PHI 347 Classnotes :

17th November 2004



Second papers due Tuesday, Nov. 23.

The later Heidegger – Poetry, Language, Thought or Elucidations. The question of Ereignis or event – an event not like Rice becoming Secretary of State, which as such is not an Ereignis, which has to do with the whole notion of world, of truth, of disclosure, which happens when something everyday takes place. The everyday event as such is not an Ereignis. An Ereignis is when some big event occurs. There is a temporality – as in “On Time and Being,” in which the role of time is extremely important. See “Ousia and Gramme” in which Derrida talks about Heidegger’s whole notion of time, in which Derrida specifically responds to Heidegger (his “On Time and Being”).

            Papers: Take up the play, photo, building, whatever, and show that you’re able to talk about the work in Heideggerian concepts. Show that you can apply the Heideggerian way of thinking to it. We need to have a clear idea that you know these texts, that you’ve understood them, that you can show that you can refer to the texts and apply the views in the text. Be very specific, so that when we read your paper it doesn’t sound like you’ve just heard a few ideas in class and thrown them into the paper. It doesn’t help to just present an analysis of the work – that’s only half the story.

            Part of the task of hermeneutics is to understand what it is you’re talking about, to understand another perspective, point of view, way of thinking; and part of that is to understand how Heidegger thinks. Do you understand Heidegger well enough to work with a film or play or whatever in Heidegger’s terms. The one way to do that is to specifically say something like, “As Heidegger says in [such and such an essay], . . .” thus showing that you’ve understood the Heidegger text and the problematic of (for example) homecoming. You have to show that you’ve read Heidegger and have a grasp of it and can put it into action.


Protocol Discussion

In Socrates the daimon was conscience. The word ‘daimon’ becomes “demon.”


Derrida's Spurs: Nietzsche's Styles

Both ethnography and ethnology are subdisciplines of anthropology. The phallus is the symbolic male organ, but it’s not the same as a penis. There is a whole distinction in psychoanalysis between the penis and the phallus. Kristeva has a discussion of the phallid mother. ‘Phallic’ is symbolic notion for that which is associated with male dominance. The phallus has a certain shape or size. You can say the obelisk is phallic because it has elongation. A spire on a church can be phallic; a pen can be phallic (see Derrida’s essay, Spurs, Nietzsche’s Styles, in which Derrida takes up the claim that Nietzsche makes that truth is a woman, and wants to figure out what that means; says that the writing instrument is phallic – French stylo, associated with stylus, a style; so a writing ‘style’ is phallic, and truth involves, as in Heidegger, unveiling, disclosure, and in that sense is vaginal. Truth involves this unveiling, disclosing, opening up, and so truth, Derrida wants to suggest, is female; whereas nice style – bravado, elegance, eloquence – is male. Derrida deconstructs Nietzsche’s misogynist claims about women and inverts that by showing that seemingly negative comments about women can be read as positive comments, by taking truth as a woman. Where is the indecidable? Every time you read a Derrida text, ask yourself, where is the indecidable? In Spurs, the indecidable is an umbrella. Nietzsche had written somewhere “I have forgotten my umbrella,” which is a text. “I have forgotten my umbrella”: think of Heidegger’s notion that forgetting is concealment and not disclosed and therefore not true. What does an umbrella that’s closed resemble? It’s phallic. What happens when you open up an umbrella? Basically when you open up an umbrella it becomes vaginal in the sense of that which unfolds, is unfurled, unveiled – in other words, it’s female. So you have an umbrella which, when it’s closed up, is phallic, but which when you undo it, it protects against the rain, but it becomes unveiled. The umbrella is an indecidable because it’s neither phallic nor vaginal but both. It’s like the hinge of the door, which operates in between the door and the door jam. It’s function is not decided. If Nietzsche wrote, “I have forgotten my umbrella,” then this mean forgetting the indecidability of male and female, to forget about gender, effectively; to not raise the question of gender when talking about really important things like truth.

Derrida takes an affirmation and inverts it to negation and asks what’s going on in between.

You go from A to B by inverting the primacy of A to the primacy of B which allows you to raise the question of what happens in between. E.g. “Truth is a woman” (affirmation). Ask what is binary pair of this, as its opposite, which is, “style is a man.” Derrida follows this logic, going from “Truth as a woman,” asking the opposite that’s paired with that, “Style is a man,” and asks what’s happening in between. In between style and truth is writing. Going from truth is a woman to style is a man and seeing what happens in between – like the umbrella. Writing is both truth and style. Writing is indecidable: It’s on the one hand style and the other hand truth. Find places where there are affirmations, positions, statements and see what the inverse is. Thinking and writing have binary pairs at work in them. By finding the binary pairs you get to the indecidability. Usually in a text it’s the ‘A’ side that is affirmed, and then you have to find out what is not said.

You should be able to do a deconstruction with any text.

You want to bring out the meaning of the text, the truth that is imbedded, and show the limits to that meaning or truth, showing that the that meaning doesn’t apply to everything, that there are some very particular things about this work that disclose this particular truth, this particular meaning. The interest is to find out what the meaning or truth is that is embedded in this particular work. Part of the thing is . . . if a particular meaning or truth comes out of a particular work, then that meaning can be helpful in understanding human interaction, the human world, why is why. Art works for example Art brings out truths that we don’t confront in everyday life. Bringing out the meaning has value.

Hermeneutics is concerned with interpretation. Deconstruction is concerned with reading. Reading, in the deconstructive sense, is not something that a subject, a person does; not something that you or I do in private. A person reading is not what we’re talking about; we’re talking about a reading of texts. Reading is not something that you or I do; reading is something that happens in the place of the text. Deconstruction deconstructs the central. What is not central? The marginal, minority, peripheral – what is excluded, not central in an account. Deconstruction somehow operates on what is not said but brings it into play. What is going on in between the Central, marginal, minority and peripheral? How do you bring the marginal into play in a way that the central doesn’t? Part of the task is to see how the minority, marginal, peripheral can be brought into play, and see what this inversion does. You re-weight the priority from A to B, giving primacy to B rather than A. Deconstruction brings out what is in play in a text in a way that demonstrates what has been: not present, marginalized, taken as irrelevant, foreign, minority – and to bring it out so that the relation can be reformulated so that a different social, literary, etc. take place. One of the main things is to see that which has been left out and regarded as insignificant and put it in centrality and see the effects of that. You also find the cases of indecidability – like the umbrella, like truth, like writing – and to see that things aren’t just red and blue. There’s something going on in between. What is happening in between?

“Truth is a woman” is a negative claim overtly, but Derrida takes this as a positive, since according to Heidegger truth is unveiling, unconcealedness (aletheia) [Unverborgenheit – verborgen is to hide, conceal, cover up; Unverborgen = unhidden, not concealed, unconcealed; Unverborgenheit = disclosure, opening up] French devoilement, where voil means sail or veil. There is a veil in the French word for truth. Un bateau a voile is a sail boat. A sailboat opens up. You can furl a sail and unfurl it. It does the same kind of thing as an umbrella.

When you talk about writing, it may be that writing is very stylish with no truth or clumsy writing with truth

There are lots of things that can be symbolically phallic.

A border separates one side from the other, and it brings them together. The question of the border is both one of separation and bringing together. Deconstruction is interested precisely in these kinds of lines and borders. A border between truth and style is not ‘needed’; it happens. The very articulation of the word ‘truth’ excludes style (as well as falsehood, etc.).

Decisiveness, inflexibility, determinateness, rigidity are opposed to play, free play. In each and every instance of writing, each and every text, the question of the line is raised; and in that line the question of two sides is raised and indecidability. “Undecidable” means there is no issue: you’re never going to decide it so don’t try; whereas ‘indecidable’ has an element of indecision, but it has within it also an element of decision.

History is a sequence of events in time. Historicity refers to events that happen chronologically, historically. Historicity is the quality of being in time. Historicity comes out of the relation of a right triangle to its eternal object.

Usually history is what we take seriously (if we take anything historical seriously). A massacre is a historical moment in time, but it has a relation to massacre. The historicity in some way jumps out of the chronological order of time.

What is the ‘between’ of history as a linear chronological development in time and the eternal? It’s historicity but what does that mean? Augustine has a notion of time as linear and another time, which is God’s time. God is of a completely different order than us, who are born and die and are temporal. The question that Derrida raises is: what is the relationship between God’s temporality and our temporality? Our lives in time and the eternity of God? That’s where our historicity comes in. Taking a particular instance and asking about its relation to God we have historicity. God’s time is not linear, whereas history is linear. Historicity has to do with the relation between those two.

You have human history and divine history, and by coming back to the ‘between’ these two we have the question of historicity. But this (historicity) comes out in terms of the question of mortals’ relationship to the divine.

When you talk about the difference between ‘difference’ and ‘differance’ . . .

There is the word differe, which means ‘to differ,’ but also something else. It has a spatial component as well as a temporal component, which is to defer or postpone. To differ and to defer are senses combined here. The French word, differe, is indecidable. Differe could be either to differ or defer. When you defer you put off, postpone. The notion of difference is the writing of the difference between difference and differance, and this involves a spacial difference as well as a temporal difference.

Historicity would be an indecidable between the eternal and the temporal, just as writing is an indecidable between difference and differance.

The opposition between speaking and writing comes in the archewriting (archi-writing), in between.

A text is writing, but is not “written.” Books are the objects of a productive activity, a novel is the result of a productive activity. A text comes out of the relationship between a book and an author. Historicity comes out of the relation between history and the eternal. Derrida talks about “the end of the book and the beginning of writing.” When he talks about ‘writing’ he’s talking about texts. Texts, and writing, are not the product of an activity of an author or writer, of an authorial activity (as authors, writers are, who produce books and works).

The book is like history. In between the book and the author is the text. The book can be destroyed, the author can die. The text can’t. Historicity continues to operate as long as there is a relation between history and the eternal. A text doesn’t have a time at which it began or ended.

A text is an indecidable, between author and book. What we’re interested in, in deconstruction, is text and textualities.

We didn’t get to talk about “The Ends of Man” or the different notions of time that Derrida talks about in “Ousia and Gramme.” So the assignment remains the same: finish papers, and read the essays from Margins (already mentioned).