Oct 29, 2003

Killing the Reference Theory
Killing the Author

Adventures with Jack Derrida: on reading of the first 15 pages of Limited Inc.

If a statement can be understood without reference to a referent, then referential theories aren’t necessary to explain how a statement can be meaningful.
      If I say “the sky is blue” and you don’t see the sky – or even if I don’t see the sky, am mistaken, am lying, etc. – the statement is still an acceptable (grammatical) statement. This phrase can be formed and uttered even if it is false, that is to say the statement can serve as a reference even if the referent is empty.
      If the referent is empty – the case for Santa Claus and unicorns – then our reference isn’t to a non-linguistic object and isn’t a referent on the measure of the reference theory. If “unicorn” can pick out no unicorn then it can not be designating that exists outside of language or prior to it. One can never break out of language by pointing to the object when the object does not exist outside of language. We have here a baptism without a baptized; a reference without a referent.
      A statement like “the grass greens” makes no sense/has no meaning for grammatical reasons, not referential ones. A statement like can have a perfectly acceptable sense in the grammatical system of Russian. It doesn’t have any meaning in English because English grammar has no place for a the verb “to green.” How can we say whether “greening” refers to something in the world? Is there such a thing as “greening” or not? We cannot say there is or is not something de re that is “greening” but we can approve or disapprove or the phrase as a linguistic thing, given the working linguistic economy,
     

The crisis of meaning is not the crisis of language.

A text exists only with the radical absence of the author.
      If the author is always present with the text, that text could never in any way be removed from its original context. If it could never be separated from its original context, it could never be cited and never be incorporated into another context.
      For a text to be closed totally by a context is for the text to be strangled. A fully fixed text, resisting all interpretation but the authorial intention, would not exist outside of the instant of its situation, and would not be a text.
      This is to say that the text without an absent author could not be heard/received, it could not be repeated/ retraced/ recontextualized. For the written to carry soley and fixedly carry what the writer means, is for the written to be exhausted at the instant of being written.
      It is basic to the structure of writing that it contains a “force of rupture,” a separation from the scriptor that allows it to mean allows it to be received (reiterated) in allowing it to exist outside its birth’s instant.
      The possibility of authorship is its impossibility.

Without the death of the writer there is no writing.