Thursday, October 22, 2009

Derrida and the Close Reading of Texts

I know I keep posting about methodology--methodology is a central theme of what it is that I do, phenomenology. Moreover, methodology is crucial for many different types of philosophy across its wondrous facets. For experimental philosophers, there is a school of thought that surveys folk philosophical intuitions and in philosophy of mind, the philosophers sometimes work in labs with psychologists. In the Continental tradition, it would seem that a Husserlian has an exact method, and Derrida can be seen as interrupting the phenomenological method (this much is certain), asking about the presuppositions and exposing phenomenology to whatever it is that Derrida is doing. There is a method. Fleshing that out, and giving it content is the problem. So, anyone with knowledge of this, jump right in.

Part and parcel of this method is regarding the entire history of philosophy as guilty of a metaphysics of presence. In so doing, the entire tradition accepts uncritically the reality of presence. I don't know how to put this without using his language. As such, let's see if this makes sense.

1) All conceptual frameworks of philosophy have assumed uncritically presence.
2) Husserl is an example of uncritically assuming presence.
3) Therefore, Husserl is guilty of a metaphysics of presence.

Derrida seems to be doing that.

Examples of a presence are an enduring subject through time in epistemology, that the self has transparent access to its own states is another example of presence in a metaphysics of mind. Historically questions of metaphysics and epistemology typically motivate a lot of philosophical attention, so I can see the large historic concern. However, what I cannot see is that skepticism about this fact of presence is reason enough to dismiss these systems of philosophy...I guess that is where I am now.

1 comment:

Johnny Collins said...

For one moment in time to succeed another, that moment can't be present in itself and then disappear. In other words, a present moment (like right now) can't be indivisible and then suddenly disappear because what is indivisible can't be altered. In order for there to be time, every moment is divided from the beginning, otherwise nothing would change.

But how are our identities possible if there are endless divisions of time? How do we seem to exist as a single person from one divided moment to the next? There seems to be a trace that is spatial that allows us to remain despite time. Space is what allows things to remain between the past and the future. But this trace is not only spatial but also temporal because without time it would be impossible for for this trace to stick around across time.

This last point is kind of complex but important. If space makes time possible, time affects space in a way that makes it impossible for anything (including us) from being based on an indivisible moment (like right now). Everything is a trace of the past waiting for the future to come along and erase it. As Derrida writes,

"An interval must separate the present from what it is not in order for the present to be itself, but this interval that constitutes it as present must, by the same token, divide the present in and of itself, thereby also dividing, along with the present, everything that is thought on the basis of the present, that is, in our metaphysical language, every being, and singularly substance or the subject."

A radical empiricism would seem to call for a questioning of everything based on an undivided presence. I don't think its a question of anyone's guilt.