Sunday, February 21, 2010

History's Implication: Language; Part 6 of Derrida's interpretation of Husserl

In the last post we saw the insistence by Husserl of claiming history as an "undefinable" proposition that was still regardlessly "grounded". While not being able to yet describe history independent of using concepts (by Kant's recognition) that are already established a posteriori, we can to an obvious limit. That limit is nothing other than the possibility of language. While according to Derrida "History itself establishes the possibility of its own appearing", the way it establishes itself is by an impulse, that impulse being language...what we call "language". Husserl though addresses this regardless of his eternal supposition of pure logic almost as if he was thinking solipsistically, which is really not a stretch when approaching the methodology of Husserlian phenomenology.
Husserl though addresses language the same way that he doesn't want to address everything he doesn't want to address; by speaking about it as abstractly as possible. Husserl states "ideal formations are rooted only in language in general, not in the factuality of languages and their particular linguistic incarnations". Husserl wonders "How is any object in general possible"? Here he runs up against language in general. Derrida writes after this "For if the phenomenological reduction is taken in its fullest sense, it must also entail the reduction of constituted eidetics and then of its own language". What does this mean? It simply means that phenomenology must address how it's able to speak about what it wants to think it's independent of. Not only must it address language but it must reduce it's own linguistic significations. How an ideal is constituted must be reduced for phenomenology to be able to fulfill what it "wants" to fulfill. Language then as the constitutor of pure sense and ideal objectivity must be understood and then reduced to a possible point where it's no longer used but used only as a means (Husserl in Experience and Judgment uses 'merely' always and often to signify this) to constitute ideal objectivity.

Husserl begins his reduction of language by first realizing that for now language is our way for expressing the sense of the world. Here, "expression" and "language" are synonymous. His reduction is intuitive and starts with the fact "the same content can be intended starting from several languages, and its ideal identity assures its translatability. This ideal identity of sense expressed by lion, leo, Lowe, and so forth, is then freed from all factual linguistic subjectivity". Regardless of what language we use to express the idea of "Lion", we always mean the same thing. It has an ideal identity that makes it translatable through all languages. For Husserl then, language escapes a pyschologistic relativity/subjectivity by the fact that its signified content stays consistent, although Derrida later on goes into lengths about the problems of translatability, which any "reader" of Derrida would have to think first stems from his confrontations with Husserl. Husserl further establishes the fact that "lion" is conditioned by a "receptive intution" which he will call an "object of receptivity". Staying consistent with his theme in the Origins of Geometry, Husserl states "The Pythagorean theorem, indeed all of geometry, exists only once, no matter how often or even in what language it may be expressed". Geometry then finds its consistency in the fact that it's first constituted in an ideal language. Husserl expands his reduction to the fact that something can be stated that is empirically and inter-subjectively false but yet it's still true in the sense that it was asserted at one time and still remains a truth for that time. He uses the example of the proposition that "The automobile is the fastest means of travel" to establish this fact. Regardless of it's empirical validity, it remains an intentionality of truth. Here we must distinguish between two different truths; Empirically and scientifically verifiable truth, and Intentionality truth. Even an "absurd" intention has a truth because its pointing to the fact of it's wanting to be "counter-sensical". The fact of it's pointing takes away the posibility of it desired absurdity. In other words, lingustic absurdity can't escape the ideality of language as the constitutor for pure sense. The ever-popular 20th century distinction made by Ferdinand de Saussure between the Signifier and Signified is the concrete solidification of this idea. There is the sense of a statement and the "stuff" that makes up the statement that signifies it's sense.

Derrida thinks the reader to be surprised by the fact that Husserl "re-descends" towards language as the medium and condition of ideal objectivity, as any reader of Husserl would be by his insistence of pure sense not being dependent on any empirical conditions, language being an absolute empirical condition. But Husserl came up against it with all of his honesty which Derrida and the reader recognize and was stated in the beginning of this post. But did Husserl not just prove with the example of 'Lion', that language is first dependent on sense and not the other way around? Does this example not establish the fact that geometrical truth is "beyond every particular and factual linguistic hold"? Derrida makes an absolutely insightful remark here when he states "But the Objectivity of this truth could not be constituted without the pure possibility of an inquiry into a pure language in general. Without this pure and essential possibility, the geometrical formation would remain ineffable and solitary. Then it would be absolutely bound to the psychological life of a factual individual". Slightly later he makes the point that always needed to be made about Husserl but never was until Derrida when he states "The paradox is that without the apparent fall back into language thereby into history, a fall which would alienate the ideal purity of sense, sense would remain an empirical formation imprisoned as a fact in a psychological subjectivity-in the inventor's head." Here, finally, it must be stressed how much the project of Phenomenology and solipsism are tied together, and not just solipsism as an idea, but the actual method of Phenomenology. This is where the reader of phenomenology has to take the biggest leap they have taken, really the biggest leap any philosopher has taken since Descartes cogito and at least give freedom to solipsism as a gateway to pure sense. Later on Derrida may get to this, but for now he doesn't. When Derrida makes the absolutely necessary assertion that without language, pure sense always lies "in the inventor's head" and nowhere else, is this not exactly the point for Husserl? Did he not just prove for Derrida that there is sense in everyone's head regardless of the fact of language? Even as language is the sole constitutive act for the possibility of ideal objectivity? Here a distinction must be made. The fact that Husserl knows that language opens up speculation into a pure solipsistic sense, and the fact that this sense 'is the case' independent of the prior phenomenological 'work' to affirm it. Basically, 'work' never needed to be done to affirm transcendental sense; but Husserl tried to do it anyways from an impulse to ground science which was nothing other than what was stated in his Crises, although this was always the project of phenomenology. One wonders that this was simply a reaction to no one understanding phenomenology because of "scholars" having been under the spell of dogmatic science, history, and sociology which Husserl certainly goes into in the beginning of the Crises. The fact of the matter is that when language is reduced to Derrida's recognition that sense independent of language would be "tied to the inventors head", pure sense gains its infinite freedom by slipping past the language that was just used to constitute it. Certainly, every concept has it's sense, but not all sense has it's concept, and not everything that is making sense to me right now is conceptual. Later on in Derrida's interpretation of Husserl, the idea of passivity and reactivation become paramount regarding non-conceptual sense.

Husserl has seemingly accomplished what he wanted to accomplish. By being honest with himself and Phenomenology enough to be able to confront language and reduce it to where one recognizes that they were just making sense regardless of language, albeit constituted by language, pure sense is certainly in the inventors head...and we can say this, without it ever having to be said. It's not ironic that Phenomenology is everything that goes without saying.
Derrida comments that "To constitute an ideal object is to put it at the permanent disposition of a pure gaze. Now, before being the constituted and exceeded auxiliary of an act which proceeds toward the truth of sense, linguistic ideality is the milieu in which the ideal object settles as what is sedimented or deposited". Sense finds a place to settle; it finds it's place for depositing in language in general. Derrida in a rare rhetorical flourish states "language preserves truth, so that truth can be regarded in the henceforth nonephemeral illumination of its sojourn". Regardless of the rhetoric, it's a striking statement of the geist of language, it's movement, and possibly, its teleology. That this seems like an elaboration of Hegel should come as no surprise. While for Hegel, the movement of geist was the idea in general, it's found in Derrida via Husserl as language. The similarities and differences between the idea and language is something to be fleshed out on another day (a text rigorously comparing Hegel and Derrida would be paramount), but it is the case that some sort of depositing happens that is wholly other that what was not "at once" wholly other. For us so far then, language is the mode and place of depositing sense, a sense that can always happen regardless of the fact that it's always on it's way towards being deposited in something else.

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