Jacque Derrida is a postmodern, post-structural philosopher noted for his concepts of deconstruction and binary divide of texts. For him reading a text, an exegesis would be to find out the occurrences privilege and marginalization. I would like to critically interpret his seminal work: ‘Writing and Difference.’ My writing of Derrida is not chronological.
According to Derrida, the beginning of Writing is the closure of the book and the opening of meaning. ‘To write is to have the passion of Origin’. God replaces God and the Book replaces the Book. The return to the book is an elliptical essence. The tools of writing are perversion and subversion. Here Derrida is attempting to deconstruct the LOGOS-the WORD as it is present since Judaism and Christianity and also the ancient Greek Philosophers. Beyond syntax, grammar, discourse posits the book to be lying in the cradle of anarchy. The book has to indulge in a democratic dialogism. Again Derrida goes on to say that the center of the BOOK has to be deconstructed. Signify the center, rupture it methodologically and insert a play of meanings. I would like to call the play of meanings with the center has performationism. Derrida questions the religiosity of God being a center of meaning. A presence of meaning leaves a trace and Derrida calls it as what is inherent and present in the not-said sign. Every signified of a meaning whether be it transcendental, ontological, epistemological or axiological has primarily a Signifier. A Christian apologetic view would be God is God: the signifier and the signified. From an ontological view point: being would be a reference to consciousness and its contents. From an epistemological view point, a sign becomes a causative totality of proven inference and invests meaning as a unity. From an axiological viewpoint, the sign as a chain of meaning is normative.
In another chapter it is said: ‘we need to interpret interpretations more than interpret things. A structure of language, the unity of a sign is an organization of a center. According to Derrida, the history of metaphysics is history of metaphors and metonymies. Let’s look at John 1:1 ‘in the beginning was the WORD, the WORD was with GOD and the WORD was GOD’. The word works here as a metaphor and as a metonymy. A Christian world view acknowledges an inherent presence. For Derrida speech is privileged into the signifier WORD and the signified GOD. Derrida argues that the absence of a transcendental signified extends the domain to a play of signification. To pun Derrida: ‘A laughing God is playing with the Universe.’ The concept of transcendence can be extended to the ontological realm of the bodily experience. For example copulation can be a signifier and orgasm can be the signified. The argument of Derrida that there is no privileged transcendental signified is a misnomer. From an ontological position, emotions like hate, love, lusty, greed and covetousness are all signified from signifiers, and the starting point would be the EGO. Derrida again reiterates that the word Signifier must be abandoned as a metaphysical concept. This could be an erroneous argument. For example Ontological structures like love and hate have the signified in them.
Here Derrida mentions the work of the structural anthropologist Levi Strauss. He observes the distinction between nature and culture. Nature and Culture work on a scheme of binary divide. Levi Strauss uses the example of bricolage, which in literature means creation from a diverse range of sources. Derrida uses the example of MANA, a Polynesian word, a magical one which means power. He mentions that the word MANA has a symbolic structure beyond the syntax. Rupturing the symbolic presence can be a play with the center. Incest has been a taboo since time immemorial and that is linked with the binary chain of the culture as opposed to nature. Derrida is not clear about whether incest should be deconstructed.
Derrida refers to the allegory of Hegel-the Master and Slave dialectic. Hegel’s allegory refers to two types of consciousness, one that of the Master and other that of the slave. The slave is subservient to the Master and the Master is dependent on the slave. Derrida uses this allegory to maintain the inadequacy of speech to maintain the sovereign. Every form of writing leaves the structure of trace within in it. We can use the allegory of the Master and the Slave and juxtapose it with the psychological structures of the ID and the EGO. The body of writing emanates from the ID and the form of writing from the EGO. Again Derrida uses the Hegelian concept of Aufhebung (German) which is equivocal in meaning. Aufhebung in one sense means to preserve and in another sense means to abolish. Let’s use Derrida’s concept of the trace. When God said: ‘let there be light’: the concept of darkness is inherent in it. A trace leaves an imprint of what is not said but what exists in writing.
In the Theater of Cruelty, Derrida mentions that the theatre must be an experience of the Body. Western theater has been stripped of the force of essence. Theater must make use of a liberated life. Theater should be the privileged site for the destruction of life. The theater of cruelty outs God from the stage. Theater should be released from the stage. Derrida means that the themes of transgression, blasphemy, lust, covetousness, murder should be become centers of meaning that deconstruct the binary codes of the Super Ego. Theater should not be conceived with passive spectators enjoying a stereotyped play but become an active presence forcing spectators to think, reason and annihilate what is logos as a context and perspective. Theater should be a spectacle of becoming.
In Force and Signification, Derrida comments that excess is the very possibility of writing. The book arouses the enticement of meaning. The Writer is an idiom. The revelatory power of literary language is free speech unburdened. My question to Derrida is, from a being of past, how can we possess a new being. How is the History of the metaphor possible? Again Derrida uses the Nietzsche’s concept of the Apollonian and the Dionysian in writing. The Apollonian melody and the Dionysian rhythm and beat become self indulgent metaphors for writing.
In Cogito and the History of Madness, Derrida touches on the themes of Psychiatry. Philosophy demeans folly, madness and dementia. Derrida refers to Foucault’s analysis of bringing out the trajectory in the architecture of madness. Madness is a discourse in psychiatry, a cruel and violent discourse. Foucault connects madness with alienation. Derrida is critical about Foucault because he uses the philosophical and linguistic structure of sanity to explain the exegesis of the mad. Madness is institutionalized into medicine and it occupies a repressive structure.
Here, Derrida talks of Edmond Jabes and the question of the Jewish race. A race is born out the book. Words choose the poet. There should be disembarkation from the obedience of the law to a self proclaimed autonomy. Was breaking of the Tablets by Moses a blasphemy? The difference between speech and writing is Sin. How can Jews exist without eschatology? Metaphor or the animality of the letter is a primary and equivocal, a signifier becoming life. Metaphysics rejects the historicity and temporality of man. Derrida asks the question: how to account for the metaphysics and transcendence in the ontology of man. All metaphysics has a privileged center-light and a marginalized periphery-darkness. It is interesting to note how Derrida questions his own authenticity as an identity of being a Jew. Derrida becomes transgressional when he encounters the text of Judaism. Light and God are reduced to Signs and de-centered. Derrida has highlighted the suffering and the exile of the Jews. Can we avoid metaphysics, transcendence and eschatology? Being to becoming is the phenomenology of occupying a metaphysical structure in the ontology of consciousness.