Saturday, June 11, 2005

how it all began, or today's liturgy, or, that silly, inconsequential fascist

A passage stumbled upon again, during a somewhat vague and distraced skimming:
These others are not definite others. On the contrary, any other can represent them. What is decisive is only the inconspicuous domination by others that Da-sein as being-with has already taken over unawares. One belongs to the others oneself, and entrenches their power. "The others." whom one disignates as such in order to cover one's own essential belonging to them, are those who are there initially and for the most part in everyday begin-with-one-another. The who is not this one and not that one, not oneself and not some and not the sum of them all. The "who" is the neuter, the they.

We have shown earlier how the public "surrounding world" is always already at hand and taken care of in the surrounding world nearest to us. In utilizing public transportation, in the use of information services such as the newspaper, every other is like the next. This being-with-one-another dissolves one's own Da-sein completely into the kind of being of "the others" in such a way that the others, as distinguishable and explicit, disappear more and more. In this inconspicuousness and unascertainability, the they unfolds its true dictatorship. We enjoy ourselves and have fun the way they enjoy themselves. We read, see, and judge literature and art the way they see and judge. But we also withdraw from the "great mass" the way they withdraw, we find "shocking" what they find shocking. The they, which is nothing definite and which all are, though not as a sum, prescribes the kind of being of everydayness. (Being and Time, 118-119, my emphasis in bold)

So there you have it, Heidegger on the Big Other. Sounding not a little bit like someone or other. Thankfully, not everyone who read this took it quite the same way! Most significantly, it seems to me, Heidegger's conception of the "they" quite clearly presupposes a "we" that is by definition one of "essential belonging." Others, like Blanchot, Derrida and, to a lesser degree perhaps, Agamben, will question this "essentialness" in rather crucial ways, no? (Is it not thus?)

All of which is not, I think it goes without saying, to deny the existence or rather influence of the Big Other, or the Symbolic of course, only to resist swallowing it, or rather its vaguely prescriptive terms, whole. You might justly say this is a superficial or merely reductice reading of Lacan, or of the three-way dialectic between the overlapping spheres of the Symbolic, Imaginary and the Real. But there is still an important sense, I think, in which Derrida (um, among others) traces how the alleged hegemony of these terms always risks foreclosing on—dare we say it— 'community.' It is this foreclosure that Blanchot and Derrida (along with, though in a different manner, Nancy and Agamben) most powerfully resist. Or that would be my own initial attempt at a remark on the matter anyway.

They "resist" in a certain very intense and complicated sense of "resistance," needless to say. This summer some of the contributors at Long Sunday (including Jodi, Alain, RIPope, DPW and myself) are planning to attempt a joint reading of Derrida "on" Freud (Freud on Derrida?) using as one of our primary texts Derrida's Resistances of Psychoanalysis. (Jodi has also suggested we use the complete works of Freud, but I assume she was jesting. Any suggestions are of course more than welcome—for instance, does anyone know if this is any good?)

Anyway, to whet the appetite of those who may be interested in joining in, here are some passages from Derrida's text, excerpted like freely plagarized postcards in the simple hope of piquing a bit of interest:
What is called "deconstruction" undeniably obeys an analytic exigency, at once critical and analytic. It is also a matter of undoing, desedimenting, decomposing, deconstituting sediments, artefacta, presuppositions, institutions. And the insistence on unbinding, disjunction, dissociation, the being "out of joing," as Hamlet would have said, on the irreducibility of difference is so massive as to need no further insistance...

What drives [pousse] deconstruction to analyze without respite the analysistic and dialecticistic presuppositions of these philosophies, and no doubt of philosophy itself, what resembles there the drive and the pulse of its own movement, a rhythmic compulsion to track the desire for simple and self-present originarity, well, this very thing—here is the double bind we were talking about a moment ago—drives it to raise the analysistic and transcendalistic stakes. It drives deconstruction to a hyperbolicism of analysis that takes sometimes, in certain people's eyes, the form of a hyperdiabolicism. In this sense, deconstruction is also teh interminable drama of analysis. For in order to prevent the critique of originarism in its transcendental or ontological, analytic or dialectical form from yielding, according to the law that we well know, to empiricism or positivism, it was necessary to accede, in a still more radical, more analytic fashion, to the traditional demand, to the very law of that which had just been deconstructed: whence the impossible concepts, the quasi-concepts, the concepts that I called quasi-transcendentals, such as arche-trace or arche-writing, the arche-originary that is more "ancient" than the origin—and, above all, a donating affirmation that remains the ultimate unknown for the analysis that it nevertheless puts in motion. (27-29)

Phew. Well we will try, anyway. If anything is clear, it is that this "double-bind," one that does not "spring from ontology anymore than it lends itself to dialectical sublation," lies at the heart of Derrida's approach, i.e. until one has understood this, one hasn't begun to read him. (Just to be clear, I have read many of his books, and even attempted some in French—but say what you will, I would absolutely hesitate (if, for instance, this were other than a blog) before asserting to have so begun.)

In any case, here's a hard-hitting passage perhaps more to the point above:
"We" is a modality of the with, of the being-with or the doing-with: avoc, apud hoc, at the home of [chez] the other, as guest or parasite. "We" is always said by a sole person. It is always a sole person who has the gall to say "we psychoanalysts," "we philosophers," "with you psychoanalysts," "with us philosophers," or, still more mysteriously, "we psychoanalysts with the philosophers" or "with us philosophers." "Avec" (with) also means "chez" (at the home of; apud, avuec, avoc, apud hoc, category of the guest or intruder, of the host or the parasite, therefore, who always takes advantage as soon as he says "we").

This logico-grammatical modality seems interesting because, among many other things, it is always me who say "we"; it is always an "I" who utters "we," supposing thereby, in effect, in the asymmetrical structure of the utterance, the other to be absent, dead, in any case incompetent, or ever arriving too late to object.
The one signs for the other.
The assymmetry is even more violent if we're talking about a reflexive, reciprocal, or specular "we." Who will ever have the right to say: "We love each other"? But is there any other origin of love, any other amorous performativity than this presumptuousness? If there is some "we" in being-with, it is because there is always one who speaks all alone in the name of the other, from the other; there is always one of them who lives more, lives longer. I will not hasten to call this one the "subject." (Resistances of Psychoanalysis, 43)

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