NARCISSUS' PROSTHETIC RETARDATION
Revised version of a paper presented on March 1st 1997, at the occasion of the 1st MdR-day held at the center for Post-Universitaire Opleiding of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Kortrijk.
-As goes without saying, although it's just easier to say it : the present essay is but a tissue of citations. Généralement fidèles...
Die Schreibzuge arbeiten mit an unseren Gedanken.
Simplement, moi, je suis peut-être une chambre d'echo.
I never had an idea of my own.
Paul de Man
The truth is out there.
Rien n'est plus difficile que d'accepter un don.
It may be the place to recall that philosophy may be promoted as a critical mode of reflection on what precedes it in the largest sense of the word.
What precedes philosophy includes non-philosophy as well as previous philosophies, the great thinkers in the history of philosophy. The mnemotechnics of phonetic, or rather orthographic writing could be considered to be part of non-philosophy, were it not that the latter is to be explicated in terms of spontaneous conceptions and, more generally, of products of pre-critical consciousness, such as myths. Philosophy and non-philosophy alike are of the order of consciousness. In terms of Denken aan al wat is : they are of the order of the suprastructural. For the latter comprehends -I quote : anything relating to consciousness. This suprastructure is, in the logic of some Marx, determined decisively by some infrastructure.
Marx, in the company of Freud and Nietzsche, is frequently presented, not without some automation, as un ma"tre de soupçon (P. Ricoeur, as quoted). In Eine Schwierigkeit der Psychoanalyse Freud inscribed, within the same comparative history, three traumatisms, that hit the narcissism of the thus de-centered human being. The blow, or lesion that is associated with the name of Marx may be translated as the effective techno-scientific de-centering of the antropos in its (onto-theological) identity or its genetic properties, of the ego cogito and of the very concept of narcissism - but also of the earth and of what is called the geo-political.
Derrida has recently given some extra metaphorical articulation of this de-centering à la Marx in terms of the spectralization of human identity and the anthropological category of the world (Spectres de Marx. L'Etat de la dette, le travail du deuil et la nouvelle Internationale). The techno-scientific spectralization takes place today at a speed that is historically unprecedented. Its effectivity can be sharply sensed, at the level of the human reception and negotiation of the 'inhuman', with the exponentially accellerating developments in artificial (machine) intelligence, and in the bio-technical recombination of human and non-human DNA.
The scheme of infra- and suprastructure needs to be complicated and re-invented. The opposition between both structures, between materiality and ideality, can be approached as a version of the polarity between inside and outside. It is generally assumed that critical reflection unfolds in the aseptic haven of an inside, and that techno-sciences, or techné generally, on the other hand, do not think: "Die Wissenschaft denkt nicht." In what follows I hope modestly to contribute to a renegociation of the above divide, in raising the question of access to previous philosophies : how is it that we, or better : 'we' (since one is also defined and marked by that access) have access to the very thoughts of those great thinkers in the history of the discipline ? The elaboration of this question will consist in nothing but the articulation of techné as the absence of fully present authorship and, hence, the sine qua non of (self)consciousness within the limits of supplementarity (or prostheticity).
That a philosophically responsive project relates to 'what precedes ... in the largest sense of the word', and must do so in order to be(come) what it is, flying out in proverbial owl-light, may be modelled after the situation in which some Dasein finds itself thrown. As is explicated in Sein und Zeit, "as existing it (Dasein) never comes back behind its thrownness in such a way that it could first properly (eigens) release this 'that-it-is-and-has-to-be' from out of its Being-its-self and lead it into the 'there'." In more human terms : Dasein cannot assimilate its facticity to the circuit of its self-relation. From the very beginning (so to speak), Dasein is called to relate to a past that has never been its own, but that nevertheless is its own. In this way it is cast ecstatically after a non-contingent or non-accidental way.
This negativity is doubled by another (that is also the same) de-centering, the run-forward into the possibility (Vorlaufen in die Mglichkeit) of the impossibility of any existence at all, a possibility offering no support for becoming intent on something. Death never is something that Dasein could be, but is rather the possibility that there is nothing to be actualized. This doubling of ecstasy may invite in turn to double the relation of disclosure in which philosophy stands to what it apprehends as 'its' past, the previous philosophies and great thinkers in the history, and to project it upon death and so to extend philosophy outside itself once more.
The question of,- the retarded question after the possibility of access to the (absolute) past disclosing the present of Dasein in a run-forward into death, may be put alongside the question of philosophy's relation to 'its' disclosed past and the possibility, for philosophy, that there is nothing to be made present in an actualization, i.e. death. If Heidegger's analyses are to imply that Dasein is not simply spirit, and disclosedness not simply self-presence of consciousness, it may be tempting to uphold that, after a similar fashion, philosophy is not simply Geist, is constitutively outside or besides itself, even if it is haunted, after a non-contingentor ontologicalfashion, by the spirit of spirit : spirit as spirit's haunt. This haunt has unsettling implications as to the unity of philosophy and of the history of philosophy, even if that same haunt may entail some promise and open up the future(s) of the discipline.
The elaboration of the question of the disclosure of the past of philosophy as its history will have to renegociate the opposition of inside and outside. In the process philosophy will come to be intimately tied up to some 'state of the art' of techné, which will here be approached as some organisation of anorganic matter, some material culture or practice, i.e. inscription as archivation. Towards the end of the paper I will say a word or two about the effects of contemporary hi-tech mediation, effects that can only be interpreted if it is accepted that technical mediation has a originary or constitutive hand, in the invention of the improbable lives, the 'cruelties, lonelinesses and anxieties' 'we' are to share.
SEME, SEMEN, DISSEMINATION
In Plato's Pharmacy Derrida remarks that Plato's philosophy, and by extension any philosophical project, is driven by a panic or fear of dissemination, adding that, in the case of his trial of the case of writing, it is not sufficient to point out that writing is thought starting from a series of oppositions. Plato thinks writing and attempts to dominate it starting from opposition, or oppositionality itself, the implication being that oppositionality is already a techné or device of sorts. Yet if contrary values are to be allowed to oppose, in an exclusive vis-à-vis, terms must be simply exterior to one another: which is to say that one of the oppositions in the series is to be loaded as the matrix of any possible opposition: inside/outside.
Plato regularly compares speech (logos) to seeding and to (human) procreation. Seeds and semen would seem to have no author. Not unlike words, they hide their origin and destination. As Derrida points out in La parole soufflée, words do not tell where they come from, nor where they may be going to. To begin with, words do not know where they are coming from and where they are heading to. What is more, their ignorance in these matters (of arche and oftelos) is not accidental but constitutive : ignorance, consisting in the absence of a fully present author, of any proper subject, does not supervene upon words, does not befall them, but first constitutes them (as words). The relation of absence and words is hence ontological, in the technical sense of that word. The absence of any fully present author is originary; it is only cast negatively as dissimulation (or theft), of something presumably present still more originally, in a second time, in the afterwards of some nostalgia that does not go without the activation of a program of teleological orientation. In Heidegger's terms, metaphysics (of presence) is just this negative editing of absence as dissimulation, theft, or fall.
Words, not unlike seeds, semen, life, can go out in any direction. When left to their own, they generally produce no offspring or fruits at all. Fruits must be deposited in a safe interior, in the enclosure of a dictionary, in a woman's womb, an oikos, a legal or authentic household. Only on this condition do words not drift towards an (irresponsable) enjoyment cutting the link with the father, the parricidal drive. Only on this condition alone can a speaker be prevented from writing in water or from ploughinh the sands. Children who do not know their father (such as Oedipus) are dangerous. Texts that elude the control of the author can, after a similar fashion, turn against their pater familias and send off messages that go against the grain of intention and in which he may not recognise himself, but as a figure of estrangement. It is therefore of importance to submit words and seeds, semen, and life generally to the rationality and discipline of a grammar and a familial economy. Seeds must be forcefully submitted to reason, in an organisation of some (final) home-coming, some coming-into-one's-own (Timaeus 91b).
Plato considers it to be of utmost urgency to control all kinds of productivity and to organise an (ethico-political) economy for both speech and procreation. The ultimate goal for speech is : univocity, one-directedness, Richtung, and for procreation : a child that knows its place in belonging to the domus. Platonism here present as a sexuo-bio-logic of domestic orientation, a morals of assured arrival : everything should arrive at destination, for instance - but perhaps above all- la lettre.
From its installment onwards, its incipit, its send-off (wherefrom ?) philosophy is driven by an ethicity of propriation, a protest against the violence of expropriation in all its forms. This is perhaps why the discipline deserves to be defended. The paradox, however, and however painful that may be, is : that there is no appropriation without expropriation : il n'y a pas de hors-texte, pas de hors-contexte, no outside to some economy - of violence, precisely. Violence is the law, the summoning to a responsability that can never be assumed and that, like death, is never to be actualised - call it the call of justice.
L'EFFET DE REEL
In 1980 Roland Barthes published La chambre claire, an essay on analogous (rather than digital,- but that difference should not be overestimated) photography.
Unlike a painting, that can simulate a reality to which it did not presently witness, and unlike a discourse, that structurally implies the possibility of fictionality, a picture leaves no doubt as to the existence of the pictured situation. Phenomenologically speaking, the noema of an analogous registration of luminosity on some chemically sensitive surface, i.e. a picture, is a ça a été, a this has been. Photographic intentionality conjugates a double positioning: of a reality and of a past. The pictural this has been is the miraculous performance of an identical repetition of what takes place only once: répétition identique de ce qui n'a lieu qu'une seule fois, a repetition that first allows for the establing of some past in its sameness.
This repetition of a contingent configuration in, or of the real is as paradoxical and as a priori impossible as the return of a dead-one. Looking at a picture, one really looks at the one who has died, who is beyond resurrection, handed over to spectrality. The picture presents the past. In a picture, the past is present. The correlate of photographic viewing is a past as presented. The thus presented past can only present over a delay, over a deferral. Looking at a picture of oneself, one sees oneself in an ex-tension or de-ferment (Erstreckung; Entfernung) instituting, or making a difference between a here and a there, between a past and a future. The picture discriminates. The subject of the picture is hence always already mortified or objectified, the costs of its presentation:
Looking at a picture of my mum as a child, I reflect that she will die; [I] shiver at this possibility that has already actualised.
[Shiver is not the initiative of some firmly established I; as R. Bernet puts it, the Selbst only begins in Selbstverlust.]
Any picture is this catastrophe. However, it is not possible to see myself without the differentiation instituted as ex-tension and de-ferment.
The specularity, as presentation over a deferral, allows me to see myself, in my photogram, as dead, as the dead-one that I am (already) in my proximity to myself. Death, the possibility of an impossible actualization, opens up any possibility of actualization, allowing for instance for presentation - over some retard, retardation. Narcissism is this presentation to one-self over, or as a (catastrophic) delay - it is (a) thanatology. Narcissus' propriation is preceded by an expropriating Echo (as technical re-production). Appropriation - that's the law - implies expropriation.
The delay involved in, or as photo-graphy may first of all (but least interestingly) be explicated as a matter of matter, i.e. the process of development. In La chambre claire, this chemo-technical delay is, however, doubled by an other afterwards called the punctum. The punctum is the touching detail that upsets the set-up of the studium, the nominally thematisable. The punctum is an enigmatic phenomenon that never presents since it always returns, and can but always return. It never enters in that it can only re-enter, as the ghost of Hamlet's pater. The punctum is a work, or process of mourning, a Trauerarbeit or travail de deuil. As is known, Barthes' phenomenology of photography presents as a mourning of the death, the always having-departed or absolutely singularizing being-in-departure of his mother, elle elle-même : mortality as the ungoing withdrawl into an absolute past.
In the mirror of one's photogram one sees, in one's personality, the impersonality of one's personality. The impersonal objectivity of the camera opens an absence in which impersonality presents in person. Effects of de-personalisation, or better : of personification in de-, are not limited to photo-sensibility. The telephone ringing in Ulysse gramophone is a machine that produces revenants. A phonograph is turned on as a small musical coffin out of which raises a voice that (be)speaks it-self , writes it-self, sees and makes it-self be seen. A voice that hears it-self speaking in (re)reading it-self, that listens to it-self in seeing it-self once over, a terminally affected voice interminably writing terms between echo and narcissus. In La voix et le phénomène some voice, or rather some divided echoings of some voice (Derrida's ? 'Derrida's' ?) claim that there is no voice, no phone as "phenomenon of presence", without representation, that there is no origin without supplement, no life without death, no presence without absence etcetera...: there is only proximity (or rather proximation) with the out of distance (or rather distancing, de-ferment), conform the strange logic of Ent-fernung (as spelled out in, for instance Eperons).
Photography, phonography, cinema, telephony, television are technologies through which some narcissism can tie it-self up, knot it-self, as Erstreckung (life-span) and Entfernung (towards death). Any possibility of deconstruction starts from and depends on this technological horizon [or rather: the horizon of the technological,- the suggestion is certainly not that deconstruction is specifically modern (or industrial) in being linked to modern technology or industrialisation, i.e. Modern Times, the beginnings (and ends) of which deconstruction would trace in fraying the Bahne of an exit into pomo, i.e. in drawing from an apocalypticism of old].
ACCESS A LA LETTRE
In the second first paragraph, phonetic was quickly replaced by orthographical. In this section, I hope to fulfill the promise of explication this swift substitution made. The detour over La chambre claire should be instrumental to this explication.
Orthography is, within (or as) philosophy, usually interpreted starting from phonology, i.e. from the voice that is fully present to itself, i.e. the subject, the who rather than the what of writing itself. The presence-to-it-self of the who may, however be but a (necessary) effect (or correlate) of the techno-logical exactnesss of the what .
What isphenomenal (in the sense of remarkable) about orthographic writing is not so much the exactitude of the registration of the voice (as phenomen of presence), but the exactitude of the registration of the voice (as phenomenon of presense).
As was to be intimated, Plato's thought and writing in part recieves its impulse or drive from the anxiety of dissemination, of repetition, of the unbridled productivity that must be bound within the limits of a strict economy, to identify with as the undivided source of author-ity.
Dissemination, however, analytically (pre-sup)poses the principled purity of intention. Dissemination can only deploy its work (of unworking), can only upset Plato and the intentional source on the condition of resorting some effet de réel.
The purity of intention is the very principle of orthography. Writing resorts an effet de réel that is comparable the effect (de réel) that a photogram occasions. That is why you can only read a text signed Plato, by including, in the noema of reading, the following affirmation: this is a text of Plato.
Reading a text of Plato or Heidegger, a text bearing one of these signatures, I do not wonder whether I really have to do with Plato's or Heidegger's thought - although, strange as that may be, both are dead and burried. I believe, and do so from the onset, that I have to do with their thought, however real the possibility of apocryphic interpolations may be. Philology authentifies sources, and once these are established [conform procedures and protocols that are deconstructable, for sure] I do not doubt that I have access to the orthographied thoughts of Plato and Heidegger, thoughts that could only constitute starting from the possibility of a re-constitution afterwards, in casu: the reading. Analogous photographic intentionality includes the a priori certainty of an undoubtable this has been - after the same fashion, writing supposes a priori that some reading-I has access to the letter of thinking, i.e. thinking. The noematic intention of the reader includes the a priori certainty of a this has been that returns identically, as the echo of the same.
Orthographic writing is a technique that allows for a literal access to some passage (passing; departure) of the word, to the departing present of a spoken word, as to its present, its present as futural past. This access to the letter is the exact condition of possibility of what Husserl intended as ideality, first of all : the ideality of the geometrical object. The letter provides, or is the access to - in Derrida's phrasing - an intelligibility "pour tout le monde, indéfiniment perdurable." Such an intelligibility is the condition of reactivatability of meaning, in turn the condition of ideality [the letter gives access to the meaning as the literally accessed, but also to the correlate of that noema, the subject: the letter intimates both sense and subject, intimates their reciprocal presupposition, in the way one's mirror image, or picture differentiates (possibilises) the narcissistic je-me or it-self reflexivity of consciousness as relation to an absolute past as the opening-up of the possibility of the impossible, but all the more certain zum-Tode].
THE DIFFERANTIAL PLAY
An intelligibility "pour tout le monde, indéfiniment perdurable" requires exactness in the registration of sense or meaning. The communalisation (towards the : tout le monde, whoever it may be, however named, sexed, coloured, or otherwise singularized) of the ideal propositions of science requires not just (any) writing, but a writing that allows for reflection, at any random moment, of the noematic thought as a past, in a performance of self-examination in which thought appears as its own, completely accessible (yet indeterminate) past; in which spirit appears as spirit's spirit,- spirit's initializing haunt.
Completely accessible does not mean: completely transparent. Thinking literally means: having access to the differantial play of the original scripturality of language, on the basis of the possibility to have identical access to the letter, time over and again, indéfiniment perdurable.
Before returning to this element of play, I would like to quote a passage in La bête de lascaux, in which Maurice Blanchot articulates the impersonality of the knowledge enclosed and registered in the book: that knowlegde
is not asking for any guarantee in the thought of a single individual; the thought of a single individual can never be true; the impersonal knowledge of the book can only make truth in a world shared by all and through the advent of such a common world... Such a knowledge is tied to the development of technology, in all its forms, and turns the spoken word, and writing, into a technique.
Writing as a technique gives voice to some knowledge that is structurally impersonal. As a technique writing articulates an authority without author, an authority essentially emancipated from the singular source, the empirically determinable authority (and ownership) indicated by a proper name, say Plato in the flesh (now, strange as that may be, dead and burried). The writing in question here is orthography, the writing of the book which Herodotos opened in disclosing that epoch in historiality that is called historical.
Plato's writing is partially driven by a panic of dissemination, of the unbridled productivity of writing, of a progeniture that is not bound to reason and poses a threat to the paternal economy. Yet dissemination analytically implies the purity of intention, as disclosed through the ortho-graphy of writing.
The history of being is a registered, delegated impersonal history : it is the history of the impersonal knowledge of the book, even if this history is written under personal pronouns (cf. "the great thinkers in the history" : Plato, Kant, you name them...). The registration is accomplished in the realisation of the paradox of the same, of a differing identity, of an identity as difference over a delay or de-ferment. Linear phonological writing programs, or initializes a new experience of the past and the present, namely as presence, as ousia in a now that has turned historical. Orthography opens-up the transcendence of the 'now'. This experience is actualized as the experience of the difference (over a delay) of the text read, a difference (over a delay) that also translates as the difference of the reader. The paradox consists in the fact that it is precisely in the identification of the text read à la lettre, literally, without equivocity, exactly for orthographic, that the reader experiences himself as difference, i.e. as a reading that is to be taken up again, a reading whose fil conducteur is always lost and to be re-invented, a reading that is to be deferred or differentiated incessantly, or as the incessant. It is in the precise identification that the text reveals the elementary contextuality of its reading, the fact that reading takes places in the singular, and withdrawing conjugation of a here and now.
THE TEXTUALITY OF THE READING WHO
In the foreword to an essay on John's Book of Revelation D.H. Lawrence writes:
Now a book lives as long as it is unfathomed. Once it is fathomed, it dies at once. It is an amazing thing, how utterly different a book will be, if I read it again after five years. Some books gain immensely, they are a new thing. They are so astonishingly different, they make a man question his identity [...] So it is. Once a book is fathomed, once it is known, and its meaning is fixed or established, it is dead. A book only lives while it has the power to move us, and move us differently; so long as we find it different every time we read it.
In this passage Lawrence recalls how he came to appreciate his sameness or textuality in an experience of orthographic identity, of literal sameness as difference over a delay. The deferral or de-ferment of the identity of a same text (and Lawrence mentions, perhaps significantly: Tolstoy's War and Peace), which some who reads and repeats in different contexts, drags the identity of that who into some crisis. Paradoxically, this crisis is not the crisis of some priory constituted firm self-same, but its constitution or revelation : as the self-same, as difference over a delay. Put differently : the crisis (of identity) is (constitutive of) identity. Crisis precedes identity, is originary in that only the identical could be put into crisis. Reading à la lettre institutes the self as the same, as the war and peace, the war as peace of the identical, the self, as difference over a deferment, as text and literality. The transcendence of the self and the now is this paradoxical, original division as which time times.
A reading can be contextual in two respects : as regards place and time. A text can occasion different readings, either by two readers at the same time in different locations, either by the same person in the same location at different times, or by the same person in two different locations at two different times. Readers who pay regular visits to a favourite text experience its infinitely interpretable textuality generating differences. Once a reader realizes that the same text is differing and slipping into the dissemination of contextualisation, he gets caught in turn in a process of irreducible (unfathomable, if you like) difference, and that on account of the fact that the here and now, space and time, as articulations of context, are irreducible. The 'revelation' of his own textuality is the 'revelation' of the factuality of being woven by utterances, past utterances that are one's own, for which one must sign and counter-sign from the place of the other, utterances from which he himself inherits and which he must interpret, which he must, for cannot interpret (once and for all : interpretation, the law of interpretation is that there is no bottom-line, or rather, si tu veux, no fathom-line - there is only the text as phantom, and the correlative imperative of responsive reading). This 'revelation' can only occur in an experience of texts offered to reading. A textual utterance is the catalyser of the textuality of the reader himself. Whence Plato's anxieties. The paradox involved is, as Lawrence remarks, that a text produces this difference precisely in being identified (as the same). Difference is irreducibly effective since there is no doubt as to the identity of the text (in casu: War and Peace); difference occurs in the very moment that there is no longer any doubt as to the (re)production of a difference in the repetition of its reading.
This paradox of the difference and deferral of (and as) the same (the same sames over an inscription as differance, i.e. difference over a deferral) accounts for the fact that the ortho-graphic textuality of what is passed (cf. "previous philosophies") does not determine this past for the one who's past it is (in casu : philosophy's - the other casus here being Dasein) : this past rather becomes more indeterminate, open, futural - if also more certain than ever,- as certain as death. The contextualisation of an exact text (saying exactly what it says: lees maar,) intensifies its improbability (er staat niet wat er staat: er staat niet wat er staat voorzover er wel degelijk staat wat er staat: er staat wat er staat en daarom juist niet ! In other words: de l'écriture, qu'elle n'existe peut-être pas). The determinateness of an inscription, by virtue of its exact determination, produces, or rather: donates, gives, gibt the in-determinate. Because the stated is stated unequivocally, exactly, literally, an im-probable reading is always possible : the surprise of improbability is an a priori possibility. Literality, literal determination, intensifies in-determination. It allows for surprises beyond anticipation, and its horizon, surprises that must go counter to any attente - any expectation. Reading, the text, à la lettre engages. Although such improbabilities may well occur in pre-alphabetic writings, they would not manifest as the paradox according to which identity produces or reproduces difference and vice versa. Afterall, hieroglyphs call for deciphering, not exactly for (exact) reading.
Plato, according to Heidegger, understands truth, or in Greek : Tales, as orthotes. Orthotes not only means exactness, a value which Heidegger could hardly appreciate, but also the uncertainty which exactitude opens up,- and the value of uncertainty was something which Heidegger, for that matter, was rather inclined to appreciate in that it open up the possibility of the future to come.
'Doubt' is not the result of a volitional act, an initiative of the will, but a techno-logically required Verzweiflung, a techno-logically granted doubt, a technological gift, techné's gift, the gift of sameness. Uncertainty (making a man question) is a gift, a grant, allowance or stipendium of the exact letter. Literal determinateness gives the indeterminate future, stipulates the improbable. Futurality is a gift or credit of techné. A promise - for the better or the worst. Critical thought, or reflection de-parts from, goes out from, or begins with the paradoxical double dimension of memory as revealed in, through, or as linear writing. The process of identification of texts allows both for the identification of the rules of their production (grammar) and for the experience of their irregularity, i.e. interpretability. Deconstruction, as the call for the response of reading, is an invention of techné. [And as has been argued, there was deconstruction before deconstruction became a (memorable) name, as there will be deconstruction once its trace will be lost (as it will) in what may still be called, for the time being, history.]
The differing/deferring identification pre-supposes the reproduce-ability of the identified : within the limits of supplementarity, only something that can be reproduced identically [the edition of the same through some inscription or medium] is effectively identifiable. [Everything starts from identification, the beginning,- but this beginning has already started, starting from( à partir de) the elsewhere of a contretemps of repetition. All things fang an prior to their Beginn. -Everything begins over a deferment: the first is always the first second.] It would be wrong -although perfecltly within the terms of common sense or logic- to state that identification allows for, or grants reproduction : reproduction grants identification. Identification (lees maar, er staat) is the reproduce-ability of the identified (niet wat er staat). Reproduction is original. Difference is operative only as the moment of repetition of the re-produced. The workings of memory, prior to being specified as a literal reflexive activity, presuppose the possibility of repetition. The repetition in a differing/deferring identity is, as David H. Lawrence remarks, remarkable : for this repetition opens up a re-flection that is critical. Critical thinking, which may be waved as a banner in the promotion of philosophy,- critical thinking, as responsibility for difference and decision, depends on the possibility of a reading, a rereading of the exactly registered same that resists as deferment of - in John's words : final judgement, or revelation, apocalypse,- and precisely in being exactly identi-fiable. To differentiate reading from consuming, and reactivate a line in Nabokov : one cannot read a text, only reread it.
When Heidegger puts emphasis on orthotès, in Plato's Begriff der Wahrheit, he may not exactly have writing in mind. It would be ridiculous to 'explain' the absolute inauguration, which the Geschick of Sein also is [in suppossing, however, some supplemental medium/media of transmission (and of deferment and a- or clandestination)] with reference to the techno-logical fact of orthographic writing. Yet, one may wonder whether the possibility of understanding truth as exactness (or exactitude) does not reside in the factuality of that fact. Again : linear writing provides for literal access to the passage of speech, as intelligibility "pour tout le monde, indéfiniment perdurable". Linear writing allows for,- institutes effective readability. Ortho-graphy allows for an effective withdrawl from context. In this withdrawl some turn occurs, some Kehre, in the guise of an unedited inter-play of the text and context of reading: the turn from deciphering to reading. This interplay is the paradox of identity as difference over a deferment or delay, i.e. de/construction. The withdrawl of the context [a withdrawl from context may refer too much to the volition of some subject - a reference that is to be avoided since the context withdraws, to return as some punctum that can only re-enter and never enter, to respirit spirit's spirit into a haunt] in which an utterance is made, a withdrawl that occurs prior to any subjective initiative, results in a paradoxical opacity of that utterance (the same utterance), i.e. the effects of (re)contextualisation, and that is : reading. The less in-determinate wat er staat, stated literally, the greater the variability of the import of wat er staat. What is ortho-graphically stated, in its exactiude, its orthotès hands down ever new and possibly surprising, or disorientating possibilities of meaning. De-contextualisation reveals the play of textuality as such : the futural character of a text, as reading, implicates the text in a play of endless possibilities of contextualisation. What is revealed, in an original and radical way, is the un-endlichkeit of the at the each time endlich reading of any text, if at least it is the case that the context of a reading can not be repeated. The law of the here and now is, that their conjugation is unique, einmalig, taking place only once, and any context is such a conjugation of a here and a now. Effects of this kind are operative in any kind of writing. Yet, what is specific to orthographic writing is that it turns the experience of such effects into an inevitability or fatality. Orthographic writing purifies the specificity of that experience, and this makes for a reversal in one's relation to utterances [or rather : it institutes and formats the one, the who, in relation to utterances that must be interpreted in their exact literality, that is : repeatbility as differance]. What reading reveals, in Lawrence's reading of the Book of Revelation, is the textuality of the reader, of the who. The who is allowed access to his textuality, i.e. his differance, his identity (or sameness) as difference over a deferral, as proximity over a deferment, and this access is provided by some state or condition, some possibility of the what of writing : ortho-graphy, access to the literality of the letter. Perhaps that D.H. L. was not that happy to be so revealed to himself - the essay itself could indeed be read as a defence or Abwehr against the must of interpretation, experienced as an exile, and as a call, of old, for apocalypse now. -Yet reading is resistance to any apocalyptism. And Lawrence essay must, afterall, be read and reread : its writing already performes apocalypse's postponement, as a writing of some no not now, i.e. some yes, yes to the coming of reading as the future beyond expectation and anticipation, the future as engagement beyond the program, the calculus, the horizon, beyond plannification and projection.
"TECHNOLOGY IS AN INVENTION OF MAN"
The statement: 'techné is an invention of man' is highly legible and identifiable. The sentence is exact, fully accessible, and poses no problems, at least not for those reading-heads that are formatted in alphabetic writing. Yet, for all its clarity, the phrase is not transparent. Literal access to the letter of the sentence places the reader under the law of interpretation (lees maar). And interpretation is undecidable. -Quickly, the structure of this undecidability is enclosed in the double genetive, oscillating like a whirligig between the objective and the subjective. Some hermeneutics, and that is : some violence is required to (en)force a decision, a krinein between these poles of assignation. A decisive interpretation, deciding between subjective and objective genetive, is an interpretation that aims at its own redundancy, that aims at turning interpretation into a redundant activity, so as to get away from under the imperative of interpretation given with, or as the certainty of what is stated, the exactness of the letter, and to return to the living voice as domus of presence. Such violence is inevitable, and cannot be judged : it is not a matter of being for or against it. There is no alternative to, or escape-route from hermeneutic violence - the point is rather to endure decisive violence in as intense a mode as possible, precisely in tracking the traces this violence leaves in the text, the scars in the thing of literality.
PROCESSING INFORMATION IN REAL TIME
Let me finally come to effects of contemporary technical mediation.
One of the most important phenomena of mediation these days, is the development of networks in real time (cf. Geert Hofman's contribution to this issue of Crossings). These networks not only allow for transferts of data, to feed centers of numerical processing of information, but also for the integration, within the network, of analogous data. What is called telematics is the effective possibility of transmission of all sorts of data without delay and all over the world.
The informatisation of cognition (a term which I do not feel comfortable with : lets say, le savoir, das Wissen, het weten...) indicates that informatics, as a technique of registration, reading and dissemination, is a form of writing. J.-F. Lyotard has argued that informatisation operates a transformation of cognition (le savoir), to be explicated in terms of an externalisation (of knowledge) in relation to the 'one who is in the know ', une mise en extériorité par rapport au 'sachant'. The comma's around sachant may indicate that cognition, prior to the advent of modern techniques of tele-communication, may already have been characterised (constitutively, I would add) by some degree of externalisation, hence that the figure of the 'sachant'is in part a retrospective fiction : the question of who's cognition cognition is, and what it's locus is, is not totally new : what's the qualitative difference between a savoir inscribed on paper and a savoir trusted to bits and bytes -say: CD-ROM ? Still, it is easy to fill in the transformation analysed in La condition postmoderne : databases, expert systems, artificial intelligence, automated spelling checker, reading and writing, translation, computer-aided conception and fabrication, tele-surgery...
Graphic orthèses opens up the space of, or for the same, as difference over a delay, thus allowing for the constitution of some knowing (savoir) as the historical époke of the 'ontological difference'. Does informatisation still allow for the transfert or transmission, from one generation to another, of some cultural patrimony, that finds its historial unity in its territorial unity ?
Numerical techné, inscribing analogous techné, may institute some new collective and individual experience of time, to be interpreted in terms of a sortie, an exit out of the historical époke - if, at least, it is the case that the latter rests upon an essentially deferred time, a differantial time as difference over a delay, ex-tension and de-ferment, i.e. the indeterminateness of the zum Tode.
An illiterate person has no access to the letter. Yet a geometrical proposition can only exist as writing. Its ontological modality is that of the letter or the written, the scriptural. The reactivation of the geometrical schon da, the condition to any enrichment of science, presupposes what Husserl calls an 'active' reading. Such a reading generates the writing of a new geometrical proposition. To 'understand' a text means : to be able to write down (or out) the reading, and such reading is never finished, a text is endless, as the future is improbable, for in-determinate in its identification.
Transmissibility is an essential attribute of knowledge. Or rather : an essential and accidental attribute. The transmissibility of knowledge, or savoir, is that knowledge. Knowledge is hence (but) the mutability, the de-formability, the transformative repeatability of any figure of knowledge. The same-ness of le savoir, its identity over a deferment, implies its plurality. There is no single monolithic le savoir, there are only plural figures of knowledge. Put differently : the encyclopedia is, of necessity, for constitutively divided against it-self.
Figures of knowledge are constituted by their re-produceability; the re-produceability of knowledge is its produceability.
If the transmission or transfert of the figures of knowledge is at the same time their elaboration (the single thesis, si tu veux, of Derrida's introduction to L'origine de la géométrie), it follows that any modification of the conditions of their transmission amounts to a modification of the condition of their elaboration and constitution.
Real time refers to transfert, in order to qualify it as a transfert with no more delay, without temporal spacing. Real time, as modality of archivation, is perhaps not primarily a mutation to be explicated in terms of quantitative economy, the enlargement of the possibility of the encyclopedic totalization, but a qualitative structure affecting the totality of our relation to the world and all relations to the future. It may thus be that numerical (or digital) technologies, inscribing analogous techné, makes for a system of transmission, i.e. elaboration, i.e. constitution of figures of knowledge (savoir), in real time, that (at least tendentially) substitutes for a transmission of such figures, up till recently occuring in (and as) time in deferral, deferred time. Real time sounds like time realising beyond what schuldig-sein stipulates as what is never to be actualized.
To end in concreto : Heidegger was admittedly shocked as he was assisting to the live (transmission of the) first moon-landing, sometime in 1969. Within some literature, including Denken aan al wat is, that landing is to function as the model of the modern event, or the event, or advent of the modern, an event taking place on an immediately public scene, an event that is viewed and commented upon while it is in the making. This live voyeurism [and I distincly remember the sensation of the Heizel-drama and the sinking of the Herald of Free Enterprise] constitutes, determines or specifies actuality (or artefactuality, as Echographies may have it) in (contra)distinction to history. History is written over a differance, a difference over a deferment; actuality accelerates events into instantaneity.
'Traditional historiography' involves the figure of the historian as the one who juri-dically produces, in an afterwards implying delay, the so-called historical event. This structure (of historiography) involves the deployment of some retro-activity of the report (of the event) on the event. Historiography, in its tradition, whether collective or individual (cf. the psychoanalytical practice), pre-supposes deferment. An event is historical when it is caught and related in some story. The retroactivity of the story involves some delay or retardation. A historical event supposes some work of time. The disappearance of the story - a story that situates back in time, that places that, which it relates, in the past - translates as some short-circuiting of history, both as a discipline and as temporality. What it called 'actuality' is, in some sense, always already historical (for broadcasted, in real time), and for this very reason the present of our epoch, in which some new type of event has become possible, thanks to media, cannot be said to be historical any longer : the work of time has been short-circuited, or rather : is short-cuited in the process of live casting.
Since the elaboration of 'the historical' is technically conditioned (history historically goes back to the invention of writing), any change in those conditions should be taken into consideration. The information-system in real time makes, for instances, that politicians get concerned first and foremost with the audience that is watching and listening : that audience becomes the very principle of any activity. Politics is replaced by objectives and strategies of communication, i.e. merchandising. Media and mediatisation threaten to nullify the democratic difference as de-ferment, which is to say : its futurality. There can be no direct democracy. Democracy is indirect - or is a caricature close to the monstruosity of totalitarianism.
Let's call it a day : may I thank you for your not un-divided, your generous attention, generous that is : beyond intention.
Bart A. Buseyne, Leuven February 28th & October 10th 1997
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