem of a scratch or tear in the wax paper which can in turn lead to a loss of the imprint in consciousness. But have we not therefore returned to a metaphysical notion of a primordially “good” nature, a perfectly functioning structure, a total adequation of imprint and imprinted: in short, a full presence which is in turn damaged through usage. Usage here must be considered life itself: the lived relation of the subject to the world, wherein the “wax paper” has the possibility and indeed danger of being damaged. It seems therefore that a certain Fall is depicted here, such that the resulting imprint in consciousness has little chance of ever fully containing the “actual” imprint itself except in the earliest days of childhood. Indeed is this structure not precisely that which Freud has explored in terms of infantile sexuality and primordial forms of repression? It is this process—of the tearing and scratching (also interesting sexual and scriptural metaphors) of the wax paper—which is essential to the actual function of consciousness as beyond the pleasure principle. Indeed the “scratching and tearing” seem to precisely represent the principle of reality for Freud. This is also a violent and violating structure which however (paradoxically) is what “saves” or “protects” the subject. Protects it from what? Ultimately, for Freud, as for Derrida (it seems) from itself. The “imprinting of the subject by the world” is therefore seen as a fundamentally neutral process, on the one hand, yet also a violent and violating process. It is precisely the relation of the trace to memory. It is therefore the double movement of protection and violation which is in question here. Derrida thus pursues the issue at this point in terms of this double movement which metaphysics as such “is powerless to comprehend.” Yet as he says: “the machine which even Freud recognizes, as its limit, does not run by itself. The machine is dead. It is death.”40 Thus we return to the relationship to death as the subject’s relation to representation, which is the foundation of its “psychic structure.” Yet Freud says: “There must come a point at which the analogy between an auxiliary apparatus of this kind and the organ which is its prototype will cease to apply. It is true too, that once the writing has been erased, the Mystic Pad cannot ‘reproduce’ it from within; it would be a mystic pad indeed if, like our memory, it could accomplish that.”41 Thus, Derrida says, Freud opposes a writing of memory to a more primordial writing in the soul—an essentially “unforgettable” writing—and thus he steps within the realm of metaphysics, in spite of himself, and returns to Plato’s structure of this duplicity of good and bad writing.42 With such an objection, Derrida aims to keep open the aspect of the non-origin, of the textuality of texts (conscious and unconscious) and hence of a certain “being-imprinted” of the subject by the world. Indeed, so does Freud, but he returns to the problem of the responsibility of the subject and of the non-responsibility of the machine. Indeed, it is a question here of the will which is at stake. For Derrida, there is a fundamental identity between the “subject” and the machine in terms of the problem of nonresponsibility. This is not to submit the subject to a certain sort of technological structure or mechanization, but rather to illustrate: (a) the limits of the subject in terms of its power, and indeed more precisely in terms of its will to power; (b) the hidden notion of humanism43 lurking within Freud’s discourse; (c) the role of death in the constitution of the subject and the object; indeed of man and machine; and (d) the structure of the subject as also not fundamentally different from that which Derrida calls “animality”—that undifferentiated relationship to the symbol as non-representative, non-translatable, and fundamentally within the sphere of the idiomatic and non-repeatable. Thus the classical Aristotelian distinction of man and animal is under fire here, and so is the contemporary problem of the distinction of man and machine. Indeed, if man is the “rational animal,” then the machine “is a better man than we are.” It is programmed and has more than instant recall of all that is inscribed therein. The sphere of animality too—where representation has not yet encroached—is not unlike that sphere of what Freud calls the “dream work” or “psychic writing.” The dreamer, we should recall, always “invents his own grammar,” and dreams, Freud tells us, are fundamentally “untranslatable.” They retain an irreducibly idiomatic and idiosyncratic (non-repeatable and non-representable) dimension. Animality as such, Derrida tells us. Thus with the notion of the trace, we are forced here to rethink the divisions of consciousness/unconsciousness, and far beyond this psychoanalytic sphere (yet perhaps its “repressed” presuppositions) the ultimately metaphysical distinctions of animal, man, and machine. Indeed, Derrida is not attempting to make man into either a machine or an animal, but rather to show the limits of man in precisely these terms. We must now turn therefore beyond the notion of the trace as such to writing, for Derrida, as it inscribes, he claims, the absence of both subject and object as its fundamental preconditions.
(c) The Absence of Subject and Object: Inscription as Such
The “subject,” for Derrida, is comparable to the Master, to the Father, to the author, to the agent, indeed to an ultimate causality and, in this sense, does not exist. The “object,” likewise for him, is considered as the thing-in-itself, as the “effect” of a cause, as a referent “about which” language speaks and hence also, in this sense, does not exist. These determinations of the meaning of subject and object as such are precisely those of metaphysics. Therefore, for Derrida, it is of crucial importance to recognize this duality as, in a certain sense, a myth and therein to inscribe, beyond metaphysics, a new radically other notion of both subject and object as always already inscribed; indeed as results or effects themselves of that which he calls archewriting, différance or, in this context, the “play of supplementarity.” It is his unraveling of the metaphysical notions of both subjectivity and objectivity which we shall attempt to explore here, together with the subsequent replacement by the (indeed always already there) structure of absence, which founds the possibility of their presentation as such. In Derrida’s words:
Nothing—no present and in-different being—precedes the difference and spacing. There is no subject that would be its agent, author, and master of the difference and to which this here would overcome eventually and empirically. Subjectivity—as with objectivity—is an effect of différance.44
As with Heidegger therefore, Derrida insists upon a limit to what metaphysics has inscribed as “humanism.” And as with Husserl, Derrida insists upon a more primordial process (a transcendental kinesthetics) which inscribes the object as object: that is, objectivity as such. Beyond Heidegger, however, Derrida will claim that différance is that which opens the distinction and subsequent problematic of the relation of Being to beings; that ontological difference which for Derrida is not so primordial. Beyond Husserl too (as we have shown), Derrida insists on a certain non-retention which is the basis of that which later (après coup) comes to be known as the retention, in its relation to protention, and then, subsequently, as that “fundamental movement of subjectivity itself.” This too is therefore an “effect” of différance and not to be considered an ultimate foundation. Indeed, we already know that for Derrida the différance (which is writing) extends beyond such a conception of foundation or origin. Thus we shall proceed here from the limits of humanism and the authority of the author as parallel for Derrida and Heidegger, and from the non-objective constitution of the object as parallel for Derrida and Husserl, to a realm more akin to Nietzsche, wherein we find the Abyss inscribed and indeed the Abyss of inscription itself, which Nietzsche himself did not discover, Derrida will insist. Nietzsche too always ultimately remained trapped within the metaphysics of presence in his profound opposition to this formulation. The “death of God” is, as Derrida says, not the issue here, since with this notion we find ourselves reduced simply to being the “other” of metaphysics—a certain “negative theology” as Dufrenne has pointed out, although inappropriately applying such a criticism to Derrida rather than Nietzsche. Finally, in opening the space of the Abyss (which is ultimately and always already within metaphysics), we shall proceed to show its effacement is thus also structurally inscribed. Indeed how the opening itself is necessarily always already concealed in the production of what metaphysics names the subject and the object.
(i) Heidegger, Humanism, and Beyond
Heidegger’s concern with humanism is an attempt, unlike Derrida, to “put man in his place” in terms of a certain severance from his traditional identity with the animal world. The definition of man as “rational animal” is a focus on this link, Heidegger insists, and does not “do justice” to what is more primordially the “essence of man.” The notion “rational animal” contains man as a subset of “animal,” with his singular distinguishing quality being that of Reason or rationality. This comprehension of man effaces that which is most essential, Heidegger claims, and therefore must be rejected. Since humanism in general from the Roman era to Marx, including all Christian versions of the same, has relied on this essentially metaphysical determination of man, it too must be rejected in all its forms. Thus Heidegger claims to elevate the status of man to its “proper” place:
The unique proposition is rather that the highest humanist determinations of the essence of man still do not express the dignity proper to man. In this sense, the idea which is explained in Sein und Zeit is against humanism. If one thinks against humanism it is because humanism does not situate the humanitas of man at a high enough level [my emphasis].46
Heidegger seems to elevate “man” to an even higher position than do the humanists, who already have made man in a certain sense “the measure of all things” and the “for which” (end) of all projects in the world and/or beyond it as such. Yet how is it possible that the “highest” could be considered yet “higher”? The key to this issue is to be found in what Heidegger considers the “essence of man,” which humanism as such has effaced. This “essence” includes the following aspects: (a) a certain “throwness” into the world; (b) having a world, as distinct from simply an environment or a surrounding; (c) having a language and, in a certain sense, “being had” by language; (d) the singular quality of “ekstasis,” which allows for the clearing which opens the possibility of the “coming” of Being and thus the way to the “truth of Being” and its destiny; and ultimately (e) to be the “shepherd” of Being, which is not a Mastery nor Slavery, but a guidance in the same instant as it is a letting be of (i) the essence of all things in the world, and (ii) the essence and destiny of Being as such. These qualities of “man” have been forgotten in the history of the West, for Heidegger, due to the predominance of metaphysics, as it has usurped our language and hence our possibility of thought. The thought of possibility, indeed “called thinking,”47 the poetizing of Being by itself via man, has been not only forgotten therefore but, in a certain “authentic” sense, has not yet even begun. It is this inauguration of a new relation of man to Being that Heidegger’s thought is pointing towards, we suggest. In this process, it is worthy of note that he focusses on “Dasein” or “human existence,” which is not to be confused with what metaphysics has called the “subject.” As he says: “The essential greatness of man certainly does not reside in the fact that he is the substance of being as ‘subject’ of this here, to dissolve in the all too glorious ‘objectivity’ as a trustee of the power of Being—the being-present of being.”48
We can see here that Heidegger equates the “making-subject” of man with the “making an object” of him at the same instant. It is this which we have “rightly” done with studies of animals and other living things, he claims, but this is precisely why man and animal must be radically separated. In addition, the non-subjectification of man portrays a more radical understanding of his “essence” for Heidegger in that “it is not man that decides” when it comes to issues of Being as such. Being is beyond man and beyond the traditional will-to-power, will to objectify, to comprehend, to capture and to master. Thus Heidegger relies on the notion of the destiny of Being in order to submit man to this ultimate constraint on his relation to the world, to himself, and indeed ultimately of Being itself. Thus it has been the destiny of Being to have been forgotten in the metaphysical understanding of the world to date. The possibility of being “called to thinking,” to being open to the Being of beings is for Heidegger a function of (a) a certain “passivity” of man and yet also (b) a certain recognition of his own limits and indeed his ultimate, not-to-be-outstripped limitation: death itself. The authenticity of Dasein in its relations to the world, itself and to Being is a function of its relation to death itself—indeed its own death, or as Heidegger says: being-towards-death. But we should recall once again that Heidegger is not concerned here with the “subject” of man, nor with his subjectivity, but rather with a more primordial condition for this same subjectivity and indeed that which when “recognized as the essence of man” will overcome this “will to mastery,” the effects of which we should see in the terms, the division and the ultimate identity of subject and object.
For Derrida, as we know, the issues are not dissimilar with respect to the “subject and object” from Heidegger’s portrayal of them. However, there are also some fundamental differences to be acknowledged. Indeed in some respects, Derrida uses Heidegger in order to step outside of the circumference of the latter’s perspective. This movement, we should recall, is essential to the work of deconstruction in its simultaneous borrowing and distancing from a position/text on which it feeds. It is thus with Heidegger.
The first objection by Derrida, and perhaps the most serious, concerns Heidegger’s reliance on the traditional metaphysical concepts of essence and appearance, the former containing a certain primordiality denied to the latter. The “essence” of man is at stake here, and indeed, it is the “forgetting” of this essence which concerns Heidegger. This conceptual opposition, also represented by presence and absence (of the truth) orients in addition Heidegger’s distinction of authenticity and inauthenticity; indeed the issue of the truth of Being is precisely founded on metaphysics as such. We have not yet arrived at Nietzsche for whom “truth is a useful error.” This would be a step back into “technè” for Heidegger, no doubt, wherein the notion of truth would be “in the service of something.” Yet Heidegger opens the way to a technè of Being, such that man is “in the service of” the destiny of Being. This reversal is not radical for Derrida, it seems, since he claims that the problem of the ontological difference between Being and beings is not deep enough. It is this relation which, when realized (indeed by man), will reorient and indeed resituate man and put him in his proper place, above “animals” and below Being. Although this hierarchy is not explicitly put in question by Derrida, with reference to Heidegger, we should recall that animality for the latter is “not to be outstripped” and thus not severed from the notion we call “man.” Derrida does not rely on the “essential” in his analysis, but rather on what Kant called “the conditions of the possibility” of things. Things indeed, as a result. Such is the “primordial and forgotten difference” in Heidegger’s thinking, for Derrida. Thus Derrida turns away from the “proper,” “essence” of things to that which he considers makes them possible. Indeed he turns to différance as that movement which opens the possibility of the difference between Being and beings and, in turn, Heidegger’s subsequent analysis of this issue. Being is thus itself a “result,” for Derrida, and not the most primordial. It is the movement of “presence and absence” of Being—its Destiny, according to Heidegger, which is to be the issue for Derrida. Not Being as such in its being-present or absent for man. In a certain sense, therefore, we step back from the center of man, which Heidegger, although recentering or decentering in one sense, has established as the focal point for the destiny of Being: indeed its shepherd. For Derrida, however, the play of the supplement which ultimately dislocates the “proper” and hence the possibility of formulations such as “the essence of man” is of greater significance.
Supplementarity, which is nothing, neither a presence nor an absence, is neither a substance nor an essence of man. It is precisely the play of presence and absence, the opening of this play that no metaphysics or ontological concept can comprehend. Therefore this property of man is not a property of man; it is the very dislocation of the proper in general [my emphasis].
Further in relation to man the animal, with rationality as an adjective:
... its (the supplement, différance, writing) play precedes what one calls man and extends outside of him. Man calls himself man only by drawing limits excluding his other from the play of supplementally: the purity of nature, of animality, primitivism, childhood, madness, divinity. The approach to these limits is at once feared as a threat of death and desired as access to a life without différance [my emphasis].
Thus he says:
Writing will appear to us more and more as another name for this structure of supplementarity.49
“A life without différance” is for Derrida, we should recall, “pure presence itself”; it is that which metaphysics claims we have lost and which must be regained. It is the telos of history; it is precisely that history is teleological, for metaphysics. And this “ultimate presence” of consciousness to itself as its own “object,” as an ultimate subjectification of the object and objectification of the subject, is, as Hegel has shown, Absolute Knowledge. It is death itself. And it is thus that we will be forever denied access to it, in spite of its most profound paradoxical proximity to us. Thus Heidegger turns toward being-toward-death as the index of man’s authenticity in his relation to himself. Is death simply subsumed and hence forgotten amidst “idle chatter,” or is it squarely and individually, indeed idiosyncratically, “faced”? The answer to this question will answer the question of the authenticity of man. Indeed the entire history of metaphysics can be considered to be simply “idle chatter” in its fundamental forgetting of death as such. Metaphysics has always included death as a means, a way, and hence as a sign. Indeed the “sign” is also in question here. But death as such has never been addressed as such for Heidegger. It has been forgotten in eschatology—in a teleology of presence, which is simultaneously the “destiny of the absence” of Being. Thus teleology as such is also to be overcome for Heidegger, since it submits the object to the will of a subject in the relation of technè or technology. Being as such will forever escape technologization, Heidegger tells us, and it is in this (our) age, therefore, that it recedes even further from sight.
But Derrida will object here to this relation of “presence and absence” in terms of visibility and invisibility,” albeit of Being itself as it “comes” into language. These metaphors orient the totality of metaphysics, Derrida insists, and center one’s thinking on the Sun/light of Reason itself.50 The “visible,” although not a function of the light of Reason (explicitly for Heidegger), is nonetheless subjected in this “metaphoric” formulation to the constraints of a metaphysics which presupposes a certain light according to which “things” become visible. Indeed a certain relation of the “face to the sun” is also presupposed here. A certain simultaneity of temporal relations is also set firmly in place. The “seen,” the “visible,” in short the “made visible” by Being for man, for Heidegger, is thus ultimately a vicious metaphysical circle Derrida claims. The paradox is the following therefore for Derrida:
And if Heidegger has radically deconstructed the authority of the present for metaphysics it is to lead us to think the presence of the present.
It is thus the constitution of the “presence” as such which is in question here. Yet, as Derrida goes on to say:
The ontological distance of Dasein from that which it is as ek-sistanz and from Da to Sein this distance which appears initially as ontic proximity should be reduced by the thought of the truth of Being. From whence the dominance in Heidegger’s discourse of the entire metaphorics of proximity, of simple and immediate presence, associating with the proximity of Being. The values of nearness, shelter, home, service, security, voice and hearing.51
Thus from the “betrayal by metaphor,” Derrida explicates a shadow in Heidegger’s discourse itself which situates it squarely within the metaphysics of presence which the latter would “destroy” by the “sense” of his words.
Nevertheless in terms of our “subject” here, which is indeed the overlap of Derrida’s and Heidegger’s positions, we should insist that the notion of “subject” as such, with its counterpart “object” as such, are to be abandoned here for the following reasons: (i) they are results of a process which itself is effaced in the very achievement of their constitution; (ii) the conditions of their possibility must therein be analyzed in order that (a) the role of writing in its relation to that which we call its “author” can be more clearly understood; and (b) the role of the written “object” can be understood more precisely as that simultaneous result of a process which extends beyond what we call the subject. Thus we situate the power of constitution otherwise in this formulation. The “subject” for Derrida is not “man as such,” since man as such does not exist. What exists is a movement of supplementarity which allows for such notions to be established and which in turn defies existence (to be) in terms of that result which therein rules out the possibility of the recognition of this “more primordial process” which “is” not.
Thus Derrida focuses on a fundamental inscription of the “subject,” which is not within its control. It is, as Heidegger said of Dasein, “thrown” into the world; it is also thrown into “inauthenticity,” by the very destiny of Being. Rather than appealing to destiny, however, Derrida turns to a “play” of différance, which opens the possibility of destiny and non-destiny of that non-teleological, non-oriented orientation. Différance is “overtaken” by the destiny of Being in the latter’s very process of self-effacement and forgetting within the tradition of metaphysics. Thus without the “power” of the subject we have a structure already “at work” here in which we must a posteriori “situate” that which we retroactively call “the subject,” and a fortiori—the “object.” As Derrida says, différance is:
an operation which is not an operation, which can be thought neither as passion nor as the action of a subject upon an object, nor starting from an agent, nor beginning from a patient, nor beginning from nor moving towards any one of these terms.52
Thus the “causality” of différance is authorless, and indeed ultimately without authority. It is in a certain sense haphazard. It is chance itself as it simultaneously appears and is effaced within the discourse of Reason. Thus Derrida refers to it as “play” rather than “work,” the latter having always been submitted to a system of technè, and hence of a telos of Reason as such:
The concept of play [jeu] is beyond this opposition [empirical/logical]; it announces at the dawn of and beyond philosophy, the unity of chance and necessity in a calculus without end.53
The irony of a “calculus without end” should not turn us back to Hegel, however. We should recall that différance is not without its “rationality,” its own sort of “order.” It moves, therefore, according to a pattern which indeed is capable of being formalized, indeed lends itself to a formalization which would nonetheless remain “beyond” the closure of metaphysics. We have thus left Heidegger far behind us at this juncture. What Derrida is exposing here is a structure or play which itself takes on the form of an “economy” which, in Heideggerian terms, opens the possibility of thinking (a) the truth of Being, (b) the essence of man, and (c) their ontological difference and thus relation that metaphysics has systematically forgotten. Yet Derrida’s move is, in a certain sense, not so radical with respect to his treatment and indeed “distrust” of the notion of the subject. As he himself recognizes:
Before being ... that of Heidegger, this gesture was also that of Nietzsche and of Freud both of whom placed consciousness and its assured certainty of itself in question.
Further, as he says for Nietzsche:
... consciousness is the effect of forces to which essence, the track and methods are not proper to it. Force itself is never present.54
Neither is the trace itself, nor arche-writing, nor différance, we should recall “ever present.” Thus we have seen that Derrida’s approach to and subsequent withdrawal from Heidegger can be summarized in the following paradoxical respect. First, Derrida, too, claims to extend the range of that which we call “man” to expose the interrelations of “human existence” with animality, divinity, childhood, madness, and other forms of “excluded otherness” from the concept of “man as such.” This is not, as we have seen, the elevation of “man” from the description as “rational animal,” as it is in Heidegger. The extension is not in accordance with a “proper essence” of man, but rather with the notion of “proper essence itself” and its inapplicability in a profound sense. The second movement Derrida makes, also parallel to but radically differing from Heidegger, is in terms of the subsequent limits on “human existence” in accordance with a certain “thrownness” (indeed perhaps a throw of the dice) which situates “man” within structures and forces—indeed the play of différance and supplementarity itself, which he does not (a) authorize nor therefore (b) control. It is différance that gives birth to man, for Derrida, not the reverse. And it is différance that opens the space for the conditions of the possibility of Heidegger’s problematics. Thus we insist that the distinction between Derrida and Heidegger is as radical and profound as that between Hegel and Kant, for instance. Of course the analogy here is limited to a similarity of analogies (analogy of analogy) and the similarity of the names as such. Indeed it is the differences which open meaning here; it is the relations of the names, rather than their full plentitudes, which we have sought to illustrate. Indeed this formulation could easily be situated at one level, within the Heideggerian discourse, yet at another, more profound (in a certain sense) within the Derridaean. Of course in the end it is neither and accepts neither totally. But first we must turn to the “object,” which like the ‘subject’ herein addressed does not properly speaking exist, for Derrida.
(ii) Husserl, the Transcendental Ego and Death
In Husserl’s exposure of the “objectivity” of the object as a result of a fundamental constitutional activity on the part of the “subject,” he in turn was forced to rely on a more primordial form of “subjectivity.” It was this “form” which, as ultimately the condition of the possibility of form itself, he termed the transcendental ego. We shall explore the movement of his thought in this context from the ego to the transcendental ego, to the intersubjective constitution of a world as “the world as such,” to objectivity as such, to the leap to inscription as its precondition, and in turn Derrida’s analysis of the latter as it undermines all that led Husserl toward it. For Derrida, the fact that inscription is the ultimate basis of “objectivity” presupposes a certain absence of both subject and object; indeed “my death” as writer is therein inscribed for him. It is thus that our study of the transcendental ego and its effects in the world which give us a “world” will lead to the exposure of the notion of death for Derrida as a more primordial foundation. Indeed as a non-foundation, to be sure, as we have already illustrated with différance as such. Thus the notion of absence here of both subject and object must be seen as “internal” and inscribed within their names as such. Their absence is thus, as distinct from Heidegger, not a former aspect, or grounding aspect in as much as it houses and is housed by them, albeit effaced within the tradition of metaphysics. It is this “parasitic” relation, as exposed by Derrida, which will also mark the difference between the latter’s position and Husserl’s, to say nothing of Heidegger.
Husserl turns from the ego, in the world, to the transcendental ego after the reduction, in an effort to comprehend the conditions of the possibility of the “intentional object” as constituted by a subject. The object as such is always, therefore, a result for him: an intended meaningful result. But for the ego-in-the-world, this process happens largely “behind his back”; it is, in short, effaced. The ego finds a world always already there. As he says:
The objective world is constantly there before me as already finished, a datum of my living continuous objective experience and even in respect of what is no longer experienced, something I go on accepting habitually. It is a matter of examining this experience itself and uncovering intentionally the manner in which it bestows sense, the manner in which it can occur as experience and become verified as evidence relating to an actual existent with an explicable essence of its own which is not my own essence and has no place as a constituent part thereof, though it nevertheless can acquire sense and verification only in my essence [my emphasis].55
Thus we find a double movement here wherein the ego (a) finds a world, yet (b) is also responsible for its constitution, and yet further (c) the object as such has an existence, indeed an essence, that is radically independent of that “same subject.” The difficulty in understanding this give and take of the power of the subject for Husserl can be overcome if one shifts to a notion of levels of subjectivity, or indeed reduces the ego in the world and therein “finds” a transcendental ego. The preconditions for the possibility of such a shift are, as we know from Derrida’s analysis,56 not reducible. But first we must “find” the transcendental ego at work.
In order to find not only a world but the world as such for anyone (within the limits of normality, as defined by Husserl, amazingly enough), the constitution of the transcendental ego must, as transcendental, be somewhat beyond the differences from one ego to another at the empirical level. Indeed we have, in a certain sense, an ego-in-general here. In Husserl’s terms, we have “a certain harmony of the monads.” He says so explicitly: “Consequently the constitution of the world essentially involves a ‘harmony of the monads.’ ...”57 Indeed we have more than a simple harmony here, since the transcendental ego or essence of each empirical ego (with respect to the constitution of objects as such) is indeed an essential structure in which each ego as ego participates—necessarily. It is, in a certain sense, the ego as such. Thus we have the possibility of a “certain harmony of the monads”; indeed for science as such, or more precisely perhaps, a world as such for us all. Nevertheless, Husserl admits of a certain gap or difference from one ego to another, in spite of this common foundation. The “other,” he says, “can never become an immediate experience for me.” He is always and necessarily so, immediately perceived. We have an ontological abyss, therefore, which paradoxically opens the possibility of society as such: or in Husserl’s terms, of intersubjectivity as such.
The basis of intersubjectivity is thus a certain identity and a certain difference between the monads. Since they are ultimately harmonious, the force of identity in general overcomes the force of difference. Husserl explains it in the following manner in his consideration of society as such as:
An Ego-community, which includes me, becomes constituted (in my sphere of ownness, naturally) as a community of Egos existing with each other and for each other—ultimately a community of monads, which moreover (in its communalized intentionality) constitutes the one identical world. In this world all Egos present themselves, but in an objectivating apperception (mediately) with the sense ‘men’ or ‘psychophysical’ men as worldly objects [my emphasis].58
Thus along with the possibility of becoming a subject in the world, one becomes at the same instant “an object for others.” Sartre as we know59 has made much of this as a fundamental violence of one subject against another. But we shall remain with Husserl instead for the moment, as he becomes relevant for Derrida.
We have found thus far that intersubjectivity is a condition for the possibility of a world, indeed of the world as such, and that in turn the condition for intersubjectivity has been ultimately a certain “identity” of structure of the monads—indeed the transcendental ego as such. But Husserl continues here with what may appear to be a profound reversal, since he turns towards the conditions of the possibility of intersubjectivity in terms of the constitution of the object as such, as an object for anyone, as within the sphere of inscription. The voice, albeit the locus of “primal” evidence for the immediate relation of the ego to itself is not sufficient for the constitution of the object for anyone. My death kills also my voice, and thus the voice of evidence must transcend such an absence. It is here that science, the world of objects, and ultimately the world of truth as such for now, the past, and the future, requires a written trace which “makes objective” what the subject learns to be true. Thus Husserl speaks of the sedimentation of science and tradition and the inheritance one is born into. He also thus warns of the dangers of such “worldly inscription”60 in that the “original intention,” the guiding telos, can therein (over time) be lost or forgotten. But, he says, the text as such is not (as worldly) a danger as such to truth. The ideality of the object is radically independent of its inscription. In this context he speaks of the “theoretical” possibility of the total destruction of the world as making no difference in terms of the ideality of the “objective.” The latter transcends existence as such, although it requires the latter for its “coming into existence.” As essential effacement, to be sure.
If we return now to our transcendental ego and its constituting structures, we find a certain absence and indeed limit of its transcendence has been inscribed therein. With respect at least to the “sense and verification” of the objective world as such, the transcendental ego is in a certain sense insufficient. Necessary indeed, but insufficient. The transcendental ego as such is always already in a transcendental community of egos (parallel to the empirical one to be sure), which Husserl himself calls the “transcendental We”—indeed a transcendental intersubjectivity which forms its precondition. Yet the condition for transcendental intersubjectivity is clearly the “harmony” presupposed for the monads; or, in short, the transcendental ego. There thus seems to be a certain double primordiality here or else a certain effacement which allows for such a duplicity to appear as such. It is here that we find Derrida’s analysis as an opening to precisely this effacement. What is effaced is not only the empirical, limited perhaps, finite world, but also finitude itself—the very limit of the ego (in either sense) which shifts its constitutional abilities from the “structure of intentionality as such” to those forms of inscription for anyone at any time known as writings. In addition, Derrida claims that death is here not only an accidental problem which writing comes to supplement or fill in for the subject, and indeed for all subjects as such, but rather the structural condition of the possibility of writing as such. He explains the reversal of priority and the “effacement” in Husserl in the following way:
The absence of intuition—and hence of the subject of intuition—is not only tolerated by the discourse, it is required by the structure of signification in general despite the slight attention that one usually pays to it. It is radically required: the total absence of the subject and the object of an enunciation—the death of the writer and/or the disappearance of the objects he was able to describe—does not prevent the text from meaning (vouloir-dire). This possibility, on the contrary, gives birth to meaning (vouloir-dire) as such, gives it to be understood and to be read.61
This “structural necessity” also goes a fortiori for Derrida for his notion of writing in general or arche-writing, but first we must pursue what he calls the total absence of the subject, or death itself. It is not however, in a certain sense, death in general which is in question here—in the sense that one would write for posterity, as Levinas suggests. Death, in this case, is specifically the death of the writer in the very process of writing. It is not for nothing that Derrida says of writing that it is “toujours une question de vie et de mort.” In this context we should recall that which Plato/Socrates complained of with respect to writing as such and the intrinsically absent author, indeed the author as its father, master, originator, etc.
You know, Phaedrus, that’s the strange thing about writing which makes it truly analogous to painting. The painter’s products stand before us as though they were alive, but if you question them, they maintain a most majestic silence. It is the same with written words; they seem to talk to you as though they were intelligent, but if you ask them anything about what they say, from a desire to be instructed, they go on telling you just the same thing forever. And once a thing is put in writing, the composition, whatever it may be, drifts all over the place, getting into the hands not only of those who understand it, but equally of those who have no business with it; it doesn’t know how to address the right people, and not address the wrong. And when it is ill-treated and unfairly abused it always needs its parent to come to its help, being unable to defend or help itself [my emphasis].62
It was for this reason that Socrates argued for the voice of Reason as the voice of the Father—the presence of the subject to his own words in terms of a certain responsivity and a responsibility. It is as if in the speaking one is not temporally, spatially, or meaningfully separated from one’s own speech. Thus the possibility of explication, of challenge, and of the defense of the child by its father is inscribed in such a structure. These are precisely the qualities, as benefits, which writing lacks, and it is for these reasons that it is considered dangerous not only to memory but also to meaning itself. If one asks it what it means, it just goes on repeating the same thing over and over again, we repeat. Thus in terms of the Platonic tradition Husserl, in his recognition of writing at least as the condition of the scientificity of science, seems to have overcome many metaphysical obstacles. (However, it is also Plato who later says that writing is the condition of the possibility of the law; in particular social and political law, but also law in general. We shall return to this.)63 The problem with Husserl’s recognition, for Derrida, is that it does not recognize the conditions of possibility of writing as such except by a return to radically and violently imposed and presupposed metaphysical notions such as “the essential harmony of the monads,” and the bracketing of the conditions of the possibility of the bracketing process (the transcendental reduction as such), and the essentially transcendental basis for the ego as such which therein effaces that which for Heidegger and Derrida is “not-to-beoutstripped”: death. Indeed it is the subject’s relation to death—his own and in general—which is the basis for the constitution of subjectivity as such, for Derrida. But first we must return to that which, for Derrida, allows the written to be written as such. As he says:
My death is structurally necessary for the pronunciation of ‘I’. That I could also be alive and that I am certain of that comes after the negotiating (marché) of meaning (vouloir-dire) and this structure is active, it sustains its original efficacy even when I say ‘I am alive’ at the precise moment when, if that is possible, I have a full and actual intuition of it [my emphasis].64
Thus for Derrida, beyond “writing” (in the traditional sense of the term), the condition of meaning in general, as in general, and always already thus, is “my death.” In order that my speech means something, it must be inscribed within the world as such; indeed language already does this, as we have shown, and thus in a certain sense, “my death” (in particular, or anyone else’s as well in their speech) is always already inscribed. My speech leaves me in the instant of its formulation and in a radical sense never returns. It is already transposed into the “for others” formulation which is the essence of speech itself. Thus Derrida poses the problem of auto-affection in Rousseau, in particular,65 as always already mediated. My relation to myself is therefore for Derrida always already within the currency and system of exchange of my relation to others. Indeed the former is a product of the latter, as Freud among others has clearly illustrated. Thus we overthrow at one blow the distinction between speech and writing, as explicated in the Phaedrus, and the “essential harmony” of the “essential monads” as the precondition for the constitution of objectivity as such, the world as such, and science in particular, for Husserl. The subject, be it transcendental or otherwise, is always already inscribed, for Derrida, within a system of exchange which is always already public (for others) and which presupposes the “structural necessity of my death” in order to “make sense.” Sense or meaning is thus essentially public or collective as well, in this sense. The problem of the idiom or the idiomatic in general must reappear therefore as enigmatic essentially. How is it possible to constitute the “idiom” or the idiomatic for me or the other? Is this not ruled out of order to begin with within Derrida’s formulation here?
We should recall that the idiomatic, for Derrida, is to be situated within the notion of the untranslatable, unrepeatable, and nonrepresentable. In addition it is the idiomatic, idiosyncratic which defines his notion à la fois of the sacred and of animality as such. It seems therefore that, in the expansion of the notion of man from being other than “animal” and other than “divine” to an inclusion of these qualities within the sense of the idiomatic, we must transgress that which he calls the meaningful as such. Indeed this is precisely where we are. The notion of meaning has always been inscribed as “objective” or, in a certain sense, the meaning of the object. That which cannot be objectified, that is not situated within the “Logos” system of exchange (logocentrism as such) cannot be said, and a fortiori cannot be written. It extends beyond the limits of language, as we have shown. But we are not in a realm where these limits precisely do not apply. We have extended the field beyond the subject, beyond the object, beyond the sayable as such, beyond the as such and therefore must approach what Derrida himself has called, in distinct terms, animality on the one hand and divinity on the other. The irony of their profound similarity (identity) must herein be addressed in particular as this relates to Nietzsche’s formulation of the same. For Nietzsche, as we know, the “death of God” was required in order to liberate the “essence” of man, which contained a not-to-be-outstripped form of nature he called bestiality. We now propose therefore to address once again the parallels to Derrida’s position as the latter overlaps with Nietzsche, but also the precise and profound distinctions therein.
(iii) Nietzsche and the Abyss of Inscription
The convergence of animality and divinity within what Derrida would call man is only partially convergent with Nietzsche’s position on this issue. As we have said, Nietzsche insisted on the death of God as such as the precondition for the last man to become the “overman”—the ultimate creator of value and things himself. Indeed to become his own Father, which would therein eliminate the Father of Fathers: Logos itself. In this context Nietzsche claims that “truth is a useful error,” but that it certainly does not as such (that is as philosophy has understood from Plato and Socrates’ time) exist. There is thus no Absolute truth or essence to things for Nietzsche, at least not that we can know. All we can know are interpretations, and it is force and the “herd instinct’ of the ‘rabble’ (collective repetition as such) which will make what the creators will into truths-for-others. Indeed force is, for Nietzsche, the basis of the constitution of science itself, and therefore of its overcoming. In proposing a world of will and force (which might ultimately be the same thing), Nietzsche inaugurates a notion of the irreducible duplicity of forces and, hence therein, a notion of contradiction which cannot be outstripped. It is at this point that Derrida’s position converges somewhat with Nietzsche’s, as we have seen in terms of the relation of différance to that of the forces of Apollo and Dionysius. In terms of the absence of subject and object as a result of force as such, Derrida admits the following fraternity with Nietzsche:
If différance is recognized as the obliterated origin of absence and presence, major forms of the disappearing and the appearing of the entity, it would still remain to be known if being, before its determination into absence or presence, is already implicated in the thought of différance. And if différance as the project of the mastery of the entity should be understood with reference to the sense of being. Can one not think the converse? Since the sense of being is never produced as history outside its determination as presence, has it not always already been caught within the history of metaphysics as the epoch of presence? This is perhaps what Nietzsche wanted to write and what resists the Heideggerian reading of Nietzsche; différance in its active movement—what is comprehended in the concept of difference without exhausting it—is what not only precedes metaphysics but also extends beyond the thought of being. The latter speaks nothing other than metaphysics, even if it exceeds it and thinks it as what is within its closure.66
Indeed Nietzsche too spoke “nothing other than metaphysics” in what was more precisely an attempt to speak of its other. Where Nietzsche fell back into metaphysics was in his attempt to separate himself too radically from it. To set himself apart from and against metaphysics. Indeed he attempted to install the “Abyss” between himself and metaphysics—the Abyss of death itself, and in particular, the death of God. As Nietzsche says:
Before God! But now this God has died. You higher men, this God was your greatest danger. It is only since he lies in his tomb that you have been resurrected. Only now the great noon comes, only now the higher man becomes—Lord.67
Thus the condition for becoming the Father is to kill the Father, or at least, as in this instance, to find that he is already dead. Indeed, in a certain sense, has always already been dead—it was just that we did not know this. We “blinked,” as Nietzsche says.
Thus we have Oedipus within Nietzsche and, in addition, a movement not unlike that which we find in Hegel (the ultimate metaphysician, for Derrida, we should recall). In the “death of God,” man is at once more essentially man for Nietzsche and yet also no longer man as such. He becomes God; he becomes that same oppressor he would revolt against. In short, he becomes the Master. But this is not for all men equally, Nietzsche insists. It is for “those who would hear his words’’ and then “abandon him to his chilly heights.” The overman follows no one except himself. And himself he despises, since he is at base a work of nature, a result of forces which are beyond his control. The will to power is thus forever submitted to a “play of forces” to which even the overman is necessarily blind. It is thus that Nietzsche creates and destroys his overman—yet he would kill God. It is thus also that God is sustained. Was it not in Christianity, for instance, that man finds God within; that man is always already essentially God? Was it not in Plato that man, as finitude as such, has his essence in infinity as “Godliness” as such? It is thus that Nietzsche remains trapped within the metaphysics he would destroy, and it is thus that he paradoxically preserves (in Hegelian fashion at that) the same God he would destroy.
Derrida argues that the “Nietzschean demolition remains dogmatic and like all reversals, a captive of that metaphysical edifice which it professes to overthrow.” Yet he considers Nietzsche to have “intended” (a strange word for the Derridaen discourse) to speak of the différance, to speak of the conditions of presence and absence. In fact, he has (a) fallen into the Abyss and, indeed, (b) covered it up (before and after his own leap therein). Has not Nietzsche thus buried himself, we might well ask? No, Derrida insists, it is his writing as such that will save him from a total effacement of having said “nothing at all.”
We thus return to the question of writing for Derrida. As with Nietzsche, Derrida has claimed that “reading and therefore writing, the text were for Nietzsche ‘originary operations’ with regard to the sense that they do not first have to transcribe or discover, which would not therefore be a truth signified in the original element and presence of the logos, as topos noetos, divine understanding, or the structure of a priori necessity.”68 It is this “fall” into writing of the writer which Nietzsche recognized as within the structure of writing as such. The writer “blinks” when he writes and opens his eyes only afterward, if at all. It is thus that Nietzsche’s writing itself tells us more about writing than that which he wrote about writing. It is the “forgetting of the self,” the Dionysian principle, which ultimately orients the writing of writing. Yet différance or writing, for Derrida, is also that space between the Apollonian and Dionysian principles. It seems therefore that this “space” is governed ultimately by the Dionysian principle. But first, what sort of space is this? It is the space of writing itself, Derrida insists—the space which is at once a distance and an absolute proximity. It is, in a certain sense, the distance of/from that which is called the “absolute proximity.” In short it is the Abyss. Without a subject or an object—indeed their absence as the preconditions (structural necessities a priori), writing is cast adrift, it seems, and is subjected to the process of objectification. In short, as we have shown, writing falls into the Logos at precisely this moment where the Father, the writer, its Logos is exiled from it (or killed, as with Nietzsche). The difference between the death of God (Logos ultimately) and the “structural necessity of his absence” is the crucial issue with respect to the fundamental difference between Derrida and Nietzsche. The decentering of the Logos is not the end of Logos for Derrida, and the Abyss of writing is not one without end or without foundation. There is always an ultimate ground for Derrida, even though this can no longer be called the ultimate ground, or origin. Indeed it is precisely the non-origin of origin of which we speak. Decentering the Logos, or making the absence of subject and object a structural necessity, opens the possibility (a) of inscription itself, as we have shown, and (b) of meaning itself. Absolute freedom to say anything at all without an invisible “point of orientation” (officially outside of the system) is the ultimate slavery and ultimate capture of what purports to be non-metaphysical—indeed antimetaphysical—by metaphysics itself. Thus the master/slave dialectic in Hegel can be applied precisely to Nietzsche, yet not at all to Derrida. The making of a hypo-thesis is not reducible to the stepping into the ring of a polemic. In a word, Nietzsche’s passion was perhaps too much for him. Yet Derrida finds différance at the heart of Nietzsche’s writing:
Nietzsche has written what he has written. He has written that writing—and first of all his own—is not originally subordinate to the logos and to truth. And that this subordination has come into being during an epoch whose meaning we must deconstruct.69
As we have shown, it seems that Nietzsche’s writing, as radically opposing the Logos, therein falls victim to it all the more. Yet Derrida insists there is more to Nietzsche than this. That which exceeds his claims, that which in a certain sense could not be said, was written in the “form” of the writing itself. Indeed Nietzsche seems to have contradicted himself on most counts.70 Every issue for him could be both affirmed and disconfirmed; those he loved he also hated; the essence of tragedy carried with it a certain comedy; the reciprocity of life and death and indeed the “transvaluation of all values” illustrate, to a certain extent, that which Derrida is here emphasizing, we suggest. Indeed writing itself is not capable (Nietzsche’s or Derrida’s most obviously, but also all writing, Derrida will claim) of being totalized into a unified and not self-contradictory whole. In fact the demands of philosophy, of Logos—the principle of non-contradiction—is intrinsically violated by the very structure of writing, Derrida claims. “Writing denounces itself,” he says. Thus we have an abyss within the very structure of writing itself such that the totality (interpretation, reading) of a text is never a full presence of the object itself, nor of the subject to its object a fortiori. The essential mediation of writing by temporality and spatiality (its a priori conditions, for Derrida, as we shall see later) is what dislocates the proper, the correct from itself. For Husserl, we should recall, it is only in writing that the constitution of scientific objectivity, indeed objectivity as such, is possible. Yet Derrida herein insists that: (a) logocentrism which would make the text into an object, and reading into a form of totalization towards the “intention” (vouloirdire), meaning, essence, center of the text, can never accomplish its task completely; and (b) that writing itself has an intrinsic structure which (i) within metaphysics is self-destructive; and (ii) beyond metaphysics, entails an infinity of meanings and readings. The opening of writing is thus the space of the Abyss, for Derrida, the Abyss which is infinity itself. It is this that the Logos (as Nietzsche also no doubt recognized) has killed in its usurpation of infinity for itself. As Derrida says: “God is the name of indifference itself,” and this must be overcome. But as we have shown, his tools are different from those of Nietzsche although not dissimilar. Derrida openly claims to borrow71 his tools from metaphysics, openly admits that “man” for him is not the “overman” of which Nietzsche speaks; yet at the same time he insists that metaphysics as such, as dominated by the name of God, the Father, the Logos, must be overcome, and that writing is indeed a radically inaugurating and originating activity. It is precisely the origin of the origin—which can never be simply an origin nor a non-origin. The Nietzschean discourse, in its defiance of a non-contradictory to talization, opens the space of inscription itself as understood beyond the “blink,” which is also intrinsic to Nietzsche’s discourse as such. Yet perhaps Nietzsche knew this too and yet refused to speak of it. We should recall that, for him, “a wise man never says all that he knows”—it would be too dangerous. We should also recall that for Nietzsche, not unlike Derrida in a fundamental way (which thought might perhaps make the latter himself blink):
When one speaks of humanity, the idea is fundamental that this is something which separates and distinguishes man from nature. In reality, however, there is no such separation: “natural” qualities and those called truly “human” are inseparably grown together. Man, in his highest and noblest capacities, is wholly nature and embodies its uncanny dual character. Those of his abilities which are terrifying and considered inhuman may even be the fertile soil out of which alone all humanity can grow in impulse, deed and work [my emphasis].72
We might also recall that for Derrida writing and textuality as such can be considered as a seeding, sowing, indeed a disseminating process.73 One ploughs the fields to set up furrows, lines of demarcation, and one seeds them only after they are ploughed. Some take root, others do not, but the important aspect of this metaphorical structure is that the seeds be sown. The “inhuman” basis of humanity, for Nietzsche, is precisely what frightens us all in terms of our humanity. It is the Abyss into which perhaps we have thrown madness, childhood, abnormality, animality, divinity, or the sacred as such, in our process of the fabrication of man as such, not realizing that in the same process (a) we have therein thrown ourselves into the Abyss, as Nietzsche did in his “reversal” of the problem; and (b) we have effaced the fact or fundamental truth (if these words still mean anything after Derrida) that we have always already been in the Abyss—this same Abyss. That the “other” (we would exclude) is always already within us—be it the other as sacred or the other as bestiality (not so easy to accept perhaps). The Abyss of which we speak therefore is not something “out there,” something which we can leap over, face, or avoid. Just as we are neither the subjects we think we are nor the objects others make of us, so too writing for Derrida is not simply this inscription here. Yet it is precisely that and nothing else besides. Writing too is always already within the Abyss and yet also carries with it the radical inauguration of the Abyss itself. Writing is precisely this spacing which opens the Abyss—the Abyss, we repeat, where we are not where we might be or have been (only). We must now therefore turn to the structure of writing, or différance, or the supplement, as Derrida uses these terms, in order to open wider the gaping (w)hole we have now found ourselves in the midst of. A final warning before we leave Logos too far behind us here on the solid rock that has recently turned into an immanent volcano. In approaching the “written” as such here, in its movement as movement, we risk being able to “say nothing” about it. The Abyss, we should recall, is, although the condition of speech itself, the unspeakable. However, we propose to examine its form in the upcoming section and its movement as one that incessantly repeats. Différance is thus, we suggest, (a) not subject to its own laws, yet (b) lends itself to its own objectification. The reason for this may be more than Derrida’s admitted “borrowing” from metaphysics. As long as his discourse makes sense to us, it is possible to formalize it. As long as the différance of which he speaks remains a truth for us, we should be able to find it not only “at play” in Derrida’s writing, but also and necessarily so—at work. Thus we shall attempt to describe that which is necessarily an object for us, yet not an object for Derrida. If we succeed we must therein illustrate Derrida’s position as both (a) true and yet also (b) false. If this is established, the also paradoxical result must be that with such a duplicity we will have illustrated precisely that which Derrida has called “the movement of différance.” Further, to avoid as many misunderstandings as possible, we hope in this process (a) to avoid contradicting ourselves and to therein limit the play of différance in order to be credible and conceptualized at all, yet (b) to take the risk of being a subject and making an object only by virtue of and on the condition of this very play of différance which opens our discourse and which must, if Derrida is correct, overturn it. As Derrida says:
Différance produces what it forbids, makes possible the very thing that it makes impossible.74