Friday, 14 November 2014

Derrida Chat Show

deconstructed ghost by yeremaia

I am delighted that for this episode we do have the real ghost of Jacques Derrida. As you may remember last time, a Greek wrestler tried to convince us…
If I can stop you there: the notion of individual identity is hardly verifiable. Whether the soul of Jacques remains French or is partaking in a conglomeration of collective consciousness is a matter upon which we must remain silent.

But you are Derrida, not Wittgenstein?
That is a matter of subjective opinion.

Oh Jesus.
That is quite a different tradition: He would guarantee post-mortem individuality, for the most part.

Racing away from the metaphysics of personal immortality, and back to aesthetics… we hoped you'd be interested in adding to our discussion of performance.
And you would like me, Derrida, to perform Derrida?

Yes. Please.
I can give it the old British try. Although I hear that is very much a contested national identity now.

If we can briefly touch on your friendship with Plato… we were surprised to find his respect for the post-modern.
Death has a way of changing perspective. Besides, post-modernism recently arrived in shaol and has quite a cachet.

Hang on, postmodernism is dead?
Yes. It took sick after the retrospective in Manchester, and then died when the Scottish Referendum revived a politics that took ideas like civic nationalism and socialist idealism with a pinch of salt. Of course, these are unpalatable without ironic distance for any serious thinker, but the Referendum was a reminder that the postmodern rejection of the meta-narrative was no longer respectable.

The Yes campaign was a meta-narrative, you mean?
So was the No campaign. Only it was shit.

You are a Yes voter?
I am Jacques Derrida. I am a maybe.

Moving on… I'd like to ask you about deconstruction now you are decomposing. Did death provide the final answer that you always deferred?
Alas, it reunited me with the great philosophical traditions. And there were issues… I am no longer allowed to be called the father of deconstruction. I was taken to an angelic tribunal by Nagarjuna for breach of copyright.

The Mahayana Buddhist?
Indeed. He claimed that I plagiarised his analysis of being. Fortunately, the tribunal rejected his plea that I be erased from existence, on the grounds that Nagarjuna had tried that on before, and Jehovah was still annoyed about it.

This was Nagarjuna’s famous deconstruction of a creator god?
More his deconstruction of being itself. I must admit, while I was content to problematise signifiers of language and undermine the odd concept – say when I linked the ancient Greek ideas of poison and remedy in Plato’s Pharmacy and said they were the same word for the same thing – Nagarjuna took on the individual self. Not so much Death of the Author as the death of the human.

Is deconstruction broken, then? Another victim of history…
If you see deconstruction as a philosophy, yes. But it never was. It’s like minimalism. People thought it was a movement, but it was a technique… deconstruction is a methodology that has no ontological conclusions.

It’s just about breaking shit?
Well, to put it too simply… the reason why a certain broad-shouldered gentleman has become so close is that he sees it as a tool to challenge a certain royal tutor’s epistemological hegemony.

In English: it is a way to break down the preoccupation with categories in the tradition of Aristotle?
Indeed… the more… shall we shall… Unitarian… no, non-dualistic thinkers… find common cause with anti-capitalists. On one level, I suppose, they see categories as a method of commodification. Aristotle is unpopular with them because he provides a legitimate foundation for capitalist ideals of the individual and the object.

You are saying that consumerism is based on Aristotle’s theories?
I am saying some thinkers could see it as a rationale for capitalism. Filtered through a scientific fundamentalism…

I think I understand. Aristotle’s project was to place things into categories, allowing them to be discussed and defined. It is like they become the objects of desire… the subjects of the will… Aristotle’s description of reality as a series of discernable things transforms the universe from a holistic phenomenon into an order of discrete objects that can be used… and thence given an economic value.
Heidegger had a crack at that, too. My deconstruction – which does have much in common with Plato’s dialectics and, as I am contractually obliged to mention, Mahayana Buddhism, challenges the artificiality of these categories. If Plato was all about the divine one, with a bonus opposition that encourages a dialogue, Aristotle was a pluralist. And I am a pluralist who sees the one in multiplicity.

I think I liked the mimetic version of you better. But before we break… if Plato is a monist, how does dialectic work?
Ah, that is very simple. Where you see one plus one as equalling two, Plato regards one plus one as equalling one.

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