This paper will briefly examine several key tenets of physical philosophy and their relation to contemporary deconstructionism. The aims of this inquiry are a more thorough understanding of deconstruction's philosophical foundations and examination of its more recent conclusions involving theology and religion in general.
One can find throughout the history of western philosophy, from Classical to contemporary, the contention between two predominant views of reality, two alternative schools of thought 1regarding the constitution of objects and subsequent implications for epistemology. One the one hand are those that suggest objects derive their form and function through a participation in certain 'universal' substances and qualities 2which are said to be truly shared among similar objects. This is to say that corporeal and incorporeal realities involve a metaphysical pattern which stands prior to any particular object's coming into being 3. Epistemologically, one's knowledge of the object can only be said to be as good as one's cognition of the universals within, since the actual 'substance,' 'essence,' or 'being' [ ontos ] of that object is in fact such a universal. Whereas human nature and its rationality are likewise viewed as belonging to such a pattern, it is assumed that the mind has the capacity to be acted upon by these universals, such that cognitions of the mind and the ideas they spawn can be said to build upon universals 4. This prioritization of the role of universals in epistemology and the natural order may best be understood as a metaphysic of being, a metaphysic of ontology, and whose major proponents are Aristotle in the area of philosophy and Aquinas in philosophical theology. Through the significant influence of these two, this view has dominated subsequent western philosophical and theological thought.
There have, however, always been those who have rejected this notion of universals of substance and quality and their implied metaphysical pattern. Rather than understanding an object as a composite of universals and accidents, they recognize only the role of accidents in establishing 5individuality. In other words, the form or function of any object is the result of the type and arrangement of its accidents. Thus any true knowledge of an object as a whole would consist solely in an understanding of its many accidents, the manner in which those accidents interact with each other to form the whole, and the basis upon which such accidents (separately and as a whole) may be differentiated from another object's accidents (separately and as a whole).
Epistemologically, rather than the mind's cognition and idea of the object involving universals of substance and quality, the mind, when confronted by an object, produces first an existential idea ('this exists') and then proceeds to differentiate the object from others through cognition of the degree of difference and similarity the object possesses (via its accidents) from other objects. Thus the idea formed of the object is a composite of the existential idea, the cognition of its accidents, and the cumulative memory of previously (and similarly) experienced objects upon which one bases a comparison of similarity and difference.
According to this physical view, the system of ideas which one has about the natural world is comprised solely of differentiations and existential experiences. It is the natural operation of the mind to compound or abstract existential ideas 6and thus inevitably comes to such conclusions as "apples are red," or "humans possess rationality". Such 'universal' statements do not allude to the universal quality of 'redness' shared by apples nor to a universal quality of 'rationality' shared by humans. Rather, the ideas of 'redness' and 'rationality' as shared qualities exist solely as abstractions of the mind's cognition of accidents. The term 'redness', then, is the name given to a state of proximate similarity in appearance rather than a signification of a metaphysical quality. Similarly, the notion of an 'apple nature' consisting of 'redness', 'sweetness', and 'roundness' can only be understood as a term grounded in conceptual abstraction rather than a signification of metaphysical 'nature'.
The Status of Concepts
Based on one's stance on the composition of objects, it becomes clear that one's views on the status of concepts would be quite distinct. In a metaphysic of being, the (accurate) concept is that which corresponds 7to a universal substance or quality cognizable in all (similar) objects. In this way it is claimed that the concept may metaphysically signify its object, since the concept grounds in the same universal present in the object 8. This in turn produces the claim that concepts metaphysically (and thus accurately) correspond to the real world. If, in addition, the accuracy of spoken language to convey concepts be granted (for reasons we do not here mention), we have also grounds for assuming the accurate correspondence of language to objects and states of affairs in the real world.
All of this makes possible the claim that one's concept of an object could not radically differ from another's concept of the same (or similar) object since both concepts are grounded in the same universals. This makes dialogue regarding the object not only possible, but would consist of actual correspondence via language of the same conceptual content. Objective knowledge and the accurate transference of that knowledge is thus possible. We say that one's (accurate) concept could not radically differ from another's since both ground in a metaphysically established reality. Thus the concept of 'goodness' will always correspond to the metaphysical universal of 'goodness' and would not be subject to any significant alteration other than a move toward or away from accurate correspondence.
In the physical school, the concept is not granted the status of metaphysical signifier as it does not ground in metaphysical universals but in the abstraction of one's experience, observation, and memory. Conceptual accuracy is determined only relative to one's repeated experience of objects in the real world, and whereas one's experiences differ from another's, conceptual discrepancy among accurate concepts is possible. For, according to the physical view, that concept against which all other concepts must be judged (if such exists) is that concept which is formed on the basis of an experience and abstraction of every object of like and unlike kind within the natural order. Any less comprehensive concept may be accurate in relation to its own experiences, but would continually be subject to revision or updates with every newly experienced (like) object.
And yet a certain order within the natural world does manifest itself such that a population of individuals confronted by the real world would be expected to develop quite similar conceptual systems. For example, according to physical law, given similar objects, environments and perceptive ability, two individuals would be expected to have similar experiences. And if it is the natural operation of the mind to abstract experiences, we would expect these two to have similar abstractions. We could not say, however, that both individuals hold the same concept, since each derives his own from a separate set and number of experiences. 9Nor could we say that either's concept actually signifies the object in the sense proposed by the metaphysical school, but instead substitutes for the object in mental discourse just as linguistic terms would be said to substitute for the object in verbal discourse. 10
This physical view has historically gone by many names including atomism, nominalism, empiricism, and positivism 11 , and has been the primary context from which other major philosophical trends have emerged. The latter include skepticism, nihilism, existentialism, and deconstructionism. Due to the limited scope of this essay, we will discuss only deconstructionism as it relates to and builds upon the physical view outlined above. It will be shown that contemporary deconstructionism consists of little more than certain logical extrapolations of what is implied by the physical view, although applied in terms of more recent philosophical problems and solutions.
At every fork in the philosophical path disagreements will arise as to the validity of the perspectives deconstructionism will appropriate. To examine deconstructionism's justification of it's choice of one position over another will prove impossible within the confines of this essay. The primary thesis of this paper, however, that deconstructionism is to be understood in terms of its ground in the physical view, will provide a powerful explanatory tool as to why deconstructionists must choose certain philosophical positions as opposed to others. One also expects a certain prophetic relevance of the thesis as a basis for anticipating which paths deconstructionism must follow in future discussions. As the focus of this paper is upon the nexus of deconstructionism and religion, mention will be made only of those applications of deconstruction relevant to this topic.
First, let us determine whether the notion of God is necessarily sacrificed by the deconstructionist view. A variety of views of God have been held by those adhering to the physical view ranging from traditional theism to atheism. In fact, upon examination it is quite evident that the physical view does not incline itself toward any particular view of God, as it maintains simply that human experience and cognition take place solely within the confines of the natural world. This view of confinement does, however, prove more convenient to those proposing a remote or absent deity.
William Occam sought to maintain a traditional theism within the nominalist framework he had established. This traditional theism, he believed, required a certain univocality of concepts such as 'goodness' in order to make it possible that all men may know God. For human purposes, though, this univocality need only be analogous, abstracted from created objects. 12
This is to say that both are infinite disparities and equally impassable. 13His contemporaries considered Occam's need for univocality, analogous or other, as an indication of the implausibility of his entire denial of universals. However, his notion that successful human endeavor requires only an analogous univocality, given his understanding of the divine origin of both mind and world, seems quite defensible. The only element sacrificed by the analogous univocality is the notion of direct correspondence, which he intentionally rejects due to its ground in metaphysical universals.
Empiricists such as Thomas Hobbes 14 and John Locke also had room for the traditional notion of God in the physical world view. Locke likewise strictly maintained a physical epistemology yet saw this as commensurate with his belief in God. Locke also saw a need for a certain analogous univocality through which ideas regarding God and revelation were assured communicability. His solution, like Occam's rested in the notion of a divine design or order to the natural world which in a meaningful sense mirrored the Deity. Deism itself, with its notion of a remote and orderly God, made such empirical understanding of the world all the more credible to many British empiricists. Deism, however, with its relegation of God to a tertiary role in the universe, contributed to the subsequently increasing understanding of the natural world as a closed system.
More recently, the deconstructionist Jacques Derrida defined himself as an a-theist 15 , while likewise viewing his position as highly consistent with the physical view. For Derrida, the natural order consists of a closed system within which reference to Deity is unnecessary if not erroneous. For, the only things we can be said to know derive from interaction with objects and our abstractions thereof. Although this limitation of knowledge to physical interaction has been maintained by all the physicalists mentioned thus far, it takes on a special emphasis for Derrida and others denying relevance to the notion of God. Once any possibility of the transcendent is removed, one is left with a purely physical, absolutely closed system.
The Universe as Closed System
The question to what degree the world constitutes a closed system can, in fact, be answered in four ways. The first of course, is a denial of its closure and a claim of its being an open system. By open is meant not only subject to the continual active intervention of God in the natural course of event, but also the continual role of transcendents in nature and reason. This latter reference would include such things as universal and platonic forms. This position, then, is rejected by definition by those of the physical view. 16
The second answer claims that the universe is a closed system, but that God is capable of opening it and in fact does so occasionally. We would expect this answer from Occam and Locke, though their definitions of occasionally would likely differ. Both understood the world to operate on its own momentum 17, especially in regard to epistemology, such that accurate explanations of the way things really are require natural causes. And yet a recognition of God's omnipotence is understood to imply his ability to intervene into the natural order at will. This being the case, however, one need not expect God to so frequently intervene as to make natural causality a secondary issue, if in fact his initial design of nature and of history suffices.
A third answer proposes that the world is a closed system, that God could intervene if He wished, but that he does not do so. This answer would allow for a divine origin of the created order (if needed) and a basis for an existential religious comfort, while at the same time requiring humanity to explain all phenomenological experiences horizontally. This position most likely emerges during transitional periods in which one philosophical position succumbs to another. For example, this would likely be offered as a tenable position in recognition of the exhaustion of materialism in the search for a basis of meaning.
The fourth answer is simply that the world is a closed system and cannot be opened. This answer portrays the world as a closed system for the same reasons as those given above, but leaves unanswered (and unanswerable) questions of origin and destiny. It likewise agrees, without exception, that accurate accounts of reality require horizontal explanations. This is precisely Derrida's position and his adoption of it most likely stems from two rationales, religious and philosophical. Religiously, Derrida simply disbelieves the traditional concept of a personal, acting, transcendent Deity. 18 Philosophically, Derrida understands certain 'economies' or systems to be unavoidably operant in the human sphere.
According to Derrida, not all 'economies' are deemed unavoidable though all should be considered tenacious. Without exception, he aims his deconstructions at such economies in the hope that by doing so a newer more meaningful economy emerges. An economy consists of certain relationships necessarily implied within current conceptual frameworks. The economy which served as the target for his initial and most well-known attempt at deconstructing is that which exists among meaning and the spoken and written word. In place of this economy he offered his Grammatology . More recently targeted economies include Onto-theology 19 , Hospitality 20 , and the Gift 21 . Of interest here, however, are not those economies which Derrida believes are susceptible to deconstruction, but those he recognizes as insurmountable. Herein lies the key to his understanding of the world as closed system. Rather than stressing the world as a closed physical system, Derrida will strongly emphasize the inevitable presence of a closed conceptual system grounded in reason's finitude.
Derrida has not to my knowledge approached with the intent to deconstruct, the issue of science as a means of knowing the physical world. Instead, his entire discourse is aimed at the conceptual problems stemming from erroneous traditions and finite conceptual economies. Derrida's neglect of the physical sciences is perhaps due to good reasons. First, the methodology employed by the physical sciences is precisely that espoused by the physical view which lies at the very core of his own philosophical tradition. How could he revise scientific methodology without bringing his entire system into suspicion of irrelevance? 22Secondly, and more importantly, Derrida (correctly) locates the primary source of human error in its conceptualizations rather than in its ability to accurately observe concrete phenomena. This assumption is consistent with the original physical position which views all memory and cognitive extrapolation as grounded in abstractions, a ground which inevitably subjectivizes conceptual content. In concepts dealing with concrete objects, consistently reinforced through controlled observation and experiment, the expectation of widespread error is less than in concepts dealing with abstracts. 23 Thus his deconstructive endeavors are without exception aimed at conceptual economies involving abstracts.
For Derrida as with other physicalists, concepts of abstracts are several cognitive steps removed from any real object. It is also claimed by most physicalists that certain philosophical trends, especially Aristotelianism and its offshoots, through sheer popularity have undermined open-mindedness and accurate formulation of concepts of abstracts. History shows that not only Heidegger and Derrida have espoused an 'anti-metaphysic' or 'anti-aristotelianism', but also Occam, Hobbes, Locke, and so on throughout the western physical tradition. And yet a certain shift in emphasis is noticeable between pre-Heideggerean physicalists and Heidegger/post-Heideggereans. 24Early physicalists denounced aristotelianisms through a scientific demonstration aimed at undermining traditional metaphysical assumptions. 25Science, however, eventually proved itself incapable of accounting for humanity's more noble ideas and aspirations, a collapse that in philosophical and religious circles contributed to the emergence of nihilism and existentialism. By the time Heidegger arrives on the scene, appeal to scientific discovery as a means of dethroning the (non-physical and thereby still-intact) metaphysical assumptions is no longer a viable method.
Heidegger's primary contribution to deconstructionism is his unique application of the Hegelian dialectic in which two opposing notions are collapsed in order to form a new and distinct notion. The uniqueness of Heidegger's application is found in his claim that the third and emerging concept lay outside the conceptual system of the two collapsed concepts. In modern parlance, what emerges is a concept belonging to a new paradigm. Thus the former two concepts were said to be systematically deconstructed , and with them a (partial) deconstruction of the erroneous metaphysical system to which they belonged. This is done in the hope of attaining a new unfettered approach to the world and the conceptual frameworks it spawns.
To adherents of the metaphysical school, such deconstruction is not only impossible, but illogical, since concepts are understood to ground in metaphysical 'realities'. They are, therefore, quite insusceptible to deconstruction and collapse. Heidegger's call for conceptual deconstruction amounts to a denial of those metaphysical universals within which objects, concepts and (by extension) language are grounded, not least of which include 'goodness' or 'being'. For the physicalist, however, given the rejection of aristotelian categories and adherence to physical epistemology, no adequate reason exists to believe such concepts actually correspond to reality. Such a concept must be demonstrated to have truly abstracted from experience. 26And so there would in fact be no justification for Heidegger's deconstruction of a concept without rigorous contemplation of conceptual content if it were not for the binary opposition of abstracts implied by the metaphysical framework. One does not deconstruct a single concept, but a pair traditionally assigned opposing roles. It is the deconstruction of the opposition which yields a fresh view rather than the replacement of any particular concept. Derrida takes this one step further by accusing the metaphysical tradition of constructing not simply oppositions, but violent hierarchies whereby one of the pair is ever relegated to a subordinate position before the other. For Derrida likewise, a deconstruction of the hierarchy inevitably results in the emergence of a new concept outside the traditional paradigm. 27
Derrida has most recently turned his attention toward theology as a target for deconstruction. In noting the dependence of classical theology upon platonic and aristotelian assumptions, from which affirmations regarding God's nature and Being are drawn and held as actually corresponding to the divine nature, he, like Heidegger, denounces any notion of God held captive by a metaphysic of being. Derrida finds the other member of this particular hierarchy in Negative theology, a theology based on the negation of affirmations made of God. In a rich tradition of catholic, protestant, and jewish mysticism Derrida sees a thorougoing negative theology, and thus considers it complicit in the hierarchy, while at the same time using it to demonstrate the inadequacy or error of affirmative onto-theology. 28
Although he relegates both affirmative and negative theologies to that category of concepts requiring deconstruction, time has yet to tell what notion of the divine will emerge from Derrida's deconstruction. It will, however, require some of the following characteristics. It cannot be said to possess 'being' or any other attribute, nor 'non-being' or any negation of attributes. One may, in fact, say nothing about that divinity. It will be in such 'silence' that true 'discussion' of divinity will take place. Secondly, the 'activity' of the divinity will not be detectable in any sense as such due to our confinement within a finite economy, and the divinity's confinement to the infinite. Any revelation or divine activity within our finite sphere must appear as finite phenomenon if we are to perceive it, and as such would remain forever an anonymous gesture, the meaning and donor of which remain outside our range of possible conceptualization. For on what basis do we attribute a particular, though albeit intriguing, finite phenomenon to the infinite, if we are not to simply attribute all finite phenomena to the same? Thirdly, the divine as a source of morality or knowledge will remain unintelligible, again due to the economies within which we inevitably find ourselves. This conversation on conscience is one Derrida takes up through The Gift of Death in which he reduces the mysterium tremendum or God to an interior invisibility which by its very presence alludes to a higher order. This order, however, at the same time oneself and wholly other (as mysterium), cannot be looked upon or discerned as it constitutes that which is the mystery or the secret. It is from this interior mystery that true moral obligation and absolute duty is derived. 29
A Deconstructionist Theological Response
An initial response to Derrida's cursory excursion into theology and church history was recently presented by certain catholic theologians in the form of a conference entitled Postmodernism and Religion, headed by Derrida's star pupil Jean-Luc Marion and Villanova's Jacques Caputo. Marion's thesis is presented in his book God Without Being (Univ Chicago Press; 1995). Marion first refutes Derrida's interpretation of the catholic mystical tradition as involving simply negative theology. He points to a methodological trilogy manifesting itself throughout the Christian mystical tradition consisting of terms translatable to ' affirmation ', ' negation ' and 'that which is above and beyond affirmation/negation'. This trilogy is, according to Marion, what constitutes Mystical Theology, and it is precisely this Mystical Theology which he sets forth not only as an alternative to, but historical precedent for Derrida's theological project. 30Passages involving the language of this third way are found in Pseudo-Dionysius, Nicholas of Cusa, John Scotus Eringa, and others. 31Marion also makes the interesting observation that the Arian's primary argument at Nicea was due to their conviction that Christ as begotten could not be God as unbegotten. The Nicean council, however, saw God and Christ not simply in terms of begotten and unbegotten, but in terms of something transcending both, a something which made the apparent duality all the more significant.
It is clear from Marion's argument that he, although a deconstructionist, gives credence to the spiritual experiences within the history of the Church. His argument grounds in both phenomenology and history, offering them both as the context in which a solution indeed presents itself. This restoration of history and experience is something which Marion sees as consonant with the deconstructionist program, while at the same time he sees the need for a certain reevaluation of tradition. Mystical Theology, grounded in history and phenomenology also serves as basis through which one might critique traditional affirmative theology.
Marion terms this Mystical Theology a Theology of Absence, a name which does not imply the non-presence of God, but which shields God from the (onto-theological, affirmational) name of Presence. "The 'Name above all names' is in fact a Name which for us names what we cannot name. This notion of the Name is given to us so that we may de-name (denominate) all names we give Him. This Name is not said, but this Name calls. We do not call the Name, but the unnamed Name calls us." 32
Marion then presents a phenomenology whereby, contra Derrida's position, a Gift of divine origin may indeed be received and understood as such. Interestingly, Marion's argument implements to this design the economy of Gift, the same economy which Derrida insists makes such a conclusion impossible. By pointing to various phenomena which humanity recognizes as real yet which remain abstract, such as love or peace, Marion sets up a category of distinct phenomena. Such phenomena do not easily fit into Derrida's more (restrictively) physical phenomenology which strictly defines possibility only in terms of what can be objectified or repeated. These non-objectifiable elements of human existence point to the need for a phenomenology which can account for such 'counter experiences'. His argument is aimed at the observation that Derrida's radically physical phenomenology cannot adequately account for such experiences. Instead, Marion offers a Phenomenology of the Given, which he sees first precedence in Rousseau who understood the intuition as consisting of those things which are given to the intellect. Marion broadens this notion to include religious phenomenon in order to allow for a 'window' through which non-objectifiable phenomena may indeed possess both the status of given and phenomenon.
As phenomenon, the religious experience need not be defined as necessarily belonging to a new order in which traditional definitions no longer apply (that is, Derrida's insistence on the absolute disparity between finite humanity and infinite divinity). The religious phenomenon as phenomenon could stand in relation to other objectifiable phenomenon and thus incorporate itself into our current understanding. Marion suggests that the primary example of such a religious phenomenon is revelation.
The religious phenomenon's status as given would allow us then to naturally assume, given the economy of the gift, a Giver or Donor (while recognizing ourselves as the recipient). Although we do not possess the ability to objectify the Donor in the same way we may know the cause or source of other phenomena, the fact that the experience is phenomenon as given necessarily alludes to there being a Giver and an intent for the Gift. Marion points out a significant difference with Derrida in that the latter, rather than assuming a Donor behind the phenomenon, immediately looks to the subject (himself) as complicit in the giving. This inevitably occurs due to Derrida's radical denial of the transcendent.
Derrida sees in Marion's phenomenology of the given a blur in which every phenomena must be understood as a given, since, according to Marion, all phenomenology presents itself 'as such'. This, for Derrida, makes meaningless any attempt to assign this phenomenon to divinity and that one to natural causality. But by defining 'givenness' as an imminent element of phenomenology, Marion claims that not all that is given derives from the transcendent. In fact, by far, most phenomena, though presenting themselves to us as givens, can be explained purely horizontally. And yet sometimes phenomena appear as given without any other indications pointing to a horizontal giver. In these instances, we need not immediately look to the subjective as the actor, nor must we uncritically assume modern philosophy's ego-centric or objectifiable criteria for what is possible and what is not. It is in fact modern philosophy's concept of possibility that needs to be critiqued and deconstructed.
Deconstructionism has slowly progressed through a number of fields and has incorporated many brilliant minds in the struggle to understand what this philosophical trend has to offer. It has been clear throughout my personal observations of deconstructionism's dialogue with philosophical and theological issues that what emerges through such confrontations is not, in fact, a deconstruction of Derrida's target, but an enlargement of the significance of the issue at hand. Deconstruction at the very least presents those traditionally championed concepts with a respectable contender.
This paper has attempted to delineate deconstruction's heritage in the physical philosophy and possibly demonstrate that therefore greater horizon's lay open than simply those chosen by Derrida's more radical notions. I believe that if deconstruction calls into account those traditions assuming, nay requiring, possibly erroneous metaphysical assumptions, then its emergence upon the philosophical stage is welcome. Let it purge what should not be maintained, for this is the role it seems to enjoy.
Derrida, Jacques. The Gift of Death . trans. David Wills. (Chicago: Univ Chicago Press; 1995)
________ On the Name . trans. David Wood (Stanford: Stanford Univ Press; 1995)
________ Given Time. 1. Counterfeit Money . trans. Peggy Kamuf. (Chicago: Univ Chicago
________ Margins of Philosophy . trans. Alan Bass. (Chicago: Univ Chicago Press; 1982)
________ Positions . trans. Alan Bass. (Chicago: Univ Chicago Press; 1981)
________ Writing and Difference . trans. Alan Bass. (Chicago: Univ Chicago Press; 1978)
________ Of Grammatology . trans. Gayatri Spivak. (Baltimore: John Hopkins Press; 1974)
________ Edmund Husserl's "Origin of Geometry": An Introduction by Jacques Derrida . trans.
John Leavey, Jr. (Lincoln: Univ Nebraska Press; 1962)
Heidegger, Martin. The Basic Problems of Phenomenology . Trans. Albert Hofstadter. (Bloomington: Indiana Univ Press; 1982)
Marion, Jean-Luc. God Without Being. trans. Thomas Carlson (Univ Chicago Press; 1995).
|1||Within each school is located several variations which, although possessing distinct understandings of reality, will share a central assumption upon which my distinction is based.|
|2||By the phrase 'universals of substance and quality' I intend a distinction from what is understood by 'universal concepts', since both schools will make use of the notion of 'universal concepts' but with very different understandings as to what is implied.|
|3||The status of such universals outside the particular is debated among philosophers holding to this understanding. For example, Plato understood the forms to have real existence outside the particular, while Aristotle saw them as possessing such reality only within the particular. Despite this major difference in world-view, both philosophers clearly stand within the central assumption that metaphysical universals of substance and quality do exist.|
|4||Such dependence is established through the assumption that to the degree the idea or cognition corresponds to the universal (nature or esse) it can be said to be true knowledge. To the degree that the idea or cognition fails to correspond (through ignorance or natural impediment) it is denied the status of true knowledge. This 'dependence' does not negate the role of accidents in cognition and ideation.|
|5||By this is implied only the epistemological establishment of individuality, and does not refer to causality leading up to the individual's coming into being. One's view of universals vs. accidents will not determine one's view of such causality.|
|6||For example, Occam insists that the actual existential ideas (which he terms the intuitive ) lasts only as long as one's experience of the object. Once the object is removed from sight, the memory or abstractive idea emerges.|
|7||We could also say here that many consider the concept to contain the universal itself (e.g., Aquinas' intelligible species ).|
|8||This statement does not imply that the universal exists in both concept and object in the same manner, for to do so may indeed result in the concept becoming an object.|
|9||So it is that a fifth grade student may have an accurate understanding of what is meant by the term "humanity", while an aged individual having come through an experience of war has quite a different yet accurate understanding.|
|10||This understanding of the role of linguistic terms belongs to the physical school and would not be shared by the metaphysical school. This understanding of term as substitute is to be understood as an alternative to the metaphysical school's signifier/signified distinction. The latter views conceptual and verbal correspondence to ground in transference of the signified, that is, the universal. The signifier itself is not incorporated into the content of the cognition but instead acts as conduit. The physical school cannot make strict traditional use of the signifier/signified distinction since the 'signifier' (whether verbal or conceptual) is not claimed to actually transfer content directly corresponding to the 'signified'. They 'signify' only in the sense of representation in certain contexts. What one makes of the representation is contingent upon one's own conceptual framework.|
|11||This is not to imply that these designations are synonymous nor that each of these particular schools share the same emphases and assumptions regarding the valid scope of philosophical inquiry.|
|12||"The distinction between the wisdom of a creature and the wisdom of God is as great as the distinction between God and a stone|
|13||, and though in neither case do we have things of the same kind, nevertheless from created wisdom we can get by abstraction a concept common [to God and creature], but not from a stone. When 'being' is said to be the subject of metaphysics, it is to be understood in this way. And this holds not only in regard to the word 'being', but also in regard to the concept 'being'. For, I ask, what does 'being' stand for when it is said 'being' is the subject of metaphysics? Not for substance nor for an accident... It stands only for itself, namely for the concept 'being' and this concept is the subject of metaphysics. Likewise, this is the meaning when 'being' is said to be divided into created and uncreated being. 'Being' stands only for the concept in the mind, not for substance or accident." (Boehner, Philotheus. Philosophical Writings, A Selection: William of Ockham., New York: Bobbs-Merrill; 1964, 125.)|
|14||Despite Hobbes' (written) recognition of the creation account, the second coming and other divinely attended events, his rejection of papal authority due to its ground in scholastic aristotelianism and his insistence on a materialist interpretation of Scripture resulted in his being branded an 'atheist'.|
|15||This self definition as 'a-theist' (not to be confused with atheist) took place during a discussion at the Postmodernism and Religion conference at Villanova University. Whereas tradition theism, in his view, rests firmly in a metaphysic of being, his deconstructionist perspective of the Deity must be one of other-than-theism (or a-theism). That this amounts, for Derrida, to an outright denial of a transcendent Divinity, personal or other, becomes quite clear from his writings. (E.g., The Gift of Death , Chicago, 1995)|
|16||This essay has left untouched the issue of why one chooses the physical view or why one deems aristotelianism inadequate. And yet this is precisely the issue which will determine the validity of all forms of physicalism.|
|17||That is to say natural momentum derived either through God's creative design or continual providence. Such providence would not require the world to be an open system as long as that providence manifested itself according to physical law.|
|18||Such a view he considers an "idolatrous stereo-typing or representation" grounded in the erroneous prioritization of onto-theology. ( Gift of Death , 108).|
|19||Here the question revolves around what, if anything, one can say of 'God' without reverting back to erroneous aristotelian-dependent categories of attributes. Many commentators initially understood Derrida to be espousing an equivalent to Negative Theology, a conclusion he explicitly distanced himself from during the Villanova conference. As to his position on Deity, I have found in Derrida several striking parallels (in thought and expression) to philosophical buddhism, most frequently associated with Japan's Zen sects, in which 'God' as Nothingness can only be approached (and yet is never truly 'approached') through a confounding of human reason. In this view, reason and common sense are the limits to be exceeded at all costs (whether personal or traditional) and it is the teacher's primary duty to break the pupil's most significant paradigms. This is precisely where I see Derrida heading, though without the religious overtones, in his discussions on religion and phenomenology. To this it might be noted that buddhism has rigorously striven to incorporate all facets of contemporary science, from evolution to quantum physics into its world view. Unifying an inaccessible yet meaningful transcendent, before which paradigms must give way, with a purely physical understanding of the world seems precisely the horizon postmodern deconstructionism is destined to pursue.|
|20||Here Derrida makes several interesting observations regarding the inability to invite someone into one's own without first demarcating what is your from what belongs to others. Also, open ended hospitality means the sacrifice of judgment, since to be hospitable to all may include opening your door to the most violent of men. Thus hospitality, even as an ideal , clashes with our basic notions of borders, property and personal safety.|
|21||Derrida's discussion of Gift has grown to include several profound topics, such as the meaning of death, conscience, and phenomenology in general. The economy of Gift necessarily includes that of Donation, Donor, and Donee, such that one element necessarily implies the other two. This economy was recently brought to bear on traditional Christianity's understanding of 'revelation' (see below). Derrida questions the assumption of a transcendent Donor given the finite status of the Gift (revelation) and the unverifiable accuracy of the entire economy.|
|22||He could make this move in an attempt at radical deconstruction of even deconstruction, but this would leave him with a position echoing nihilism, which itself having been historically examined, considered, and put aside, is indeed equivalent to irrelevance.|
|23||Though certainly not negligible, as Thomas Kuhn points out. One need not accept Kuhn's theory of revolutions to agree with his (I believe accurate) historical evaluation that one's 'paradigm' or historical milieu in many ways determines what questions are asked and what solutions seem possible.|
|24||Let me here qualify this observation by limiting the visibility of such a demarcation to those materials and authors I have thus encountered. It may very well be the case that, although Heidegger is in fact accredited with coining the term 'deconstruction' and its application to concepts (in a manner distinguishable from Hegel's immanent synthesis of binaries), further investigation may reveal a more thorough genealogy.|
|25||Note here that Occam's polemic involved a logico-theological approach rather than a demonstration of scientific observation.|
|26||Heidegger does indeed maintain a physical epistemology as seen in his call for a 'world-view' philosophy in place of onto-theology. In defining the origins of what he understands by 'world-view' Heidegger writes, "It first turns up in its natural meaning in Kant's Critique of Judgment -- world-intuition in the sense of contemplation of the world given to the senses or, as Kant says, the mundus sensibilis -- a beholding of the world as simple apprehension of nature in the broadest sense." Heidegger, Martin . The Basic Problems of Phenomenology . (Indiana Univ. Press; 1982) 4.|
|27||This, of course, is precisely Derrida's project with the deconstruction of the signifier/signified hierarchy which results in the notion of the trace , and of the writing/speech hierarchy which yields his grammatology .|
|28||Much of Derrida's recent writings were aimed at dispelling the misconception that he initially espoused a simple negative theology in response to onto-theology. His work On the Name (Stanford Univ Press; 1993) deals almost exclusively with his attempt to bracket negative theology as simply an alternative means of making affirmations. The work does not however, to my current knowledge, put forth a deconstructed notion of God. That notion, I believe, begins to emerge through his discussion of the mysterium tremendum as the source of duty and conscience in The Gift of Death.|
|29||A brief examination of Derrida's arguments for this position in Gift of Death can be found in a book review I have recently writtren for John Feinberg's TIU course entitled Philosophy and Theology , Fall 1997.|
|30||Marion notes that Derrida will not accept this precedent for a third way out of the conviction that it inevitably falls back into affirmative theology. (Hence Derrida's initial interpretation of the Christian mystical tradition as negative theology.)|
|31||These references come by way of Marion's presentation at the Postmodernism and Religion conference at Villanova University. Although I have had the book on order for three months, I have had no luck, and thus cannot yet provide the exact references to these passages.|
|32||This is a paraphrase of a portion of Marion's presentation Theology of Absence , Villanova University, September, 1997.|