Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rethinking Originality; Part 2 of Freud and the Scene of Writing

In the last post, thoughts were conveyed about the meaning of a text in general regarding where and how it operates. At the end of it, there was some conclusion in the idea of it being a place of waiting for inscription. As Derrida moves on through the works, and thought of Freud in this text, he comes up against the problem of genesis, specifically the genesis of a text. Some preliminary remarks though before we approach the problem of genesis through Derrida and Freud as the genesis of a text. There's always a difficulty in reading Derrida, not just because literally reading him is the mental equivalent on chopping down trees for 18 hours a day. The difficulty lies in him requiring us to have read all the texts he has read in order for us to fully participate in his reading. I can't emphasize this full participation enough. Derrida doesn't say that you have to read the texts he has read to understand him, but it sure would help. He has been criticized for this, but it was never Derrida's intention to be considered a "serious philosopher" by some "philosophical community". At least I don't think that could have been his intention if he was going to require the reader to have read everything he has read before from entering into his text. Nonetheless, his popularity has come from a faithfulness in style that I think that was borne out of readings of Husserl. The idea of accounting for consciousness precisely is a style that I think severely influenced Derrida. Without going into the biographical notes on why this would be the case (E.G. studying at the Husserl archives for as long as he did) I think it carried over into the way he thought. For Derrida, how could he think about an author and his text if he had not read everything by that author? How could he account for all the proper names he wanted to use without reading everything by that author? Certainly he was interested in the way others thought, but he didn't think he could write on it in any "official" way without knowing the whole text(s) of an author. Eventually, I think Derrida came to see the impossibility of ever knowing the entire corpus of an author, and ever fully understanding it which led to his public polemics against the stabilization of authors by biographies and his insistence on the "genuine" thinker being one who "rigorously" extracted as much out of a small portion of a text rather than someone who could name drop. If this was his idea of "narcissistic reappropration then I think the idea succeeded in a very tremendous way for readers of Derrida. I think anyone who reads Derrida more than once, and keeps coming back to him, is addicted to the fact of never having a "pure" authority of what they are speaking on. Eventually though, when one has read enough of Derrida I think they are reading a sort of working encyclopedia of philosophy. "Working" because he approaches philosophers in a very different way than a "Story of Western Philosophy" that was always going to be the tendency of an anglo-saxon writer and one finds this most obvious in Bertrand Russel; A beginning and end to philosophy which listed authors in historical order, explained their ideas, and judged their ideas. Derrida was the last person who would ever attempt this. Instead, an author was given his due by detail examinations of their texts and quotes, a close read if you will. Really close read.

Derrida works with authors, in authors. He does his best to assume their mindset, and after a certain amount of time reading Derrida, a reader can easily come to trust his interpretations. Still though, there's never a full trust. When he interprets, and we haven't read what he interprets, we have an instinct to want to go to the texts he's referencing not simply to "fact-check" Derrida, but to understand the text on its own terms before going onto Derrida's interpretation. There's really two options here. One can read everything Derrida read before reading Derrida (which I think is almost impossible) or one will have to take Derrida at his word during an explanation of a text and then maybe go back afterwords to that text. I know I have that impulse when reading this specific text on Freud. I haven't read Freud's Project for a Scientific Psychology but now feel that I'm going to have to, along with every other text that Freud hasn't written. If anything, when one reads Derrida, they are overcome by how much more reading that have to do. One either accepts this somewhat begrudgingly, or criticizes him for subtly asking this of us. If Derrida's interpretations didn't seem so precise (in the way that Searle didn't find his interpretation of J.L. Austin's How to do Things with Words as being "correct") then one would probably have a feeling of "skipping" Derrida after a certain amount of texts. I for one don't find this at all. Personally my trust in Derrida was confirmed with his reading of Husserl. After reading Husserl for a good 2 years of my life, I didn't think there was a way to go deeper into his thought, and this wasn't simply confirmed by the amount of time and energy I put into Husserl because of the love I had for Phenomenological thought, but because of the weakness of the secondary texts I had read on Husserl, especially those "Introductions to Phenomenology" that were really bad. They were just too simple and had a focus towards perceptive phenomenology rather than a phenomenology that didn't operate soley under the guise of vision. If Phenomenology was Merleau-Ponty, then I probably wouldn't have so much of a problem with these introductions. It was with this in mind that my skepticism towards interpretations of Husserl beyond Husserl's own thought was laid to rest by Derrida, and why I will continue to read him, still begrudgingly though because of how much more reading is ahead of me if I want to be faithful to others when in use for my own thought. So it's something to bear in mind before approaching Derrida. You have to let him have the authors the way he sees them because he's earned it. With this in mind, I think I have exercised some of my anxiety with Derrida's reading of others, to understand Derrida. I simply accept it.

But the title of this post is "Rethinking Originality" and before the anxiety of trusting an author came flying through my consciousness, I stated how the text moves onto the problem of genesis, specifically the problem of genesis of a text, in general. Obviously, "Originality" and "Text" have are related in some way. How does this happen through "Freud and the Scene of Writing"? "It is the very idea of a first time which becomes enigmatic. What we are advancing here does not seem to contradict what Freud will say further on: 'Facilitation is probably the result of a single passage of a large quantity'". What is enigmatic about a first time as originality, as genesis? "For repetition does not happen to an initial impression; its possibility is already there, in the resistance offered the first time by psychical neurons". The idea of a primal impression, this phenomenological idea, is not something that just arrives to a "consciousness". The process isn't streamlined in one swoop. An initial impression can already happen again even before it's "initiality". I can experience something for the first time, but wasn't it already the case that I was going to experience whatever it was that I experienced for the first time? Every time "experience happens", isn't it already the case that "experience is going to happen"? How does this happen? Freud, the early Freud that of the Project for a Scientific Psychology, who operated under making the science of psychology anatomical and physiological refers to "psychical neurons" which offer resistance to life itself. Let's explain this concept a little further. An impression, any impression can hit me but it doesn't "do anything" without a neuronal function that can "do something with it". This "doing something with it" is a resistance to an impression that never was "not going to do anything with it". Freud's psychical neurons don't allow that to happen, unlike the failures of perception that Husserl discuss that never become idealized. Derrida states "Resistance itself is possibly only if the opposition of forces lasts and is repeated at the beginning" and this is where a first time becomes "enigmatic". Firstly, the forces that are in opposition are an impression and the mind, but not just the mind as cogito, not the self-subsistent Cartesian thinking essence, but memory. Consciousness and memory are equivalents here. Memory is the force in which an impression becomes just that, without which the idea of an impression doesn't exist and doesn't happen. Anything can only happen because of memory, because of "the production of the trace as moments of deferring". The trace, as the process of going backwards for seeing a place in which there would be a gap, afterwords where there would be another place. Repetition begins when life and memory contact each other, when memory offers itself to "life" as a resistance. Memory will resist life in it's "purity" by allowing itself to be impressed. Impressionality; the periodicity of the trace, the deferral of life. "Life is already threatened by the origin of the memory which constitutes it, the effraction which it can contain only by repeating it". While life is threatened by memory, the idea of "pure life", it also constitutes it as something to be sought after. When Derrida makes this statement he's implying a teleology not only for metaphysics and philosophy, but for ontology, for Being. Memory, this break with "life", can only be a break if it happens more than once. Memory can only break with the "purity" of what would be a "real-time-life" by repeating itself over and over, by resisting the fact that I can always and already be experiencing something wholly different from myself. Memory breaks "life" by repetition. At the same time, memory constitutes life by repetition. How? Because it enables the "wholly other", the idea of "purity", the "transcendental signified", the ultimate concepts that brings experience into non-differentiation (the religious sublime) . That which is impossible for memory, for Being (Consciousness is memory. Consciousness is the Being of beings. Memory is the Being of beings) is wholly other. The idea of a "present life" can't be established without difference, the difference that pushes one along to think "What about a place with no difference"? Derrida finds it important to mark out where Freud finds a "large passage of quantities" that will be "great breaching happenings" that constitute memory. Freud finds this in pain. "Pain leaves behind it particularly rich breaches". Pain is a great neuronal implication of memory. Freud symbolizes psychological neurons in his early work by symbols that I can't represent here because they aren't on my keyboard. One of these neurons though (to be sure, a symbolic neuron in 1895) is guided by intensity. The neuron capturing an impression as painful has an extra amount of intensity to it making it more of a "facilitation" for the happening of memory. "But beyond a certain quantity, pain, the threatening origin of psyche, must be deferred, like death, for it can ruin psychical organization". Only a certain quantity of pain is allowed into neuronal resistance, enough pain before memory flees away from the scene, remembering why it fled. If memory allowed all the pain in the world without fleeing, it would die. There would be no memory if I had no neuronal impulse to flee if someone was spraying me with a flame sprayer. Remember that old warning sign? "Don't touch to stove!" And if you did, you would remember not to touch it again by the quantity of pain that was endured. What happens though if you keep your hand on the stove? You ruin your "psychical organization". You're no longer being as memory. You are a different being. You are one whose psychical organization doesn't operate by the intensity of a neuron in contact with an impression. B(being) without mind, without neurons, without a sympathetic nervous system. But for Freud, this is not the nervous system. This wouldn't be being as "facilitation's serving the primary function". In other words, Being wouldn't be a function, an operation for itself "under the compulsion of the exigencies of life". How to facilitate these exigencies of life? This "we" don't have to know because our neurons always and already do the work for us. Psychology as Science for Freud was understanding how the primary operation of the mind is to find facilitation's in the face of exigencies. (As a side note; by way of the metaphor of science, was Freud not under the same teleological presuppositions of Rousseau?)

What does this mean for the idea of "Rethinking Originality"? It's to deffer "originality" whenever the concept comes up. It's to deffer the idea of "purity" sought after by western metaphysics and philosophy, not simply as something that is going to be postponed, one fine day (Derrida verbiage), but to see difference as what is "the original happening", thereby making what is "original" enveloped by difference. By the mark of my mind, by the mark of my memory, I trace back periods eternally. The purity of life that I seek, this original "primal impression" that would mark originality is only after a difference whereby I can speculate about what it is to be wholly other than myself, and if this difference always and already wasn't the case, there still wouldn't be originality because there wouldn't be the difference that was necessary to signify something that was "wholly other". My memory constitutes originality. It makes it possible by making it an impossible idea. An idea, as the difference of what a "primal impression" would be without being an idea, without being itself, without being itself as a difference in the semblance of an origin, a genesis. I can only think of an origin. An origin can't happen by itself. An origin is the mind's way of differentiating itself away from itself as difference. It's the very gift of repetition, the very boredom that repetition brings about that makes the memory (those scrupulous neurons firing in the face of repetition) that constitutes what is called "originality". And to be sure, just in case I ever really never wanted to be bored, my neurons would stop this instinct by only allowing a certain quantity of intensity into my psychical organization. My psychical organization that likes to think about "originality", that loves speculating on this fact of the "wholly other" is only allowed by not being in it, by being exactly the difference of it, by constituting it as an idea. The idea, as the difference and the constitution of originality. Who I am, my memory, will always repeat what's happening without myself even knowing that this is happening, and the "originality" that I seek in the coming-to-consciousness of repetition, is nothing other than the difference of myself, the myself that is solely makes "originality" an a difference, because of the gift of repetition.

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