Sep 20, 2012

The Derrida point

"I was wondering myself where I am going. So I would answer you by saying, first, that I am trying, precisely, to put myself at a point so that I do not know any longer where I am going."
-- Jacques Derrida, in response to a question after his 1966 presentation of "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences" at Johns Hopkins University, which was a critical event in the history of theory in the United States.

It's a funny comment because, from one standpoint, this is Derrida confirming & affirming a main line of attack on Derrida, that is that he is most essentially an obfuscationist. From another, tho., the comment is the enactment or demonstration of exactly the critical sort of problematic at issue in all of Derrida's thinking.

That is, the inherent internal instability of things.

The instability being such that "where I am going" is to "where I do not know where I am going," the latter being already inherent in the former, subverting it. The unstable state being such that the point is to get to the point of not knowing the point: the first "point," there, making the last problematic or even impossible, so that middle "point" is always frustratingly simultaneously both the point and not the point of knowing what the point is.

The comment, one cld say, both eats itself & is itself in the eating of itself. All at once: always already.

As Derrida says in "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences," referring to something else but equally applicable here:
"This moment was that in which language invaded the universal problematic; that in which, in the absence of a center or origin, everything became discourse -- provided we can agree on this word -- that is to say, when everything became a system where the central signified, the original or transcendental signified, is never absolutely present outside a system of differences. The absence of transcendental signified extends the domain and the interplay of signification ad infinitum."
Or, as he also says, in the same piece:
"Language bears within itself the necessity of its own critique."
This includes -- also & especially -- in this "moment" & this "event" -- the language of the critique of the critique of the language of the critique, & so on & so on.

It's either brilliant & helpful & exciting or maddening & stupid, depending on one's standpoint.