Sunday, January 17, 2010

Derrida's interpretation of Husserl's "Origins of Geometry" PT.1

Instead of loading this post with a preface to what it's about, I will defer to Derrida's suggestion that a rigorous reading of any text is one with extracts a certain amount out of a small portion of a text, rather than a reading that knows the whole story (Derrida's criticism of autobiography in general as constituting the essence of any reading). This criticism is reflective of Hegel's preface to his Phenomenology of Spirit where he paradoxically criticizes prefaces in general. You can think of it as a Preface that criticizes itself in wanting to briefly and systematically describe what is ahead. For Hegel, as for Derrida, the text has rhythm and the reader should always be aware of a certain ethic of reading; that being to read the whole text and to enter into the flow of the text, the flow of the author for that matter, even though both Derrida and Hegel would repudiate the possibility of ever "purely" entering into an others context...So much for a preface.

Husserl in his Crises of the European Sciences takes aim at the lack of responsibility in which Science since Newton has taken place. Derrida takes this vision up in his interpretation of his Origins of Geometry which is considered an addendum to the previous text. Into the text then...

"Science's truth "in itself" is not any less truth-of the subjective-relative world, in which it has its bases. No doubt there exists a naively superficial baselessness: that of the rationalists and the traditional scientific investigators who move unconstrained in the atmosphere of the logical and objective apriori and do not relate them to their historical ground in the life-world. They neither worry about their own responsibility nor ask themselves: what am I in the process of doing? Nor:from where does that come? But there is another naivete just as serious but with a more modern style: naivete of profundity or depth and not of superficiality, it consists in re-descending toward the prescientific perception without making problematic the surpassing of the life-world's truth toward the world of truths "in themselves." (Derrida; Edmund Husserl's Origin of Geometry, 1989, Bison Book printing)

Derrida continues explaining Husserl's criticism of science as essentially losing it's philosophical grounding from the likes of Leibniz and and Descartes by referencing Husserl as calling this post industrial science one that is "intellectually hypertrophic".

To start off then with Derrida's interpretation of Husserl's Origin of Geometry, it's good to start off simple; in a place where criticism is evident rather than the internal and posthumous inter-locution between the two that will be written about in a later post.

The obvious question is raised, simply put: Does Science have a responsibility towards Philosophy? And if it has lost that responsibility, if it is in a state of "crisis", how can phenomenology (which for Husserl was always going to take the place of philosophy, not just semantically, but syntactically!) "rescue" science from itself? These are questions which will again be addressed later. For now, the above quote is what imposed as being extracted.

The first part of the quote goes without saying. Husserl according to Derrida thinks that Science should be concerned with the "truth-of-the-subjective" which has always been Husserl's project even as he repudiated pyschologism as the grounds for Truth (Capitol 'T') in his prolegomena to his Logical Investigations. The truth of the subjective then is ironically purely logical; the purely logical subjective. Husserl terms this the "transcendental ego" which is insurmountable for dasein being. Something curious pops up though in Husserl's criticism though. As Husserl criticizes that fact, generally speaking, that scientists don't ask themselves how they are coming to developments, and where the developments are coming from, they essentially take for granted the apriori structure of their method. What's curious about this, is this is exactly what Husserl was trying to prove; that at any point a geometer (for example) can work out a proof without requiring the knowledge of how Euclid's first axioms were found. That 3 sides of a triangle equal 180 degrees doesn't require a geometer to relive the experience or understand how their own mind can come up with such a categorical judgment. Does this not prove the "omni-temporality" of the sciences? Basically, that anyone can think it at anytime.
This curiosity I thought should be noted.

Regardless of the fact of whether Husserl's criticism actually supports the omni-temporality of logic, Husserl still feels an irresponsibility to the scientist who is essentially not a phenemenologist; basically a scientist who investigates how it was first possible to understand a geometrical axiom for example. This is serious for Husserl, but there is something even more serious for Husserl according to Derrida.

This next problem for Husserl is a criticism not of the "naive scientist", but of a "naive scientist-philosopher" who ventures into the groundings of history and the study of primitive cultures; essentially an ethnologist in the vain of Claude Levi-Strauss (for example. Husserl in his usual abstract form never gives names). If one realizes the need for science to rediscover it's foundations, how can it just skip by the fact that there is a sense to it's reduction, to it's "surpassing" from Life-World truths to the "world of truths". Essentially, what is the logic of reduction? Derrida vigorous aims at Levi-Strauss exactly on these grounds in De la grammatologie which has served as a wonderful introduction to Derrida in a small book called "The Scene of Writing". The case of Derrida and Levi-Strauss aside, the logic of reduction is need of being explained (I'm anglo-saxon so I defer a usage of the word "explicated". If someone would like to tell me the difference between the two, I'm open ears).

These two questions will be addressed eventually in Derrida's interpretation of Husserl's Origins of Geometry which will be in future posts. For now though, not only science, but philosophy itself is at stake. Nothing can truly be said with an ever fulfilling accuracy without first telling the whole story of sense so to speak. For anyone who considers themselves a scholar of Derrida, they understand how much of an impulse Derrida obtained from Husserl in the Phenomenological gesture of seemingly never ending questions. Derrida would take this to a social level (something Husserl would rather die than ever do) by exploring the nature of archiving and the reader in general. This would lead to the fact that there is never really "an ending to reading Plato". In a further post, I will go into Derrida's impulse but in different terms. To me, what Derrida gained from Husserl in his sociological explanations of 20th century man was his over-self-satisfaction with himself. Derrida mimicked Husserl's critical gestures towards science and brought it to the level of the everyday reader. No reading was a reading unless it was a textual analysis. If this sounds overly rigorous, I would suggest that the radicalness of the gesture is in order to check an overly self-satisfied readership, not just a readership of books, but a readership in general, of thinking. This will be addressed later on.
For now though, we will continue to explore Derrida's new methodological analysis of Husserl's text, an analysis that would not just be reserved to Husserl but would be used on texts throughout the Western Philosophical Tradition, from Plato to Rousseau, from Hegel to Foucault.

1 comment:

  1. yes, all substantive texts, Plato, Rousseau, Mill are never finished being read. As time moves, its movement is a "different" interpretation. John.