Half-finished notes on Derrida and time-consciousness
Clearing out my drafts. This is from a couple of months ago and I'm probably not going to finish it, but maybe I'll want the quotes for reference some time?
I have a big pile of practical things I'm supposed to be doing, so let's bury my head in the sand for a bit and write up some background notes on the time-consciousness side of Voice and Phenomenon, I'm sure that'll help.
This is all the stuff about the living present, memory, retentions and protentions, etc etc. I'd been kind of avoiding getting too far into it, partly just from a suspicion that this is too far into annoying metaphysics for me, but also I had some odd emotional resistance. When I've read about philosophy-of-time type things before it's always been in the context of physics, and I was feeling sad about losing that context (and maybe never regaining it? I think it's likely I will pick up the quantum foundations threads I dropped during the pandemic, but the stuff I was thinking about during my PhD? seems unlikely...)
Anyway I somehow disentangled that resistance and can think about the topic, and it's starting to take shape for me, though it's still in a muddled state.
So, there seem to be two different ways that différance gets introduced as a concept in secondary sources. One more-or-less avoids the time-consciousness angle and tells a story about signs that I find reasonably comprehensible, here's a concise version from Newton Garver's introduction to Voice and Phenomenon:
Différance is a complex essential characteristic of signs, being composed of (a) an actual difference which makes the sign possible, but which can be instituted and understood only in terms of (b) other times and circumstances in which the instituted difference systematically appears
This does mention 'times and circumstances', but the connection to time is mostly left implicit. Glendinning also takes a similar route in his Very Short Introduction, but here the time connection is more obvious:
What is discriminated when one hears an identifiable phoneme cannot be reduced to a sound which is simply present in the present....
But still, Glendinning avoids the whole topic of the living present and time-consciousness, it is a very short introduction after all.
Then there's the second way, which leads with time-consciousness and normally quotes this fabulously annoying phrase of Derrida's, 'the becoming-space of time or the becoming-time of space'. This comes from his 'Différance' essay in The Margins of Philosophy:
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 . . . that I propose to call arche-writing, arche-trace, or différance.
Now this has a vague resemblance to the Garver quote, in that 'irreducibly nonsimple... synthesis of marks' is similar to 'complex essential characteristic of signs'... but it foregrounds the time part, so now we're talking about différance being 'the constitution of the present' rather than a characteristic of signs.
This is all unpleasantly mushy, and part of me is wondering why I'm bothering, but unfortunately another part is badly nerdsniped and I'm stuck here. Maybe it's not so bad... the moment-to-moment experience of reading Derrida is infuriating, but he does somehow still keep disclosing insightful ways of thinking about things.