Wednesday, February 5, 2014

a Critique of Derrida's "Sign, Structure and Play" from the stand point of Allism

Derrida is the center of postmodernism, and "Structure, Sign, and Plain the Discourse of the Human Sciences is his central essay." He introduces his concept of deconstruction by lifting it from the work of Levi Strauss, who manages to stand for "the human sciences."


The essay begins with the word "perhaps" and Derrida's project is to create a sense of "aporia" a Greek word meaning "uncertainty." he speaks of an event. He is sheepish to call it an event. The event is that the idea of structure has been mapped. Every form or idea has a structure: a center which is the presence or origination of the the structure, and which lets its parts "play" (move, function, change, etc.) The center gives it "A center, or a referring to a point of presence, a fixed origin." But metaphysically we would call this the "spirit" or "soul" of an object or thing, and as Nietzsche said God was dead, and science is soulless, we know that such a metaphysical substance is a mere fiction.


The problem with this center is supposed to be that it is paradoxical. It escapes structurality, having no structure itself. Therefore, the "totality has its center elsewhere. The center is not the center. The concept of centered structure -- although it represents  coherence itself, the condition of the episteme as philosophy or science-- is contradictorily coherent." But if we remain true to Aristotle and say that SUBSTANCE IS FORM, and that every object has its own unique substance that equals its own unique form, and that even as it changes it is eternal, we can stay with metaphysics and avoid this nightmare of ugliness called "postmodernism."


Archaeology looks for the arche, the beginning, eschatology looks for the telos, the end. Derrida wants to say there is no arche, no telos, just free play that means nothing.


Like a good sophist, he points out that philosophical history has been "a series of substitutions of center for center...the center receives different forms and names" but that whatever you call it, this thin is "Being as presence" and has been known as "eidos, arche, telos, energeia, ousia, aletheia, transcendentality, consciousness, God, man, etc." But this center "has no natural site" he claim, but we know it permeates the being of every object. "A system in which the central signified, the original or transcendental signified, is never absolutely present outside a system of differences. the absence of the transcendental signified extends the domain and the play of signification infinitely." To that we simply say that the transcendental signified is fully present in ALL play, and thus drop his silly binary of CENTER VERSUS PLAY entirely. Play is freedom, and freedom is necessary.


He then claims that the "event" of the great decentering happens in the "Nietzschean critique of metaphysics....the Freudian critique of self-presence,...the Heideggerean destruction of metaphysics...." but we can dismiss all those things with utter innocence, because they are mistakes of great minds, but mistakes, all the more.


He gives some cliché business about "A signifier referring to the signified, a signifier different from the signified." but we know they share one substance, that naming a thing changes it, ontologically. Names are not arbitrary, they add to being.


He gives ethnology "a privilege place" among the sciences, though some would claim it is not a science at all. In this he reveals himself as a sophist, who likewise became relativists through their own ethnology.


He uses Levi-Strauss as his example of a ethnologist, and notes that Strauss was the first to deconstruct the opposition between "nature and culture."


"Let us suppose then that everything universal in man relates to the natural order, and is characterized by spontaneity, and that everything subject to a norm is culture and is both relative and particular" says Derrida. Well the incest prohibition is an example of something that is both universal and cultural. Thus it "deconstructs the opposition" as he would later say.


We need not say "either or." We can say, "either, or, both, neither." The instinct to avoid incest is universal, but how it is expressed in society is cultural. There is no scandal, no need for "erasure" to "question all of philosophy and put it in doubt" as is Derrida's wet dream.


Derrida that uses Levi-Strauss to set up a new opposition: engineer versus bricoleur. The bricoluer uses whatever material is at hand, will destroy a system by using the systems own assumptions against it. He is into sabotage. The "bricolage is mythopoetic." and myths are produced by bricoleurs, and even the engineer is really a bricoleur at heart. thus he settles his little opposition by claiming there is no opposition, only engineers are mistaken on what they really are.


Derrida rightly makes literary criticism the basis of understanding mythopoetics. However all myths are embedded in language, and language is logos. Language and voice are a presence, a real metaphysical presence, that contain and allow the myth to happen. The reason of the engineer created the idea that poet plays with. Thought comes before fancy.


Strauss goes on to refute himself. He says among the myths he studies "there is no unity or absolute source of myth. " and also "there is no central myth," and also "my own writings about myth must also be myths." In this he fails the mirror test, for he would set himself up as an authority on myth, and thus make himself a center of what lacked a center. Thus his saying there is no unity is in fact an imposed unity, and thus refutes itself.


Myths are circles, logic is lines. Myths are stories, logic is definitions. A lot of this essay is rhetorical and relies on categorical errors to try to make "mythology" or the study of myth into a science.


"Myths are anonymous" Strauss says, which is a lie. God writes the myths.


"Totalization is sometimes defined as useless" says Derrida, in reference to Levi Strauss. Lacking a center, they also lack a circumference, and so there is no all, and they cannot imagine Allism.


It is nihilism, to believe there is no center; these are Nietzsche's last men. Their metaphysic is utterly grounded in Nietzscheanism, and this essay refers to him constantly.


"There is a tension between play and presence" Derrida stupidly says, for play is something presence does. Presence wills and presence plays, presence command and presence allows. There is no reason to take Derridean metaphysics seriously.


He speaks of presence but doesn't know that there are various modes of presence, and that absence is a form of presence. The center is logos, and its expression is mythos. Logos is fount and rule and will and play. The playing of the logos is mythos, or freedom.


Derrida chooses to go with "Nietzschean affirmation, the joyous affirmation of the play of the world and the innocence of becoming, the affirmation of the world of signs without fault, without truth, and without origin, which is offered to an active interpretation. Yet we can have innocence, play, fun, sex, love even with truth, centers, and origins. We can have full presence and full play, we can have both. We can have choice, and not have "the category of choice seem particularly trivial" as Derrida says. Things can be important, can be work, can be deep and profound AND playful at the same time. We take our games seriously, but we still play them.


Postmodernism thus must be regarded as a cul de sac, a necessary nonsense, before the arrival of Allism proper.


Daniel Christopher June



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