“The Beginnings of Thought” :: Len Lawlor

Key to the continental philosophy of the 1960’s for Lawlor is the need to “motivate thought.” The figures, who for Lawlor articulate the strongest or most poignant attempts to take on this task are Derrida and Deleuze (Foucault comes up from time to time in the essay but generally not as philosophically substantive). Key to the development of contemporary continental philosophy is the “point of diffraction,” the point from which both Deleuze and Derrida develop along different trajectories. This point is the paradox of repetition ; it is “Cruelty” in the poet Antonin Artaud, the play of the theater and its double, the plague. “A plague does not follow a previously given script or text; it is nothing but the expression of deadly forces, forces that express themselves in yells and cries: ‘the theater of cruelty.’ The theater of cruelty, whose actions cannot be thought, but which must be thought, would have to experienced as a paradox.” Lawlor begins by claiming that both Derrida and Deleuze are philosophers of immanence and introjects four points of diffraction from the paradox of repetition to explore their respective philosophies without gravitating toward to strong a similitude. Lawlor’s essay discusses Derrida and Deleuze at length and so in this summary I will outline their respective breaks with Platonism through simulacrum. In the interest of producing a relevant post I will concentrate on where Deleuze and Derrida differ on the question of the other and lay out the ontological claims that Lawlor takes from the two theorists.

The points of diffraction break Derrida and Deleuze into four working dualisms:

Derrida: of unity, of negativity, of the middle place, of interrogation by the other
Deleuze: of duality, of positivity, of non-place, of self interrogation.

Very briefly I will consider the mode through which Platonism is discussed. (For a more in depth discussion, Lawlor’s essay names “Plato the Simulacrum” and Difference and Repetition which has an extended discussion of Platonism Both Derrida and Deleuze articulate a need to reconsider Platonism, in the case of Deleuze, an overturning of the hierarchical thought was more in order. Platonism’s hierarchy manifests itself in thought as the movement from transcendence to immanence through sense. Platonism is adapted from the neo-platonists who describe a three fold system constituted by the unparticipated, the participated, and the participant. For example the system might look like the idea of justice, the quality of justice, and the just. Deleuze maps these components onto the father, the daughter or fiancee, and the claimants or suitors. “The simulacrum is a false suitor…the errant son in relation to the father, a false suitor.” Lawlor then writes that, “The simulacrum is the point of diffraction between Derrida and Deleuze.”(126)


Deleuze, Simulacrum/The false suitor is difference in itself. In itself Lawlor explains as “that difference is conceived without any mediation whatsoever.” The simulacrum in Plato is what is excluded from participating. Deleuze says that Platonism consists in “subordinating difference to the powers of the Same and of the Similar, in declaring difference unthinkable in itself, and in sending difference and the simulacrum back to the bottomless ocean.”(127 of Lawlor/ 253 of Logic of Sense) The simulacrum puts resemblance on the outside and lives from difference. Reversing Platonism then consists in making the simulacrum “rise to the surface.”(128)

Derrida, Simulacrum- Derrida’s interest in the simulacrum is to be crude, is in the emergence of meaning/coherence in repetition – a word being double between presence and non-presence. Simulacrum are defined by non-being (of the sort we are used to in Levinas, a type of non-being that is beyond being). Rather than making difference rise to the surface, Derrida is interested in the field into which simulacra are displaced where there is total contamination. Contamination I might have mentioned is Derrida’s attempt to articulate a difference with mediation. ‘Because Derrida is trying to conceive the difference between form and formless as mediation, he conceives the relation as a field.”(129)

Aion (sidesteps the present, “instead of a present that absorbs the past and the future, a future and a past divide the present at every instant, which subdivides it into a past and future to infinity, in the two directions at once.”(135)

Deleuze: The paradox of the voice- the voice has the dimensions of language without having its conditions; “it awaits the event that will make it a language. It i no longer noise but not yet language.” It is, in keeping wih Deleuze’s privedging of immediacy, not a vocal mediator. Noise is the “the noisy events of death.”(136) It s death in its most existential form, the form in which we must always remember that death means the end of all possibilities, it is the possibily from which the possibility of possibilities is presenced. There are two kinds of death that Deleuze articulates. One is the type that happens to my body; it occurs in the present ‘causing me to cry and yell, forcing noise out of me. This noise is not yet language.”(137) There is also the death of the them. this is an incorporeal death “in which one never finishes dying.”(137) This is what Deleuze calls the genuine event. this is the “always to come, the source of an incessant multiple adventure in a persistent question.”(137)

Lawlor gives an example through Deleuze to clear this up. I will through Lawlor try and draw this idea of the voice out and connect it to the other. The example, in the style of Neitzsch, drawn from interogation. In an interogation one is asked to explain oneself and one defers to others to question the legitimacy of such quesitoning. This appeal to the other, the rich friend/connection, hereditary ties, etc. is a type of appeal to something no longer immanent to oneself and for Lawlor is a point at which thinking/thought gives way to the deferral to the Other, the constance of death. “Thinking begins, Lawlor writes, “in silence,when no longer relying on the voice of everyone or no one…” He goes on, “Then the transmutation of powerlessness into power occurs: one invents a responce to the question. The expierence of the voice in Deleuzze therefore is the experience of being ‘demolished’.” Interogation by another i an interogation by the self, the dissolved the, the larval selves.

Derrida’s voice is the voice of the other. Derrida’s conception of the voice begins so to speak in his conception of the structure of language as a constant referal to that which is not present, to that which is beyond being. “By means of its repeatability, language must alway s be the same, univocal, and sent to an other who is not present, who is beyond being, equivocal.” Derrida examines he moment when one reprimands itself. “It is the same me speaking as hearing: univocal. Yet, given that I am not the one speaking when I am the one hearing and vice versa, it is not the same me speaking as hearing; equi-vocal.” This difference in speaker and listener means for Derrida that there is always an other in me, “…in the same, speaking to me or right on me.” (138) there can never be an unmediated other to which i will have comlete interior access to, only re-presentation is possible. So that while the other is not the positivism of an other on the outside, an other person, and is the other inside of me I can only ever have a re-presentation to that other. The other inside of me is always silence, is always beyond being, and for Lawlor is thus already dead. The voice of the other as absence within me leads Derrida to claim that speaking, my disappearence as a unity is implied. Lawlor writes, “My death is implied even when I use an indexical such as “me”; the very fact that it points to me across a disiance implies hat it does not require me o be present, up close to itl the indeical is right on me yet not identitcal me. I am already absent from it.” Self interrogation is thus interrogation by the other.

Lawlor ends the essay by tying into some brief remarks he made earlier about the space f the non-signifying sense as being the space of memory. He writes that foucault saw the overturning of platonism somewhere in the hollowing out of the foundations of history, to denaturalize historical identity. Lawlor speculates that, “This extraction, this going beyond, this hollowing out requires a new kind of kind of memory or even a new kind of “counter-memory.” Perhaps this memory and counter-memory,an ‘awaiting forgetting,” is what “post-modernism” really means.” I wonder about this idea of a productive forgetting, of a type of thought which requires a looseness to think. This looseness cannot be something like a type of thought that allows room for expansion fitting all difference within the space of the same. I think it would have to work through the contingent and the accidental. To view them not as epiphenomenon but as that from which life is borne. It would have to see them as constituting life from the absolute and at the same time from a very small corner which is always connected to the open.


~ by dmaurice on April 23, 2007.

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