«Logocentrism and the Gathering Λόγος: Heidegger, Derrida, and the Contextual Centers of Meaning1 Jussi Backman University of Helsinki Abstract ...»
avoid the impression of an authoritative attempt by Derrida to impute a simple or total meaning to his own texts. In fact, Derrida suggests that the irreducible plurality of textual meaning is perhaps precisely the unthought element in Heidegger, or rather, his “unthoughts.” In a 1987 text titled “Desistance”—the word, retrieved from the work of Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, refers to a breakdown or dispersion as a radical form of “resistance” to the logic of any discourse, a refusal to uphold its unequivocal consistency— Derrida mentions the Heideggerian “fundamental axiom according to which the un-thought
of a thought is always single, always unique,” and goes on to ask:
What if Heidegger’s unthought... was not one, but plural? What if his unthought was believing in the uniqueness or the unity of the unthought? I won’t make a critique out of my uneasiness, because I do not believe that this gesture of gathering is avoidable. It is always productive, and philosophically necessary. But I will continue to wonder whether the very “logic” of desistance, as we will continue to follow it, should not lead to some irreducible dispersion of this “unique central
From this perspective, Heidegger’s main traditionalism would be his methodological conviction that exposing certain inherent limitations of the metaphysical tradition could disclose a unified postmetaphysical perspective upon a single dimension disregarded by metaphysics. It is in this sense that the movement of transgressing metaphysics allegedly holds Heidegger within the confines of metaphysics. Derrida becomes increasingly sensitive to certain traditional commitments of the Heideggerian notion of the epochal history of metaphysics, in which every phase in the progressive unfolding of being as a certain kind of presence and in the corresponding withholding (Greek: ἐπέχειν) of a Jacques Derrida, “Désistance” , in Psychè: inventions de l’autre, 616; translated by Christopher Fynsk as “Introduction: Desistance”, in Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, Typography: Mimesis, Philosophy, Politics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989), 20–21.
certain kind of non-presence is referred to a central “destiny” or “dispatch” (Geschick, envoi) of being.30 Indeed, Derrida is suspicious of the very notion of “history” as such, insofar as it implies, in the literal sense of the Greek ἱστορία, a teleologically structured narrative in which all elements ultimately come together.31 Why should the texts of particular thinkers or epochs be read as centralized totalities and subsumed under an even more comprehensive totality, such as the epochal history of being as metaphysics? Why should postmetaphysical thinking continue to be dominated by a unitary central perspective, such as the thinking of Ereignis, instead of embracing, with Nietzsche, an endless proliferation of new perspectives with continually shifting centers?
2. Λόγος as Gathering: Heidegger’s “Logocentrism” In his earlier writings, Derrida notes a certain ambivalence in Heidegger with regard to logocentrism and phonocentrism. On the one hand, Heidegger’s early formulations of the “ontological difference” between being (Sein) and beings (Seiendes) suggest vestiges of a Scholastic-Aristotelian view of being as a “transcendental” notion, i.e., one that is implied by all beings, insofar as they are determinate instances of “to be,” but is not itself anything determinate. This impression is seemingly corroborated by Heidegger’s characterization, in Being and Time, of being as the “transcendens pure and simple.”32 Heidegger’s idiom is also full of associated auditory and oral metaphors, including references to a “voice of being.”33 Jacques Derrida, “Envoi” , in Psychè: inventions de l’autre, 134–35; translated by Peter and Mary Ann Caws as “Envoi,” in Psyche: Inventions of the Other, ed. Peggy Kamuf and Elizabeth Rottenberg, vol. 1 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007), 120. On “epochal” history, see Martin Heidegger, “Zeit und Sein” , in ZSD, 9; translated by Joan Stambaugh as “Time and Being,” in On Time and Being, 9.
31 Jacques Derrida, “Violence et métaphysique: essai sur la pensée d’Emmanuel Levinas” , in L’Écriture et la difference, 220–21; translated by Alan Bass as “Violence and Metaphysics: An Essay on the Thought of Emmanuel Levinas,” in Writing and Difference, 186–87; “La structure, le signe et le jeu,” 425; “Structure, Sign and Play,” 367.
32 Heidegger, SZ, 38; Being and Time, 36.
33 Heidegger, “Nachwort zu ‘Was ist Metaphysik?’” , in Wegmarken, 3rd ed. (Frankfurt am Main:
Klostermann, 1996), 311 [hereafter, WM]; translated by William McNeill as “Postscript to ‘What is Metaphysics?,’ ” in Pathmarks (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 237. Derrida says in 1967 (”Implications,” 19–20; “Implications,” 8–9): “[D]oubtless there is a certain Heideggerian phonologism, a Furthermore, the Heideggerian vocabulary of “originality” and “authenticity/properness” (Eigentlichkeit) suggests to Derrida a certain “archeo-teleology” in which “derived” and “improper” notions, concepts, or modes of being are supposedly to be referred to “original” or “appropriate” ideals.34 On the other hand, precisely the fact that being is not a being implies that the ontological difference cannot be an extrinsic and secondary relation “between” two determinate significations. Precisely in its radical otherness to determinate beings, being can no longer be conceived of as an “origin” in any traditional sense. The “voice of being,” for Heidegger, is not the immediate and living presence of a “meaning” of being but, rather, a mute and concealed, i.e., not directly accessible, “voice.”35 In his Geschlecht essays of the 1980s, Derrida becomes increasingly sensitive to a recurrent word in Heidegger’s later work: Versammlung, “gathering.” Gathering, he notes in his habitual suggestive and aporetic tone, is always privileged by Heidegger over dispersion, diffusion, and apartness.36 Derrida takes pains not to draw hasty conclusions from this and does not pretend to derive any unequivocal concept of “gathering” from the heterogeneous occurrences of this expression in Heidegger’s text. Versammlung is not a magical key to all of
Heidegger’s work, not a focal point around which all of his writings could be gathered:
“Heidegger’s thinking is not simply a thinking of gathering.”37 What interests Derrida, rather, are the relative positions and functions of Versammlung in different Heideggerian contexts with regard to other associated expressions. Themes such as “locality” (Ort), “memory” (Gedächtnis), the “fourfold” (Geviert), and “spirit” (Geist) are all characterized by Heidegger in terms of noncritical privilege accorded in his works, as in the West in general, to the voice.... This privilege, whose consequences are considerable and systematic, can be recognized, for example, in the significant prevalence of so many ‘phonic’ metaphors.... Now, the admirable meditation by means of which Heidegger repeats the origin or essence of truth never puts into question the link to logos and to phōnē” (translation slightly modified).
34 On the alleged archeo-teleology of Hegel’s, Marx’s, and Heidegger’s notions of history, see Jacques Derrida, Spectres de Marx: l’état de la dette, le travail du deuil et la nouvelle internationale (Paris: Galilée, 1993), 125–26;
translated by Peggy Kamuf as Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International (London: Routledge, 1994), 74.
35 Derrida, De la grammatologie, 33–39; Of Grammatology, 20–24.
36 “La main de Heidegger,“ 439; “Geschlecht II: Heidegger’s Hand,” 182. For a thorough discussion of this aspect of Derrida’s reading of Heidegger, see Marrati, Genesis and Trace, 87–113.
37 Derrida, Mémoires pour Paul de Man, 140; Memoires for Paul de Man, 146.
gathering and uniting—not simply in the sense of fusing or welding into a seamless homogeneous unity, but rather as the discovery of a shared complicated identity within heterogeneity and discord.38 Derrida thereby initiates a typical deconstructive move. Simply by registering the potential presence of a powerful and traditional hierarchical opposition (unity/plurality) at the heart of Heidegger’s work, he is already implicitly dislodging its selfevident and unequivocal character.
The importance of gathering for Heidegger becomes most manifest in his interpretations of the Greek concept of λόγος, notably of the “archaic” λόγος present in the Heraclitus fragments. Derrida pays special attention to this notion in the fourth and final essay of the Geschlecht series, “Heidegger’s Ear: Philopolemology” (1989), which follows the dialectic of friendship (φιλία) and strife (πόλεμος) in Heidegger. The later Heidegger again and again comes back to Heraclitus’ fragment B 50—“Having heard not me but λόγος itself, it is welladvised [σοφόν] to agree [ὁμολογεῖν]: All (is) One [ἓν πάντα]”39—concluding that, for
discursiveness, is the gathering articulation of determinate and differentiated beings, it is being itself.
Noting that Heidegger highlights precisely the unifying function of the Heraclitean Derrida, De l’esprit, 24, 82, 175; Of Spirit, 9, 52, 106–7; Mémoires pour Paul de Man, 97–98, 136, 140; Memoires for Paul de Man, 91–92, 141, 146; “L’oreille de Heidegger,” 405; “Heidegger’s Ear,” 205. Cf. Heidegger, WHD, 91–95, 157–59; What Is Called Thinking?, 138–47; Martin Heidegger, “Die Sprache im Gedicht: eine Erörterung von Georg Trakls Gedicht” , in Unterwegs zur Sprache, 13th ed. (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 2003), 66–67 [hereafter, US]; translated by Peter D. Hertz as “Language in the Poem: A Discussion of Georg Trakl’s Poetic Work,” in On the Way to Language (New York: Harper & Row, 1971), 185–86; “Zur Seinsfrage” , in WM, 411; translated by William McNeill as “On the Question of Being,” in Pathmarks, 310–11.
The latter point—that Versammlung is, for Heidegger, by no means a homogeneous unity—is emphasized by Will McNeill (“Spirit’s Living Hand,” in Of Derrida, Heidegger, and Spirit, ed. David Wood [Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1993], 113).
39 Heraclitus, 22 B 50, in Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker: Griechisch und deutsch, ed. Hermann Diels and Walther Kranz, 6th ed. (Berlin: Weidmannsche Buchhandlung, 1951) [hereafter, DK]. Cf. Martin Heidegger, Gesamtausgabe, vol. 55: Heraklit [1943–44], ed. Manfred S. Frings (Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 1979), 243– 387 [hereafter, GA 55]; “Logos (Heraklit, Fragment 50)” , in Vorträge und Aufsätze, 9th ed. (Stuttgart:
Neske, 2000), 199–221 [hereafter, VA]; translated by David F. Krell and Frank A. Capuzzi as “Logos (Heraclitus, Fragment B 50),” in Early Greek Thinking (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), 59–78.
40 Martin Heidegger, Was ist das—die Philosophie? , 11th ed. (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 2003), 13 [hereafter, WIP]; translated by Jean T. Wilde and William Kluback as What Is Philosophy? (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), 49 (translation modified).
λόγος, Derrida makes what seems to be an important modification to his notion of
At bottom logocentrism is perhaps not so much the gesture that consists in placing the λόγος at the center as the interpretation of λόγος as Versammlung, that is, as the gathering [rassemblement] that precisely concenters what it configures.41 Heidegger’s interpretation emphasizes the role of λόγος as a differential and referential structure. Λόγος, he tells us in Introduction to Metaphysics, is essentially characterized by “strife,” πόλεμος, i.e., by the differentiation into binary opposites that generates individual articulate meanings (e.g., “gods” as opposed to “mortals,” “free citizens” as opposed to “slaves”) and is therefore, in the words of Heraclitus’ fragment B 53, the “sovereign” (βασιλεύς) and “father” (πατήρ) of all things.42 However, in what Derrida regards as the properly “logocentric” move of Heidegger’s interpretation, λόγος as πόλεμος is then brought back to a certain kind of “friendship” (φιλία) that gathers opposites into their original unity and belonging together.43 Rather than designating the centrality of λόγος in the sense of an ideal and central meaning, ”logocentrism” now refers to the understanding of λόγος as the gathering of discourse around a center that reconciles difference and antagonism into an inner agreement and unison. Logocentrism in this qualified sense becomes problematic from the point of view of Derrida’s particular concerns in the 1989 essay, namely, the “politics of friendship” and a “democracy to come”—notions that would involve, he tells us, a kind of equality compatible with, and even inseparable from, an absolute singularity.44 However, it seems that Derrida’s problem with this form of logocentrism arises, in part, from his presupposition that the unifying gathering peculiar to λόγος excludes singularity and uniqueness. “The unique—that which is not repeated—has no unity since it is not repeated.
Derrida, “L’oreille de Heidegger,” 378; “Heidegger’s Ear,” 187 (translation slightly modified).
Heraclitus, DK 22 B 53. Cf. Heidegger, EM, 47; Introduction to Metaphysics, 65.
43 Heidegger, WIP, 13; What is Philosophy?, 49.
44 Derrida, “L’oreille de Heidegger,” 372; “Heidegger’s Ear,” 183.
Only that which can be repeated in its identity can have unity.”45 Singularity, says Derrida, “does not collect itself, it ‘consists’ in not collecting itself.”46 But what is this “consisting” that does not collect itself? I will try to question this particular notion, showing that the gathered unity of λόγος can, in fact, be construed precisely as a singular unity, even though this means taking a decisive step beyond Greek thought.
The Singular Unity of the Postmetaphysical Λόγος 3.