PHILOSOPHY 630: MERLEAU-PONTY AND DERRIDA
PROTOCOL FOR MARCH 22nd, 2004
The importance of genesis …
genesis in the sense of “over time” not of “the place where things began”
genetic phenomenology takes temporality or temporal constitution into account.
… in the context of the development of structuralism
debate on genesis and structure, synchrony and diachrony
1953 Derrida’s Master Thesis. Published in French
in 1990; published in English under the title The Problem of Genesis in Husserl's Philosophy, trans. by Marian Hobson (
1946 Hyppolite’s Genesis and Structure in Hegel’s Phenomenology
1955 Piaget and the Genetic Epistemology (developmental theory of knowledge)
Structuralism, Que sais-je? series (transformation from one structural formation to the next)
1966 Foucault’s Order of Things (episteme = synchronic understanding of history)
Complement to last week
▪ ideal forms always exist, they are independent of meaning giving act, but all meaning is given in meaning giving act
▪ the meaning given (a²+b²=c²) in the meaning-giving act is independent of the existence of any right triangle (because of the transcendental reduction) but is only possible after the beginning of the science of geometry
indecision it is decided that it can’t be decided
it hasn’t been decided yet no point in trying to decide
verge between decision and indecisison no problem, no wavering
Indecidability (l’indécidable) is independent of the psychological state of indecision and of the respective decisions that can be made. It is the hinge between indecision and decision. The indecidable is an indecidable, it performs indecidability by wavering between indecidable and undecidable.
(A or B or I or …)
(or better undecision) as inability to decide being
indecision (or better undecision) as inability to decide
The decision does not overcome indecidability (though it does overcome the first type of indecision. For example, every act of reading or interpretation is a decision that cut through the text. But this act does not resolve the dissemination or indecidability of meaning (it does not make the text univocal) because the text indefinitely regenerate “its own tissue behind the cutting trace, the decision, of each reading” (Dissemination, 69).
Différance is the nominal form of the present participle (the ing-form) of the verb différer. Différer means both to differ (the differentiate, to juxtapose and show differences) and to defer (to postpone). The first meaning is spatial and synchronic; the second one is temporal and diachronic. The next question if: Which of the two has primacy? The temporal (growth, live, development, nomad, etc.).
Voice and Phenomena
First Epigraph: The question of the referent
What does “I” indicate or refer to? What does it express? What does it have to do with any of us?
It its normal meaning the “I” is both indicative and expressive.
The “I” of the Cartesian tradition. (Descartes, Husserl, Merleau-Ponty use it: “I am sitting by the fire, I am sitting at my desk, I see a book, etc.)
Using the “I” to talk about subjectivity in general. It is not really about Descartes or Husserl, etc. How does one differentiate between the philosophical “I” and the personal “I”?
Second Epigraph: Mise en abîme (to place in an abyss) Infinite Loop
Grund = ground, reason, justification, basis
Abgrund = abyss, openness without ground, bottomless pit
Third Epigraph: Middle Voice
“I am dead” is an impossible sentence. I killed X (active); I was killed by X (passive); I am dead (middle).
What happens to the “I” saying “I am dead! Now, I am dead!”? What is the meaning of this sentence?
Problem of the Sign
Zeichen (sign) has a double meaning:
(1) Ausdruck (expression, to print out or press out);
(2) Anzeichen (indication, to indicate or refer to something).
Husserl on degenerated metaphysics
Metaphysics is blind to the authentic mode of ideality. It doesn’t see ideality. The ideal as self-identical, self-present is not worldly; it is not reell (which does not mean that it is not real). Phenomenology has access to ideality as noema, as the meaning given in intentional acts.
Derrida on Husserl and metaphysics
Husserl still relies on the presence of the living present. What unifies all repetitions (actual and possible) into an ideal object is the “I” of the living present.
“I” in the transcendental mode is present to itself, it is pure self-presence or self-consciousness.
In what sense can we speak of a life at the transcendental level?
There is the formal idea of “I” and of “life” and the lived or experiential “I”.
Presence is the form (noesis, expression, actuality) of all meaning (noema, matter, content, potentiality).
Concept of life is an enigma
There has to be a gap so that there can be “life”.
Temporality and Otherness as non-presence inscribed in the heart of self-presence
Self-presence is nice because it is apodictic (absolute certainty is nice when you want to ground a science). The gap which opens the possibility of life also opens the possibility to lie (apodicticity is gone).