Thursday, December 22, 2005

Deconstructing theology

{...also excerpted from chapter 2 of Derrida's Of Grammatology, offered here in my dialectical development of a post-metaphysical theory which is neither empiricism as usually understood nor theology as usually practiced, because it moves between the binary opposition between subject and object }

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 grammé, without difference as temporalisation, [or, deferral] without the nonpresense of the other inscribed within the sense of the present, without the relationship with death as the concrete structure of the living present. 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. 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. 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.


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