translated by Alan Bass, Margins of Philosophy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), pp 3-27.
I will speak, therefore, of a letter.
Of the first letter, if the alphabet, and most of the speculations which have ventured into it, are to be believed.
I will speak, therefore, of the letter a, this initial letter which it apparently has been necessary to insinuate, here and there, into the writing of the word difference; and to do so in the course of a writing on writing, and also of a writing within writing whose different trajectories thereby find themselves, at certain very determined points, intersecting with a kind of gross spelling mistake, a lapse in the discipline and law which regulate writing and keep it seemly. One can always, de facto or de jure, erase or reduce this lapse in spelling, and find it (according to situations to be analyzed each time, although amounting to the same), grave or unseemly, that is, to follow the most ingenuous hypothesis, amusing. Thus, even if one seeks to pass over such an infraction in silence, the interest that one takes in it can be recognized and situated in advance as pre-scribed by the mute irony, the inaudible misplacement, of this literal permutation. One can always act as if it made no difference. And I must state here and now that today's discourse will be less a justification of, and even less an apology for, this silent lapse in spelling, than a kind of insistent intensification of its play.
On the other hand, I will have to be excused if I refer, at least implicitly, to some of the texts I have ventured to publish. This is precisely because I would like to attempt, to a certain extent, and even though in principle and in the last analysis this is impossible, and impossible for essential reasons, to reassemble in a sheaf the different directions in which I have been able to utilize what I would call provisionally the word or concept of différance, or rather to let it impose itself upon me in its neographism, although as we shall see, différance is literally neither a word nor a concept. And I insist upon the word sheaf for two reasons. On the one hand, I will not be concerned, as I might have been, with describing a history and narrating its stages, text by text, context by context, demonstrating the economy that each time imposed this graphic disorder; rather, I will be concerned with the general system of this economy. On the other hand, the word sheaf seems to mark more appropriately that the assemblage to be proposed has the complex structure of a weaving, an interlacing which permits the different threads and different lines of meaning--or of force--to go off again in different directions, just as it is always ready to tie itself up with others.
Therefore, preliminarily, let me recall that this discreet graphic intervention, which neither primarily nor simply aims to shock the reader or the grammarian, came to be formulated in the course of a written investigation of a question about writing. Now it happens, I would say in effect, that this graphic difference (a instead of e), this marked difference between two apparently vocal notations, between two vowels, remains purely graphic: it is read, or it is written, but it cannot be heard. It cannot be apprehended in speech, and we will see why it also bypasses the order of apprehension in general. It is offered by a mute mark, by a tacit monument, I would even say by a pyramid, thinking not only of the form of the letter when it is printed. as a capital, but also of the text in Hegel's Encyclopedia in which the body of the sign is compared to the Egyptian Pyramid. The a of différance, thus, is not heard; it remains silent, secret and discreet as a tomb: oikesis. And thereby let us anticipate the delineation of a site, the familial residence and tomb of the proper' in which is produced, by différance, the economy of death. This stone (provided that one knows how to decipher its inscription) is not far from announcing the death of the tyrant.2
And it is a tomb that cannot even be made to resonate. In effect, I cannot let you know through my discourse, through the speech being addressed at this moment to the French Society of Philosophy, what difference I am talking about when I talk about it. I can speak of this graphic difference only through a very indirect discourse on writing, and on the condition that I specify, each time, whether I am referring to difference with an e or différance with an a. Which will not simplify things today, and will give us all, you and me, a great deal of trouble, if, at least, we wish to understand each other. In any event, the oral specifications that I will provide (when I say "with an e" or "with an a") will refer uncircumventably to a written text that keeps watch over my discourse, to a text that I am holding in front of me, that I will read, and toward which I necessarily will attempt to direct your hands and your eyes. We will be able neither to do without the passage through a written text, nor to avoid the order of the disorder produced within it--and this, first of all, is what counts for me.
The pyramidal silence of the graphic difference between the e and the a can function, of course, only within the system of ptionetic writing, and within the language and grammar which is as historically linked to ptionetic writing as it is to the entire culture inseparable from phonetic writing. But I would say that this in itself (the silence that functions within only a so-called phonetic writing)
1. TN. Throughout this book I will translate le propre as "the proper." Derrida most offen intends all the senses of the word at once: that which is correct, as in le sens propre (proper, literal meaning), and that which is one's own, that which may be owned, that which is legally, correctly owned--all the links between proper, property, and propriety.
2. TN. The last three sentences refer elliptically and playfully to the following ideas. Derrida first plays on the "silence" of the a in différance as being like a silent tomb, like a pyramid, like the pyramid to which Hegel compares the body of the sign. "Tomb" in Greek is oikesis, which is akin to the Greek oikos (house) from which the word "economy" derives (oikos) house and nemein--to manage). Thus Derrida speaks of the "economy of death" as the "familial residence and tomb of the proper." Further, and more elliptically still, Derrida speaks of the tomb, which always bears an inscription in stone, announcing the death of the tyrant. This seems to refer to Hegel's treatment of the Antigone story in the Phenomenology. It will be recalled that Antigone defies the tyrant Creon by burying her brother Polynices. Creon retaliates by having Antigone entombed. There she cheats the slow death that awaits her by hanging herseff. The tyrant Creon has a change of heart too late, and (after the suicides of his son and wife, his family) kills himseff. Thus family, death, inscription, tomb, law, economy. In a later work, Glas, Derrida analyzes Hegel's treatment of the Antigone.
quite opportunely conveys or reminds us that, contrary to a very widespread prejudice, there is no phonetic writing. There is no purely and rigorously phonetic writing. So-called phonetic writing, by all rights and in principle, and not only due to an empirical or technical insufficiency, can function only by admitting into its system nonphonetic "signs" (punctuation, spacing, etc.). And an examination of the structure and necessity of these nonphonetic signs quickly reveals that they can barely tolerate the concept of the sign itself. Better, the play of difference, which, as Saussure reminded us, is the condition for the possibility and functioning of every sign, is in itself a silent play. Inaudible is the difference between two phonemes which alone permits them to be and to operate as such. The inaudible opens up the apprehension of two present phonemes such as they present themselves. If there is no purely phonetic writing, it is that there is no purely phonetic phone. The difference which establishes phonemes and lets them be heard remains in and of itself inaudible, in every sense of the word.
It will be objected, for the same reasons, that graphic difference itself vanishes into the night, can never be sensed as a full term, but rather extends an invisible relationship, the mark of an inapparent relationship between two spectacles. Doubtless. But, from this point of view, that the difference marked in the "differ( )nce" between the e and the a eludes both vision and hearing perhaps happily suggests that here we must be permitted to refer to an order which no longer belongs to sensibility. But neither can it belong to intelligibility, to the ideality which is not fortuitously affiliated with the objectivity of theorein or understanding.3 Here, therefore, we must let ourselves refer to an order that resists the opposition, one of the founding oppositions of philosophy, between the sensible and the intelligible. The order which resists this opposition, and resists it because it transports it, is announced in a movement of différance (with an a) between two differences or two letters, a différance which belongs neither to the voice nor to writing in the usual sense, and which is located, as the strange space that will keep us together here for an hour, between speech and writing, and beyond the tranquil familarity which links us to one and the other, occasionally reassuring us in our illusion that they are two.
What am I to do in order to speak of the
a of différance? It goes without saying that it cannot be exposed.
One can expose only that which at a certain moment can become present,
manifest, that which can be shown, presented as something
present, a being-present4 in its truth, in the truth of a present or the presence of the present. Now if différance (and I also cross out the ) what makes possible the presentation of the being-present, it is never presented as such. It is never offered to the present. Or to anyone. Reserving itself, not exposing itself, in regular fashion it exceeds the order of truth at a certain precise point, but without dissimulating itself-as something, as a mysterious being, in the occult of a nonknowledge or in a hole with indeterminable borders (for example, in a topology of castration).5 In every exposition it would be exposed to disappearing as disappearance. It would risk appearing: disappearing.
So much so that the detours, locutions, and syntax in which I will often have to take recourse will resemble those of negative theology, occasionally even to the point of being indistinguishable from negative theology. Already we have had to delineate that différance is not, does not exist, is not a present-being (on) in any form; and we will be led to delineate also everything that it is not, that is, everything; and consequently that it has neither existence nor essence. It derives from no category of being, whether present or absent. And yet those aspects of différance which are thereby delineated are not theological, not even in the order of the most negative of negative theologies, which are always concerned with disengaging a superessentiality beyond the finite categories of essence and existence, that is, of presence, and always hastening to recall that God is refused the predicate of existence, only in order to acknowledge his superior, inconceivable, and ineffable mode of being. Such a development is not in question here, and this will be confirmed progressively. Différance is not only irreducible to any ontological or theological--ontotheological--reappropriation, but as the very opening of the space in which ontotheology--philosophy-- produces its system and its history, it includes ontotheology, inscribing it and exceeding it without return.
For the same reason there is nowhere to begin to trace the sheaf or the graphics of différance. For what is put into question is precisely the quest for a rightful beginning, an absolute point of departure, a principal responsibility. The problematic of writing is opened by putting into question the value arkhe.6
4. TN. As in the past, etre (Sein) will be translated as Being. Etant (Seiendes) will be either beings or being, depending on the context. Thus, here etant-present is "being-present." For a justification of this translation see Derrida, Writing and Différance, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978), Translator's Introduction, p. xvii.
5. TN. " . . a hole with indeterminable borders (for example, in a topology of castration)." This phrase was added to "La Différance" for its publication in the French edition of this volume and refers to the polemic Derrida had already engaged (in Positions, elaborated further in le Facteur de la verite) with Jacques Lacan. For Derrida, Lacan's "topology of castration," which assigns the "hole" or lack to a place ("a hole with determinable borders") repeats the metaphysical gesture (albeit a negative one) of making absence, the lack, the hole, a transcendental principle that can be pinned down as such, and can thereby govern a theoretical discourse.
6. TN. The Greek arkhe combines
the values of a founding principle and of government by a controlling principle
(e.g. archeology, monarchy)
will propose here will not be elaborated simply as a philosophical discourse operating according to principles, postulates, axioms or definitions, and proceeding along the discursive lines of a linear order of reasons. In the delineation of différance everything is strategic and adventurous. Strategic because no transcendent truth present outside the field of writing can govern theologically the totality of the field. . Adventurous because this strategy is not a simple strategy in the sense that strategy orients tactics according to a final goal, a telos or theme of domination, a mastery and ultimate reappropriation of the development of the field. Finally, a strategy without finality, what might be called blind tactics or empirical wandering if the value of empiricism did not itself acquire its entire meaning in its opposition to philosophical responsibility. If there is a certain wandering in the tracing of différance, it no more follows the lines of philosophy of its symmetrical and integral inverse, empirical-logical discourse. The concept of play keeps itself beyond this opposition, announcing, on the eve of philosophy and beyond it, the unity of chance and necessity in calculations without end.
Also, by decision and as a rule of the game, if you will, turning these propositions back on themselves, we will be introduced to the thought of différance by the theme of strategy or the stratagem. By means of this solely strategic justification, I wish to underline that the efficacity of the thematic of différance may very well, indeed must, one day be superseded, lending itself not only to its own replacement, at least to enmeshing itself in a chain that in truth it never will have governed. Whereby, once again, it is not theological.
I would say, first off, that différance, which is neither a word nor a concept, strategically seemed to me the most proper one to think, if not to master (thought, here, being that which is maintained in a certain necessary relationship with the structural limits of mastery) what is most irreducible about our "era." Therefore I am starting, strategically, from the place and the time in which "we" are, even though in the last analysis my opening is not justifiable, since it is only on the basis of différance and its "history" that we can allegedly know who and where "we" are, and what the limits of an "era" might be.
Even though différance is neither a word nor a concept, let us nevertheless attempt a simple and approximate semantic analysis that will take us to within sight of what is at stake.
We know that the verb differer (Latin verb
differre) has two meanings which seem quite distinct;7 for example in Littre
they are the object of two separate articles. In this sense the Latin differre
is not simply a translation of the Greek diapherein, and this will not
be without consequences for us, linking our discourse to a particular language,
and to a language that passes as less philosophical, less originally philosophical
than the other. For the distribution of meaning in
The other sense of differer is the more common and identifiable one: to be not identical, to be other, discernible, etc. When dealing with differen(ts)(ds), a word that can be written with a final ts or a final ds, as you will, whether it is a question of dissimilar otherness or of allergic and polemical otherness, an interval, a distance, spacing, must be produced between the elements other, and be produced with a certain perseverance in repetition.8
Now the word difference (with an e) can never refer either to differer as temporization or to differends as polemos.9 Thus the word différance (with an a) is to compensate economically--this loss of meaning, for différance can refer simultaneously to the entire configuration of its meanings. It is immediately and irreducibly polysemic, which will not be indifferent to the economy of my discourse here. In its polysemia this word, of course, like any meaning must defer to the discourse in which it occurs, its interpretive context; but in a way it defies deriving from the present participle (différant), thereby bringing us close to the very action of the verb differer, before it has even produced an effect constituted as something different or as difference (with an e).10 In a conceptuality adhering
8. TN. The next few sentences will require some annotation, to be found in this note and the next two. In this sentence Derrida is pointing out that two words that sound exactly alike in French (differents, differends) refer to the sense of differre that implies spacing, otherness--difference in its usual English sense. Les differents are different things, les differends are differences of opinion, grounds for dispute--whence the references to allergy (from the Greek allos, other) and polemics.
9. TN. However, to continue the last note, difference (in French) does not convey the sense of active putting off, of deferring (différance in what would be its usual sense in French, if it were a word in common usage), or the sense of active polemical difference, actively differing with someone or something. ("Active" here, though, is not really correct for reasons that Derrida will explain below.) The point is that there is no noun-verb, no gerund for either sense in French.
10. TN. Such a gerund would
normally be constructed from the present participle of the verb: differant.
Curiously then, the noun différance suspends itself between the
two senses of differant--deferring, differing. We might say that it defers
differing, and differs from deferring, in and of itself.
to classical strictures "différance" would be said to designate constitutive, productive, and originary causality, the process of scission and division which would produce or constitute different things or differences. But because it brings us close to the infinitive and active kernel of differer, différance (with an a) neutralizes what the infinitive denotes as simply active, just as mouvance in our language does not simply mean the fact of moving, of moving oneself or of being moved. No more is resonance the act of resonating. We must consider that in the usage of our language the ending -ance remains undecided between the active and the passive. And we will see why that which lets itself be designated différance is neither simply active nor simply passive, announcing or rather recalling something like, the middle voice, saying an operation that is not an operation, an operation that cannot be conceived either as passion or as the action of a subject on an object, or on the basis of the categories of agent or patient, neither on the basis of nor moving toward any of these terms. For the middle voice, a certain nontransitivity, may be what philosophy, at its outset, distributed into an active and a passive voice, thereby constituting itself by means of this repression.
Différance as temporization, différance as spacing. How are they to be joined?
Let us start, since we are already there, from the problematic of the sign and of writing. The sign is usually said to be put in the place of the thing itself, the present thing, "thing" here standing equally for meaning or referent. The sign represents the present in its absence. It takes the place of the present. When we cannot grasp or show the thing, state the present, the being-present, when the present cannot be presented, we signify, we go through the detour of the sign. We take or give signs. We signal. The sign, in this sense, is deferred presence. Whether we are concerned with the verbal or the written sign, with the monetary sign, or with electoral delegation and political representation, the circulation of signs defers the moment in which we can encounter the thing itself make it ours, consume or expend it, touch it, see it, intuit its presence. What I am describing here in order to define it is the classically determined structure of the sign in all the banality of its characteristics--signification as the différance of temporization. And this structure presupposes that the sign, which defers presence, is conceivable only on the basis of the presence that it defers and moving toward the deferred presence that it aims to reappropriate. According to this classical semiology, the substitution of the sign for the thing itself is both secondary and provisional: secondary due to an original and lost presence from which the sign thus derives; provisional as concerns this final and missing presence toward which the sign in this sense is a movement of mediation.
In attempting to put into question these traits of the provisional secondariness of the substitute, one would come to see something like an originary différance; but one could no longer call it originary or final in the extent to which the values of origin, archi-, telos, eskhaton, etc. have always denoted presence--ousia, parousia." To put into question the secondary and provisional characteristics of the
11. TN. Ousia and parousia
imply presence as both origin and end, the founding principle arkhe-) as
that toward which one moves (telos, eskhaton).
sign, to oppose to them an "originary" différance, therefore would have two consequences.
1. One could no longer include différance in the concept of the sign, which always has meant the representation of a presence, and has been constituted in a system (thought or language) governed by and moving toward presence.
2. And thereby one puts into question the authority of presence, or of its simple symmetrical opposite, absence or lack. Thus one questions the limit which has always constrained us, which still constrains us--as inhabitants of a language and a system of thought--to formulate the meaning of Being in general as presence or absence, in the categories of being or beingness (ousia). Already it appears that the type of question to which we are redirected is, let us say, of the Heideggerian type, and that différance seems to lead back to the ontico-ontological difference. I will be permitted to hold off on this reference. I will note only that between difference as temporization-temporalization, which can no longer be conceived within the horizon of the present, and what Heidegger says in Being and Time about temporalization as the transcendental horizon of the question of Being, which must be liberated from its traditional, metaphysical domination by the present and the now, there is a strict communication, even though not an exhaushve and irreducibly necessary one.
But first let us remain within the semiological problematic in order to see différance as temporization and différance as spacing conjoined. Most of the semiological or linguistic researches that dominate the field of thought today, whether due to their own results or to the regulatory model that they find themselves acknowledging everywhere, refer genealogically to Saussure (correctly or incorrectly) as their common inaugurator. Now Saussure first of all is the thinker who put the arbitrary character of the sign and the differential character of the sign at the very foundation of general semiology, particularly linguistics. And, as we know, these two motifs--arbitrary and differential--are inseparable in his view. There can be arbitrariness only because the system of signs is constituted solely by the differences in terms, and not by their plenitude. The elements of signification function due not to the compact force of their nuclei but rather to the network of oppositions that distinguishes them, and then relates them one to another. "Arbitrary and differential," says Saussure, "are two correlative characteristics."
Now this principle of difference, as the condition for signification, affects the totality of the sign, that is the sign as both signified and signifier. The signified is the concept, the ideal meaning; and the signifier is what Saussure calls the "image," the "psychical imprint" of a material, physical--for example, acoustical--phenomenon. We do not have to go into all the problems posed by these definitions here. Let us cite Saussure only at the point which interests us: "The conceptual side of value is made up solely of relations and differences with respect to the other terms of language, and the same can be said of its material side . . . Everything that has been said up to this point boils down to this: in language there are only differences. Even more important: a difference generally implies positive terms between which the difference is set up; but in language there are only differences without positive terms. Whether we take the signified or the signifier, language has neither ideas nor sounds that existed before the linguistic system, but only conceptual and phonic differences that have issued from the system. The idea or phonic substance that a sign contains is of less;. importance than the other signs that surround it."12
The first consequence to be drawn from this is that the signified concept is never present in and of itself, in a sufficient presence that would refer only to itself. Essentially and lawfully, every concept is inscribed in a chain or in a system within which it refers to the other, to other concepts, by means of the systematic play of differences. Such a play, différance, is thus no longer simply a concept, but rather the possibility of conceptuality, of a conceptual process and system in general. For the same reason, différance, which is not a concept, is not simply a word, that is, what is generally represented as the calm, present, and self-refernetial unity of concept and phonic material. Later we will look into the word in general.
The difference of which Saussure speaks is itself, therefore, neither a concept nor a word among others. The same can be said, a fortiori, of différance. And we are thereby led to explicate the relation of one to the other.
In a language, in the system of language, there are only differences. Therefore a taxonomical operation can undertake the systematic, statistical, and classificatory inventory of a language. But, on the one hand, these differences play: in language, in speech too, and in the exchange between language and speech. On the other hand, these differences are themselves effects. They have not fallen from the sky fully formed, and are no more inscribed in a topos noetos, than they are prescribed in the gray matter of the brain. If the word "history" did not in and of itself convey the motif of a final repression of difference, one could say that only differences can be "historical" from the outset and in each of their aspects.
What is written as différance, then, will be the playing movement that "produces"--by means of something that is not simply an activity an activity--these differences, these effects of difference. This does not mean that the différance that produces differences is somehow before them, in a simple and unmodified--in-different--present. Différance is the non-full, non-simple, structured and differentiating origin of differences. Thus, the name "origin" no longer suits it.
Since language, which Saussure says is
a classification, has not fallen from the sky, its differences have been
produced, are produced effects, but they are effects which do not find
their cause in a subject or a substance, in a thing in general, a being
that is somewhere present, thereby eluding the play of différance.
If such a presence were implied in the concept of cause in general, in the most classical fashion, we then would have to speak of an effect without a cause, which very quickly would lead to speaking of no effect at all. I have attempted to indicate a way out of the closure of this framework via the "trace," which is no more an effect than it has a cause, but which in and of itself, outside its text, is not aufficient to operate the necessary transgression.
Since there is no presence before and outside semiological difference, what Saussure has written about language can be extended to the sign in general: "Language is necessary in order for speech to be intelligible and to produce all of its effects; but the latter is necessary in order for language to be established historically, the fact of speech always comes first."13
Retaining at least the framework, if not the content, of this requirement formulated by Saussure, we will designate as différance the movement according to which language, or any code, any system of referral in general is constituted "historically" as a weave of differences. "Is constituted," "is produced," "is created," "movement," "historically," etc., necessarily being understood beyond the metaphysical language in which they are retained, along with all-their implications. We ought to demonstrate why concepts like production, constitution, and history remain in complicity with what is at issue here. But this would take me too far today--toward the theory of the representation of the "circle" in which we appear to be enclosed--and I utilize such concepts, like many others, only for their strategic convenience and in order to undertake their deconstruction at the currently most decisive point. In any event, it will be understood, by means of the circle in which we appear to be engaged, that as it is written here, différance is no more static than it is genetic, no more structural than historical. Or is no less so; and to object to this on the basis of the oldest of metaphysical oppositions (for example, by setting some generative point of view against a structutal-taxonomical point of view, or vice versa) would be, above all, not to read what here is missing) from orthographical ethics. Such oppositions have not the least pertinence to différance, which makes the thinking of it uneasy and uncomfortable.
Now if we consider the chain in which différance
lends itself to a certain number of nonsynonymous substitutions, according
to the necessity of the context, why have recourse to the "reserve," to
"archi-writing," to the "archi-trace," to "spacing," that is, to the "supplement,"
or to the pharmakon, and soon to the hymen, to the margin- mark-march,
14. TN. All these terms refer
to writing and inscribe différance within themselves, as Derrida
says, according to the context. The supplement (supplement) is Rousseau's
word to describe writing (analyzed in Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Spivak
[Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976]). It means both the missing
piece and the extra piece. The pharmakon is Plato's word for writing (analyzed
in "Plato's Pharmacy" in Dissemination trans. Barbara Johnson [Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1981]), meaning both remedy and poison; the
hymen (l'hymen) comes from Derrida's analysis of Mallarme's writing and
Mallarme's reflections on writing ("The Double Session" in Dissemination)
and refers both to virginity and to consummation; marge-marque-marche is
the series en différance that Derrida applies to Sollers's Nombres
("Dissemination" in Dissemination).
Let us go on. It is because of différance that the movement of signification is possible only if each so-called "present" element, each element appearing on the scene of presence, is related to something other than itself, thereby keeping within itself the mark of the past element, and already letting itself be vitiated by the mark of its relation to the future element, this trace being related no less to what is called the future than to what is called the past, and constituting what is called the present by means of this very relation to what it is not: what it absolutely is not, not even a past or a future as a modified present. An interval must separate the present from what it is not in order for the present to be itself, but this interval that constitutes it as present must, by the same token, divide the present in and of itself, thereby also dividing, along with the present, everything that is thought on the basis of the present, that is, in our metaphysical language, every being, and singularly substance or the subject. In constituting itself, in dividing itself dynamically, this interval is what might be called spacing, the becoming-space of time or the becoming-time of space (temporization). And it is this constitution of the present, as an "originary" and irreducibly nonsimple (and therefore, stricto sensu nonoriginary) synthesis of marks, or traces of retentions and protentions (to reproduce analogically and provisionally a phenomenological and transcendental language that soon will reveal itself to be inadequate), that I propose to call archi- writing, archi-trace, or différance. Which (is) (simultaneously) spacing (and) temporization.
Could not this (active) movement of (the production of) différance without origin be called simply, and without neographism, differentiation? Such a word, among other confusions, would have left open the possibility of an organic, original, and homogeneous unity that eventually would come to be divided, to receive difference as an event. And above all, since it is formed from the verb "to differentiate," it would negate the economic signification of the detour, the temporizing delay, "deferral." Here, a remark in passing, which I owe to a recent reading of a text that Koyré (in 1934, in Revue d'histoire et de philosophic religieuse, and reprinted in his Etudes d'histoire de la pensee philosophique) devoted to "Hegel in Jena." In this text Koyré gives long citations, in German, of the Jena Logic, and proposes their translation. On two occasions he encounters the expression differente Beziehung in Hegel's text. This word (different), with its Latin root, is rare in German and, I believe, in Hegel, who prefers verschieden or ungleich, calling difference Unterschied and qualitative variety Verschiedenheit. In the Jena Logic he uses the word different precisely where he treats of time and the present. Before gethng to a valuable comment of Koyré's, let us look at some sentences from Hegel, such as Koyré translates them: "The infinite, in this simplicity, is, as a moment opposed to the equal-to-itself, the negative, and in its moments, although it is (itself) presented to and in itself the totality, (it is) what excludes in general, the point or limit; but in its own (action of) negating, it is related immediately to the other and negates itself by itself. The limit or moment of the present (der Gegen-wart), the absolute 'this' of time, or the now, is of an absolutely negative simplicity, which absolutely excludes from itself all multiplicity, and, by virtue of this, is absolutely determined; it is not whole or a quantum which would be extended in itself (and) which, in itself, also would have an undetermined moment, a diversity which, as indifferent (gleichgultig) or exterior in itself, would be related to an other (auf ein anderes bezogen), but in this is a relation absolutely different from the simple (sondern es ist absolut differente Beziehung)." And Koyré most remarkably specifies in a note: "different Relation: differente Beziehung. One might say: "differentiating relation." And on the next page, another text of Hegel's in which one can read this: "Diese Beziehung ist Gegenwart, als eine differente Beziehung (This relationship is [the] present as a different relationship)." Another note of Koyré's: "The term different here is taken in an active sense."l5
Writing "différant"16 or "différance" (with an a) would have had the advantage of making it possible to translate Hegel at that particular point--which is also an absolutely decisive point in his discourse--without further notes or specifications. And the translation would be, as it always must be, a transformation of one language by another. I contend, of course, that the word différance can also serve other purposes: first, because it marks not only the activity of "originary" difference, but also the temporizing detour of deferral; and above all because différance thus written, although maintaining relations of profound affinity with Hegelian discourse (such as it must be read), is also, up to a certain point, unable to break with that discourse (which has no kind of meaning or chance); but it can operate a kind of infinitesimal and radical displacement of it, whose space I attempt to delineate elsewhere but of which it would be difficult to speak briefly here.
Differences, thus, are "produced"--deferred--by différance. But what defers or who defers? In other words, what is différance? With this question we reach another level and another resource of our problematic.
What differs? Who differs? What is différance?
If we answered these questions before examining them as questions, before turning them back on themselves, and before suspecting their very form, including what seems most natural and necessary about them, we would immediately fall back into what we have just disengaged ourselves from. In effect,
15. TN. Alexandre Koyré, "Hegel a Jena," in Etudes d'histoire de la pensee philosophique (Paris: Armand Colin, 11961), pp. 153-54. In his translation of "La difference" (in Speech and Phenomena [Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1973]), David Allison notes (p 144) that the citation from Hegel comes from "Jensener Logik, Metaphysik, und Naturphilosophie" in Sammtliche Werke (Leipzig: E Meiner, 1925), XVIII, 202. Allison himself translated Hegel's text, and I have modified his translation.
16. TN. The point here, which
cannot be conveyed in English, is that Koyré's realization that
Hegel is describing a "differentiating relation," or "different" in an
active sense, is precisely what the formation of différance from
the participle differant describes, as explained in notes 9 and 10 above.
And that it is the present that is described as differing from and deferring
itself helps clarify Derrida's argument (at the end of the essay) that
presence is to be rethought as the trace of the trace, as différance
Now if we refer, once again, to semiological difference, of what does Saussure, in particular, remind us? That "language [which only consists of differences] is not a function of the speaking subject implies that the subject (in its identity with itself, or eventually in its consciousness of its identity with itself, its self-consciousness) is inscribed in language, is a "function" of language, becomes a speaking subject only by making its speech conform--even in so-called "creation," or in so-called "transgression"--to the system of the rules of language as a system of differences, or at very least by conforming to the general law of différance, or by adhering to the principle of language which Saussure says is "spoken language minus speech." "Language is necessary for the spoken word to be intelligible and so that it can produce all of its effects.''17
If, by hypothesis, we maintain that the opposition of speech to language is absolutely rigorous, then différance would be not only the play of differences within language but also the relation of speech to language, the detour through which I must pass in order to speak, the silent promise I must make; and this is equally valid for semiology in general, governing all the relations of usage to schemata, of message to code, etc. (Elsewhere I have attempted to suggest that this différance in language, and in the relation of speech and language, forbids the essential dissociation of speech and language that Saussure, at another level of his discourse, traditionally wished to delineate. The practice of a language or of a code supposing a play of forms without a determined and invariable substance' and also supposing in the prachce of this play a retention and protention of differences, a spacing and a temporization, a play of traces all this must be a kind of writing before the letter, an archi-writing without a present origin, without arch)-. Whence the regular erasure of the arch)-, and the transformation of general semiology into grammatology, this latter executing a critical labor on everything within semiology, including the central concept of the sign, that maintained metaphysical presuppositions incompatible with the motif of différance.)
Such a question therefore supposes that, prior to the sign and outside it, excluding any trace and any différance, something like consciousness is possible. And that consciousness, before distributing its signs in space and in the world, can gather itself into its presence. But what is consciousness? What does "consciousness" mean? Most often, in the very form of meaning, in all its modifications; consciousness offers itself to thought only as self-presence, as the perception of self in presence. And what holds for consciousness holds here for so-called subjective existence in general. Just as the category of the subject cannot be, and never has been, thought without the reference to presence as hupokeimenon or as ousia, etc., so the subject as consciousness has never manifested itself except as self-presence. The privilege granted to consciousness therefore signifies the privilege granted to the present; and even if one describes the transcendental temporality of consciousness, and at the depth at which Husserl does so, one grants to the "living present" the power of synthesizing traces, and of incessantly reassembling them.
This privilege is the ether of metaphysics, the element of our thought that is caught in the language of metaphysics. One can delimit such a closure today only by soliciting18 the value of presence that Heidegger has shown to be the ontotheological determination of Being; and in thus soliciting the value of presence, by means of an interrogation whose status must be completely exceptional, we are also examining the absolute privilege of this form or epoch of presence in general that is consciousness as meaning19 in self-presence.
Thus one comes to posit presence--and specifically
consciousness, the being beside itself of consciousness--no longer as the
absolutely central form of Being but as a "determination" and as an "effect."
A determination or an effect within a system which is no longer that of
presence but of différance, a system that no longer tolerates the
opposition of activity and passivity, nor that of cause and effect, or
of indetermination and determination, etc., such that in designating
19. TN. "Meaning" here is
the weak translation of vouloir-dire, which has a strong sense of willing
(voluntas) to say, putting the attempt to mean in conjunction with speech,
a crucial conjunction for Derrida.
Before being so radically and purposely the gesture of Heidegger, this gesture was also made by Nietzsche and Freud, both of whom, as is well known, and sometimes in very similar fashion, put consciousness into question in its assured certainty of itself. Now is it not remarkable that they both did so on the basis of the motif of différance?
Différance appears almost by name in their texts, and in those places where everything is at stake. I cannot expand upon this here; I will only recall that for Nietzsche "the great principal activity is unconscious," and that consciousness is the effect of forces whose essence, byways, and modalities are not proper to it. Force itself is never present; it is only a play of differences and quantities. There would be no force in general without the difference between forces; and here the difference of quantity counts more than the content of the quantity, more than absolute size itself. "Quantity itself, therefore, is not separable from the difference of quantity. The difference of quantity is the essence of force, the relation of force to force. The dream of two equal forces, even if they are granted an opposition of meaning, is an approximate and crude dream, a statistical dream, plunged into by the living but dispelled by chemistry."20 Is not all of Nietzsche's thought a critique of philosophy as an active indifference to difference, as the system of adiaphoristic reduction or repression? Which according to the same logic, according to logic itself, does not exclude that philosophy lives in and on différance, thereby blinding itself to the same, which is not the identical. The same, precisely is différance (with an a) as the displaced and equivocal passage of one different thing to another, from one term of an opposition to the other. Thus one could reconsider all the pairs of opposites on which philosophy is constructed and on which our discourse lives, not in order to see opposition erase itself but to see what indicates that each of the terms must appear as the différance of the other, as the other different and deferred in the economy of the same (the intelligible as differing-deferring the sensible, as the sensible different and deferred; the concept as different and deferred, differing-deferring intuition; culture as nature different and deferred, differing deferring; all the others of physis--tekhne, nomos, thesis, society, freedom, history, mind, etc.--as physis different and deferred, or as physis differing and deferring. Physis in différance. And in this we may see the site of a reinterpretation of mimesis in its alleged opposition to physic). And on the basis of this unfolding of the same as différance, we see announced the sameness of différance and repetition in the eternal return. Themes in Nietzsche's work that are linked to the symptomatology that always diagnoses the detour or ruse of an agency disguised in
20. Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche et la philosophie (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1970), p. 49.
its différance; or further, to the entire thematic of active interpretation, which substitutes incessant deciphering for the unveiling of truth as the presentation of the thing itself in its presence, etc. Figures without truth, or at least a system of figures not dominated by the value of truth, which then becomes only an included, inscribed, circumscribed function.
Thus, différance is the name we might give to the "active," moving discord of different forces, and of differences of forces, that Nietzsche sets up against the entire system of metaphysical grammar, wherever this system governs culture, philosophy, and science.
It is historically significant that this diaphoristics, which, as an energetics or economics of forces, commits itself to putting into question the primacy of presence as consciousness, is also the major motif of Freud's thought: another diaphoristics, which in its entirety is both a theory of the figure (or of the trace) and an energetics. The putting into question of the authority of consciousness is first and always differential.
The two apparently different values of différance are hed together in Freudian theory: to differ as discernibility, distinction, separation, diastem, spacing; and to defer as detour, relay, reserve, temporization.
1. The concepts of trace (Spur), of breaching (Bahnung),21 and of the forces of breaching, from the Project on, are inseparable from the concept of difference. The origin of memory, and of the psyche as (conscious or unconscious) memory in general, can be described only by taking into account the difference between breaches. Freud says so overtly. There is no breach without difference and no difference without trace.
2. All the differences in the production of unconscious traces and in the processes of inscription (Niederschrift) can also be interpreted as moments of différance, in the sense of putting into reserve. According to a schema that never ceased to guide Freud's thought, the movement of the trace is described as an effort of life to protect itself by deferring the dangerous investment, by constituting a reserve (Vorrat). And all the oppositions that furrow Freudian thought relate each of his concepts one to another as moments of a detour in the economy of différance. One is but the other different and deferred, one differing and deferring the other. One is the other in différance, one is the différance of the other. This is why every apparently rigorous and irreducible opposition (for example the opposition of the secondary to the primary) comes to be qualified, at one moment or another, as a "theoretical fiction." Again, it is thereby, for example (but such an example governs, and communicates with, everything),
21. TN. Derrida is referring
here to his essay "Freud and the Scene of Writing" in Writing and Difference.
"Breaching" is the translation for Buhnung that I adopted there: it conveys
more of the sense of breaking open (as in the German Bahnung and the French
frayage) than the Standard Edition's "facilitation." The Project Derrida
refers to here is the Project for a Scientific Psychology (1895), in which
Freud attempted to cast his psychological thinking in a neurological framework.
that the difference between the pleasure principle and the reality principle is only différance as detour. In Beyond the Pleasure Principle Freud writes: "Under the influence of the ego's instincts of self-preservation, the pleasure principle is replaced by the reality principle. This latter principle does not abandon the intention of ultimately obtaining pleasure, but it nevertheless demands and carries into effect the postponement of satisfaction, the abandonment of a number of possibilities of gaining satisfaction and the temporary toleration of unpleasure as a step on the long indirect road (Aufschub) to pleasure."22
Here we are touching upon the point of greatest obscurity, on the very enigma of différance, on precisely that which divides its very concept by means of a strange cleavage. We must not hasten to decide. How are we to think simultaneously, on the one hand, différance as the economic detour which, in the element of the same, always aims at coming back to the pleasure or the presence that have been deferred by (conscious or unconscious) calculation, and, on the other hand, différance as the relation to an impossible presence, as expenditure without reserve, as the irreparable loss of presence, the irreversible usage of energy, that is, as the death instinct, and as the entirely other relationship that apparently interrupts every economy? It is evident--and this is the evident itself--that the economical and the noneconomical, the same and the entirely other, etc., cannot be thought together. If différance is unthinkable in this way, perhaps we should not hasten to make it evident, in the philosophical element of evidentiality which would make short work of dissipating the mirage and illogicalness of différance and would do so with the infallibility of calculations that we are well acquainted with, having precisely recognized their place, necessity, and function in the structure of différance. Elsewhere, in a reading of Bataille, I have attempted to indicate what might come of a rigorous and, in a new sense, "scientific" relating of the "restricted economy" that takes no part in expenditure without reserve, death, opening itself to nonmeaning, etc., to a general economy that takes into account the nonreserve, that keeps in reserve the nonreserve, if it can be put thus. I am speaking of a relationship between a différance that can make a profit on its investment and a différance that misses its profit, the investiture of a presence that is pure and without loss here being confused with absolute loss, with death. Through such a relating of a restricted and a general economy the very project of philosophy, under the privileged heading of Hegelianism, is displaced and reinscribed. The Aufhebung--la relève--is constrained into writing itself otherwise. Or perhaps simply into writing itself. Or, better, into taking account of its consumption of writing.23
22. TN. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works (London: Hogarth Press, 1950 [hereafter cited as SE]), vol. 18, p. 10.
23. TN. Derrida is referring here to the reading of Hegel he proposed in "From Restricted to General Economy: A Hegelianism Without Reserve," in Writing and Difference. In that essay Derrida began his consideration of Hegel as the great philosophical speculator; thus all the economic metaphors of the previous sentences. For Derrida the deconstruction of metaphysics implies an endless confrontation with Hegelian concepts, and the move from a restricted, "speculative" philosophical economy--in which there is nothing that cannot be made to make sense, in which there is nothing other than meaning--to a "general" economy--which affirms that which exceeds meaning, the excess of meaning from which there can be no speculative profit--involves a reinterpretation of the central Hegelian concept: the Aufhebung. Aufhebung literary means "lifting up"; but it also contains the double meaning of conservation and negation. For Hegel, dialectics is a process of Aufhehbung: every concept is to be negated and lifted up to a higher sphere in which it is thereby conserved. In this way, there is nothing from which the Aufhebung cannot profit. However as Derrida points out, there is always an effect of différance when the same word has two contradictory meanings. Indeed it is this effect of différance--the excess of the trace Aufhebung itself--that is precisely what the Aufhebung can never aufheben: lift up, conserve, and negate. This is why Derrida wishes to constrain the Aufhebung to write itself otherwise or simply to write itself, to take imto account its consumption of writing. Without writing, the trace, there could be no words with double, contradictory meanings.
As with différance, the translation of a word with a double meaning is particularly difficult, and touches upon the entire problematics of writing and différance. The best translators of Hegel usually cite Hegel's own delight that the most speculative of languages German, should have provided this most speculative of words as the vehicle for his supreme speculative effort. Thus Aufhebung is usually best annotated and left untranslated. Jean Hyppolite, in his French translations of Hegel, carefully annotates his rendering of Aufheben as both supprimer and depasser. Baillies's rendering of Aufhebung as "sublation" is misleading.) Derrida, however, in his attempt to make Aufhebung write itself otherwise, has proposed a new translation of it that does take into account the effect of différance in its double meaning. Derrida's translation is la relève. The word comes from the verb relever, which means to lift up, as does Aufheben. But relever also means to relay, to relieve, as when one soldier on duty relieves another. This the conserving-and-negating lift has become la relève, a "lift" in which is inscribed an effect of substitution and difference, the effect of substitution and difference inscribed in the double meaning of Aufhebung. A. V. Miller's rendering of Authebung as "supersession" in his recent translation of the Phenomenology comes close to relever in combining the senses of raising up and replacement, although without the elegance of Derrida's maintenance of the verb meaning "to lift" (heben, lever) and change of prefix (auf-, re-). Thus we will leave la releve untranslated throughout, as with différance. For more on la releve, see below "Ousia and Gramme," note 15; "The Pit and the Pyramid," note 16; and "The Ends of Man," note 14.
The structure of delay (Nachtraglichkeit) in effect forbids that one make of temporalization (temporization) a simple dialectical complication of the living present as an originary and unceasing synthesis a synthesis constantly directed back on itself, gathered in on itself and gathering--of retentional traces and protentional openings. The alterity of the "unconscious" makes us concerned not with horizons of modified--past or future--presents, but with a "past" that has never been present, and which never will be, whose future to come will never be a production or a reproduction in the form of presence. Therefore the concept of trace is incompatible with the concept of retention, of the becoming-past of what has been present. One cannot think the trace and therefore, différance--on the basis of the present, or of the presence of the present.
A past that has never been present: this formula is the one that Emmanuel Levinas uses, although certainly in a nonpsychoanalytic way, to qualify the trace and enigma of absolute alterity: the Other.24 Within these limits, and from this point of view at least, the thought of différance implies the entire critique of classical ontology undertaken by Levinas. And the concept of the trace, like that of différance thereby organizes, along the lines of these different traces and differences of traces, in Nietzsche's sense, in Freud's sense, in Levinas's sense-- these "names of authors" here being only indices--the network which reassembles and traverses our "era" as the delimitation of the ontology of presence.
Which is to say the ontology of beings and beingness. It is the domination of beings that différance everywhere comes to solicit, in the sense that sollicitare, in old Latin, means to shake as a whole, to make tremble in entirety. Therefore, it is the determination of Being as presence or as beingness that is interrogated by the thought of différance. Such a question could not emerge and be understood unless the difference between Being and beings were somewhere to be broached. First consequence: différance is not. It is not a present being, however excellent,
24. TN. On Levinas, and on the translation of his term autrui by "Other," see "Violence and Metaphysics," note 6, in Writing and Difference.
unique, principal, or transcendent. It governs nothing, reigns over nothing, and nowhere exercises any authority. It is not announced by any capital letter. Not only is there no kingdom of différance, but différance instigates the subversion of every kingdom. Which makes it obviously threatening and infallibly dreaded by everything within us that desires a kingdom, the past or future presence of a kingdom. And it is always in the name of a kingdom that one may reproach différance with wishing to reign, believing that one sees it aggrandize itself with a capital letter.
Can différance, for these reasons, settle down into the division of the ontico-ontological difference, such as it is thought, such as its "epoch" in particular is thought, "through," if it may skill be expressed such, Heidegger's uncircumventable meditation?
There is no simple answer to such a question.
In a certain aspect of itself, différance is certainly but the historical and epochal unfolding of Being or of the ontological difference. The a of différance marks the movement of this unfolding.
And yet, are not the thought of the meaning or truth of Being, the determination of différance as the ontico-ontological difference, difference thought within the horizon of the question of Being, skill intrametaphysical effects of différance? The unfolding of différance is perhaps not solely the truth of Being, or of the epochality of Being. Perhaps we must attempt to think this unheard-of thought, this silent tracing: that the history of Being, whose thought engages the Greco-Western logos such as it is produced via the ontological difference, is but an epoch of the diapherein. Henceforth one could no longer even call this an "epoch," the concept of epochality belonging to what is within history as the history of Being. Since Being has never had a "meaning," has never been thought or said as such, except by dissimulating itself in beings, then différance, in a certain and very strange way, (is) "older" than the ontological difference or than the truth of Being. When it has this age it can be called the play of the trace. The play of a trace which no longer belongs to the horizon of Being, but whose play transports and encloses the meaning of Being: the play of the trace, or the différance, which has no meaning and is not. Which does not belong. There is no maintaining, and no depth to, this bottomless chessboard on which Being is put into play.
Perhaps this is why the Heraclitean play of the hen diapheron heautoi, of the one differing from itself, the one in difference with itself, already is lost like a trace in the determination of the diapherein as ontological difference.
To think the ontological difference doubtless remains a difficult task, and any statement of it has remained almost inaudible. Further, to prepare, beyond our logos, for a différance so violent that it can be interpellated neither as the epochality of Being nor as ontological difference, is not in any way to dispense with the passage through the truth of Being, or to "criticize," "contest," or misconstrue its incessant necessity. On the contrary, we must stay within the difficulty of this passage, and repeat it in the rigorous reading of metaphysics, wherever metaphysics normalizes Western discourse, and not only in the texts of the "history of philosophy." As rigorously as possible we must permit to appear/ disappear the trace of what exceeds the truth of Being. The trace (of that) which can never be presented, the trace which itself can never be presented: that is, appear and manifest itself, as such, in its phenomenon. The trace beyond that which profoundly links fundamental ontology and phenomenology. Always differing and deferring, the trace is never as it is in the presentation of itself. It erases itself in presenting itself, muffles itself in resonating, like the a writing itself, inscribing its pyramid in différance.
The annunciating and reserved trace of this movement can always be disclosed in metaphysical discourse, and especially in the contemporary discourse which states, through the attempts to which we just referred (Nietzsche, Freud, Levinas), the closure of ontology. And especially through the Heideggerean text.
This text prompts us to examine the essence of the present, the presence of the present.
What is the present? What is it to think the present in its presence?.
Let us consider, for example, the 1946 text endtled Der Spruch des Aneximander ("The Anaximander Fragment").25 In this text Heidegger recalls that the forgethng of Being forgets the difference between Being and beings: ". . . to be the Being of beings is the matter of Being (die Sache des Seins). The grammatical form of this enigmatic, ambiguous genitive indicates a genesis (Genesis), the emergence (Herkunft) of what is present from presencing (des Anwesenden aus dem Anwesen). Yet the essence (Wesen) of this emergence remains concealed (verborgen) along with the essence of these two words. Not only that, but even the very relation between presencing and what is present (Anwesen und Anwesendem) remains unthought. From early on it seems as though presencing and what is present were each something for itself. Presencing itself unnoticeably becomes something present . . . The essence of presencing (Das Wesen des Anwesens), and with it the distinction between presencing and what is present, remains forgotten. The oblivion of Being is oblivion of the distinction between Being and beings" (p. 50).
In recalling the difference between Being and beings (the ontological difference) as the difference between presence and the present, Heidegger advances a proposition, a body of propositions, that we are not going to use as a subject for criticism. This would be foolishly precipitate; rather, what we shall try to do is to return to this proposition its power to provoke.
Let us proceed slowly. What Heidegger wants to mark is this: the difference between Being and beings, the forgotten of metaphysics, has disappeared without leaving a trace. The very trace of difference has been submerged. If we maintain that différance (is) (itself) other than absence and presence, if it traces,
25. TN. Martin Heidegger,
Holawege (Frankfurt: V. Klostermann, 1957). English translation ("The Anaximander
Fragment'') in Early Greek Thinking, trans. David Farrell Krell and Frank
Capuzzi (New York: Harper and Row, 1975). All further references in the
then when it is a matter of the forgetting of the difference (between Being and beings), we would have to speak of a disappearance of the trace of the trace. Which is indeed what the following passage from "The Anaximander Fragment" seems to imply: "Oblivion of Being belongs to the self-veiling essence of Being. It belongs so essentially to the destiny of Being that the dawn of this destiny rises as the unveiling of what is present in its presencing. This means that the history of Being begins with the oblivion of Being, since Being--together with its essence, its distinction from beings--keeps to itself. The distinction collapses. It remains forgotten. Although the two parties to the distinction, what is present and presencing (das Anwesende und das Anwesen), reveal themselves, they do not do so as distinguished. Rather, even the early trace (die fruhe Spur) of the distinction is obliterated when presencing appears as something present (das Anwesen wie ein Anwesendes erscheint) and finds itself in the position of being the highest being present (in einem höchsten Anwesenden)" (pp. 50-51).
Since the trace is not a presence but the simulacrum of a presence that dislocates itself, displaces itself, refers itself, it properly has no site erasure belongs to its structure. And not only the erasure which must always be able to overtake it (without which it would not be a trace but an indestructible and monumental substance), but also the erasure which constitutes it from the outset as a trace, which situates it as the change of site, and makes it disappear in its appearance, makes it emerge from itself in its production. The erasure of the early trace (die frühe Spur) of difference is therefore the "same" as its tracing m the text of metaphysics. This latter must have maintained the mark of what it has lost, reserved, put aside. The paradox of such a structure, in the language of metaphysics, is an inversion of metaphysical concepts, which produces the following effect: the present becomes the sign of the sign, the trace of the trace. It is no longer what every reference refers to in the last analysis. It becomes a function in a structure of generalized reference. It is a trace, and a trace of the erasure of the trace.
Thereby the text of metaphysics is comprehended. Still legible; and to be read. It is not surrounded but rather traversed by its limit, marked in its interior by the multiple furrow of its margin. Proposing all at once the monument and the mirage of the trace, the trace simultaneously traced and erased, simultaneously living and dead, and, as always, living in its simulation of life's preserved inscription. A pyramid. Not a stone fence to be jumped over but itself stonelike, on a wall, to be deciphered otherwise, a text without voice.
Thus one can think without contradiction, or at least without granting any pertinence to such a contradiction, what is perceptible and imperceptible in the trace. The "early trace" of difference is lost in an invisibility without return, and yet its very loss is sheltered, retained, seen, delayed. In a text. In the form of presence. In the form of the proper. Which itself is only an effect of writing.
Having stated the erasure of the early trace, Heidegger can therefore, in a contradiction without contradiction, consign, countersign, the sealing of the trace. A bit further on: "However, the distinction between Being and beings, as something forgotten, can invade our experience only if it has already unveiled itself with the presencing of what is present (mit dem Anwesen des Anwesenden); only if it has left a trace (eine Spur geprägt hat) which remains preserved (gewahrt bleibt) in the language to which Being comes" (p. 51).
Still further on, while meditating on Anaximander's to khreon, which he translates as Brauch (usage), Heidegger writes this: "Enjoining order and reck (Fug und Ruch verfugend), usage delivers to each present being (Anwesende) the while into which it is released. But accompanying this process is the constant danger that lingering will petrify into mere persistence (in das blosse Beharren verhartet). Thus usage essentially remains at the same hme the distribution (Ausha'ndigung: dis-maintenance) of presencing (des Anwesens) into disorder (in den Un-fug). Usage conjoins the dis (Der Brauch fugt das Un-)" (p. 54).
And it is at the moment when Heidegger recognizes usage as trace that the question must be asked: can we, and to what extent, think this trace and the dis of différance as Wesen des Seins? Does not the dis of différance refer us beyond the history of Being, and also beyond our language, and everything that can be named in it? In the language of Being, does it not call for a necessarily violent transformation of this language by an entirely other language?
Let us make this question more specific. And to force the "trace" out of it (and has anyone thought that we have been tracking something down, something other than tracks themselves to be tracked down?), let us read this passage: "The translation of to khreon as 'usage' has not resulted from a preoccupation with etymologies and dictionary meanings. The choice of the word stems from a prior crossing over (Über- setzen; trans-lation) of a thinking which tries to think the distinction m the essence of Being (im Wesen des Seins) in the fateful beginning of Being's oblivion. The word 'usage' is dictated to thinking in the experience (Erfahrung) of Being's oblivion. What properly remains to be thought in the word 'usage' has presumably left a trace (Spur) in to khreon. This trace quickly vanishes (alsbald verschwindet) in the deshny of Being which unfolds in world history as Western metaphysics" (p. 54).
How to conceive what is outside a text? That which is more or less than a text's own, proper margin? For example, what is other than the text of Western metaphysics? It is certain that the trace which "quickly vanishes in the destiny of Being (and) which unfolds . . . as Western metaphysics" escapes every determination, every name it might receive in the metaphysical text. It is sheltered, and therefore dissimulated, in these names. It does not appear in them as the trace "itself." But this is because it could never appear itself, as such. Heidegger also says that difference cannot appear as such: "Lichtung des Unterschiedes kann deshalb auch nicht bedeuten, dass der Unterschied als der Unterschied erscheint." There is no essence of différance; it (is) that which not only could never be appropriated in the as such of its name or its appearing, but also that which threatens the authority of the as such in general, of the presence of the thing itself in its essence. That there is not a proper essence26 of différance at this point, implies that there is neither a Being nor truth of the play of writing such as it engages différance.
For us, différance remains a metaphysical name, and all the names that it receives in our language are still, as names, metaphysical. And this is particularly the case when these names state the determination of différance as the difference between presence and the present (Anwesen/Anwesend), and above all, and is already the case when they state the determination of différance as the difference of Being and beings.
"Older" than Being itself, such a différance has no name in our language. But we "already know" that if it is unnameable, if is not provisionally so, not because our language has not yet found or received this name, or because we would have to seek it in another language, outside the finite system of our own. It is rather because there is no name for it at all, not even the name of essence or of Being, not even that of "différance," which is not a name, which is not a pure nominal unity, and unceasingly dislocates itself in a chain of differing and deferring substitutions.
"There is no name for it": a proposition to be read in its platitude. This unnameable is not an ineffable Being which no name could approach: God, for example. This unnameable is the play which makes possible nominal effects, the relatively unitary and atomic structures that are called names, the chains of
26.TN Différance is not a "species" of the genus ontological difference. If the "gift of presence is the property of Appropriating (Die Gabe von Anwesen ist Eigentum des Ereignens)" ["Time and Being," in On Time and Being, trans. Joan Stambaugh, New York: Harper and Row, 1972; p. 22], différance is not a process of propriation in any sense whatever. It is neither position (appropriation) nor negation (expropriation), but rather other. Hence it seems-- but here, rather, we are marking the necessity of a future itinerary--that différance would be no more a species of the genus Ereignis than Being. Heidegger: ". . . then Being belongs into Appropriating (Dann gehort das Sein in das Ereignen). Giving and its gift receive their determination from Appropriating. In that case, Being would be a species of Appropriation (Ereignis), and not the other way around' To take refuge in such an inversion would be too cheap. Such thinking misses the matter at stake (Sie denkt am Sachverhalt vorbei). Appropriation (Ereignis) is not the encompassing general concept under which Being and time could be subsumed. Logical classifications mean nothing here. For as we think Being itself and follow what is its own (seinem Eigenen folgen), Being proves to be destiny's gift of presence (gewahrte Gabe des Geschickes von Anwesenheit), the gift granted by the giving (Reichen) of time. The gift of presence is the property of Appropriating (Die Gabe von Anwesen ist Eigentum des Ereignens)." (On Time and Being, pp. 21-22.)
Without a displaced reinscription
of this chain (Being, presence, -propriation, etc.) the relation between
general or fundamental onto-logy and whatever ontology masters or makes
subordinate under the rubric of a regional or particular science will never
be transformed rigorously and irreversibly. Such regional sciences include
not only political economy, psychoanalysis, semiolinguistics--in all of
which, and perhaps more than elsewhere, the value of the proper plays an
irreducible role--but equally all spiritualist or materialist metaphysics.
The analyses articulated in this volume aim at such a preliminary articulation.
It goes without saying that such a reinscription will never be contained
in theoretical or philosophical discourse, or generally in any discourse
or writing, but only on the scene of what I have called elsewhere the text
in general (1972).
substitutions of names in which, for example, the nominal effect différance is itself enmeshed, carried off, reinscribed, just as a false entry or a false exit is skill part of the game, a function of the system.
What we know, or what we would know if it were simply a question here of something to know, is that there has never been, never will be, a unique word, a master-name. This is why the thought of the letter a in différance is not the primary prescription or the prophetic annunciation of an imminent and as yet unheard-of nomination. There is nothing kerygmatic about this "word," provided that one perceives its decapita(liza)tion. And that one puts into question the name of the name.
There will be no unique name, even if it were the name of Being. And we must think this without nostalgia, that is, outside of the myth of a purely maternal or paternal language, a lost native country of thought. On the contrary, we must affirm this, in the sense in which Nietzsche puts affirmation into play, in a certain laughter and a certain step of the dance.
From the vantage of this laughter and this dance, from the vantage of this affirmation foreign to all dialectics, the other side of nostalgia, what I will call Heideggerian hope, comes into question. I am not unaware how shocking this word might seem here. Nevertheless I am venturing it, without excluding any of its implications, and I relate it to what still seems to me to be the metaphysical part of "The Anaximander Fragment": the quest for the proper word and the unique name. Speaking of the first word of Being (das fruhe Wort des Seins: to khreon), Heidegger writes: "The relation to what is present that rules in the essence of presencing itself is a unique one (ist eine einzige), altogether incomparable to any other relation. It belongs to the uniqueness of Being itself (Sie gehort zur Einzigkeit des Seins selbst). Therefore, in order to name the essential nature of Being (das wesende Seins), language would have to find a single word, the unique word (ein einziges, das einzige Wort). From this we can gather how daring every thoughtful word (denkende Wort) addressed to Being is (das dem Sein zugesprochen wird). Nevertheless such daring is not impossible, since Being speaks always and everywhere throughout language" (p. 52).
Such is the question: the alliance of speech and Being in the unique word, in the finally proper name. And such is the question inscribed in the simulated affirmation of différance. It bears (on) each member of this sentence: "Being / speaks / always and everywhere / throughout / language."