Writing and Difference

Some points of interest from Derrida’s “Writing and Difference”

ANGUSTIA : the necessarily restricted passageway of speech against which all possible meanings push each other, preventing each other’s emergence.

This is an idea that I have not considered or been presented with before - the notion that the presence of certain concepts prevent the emergence, the revealing of other concepts.

That in certain circumstances, two positives, or multiple positives, creates a negative ground, an area of doubt. An area being devoid of meaning, despite the fact that a substantial amount of meaning has attempted to be placed within it.

In respect to this theory, there is no room for multiple ideas, as they cannot work in conjunction with one another : one has to take precedence.

To write is not only to know that through writing, through the extremities of style, the best will not necessarily transpire

Nor will the transition to what transpires always be wilful, nor will that which is noted down always infinitely express the universe resembling and reassembling it

This part expresses an issue which I have thought about countless times whilst dealing with language in my work - what is intended to be received is not always (extremely rarely) what is actually received. This is unquestionably important to consider in terms of language as a whole, but also in terms of the creation and reception of artwork.

Gesture, speech, written word cannot accurately mirror reality, they can only express details, or mirror is to a certain and limited level of accuracy.

However, this has made me think about the fact that there is always a very SPECIFIC will, a highly personal intention behind the articulation of something. Whether is was received in the way it was intended or not, this will cannot be denied. The point is rarely received as it was intended to be received because there are multiple factors affecting it - multiple obstacles alone the journey of delivery and reception.

Meaning is neither before nor after the act

It is when that which is written is deceased as a sign signal that it is born as language ; for then it says what is, thereby referring only to itself, a sign without signification, a game or pure functioning, since it ceased to be utilised as natural, biological, or technical information, or as the transition from one existent to another, from a signifier to a signified.

For me, Derrida raises here the conviction that meaning exists whether the act occurred or not, its position is unaffected by the act, despite the way that the act materialises the meaning, gives it its form.

Derrida seems to dictate that we need to eradicate any focus on sign in order to reach full and true meaning. I think this is because then the point of contention isn’t the sign - only its content, and this really is the only thing that should be discussed.

Structure is then the unity of form and meaning

Structure becomes the object itself

Does the fact that language can determine things only by spatialising them suffice to explain that, in return, language must spatialise itself as soon as it designates and reflects upon itself?

Derrida outlines here that structure is integral to the attribution of meaning, as it unites the concept and the form that this concept takes. It unites the two components that need each other to actually have a purpose themselves, a role that is so fundamental within language.

I have obviously been able to recognise the implication and magnitude of structure before, but I have never really thought about it as an object to think about in its own right, completely isolated from everything else. I think that this is because it is difficult to think about a structure without thinking about the elements that it is supporting by its form. Derrida delineates that structure is a factor of language which deserves its own recognition - separate to form and meaning. However, it is because of these two other factors that it is able to materialise itself.

Derrida provides an apt description of structure - a system that separates elements, determines their meaning by distinguishing them from others. This makes its fundamental role within language make a lot more sense to me. The structure allows meaning as it separates the forms from each other, shows us that there is a difference between them. Meaning can only be recognised because of this difference.

It is also suggested language must understand its own positioning within the context of everything else - I think perhaps it is meant that language needs to be understood within the context of other languages. This is the only way that it can reflect on itself, evaluate its own purpose, success and efficiency. A language must be able to differentiate itself from others, just as within a language system, individual elements must be able to differentiate themselves from others.

Everything not intelligible in the light of pre-established teleological framework, and not visible in its simultaneity, is reducible to the inconsequentiality of accident or dross.

To be a structuralist is first to concentrate on the organisation of meaning , on the autonomy and idiosyncratic balance, the completion of each moments each form; and it is to refuse to relegate everything that is not compressible as an ideal type to the status of aberrational accident.

Derrida outlines a determinant of structuralist thinking, saying that absolutely everything, however abnormal or against the current can be explained by the structure which lies beneath.

Anything that cannot be explained by the structure, or labelled as an unassuming anomaly, is often labelled instead as a mistake or an error - something worthless. Structuralism opposes this idea. Anything which does not conform with the ideal can still be explained by the system.

The possibility of concealing meaning through the very act of uncovering it

To comprehend the structure of a becoming, the form of a force, is to lose meaning by finding it

I’m fixated on this judgement of meaning being lost as soon as it is revealed. I have been forced to consider how this loss may occur. One possibility that seems plausible to me is that once the meaning is revealed it is defined explicitly as something and therefore the possibilities, the scope of its meaning is vastly reduced.