But we do not want to get anywhere. We would like only, for once, to get to just where we are already (Martin Heidegger).
Every system, ensemble, institution—anything, that is, which brings its elements together under a principle or set of principles—must have come about on the basis of certain conditions. And no such ensemble would fail to produce moments when its relationship to its conditions are thematized, dramatized or otherwise represented. These are the moments of self-identification, producing myths and fictions as factual narratives. Such representations can always be compared with the actual conditions themselves, which are always also readable at the level of an ensemble’s performance. Our principle of interpretation can therefore be confidently located in the space, the disjuncture or gap between the statement about and the performance of the relation between the ensemble and the conditions of its own existence.
We have referred to this distinction in terms of the difference between the subject of the statement and the subject of enunciation. The statement changes not a bit in its logic or grammar but dramatic differences emerge at the level of rhetoric when the enunciative level is taken into consideration. This is especially the case when the discussion can be taken as an example of what is being discussed.
This disjuncture or gap between statement and performance we can call deconstruction. The conditions of deconstruction can now be reasonably clearly outlined. The following dogmatically presented statements (my pedagogic irony is in full flow here) have been inappropriately abducted (and abstracted) from slow, patient, careful readings of texts and they are in no way meant as a substitute for that:
Three Key Problems
The key term would be repetition. All the phenomena identified with or associated with repetition seem intrinsically connected to our most basic experiences—even if they are traditionally opposed to what is considered most basic. Some assumptions: Human existence implies a legacy that we inherit. We could call this our historicity. Historicity is not exactly the same as history. Historicity is the condition of being historical. One of the things we learn from our writers today is that the aim of locating and understanding conditions cannot necessarily be achieved by simply studying the phenomena (i.e., historical events) that they make possible. In other words both Heidegger and Derrida are interested in the connection between what is necessary and what is possible (but not always necessary). Both of them also share the conclusion that the best way forward, in any of the dimensions that we humans operate in, implies types of response to the traditions, legacies and histories that make us what we are. That response (our responsibility—the ability to respond with a modicum of freedom to a tradition) always implies some minimal freedom.
Martin Heidegger’s notion of “repetition,” Wiederholung (repetition/retrieval) is first properly thematized in Being and Time (Sein und Zeit, 1927) and then more fully worked out in the Kantbuch (Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics). It is worth examining there because Heidegger is seldom clearer on this than he is in the latter text. This is his definition:
By the Wiederholung of a basic problem, we understand the opening-up of its original, long concealed possibilities, through the working-out of which it is transformed. In this way it first comes to be preserved in its capacity as a problem. To preserve a problem, however, means to free and keep watch over those inner forces which make it possible, on the basis of its essence, as a problem. (KB 139)
What are repeated, then, and thus preserved, are the “inner forces” that make a problem possible. What is affirmed is the problematic. The strategy thus involves the location of a persistent problem, the working out of its conditions and the repetition of those conditions in response as a way of perpetuating the problematic. What can be read as a problem of metaphysics can always be interpreted as a possibility of its future. In this way the legacy or tradition can be read in terms of its Geschick—it’s destination (destiny) as sending forth.
The second main problematic would be the curious relations between presence and absence and the even more curious condition—that we discover animating language, for instance, that is neither simply present nor simply absent. This middle—we could even call it a milieu—can be designated by many terms, some of which take us to the yet more curious notion of difference. The simplest and most topical way of thinking about this notion is to think of it as a kind of interval that one does not experience as such, like the intervals between repetitions, keeping them apart but identifying them as belonging to each other. This helps because it allows you to think of differences as the same without positing some originary notion of identity.
The third and final distinction would be that between a determination (e.g., a meaning) and the undetermined (which would be what makes determinations possible for future events). We are, in other words, temporal (and temporary) beings responding to a past and anticipating a future, without certainty and with unassailable limits to calculability, which compose the structural conditions for our every experience of the present. Language in particular and writing in general, according to Derrida, provide us with the conditions of possibility and the explanations for our experiences generally.
Further Pages on Deconstruction