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Derrida-Hegel: Différance-Difference

Derrida-Hegel: Différance-Difference

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Comprehensive philosophical programs arise within a historical context (for Hegel and Derrida in the democracy-shaping moments of the French Revolution (1789) and the student-worker protests (1968) in which French politics serve as a global harbinger of contemporary themes). In the Derrida-Hegel relationship, there is more rapprochement concerning core notions of difference, history, and meaning-assignation than may have been realized. In particular, Hegel’s philosophy, despite being assumed to be a totalizing system, in fact indicates precisely some of the same kinds of revised metaphysics-of-presence formulations that Derrida exhorts, namely those that are flexible, expansive, and include non-identity and identity.

A crucial Derrida-Hegel interchange is that of différance and difference. Derrida develops the notion directly from Hegel (“Différance,” “The Pit and the Pyramid”), but only draws from the Encyclopedia, not Hegel’s masterwork, the Phenomenology of Spirit. For Derrida, the “A” in différance is inspired by the form of the pyramid in the capitalized letter and in Hegel’s comparing the sign “to the Egyptian Pyramid” (“Différance,” p. 3). Derrida invokes the symbolism of the pyramid, antiquity, and Egyptian hieroglyphics as an early semiotic system. However, when considering Hegel’s central definition of difference in the dialectical progression of thesis-antithesis-synthesis in the Phenomenology of Spirit (§§159-163), the articulations of différance and difference are remarkably aligned.

Parallel formulations are also seen in history as a series of reinterpretable events, and indexical wrappers as a mechanism for meaning assignation. The thinkers examine the universal and the particular by exploring regulative mechanisms such as law (natural and social). In Glas, Derrida highlights not the singular-universal relation, but the law of singularity and the law of universality relation as being relevant to Hegel’s Antigone interpretation (Glas, p. 142a), a theme continued in “Before the Law.” Finally (time permitting), there is a question whether the most valid critiques of Hegel (Nietzsche’s unreason and Benjamin’s non-synthesis), as alternatives to Hegelian dialectics, are visible in Derrida’s thought.

The upshot is that the two thinkers produce similar formulations, derived from different trajectories of philosophical work; a situation which points to the potential universality of fundamental solution classes to open-ended philosophical problems, including the future of democracy.

Comprehensive philosophical programs arise within a historical context (for Hegel and Derrida in the democracy-shaping moments of the French Revolution (1789) and the student-worker protests (1968) in which French politics serve as a global harbinger of contemporary themes). In the Derrida-Hegel relationship, there is more rapprochement concerning core notions of difference, history, and meaning-assignation than may have been realized. In particular, Hegel’s philosophy, despite being assumed to be a totalizing system, in fact indicates precisely some of the same kinds of revised metaphysics-of-presence formulations that Derrida exhorts, namely those that are flexible, expansive, and include non-identity and identity.

A crucial Derrida-Hegel interchange is that of différance and difference. Derrida develops the notion directly from Hegel (“Différance,” “The Pit and the Pyramid”), but only draws from the Encyclopedia, not Hegel’s masterwork, the Phenomenology of Spirit. For Derrida, the “A” in différance is inspired by the form of the pyramid in the capitalized letter and in Hegel’s comparing the sign “to the Egyptian Pyramid” (“Différance,” p. 3). Derrida invokes the symbolism of the pyramid, antiquity, and Egyptian hieroglyphics as an early semiotic system. However, when considering Hegel’s central definition of difference in the dialectical progression of thesis-antithesis-synthesis in the Phenomenology of Spirit (§§159-163), the articulations of différance and difference are remarkably aligned.

Parallel formulations are also seen in history as a series of reinterpretable events, and indexical wrappers as a mechanism for meaning assignation. The thinkers examine the universal and the particular by exploring regulative mechanisms such as law (natural and social). In Glas, Derrida highlights not the singular-universal relation, but the law of singularity and the law of universality relation as being relevant to Hegel’s Antigone interpretation (Glas, p. 142a), a theme continued in “Before the Law.” Finally (time permitting), there is a question whether the most valid critiques of Hegel (Nietzsche’s unreason and Benjamin’s non-synthesis), as alternatives to Hegelian dialectics, are visible in Derrida’s thought.

The upshot is that the two thinkers produce similar formulations, derived from different trajectories of philosophical work; a situation which points to the potential universality of fundamental solution classes to open-ended philosophical problems, including the future of democracy.

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Derrida-Hegel: Différance-Difference

  1. 1. Derrida and Hegel Différance and Difference are more similar than thought Vive la Différance-Difference~! 5th Derrida Today World Conference Washington DC 14 Jun 2022 Slides: http://slideshare.net/LaBlogga Melanie Swan, PhD University College London
  2. 2. 14 Jun 2022 Derrida and Hegel Derrida’s main works re: différance  Margins of Philosophy (1982 [1972])  Différance (27 January 1968) (chapter 1, pp. 3-27)  The Pit and the Pyramid: Introduction to Hegel’s Semiology (16 January 1968) (chapter 4, pp. 69-108)  Of Grammatology (1997 [1967])  Linguistics and Grammatology (chapter 2 , pp. 27-73)  Writing and Difference (1973 [1967])  From Restricted to General Economy: A Hegelianism without Reserve (chapter 9, pp. 251-277)  Cogito and the History of Madness (chapter 2, pp. 31-63)  Freud and the Scene of Writing (chapter 7, pp. 196-231) 1 Note: Derrida first uses the term différance in “Cogito et histoire de la folie” (1963) regarding Foucault “The economy of this writing is a regulated relationship between that which exceeds and the exceeded totality: the différance of the absolute excess” (Cogito and the History of Madness, Writing and Difference, pp. 31-63, p. 62)
  3. 3. 14 Jun 2022 Derrida and Hegel Difference and Identity 2 Situating Difference and Identity: Three Eras of Difference  Difference (generic): a process or set of properties by which one entity can be distinguished from another Early Modern (Leibniz, Hume) German Idealism (Kant, Hegel) French Philosophies of Difference (Derrida, Deleuze) Emphasis on identity Emphasis on joint status or unity of identity and difference Emphasis on the lack of a fixed identity Leibniz: small difference = identity (law of the identity of indiscernibles) Kant: can only know the representation of an object, not the thing in itself Derrida: any “text” (a person, situation, work of literature) is constantly open to re-reading and re- signification, différance resists fixity Hume: correspondence theory of truth (correspondence between appearance and reality) Hegel: Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis dialectics (identity as the sublational unity of difference) Deleuze: difference is ontologically free-standing, not opposed to identity
  4. 4. 14 Jun 2022 Derrida and Hegel Derrida contra Hegel  Key advances by Derrida re: différance, deconstruction, the grammatology project (developing a science of writing), the theory of signs, the trace, the general economy of excess, and the opposition to the metaphysics of presence (privileging presence over absence) 3 Derrida’s Advances contra Hegel Problem Solution Result Reference 1a. Hegelian Dialectics Step 2: Antithesis (Negativity) General economy of excess instead of restricted economy (Bataille) Overcome zero-sum economy Oppose Metaphysics of Presence From Restricted to General Economy, pp. 251-277 1b. Hegelian Dialectics Step 3: Aufhebung (Sublation) Relève Replace suppressive conservation with generative différance The Pit and the Pyramid, pp. 69- 108 2. Singularity-to-universality totalization Invert with singularity-to- universality and excess Safeguard non-totalized singularity of meaning Glas, pp. 142-143 (Antigone) 3. Privileging speech over writing Différance Facilitate dynamic assemblages of meaning Différance, p. 8 4. Binary opposition of sensibility-understanding (Kant) Differ()nce Oppose Metaphysics of Presence Différence, p. 5
  5. 5. 14 Jun 2022 Derrida and Hegel Différance  Différance is the difference and deferral of meaning  Différance “compensates economically” for the “loss of meaning” in the words of difference and defer (p. 8)  Irreducibly polysemic, refers to configuration of meanings (p. 8)  Différance is “the movement according to which any language, code, or system of referral” is given meaning (p. 12)  “The concept of play [is] beyond the opposition” (p. 7)  Différance is the “passage from one term of an opposition to the other”  Deconstructive implication to “reconsider all the pairs of opposites on which philosophy is constructed” (p. 17) 4 Source: Différance essay (paraphrase)
  6. 6. 14 Jun 2022 Derrida and Hegel Derrida contra Kant  Key advances by Derrida re: différance, deconstruction, the grammatology project (developing a science of writing), the theory of signs, the trace, the general economy of excess, and the opposition to the metaphysics of presence (privileging presence over absence) 5 Derrida’s Advances contra Hegel Problem Solution Result Reference 1a. Hegelian Dialectics Step 2: Antithesis (Negativity) General economy of excess instead of restricted economy (Bataille) Overcome zero-sum economy Oppose Metaphysics of Presence From Restricted to General Economy, pp. 251-277 1b. Hegelian Dialectics Step 3: Aufhebung (Sublation) Relève Replace suppressive conservation with generative différance The Pit and the Pyramid, pp. 69- 108 2. Singularity-to-universality totalization Invert with singularity-to- universality and excess Safeguard non-totalized singularity of meaning Glas, pp. 142-143 (Antigone) 3. Privileging speech over writing Différance Facilitate dynamic assemblages of meaning Différance, p. 8 4. Binary opposition of sensibility-understanding (Kant) Differ()nce Oppose Metaphysics of Presence Différence, p. 5
  7. 7. 14 Jun 2022 Derrida and Hegel Other thinkers and différance  Hegel  “differentiating relation” in an active sense which could easily be translated as différance (p. 14)  Heidegger, Nietzsche, Freud  “différance appears almost by name” in their texts (p. 17)  Freud’s unconscious: “exempt from” presentation (p. 20)  Saussure  “in language there are only differences” (p. 10)  The signifier and signified (p. 10)  The signified is the concept (ideal meaning)  The signifier is the “acoustical phenomenon” (label) 6 Source: Différance essay (paraphrase)
  8. 8. 14 Jun 2022 Derrida and Hegel Other thinkers and différance: Heidegger  “The sign is put in the place of the thing itself” (D, pp. 9-10)  Questions the “authority of presence” by substituting absence  Heidegger “runs out of breath” end of Being and Time  Stuck in “metaphysical conceptuality” (H, p. 204)  Sees Heidegger acknowledging the “necessity…of continuing to dwell in metaphysical inauthenticity” (H, p. 160)  Derrida moves beyond Heidegger  The temporality of the sign is one of non-presence (D, p. 13)  The “movement of signification is only possible if each element” is connected by the “trace” that is related to the future and the past  Interval “becoming-space of time, becoming-time of space”  Archi-writing, archi-trace, or différance (D, p. 13) 7 Sources: D = Différance essay (paraphrase); H = Heidegger: The Question of Being and History (2016)
  9. 9. 14 Jun 2022 Derrida and Hegel The Pyramid  Derrida: différance and the sign 1. “A” in différance as pyramid, capital letter 2. The pyramid is the sign 3. The pyramid is the tomb  Calls burial, the sacred, societal roles and laws, home economy, general economy of excess  The Pit and the Pyramid: Introduction to Hegel’s Semiology  Pit = un-signified possibility  Pyramid = sign 8 Egyptian Pyramid
  10. 10. 14 Jun 2022 Derrida and Hegel Glas (Clang) 1974  Embodiment of the grammatology project  Questions form, content, genre of writing 9 Left : Hegel’s philosophical texts and correspondence Right column: Jean Genet’s autobiographical work Two columns, different type, interspersed with marginalia
  11. 11. 14 Jun 2022 Derrida and Hegel Derrida contra Hegel  Key advances by Derrida re: différance, deconstruction, the grammatology project (developing a science of writing), the theory of signs, the trace, the general economy of excess, and the opposition to the metaphysics of presence (privileging presence over absence) 10 Derrida’s Advances contra Hegel Problem Solution Result Reference 1a. Hegelian Dialectics Step 2: Antithesis (Negativity) General economy of excess instead of restricted economy (Bataille) Overcome zero-sum economy Oppose Metaphysics of Presence From Restricted to General Economy, pp. 251-277 1b. Hegelian Dialectics Step 3: Aufhebung (Sublation) Relève Replace suppressive conservation with generative différance The Pit and the Pyramid, pp. 69- 108 2. Singularity-to-universality totalization Invert with singularity-to- universality and excess Safeguard non-totalized singularity of meaning Glas, pp. 142-143 (Antigone) 3. Privileging speech over writing Différance Facilitate dynamic assemblages of meaning Différance, p. 8 4. Binary opposition of sensibility-understanding (Kant) Differ()nce Oppose Metaphysics of Presence Différence, p. 5
  12. 12. 14 Jun 2022 Derrida and Hegel Hegel’s formulation of difference  Self-attracting, self-differing, self-overcoming  Moments of “self-sundering and of becoming self-identical” operate in the overall “movement of self-supersession” (§162)  “Think pure change [as] antithesis within the antithesis”  “not merely one of two” (§160); departure to a larger position 11 Source Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, (1977 [1807]). Trans. Miller. Hegel’s Theory of Difference Section Elaboration of inner difference Specification of inner difference §160 Self-attracting and self-repulsing; itself and its opposite (other) as a unity Dialectical operation of inner difference §161 Self-identicality and self-differing; self-same and self-differing as a unity §162 Self-sundering (self-negating, self-differing) and self-identifying in self-supersession Inner difference unifies external difference §163 Consciousness as Understanding operates the dialectic of inner difference to unify Humean diversity and explain appearances, consciousness is “self-satisfied” with the result §§164-165 Consciousness as Understanding is using the tools of inner difference but fails to realize that they apply to itself too (its own growth and unification); when it realizes this, the shape of consciousness ascends from Understanding to Self-Consciousness
  13. 13. 14 Jun 2022 Derrida and Hegel Conclusion: Derrida and Hegel  Consider two moments of Derrida-Hegel relationship  Différance-Difference: similar formulations of movement  Glas: valid complaint of excess of singularity over universality 12 Derrida’s Advances contra Hegel Problem Solution Result Reference 1a. Hegelian Dialectics Step 2: Antithesis (Negativity) General economy of excess instead of restricted economy (Bataille) Overcome zero-sum economy Oppose Metaphysics of Presence From Restricted to General Economy, pp. 251-277 1b. Hegelian Dialectics Step 3: Aufhebung (Sublation) Relève Replace suppressive conservation with generative différance The Pit and the Pyramid, pp. 69- 108 2. Singularity-to-universality totalization Invert with singularity-to- universality and excess Safeguard non-totalized singularity of meaning Glas, pp. 142-143 (Antigone) 3. Privileging speech over writing Différance Facilitate dynamic assemblages of meaning Différance, p. 8 4. Binary opposition of sensibility-understanding (Kant) Differ()nce Oppose Metaphysics of Presence Différence, p. 5
  14. 14. 5th Derrida Today World Conference Washington DC 14 Jun 2022 Slides: http://slideshare.net/LaBlogga Melanie Swan, PhD University College London Thank you! Questions? Derrida and Hegel Différance and Difference are more similar than thought Vive la Différance-Difference~!
  15. 15. 14 Jun 2022 Derrida and Hegel Hegel and the Egyptian Pyramid  Theory of Art  Hierarchy of arts demonstrating ability to press individual and collective self-conceptualization into form 1. Architecture (Egyptian pyramids) 2. Sculpture (Roman) 3. Romantic arts (painting, music, poetry (apex: Shakespeare)) 14 Source: Hegel, Lectures on Fine Art, Vol. 1 and 2 Egyptian Pyramid

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