- With Foucault we have the endless analysis of the great archive.
- With Zizek we have the analysis of pop-culture texts and the texts of other philosophers.
- With Derrida, well Derrida. Everywhere we have texts about texts, as if we would be violating something to speak directly about the world in non-textual worlds.
I am, of course, cognizant of the arguments that all of our experience is historically and textually mediated. I accept those arguments and am not calling for some unmediated relationship to the world. Yet what I find interesting is the way anything independent of text seems to have disappeared. I cannot help but feel that this is the result of the great critiques between the 17th and 20th century. Ultimately these critiques demonstrated the impossibility of any grounding of knowledge, whether through reason or sensation. In addition to this, there are socio-historical questions to be asked.
- What conditions have led to the virtualization of the world?
- What, for instance, suddenly made it plausible for Peirce to develop a metaphysics of signs in and through his semiotics, such that all being came to be seen as concatations of various types of signs?
As Derrida points out, this was not unheard of as the world has often been described as a book. Nonetheless, it seems to me that Peirce is unprecidented in conceiving things themselves as signs. These are not the questions I’m focused on or interested in pursuing in this context, though they’re worth asking. At any rate, in the current academic climate, if we wish to speak of world today we cannot do so directly, but must pass through the interval of another text, through a close reading of another philosopher, rather than to make claims directly about the world. We speak indirectly of the world through another naive philosopher or thinker that believes that he or she can speak directly of the world by writing a commentary on their text.
- Is there a way that it is possible today to renew discourse about the world, or are we irrevocably doomed to commentaries on texts? ~ by larvalsubjects on April 20, 2007. 3 Responses to “The Textual Turn”
I think you’ve arrested one of the primary problems that American Continental philosophy has with itself (and, undoubtedly, that others have with it). There is a certain diffidence in theory (perhaps this is one factor in theory’s constant attempts to justify itself?) stemming from the idea that the thing itself always eludes us, a presupposition many of us share.
I’m convinced that this needs to change - not the presupposition I’ve identified (I think it is accurate), but the endless construction of endnotes, the commentaries on commentaries. And I’m also convinced that this cannot be done on a large scale, but calls for a local solution. We can’t all be luminaries (Zizeks, Badious, Agambens, Nancys, etc), but a good many of us have something to contribute. I think (aside from dissertations) American philosophers need to give themselves more credit, as it were, and tackle the problems themselves rather than explaining and critiquing what luminaries think. It’s more exciting to be in the parade than to watch it go by.
(I’m aware that academic philosophers of all bents will say: I am tackling “the problems themselves,” and the fact that I couch that thought in terms of explanation or critique of someone else’s work doesn’t mean it’s any less original, etc. And there is merit to this argument. But it’s only a half-truth at best.) Kyle said this on April 21st, 2007 at 2:50 am