Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What is a Text?; Part 1 of Freud and the Scene of Writing

Every line I read from Derrida always comes across as some type of treasure, writing from a mind that operated with the benefit of knowing all of western philosophy in the deepest way imaginable. Basically, there couldn't have been Derrida without the history of western philosophy, not the history of western philosophy as history, but the style in which it has happened. If style should mean anything specific here I would refer to his concept of the trace meaning not a centered-meaning of what a text (any text; literal, metaphorical, or of le monde) "signifies", but the way in which the author thinks they can write what they write with a sense of stability. And Derrida's intentions are not critical per se, but wanting to open up the style and mode of the author. One would be tempted to say that he operates in trying to understand the author psychologically through his writing which opens up the writing of the author himself, but the history of psychology, like the history of metaphysics, is one with it's own style, and is why he repudiates the fact in this specific text that he's doing a "psychoanalysis of philosophy". Instead, he opens up the author from a point of no authority, which allows his comments on authors to be without judgment. Comments, not judgments. It's with this in mind that I allowed him to interpret Husserl, and why I have continue with this work on Freud.
Now, we have this title from Writing and Difference, called "Freud and the Scene of Writing". Before we dive into the text, what can we think about when just limited to the name of the text itself? For one, Freud is given his proper name. This will be a text on Freud, not about Freud, but on Freud. Then we have the conjunction to the clause "the Scene of Writing". The Scene of Writing. What is a "Scene of Writing". What can we say before we open for ourselves before we open up to the text? There is a scene of writing? Can we picture watching a movie and there then being a scene where writing happens? What would this look like? Would we be in a "primitive" culture where we watch (as observers) a tribe starting to make pictures either in stone or sand? Would this constitute a scene of writing? Is this clause supposed to signify an inception of writing for an anytime, anywhere? Should we even assume that writing is graphic writing as in Egyptian hieroglyphics? And what of Freud? What is Freud doing in the ostensible scene where a writing happens? I offer these preliminary remarks as an opening to an opening. To the possibility that writing doesn't have to be signified as being graphic, meaning an actual symbol, and that Freud has thoughts on this inception that doesn't necessarily operate as an originality, but something that just happens, independent of a conception of time. With this in mind, lets move into where Derrida moves with Freud. Movers and Shakers of writing!
"Freud has recourse to metaphorical models...not subject to a phonetic writing, but from a script which is never subject to, never exterior or posterior to, the spoken word". Metaphor takes on a wild meaning here. It takes on a meaning of metaphor that is not spoken nor written. It's a representation of something independent of typical modes of expression, but nonetheless is a representation of something, that is working on representing something. "Freud invokes signs which do not transcribe living, full speech, master of itself and self-present. In fact, and this will be our problem, Freud does not simply use the metaphor of nonphonetic writing; he does not deem it expedient to manipulate scriptural metaphors for didactic ends...Freud, no doubt, is not manipulating metaphors, if to manipulate a metaphor means to make of the known an allusion to the unknown". So we have an idea in our head of Freud certainly using graphic symbols that do not refer to traditional speech that signifies a specific concept in the moment. For example, I say in the traditional active voice, "This is a book". I'm relegating a happening to a presence. I'm giving someone a presence in this declarative statement. I'm not using the graphic symbols of the writing and/or spoken word here to refer to something other than the idea that I'm presenting you with a state of affairs (this idea is crucial in differentiating between the early and later thought in Wittgenstein). The state of affairs is presence. Freud is not using his non-present metaphor(s) to signify a presence, and Derrida adds that this manipulation is not of traditional metaphysics and phenomenology which is concerned with passive experience and a priori modes of existence. There is no reference to something that could possibly be unknown. No. Freud will use his non-present metaphor(s) without the intention of it signifying a passive experience, an unconscious experience, and most importantly, a past time. Derrida further references the historical fact that "From Plato and Aristotle on, scriptural images have regularly been used to illustrate the relationship between reason and experience, perception and memory. But a certain confidence has never stopped taking its assurance from the meaning of the well-known and familiar term: writing". Philosophy for Derrida, western philosophy, has always been concerned with reason and experience. An extension of this is perception and memory. What is it to perceive something and then recollect it? This is German Idealism into Phenomenology. Reason and Experience travels the Grecian road through the Danube to German idealism and phenomenology. Where has this confidence of explaining absence in terms of a presence come from? Derrida marks it out as writing; this style of (B)being which operates as a sort of never-ending-presence. How is it a never-ending-presence? Lets try to elaborate on this for a moment, in the style of phenomenology. If something happens to me, it can't happen to me again. What happens to me is irreducibly present, and so can't be signified as present. But, I can write down what happened to me. If I was wearing a hat and it flew off my head from heavy winds, I can go to any paper, journal, tablet, and write down "A hat flew off my head". I can forever go back to this piece of writing, read the writing and recall this happening as if it just happened, and this is exactly what I do. I don't read "A hat flew off my head", and then say to myself, "Well, the only reason why I can ascribe to the fact that 'a hat flew off my head' is because I have been giving the technique of writing which allows me to revisit a present that actually isn't present right now, but I think it's present in the presence (moment) of my reading it". I don't have to describe a "history of metaphysics" for me to unconsciously privilege an event as happening the same time in writing as it actually happened to myself. Writing allows for the present to be never-ending without ever having to elaborate on it's algorithm or axioms. This confidence has been given to me not because myself, or Plato, Aristotle, Freud, or Derrida have been "confident people". It's because we didn't know the operation of writing itself, the way in which writing works, and how it means. But Freud breaches the history of western philosophy that "interrupts that assurance and opens up a new kind of question about metaphor, writing and spacing in general". This interruption of the confidence of writing in being able to suppose a presence, by realizing it's function in being able to realize a never-ending-presence is an eruption, a breaching in the history of western philosophy. This is a new "investment" into the metaphor. The Text is becoming something entirely different through Freud. "The structure of the psychical apparatus will be represented by a writing machine". This psychical apparatus that philosophy has tried to understand by applying categories of reason to it, by trying to talk about it in real time, will be given the metaphor of a "writing machine" by Freud. Seems like a simple categorical explanation, an application of a Kantian category upon a priori reason. But with everything said above in regards to this metaphor not representing anything that's absent or passive, this will be a different metaphor for the a "psychical apparatus" that can't be stated in the present, in the sense of a declarative statement. The tone of saying "writing machine" takes on an absolute otherness a traditional way of saying or writing a "writing machine". It's something that's not present to itself. It's a new metaphor not referring to something to you or I could not be enlightened by...right now. "We shall not have to ask if a writing apparatus-for example, the one described in the "Note on the Mystic Writing Pad" is a good metaphor for representing the working of the psyche, but rather what apparatus we must create in order to represent psychical writing; and we shall have to ask what the imitating, projected and liberated in a machine, of something like psychical writing might mean. And not if the psyche is indeed a kind of text, but: what is a text, and what must the psyche be if it can be represented by a text?" The Mystic Writing Pad; the possibility of being transcribed from one place to another, anywhere to anywhere. The Writing Machine that is the Mystic Writing Pad, mystic because it's not yet an expression of graphic or spoken writing, but something that happens to a psyche that we cannot know about except by a metaphor to some writing machine that will forever be an operation of transcription, a taking of something and transcribing it to something else. To simplify with an example; to take "experience" and transcribe it to a concept. We must create this apparatus for our desire to understand this psychical writing. The analogy between psychical writing and Husserl's transcendental logic, to his pure sense is obvious, but the differences in styles are immense (for one reason; Husserl's repudiation of "pure sense" ever being a matter of psychology). A distinction needs to be made now. I stated just above, "We must create this apparatus". Derrida though states that this apparatus "liberates" whatever is other to the psyche. Within the metaphor of "the writing machine", does it have to happen? Is it a matter of it happening or not? Is the writing machine the "liberation" of the psyche in general? These are questions that can't be answered now. What is the psychical writing though? It's a text. But what is a text? If we don't know what a text is, we can't know what one form of it is in the margins of "psychical writing". The metaphor of "the writing machine" is the apparatus we ascribe to a psychical writing that is already a text, already a writing, of its own without yet being transcribed by a writing machine. Derrida asks of us that if we are going to ascribe a metaphor to a psyche that operates on it's own, in it's own specific Freudian manner of writing, of psychical writing, I have to know what writing is. I have to know what a text is. It's something that is eventually going to be described by an apparatus, by a metaphor. That is the apparatus. That is the "Writing Machine". It is the metaphor. It's the transcription of "something" from one place to another. And writing? So far, it's a place in be transcribed, as if it has no other operation than to wait.

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