20th Oct 2004

PHI 347


For next meeting: Read closely the first 93 pages and start reading the first and second chapter of Part II.

2nd paper: It is scheduled to deal with later hermeneutics but it can deal with early deconstruction if you prefer. (Later hermeneutics: Heidegger’s On Time and Being – Ereignis, Appropriation, etc. Early Derrida: Of Grammatology and/or Margins of Philosophy.)

Last paper: deals with later deconstruction – Truth in Painting, etc.

                          Remarks in connection with student protocols:

You can have both a positive and a negative incorporated into the same notion. E.g., Unbauen - unbuilding. Deconstruction both involves the positive and the negative as operating together in a single place. “Unpicking” is a nice way to use a term. Putting together is a kind of construction, and unpicking means just the opposite. So you have a binary pair, and the deconstructive practice operates at the juncture of this positive and negative. Revealing hidden meanings is in fact to find the meaning or hidden meaning or something. So, although there is a hermeneutic aspect of deconstruction, be careful with the notion that deconstruction “reveals the hidden meanings.” Derrida’s writing is not absurd – it’s careful, subtle, well formulated. (The term ‘absurd’ is associated with the “Theatre of the Absurd,” existentialism, and Albert Camus.)

See “The Time of a Thesis” by Derrida, in Philosophy in France Today, Montefiore, ed. It has autobiographical accounts of his career and writings and beginnings.

Happening, coming-into-its-own, appropriation – all of these are basically translations of Ereignis.

Dichtung - to thicken; poetize


On Time and Being.

P. 2: The attempt to think Being without beings becomes necessary . . .

A fairly significant shift in Heidegger’s writing. A subtle shift, because asking the question “what does it mean to think Being apart from beings?” One of these beings is the one that can ask about its relation to Being. This being is Dasein.

Once you delineate the circle beings and Being and the difference of the two, then you can talk about a clearing or lighting [Lichtung]. This Lichtung, this open between Being and beings, is like that clearing in the forest. The open is generated by the circling in the circle.

Disclosure, coming out of concealedness, truth. When you attempt to think the relationship of beings to Being a clearing opens up. All divers beings have something in common – that they all are; but if they all are, then they have a relation to being in general. The clearing is what you stand in.

Thinking [Denken] is like standing in the clearing. Thinking is involved in making the clearing happen. The happening, the event of the being of beings can be spoken about as something that occurs. It’s an event of openness of Truth, an event of disclosure.

After 1945 Heidegger doesn’t use the term Dasein anymore. He would instead more and more talk about the difference between Being and beings. Instead of Dasein he referred to the ontico-ontological difference.

The ontico-ontological difference is the difference between beings and Being. It’s in this difference that the open, truth, clearing, Ereignis, coming-into-one’s-own, all happen. It’s in this ontico-ontological difference.

There is a difference between individual beings. What is a difference?

Underscheidung = the separating of beings from one another; one being distinguished from another being. Difference can’t do anything; it has no active qualities. (‘Dasein’ personalized what was going on too much for Heidegger’s purposes.)

Differenz is the term to describe the relation of beings to Being. Each being enacts, in a sense, the difference between beings. Philosophy circumscribes itself, goes as far as it can go, and that’s where thinking takes over. Thinking is that which thinks the relation of beings to other beings and to Being in general. Each being has a relation to Being, and each time there’s a relation to Being there’s a difference. The difference between beings and Being is not like the difference between beings in terms of its ontic characteristics. But each of these beings has a relation to is-ness, to Being; and that is the important Difference. We can know certain things about beings, but what keeps not getting done in the thinking of the relation of beings to Being, the ontico-ontological difference, and therefore Truth, disclosure, coming-out-of-hiddenness. We keep ending up with particular beings and don’t get to Being!

Response to student’s question: The term for imagination in German is Einbildungskraft. It contains a sense of knowing in addition to building. Connotes the power to generate ideas, images. The problem here is that your creation of images is not what someone wants to focus on. You are looking to disclose out of hiddenness, but image-creation doesn’t do that.

Ereignis = where truth can come into its own.

What are poets for? Means: What does their poetizing [Dichtung], which can bring out the truth in the same way that Denken can, do? The activity of poets is what is relevant. Heidegger is trying to get at the truth. The work of poets can get at the truth – better than philosophy can, but not better than thinking [Denken] can.

Truth comes out of the circling of the circle.


Of Grammatology was one of three books he published in 1967. The other two are Speech and Phenomena (are you indicating or expressing? This is the kind of distinction that Derrida finds in Husserl, and he finds that his notion of sign is not clear) and Writing and Difference.

Of Grammatology is concerned with something like a theory of writing. Gramme is Greek for word or letter. Grammatology is a theory of writing, taking literally.

Derrida gave a lecture, Differance, at the French philosophy society. He says he’s going to talk about a letter - the letter ‘A’. You can’t hear the difference between ‘difference’ and ‘differance’. The difference is just the letter ‘a’. You can see this in the written word, though. There is a difference between speaking and writing. That’s an important point that Derrida makes. A difference that is not evident in speaking is perfectly evident in writing. What he’s doing is saying that we’ve gone from the normal, traditional, standard way of writing difference and spelled it with an ‘a’ instead. ‘Differance’ now spelled with an ‘a’ is another way to spell difference giving in French dictionaries. But they specify it as Derrida’s deconstructive use.

Derrida wants to show that there is a difference is writing but not in speaking. He has taking the traditional way to spell difference and gone to the non-dominant, non-conventional way, and proposes a difference between ‘difference’ and ‘differance’. The former is dominant and the other is marginal. He calls ‘differance’ originary difference.

What has been dominant has been speech over writing. God speaks first, then later on they’re written down on tablets. Making a promise has primacy: “I give you my word.” Then there is a written contract. In Western tradition, speaking has primacy. Protestant tradition: The direct communication with God is more important than anything that’s written down. (Cf. Luther’s response to Catholicism.) The tradition is one in which speaking has dominance. You have to name the difference between the two with the minority-term, ‘differance’.

Derrida called it originary writing, arche-writing, and later just writing.

Derrida called it ecriture, the name for the difference between speaking and writing.

It’s a strategy of inversion: go from dominant side to less dominant side to ask about the difference. There is a kind of performative here, illocutionary act (Cf. J. L. Austin: “I marry you” or “I Christen thee. . .” etc. ), which only works when the person has authority.

When I go from speaking to writing, I in effect perform differance – when I ask/say what the difference is between ‘difference’ and ‘differance’. There is a remarking, a re-marking (a marking again) of the difference.

p. 7: “destroying the concept of the sign and its entire logic.”

What is semiology? Semiology is the general science of signs. It has to do with semion (Greek for ‘sign’). Ferdinand de Saussure introduced semiology as “a general science of signs.” A sign, according to him, is made up of two parts: a signifier and a signified. He says that a word is a signifier and a concept is a signified. Saussure says that the combination of a signifier and a signified is a sign. And signs only have meaning in virtue of difference within a language system. Saussure thinks that any time we use a word it’s connected to an idea, concept. The word ‘chair’, ‘house’, or ‘person’ don’t have the same concept as ‘tree’. They are only such in virtue of difference from other concepts in system. When I say ‘tree’, the word ‘tree’ has nothing in it that has nothing that looks like a tree. The connection between the acoustical image and the concept is completely arbitrary.

A sign is a sign by virtue of its difference from all the other signs in the language.

So signs have arbitrary and differential natures, according to Saussure.

Signifier (Sr)

                            } Sign

Signified (Sd)

We’ve got three different theoretical frameworks in which we’ve used the word ‘difference’:

Heideggerian ontico-ontological difference, on a horizontal level

Semiological – in a language, on a vertical level – going from one sign to another sign: each sign having its identity only by virtue of difference from other signs in a language system

Derridean differance: a difference that happens between the linguistic and the ontological: a crossing of Heideggerian Differenz and Saussurean difference.

Derrida’s notion of differential writing is both linguistic and ontico-ontological. Derrida’s whole deconstruction is going to try to operate at the hinge between language and the being of beings (at the hinge of the door).

The interpretation of what is and the language that writes what is

Deconstruction may be thought as: Writing the linguistic interpretation of ‘what is’: namely, how do we read specifically what Derrida calls a text? It’s located in the place that cuts across place of opening, truth, disclosure in Heidegger, which is where Derrida’s notion of text or writing is located. He’s talking about writing that’s somewhere between speaking and writing, which is a writing that comes out in a deconstructive practice. Find the places of difference in text, language, writing. It doesn’t mean talking about things or ideas, but it means talking about differences.

                                            <end of seminar meeting>