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Sunday, 10 March 2013





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Of Grammatology and cardinal logic

In the last column in the series exploring the profound ideas that led to the birth of Reconstruction we said; “ What is obvious is the myriad of voice present in Of Grammatology and Derrida’s profound philosophy of deconstruction. Derrida commences Of Grammatology with three exergeses as ; “ The one who will shine in the science of writing will shine like the sun. A scribe (EP, p. 87)

“O Samas (sun-god), by your light you scan the totality of lands as if they were cuneiform signs (ibid.) .

“These three ways of writing correspond almost exactly to three different stages according to which one can consider men gathered into a nation. The depicting of objects is appropriate to a savage people; signs of words and of propositions, to a barbaric people; and the alphabet to civilised people. J.-J. Rousseau, Essai sur l’origine des langues.

“Alphabetic script is in itself and for itself the most intelligent. Hegel, Enzyklopädie ”

What is obvious is that Derrida with these three exergeses, logically builds up the matrix of his seminal arguments which is, subsequently developed into what we know today as the philosophy of deconstruction, a potent theoretical arsenal against Structuralism.”

Jacques Derrida

Derrida uses the triple exergeses as a launching pad or as a basis to build his logic of the themes as ; “ This triple exergeses is intended not only to focus attention on the ethnocentrism which, everywhere and always, had controlled the concept of writ-ing.


Nor merely to focus attention on what I shall call logocentrism: the metaphysics of phonetic writing (for example, of the alphabet) which was fundamentally—for enigmatic yet essential reasons that are inaccessible to a simple historical relativism—nothing but the most original and powerful ethnocentrism, in the process of imposing itself upon the world, controlling in one and the same order: the concept of writing in a world where the phoneticisation of writing must dissimulate its own history as it is produced; the history of (the only) metaphysics, which has, in spite of all differences, not only from Plato to Hegel (even including Leibniz) but also, beyond these apparent limits, from the pre- Socratics to Heidegger, always assigned the origin of truth in general to the logos: the history of truth, of the truth of truth, has always been—except for a metaphysical diversion that we shall have to explain—the debasement of writing, and its repression outside “full” speech.

The concept of science or the scientificity of science—what has always been determined as logic—a concept that has always been a philosophical concept, even if the practice of science has constantly challenged its imperialism of the logos, by invoking, for example, from the beginning and ever increasingly, nonphonetic writing. No doubt this subversion has always been contained within a system of direct address [système allocutoire] which gave birth to the project of science and to the conventions of all nonphonetic characteristics. 1 It could not have been otherwise. None theless, it is a peculiarity of our epoch that, at the moment when the phoneticization of writing —the historical origin and structural possibility of philosophy as of science, the condition of the epistémè—begins to lay hold on world culture, science, in its advancements, can no longer be satisfied with it.

This inadequation had always already begun to make its presence felt. But today something lets it appear as such, allows it a kind of takeover without our being able to translate this novelty into clear cut notions of mutation, explicitation, accumulation, revolution, or tradition. These values belong no doubt to the system whose dislocation is today presented as such, they describe the styles of an historical movement which was meaningful—like the concept of history itself—only within a logocentric epoch.

By alluding to a science of writing reined in by metaphor, metaphysics, and theology, these exergeses must not only announce that the science of writing—grammatology shows signs of liberation all over the world, as a result of decisive efforts.

These efforts are necessarily discreet, dispersed, almost imperceptible; that is a quality of their meaning and of the milieu within which they produce their operation. I would like to suggest above all that, however fecund and necessary the undertaking might be, and even if, given the most favourable hypothesis, it did overcome all technical and epistemological obstacles as well as all the theological and meta-physical impediments that have limited it hitherto, such a science of writing runs the risk of never being established as such and with that name.

Of never being able to define the unity of its project or its object. Of not being able either to write its discourse on method or to describe the limits of its field. For essential reasons: the unity of all that allows itself to be attempted today through the most diverse concepts of science and of writing, is, in principle, more or less covertly yet always, determined by an historicometaphysical epoch of which we merely glimpse the closure. I do not say the end.

The idea of science and the idea of writing—therefore also of the science of writing—is meaningful for us only in terms of an origin and within a world to which a certain concept of the sign (later I shall call it the concept of sign) and a certain concept of the relationships between speech and writing, have already been assigned. A most determined relationship, in spite of its privilege, its necessity, and the field of vision that it has controlled for a few millennia, especially in the West, to the point of being now able to produce its own dislocation and itself proclaim its limits.” In dissecting the first chapter of ‘Of Grammatology’, David Potts observes; “ All of Western intellectual history, from the birth of philosophy (and of alphabetic writing on, has been a “logocentric epoch”.

“Logocentrism” refers to belief in a “logos,” which can usually be thought of as reason, although it is not simply mental, being “the origin of truth in general”. Derrida speaks of “logos” instead of “reason” in order to capture this notion of a guaranteed correspondence or connection with reality and also because he wishes the term to cover the gamut of historical conceptions of reason, from the “pre-Socratic” to the “post-Hegelian”. Being “the origin of truth” (or “constitutive” of truth means the logos will usually somehow be constitutive of reality itself. For example, Derrida’s paradigm of logos is the thought of God, which contains the [Platonic] ideas from which worldly things are created. But one way or another, logos is always the principle in virtue of which the objects of thought are intelligible and by means of which we may grasp them.”

What Derrida questions the well-established basis of ‘All Western intellectual history’ which is based on logic or logocentrisim.



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