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Some important concepts of modern Philosophy of Language

Author: Vladimir

Last Updated: January 1, 2008

Part 2
Some important concepts of modern Philosophy of Language.
Jacques Derrida
Of Grammatology,
Some concepts:
Being is indeed the final signified to which all signifiers refer. It cannot be
contained by, is always prior to, indeed transcends, signification.
The end of philosophy, according to Heidegger, is to restore the memory of that
free and commanding signified, to discover originary words in the languages of the
world by learning to waylay the limiting logic of signification, a project that
Derrida describes as the other side of nostalgia, which I will call Heideggerian
hope the quest for a proper word and the unique name.
He seems to show no nostalgia for a lost presence, like Heidegger. He sees in the
traditional concept of the sign a hetereogeneity the other of the signified is never
contemporary, is at best a subtly discrepant inverse or parallel discrepant by the
time of a breath of the order of the signifier (31.18). It is indeed an ineluctable
nostalgia for presence that makes of this heterogeneity a unity by declaring that a
sign brings forth the presence of the signified. Otherwise it would seem clear that
the sign is the place where the completely other is announced as such without
any simplicity, any identity, any resemblance or continuity in that which is not
it. (69, 47)
Word and thing or thought never in fact become one. The sign marks the place of
difference. To deconstruct the transcendental signified that the sign, phonic as
well as graphic, is a structure of difference, Derrida suggests that what opens the
possibility of thought is not merely the question of being, but also the never-
annulled difference from the completely other. Such is a strange being of the
sign: half of it is always not there and the other half always not that. The
structure of the sign is determined by the trace or track of that other which is
forever absent. This other is of course never to be found in its full being. One sign
leads to another and so on indefinitely.
The structure of the sign is to be a trace-structure in Saussurean linguistics, as in
the Frueds psychoanalysis the structure of experience is to be trace-, not a
presence-structure. So, Derrida puts the words sign and experience under
Derrida does not see in the method of the so-called exact sciences as
epistemological model of exactitude. All knowledge, whether one knows it or not,
is a species of bricolage, with its eye on the myth of engineering. But the myth is
totally always other, leaving an originary trace within bricolage. Like all
useful words, bricolage must also be placed under erasure. For it can only be
defined by its difference from it opposite engineering.
Without that track [of writing under erasure], the ultra-transcendental text
[bricolage under erasure] will so closely resemble the pre-critical text [bricolage
plain and simple] as to be indistinguishable from it. (90.61) This undoing yet
preserving of the opposition between bricolage and engineering is an analogue for
Derridas attitude towards all oppositions an attitude that erases (in this special
sense) all oppositions.
Radicalizing the concepts of interpretation, perspective, evaluation, difference
Nietzsche, far from remaining simply (with Hegel and as Heidegger wished)
within metaphysics, contributed a great deal to the liberation of the signifier from
its dependence or derivation with respect to the logos, and the related concept of
truth or the primary signified (31-32, 19)
Already in 1873, Nietzsche described metaphor as the originary process of what
the intellect presents as truth:
The intellect, as a means for the preservation of the individual, develops its chief
power in dissimulation. ()
A nerve-stimulus, first transcribe into an image! First metaphor! The image again
copied into a sound! Second metaphor! And each time he [the creator of language]
leaps completely out of one sphere right into the midst of an entirely different
one. (NW III. ii. 373)
that impulse towards the formation of metaphors, that fundamental impulse of
man, which we cannot reason away for one moment for thereby we should
reason away man himself(NW III,ii 381) Later he will give this drive the name
will to power. the so-called drive for knowledge can be traced back to a drive
to appropriate and conquer. in our thought, the essential feature is fitting new
material into old schemas, making equal what is new.
Derrida. Linguistics and Grammatology
The definition of trace:
The trace is in fact the absolute origin of sense in general. Which amounts to
saying once again that there is no absolute origin of sense in general. The trace is
a differance which opens appearance and signification. Articulating the living
upon the nonliving in general, origin of all repetition, origin of ideality, the trace is
not more ideal that real, mot more intelligible than sensible, mot more a transparent
signification than an opaque energy and no concept of metaphysics can describe it.
And as it is a fortiori anterior to distinction between regions of sensibility, anterior
to sound as much as to light, is there a sense in establishing a natural hierarchy
between the sound-imprint , for example, and the visual (graphic) imprint? The
graphic image is not seen; and the acoustic image is not heard. The difference
between the full unities of the voice remains unheard. And, the difference is the
body of the inscription is also invisible. (p.65)
The (pure) trace is differance. It does not depend on any sensible plenitude,
audible or visible, phonic or graphic. It is, on the contrary, the condition of such a
plenitude. Although it does not exist, although it is never a being-present outside of
all plenitude, it possibility is by rights anterior to all that one calls sign
(signified/signifier, content/expression, etc.), concept or operation, motor or
sensory. The differance is therefore not more sensible than intelligible and it
permits the articulation of sings among themselves within the same abstract order
a phonic or graphic text for example or between two orders of expression. It
permits the articulation of speech and writing in the colloquial sense as it
founds the metaphysical opposition between the sensible and the intelligible, then
between signifier and signified, expression and content etc. It language were not
already, in that sense, a writing, no derived notation would be possible; and the
classical problem of relationships between speech and writing could not arise.
Differance is therefore the formation of form. But it is on the other hand the
being-imprinted of the imprint.
And for modern linguistics, if the signifier is a trace, the signified is a meaning
thinkable in principle within the full presence of an intuitive consciousness. The
signified face, to the extent that it is still originarily distinguished from the
signifying face, is not considered a trace; by rights, it has no need of the signifier to
be what it is. It is at the depth of this affirmation that the problem of relationships
between linguistics and semantics must be posed. This reference to the meaning of
a signified thinkable and possible out side of all signifiers remains dependent upon
the onto-theo-teology that I have just evoked. It is thus the idea of the sign that
must be deconstructed through a meditation upon writing which would merge, as it
must, with the undoing [sollicitation]
on onto-theology, faithfully repeating it in its totality and making it insecure in its
most assured evidences. One is necessarily led to this from the moment that the
trace affects the totality of the sign in both its faces. That the signified is
originarily and essentially (and not only for a finite and created spirit) trace,
that it is always already in the position of the signifier, is the apparently
innocent proposition within which the metaphysics of the logos, of presence and
consciousness, must reflect upon writing as its death and its resource. (p73)
All dualisms, all theories of the immortality of the soul or of the spirit, as well
as all monisms, spiritualist or materialist, dialectical or vulgar, are the unique
theme of a metaphysics whose entire history was compelled to strive towards
the reduction of the trace. The subordination of the trace to the full presence
summed up in the logos, such are the gestures required by onto-theology
determining the archeological and eschatological meaning of being as presence, as
parousia, as life without differance. Only infinite being can reduce the
difference in presence. In that sense, the name of God,is the name of
indifference itself. Only a positive infinity can lift the trace, sublimate it. the
logos as the sublimation of the trace is theological. Infinitist theologies are
always logocentrisms, whether they are creationisms or not. (p71)
Saussure. On the sign. (p. 63)
It is well-known that Saussure distinguishes between the sound-image and the
objective sound. (p.98) The sound image is the structure of the appearing of the
sound. It is the sound-image that he calls signifier, reserving the name of signified
not for the thing, but for the concept, let us say for the ideality of the
sense. I propose to retain the word sign to designate the whole and to replace
concept and sound-image respectively by signified and signifier. The sound-
image is what is heard; not the sound heard by the being-heard of the sound.
Being-heard is structurally phenomenal and belongs to an order radically dissimilar
to that of the real sound in the world.
The latter [the sound-image] is not the material sound, a purely physical thing, but
the psychic imprint of the sound, the impression that it makes on our senses. The
sound-image is sensory, and if I happen to call it material, it is only in that sense,
and by way of opposing it, to the other term of the association, the concept, which
is generally more abstract (p.98)

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Modern Linguistics_ Part 2.pdf