On the contrary of other French philosophers, Jacques Derrida was influenced more by Heidegger than by Nietzsche. Derrida laid the bases for his deconstructionist analysis on the rocky Heideggerian meditations, re-interpreting the ontological referent of the German philosopher’s thought: the being.|
Derrida and the essence of the ‘female-truth'
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On the contrary of other French philosophers, Jacques Derrida was influenced more by Heidegger than by Nietzsche. Derrida laid the bases for his deconstructionist analysis on the rocky Heideggerian meditations, re-interpreting the ontological referent of the German philosopher's thought: the being. The central nucleus of the Derridian deconstruction is based on the idea that a radical Difference must be placed at the center of the project to overcome metaphysics. It is a (non-)original Difference that structures reality. According to Derrida, Heidegger had the merit of being the first to consider the being not as mere hypostasis; but since his thought remains in the field of metaphysics he hasn't been able to be completely radical and to see the prime cause as originally divided in itself. In this perspective Derrida, after borrowing the hermeneutic categories of the Heideggerian thought, uses Nietzsche's thought in an anti-metaphysic interpretation against Heidegger. For Derrida as well Nietzsche is a thinker of the difference. On the contrary of Heidegger, Nietzsche doesn't postulate an original identity, viz. the being, at the center and at the beginning of western history. Nietzschean genealogy is on the contrary an attempt to think history as a non linear process, where something pre-established arrives, sooner or later, to spread its essence. Genealogy considers history as a result of an infinite conflict of forces whose final outcome is never given or certain, but it is always open to any possibility. According to Nietzsche history is marked by regressions, points of detachment, initial rushes that exhaust, moments of stall. It is marked by chaos and uncertainty. According to Derrida, the Nietzschean genealogy considers history as a discontinuous development of possibilities which is open to Difference. Nietzsche is a thinker of the Difference in his writing and style as well. In his book Éperons. Le styles de Nietzsche , Derrida proposes to analyze some aphorisms from Gay Science and Beyond Good and Evil , where the German philosopher analyzes the problem of woman and truth. In reading the book Gay Science Derrida's attention focuses on the part where Nietzsche deals with power and the effect of women at a distance. The power of women's seduction is in the ability to escape other people's desire, in their power of choice, the hiatus between the desiring person and the desired object. The misogynous Nietzsche seems to warn that this distance, the distance of desire, is not only avoidable but also desirable. One must keep the distance from what escapes him. According to Derrida in the Nietzschean corpus the allegory of the woman represents distance itself.
‘Distance distances itself, far away departs'. (Cf. Spurs )
If this was a simple detachment from an original distance, almost a phenomenological swerve from a motionless motor, the Difference could be dialectically brought back to any identity system. We would still be in the field of metaphysics, which we want to overcome. Derrida overcomes the possibility of this risk postulating a departure that departs from a departed, a detachment non reducible to itself that becomes the swerve of a swerve. Derrida prefers to transpose this ‘essence' of truth; it would be more precise to talk about ‘non-essence' in the woman's allegory. In the explanation of her erotic game a woman, whilst progressively giving herself to other people's desire, she escapes from them. Women make a step forward and two backward. Her seductive power consists of this incoherence, of this eternal indecision about herself and others. According to Derrida and Nietzsche this is why the truth is woman and woman is the truth. She is the truth because it is in her nature to be a non-truth, an ‘original' Difference. According to Derrida and Nietzsche, the dogmatic philosopher who believes in the uniqueness of truth is a fool, someone who doesn't know anything about women. Woman herself is the first one not to believe in herself, not to believe in the possibility that her feminine being encloses an essential truth:
‘And she is a woman since as far as she is concerned, she doesn't believe in truth, that is she doesn't believe in what she is and in what she is believed to be, viz. in what she is not.' (Cf. Id.)
Therefore this woman who doesn't believe in herself, in her essence is nevertheless the truth. The hypostatic ‘grasp' of any dogmatism is avoided by this feminine being that always reveals itself as an irreducible swerve and hiatus. Nevertheless it is not a matter of thinking this truth as a dis-covering as Heidegger does; it doesn't have an essence hidden and covered from profane looks. For Derrida this truth doesn't exist in itself, it is not an essence. He thinks that it only concerns the ‘operation' female:
‘It writes (itself). The style is up to it. <…> if style was <…> male, writing would be female.' (Cf. Id.)
Derrida finds the way to reverse the idea of the ‘veil of Maya' that Schopenhauer drew from the reading of the Upanishad. In this fundamental text of Indian thought all the things belonging to daily life are revealed to be apparent. The truth hides behind the veil of becoming. On the contrary for Derrida the ‘inside', the ‘truth' coincides integrally with the ‘outside', with the surface and if we lift the fateful veil we realize it doesn't exist. The veil that falls doesn't unveil the truth, as it has always been theorized by metaphysics (except for Mahayana Buddhism and Taoism). Beyond the veil the notion of truth itself disappears; the lifted veil is, after all, a ‘voile tombe' . Therefore when ontology tries to grasp the truth in the seizure of power it is always a fall back into the castration of metaphysics of presence. Derrida calls ‘phallogocentrism' the attitude of metaphysical prevarication of the voice that brings the truth into the conscience; referring to the Freudian phallic stage it violates the otherness of absence. Metaphysics, which coincides with the socio-cultural structures to be reversed, is essentially phallogocentric because in it the research of the truth doesn't favor a real contact with the Other whilst respecting its heterogeneity. The main object of metaphysics is to bring the Difference back to the identity game; it meets the Other but only to violate it, to annihilate it by manipulating its peculiarity under the yoke of the Ego. The same thing happens in phallic sexuality, where pleasure is limited exclusively to narcissistic purposes with total carelessness for the expectations of the Other, of the partner. In phallic sexuality the libido is located on the phallus and directed to a quick ejaculation. The true hetero-erotic with the Other can't be separated from a total involvement that interests the five senses. This means to respect, to know truly and not partially the Other. Derrida leads this concept back on the plane of thought. It is a matter of finding a methodological approach that deconstructs this metaphysical scheme and let finally appear the space of absence that articulates inside false and supposed essences. With his deconstruction Derrida proposes, through a careful and refined textual exegesis, to dismantle the structure of fundamental works of the Western metaphysics and to show how the identity instance is not original but comes from a precise act of removal in the text. The author is always unconsciously ‘aware' of the primordial Difference, but at a certain point of the textual development he removes it with a precise and curious arbitrary action, replacing it with identity, viz. the presence of something that is in actual fact absent. In this sense the paradigmatic priority of writing on the voice is essential, since the former, which has traditionally been considered as a simple appendix of the latter, ensures, through textual analysis, the liberation of the game of removal, that is of Difference. Derrida comes to these conclusions also thanks to the study of De Saussure's linguistics. Derrida radicalizes the conclusions of the Swiss linguist, who in his ‘ Course in general linguistics' postulated not only the arbitrariness of the word but also of its meaning; he defined linguistic entities as notions of pure value. For the French philosopher the ascertainment that the sign is a value leads to the definitive renunciation of the metaphysical principles of identity and non-contradiction. A word inside a linguistic system is pronounceable only because at the moment of its affirmation, viz. at the time of its presence, it excludes the other elements of the system, which at the same time are characterized by their absence. Nevertheless the present term assumes they are there and they become indispensable for its identity even in their temporary absence. According to Derrida identity is constituted by assuming a system that at the time of present-being of identity is absent and totally other in its difference. Difference creates identity and not the other way round; the latter can form itself only by removing the difference which, in articulating identity, makes it different even from itself.
In Derrida's reading of the Nietzschean text, the notion of castration expresses this phallogocentric relation towards the truth which, because of its feminine weakness, ends up slipping away from the subject; castration is therefore an inevitable failure of phallogocentrism. Castration is the failure of any attempt of metaphysical grasp of the truth. Nevertheless Derrida is aware of the risk that such an abstract notion brings, of the danger to fall back in a negative theology similar to what Heidegger attributed to Nietzsche with his eternal return. Indeed, he immediately states that the woman, viz. the essence of truth, doesn't believe in castration as much as she doesn't believe in herself. Derrida detaches from the metaphysics of the principle of non-contradiction; the female-truth doesn't believe in herself or in her truth. Only man believes the ‘truth-woman'. Derrida reinforces this conclusion by stating that feminism as imitation of male virility leads to the castration of women, which become viragos. The truth is female, fatuous evanescence, and Nietzsche is a thinker of the difference:
‘Nietzsche <…> is the thinker of pregnancy. <…> Since he cried easily and since it has often happened to him to talk about his thoughts like a pregnant woman talks about her child, I often like imagining him while he sheds tears on his belly.' (Cf. Id.)
Derrida reveals an unmistakable French esprit when he describes Zarathustra in a ‘female-thinker' who knows the pain of the birth of his thought, but also knows that essence of truth is evanescent and ephemeral. For this reason Nietzsche is a thinker of difference; his ‘feminine' thought grasps the essence of the ‘female-truth'. Derrida tries to deconstruct a fragment of ‘Twilight of the idols' ; in the part called ‘history of a mistake', Nietzsche underlines the sentence ‘ sie wird Weib' [ It (the idea) becomes woman ]. Until metaphysics is accomplished, until phallogocentrism claims to have its influence on truth, it will not give itself as a woman. Only when the metaphysician realizes that truth can't be enclosed in a system or grasped by some transcendental intuition, the idea becomes woman and is revealed as Difference.
‘The idea is a form of presentation of self of the truth. Therefore the truth has not always been female'. (Cf. Id.)
According to Derrida the ‘female-truth' on the semantic plane underlines the idea of intrinsic difference and it is played on a plane of non-transcendence: women remind of senses, sensuality, earth and atheism. On the contrary the Heideggerian event refers to an allegory of a clearly theological, therefore metaphysical derivation, according to Derrida. But Derrida is also aware that Nietzsche's text remains open, indecipherable, ‘in-expressible'. In the Nietzschean text Derrida resumes the other two propositions where the idea of woman is not associated to Difference. In the Nietzschean text the woman is connected both to falsity and truth of metaphysics. But Derrida specifies that the main proposition is where the woman is identified with Difference, a dissimulating and Dionysian force; it is the only position where a woman is judged by herself rather than by a man. Nietzsche can't see what Derrida clearly sees through the deconstruction of the Nietzschean text: woman is Difference and she is the Difference in her truth. Once postulated the ‘essence' of truth as woman-Difference, there is the fall of the last metaphysical ‘fairy-tale', the noumen, the thing in itself.
‘De-limit, undo, get rid of: since we are talking about the veil, doesn't it mean to unveil? Or perhaps to destroy an idol?' (Cf. Id.)
Likewise for Derrida, who feels the need to leave any Heideggerian residue out of his reading of the Difference, there isn't an essence of woman in her giving herself. If the essence of man is re-appropriation, the extrinsic manifestation of woman, viz. Difference, is her giving herself away. This act of giving oneself doesn't enclose any essence, otherwise we'd fall back in the instance of another supreme being and we'd stay inside metaphysics.
Later in his essay, Derrida stops and examines the posthumous fragment of 1881-1882: ‘I forgot my umbrella' . Many of Nietzsche scholars dwelled upon this statement, trying to understand what the German philosopher meant. Psychoanalysis has always had a fundamental importance in France, even more than in Germany; it is easy to give a Freudian interpretation to this statement, where the umbrella represents the libido, also on the light of Nietzsche's difficulties in the relation with the other sex. On the contrary Derrida interprets the Nietzschean position as an opening of the non-sense on contextualization, viz. as a reference to the unlimited undecidability of the term. Derrida theorizes an infinite deconstruction that radicalizes the instances of German hermeneutics. Starting from the consideration that Nietzsche's text must remain open to the possibility of its semantic codification Derrida reaches the conclusion that, after all, the Nietzschean writing is paradigmatic in its un-decidability because of the illusory pretenses of exhaustive hermeneutics. There isn't a ‘totality of Nietzsche's text' any more; the Nietzschean writing is always open to difference and therefore it becomes paradigmatic. Derrida concludes his dissolutive project for any semantic content and type of writing, using the Nietzschean text as an example, announcing that there has never been the style, the simulacrum, woman.
‘For the simulacrum to show itself, it is necessary to write in several styles. If there is a style <…> there must be more than one.' (Cf. Id.)
Each linguistic entity assumes and refers to all the others. The being-present of the sign is possible only thanks to the infinite deferment that assumes as well as excludes the other elements of the linguistic system. In essence it is the ‘ Alles ist kraft ' of the perspectivism of the will to power. According to Derrida and to Gilles Deleuze, in the eternal return it is not the identical of return; the future, with its character of novelty, comes back and transforms the past as well, the ‘so it was'. The ‘new' is never something that bursts in the present but refers to the past. On the other hand the past is not recoverable in its immobility; since the future goes back to the ‘already been', the past transforms itself in referring to the future, viz. it is open to a new interpretation. Therefore the present is always destabilized from any attempt of metaphysical hypostases and it lives in this perennial bouncing between future and past. The new in the eternal return refers to the past; the latter is transformed, in the reading of the present, referring to the future. For Derrida return is most of all this game of references that is functional to the notion of textual system, where the absence of Difference opens. In order to find the idea of Superman or something close to it in Derrida's interpretation of Nietzsche, we must think back to the notion of ‘great style'. The latter is the ability to tolerate negative, viz. Dionysian, renouncing a superior reconciliation with the positive in the quietness of any dialectic. To tolerate otherness, negation, division, respecting the difference in itself, the vacuum and vertigo that it causes: this trial can only be overcome by a Superman.