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«Logocentrism and the Gathering Λόγος: Heidegger, Derrida, and the Contextual Centers of Meaning1 Jussi Backman University of Helsinki Abstract ...»

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Rodolphe Gasché, The Tain of the Mirror: Derrida and the Philosophy of Reflection (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986), 159–60.

77 Derrida, “La structure, le signe et le jeu,” 411; “Structure, Sign and Play,” 280.

78 Derrida, “La structure, le signe et le jeu,” 411; “Structure, Sign and Play,” 280.

79 Jacques Derrida, “Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences: Discussion” [1966], in The Structuralist Controversy: The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man, ed. Richard Macksey and Eugenio Donato (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1972), 266.

believe that the center is a function, not a being—a reality, but a function. And this function is absolutely indispensable.80 The center of discursively articulated meaningfulness is not a fixed and substantial point of reference but rather a function of discursiveness.81 Discursive thought and experience function by gathering their different elements around a focal point. This is also what we understand by the narrative function of discourse: “relating,” in the sense of narrating, literally means establishing a link between diverse past events and the present of narration, gathering them around the present. Moreover, just as Derrida emphasizes the “philosophical necessity” of the gesture of gathering, he is now emphasizing the “indispensability” of the narrative function.

This means, perhaps, that there always already are narratives. The discursive nature of meaningfulness entails that meaning is always “told” meaning, i.e., integrated into a framework with a “point” or center that binds together the multiple references to a context.

David Wood suggests: “[P]erhaps what we think of as the privilege of the same, of unity, of presence, is not the privilege of some autonomous value, but the privilege of a certain minimal framing.”82 The effect of deconstruction is therefore not the simple abolition of narrativity or narrative structures. Deconstruction is, rather, the process through which narratives are constantly undone and replaced by others—the movement, intrinsic to discursiveness itself, Derrida, “Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences: Discussion,” 268, 271.

Cf. Clark, The Poetics of Singularity, 132: “For Heidegger..., there is a Versammlung, i.e., a force of unifying gathering whose rhythm pervades and determines the rest. For Derrida, however, there can clearly be no ‘centre’ in the sense of a uniquely decisive word or phrase..., but only verbal thickenings of a ‘secret’ syntax.... No interpretation can gather the secret or singularity of text under some summary heading without leaving some remainder.” However, I try to show that the Heideggerian “gathering” is just such a discursive “thickening,” an interpretive gathering that always leaves a remainder. See also Gasché, The Tain of the Mirror, 152: “The infrastructure is what knots together all the threads of correspondence among certain heterogeneous points of presence within a discourse or text.... As the medium of differentiation in general, it precedes undifferentiated unity and the subsequent bipolar division. It is a unity of combat.” 82 David Wood, Thinking after Heidegger (Cambridge: Polity, 2002), 105. Wood is replying here to a suggestion by Christopher Fynsk, made in the context of a discussion in which Derrida himself participated, that there is a “kind of structural tendency in Heidegger towards reconstruction of the same. It is still one thing, in itself, still a certain oneness, or a certain privileged unity which is reaffirmed from beginning to end.” (David Wood, “Heidegger after Derrida,” Research in Phenomenology 17 [1987]: 115.) that makes an ultimate or final master narrative impossible, since every narrative framework can, in principle, be re-narrated from a new vantage point. This readiness for new narratives and for retelling, Derrida notes, is precisely what coming to terms with the irreducible referentiality of meaning and meaningful presence demands of us.

As soon as there are references [renvois], and they are always already there, something like representation no longer waits and one must perhaps make do with that so as to tell oneself this story [histoire] otherwise, from references to references of references, in a destiny that is never guaranteed to gather itself, identify itself, or determine itself....

This is the only chance—but it is only a chance—for there to be history, meaning, presence, truth, language, theme, thesis, and colloquium.83 Derrida, “Envoi,” 142; “Envoi,” 128 (translation modified).

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