genre of discourse: gives rules for phrase linkage. Has a unique stake or aim. Examples: dialectical, rhetorical, technical, tragic, comic, artistic, scientific, anthropological.
the philosophical genre of discourse: seeks to discover its own rules, and does not mind "wasting the time" in doing so.
I. The Establishment of Reality
§B. Reality emerges when the referent of ostension in the current phrase is carried over into a different, now current phrase, whose deictic context (the “I”-“here”-“now” nexus) has shifted. There we stand before a red flower, and after some time we move on, we walk around the corner, all the while talking about its color. Maybe by comparing it to other red objects we know. Maybe, if we are adepts in the language of electromagnetic radiation, we will talk about it in terms of wavelength (§61), which is in turn a measure of comparison with all other visible objects.
§C. By this point in our walk, with the flower no longer in sight, “red” has become a name. See how it, as name, perdures across significations, exhibiting formal rigidity (§60), even as it attracts new significations, regardless how many (§74-5). In the cognitive genre: red like a lingonberry, a fire engine, a fire button; in the exclamatory genre: what I see now in my anger; in the normative genre: that to which our economy ought or ought not aspire (§77-79). But to show the reality of this named thing, we must return to ostension, combining it with the name and the signification we have in mind. Reality is thus established (§65,§82).
§D. —What do you mean, “reality emerges” and “reality is established”? It’s already there. All you have to do is look! (§49) —If you look, how can you tell that you are seeing appearance rather than reality? Is the moon really disappearing, or is it waning? Is there an eclipse? —Because I happen to know a thing or two about astronomy… —On the other hand, if you assume that what you see is real, how can you know which parts to include in that reality that escape your current perspective? How can you say the moon is real, if you know nothing of its dark side? —Again, because of my knowledge of astronomy… —Whose every object, on your understanding of reality, is based on what might turn out to be mere appearance or upon a partial vision of a whole whose complete nature, if revealed, might overturn your concept of what it is that you see (§63). And even if you satisfy yourself with the coordination of these partial glimpses, that coordination would only be possible by the names that persist over time and the significations they gather.
§E. —What about picture of reality, made of simple signs, each of which maps to an element of reality? —But to judge the soundness of the correspondence, you need to compare reality with your picture of it, which requires holding a picture of reality up against…a picture of your picture of reality? And so your judgment of a picture’s goodness rests on the assumption another picture’s goodness (§55)? —But certainly the reality of the object I am pointing to right now is a property of that object, if it is to be, well, real (§47,§67)? —But mere ostension doesn’t suffice (Wittgenstein’s chess king, Philosophical Investigations, §31), nor does adding a description: an empty designator needs to bind these two and situate them in a network of names (§67).
§F. The spontaneous understanding of reality is overturned. The important upshot of this is that reality is not fixed or unitary, but is rather like a phrase — radically open to the future — open to the swarm of significations that attract to a name. (§82,§88) Of course, in being open, reality is also open to doubt: “its assertion is subject to the rules for establishing reality…”(§101). Reality never detaches from the rules of its establishment. And reality is irreducibly plural, a set of lines passing through the single point that is the phrase.
§G. Anaximander Notice. What realities there are begin, in every case, with a phrase, an occurrence, an Ereignis. What of this phrase, this agitated indeterminacy that we wait upon in anxious vigil, what of this, might we say, ἄπειρον?
[Anaximander] declares that what arose from the eternal and is productive of … hot and cold was separated off at the coming to be of this kosmos, and a kind of sphere of flame from this grew around the dark mist about the earth like bark about a tree. When it was broken off and enclosed in certain circles, the sun, moon, and stars came to be. (pseudo-Plutarch, Stromata 2 = DK 12A10)
§I. Consider what happens in the speculative genre, in “affirmative dialectics”, that is, what happens when we try to make sense of the heterogeneity I describe. It is a “struggle against oblivion” (§124) and for, what? Why build up a reality at all, other than that we have to and cannot avoid it? Is metaphysics, oneness—control, coordination, harmony--the goal and law for linking phrases (§152)? Is a phrase a demand for coherence with all other phrases? What of the “struggle for oblivion” (§124)? We can’t choose not to link, but how to link is not governed by necessity (§102). The “teleology of fulfillment” (§134), the drive toward oneness, toward a Hegelian Resultat, falsely universalizes linkage rules drawn from a particular cognitive genre.
§J. Suppose we militate against this drive toward oneness. How can we choose oblivion, or nothing? How could oblivion be, if “[what] escapes doubt is that there is at least one phrase”? (§99) Oblivion can’t be silence, because silence is a phrase that specifically expresses by way of illustration a lack of competence, relevance, worthiness, etc. (§26)
§K. “Why is there something rather than nothing” is really a question about phrases (§99). But the nothing also is. The paratactical use of ‘and’ — by which we can link to a phrase by a completely, logically oblique motion that presents nothing in that phrase — “connotes the abyss of Not-Being which opens between phrases” (§100). Strictly speaking, nothing, the absence of linkage, is also a phrase (§105). But the constant possibility of parataxis witnesses to all the linkages that do not occur simultaneously with the ones that do.
§L. “The presentation entailed by a phrase is forgotten by it, plunged into the river Lethe. Another phrase pulls it back out and presents it, oblivious to the presentation that it itself entails. Memory is doubled by oblivion.” (§124)
§M. Perhaps, then, parataxis is a method for recovering a phrase from oblivion. An unsurprising course of phrases is underway, and then this one shows up, adrip with Lethean waters. Here is a sudden anamnesis. The repressed has returned. The stable course of phrases has been upset. One struggles in a moment of tense vigil to present something it bears: “[this] threat, this marvel, and this anxiety, namely the nothingness of a ‘what-is-to-be-linked’” (§206). This silent moment, before the establishment procedures are rediscovered or reinvented, before comparisons are possible, is this the sublime? That which is schechthin gross and which, unlike eine Größe, admits no comparison? (Critique of Judgment, §25)
§N. This nothing, this Erhabene opens a fissure in time. “Time is not what is lacking to consciousness, time makes consciousness lack itself.” (§125) That is, time which in every case is the situation of a phrase in a network of temporal phrases: now, later, before and thus a condition of thought. The “current phrase” of raw deictics, and so a foundation of reality, qua “current”, makes no sense without reference to these other moments. A phrase that absorbs us to the point of forgetting every rival phrase is to that extent omni-repressive. Time makes consciousness lack itself. We might similarly say: Ohne ursprüngliche Offenbarkeit des Nichts kein Selbstsein und keine Freiheit. “Without original revealability of the nothing, no selfhood and no freedom. (Heidegger's Was its Metaphysik?)
III. The Differend
§P. The differend is a confrontation of two claims, each of which is couched in its own untranslatable idiom. A resolution of the dispute would favor one claim over the other, but this could not be done without favoring one idiom over the other. This resolution, as an act of justice, would at the same time be an act of injustice in that it silences that idiom. The heart of injustice is the silencing of an idiom.
§Q. Politics entails the differend. In politics the heterogeneity of genres of discourse poses as a single one, and in doing so visits perpetual injustice on all. The aim is consensus, but this requires the achievement of totality, which is impossible (§A). Even a seemingly unified expression can harbor a differend: “We, the French people, ought to carry out act α”—this conflates the normative and prescriptive genres (§155). But it cannot be otherwise. “[The] tribunal that determines what a litigation is, which demands justice and which thereby forgets represses, and reactivates differends, must pronounce the sentences it passes, and must, first of all, found its authority upon the rules of a [single!] genre of discourse. At the same time, though, politics is not at all a genre, it bears witness to the nothingness which opens up with each occurring phrase and on the occasion of which the differend between genres of discourse is born. (§200, my italics)
§R. Indeed, “Reality entails the differend”, because multiple senses can attach to a name, just as that name can be taken up by heterogeneous phrase regimens and discourse genres. Even when we agree that the referent of the name is in the room, a common idiom and thus consensus eludes us (§92). And so, unlike the intellectuals whose task is propaganda, we philosophers attend to the rules of linkage, listening at every turn for the Ereignis. Is it happening?
Whatever the inherent limitations of the cognitive genre, whose stakes are truth, doesn’t this notion of justice inescapably imply, and require, an anthropology? For one, that the person is that which is (1) worthy of justice, (2) capable of justice and (3) obligated to pursue justice, which in turn requires that he is (4) obligated to consider what counts as just in any given situation? And that this in turn requires a some rational capacity, without which he could not reason about the just? And, given that he has obligations at all, a capacity to act in accordance with his deliberations?
Isn’t a struggle against certain forms of oblivion appropriate, as when breaking a bad habit, or overcoming laziness to complete a constructive task (e.g. writing this blog)? In presenting repressed voices as similarly maligned, doesn’t this paper over a natural hierarchy that obtains between repressed voices? Is it really the same to repress the drive to get up for an early workout and to repress the desire to stay in bed?
Is it really the case that comparison becomes possible only once the procedures for establishing reality are given? Must there not first be resemblances answering to the formation of those procedures? And can the salience that certain of these resemblances exhibit over others entirely reduce to our purposes? That is, mustn’t a natural hierarchy of natural resemblances obtain in order for for us to have anything to work with? Mightn't there be a nature that restricts the range of legitimate interpretations?
Backing up, isn’t there a profound moral hazard in play here that needs to be addressed? Even if it is the case that the political and ethical are marked by irreducible heterogeneity of stakes and views, is there not something seductive in leading with this card, without caveats? As a shibboleth, appeal to “multiple irreducible idioms” is, after all, very easy to learn. It obviates the rigor required in facing up the problem of universals, the persistence of identity over time, and the rest. And yet it comes across as sophisticated and magnanimous. And it can be invoked to avoid any personal conflict, any moral demand or any truth claim one finds inconvenient. Moreover, one can invoke it to avoid taking risks, say, of having to defend your claims, of being called intolerant or arrogant or downright stupid. Is it not the case, ironically, that “multiple irreducible idioms” is the ideal camouflage to run with the herd?
Does the rejection of the representational theory of knowledge (§E-F) successfully eliminate all essentialism? What about the participational theory of knowledge of De Anima, III? Doesn’t the rejection of representationalism perpetuate the deeper context of representationalism, that is, as with Descartes, that the warrant for all knowledge claims must be sought by inward reflection? And in doing so, in emphasizing the autonomy and authority of the subject, doesn’t this artificially heighten the tension between agents in a socially atomistic system? (I'm working off of Charles Taylor's "Overcoming Epistemology" here) And lastly, what role, if any, might the homunculus fallacy play in all of this? (As in Dennett's Consciousness Explained.)