Sunday, March 7, 2010

How faithful was Derrida to Husserl?; Conclusion to Derrida's interpretation of Husserl

With many books in the Western philosophical Cannon, one never really "reads" these books which is a point that Derrida makes in regards to the stabilization of 'figure'. The amount of elaboration on this specific Husserl text and Derrida's approach could really be never ending. I will be the first to admit that there were themes that I just had to skip over because they didn't jump out at me as being of central importance to Husserl's original impulse in his Origins of Geometry. While one accepts the fact of every interpretation being infinite, one is still left with a lack of consolation in not being able to ever fully grasp some of these texts to the level where one wants to grasp them; and especially Derrida. His analysis of Husserl is beyond meticulous. When reading an interpretative text from anyone, there's always a sense of distrust when approaching the text because of the fear of how much of that personality will enter into the text. This was not the case with Derrida, and I came in skeptical because of how much I've invested into Husserlian phenomenology as being the fundamental task of philosophy. As I had only read Derrida's own theoretical texts (E.G. De la grammatologie) before this, I didn't know what to expect from a purely interpretative text of his. Knowing that his interpretive powers were really arguably the best in the history of philosophy, I had a sense that he could be trusted with a Husserlian text. I was initially worried that all he read was the Crisis of the European Sciences with the Origins of Geometry as the addendum. These were worries I did not have to have at all. Derrida read Husserl meticulously quoting almost every published work of his in rigorous analasyes including the manuscripts that are just being published now, separated into their own texts. I could really spend a whole post talking about how faithful Derrida was to Husserl not just on the grounds of substance, but on the grounds that he was always trying to justify him in places of seemingly irreducible cul-de-sac's. It's with this in mind that Derrida would gain such an edge to his own thought as it continually evolved and changed in his lifetime. How close could someone come to empathizing with an author (not simply emotionally empathy, but theoretical empathy) more than Derrida did here with Husserl? It's almost as if he was speaking through him and entering into the solipsistic dialects that Husserl possibly went through himself. Regardless, instead of those who criticize Derrida for a "faulty interpretation of Husserl" and phenomenology in general, and those specifically who relate him to "your cranky uncle" (Robert Sokolowski in his Introduction to Phenomenology), one should commend the absolute intensity of Derrida's approach. I would ask someone like Robert Sokolowski to find where Derrida interpreted Husserl "wrongly", rather than referring to him in a couple paragraphs at the end of a book with no substance. To put it simply, as Derrida was as faithful to Husserl, we should be as faithful to Derrida's faithfulness towards Husserl.

With all that personality out of the way, we come to the final thoughts on Derrida's interpretation of Husserl, and for my eyes, Derrida is finding the project of Husserl in Hegel without necessarily stating it. In the last post we saw how the concept of Horizon gave grounds to temporality which constituted all subjectivity, and with this in mind we gain a sense of what the Transcendental Ego is. After this he asks then what are the essential and general components of the pre-scientific life world. We are given a sense of the pre-predicative world by Horizonality and Temporality, but what then of the pre-scientific world? The World that establishes the axiomatic foundation of geometry. There are 5 things which establish it,

- A thing must be disposed in space and time (Kant's fundamental category for any experience)
- These things must have been corporeal; a dimension of 'thinghood'
- These Pure Bodies have spatial shape and "alterations of deformation" (something that is "round" which is not subjectively evident has the possibility of changing into something else which is still not yet subjectively evident. )
- Material qualities must be "related" to these shapes (E.G. Roundness, Hardness, Heaviness. Even if an object "has a shape" a priori to "relatedness" they only gain their categorical qualities when there is a subject-who-relates. Here, Heidegger's concept of "care" is paramount because it signifies the idea that Dasein is always and already thrown into a place where it has to 'care' about things, not simply care in the sense of an affection for an other, but 'care' about anything in general
- that by a practical (Praxis) necessity of daily life, certain shapes and processes of transformation could be perceived, restored, and progressively perfected (And to understand this one could look towards at least 3 texts of Husserl starting with Formal and Transcendental Logic, Experience and Judgment, and Analyses Concerning Passive and Active Synthesis. The problem of temporality in regards to passive retention is the fundamental theme that is being elaborated here.).

This list above is what must first qualify a priori for the ideal of science to be understood.
From here on at the end of Derrida's interpretation of Husserl, everything that's being interpreted is abstract Hegelianism. For instance, Derrida states "The philosopher is a man who inaugurates the theoretical attitude; the latter is only the spirit's radical freedom, which authorizes a move beyond finitude and opens the horizon of knowledge as that of a prehaving, i.e. of an infinite project or task". So basically, "Spirit's" radical free is mans freedom to see that at one "time" they were being given pure spatial shapes that were then a matter of being "related" to qualities. This is one place of "Spirit", where it can be 'free', which here means to inquire back in time to something that had theoretically happened before. This certainly is radical freedom in the sense that it's not the case at all that anyone has to inquiry about anything beyond one's limited presence and finite "world-view". It's left to a philosopher to inaugurate the theoretical attitude. Here we see the "evolution" of consciousness that Hegel talked about in his Phenomenology of Spirit. Elsewhere Derrida states "Idea alone reveals the Being of intentionality itself. Nothing appears in a specific evidence. What does appear is only the regulative possibility of appearing and the finite certainty of infinite Phenomenological determinability; a certainty without a corresponding evidence". So there is no evidence in phenomenology. Phenomenology never lives up to a phenomenology because it never wants to live up to anything, and in this sense it lives up to it's own sense by giving radical responsibility to a concrete consciousness to try to understand itself independent of the Idea. By elaborating just how we and Derrida did on Phenomenology, the method starts to make sense. We allow things to appear and disappear just as they do in subjective phenomena. We have no evidence except for the fact that there is evidence in the first place. We run around a circle coming back to originality just as it's about to slip away as we turn the corner from that otherness-space of ideality. When we use the preposition "of" when describing phenomena, for example, that "the idea as the sense of all history", the "of" here concern the intentional absolute of objectivity. When doing phenomenology, one is trying to gain an independent sense of prepositions or that which simply relates things. For phenomenology, the substantive is the subject and the object/verb is the signified content that are in need of a substance to fill the gap between the two, "the gap" that Hegel pondered on his whole life, the space that he thought was the fundamental question of philosophy. Phenomenology elaborates on the preposition by braketing it's linguistic sense. As phenomenologistis, we don't just accept propositions and the grammatical terminology that has been given to parts of a proposition. We want to know what the "relatedness" means of the "of". We want to know about the deffered presence of the gap that always escapes our grasp because it's function is not to be ideally realizable by subjectivity. In the presence of a pointing, what is the sense? Husserl gave it a sense by given it static "knowables" addressed above, which come down to pre-requisites for experience, for intentionality, for subjectivity. On the final pages of Derrida's analysis, he states "The first philosophical act is only the sense-investigation of this historical rationality in the constant movement of self-elucidation". This is Hegelian through and through. It's here that I think that Derrida strays slightly off the path of his extraordinary faithfulness to Husserl that we talked about above. Derrida is seeking out the teleology of phenomenology through Hegel without sticking to the fact that Husserl always gets rid of the soul's natural faculties, in this case the teleological presupposition. Here's where I would differ from Derrida in the last quote. The first phenomenological act is only the sense-investigation of historical rationality, but never idealizes "the movement of self-elucidation". That Husserl always talked about "perfectings" is true. That this was his enterprise is not the case, and this gets to the heart of what can be said about Derrida's interpretation of Husserl, and it's this: Derrida chose to interpret Husserl's Origins of Geometry and not something else out of one of his many unpublished manuscripts at the time which tells me that Derrida was thoroughly interested in origins in general, meaning that Derrida's impulse was teleological, and in this sense, how faithful then can he be towards Husserl? Husserl never states things as broadly as "Philosophy opens up rationality to the constant movement of it's own self-elucidation". Not even Hegel says this, although readers of Hegel always summarize him this way when forced into positions where they are asked about a philosophy and have the unfaithfulness towards the philosopher by trying to describe him in a short amount of time. It was this exactly what Hegel wrote so passionately about in his preface to The Phenomenology of Spirit; that if you don't enter into reading a whole text and feeling it's changes, one isn't doing anything, which Derrida absolutely sympathizes with, more than anyone in late 20th century philosophy. Derrida goes on to say that language abdicates speaking being and that Husserl's project is to take on the responsibility of words and how they had been transferred from sense, in order to look after them, in advance. This is pedagogical. One is not simply learning words here, but looking after them always going back to their original sense. This impulse is etymological, but not necessarily phenomenological, although they overlap. In The Origins, Husserl is in a method of seeing sense. He's not looking after already established words in order to sustain their originality, no matter how much this gesture is commendable, certainly one that is practiced by Derrida. Husserl isn't finding a story, but seeing a sense. Most importantly though, what distinguishes Derrida from Husserl, is that Husserl isn't looking for difference as the Absolute Origin, quite the opposite, he's always looking for singuality, the singularity of the transcendental ego, of transcendental sense independent of the historical definition of what an "Origin" is. Husserl's phenomenology is constant and always changing, indeed, but never summed up as such for the phenomenologist, like I just did. Husserl asks a question without an impulse towards finding an answer, but an impulse towards finding "how" his question goes, regardless of it's reaching a theoretical destination, regardless of it having a historical origin, although he goes into these themes but only for the sake of establishing the eternal sense of intentionality, an establishing that sees but never "finds". Derrida's final words on Husserl regard the fact that pure consciousness is difference, always deferring a presence that a phenomenlogist would want to grasp...but does Husserl ever want to grasp whatever anyone means by "presence"? Certainly, he can see it, but does he ever stay in it? Does he ever sum it up in relation to it's temporality? Did Husserl just write his work on Internal Time Consciousness but not his work on Active and Passive Synthesis?

Husserl was almost messianically tied to his discipline. A discipline that would go in circles for eternity which Husserl would never see as a problem. Derrida would always stay faithful to this until the end of his interpretation where his teleological proclivities would come to the forefront, and I'm sure I'm going to get in trouble by Derridean academics on this. To save myself just a little but, I will quote Derrida at the end of the interpretation when he says " The pure and interminable disquietude of thought striving to 'reduce' Difference by going beyond factual infinity toward the infinity of its sense and value-that disquietude would be transcendental. And Thought's pure certainty would be transcendental, since it can look forward to the already announced Telos only by being in advance of the Origin that indefinitely reserves itself. Such a certainty never had to learn that Thought would always be to come".
I think this above quote is allowed as a summarization of the method of Husserlian Phenomenology...but that this method was always the problem or totality of phenomenology is not the case even as thought never had to learn that it was eventually going to happen to pure sense. What's not being accounted for...right the sense of what just happened...and the impulse, this accounting, never needed to be teleological, but simply directional.

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