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Posts Tagged ‘derrida’

Glas by Derrida

In academia, book review, philosophy on July 13, 2009 at 6:08 am

is divided into two columns. The left one deals with Hegel, the right with Jean Genet. The structure is based on Genet’s “What Remains of a Rembrandt Torn Into Four Equal Pieces and Flushed Down the Toilet”. There are also textboxes that function like annotations, but they’re not. There are no instructions on how to read this, whether you will start with Hegel first, then with Genet, or whether you are supposed to read them alternately or simultaneously (how?). The two columns are commenting on each other, using the same words differently. But you’ll notice that as you read the left column, it does sort of simulate (but does not) Hegel’s Absolute Spirit. I’m not sure about Genet’s column.

Related posts:
Book review: “The Republic”
Note on “Smart” People
Derrida on Forgetting
Aporias on 25 Random Things

Derrida on Forgetting

In academia, philosophy, reblog on July 13, 2009 at 5:56 am

Glas, 195-196b
by Jacques Derrida

“I forget, in a certain way, everything I write, doubtless also, in another way, what I read. Save this or that sentence, some sentence morsel, apparently secondary, whose lack of apparent importance does not in any case justify this sort of resonance, of obsessive reverberation that guards itself, detached, so long after the engulfing, more and more rapid, of all the remain(s), of all the rest. One ought to touch there (coagulation of sense, form, rhythm) on the compulsional matrix of writing, upon its organizing affect. From what I have written, I have never retained ‘by heart’, almost, anything but these few words, on the basis of which I am doubtless becoming infatuated here with the genetic ‘first verse’ and some others. They are: ‘l’exergue et le gisant esoufflé de mon discours’ (‘the epigraph and breathless sarcophagous of my discourse’) and ‘en pierre d’attente. Et d’angle comme on pourra, par chance ou récurrence, le recevoir de quelques marques déposées’ (‘protruding like a toothing-stone, waiting for something to mesh with. And like a cornerstone as it can, by chance or by recurrence, be gathered from the registering of certain trade-marks’). Without a comma [virgule] after angle. Angle is always, for me, a tomb’s edge. And I understand this word, angle, its gl, at the back of my throat as what at once cuts off and spirits (away) from/in me all the remain(s).
I forgot. The first verse I published: ‘glu de l’étang lait de ma mort noyée’ (‘glue of the pool milk of my drowned death’).”

(via Affirmez la survie)

Related posts:
Book review: “The Republic”
Note on “Smart” People
Aporias on 25 Random Things

Plato’s Republic

In book review on June 5, 2009 at 3:45 pm

I do not know what is in Plato that makes me want to train my body physically, listen to classical music, eat good food, read great works, engage in conversation, and perform all exercises imaginable about the care of the self. For American philosopher Allan Bloom, The Republic is the supreme book on education (see “The Student and the University” in The Closing of the American Mind). I consider it as a monumental guide to the ordering of one’s soul, or a benevolent spiritual companion—Virgil, Falstaff, or Sancho Panza. It tells you about the best things to learn and do in this life; you don’t have to agree, but it invigorates you just the same about the question of the good life.

The best way to encounter Plato is to take him personally, to read his work as someone with real and immediate concerns about life, not as a political scientist, literary critic, or philosopher. A piecemeal confrontation with The Republic will do nothing but magnify Socrates’ errors, aside from highlighting his greatest contribution in ethics, politics, metaphysics or methodology, and obscuring the more important virtues of the text. This is why the ordinary student generally dislikes Plato, and this dislike takes the form of academic contempt (for there are so few who read him voluntarily that most people are not qualified to like or dislike his works on personal terms). This contempt is made clear when a casual student in the humanities or social sciences cannot speak of Socrates without adding a modern critique. He or she then confuses this academic knowledge, culled from modern theories, as a personal response to the text. In reality, this kind of reader lacks a response. Susan Sontag said that our fixation on interpreting content has something to do with not knowing how to react toward a given piece.

Too much is being said about the book’s manifest virtues—its statement on the nature of justice and the ideal State, its position against mimesis and poetry, etc.—that the latent virtues, which are more important, since they implicitly speak about incorruptible friendships and immortal conversations, are left out. The Republic is a book about the self and the soul more than it is about the disciplines. We must prize it not for its conclusions, but for its eternal questions and brave attempts to define the good life. I have been reading The Republic since last year (given to me as a precious gift during my 20th birthday), and today I have reached the last words of Book X. Jacques Derrida said that one never finishes reading Plato, admitting that, with so much respect and reverence, the scholar still feels like being on the threshold of understanding. Hence, it will be very hard to evade the influences of the book, and I promised myself to read it again and again.

Note on “smart” people

In critique on June 3, 2009 at 4:51 pm

If we observe these young people whom they say are well-versed in critical intellectual discourse, we would see that they are post-adolescent young adults, usually in the liberal arts who can talk endlessly about the relativity of truth, social construction of reality, patriarchy & postmodernism using the jargons they learned in class, spouting ideas they got from Xerox copies of their professors’ lecture materials, and echoing quotes from Marx, Derrida or Irigaray. Their favorite word is “subvert”, and for them a thing is not beautiful unless it “subverts” the hegemony. They praise anything they like as “postmodern”, as though postmodernity is a badge or laurel. They use the word “mind fuck” to characterize something positive, profound, beautiful and sublime. They believe that “reality is subjective”, that “there is no absolute truth”, that “everything is relative” — so they hate such things as “dogma” and “tradition” and pose themselves as the “radical” intellectual elite. They uniformly like the surrealists, and passionately call themselves “nihilists” who find life and the world meaningless. But if we study their rhetoric, speech habits, and word choices (“subvert”, “mind fuck”, “anti-dogma”, “anti-tradition”, “radical”), we may realize why they are so attracted to critical theory. I think that’s because they are a bunch of disturbed, delinquent & dissident teenagers or young adults who can’t get past their adolescent issues. They are nothing but the equivalent of angsty nerds. Their vocabulary is not the vocabulary of genius. It is the register and rhetoric of the rebellious for rebelliousness’ sake. That’s why they like Marx, Derrida, and the whole line-up of critical theorists. Misunderstanding these thinkers is beside the point; they only like the angsty interpretation of Marxism, feminism or deconstruction. They are mere sublimated forms of their adolescent selves, dying to question authority, to offend the law, and to assert their half-baked ideas of utopia. They are dogmatic in their radicalism, and are more orthodox than the orthodoxy in their florid celebration of unorthodoxy. Their existence is a big contradiction.