Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Re-establishing "History"; Part 3 of Derrida's interpretation of Husserl

In Husserl's last published work, The Crises of the European Sciences, we find Husserl taking his first leap into the idea of history itself. That this would become a theme for Husserl isn't something that could have been predicted as something that would happen or wouldn't happen in his thought. Certainly, with the honesty of Husserl's work, you could think of him "letting the life-world" into his thought. That being said, no one before or after in western philosophy had so rigorously distanced himself from any sort of existentialiality, even one that would be considered abstract (except for Wittgenstein writing at the same time of Husserl. Refer to Wittgenstein's 'problem' with Karl Popper on Ethics and Philosophy). Husserl though who had thoroughly elaborated Phenomenology from everything that could be studied (Time, Activity, Passivity, Logic, ect.) entered into the problem of history, and in doing so entered into the problem of language (which will be discussed in a post after this).

Derrida is more than aware of this shift in Husserl's thinking and elaborates on the appropriate and not so paradoxically vacuous conception of history in his thinking. We learn immediately from Derrida that, "The historicity of ideal objects obeys different rules, which are neither the factual interconnections of empirical history, nor an ideal and a historic adding on". Where does that leave us then for history if it's neither an archiving of "facts", nor conciliatory gestures of Platonism? Something that is neither real nor unreal. As Zizek continually elaborates on the "reality of the virtual", Derrida and Husserl elaborate on neither being the case for history. This of course opens up a new conception of history that Husserl tried to explain that very few could grasp until they were rigorously interpreted (Ricoeur, Merleau-Ponty, Farber). This attempt at an infinite trace "extended down to a precultural and prehistoric stratum of lived experience". So then, history without culture or history? While not being able to elaborate at all on something that never "was", nonetheless, Husserl can say with certainty that this infinite possibility alone "assures the possibility of historicity". You can't have something without nothing (Heidegger would find Phenomenology more appropriately grounded in Ontology because of this 'axiom/maxim'). "Materially determined ontologies are subordinates to formal ontology, which treats pure rules of Objectivity in general". What does this mean? It means to throw out the fact that any of the geological sciences can teach you anything about the this new version of history. Material conditions and teleological thoughts are not the history that broached into Husserl's Phenomenology. Knowledge and history were dependent on a "naivete of a priori self-evidence that keeps every normal geometrical project in motion". So far, this is nothing new except a reestablishing of Kant's transcendentalism within the context of Husserl's mind.

To further establish the privileging of the "naivete of a priori self-evidence", Husserl gives due time to the fact that Galileo never found it relevant to understand the "how" of origins which Husserl would nominate as "Universal Knowledge". Seeing how knowledge developed was not the problem for Husserl (epistemology) but how knowledge can originally appear. Derrida makes an important footnote in the text describing the fact that Husserl uses the word "origin" with the sense of "first" that is an undetermined primacy and at the same time an original sense; an undetermined origin which surely influenced Derrida's infinite conception of 'the trace"; an undetermined origin which paradoxically Husserl felt could be elaborated on like elaborating on anything.

Not to ever be confused, Husserl goes great lengths to distinguish this "history" from a sociological one, one that would consider what the first theoretical act was of man who found geometry or anything in general for that matter that could be considered ideal. At this point, you're really dealing with nothing when dealing with this new version of history. Here, the line between nothing and purity (a word that Husserl used through all his texts) is extremely thin. While this sociological adventure would "flatter our historical curiosity", "it would still leave us blind about the first sense of such a founding: a sense that is necessary and compared to which these facts have at best only an exemplary signification". Without sense, nothing can be elaborated on. So how is it possible to approach sense without expressible objectivity?

Asking about the sense of history can't be possible without first asking about anything in general. The possibility of the question itself comes second to the sense that Husserl wants to grasp and is there (abstract space) irreducible. He can only derive an answer from a non-answer; he can't "find" an "undetermined answer". Derrida's insightful contributions to this comes by way of stating that "I must already have a naive knowledge of geometry (facts in general) and must not begin at its origins" and this transcendental motif is "concealed each time by the very gesture that uncovers it". In other words, every time Husserl tries to elaborate on the sense of a historical origin, he's concealing that sense by linguistically stating it (more on language in a later post). To understand Husserl's conception of history would require allowing him the luxury of being able to say things without really meaning them, and accomplishing this methodology that attempts to grasp the sense of an origins. By right of the spectre of Kant; "to know something a priori, you have to attribute to things nothing but what necessarily followed from what you had put there yourself in accordance with your concept". For Kant, the space is always open for reducing geometry to an ideal history. It's not as if there is a no-space and no-time where a being is able to operate out of non-conceptuality. Spontaneous reduction is always and already done without giving sense it's due, and without even respecting it, or even being able to respect it because you have no chance at it. You have no way of elaborating on something that happened before elaboration, or the de facto. You can elaborate on it as an operation, but not a founding, because the moment that geometry, or any science, or any thinking is established, the possibility of going back to a non-explicative sense that constituted it is impossible. It's already revealed, and in this sense, already ideal. It's not a matter for subjectivity of what a priori "prescribed" for objectivity. It's beyond the fact that it's not a matter. You can't even say that it doesn't matter because nothing can be said of a sense independent of expression.

How will Husserl answer for establishing sense independent of expression in order to establish a pure logic of history? How will Derrida further approach Husserl's attempts?

Soon...to come, always on the way to a place that will there be on it's way, Soon...to come.

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