Archive for the Aristotle Category

Confusion in the Midst

Posted in Aristotle, Derrida, DR, White Mythology on February 9, 2008 by untimelymediations

Admittedly, I am struggling with White Mythology.  Though I read the text through and found many parts decipherable/enjoyable, I am still having difficulty with certain portions of Derrida’s discourse.  As a result, the following is bound to be fraught with errors.

Essentially, as I understand Derrida’s discourse on replacement, the metaphor exists as a substitute for a word and its meanings.  As Derrida suggests, this substitute is devoid of the “sensousness” of the initial word.  Thus, each subsequent metaphor, though it relays the primary meaning, is still absent of the particularities inherent to the original.  Effectively, the metaphor operates much like a xerox copy, in that certain qualities experience a debilitating absence (simile seemed necessary at this particular junction).  Derrida references Hegel, and refers to this as the movement of idealization (225).  Yet, despite the ability the metaphor has to replace that which originally existed, excepting the sun, the metaphor is also intelligible in and of itself; the metaphor is nominalizable (233).  So, in essence, the metaphor replaces something by means of a substitution that allows for the original meaning to be deciphered.  Yet, the metaphor is also intelligible by itself.  Here, Derrida seems to be insisting that the original word, for which the metaphor is a substitute, does not have to be present.  The original word is inscribed as invisible ink on the metaphorical text:

…metaphysics has erased within itself the fabulous scene that has produced it, the scene that nevertheless remains active and stirring, inscribed in white ink, and invisible design covered over in palimpsest (213)

As Derrida continues, the metaphor is delimited.  Quite simply, the metaphor begins to constitute all that is written/spoken.  Referencing Du Marsias and the Aristotelian tradition, Derrida suggests that every word becomes a metaphor, with one condition of particular importance.  Each word must transport the proper literal meaning of a noun. 

Though this discourse is interesting, I find Derrida’s suggestion that the metaphor is proper to man to be of primary concern in this text (246).  Here, Derrida is quick to denote that the metaphor reflects/emulates “natural” occurrences and the relationship of man to nature.  Nature is continually laiden with the activity of metaphor.  Thus, as Derrida suggests, metaphor is appropriate to nature and, by extension, man. 

Returning to Aristotle, Derrida begins to explicate the issue of properness as it relates to metaphor.  Of course, here, one must consider his stipulation that metaphor is proper to man (246).  According to Aristotle, a noun is proper when it has a single sense (247).  According to Derrida, not to have a meaning is to be absent of meaning, and by extension, reasoning.  Without meaning, one is outside language, and outside humanity.  Here, is present what appears to be Derrida’s critique of the Sophists.  According to the text, sophists say nothing that can be reduced to meaning, thus Sophistic teachings are absent of that which is proper.  Second, proper shoudl not be confused with essence.  As previously suggested/implied, the metaphor relays the essence of a term without providing the essence itself (249).  Essence, in this context, is truth.  So, might it be stated that the metaphor relays truth, without providing the actual truth?  Understanding most of language as metaphor, what ramifications does this have for the presence of truth/essence in discourse?  There exists, here, a simultaneous presence and absence of truth.  Finally, this discourse shifts to the issue of the metaphor’s relationship to the sun…

Derrida notes, still in accordance with Aristotelian logic, that every metaphor which implies the sun refuses certain knowledge.  Heliotropic metaphors are always imperfect in that we are provided with too little knowledge.  Again, truth or essence seems to be of particular importance in this discussion.  Furthermore, the sun can only be metaphorical.  The sun is always an artificial construction that is never properly present in discourse. 

Finally, it seems fruitful to consider the examples of metaphor that Derrida provides near the end of the text.  Derrida references the discovery of the cell, and that Hooke borrowed “cell” from terminology associated with the beehive.  Here, Derrida suggests that certain ideas arise as a result of this borrowing; that people unconciously consider the beehive in relationship to the cell.  Derrida seems to be suggesting that as words are supplanted in the case of new discoveries, these words significantly impact the connotations that arise in relatonship to these discoveries.