Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Blog Text vs. Spoken Words (re: Derrida)

derridean arche-blogging Posted by Hello

Today, we're going to drop the fluffing nonsense, found in most business blogs, and attempt to seriously consider, in a sweet, soft, calm, loving, peaceful, kind, tolerant, heated, ugly, hurtfully combative manner, Writing vs. Talking...

...or Blog Text vs. Spoken Words.

To explain why Textcentric Blogs are better than [superior to, more realific than] Telephone Conversations, Podcasting, Audio Blogging, Text Messaging, Instant Messaging, Skyping, Party Gossiping, Murmuring, Verbal Brawling, Yodeling, Yelping, and all other forms of Vocal Utterance ("mouthing off")...

...we must turn to the master, to Jacques Derrida.

And I'm going to do what he often did, that is: quote large blocks of writing by others, then append brief commentary.

I dedicate this post to Kyle and Leigh and the gang of foresite at Fluid Imagination. An interesting and inspiring intellectual blog.

When you've read this, you'll never look at speech or text in quite the way you were brainwashed by the logocentrists and phonologists, who tend to despise our beloved Blogosphere.

Don't kid yourselves: text messaging is just another, cheesy, expensive form of talking. It ain't no real writing.

Now, open your textbook Of Grammatology, and read along with me for a stretch.

Online Version at:

Don't worry, I promise and fully guarantee this will be fun, entertaining, and enlightening. Almost as satisfying as a Talking Yard Rake or Simulated Pig blog!

[QUOTE by Derrida, Of Grammatology, De la grammatologie, Paris: Editions de Minuit. Translated with an introduction by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973.]


...there is no full speech, however much one might wish to restore it by means or without benefit of psychoanalysis.

[VASPERS: Many think that the "full speech", audible "voice" is closer to spontaneity, more authentic, of greater significance than the written text, since speech needs nothing but the speaker to convey information.]

Before thinking to reduce it or to restore the meaning of the full speech which claims to be truth, one must ask the question of meaning and of its origin in difference. Such is the place of a problematic of the trace.

Why of the trace? What led us to the choice of this word?

I have begun to answer this question. But this question is such, and such the nature of my answer, that the place of the one and of the other must constantly be in movement.

If words and concepts receive meaning only in sequences of differences, one can justify one's language, and one's choice of terms, only within a topic [an orientation in space] and an historical strategy.

The justification can therefore never be absolute and definitive. It corresponds to a condition of forces and translates an historical calculation. Thus, over and above those that I have already defined, a certain number of givens belonging to the discourse of our time have progressively imposed this choice upon me.

The word trace must refer to itself to a certain number of contemporary discourses whose force I intend to take into account. Not that I accept them totally. But the word trace establishes the clearest connections with them and thus permits me to dispense with certain developments which have already demonstrated their effectiveness in those fields.

Thus, I relate this concept of trace to what is at the center of the latest work of Emmanuel Levinas and his critique of ontology: relationship to the illeity as to the alterity of a past that never was and can never be lived in the originary or modified form of presence.

Reconciled here to a Heideggerian intention, — as it is not in Levinas's thought — this notion signifies, sometimes beyond Heideggerian discourse, the undermining of an ontology which, in its innermost course, has determined the meaning of being as presence and the meaning of language as the full continuity of speech.

To make enigmatic what one thinks one understands by the words “proximity,” “immediacy,” “presence” (the proximate [proche], the own [propre], and the pre- of presence), is my final intention in this book.

[VASPERS: the present or "now" arises from the "flux" of origination, thus, since it is pre-determined to arrive, it is "pre-sent" (already sent), thus the "present". But speech is not necessarily closer to the present than is writing.]

This deconstruction of presence accomplishes itself through the deconstruction of consciousness, and therefore through the irreducible notion of the trace (Spur), as it appears in both Nietzschean and Freudian discourse.

And finally, in all scientific fields, notably in biology, this notion seems currently to be dominant and irreducible.

[VASPERS: I clumsily suggest that what this means, is that: DNA is "written" in our chromosones, as a code, before we learn how to talk, and the ability to think and talk is derived to the genetic code "inscribed", and not "spoken", in our chromosones or whatever that junk is inside us sub-microscopically.]

If the trace, arche-phenomenon of “memory,” which must be thought before the opposition of nature and culture, animality and humanity, etc., belongs to the very movement of signification, then signification is a priori written, whether inscribed or not, in one form or another, in a “sensible” and “spatial” element that is called “exterior.”

Arche-writing, at first the possibility of the spoken word, then of the “graphie” in the narrow sense, the birthplace of “usurpation,” denounced from Plato to Saussure, this trace is the opening of the first exteriority in general, the enigmatic relationship of the living to its other and of an inside to an outside: spacing.

The outside, “spatial” and “objective” exteriority which we believe we know as the most familiar thing in the world, as familiarity itself, would not appear without the grammĂ©, without difference as temporalisation, without the non-presense of the other inscribed within the sense of the present, without the relationship with death as the concrete structure of the living present.

[VASPERS: A living mortal is in the present due to being mortal, in a constant relation to death (absence, non-presence), for an immortal being would inhabit past, present, and future simultaneously.]

Metaphor would be forbidden.

The presence-absence of the trace, which one should not even call its ambiguity, but rather its play (for the word “ambiguity” requires the logic of presence, even when it begins to disobey that logic), carries in itself the problems of the letter and the spirit, of body and soul, and of all the problems whose primary affinity I have recalled.

All dualisms, all theories of the immortality of the soul or of the spirit, as well as all monisms, spiritualist or materialist, dialectical or vulgar, are the unique theme of a metaphysics whose entire history was compelled to strive toward the reduction of the trace.

The subordination of the trace to the full presence summed up in the logos, the humbling of writing beneath a speech dreaming its plenitude, such are the gestures required by an onto-theology determining the archaeological and eschatological meaning of being as presence, as parousia, as life without difference: another name for death, historical metonymy where God's name holds death in check.

[VASPERS: Thus, Western metaphysics, the sound/speech emphasizing tradition, wants to subordinate writing to an inferior level, as many average people do everyday. If you talk, that is socially acceptable.

However, try going to a party, bar, or any gathering of people, and start writing. Within seconds, someone is bound to come up to you and ask, hatefully or in a challenging tone: "What are you doing? What are you writing? Let me see that!" This is the tyranny of the phonic.]

That is why, if this movement begins its era in the form of Platonism, it ends in infinitist metaphysics.

Only infinite being can reduce the difference in presence.

In that sense, the name of God, at least as it is pronounced within classical rationalism, is the name of indifference itself. Only a positive infinity can lift the trace, “sublimate” it (it has recently been proposed that the Hegelian Aufhebung be translated as sublimation; this translation may be of dubious worth as translation, but the juxtaposition is of interest here).

We must not therefore speak of a “theological prejudice,” functioning sporadically when it is a question of the plenitude of the logos; the logos as the sublimation of the trace is theological.

Infinitist theologies are always logocentrisms, whether they are creationisms or not.

Spinoza himself said of the understanding — or logos — that it was the immediate infinite mode of the divine substance, even calling it its eternal son in the Short Treatise. [Spinoza] It is also to this epoch, “reaching completion” with Hegel, with a theology of the absolute concept as logos, that all the non-critical concepts accredited by linguistics belong, at least to the extent that linguistics must confirm — and how can a science avoid it? — the Saussurian decree marking out “the internal system of language.”

It is precisely these concepts that permitted the exclusion of writing: image or representation, sensible and intelligible, nature and culture, nature and technics, etc.

They are solidary with all metaphysical conceptuality and particularly with a naturalist, objectivist, and derivative determination of the difference between outside and inside.

And above all with a “vulgar concept of time.” I borrow this expression from Heidegger.

It designates, at the end of Being and Time, a concept of time thought in terms of spatial movement or of the now, and dominating all philosophy from Aristotle's Physics to Hegel's Logic.

This concept, which determines all of classical ontology, was not born out of a philosopher's carelessness or from a theoretical lapse.

It is intrinsic to the totality of the history of the Occident, of what unites its metaphysics and its technics. And we shall see it later associated with the linearization of writing, and with the linearist concept of speech.

[VASPERS: People tend to think of speech as "linear", with a definite beginning and end, a natural progression through time, the idea of the monologue. Hence, broadcast marketing, blabbing a univocal propaganda at a passive consumer audience. Whereas blogs, with interactivity via email and comment posting, enable a dialogue, and the blogosphere is a "multilogue" as coined and defined by my colleague, Jennifer Rice.]

This linearism is undoubtedly inseparable from phonologism; it can raise its voice to the same extent that a linear writing can seem to submit to it. Saussure's entire theory of the “linearity of the signifier” could be interpreted from this point of view.

Auditory signifiers have at their command only the dimension of time. Their elements are presented in succession; they form a chain.

[VASPERS: Unlike writing and blogging, you can't speak something, but save it as a draft to use in future communication, unless you "write" it into your memory and quote it later. It is also difficult to "archive" speech. Thus, writing is clearly superior in these vital aspects.]

This feature becomes readily apparent when they are represented in writing.... The signifier, being auditory, is unfolded solely in time from which it gets the following characteristics: (a) it represents a span, and (b) the span is measurable in a single dimension; it is a line.

It is a point on which Jakobson disagrees with Saussure decisively by substituting for the homogeneousness of the line the structure of the musical staff, “the chord in music.”

What is here in question is not Saussure's affirmation of the temporal essence of discourse but the concept of time that guides this affirmation and analysis: time conceived as linear successivity, as “consecutivity.”

This model works by itself and all through the Course, but Saussure is seemingly less sure of it in the Anagrams. At any rate, its value seems problematic to him and an interesting paragraph elaborates a question left suspended:

"That the elements forming a word follow one another is a truth that it would be better for linguistics not to consider uninteresting because evident, but rather as the truth which gives in advance the central principle of all useful reflections on words. In a domain as infinitely special as the one I am about to enter, it is always by virtue of the fundamental law of the human word in general that a question like that of consecutiveness or non-consecutiveness may be posed. [Mercure de France, 1964]"

This linearist concept of time is therefore one of the deepest adherences of the modem concept of the sign to its own history.

For at the limit it is indeed the concept of the sign itself, and the distinction, however tenuous, between the signifying and signified faces, that remain committed to the history of classical ontology.

The parallelism and correspondence of the faces or the planes change nothing. That this distinction, first appearing in Stoic logic, was necessary for the coherence of a scholastic thematics dominated by infinitist theology, forbids us to treat today's debt to it as a contingency or a convenience.

I suggested this at the outset, and perhaps the reasons are clearer now. The signatum always referred, as to its referent, to a res, to an entity created or at any rate first thought and spoken, thinkable and speakable, in the eternal present of the divine logos and specifically in its breath.

If it came to relate to the speech of a finite being (created or not; in any case of an intracosmic entity) through the intermediary of a signans, the signatum had an immediate relationship with the divine logos which thought it within presence and for which it was not a trace.

And for modem linguistics, if the signifier is a trace, the signified is a meaning thinkable in principle within the full presence of an intuitive consciousness.

The signfied face, to the extent that it is still originarily distinguished from the signifying face, is not considered a trace; by rights, it has no need of the signifier to be what it is.

It is at the depth of this affirmation that the problem of relationships between linguistics and semantics must be posed.

This reference to the meaning of a signified thinkable and possible outside of all signifiers remains dependent upon the ontotheo-teleology that I have just evoked.

It is thus the idea of the sign that must be deconstructed through a meditation upon writing which would merge, as it must, with the undoing [sollicitation] of onto-theology, faithfully repeating it in its totality and making it insecure in its most assured evidences.

One is necessarily led to this from the moment that the trace affects the totality of the sign in both its faces.

That the signified is originarily and essentially (and not only for a finite and created spirit) trace, that it is always already in the position of the signifier, is the apparently innocent proposition within which the metaphysics of the logos, of presence and consciousness, must reflect upon writing as its death and its resource.

[END of DERRIDA quote]

[VASPERS:] All righty then. Is your brain now cooked? Do you now see why philosophy is a better high than drugs or alcohol?

I hope this brief excerpt has led you to think more deeply about what it means to:

(1.) write

(2.) write a blog

(3.) blog a writing of a written blog

(4.) write into a blog that is the written blogification of mentality, which you call your "mind"...I mean your mind is a blog you post what kind of content to?

Now let's all starting writing (blogging) more...and talking less!

Talking is dead. Long live writing (blogging).

More of Derrida and my commentary shall be coming.

Other, less heavy, more $$$ Profit Oriented $$$ topics will also be coming.

You're gonna get both the easy and the difficult from Vaspers the Grate, aka Whispers the Grape.

[signed] The New Super Fuzzy Cuddly Vaspers the Grate aka Steven Streight

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