John Searle on Foucault and the Obscurantism in French Philosophy

It is some­times noted–typically with admiration–that France is a place where a philoso­pher can still be a celebri­ty. It sounds laud­able. But celebri­ty cul­ture can be cor­ro­sive, both to the cul­ture at large and to the celebri­ties them­selves. So it’s worth ask­ing:  What price have French phi­los­o­phy and its devo­tees (on the Euro­pean con­ti­nent and else­where) paid for the glam­our?

Per­haps one casu­al­ty is clar­i­ty. The writ­ings of the French post­mod­ernist philoso­phers (and those inspired by them) are noto­ri­ous­ly abstruse. In a scathing cri­tique of the­o­rist Judith But­ler, an Amer­i­can who writes in the French post­struc­tural­ist style, philoso­pher Martha Nuss­baum of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go sug­gests that the abstruse­ness is cal­cu­lat­ed to inspire admi­ra­tion:

Some precincts of the con­ti­nen­tal philo­soph­i­cal tra­di­tion, though sure­ly not all of them, have an unfor­tu­nate ten­den­cy to regard the philoso­pher as a star who fas­ci­nates, and fre­quent­ly by obscu­ri­ty, rather than as an arguer among equals. When ideas are stat­ed clear­ly, after all, they may be detached from their author: one can take them away and pur­sue them on one’s own. When they remain mys­te­ri­ous (indeed, when they are not quite assert­ed), one remains depen­dent on the orig­i­nat­ing author­i­ty. The thinker is heed­ed only for his or her turgid charis­ma.

On Fri­day we post­ed an excerpt from an inter­view in which lin­guist Noam Chom­sky (some­thing of a polit­i­cal celebri­ty him­self) exco­ri­ates Jacques Der­ri­da and Jacques Lacan, along with Lacan’s super­star dis­ci­ple, Sloven­ian the­o­rist Slavoj Žižek, for using inten­tion­al­ly obscure and inflat­ed lan­guage to pull the wool over their admir­ers’ eyes and make triv­ial “the­o­ries” seem pro­found. He calls Lacan a “total char­la­tan.”

Lacan had a pen­chant for using trendy math­e­mat­i­cal terms in curi­ous ways. In a pas­sage on cas­tra­tion anx­i­ety, for exam­ple, he equates the phal­lus with the square root of minus one:

The erec­tile organ can be equat­ed with the √-1, the sym­bol of the sig­ni­fi­ca­tion pro­duced above, of the jouis­sance [ecsta­sy] it restores–by the coef­fi­cient of its statement–to the func­tion of a miss­ing sig­ni­fi­er: (-1).

Chom­sky’s crit­i­cism of Lacan and the oth­ers pro­voked a wide range of com­ments from our read­ers. Today we thought we would keep the con­ver­sa­tion going with a fas­ci­nat­ing audio clip (above) of philoso­pher John Sear­le of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley, describ­ing how Michel Fou­cault and Pierre Bour­dieu–two emi­nent French thinkers whose abil­i­ties Sear­le obvi­ous­ly respected–told him that if they wrote clear­ly they would­n’t be tak­en seri­ous­ly in France.

Sear­le begins by recit­ing Paul Grice’s four Max­ims of Man­ner: be clear, be brief, be order­ly, and avoid obscu­ri­ty of expres­sion. These are sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly vio­lat­ed in France, Sear­le says, part­ly due to the influ­ence of Ger­man phi­los­o­phy. Sear­le trans­lates Fou­cault’s admis­sion to him this way: “In France, you got­ta have ten per­cent incom­pre­hen­si­ble, oth­er­wise peo­ple won’t think it’s deep–they won’t think you’re a pro­found thinker.”

Sear­le has been care­ful to sep­a­rate Fou­cault from Der­ri­da, with whom Sear­le had an unfriend­ly debate in the 1970s over Speech Act the­o­ry. “Fou­cault was often lumped with Der­ri­da,” Sear­le says in a 2000 inter­view with Rea­son mag­a­zine. “That’s very unfair to Fou­cault. He was a dif­fer­ent cal­iber of thinker alto­geth­er.” Else­where in the inter­view, Sear­le says:

With Der­ri­da, you can hard­ly mis­read him, because he’s so obscure. Every time you say, “He says so and so,” he always says, “You mis­un­der­stood me.” But if you try to fig­ure out the cor­rect inter­pre­ta­tion, then that’s not so easy. I once said this to Michel Fou­cault, who was more hos­tile to Der­ri­da even than I am, and Fou­cault said that Der­ri­da prac­ticed the method of obscu­ran­tisme ter­ror­iste (ter­ror­ism of obscu­ran­tism). We were speak­ing in French. And I said, “What the hell do you mean by that?” And he said, “He writes so obscure­ly you can’t tell what he’s say­ing. That’s the obscu­ran­tism part. And then when you crit­i­cize him, he can always say, ‘You did­n’t under­stand me; you’re an idiot.’ That’s the ter­ror­ism part.” And I like that. So I wrote an arti­cle about Der­ri­da. I asked Michel if it was OK if I quot­ed that pas­sage, and he said yes.

NOTE: For more on John Sear­le, includ­ing links to his full Berke­ley lec­tures on the phi­los­o­phy of mind, lan­guage and soci­ety, see our post, “Phi­los­o­phy with John Sear­le: Three Free Cours­es.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Michel Fou­cault: Free Lec­tures on Truth, Dis­course & The Self

Clash of the Titans: Noam Chom­sky & Michel Fou­cault Debate Human Nature & Pow­er on Dutch TV, 1971

90 Free Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es

Philoso­pher Slavoj Zizek Inter­prets Hitchcock’s Ver­ti­go in The Pervert’s Guide to Cin­e­ma (2006)

by | Permalink | Comments (32) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (32)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Jim says:

    Fou­cault, Der­ri­da, Lacan, and all those guys were one of the main rea­sons I left grad school. Par­tic­u­lar­ly annoy­ing were the wannabees cling­ing to this dying trend. I start­ed out tak­ing those read­ings seri­ous­ly, want­i­ng to give it my best shot, blam­ing myself for not under­stand­ing. But in the end I did­n’t get much from my efforts. You can’t real­ly say that in class though: you have pre­tend to engage with the ideas — what­ev­er they are.

  • Connor Syrewicz says:

    I think it’s unfor­tu­nate how many philoso­phers are over­looked in the ana­lyt­ic hege­mo­ny of the Anglo-Sax­on world due to the unfair claim of obscrui­tanism that is levied against them. Read Richard Rorty’s ‘Phi­los­o­phy as a Kind of Writ­ing: An Essay on Der­ri­da’ for a very clear, well-con­sid­ered (if at times over-gen­er­al­ized and out­right wrong) expla­na­tion of how Der­ri­da and lin­guis­tic phi­los­o­phy are actu­al­ly com­ple­men­tary rather than opposed and how Der­ri­da’s actu­al lan­guage, dif­fi­cult as it was, com­ple­ment­ed his phi­los­o­phy rather than obscured it.

    Like­wise, Deleuze (who was attacked as obscu­ri­tanist by Alan Sokal and Richard Dawkins) was doing some­thing very spe­cif­ic and delib­er­ate with his work. On the one hand, he was delib­er­ate­ly and inten­tion­al­ly using, mis­us­ing, and abus­ing con­cepts and want­ed to leave his own work open for oth­ers to use, mis­use, and abuse (this is a big part of his the­o­ry of rep­e­ti­tion, see: Dif­fer­ence and Repi­tion). On the oth­er, he was con­cerned with “speed of thought” and did­n’t want to be slowed down by hav­ing to make sure that his the­o­ries were per­fect­ly pen­e­tra­ble and acces­si­ble to all. (For an extreme­ly acces­si­ble intro to Deleuze’s thought, look up Manuel Delanda’s lec­tures freely avail­able on youtube. Like­wise con­sid­er read­ing the essay by Paul Pat­ton “Con­cept in Deleuze and Der­ri­da.”)

    Let me quote Bour­dieu’s Pref­ace to the Eng­lish Lan­guage edi­tion of Dis­tinc­tions: “Like­wise, the style of the book, whose long, com­plex sen­tences may offend–constructed as they are with a view to recon­sti­tut­ing the com­plex­i­ty of the social world in a lan­guage capa­ble of hold­ing togeth­er the most diverse things while set­ting them in a rig­or­ous perspective–stems part­ly from the endeav­or to mobi­lize all resources of the tra­di­tion­al modes of expres­sion, lit­er­ary, philo­soph­i­cal or sci­en­tif­ic, so as to say things that were de fac­to or de jure exclud­ed from them, and to pre­vent the read­ing from slip­ping back into the sim­plic­i­ties of the smart essay or the polit­i­cal polemic.” Sad­ly, I would charge Sear­le of such a sim­plis­tic rhetor­i­cal polemic! A line of Judith But­ler (who I think can be far too obscu­ri­tanist!) ade­quate­ly sums up a lot of these thoughts; sim­ply: “What does trans­paren­cy obscure?”

    Per­haps Sear­le is right, that Fou­cault was sub­ject, in part, to the cod­i­fi­ca­tions of French/ Ger­man phi­los­o­phy and acad­e­mia. But then he can­not escape the fact that he is sub­ject to sim­i­lar cod­i­fi­ca­tions which sim­ply takes some­thing (clar­i­ty of expres­sion) as its object and only hap­pens to be opposed to some forms of French/ Ger­man expres­sion. If any­thing, Sear­le’s the­o­ries, as he explains them here, are far more dan­ger­ous than any obscu­ri­tanism could be inso­far as he con­sid­ers his pre­sup­po­si­tions uni­ver­sal and per­haps even moral­ly right. My advice, do not con­fuse “I do not under­stand” with “This is too obscure.” “I do not under­stand” might lead to the con­clu­sion that “This is too obscure” but I promise you, you will pick up a lot of beau­ti­ful knowl­edge along the way.

  • jkop says:

    What way? The rea­son some texts are deemed obscure is just because they lack ways from which one could make con­clu­sions, or achieve knowl­edge.

    The mean­ing of a pub­lished text has lit­tle to do with the indi­vid­ual read­er’s capac­i­ty to under­stand it. Nor is it deter­mined by oth­er read­er’s inter­pre­ta­tions, or the author’s intent but by the lan­guage in which it is expressed. The pri­ma­ry func­tion of words or sen­tences is to iden­ti­fy mean­ings. Clar­i­ty helps iden­ti­fi­ca­tion while obscu­ri­ty pre­vents it. So why pub­lish or inter­pret any­thing obscure­ly?

    Writ­ers or inter­preters may claim they see or under­stand “mean­ings” which are not open to view, and by doing so they might gain an unde­served intel­lec­tu­al author­i­ty sim­i­lar to priests or gurus who claim to have had rev­e­la­tions. They mere­ly claim our sub­mis­sion.

  • Connor Syrewicz says:

    I under­stand your desire for clar­i­ty of expres­sion jkop, but what then is lit­er­a­ture and poet­ry? By your esti­ma­tion, since poet­ry specif­i­cal­ly puts clar­i­ty of expres­sion on the back­burn­er, is it lan­guage which is using a “sec­ondary func­tion” of lan­guage? Is it fair for me to assume that this is an impli­ca­tion that, by your esti­ma­tion, this sec­ondary func­tion is “less use­ful” or even “worse”? Why then can so many of the obscu­ran­tists (But­ler, Lacan, Nan­cy, Ranciere, some of Agam­ben, per­haps even Spi­vak and Bha­ba) write so beau­ti­ful­ly? Would they be bet­ter con­sid­ered poets than philoso­phers?

    Much of Der­ri­da’s, Fou­cault’s, Niet­zche’s and a num­ber of oth­er con­ti­nen­tal philoso­phers’ point is that iden­ti­fy­ing a “pri­ma­ry func­tion” of any­thing is always far more arbi­trary and inter­pre­tive than the iden­ti­fi­er is will­ing to admit. Iden­ti­fy­ing a “pri­ma­ry func­tion” of any­thing is an inter­pre­tive choice (although not nec­es­sar­i­ly a con­scious choice), one which is con­sid­er ‘jus­ti­fied.’ Jus­ti­fied by what? Der­ri­da asks. Der­ri­da, in many ways, only want­ed to chal­lenge the lin­guis­tic philoso­pher’s claim of being “first phi­los­o­phy” or “pri­ma­ry phi­los­o­phy.” He saw them as writ­ers which real­ly did­n’t want to write, who want­ed to reduce the dis­tance between a read­er and the rep­re­sent­ed object to zero if pos­si­ble. He saw them as ashamed of them­selves. Writ­ers who hat­ed lan­guage.

    This is why Der­ri­da is real­ly com­ple­men­tary to lin­guis­tic phi­los­o­phy (phi­los­o­phy of clar­i­ty) rather than in any way opposed to it. If I can quote Richard Rorty: “Der­ri­da’s polemic against the notion that speech is pri­or to writ­ing [aka logo­cen­trism] should be seen as a polemic against what Sartre calls “bad faith”–the attempt to divinize one­self by see­ing in advance the terms in which all pos­si­ble prob­lems are to be set, and the cri­te­ria for their res­o­lu­tion. If the “logo­cen­tric” Pla­ton­ic notion of speech as pri­or to writ­ing were right, there might be a last Word. Der­ri­da’s point is that no one can make sense of the notion of a last com­men­tary, a last dis­cus­sion note, a good piece of writ­ing which is not an occa­sion for a bet­ter piece.”

    Der­ri­da would agree that the speech act does have com­mu­ni­ca­tion as it’s pri­ma­ry func­tion. But he con­sid­ers writ­ing as qual­i­ta­tive­ly dif­fer­ent than speech and not just its bas­tard deriv­a­tive as many lin­guists like to think of lan­guage. I would con­sid­er Roman Jakob­son’s work. He puts all writ­ing on a spec­trum from tran­scen­dent (lan­guage serv­ing the pur­pose of rep­re­sent­ing some object) to imma­nent (lan­guage as lan­guage, poet­ry for exam­ple). There is no hier­ar­chy here. No arbi­trary pri­ma­ry func­tion. This is tru­ly objec­tive. I like to think of Der­ri­da as some­where very close to the mid­dle. And this is why he frus­trates so many peo­ple.

  • jkop says:

    Der­ri­da’s polemic against “the notion” (who’s notion?) that speech is pri­or to writ­ing is just weird. How would dif­fer­ences between speech and writ­ing mat­ter for the mean­ing of the expres­sions?

    We can use many dif­fer­ent expres­sions for one and the same mean­ing. The writ­ten “cat” and the said “cat” both refer to cats. Dif­fer­ences between inscrip­tions, utter­ances, ges­tures etc. are irrel­e­vant for the ref­er­ence to cats.

    It is not an “inter­pre­tive choice” but a triv­ial­ly true con­di­tion that iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of cats as being the mean­ing of the writ­ten or said “cat” is nec­es­sary for those expres­sions to refer to cats. With­out iden­ti­fy­ing “cat” with cats it would­n’t refer to cats.

    Com­plience to such basic con­di­tions might be a choice but hard­ly what you describe as an “attempt to divinize one­self by see­ing in advance the terms in which all pos­si­ble prob­lems are to be set, and the cri­te­ria for their res­o­lu­tion.”. Call it “logo­cen­tricm” if you like, but rea­son is not just an ism.

  • Connor Syrewicz says:

    You are absolute­ly right. Nei­ther I nor Der­ri­da would dis­agree. Der­ri­da is sim­ply adding in a few points which expand the the­o­ry beyond the extreme­ly nar­row con­fines of “rea­son.” (Con­sid­er the post-Trac­ta­tus work of Wittgen­stein to see only part of this point of view is so nar­row.)

    The point is that “cat” is in a vac­u­um. Der­ri­da con­sid­ers lan­guage in rela­tion. For exam­ple, add only one word “cool cat” and we have an entire­ly dif­fer­ent mean­ing. This is called defer­ring mean­ing. When do we ever use just the word cat? Do we walk around point­ing at things, nam­ing them, and then mov­ing on? Lan­guage is always in rela­tion to oth­er lan­guage. There­fore, mean­ing is con­stant­ly deferred. Yes some­times cat means cat. Oth­er times it means some­thing oth­er than cat in the strict sense. Der­ri­da want­ed to legit­imize both mean­ings.

    The point about logo­cen­trism is this: in the speech act, we always speak for the Other(‘s under­stand­ing), i.e. clar­i­ty of expres­sion, prop­er ref­er­ence, all that good stuff that you love so much. West­ern thought since Pla­to has always said “First we spoke, then we wrote.” In Of Gram­mar­tol­ogy, Der­ri­da gives a very con­vinc­ing argu­ment that the speech-act and the writ­ten-act grew togeth­er. Why does Der­ri­da care? Because the writ­ten-act (through poet­ry) has the capac­i­ty to speak but not nec­es­sar­i­ly for the Oth­er. And, as I said before, Der­ri­da does­n’t want to con­sid­er this func­tion of lan­guage as a bas­tard or sec­ondary of lan­guage for this, as I also said before, is lan­guage as lan­guage. Lan­guage which is push­ing through to be con­sid­ered as sim­ply lan­guage. It is lan­guage which loves itself. It is lan­guage which affirms itself instead of deny­ing itself. It does­n’t have to point at any­thing except itself.

    Writ­ing has the capac­i­ty to defer mean­ing infi­nite­ly. Con­sid­er even Chom­sky’s line about Fou­cault’s clear spo­ken lan­guage in the arti­cle above for a good exam­ple of the dis­junc­tive rela­tion­ship that can arise between the spo­ken and writ­ten word.

    Der­ri­da loved our mis­un­der­stand­ings. He felt that these were moments of orig­i­nal­i­ty and beau­ty. He want­ed to con­stant­ly prove lan­guage’s capac­i­ty to defer mean­ing. Because he could be con­stant­ly mis­un­der­stood, I would say he did a pret­ty good job.

    Sor­ry if this offends your “rea­son.” But if rea­son real­ly is rea­son then I do not see why it needs defend­ing. It will over­come my “weird­ness” in the end. If it can’t of its own accord, then it isn’t rea­son, it is pref­er­ence. And if it’s pref­er­ence, it is an ‑ism inso­far as we can get dog­mat­ic about ‑isms. Is there any­thing that we can­not become dog­mat­ic about?

  • jkop says:

    Lan­guage and rea­son enable us to con­struct rep­re­sen­ta­tions of an infi­nite amount of mean­ings. So why would any­one claim rea­son would be ”con­fined” or ”nar­row”? If any­one claims to ”expand” rea­son, which is already infi­nite, then it is obvi­ous­ly an emp­ty ges­ture That’s prob­a­bly why many peo­ple feel offend­ed by Der­ri­da & Co: not because of their weird­ness but because of what they pub­lish is per­cieved as insin­cere or just bad phi­los­o­phy. Of course some may enjoy the puz­zle-solv­ing, or mis­take incom­pre­hen­si­bil­i­ty as a sign of advanced think­ing.

    Accord­ing to that audio clip Fou­cault wrote part­ly incom­pre­hen­si­bly to com­ply to some audi­ences in France who are impressed by it, yet he spoke clear­ly to Sear­le or in con­texts where com­plience to com­pre­hen­si­bil­i­ty is expect­ed. You seem to make the claim that this would have some­thing to do with writ­ing and speech. Yet one might as well speak incom­pre­hen­si­bly to impress such audi­ences. Ref­er­ence to an alleged rel­e­vance of the rela­tion between writ­ing and say­ing is yet anoth­er emp­ty ges­ture promis­ing insights with­out deliv­er­ing any.

    Final­ly, my ”cat” is not in a ”vac­u­um”, it has a seman­tic exter­nal­ist back­ground. The lit­er­al ”cat” and the metaphor­i­cal ”cool cat” are not deferred or stuck in lan­guage games but pre­served by our con­tin­u­ous inter­ac­tion with their exten­sions (actu­al cats and cat-metaphors). Sal­va ver­i­tate.

  • Terence Blake says:

    I think it strange that Fou­cault told Sear­le pre­cise­ly what he want­ed to hear, if we are to believe Sear­le. I think that he did­n’t realise the degree of humour present in Fou­cault’s rather unchar­ac­ter­is­tic remark. Fou­cault was prob­a­bly send­ing him up, giv­en the equa­tion he estab­lish­es between clar­i­ty and child­ish­ness. Clar­i­ty is not the same when you have an ontol­ogy of mult­plic­i­ty and incom­men­su­ra­bilty and when you don’t. My reply to Sear­le is here:

  • Barbara Todish says:

    I intend to google Roman Jakobson!It is some­thing to con­sid­er, name­ly that tran­scen­dent involves iden­ti­ty, as I was con­sid­er­ing tran­scen­dent as free­dom from iden­ti­ty. . Now I will con­sid­er imma­nen­cy as pre­sent­ness before and after com­mu­ni­ca­tions’ “cap­tur­ing” of mean­ing so that instead “it” is free­ing from the lim­i­ta­tions of mean­ing. Per­haps this is what Chi­a­mus attempts to “do”?

    Per­haps Chi­as­mus is an exam­ple of “IMMANENT POETRY”: lan­guage that loves itself “so much” that it names itself twice as both (incom­pre­hen­si­ble) sub­ject and object: lim­it­less iden­ti­ty, defer­ring mean­ing.
    I also love “…®eal rea­son is free from need­ing defending…because it is a (rel­a­tive, con­struct­ed) pref­er­ence, it is an ‘ism’ ”. Please advise.

  • Barbara Todish says:

    Once a phi­los­o­phy major, always a phi­los­o­phy major! Phi­los­o­phy result­ed in my often being obscure even to myself, but now I real­ize that phi­los­o­phy was try­ing to show me how to be free from all, espe­cial­ly com­mu­ni­ca­tion and/or con­scious­ness lim­i­ta­tions.

  • Ben Walker says:

    Thank you, jkop and Con­ner syrewicz, for a great dis­cus­sion.

    If I might ask, jkop: what dif­fer­en­ti­ates your notion of a seman­tic exter­nal­ist back­ground — one that is main­tained by a com­mu­ni­ty’s con­tin­u­ous inter­ac­tion and employ­ment of its lex­i­con — from the con­cepts you dis­miss, name­ly difér­rence and lan­guage game? It seems to me that the con­ver­sa­tion has only just begun when this point has been raised. The prospect of prag­mat­ics and con­tex­tu­al­ism (and here I’m think­ing of Dan Sper­ber, Fran­coise Reca­nati, Charles Travis, etc.) has far reach­ing impli­ca­tions for your posi­tion. Unless, of course, you are some­thing of a seman­tic min­i­mal­ist — which you do not strike me as, con­sid­er­ing some of your remarks.

    In short, I’m not sure how your appeal to lan­guages’ exter­nal back­ground secures you any kind of Archimedean ground. Instead, it allows the deploy­ment of some of the strongest argu­ments for the com­pli­ca­tion of those func­tions that under­pin so much of ana­lyt­ic tra­di­tion — truth, mean­ing and nam­ing.

  • jkop says:

    @Ben: I find seman­tic exter­nal­ism (orig­i­nal­ly sug­gest­ed by Put­nam in the 1970s) to be a plau­si­ble ground. Dif­fer­ences or resem­blances refer to appear­ances of lan­guage use, and dis­re­gard con­di­tions for it. I’m not famil­iar with the authors you name, sor­ry. So what are the alleged “..strongest argu­ments for the com­pli­ca­tion of…truth, mean­ing, nam­ing”?

  • Connor Syrewicz says:

    @jkop: Let me start off by apol­o­giz­ing for the tox­i­c­i­ty of my final remark in my last post. There was a sarcastic/ sar­don­ic tone there I did­n’t intend. I am very much enjoy­ing our con­ver­sa­tion and am very impressed by your knowl­edge of analytic/ lin­guis­tic phi­los­o­phy. It is real­ly won­der­ful to be put on my toes the way that I am. I view con­ti­nen­tal phi­los­o­phy (for me) as an exer­cise in chal­leng­ing my own base and a pri­ori assump­tions and beliefs (as these are always based out of feel­ings and emo­tions rather than intel­lect) and hav­ing to defend a point which I have come to believe, is an oppor­tu­ni­ty to change and even­tu­al­ly over­turn it (or at least lose my dog­ma­tism about it) so thank you for your informed respons­es and for tak­ing the time to reply.

    ‘Lan­guage and rea­son enable us to con­struct rep­re­sen­ta­tions of an infi­nite amount of mean­ings. So why would any­one claim rea­son would be ”con­fined” or ”nar­row”?’

    This is an inter­est­ing inter­pre­ta­tion of rea­son that I have nev­er con­sid­ered. While I do not like Kant and am not myself a Kant­ian, I would be remiss with­out men­tion­ing Kan­t’s “Cri­tique of Pure Rea­son” where­in Kant claims that rea­son can­not rea­son­ably cri­tique rea­son and is, there­fore, lim­it­ed, rather than infi­nite. And (this is where my use of Kant ends) inso­far as rea­son is lim­it­ed we would need anoth­er mode of thinking/ saying/ writ­ing to treat all that rea­son can­not com­pre­hend. Like­wise the work of Der­ri­da and Hei­deg­ger (work that I con­sid­er to be flim­sy at best though interesting–and the flim­si­ness of it is kind of the point) is to find that of which noth­ing can be said. That which rea­son can­not com­pre­hend. For Hei­deg­ger it is noth­ing itself. “The noth­ing noths,” as Hei­deg­ger once wrote. How do we say some­thing of noth­ing? (To give a glimpse of the word-play that inevitably emerges from this kind of ques­tion, since, as Hei­deg­ger not­ed, noth­ing always has to be posed as a sub­stan­tive which betrays the very nature of noth­ing itself– haha.) For Der­ri­da it was “trace.” Trace is the sim­ple fact that lan­guage must always be cri­tiqued by lan­guage. For Der­ri­da, this process (the end­less cri­tiques and trans­for­ma­tions of lan­guage) would be nev­er-end­ing as long as there is lan­guage. There­fore, there is no final word, no per­fect way of saying/ writing/ rep­re­sent­ing. Lan­guage, upon its utter­ance, con­tains the neces­si­ty for its own trans­for­ma­tion and destruc­tion; there­fore, the trace is an onto­log­i­cal “lack.” The inabil­i­ty for any lan­guage to be per­fect or total. A kind of noth­ing, in the Hei­deg­gare­an sense.

    ‘If any­one claims to ”expand” rea­son, which is already infi­nite, then it is obvi­ous­ly an emp­ty ges­ture That’s prob­a­bly why many peo­ple feel offend­ed by Der­ri­da & Co: not because of their weird­ness but because of what they pub­lish is per­cieved as insin­cere or just bad phi­los­o­phy. Of course some may enjoy the puz­zle-solv­ing, or mis­take incom­pre­hen­si­bil­i­ty as a sign of advanced think­ing.’

    Some do! (mis­take incom­pre­hen­si­bil­i­ty as a sign of advanced think­ing). But who are we to cor­rect them and why? And don’t think of this as a rhetor­i­cal ques­tion. My point is that if some are offend­ed by “Der­ri­da and Co.” it is prob­a­bly because they are defend­ing a (partial-)belief rather than an ulti­mate fact or truth (which will remain fact and truth regard­less of what any­one “says”) and are, thus, chal­lenged by him. If they are chal­lenged by him, then he is serv­ing his pur­pose because he want­ed to be chal­leng­ing. I will nev­er con­sid­er read­ing him to be a walk in the park. Maybe I like “puz­zle solv­ing,” maybe I like being chal­lenged. Is this a “waste of time” or con­fus­ing incom­pre­hen­si­bil­i­ty for advanced think­ing? Maybe (and I imag­ine that you will think “prob­a­bly”). I am aware and don’t mind. How is it social­ly prag­mat­ic? It is in the absence of any chal­lenge that thoughts and the­o­ries become dog­mat­ic and, in con­se­quence, untrue. For all truths are prob­a­bilis­tic ten­den­cies rather than con­stant and ulti­mate truths.

    ‘Accord­ing to that audio clip Fou­cault wrote part­ly incom­pre­hen­si­bly to com­ply to some audi­ences in France who are impressed by it, yet he spoke clear­ly to Sear­le or in con­texts where com­plience to com­pre­hen­si­bil­i­ty is expect­ed. You seem to make the claim that this would have some­thing to do with writ­ing and speech. Yet one might as well speak incom­pre­hen­si­bly to impress such audi­ences. Ref­er­ence to an alleged rel­e­vance of the rela­tion between writ­ing and say­ing is yet anoth­er emp­ty ges­ture promis­ing insights with­out deliv­er­ing any.’

    As I wrote in the first post, Fou­cault was obvi­ous­ly sub­ject to the same cod­i­fi­ca­tions that led an audi­ence to enjoy ‘obscu­ran­tist’ writ­ing and, in anoth­er con­text, ‘clear’ speech. But if you con­sid­er them (clar­i­ty and obscu­ran­tist expres­sion) free from any mor­al­iz­ing (in the broad sense of bina­ric qual­i­fi­ca­tions such as right/ wrong, good/ bad) then it is easy to see how Sear­le was/ is sub­ject to cod­i­fi­ca­tions as well, mak­ing such pref­er­ences nei­ther nec­es­sar­i­ly right/ wrong and instead sim­ply ‘appro­pri­ate’ or, as you wrote, ‘expect­ed.’

    As for my ref­er­ence to logo­cen­trism being an “emp­ty ges­ture.” My point still remains that writ­ing is not always and nec­es­sar­i­ly for the Oth­er’s clarity/ under­stand­ing, where­as speech is. An insane man or woman may speak to them­selves but this is for his/her under­stand­ing. It is the split­ting of the ego, the Oth­er-ing of the self. The writ­ten act is able to bend this rather abso­lutist view of lan­guage. If we spoke to each oth­er in poet­ry, there would be no under­stand­ing, no com­mon thresh­old for use. That is why, in most cas­es, we write poet­ry rather than speak it in every day use. Why can’t an intellectual/ aca­d­e­m­ic write poet­i­cal­ly? It still seems to me as though you are claim­ing that poet­ry itself is an emp­ty ges­ture. And, if poet­ry is lan­guage as lan­guage, then does­n’t it make sense that a writer who is writ­ing about writ­ing (or a lin­guist who is using lan­guage to talk about lan­guage) could legit­i­mate­ly incor­po­rate poet­ry into their lan­guage as part of their rhetor­i­cal strategy/ basis for evi­dence, as Der­ri­da has done?

    ‘Final­ly, my ”cat” is not in a ”vac­u­um”, it has a seman­tic exter­nal­ist back­ground. The lit­er­al ”cat” and the metaphor­i­cal ”cool cat” are not deferred or stuck in lan­guage games but pre­served by our con­tin­u­ous inter­ac­tion with their exten­sions (actu­al cats and cat-metaphors). Sal­va ver­i­tate.’

    Your con­sid­er­ing “cool cat” an exten­sion of the orig­i­nal is exact­ly the point raised by logo­cen­trism. Der­ri­da sim­ply want­ed to legit­imize both mean­ings, rather than con­sid­er one as the exten­sion of the oth­er or sec­ondary. Let’s take anoth­er exam­ple, habeas cor­pus, which has a lit­er­al mean­ing in Greek, “(you should) have the per­son,” which assured­ly could have been and was used out­side a legal con­text in rela­tion to a seman­ti­cal­ly exter­nal ref­er­ence. So is the “habeas cor­pus” that we use today sim­ply an impos­si­bly long, extend­ed metaphor of the orig­i­nal mean­ing? Let use return to cat. Let’s say cats become extinct and the ref­er­ence is lost but the phrase “cool cat” remains in ref­er­ence to a per­son who has a cer­tain aesthetic/ demeanor that is con­sid­ered “cool”, will this remain an exten­sion or a cat-metaphor still?

    When it comes to seman­tic exter­nal­ism, it is extreme­ly hard to come to some con­sen­su­al basis for mean­ing. Sci­en­tists (for whom legit­imized-con­sen­t/ agree­ment means objectivity–and I don’t mean this pejo­ra­tive­ly at all) need to do this as a result of hav­ing some exis­ten­tial mea­sur­ing stick against which lan­guage needs to be mea­sured for any work/ progress of refin­ing the prop­er­ties of the existential/ exter­nal object to be done.

    But not all lan­guage has some exis­ten­tial mea­sur­ing stick or some “seman­ti­cal­ly exter­nal” ref­er­ence. And, iron­i­cal­ly, John Sear­le would be one of the first peo­ple to agree with me on this last point.

  • Connor Syrewicz says:

    @jkop: think­ing a bit more about the seman­tic exter­nal­ist approach to lan­guage and I thought that I should clar­i­fy that real­ly, the last points are there to prove a bit more suc­cinct­ly why Der­ri­da and peo­ple like Put­nam are more com­ple­men­tary than at odds (regard­less of whether or not you or they con­sid­er him to be “bad” phi­los­o­phy). Der­ri­da is trac­ing (refer­ring back to Der­ri­da’s “trace”) the trans­for­ma­tions of lan­guage as lan­guage (con­sid­er my exam­ples of “cool cat” exist­ing in a world with­out cats or “habeas cor­pus” exist­ing in a world where Greek has become a dead lan­guage) where­as Put­nam, Burge, et al. are trac­ing the gen­er­a­tive gram­mar of lin­guis­tic appre­hen­sion and appro­pri­a­tion.

    Two dif­fer­ent objects, both nec­es­sary for a full under­stand­ing of the sub­ject, as far as I am con­cerned.

  • Hibrido says:

    “I do not believe, as you sug­gest, that it is oppor­tune to dis­so­ci­ate ques­tions of “pow­er rela­tions” or of “rhetor­i­cal coer­cion” from ques­tions of the deter­mi­na­cy or inde­ter­mi­na­cy of “mean­ing.” With­out play in and among these ques­tions, there would be no space for con­flicts of force. The impo­si­tion of a mean­ing sup­pos­es a cer­tain play or lat­i­tude in its deter­mi­na­tion. I shall return to this in a moment.
    If I speak of great sta­bil­i­ty, it is in order to empha­size that this seman­tic lev­el is nei­ther orig­i­nary, nor ahis­tor­i­cal, nor sim­ple, nor self-iden­ti­cal in any of its ele­ments, nor even entire­ly seman­tic or sig­nif­i­cant. Such sta­bi­liza­tion is rel­a­tive, even if it is some­times so great as to seem immutable and per­ma­nent. It is the momen­tary result of a whole his­to­ry of rela­tions of force ( intra- and extrase­man­tic, intra- and extradis­cur­sive, intra- and extralit­er­ary or ‑philo­soph­i­cal, intra- and extraa­ca­d­e­m­ic, etc. ). In order for this his­to­ry to have tak­en place, in its tur­bu­lence and in its stases, in order for rela­tions of force, of ten­sions, or of wars to have tak­en place, in order for hege­monies to have imposed them­selves dur­ing a deter­mi­nate peri­od, there must have been a cer­tain play in all these struc­tures, hence a cer­tain insta­bil­i­ty or non-self-iden­ti­ty, non­trans­paren­cy. Rhetor­i­cal equiv­o­ca­tion and mobil­i­ty, for instance, must have been able to work with­in “mean­ing. ” Dif­fer­ance must have been able to affect ref­er­ence. In short, what I sought to des­ig­nate under the title of “dou­bling com­men­tary” is the “min­i­mal” deci­pher­ing of the “first” per­ti­nent or com­pe­tent access to struc­tures that are rel­a­tive­ly sta­ble (and hence desta­bi­liz­able!), and from which the most ven­ture­some ques­tions and inter­pre­ta­tions have to start: ques­tions con­cern­ing con­flicts, ten­sions, dif­fer­ences of force, hege­monies that have allowed such pro­vi­sion­al instal­la­tions to take place. Once again, that was pos­si­ble only if a non-self-iden­ti­ty, a dif­fer­ance and a rel­a­tive inde­ter­mi­na­cy opened the space of this vio­lent his­to­ry. What has always inter­est­ed me the most, what has always seemed to me the most rig­or­ous (the­o­ret­i­cal­ly, sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly, philo­soph­i­cal­ly, but also for a writ­ing that would no longer be only the­o­ret­i­cal-sci­en­tif­ic-philo­soph­i­cal), is not inde­ter­mi­na­cy in itself, but the strictest pos­si­ble deter­mi­na­tion of the fig­ures of play, of oscil­la­tion, of unde­cid­abil­i­ty, which is to say, of the dif­fer­an­tial con­di­tions of deter­minable his­to­ry, etc.… On the oth­er hand, if I have just pru­dent­ly placed quo­ta­tion marks around “min­i­mal” and “first,” it is because I do not believe in the pos­si­bil­i­ty of an absolute deter­mi­na­tion of the “min­i­mal” and of the “first. ” Accord­ing to con­texts (accord­ing to this or that nation­al cul­ture, in the uni­ver­si­ty or out­side the uni­ver­si­ty, in school or else­where, at one lev­el of com­pe­tence or at anoth­er, on tele­vi­sion, in the press, or in a spe­cial­ized col­lo­qui­um), the con­di­tions of min­i­mal per­ti­nence and of ini­tial access will change. You know that I am thus allud­ing, in pass­ing, to con­crete prob­lems of cur­ricu­lum, for exam­ple, or to the lev­el of require­ments in our pro­fes­sion, whether we are talk­ing of stu­dents or of teach­ers.
    Once that “min­i­mal” and “first” are under­stood to have mean­ing only in deter­mi­nate con­texts, the con­cept that I was aim­ing at with the inad­e­quate expres­sion of “dou­bling com­men­tary” is the con­cept of a read­ing-writ­ing that, count­ing on a very strong prob­a­bil­i­ty of con­sen­sus con­cern­ing the intel­li­gi­bil­i­ty of a text, itself the result of the sta­bi­lized solid­i­ty of numer­ous con­tracts, seems only to para­phrase, unveil, reflect, repro­duce a text, “com­ment­ing” on it with­out any oth­er active or risky ini­tia­tive. This is only an appear­ance, since this moment is already active­ly inter­pre­tive and can there­fore open the way to all sorts of strate­gic rus­es in order to have con­struc­tions pass as evi­dences or as con­sta­tive obser­va­tions. But I believe that no research is pos­si­ble in a com­mu­ni­ty (for exam­ple, aca­d­e­m­ic) with­out the pri­or search for this min­i­mal con­sen­sus and with­out dis­cus­sion around this min­i­mal con­sen­sus. What­ev­er the dis­agree­ments between Sear­le and myself may have been, for instance, no one doubt­ed that I had under­stood at least the Eng­lish gram­mar and vocab­u­lary of his sen­tences. With­out that no debate would have begun. Which does not amount to say­ing that all pos­si­bil­i­ty of mis­un­der­stand­ings on my part is exclud­ed a pri­ori, but that they would have to be, one can hope at least, of anoth­er order. Inverse­ly (to take only one exam­ple, which could be mul­ti­plied), if Sear­le had been famil­iar enough with the work of Descartes to rec­og­nize the par­o­d­ic ref­er­ence to a Carte­sian title in my text (cf. what I say about this in it), he would have been led to com­pli­cate his read­ing con­sid­er­ably. Had he been atten­tive to the neo­log­i­cal char­ac­ter of the French word restance-remains-which in my text does not sig­ni­fy per­ma­nence, he would have been on the right track and well on the way [sur la bonne voie] to read­ing me, etc. For of course there is a “right track” [une ‘bonne voie ”] , a bet­ter way, and let it be said in pass­ing how sur­prised I have often been, how amused or dis­cour­aged, depend­ing on my humor, by the use or abuse of the fol­low­ing argu­ment: Since the decon­struc­tion­ist (which is to say, isn’t it, the skep­tic- rel­a­tivist-nihilist!) is sup­posed not to believe in truth, sta­bil­i­ty, or the uni­ty of mean­ing, in inten­tion or “mean­ing-to-say, ” how can he demand of us that we read him with per­ti­nence, pre­ci­sion, rig­or? How can he demand that his own text be inter­pret­ed cor­rect­ly? How can he accuse any­one else of hav­ing mis­un­der­stood, sim­pli­fied, deformed it, etc.? In oth­er words, how can he dis­cuss, and dis­cuss the read­ing of what he writes? The answer is sim­ple enough: this def­i­n­i­tion of the decon­struc­tion­ist is false (that’s right: false, not true) and fee­ble; it sup­pos­es a bad (that’s right: bad, not good) and fee­ble read­ing of numer­ous texts, first of all mine, which there­fore must final­ly be read or reread. Then per­haps it will be under­stood that the val­ue of truth (and all those val­ues asso­ci­at­ed with it) is nev­er con­test­ed or destroyed in my writ­ings, but only rein­scribed in more pow­er­ful, larg­er, more strat­i­fied con­texts. And that with­in inter­pre­tive con­texts (that is, with­in rela­tions of force that are always dif­fer­en­tial-for exam­ple, socio-polit­i­cal-insti­tu­tion­al-but even beyond these deter­mi­na­tions) that are rel­a­tive­ly sta­ble, some­times appar­ent­ly almost unshake­able, it should be pos­si­ble to invoke rules of com­pe­tence, cri­te­ria of dis­cus­sion and of con­sen­sus, good faith, lucid­i­ty, rig­or, crit­i­cism, and ped­a­gogy. I should thus be able to claim and to demon­strate, with­out the slight­est “prag­mat­ic con­tra­dic­tion,” that Sear­le, for exam­ple, as I have already demon­strat­ed, was not on the “right track” toward under­stand­ing what I want­ed to say, etc. May I hence­forth how­ev­er be grant­ed this: he could have been on the wrong track or may still be on it; I am mak­ing con­sid­er­able ped­a­gog­i­cal efforts here to cor­rect his errors and that cer­tain­ly proves that all the pos­i­tive val­ues to which I have just referred are con­tex­tu­al, essen­tial­ly lim­it­ed, unsta­ble, and endan­gered. And there­fore that the essen­tial and irre­ducible pos­si­bil­i­ty of mis­un­der­stand­ing or of “infe­lic­i­ty” must be tak­en into account in the descrip­tion of those val­ues said to be pos­i­tive.
    In short, to cite you, not only, as you right­ly say, “this process of inten­tions and mean­ings dif­fer­ing from them­selves does not negate the pos­si­bil­i­ty of ‘dou­bling com­men­tary,’ ” but this “dou­bling com­men­tary” and its “guardrails,” which are always con­struct­ed (and hence decon­structible), would them­selves be nei­ther pos­si­ble nor nec­es­sary with­out this play of dif­fer­ance. And you are right in say­ing that these “prac­ti­cal impli­ca­tions for inter­pre­ta­tion” are “not so threat­en­ing to con­ven­tion­al modes of read­ing,” since they seem to rejoin the min­i­mal “require­ments” of all cul­ture, of all read­ing, of all research (aca­d­e­m­ic or not). ”
    Lim­it­ed Inc

  • Hibrido says:

    n 1988, Der­ri­da wrote “After­word: Toward An Eth­ic of Dis­cus­sion”, to be pub­lished with the pre­vi­ous essays in the col­lec­tion Lim­it­ed Inc. Com­ment­ing this crit­ics in a foot­note he questioned:[105][106]
    “ I just want to raise the ques­tion of what pre­cise­ly a philoso­pher is doing when, in a news­pa­per with a large cir­cu­la­tion, he finds him­self com­pelled to cite pri­vate and unver­i­fi­able insults of anoth­er philoso­pher in order to autho­rize him­self to insult in turn and to prac­tice what in French is called un juge­ment d’au­torité, that is, the method and pre­ferred prac­tice of all dog­ma­tism.

    I do not know whether the fact of cit­ing in French suf­fices to guar­an­tee the authen­tic­i­ty of a cita­tion when it con­cerns a pri­vate opin­ion. I do not exclude the pos­si­bil­i­ty that Fou­cault may have said such things, alas! That is a dif­fer­ent ques­tion, which would have to be treat­ed sep­a­rate­ly. But as he is dead, I will not in my turn cite the judg­ment which, as I have been told by those who were close to him, Fou­cault is sup­posed to have made con­cern­ing the prac­tice of Sear­le in this case and on the act that con­sist­ed in mak­ing this use of an alleged cita­tion. ”

  • John Haglund says:

    First read Derrida’s “Sig­na­ture Event Con­text”, then Searle’s “Reit­er­at­ing the Dif­fer­ences” and final­ly indulge in Der­ri­das “Lim­it­ed Inc”. Seri­ous­ly, laughed my ass off. I have nev­er seen any­one get so metic­u­lous­ly ripped apart as Sear­le in that “debate”.

    • Nle says:

      It’s been years since I read the exchange, but I do recall it as nbe­ing kin­da excru­ci­at­ing. Sad in a way — Sear­le seems like a per­fect­ly nnice guy, just wild­ly out of his depth. Der­ri­da can per­haps be crit­i­cised (mild­ly, and with a wink) for indulging in an awful lot of unnec­es­sary play (in gen­er­al, not just in this exchange), but Sear­le just ends up look­ing like a grouchy buf­foon.

  • William Large says:

    Is any­one argu­ing that obscu­ri­ty is good thing in itself? I don’t think so. But what can be clear for some­one can be obscure for anoth­er. In the end it’s whether you think the obscu­ri­ty is worth it or not. A lot of the tech­ni­cal lan­guage of ana­lyt­ic phi­los­o­phy can be very obscure if you don’t know it, just as a lot of the style of con­ti­nen­tal can be. You just have to ask your­self does this make me think or not. If no, don’t read it. Sear­le is being a bit of a clown real­ly. Why would I let him tell me what I ought to and ought not to read? Also he was com­plete­ly toast­ed in his debate with Der­ri­da. For a start off it was clear he had­n’t read any Der­ri­da (and prob­a­bly had­n’t read any Fou­cault either), so he was­n’t too con­vinc­ing.

    What wor­ries me more is your obses­sion with clar­i­ty as a way of polic­ing what is valid philo­soph­i­cal­ly or not. It is a kind of fas­cism of the mind in the end.

    • Nick Brittlebank says:

      “A lot of the tech­ni­cal lan­guage of ana­lyt­ic phi­los­o­phy can be very obscure if you don’t know it.“nSurely the point isn’t how clear the lan­guage is to a giv­en read­er but rather whether or not there is a spe­cif­ic point being made, expressed as con­cise­ly and clear­ly as pos­si­ble giv­en the con­tent. To an extent, crisp­ness of prose is to be favoured over acces­si­bil­i­ty because it means more ideas can be deliv­ered. The issue isn’t obscu­ri­ty, it’s obscu­ri­ty for obscu­ri­ty’s sake. The argu­ment being made is that some writ­ers in the con­ti­nen­tal tra­di­tion are delib­er­ate­ly obscure out of van­i­ty. n“Why would I let him tell me what I ought to and ought not to read?“nBecause he knows more about phi­los­o­phy than you. That’s like ask­ing why a you should let a doc­tor treat your skin can­cer.. n“What wor­ries me more is your obses­sion with clar­i­ty as a way of polic­ing what is valid… it is a kind of fas­cism of the mind in the end.” nDon’t be sil­ly. You’re per­fect­ly enti­tled to your wrong ideas, just as you’re enti­tled to prac­tice a less­er species of phi­los­o­phy.

  • jkop says:

    @William: the seem­ing obscu­ri­ty of a tech­ni­cal expres­sion is prob­a­bly evoked by pri­vate unfa­mil­iar­i­ty with its use than an actu­al inde­ter­mi­na­cy of its mean­ing. One could prob­a­bly look it up in a man­u­al. A lit­er­ary expres­sion, how­ev­er, whose mean­ing is inde­ter­mi­nate, is gen­uine­ly obscure.

    Obscure “the­o­ry” as no spe­cif­ic man­u­al, and evi­dent­ly pro­vokes debate or dis­course on how to inter­pret its expres­sions. This is what makes its read­ers “think”, as in try­ing to under­stand the con­tort­ed or mis­used lan­guage, before one could even start think­ing about its appli­ca­tion in mean­ing­ful use. It’s a con­fi­dence trick, which enables an end­less chat­ter immune to crit­i­cism or truths.

  • F. B. says:

    Jesus this is total bull­shit. Fou­cault and Bour­dieu wrote admirably well and clear­ly in French, which, if Sear­le was flu­ent in the lan­guage, he would know. Obvi­ous­ly he’s not. nnOf course they’re dead so Sear­le can say what­ev­er the hell he wants about them, they can’t answer his ridicu­lous alle­ga­tions. Just the idea that Bour­dieu of all peo­ple would “con­fess” to will­ful­ly writ­ing in an abstruse way is ridiculous.nnnAlso I call cul­tur­al impe­ri­al­ism in want­i­ng the French lan­guage to be col­o­nized by the rules of Eng­lish writ­ing. You can look at Proust to under­stand that is per­fect­ly accept­able in French to have sen­tences that car­ry over sev­er­al pages with a judi­cious use of punc­tu­a­tion. Or Balzac for that mat­ter. nnOr any con­tem­po­rary admin­is­tra­tive French cor­re­spon­dence. nnThis is the way the French lan­guage is struc­tured and oper­ates, whether it is aca­d­e­m­ic or not. I’m sor­ry it’s a dif­fi­cult con­cept to grasp for some mono­lin­gual peo­ple.

    • KeepToTheFacts says:

      As a French native I have to agree with Sear­le and Fou­cault. Just read their ear­ly work and it’s painful­ly obvi­ous.

  • as says:

    is the point not to be delib­er­ate­ly obscure but rather to make mean­ing flu­id — so if you approach a text try­ing to deter­mine its mean­ing the you’re bound to fail; the text is open so you make of it what­ev­er you want

  • hork says:

    I would love to find what this audio clip is from so I can source it bet­ter than the 3 minute clip. If any­one knows, please help me out here.

  • William Large says:

    Why do keep post­ing this rub­bish. This must the third or fourth time you have post­ed Sear­le’s slur. As Der­ri­da point­ed out, he could even be both­ered to read French phi­los­o­phy so why should any­one care what he thought? This seems to your ver­sion of click bait.

  • yorgo says:

    Sor­ry to bust in on the lin­guists but habeas cor­pus is latin not greek.

  • Mythistorian says:

    I kept read­ing this fruit­less con­ver­sa­tion in order to defer more unpleas­ant tasks but the very top of your response final­ly hit the nail on the head—the fact that you said some­thing, you com­mu­ni­cat­ed some­thing, whose inten­tion­al­i­ty you had final­ly to dis­own: “I did­n’t mean it…blah, blah,…” The fact that you had to dis­own inten­tion­al­i­ty seems to me the empir­i­cal and very clear proof of the fatal lim­i­ta­tion of this nar­row-mind­ed and ulti­mate­ly anti-philo­soph­i­cal ana­lyt­ic tradition—which is real­ly a scholas­tic exer­cise of seclu­sion in new sec­u­lar clois­ters and ivory tow­ers. Let us not over­look the fact that any of these par­a­digms of clear thought, let us take Chom­sky or even Sear­le, are by no means “acces­si­ble” to the gen­er­al pub­lic either. Espe­cial­ly, chom­sky is unable to speak about any aspects of lin­guis­tic the­o­ry with­out mobi­liz­ing a flood of sci­en­tif­ic jar­gon. To be very clear: what we have here is no debate between two “tra­di­tions of phi­los­o­phy” but rather a split between phi­los­o­phy prop­er and an anti-philo­soph­i­cal move­ment of intel­lec­tu­al repres­sion.

  • james says:

    Oh, spend­ing the entire grad­u­ate schools years you still could­n’t under­stand any of the three? can i say you iq is too low?

  • Clinton Davidson says:

    From sec­tion 173 of Niet­zsche’s Gay Sci­ence:

    Being deep and appear­ing deep.—Whoever knows he is deep, strives for clar­i­ty; who­ev­er would like to appear deep to the crowd, strives for obscu­ri­ty. For the crowd con­sid­ers any­thing deep if only it can­not see to the bot­tom: the crowd is so timid and afraid of going into the water.

    For crowd, read po-mo grad­u­ate stu­dents.

  • Ferdinand says:

    As a French native, why isn’t Bau­drillard’s denun­ci­a­tion of Fou­cault equal­ly valid and painful­ly obvi­ous?

  • Ferdinand says:

    Did you read this bit of the arti­cle above?

    “…and Fou­cault said that Der­ri­da prac­ticed the method of obscu­ran­tisme ter­ror­iste (ter­ror­ism of obscu­ran­tism). We were speak­ing in French.”

    Did you read the arti­cle at all? I’m not French, but Bel­gian and I also con­sid­er some French philoso­phers to be obscu­ran­tists. Despite what you might think there are lots of peo­ple in France who think so. Your mas­tery of French does­n’t imme­di­ate­ly lend things more clar­i­ty, that’s not how this works.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.