Friday, February 17, 2006

Pretentious, Verbose

Camille Paglia rips on "the pretentious, verbose trinity of Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan and Michel Foucault." I don't know Paglia well enough to even guess whether she's being ironic. Maybe the reference to her "78- page review essay" is a clue. Anyhow, her target is Foucault, which doesn't interest me so much. I am interested in the charge of verbosity being leveled against Derrida, because in my limited experience Derrida is a remarkably economical thinker.

Clark at Mormon Metaphysics touches on Derrida's way of thinking with regard to metaphor. At a certain level of abstraction, I think can understand what Clark is saying. It's as if Derrida had a model similar to Gödel's incompleteness theorem that he applied to various problems. For sure, Derrida is adept at axiomatic reduction and manipulation, and keen to logical contradictions, and the idea of a supplement does seem to be a constant element of his thinking.

I'd been meaning to respond to Clark's reading of Derrida since he commented on Derrida's interpretation of Husserl's Origins of Geometry, because I didn't think Clark's synopsis of Husserl's argument got it quite right. Sometimes it takes me forever and a day to assemble my thoughts, and meanwhile Clark has whizzed on by in several other posts devoted to Derrida's thinking. And it's difficult to concieve of responding to somebody who uses some but not all of the books that you've read, and some books that you haven't read and maybe won't ever get around to. It's funny that this difficulty should appear in the context of a hypothetical difference of opinion on a topic where I believe we would largely and essentially agree. How much worse could it be?

Jacques Derrida has become an icon, a transcontintental cultural marker. Some of the people who have read Derrida's works also have informed opinions about Camille Paglia, one way or another. Others don't. In cases like this, it is very hard for me to see what is essential about a thinker. Can we imagine that Socrates understood Heraclitus better than the Heracliteans? Of course, but it does raise questions about thinking, essence, logos, nous, etc.. One thing that persistently bugs me--a fault in my own thinking as much as a constant feature of pretentious and verbose discourse--is the feeling that opinions are formed primarily based on identification with a name, and once they are set, if they turn out to be pretty worthless, it's like a root canal trying to get them unset.

posted by Fido the Yak at 5:57 PM.


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