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Understanding Heidegger on Technology

Therefore, he recommended that the tragedians submit their works to the rulers, for approval, without which they could not be performed. It is clear that tragedy, by nature exploratory, critical, independent, could not live under such a regimen.


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Aristotle defends the purgative power of tragedy and, in direct contradiction to Plato, makes moral ambiguity the essence of tragedy. The concept of catharsis provides Aristotle with his reconciliation with Plato, a means by which to satisfy the claims of both ethics and art. To establish the basis for a reconciliation between ethical and artistic demands, Aristotle insists that the principal element in the structure of tragedy is not character but plot.

Since the erring protagonist is always in at least partial opposition to the state, the importance of tragedy lies not in the character but in the enlightening event. For tragedy is an imitation not of men but of an action and of life, and life consists in action, and its end is a mode of action, not a quality.

The goal of tragedy is not suffering but the knowledge that issues from it, as the denouement issues from a plot. In Oedipus , for example, the messenger who brings Oedipus news of his real parentage, intending to allay his fears, brings about a sudden reversal of his fortune, from happiness to misery, by compelling him to recognize that his wife is also his mother. Later critics found justification for their own predilections in the authority of Greek drama and Aristotle.

And where Aristotle had discussed tragedy as a separate genre , superior to epic poetry , Horace discussed it as a genre with a separate style, again with considerations of decorum foremost. A theme for comedy may not be set forth in verses of tragedy; each style must keep to the place allotted it. Dante makes a further distinction:. Comedy…differs from tragedy in its subject matter, in this way, that tragedy in its beginning is admirable and quiet, in its ending or catastrophe fouled and horrible…. From this it is evident why the present work is called a comedy.

That we were seeing , in Derrida's Aristotle, is what truth is. True metaphors generate other true ways of speaking. This would naturally be the case, since the single external and singular referent, and at the same time the generator of all these figures and analogies, is the sun—which produces rays, light, heat, life, true life, and so forth. The sun-figure's generativity is crucial to the integrity or wholeness of meaning. It's crucial to the system of truth and trope being one, to the spreading out from the basic philosophemes, or metaphors, of all the analogies, and all the truth statements, that it will be possible to find or to make.

The Literary Criticism of Ibn Rushd

Theorisations on this order have their boundaries erased in advance. For the metaphor network, the concept of value, or the analogy theoretically deployed by any of these, drops into what Derrida calls "a wider discourse of figuration" Then far into the essay comes an odd moment. We seem to hear Derrida saying, "when has anyone ever seen the sun sowing? What Derrida has written is this: "Where has it ever been seen that there is the same relation between the sun and its rays as between sowing and seeds?

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Derrida's interrogative sentence doesn't just pose a rhetorical question. It mimes an incredulous query, a query which voices at the same time the presumption that somewhere, it might have been possible to see that the sun sows.


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There have been all those analogies, an extending and continuous fabric of light—analogies, figures all like or comparable to one or another quality of the sun; all those metaphor-philosophemes we couldn't do without like "light" and like "like. Derrida has just quoted these sentences from Aristotle:. It's more than an oddity: in there amid all those respectable figures analogies comes up their generator—a condition of possibility.

As Derrida has noted, Aristotle needs the figure of the ray-sowing sun, needs the true sun to be able to generate all those figures. The question arises whether the sun—the single unchallengeable and singular referent in this system of figures—ought to be able to be seen to do what it is said to do. If we cannot "see" the sun sow, it is because this generative "figure" and singular referent comes up like a proper name among all the figures indeed an army of metaphors and metonymies Derrida has been identifying in Aristotle's writings on metaphor.

Books are like fruit. Really.

One can validly juxtapose here De Man's conclusion about the occurrence of the word anthropomorphism in Nietzsche's list: "The apparent enumeration is in fact a foreclosure" As telling as the term catachresis would be the word setzen. In borrowing from "the poet"—in settling on this assertion "the sun sows its rays"—Aristotle's text is positing something: "the metaphor of metaphor [ It's positing what for the text's conditions of possibility to exist would have to be able to be; metaphorically, or without statement: would have to be able to be put in a comprehensible metaphor.

That's why this one--a sowersun--isn't. It marks instead the positing of meaning. An anthropomorphism, writes De Man,.

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Instead of a simply comprehensible metaphor, we have what is in effect a proper name—Sowersun, for instance; one that entails not just light all our analogies and metaphors , but the "freezing" of propositions. The metaphor of metaphor slides writes Derrida into having to be called an "ellipsis of ellipsis"; subjective and objective genitive the two senses of "of" slide into each other.

Metaphor disappears into "its bottomless overdeterminability" As De Man's essay calls our attention to the fact that "anthropomorphism is not just a trope but an identification at the level of substance" , it acts out an intensified wariness. Derrida quotes a passage which says: it could only be by "forgetfulness" that anyone could believe that it would be possible to say what is true by means of our words, for they represent the imposition by which "sensory excitations" are accorded the status of "objective judgments" Derrida quotes from Nietzsche in order to show how inescapable the self-inverting scheme is whereby no matter how violent the reminder to the philosopher of the limits placed on him by his language, philosophy always reappropriates this critique which consists in a version of the quintessential philosophical thesis But on every occasion on which he points to the fact that this "law of reappropriation by philosophy" comes into play in "On Truth and Lie One such reference to Nietzsche occurs in Derrida's opening analysis in a reading that principally unravels the arguments of Benveniste's Problems in General Linguistics regarding philosophy's origination in empirically definable "facts of language.

This thesis is a version, Derrida observes, of the recurrent philosophical move consisting in the pushing aside of the mere language of a text to get at its meaning or significance; even Nietzsche is drawn into the same collapsible construction, for instance in the paragraph in "On Truth and Lie " challenging the validity of existent words. It is in this context that Derrida writes that Nietzsche "must resort to an analogous argument [but] with an entirely other aim" It's again a text of Nietzsche that gives De Man the word "posit," which as De Man begins quoting and reading the text in question, loses its innocuous, inconspicuous character.

In De Man's use of the term, "positing" has a peculiar impact on meaning. Again, from "Shelley Disfigured": "language posits, and language means since it articulates , but language cannot posit meaning" Rhetoric If meaning is posited, can it be "meaning" in the sense that it is possible to know—have words or alignments that say—what is true? To that question "On Truth and Lie in an Extramoral Sense" is saying no, in the paragraph Derrida refers to; but the necessity of positing is being introduced, is being inscribed.

Inscribing positing is, so I'd put it, the "other aim" of Nietzsche alluded to in "The Supplement of Copula. De Man next asserts the congruence of Nietzsche and Kant: Nietzsche's essay and the Third Critique are alike, a denial or undoing of the certainty of meanings and of sensory objects, and the intent to recover a controlled discourse.

Despite their considerable difference in tone, De Man writes, that tonal difference "cannot conceal the congruity of the two projects, their common stake in the recovery of controlled discourse on the far side of even the sharpest denials of sense-certainties" Amid these lucid intents, however, in both texts there come into play patterns that cannot be assimilated to the main one. Not the exploration of truth being trope will be De Man's topic, but rather a "disruption," one in the same area where a disruption is registered by "White Mythology.

Meaning is foreclosed for the statement "Truth is tropes," the in itself undisturbing identification which "White Mythology" locates in "metaphor in the text of philosophy," as it is extended in the sentence of Nietzsche. The simultaneous assertion that truth is trope and truth is anthropomorphism implicitly disqualifies both assertions, since the first amounts to the statement that truth is a series of propositions or metaphors , the second that it is an entirely different sort of list, that of names posited as being the proper names of entities.

Giving the name "anthropomorphisms" to what "truth is," Nietzsche's sentence refers to the taking as given of beings and things thereby being posited as existing in a certain way—posited in the mode of entities on the way to being named not by means of nouns and verbs, but by means of proper names. The figure of figuration and of generation is the sun, introduced in the non-figure "the sun sows its rays.

The passage just quoted from "Anthropomorphism and Trope" should be set alongside "Rhetoric of Persuasion Nietzsche ," the last of three chapters on Nietzsche in Allegories of Reading —in particular the section of the chapter which considers how the passage from a cognitive to a performative rhetoric is "irreversible," but is also interrupted, since there is no passage forward or backward to the possibility of knowing that language is in a particular instance doing something, that it is able to act or "perform.

In the course of the breakdown Nietzsche's text carries out, De Man is saying, we have arrived at a performative model of language, but by no means does this imply that we could revert, or proceed, to knowing what has occurred, or to knowing whether a performative came into play Rhetoric The indispensable metaphor-philosophemes Derrida has tracked in Aristotle appear in both Aristotle's text and Derrida's in the context of a conceptualization of metaphor or figure. That context affords them the structure of trope, of metaphor, of analogy, and, implicitly, of propositions. But suppose the conceptual distinction within the category "metaphor" were annulled, and those figures stayed around?

Are such figures tropes? Or would "anthropomorphisms" be the appropriate term for all? The identification of metaphor with truth "in the text of philosophy," inescapable, is what "Anthropomorphism and Trope in the Lyric" terms "an identification on the level of substance [ What seem our metaphor-philosophemes might as well be a list of "figures": a list of names. De Man's emphasis on Nietzsche's list of tropes—and its sudden incongruity at the word "anthropomorphism"—allows us to describe what happens with the sequence of exemplary, then incongruous, metaphors Derrida follows in Aristotle.

Thus "White Mythology" jolts at the catachresis " sowing sun" and registers it as the proper name of the generative figure of generative figures in Aristotle.

PHILOSOPHY - Aristotle

We are brought to a special kind of non-figure: an ostensible proposition which consists in the "proper name" which is only an indicator, which indicates, but does not communicate or express. And here, the referent of that indicating is only itself: indicating the necessity and the impossibility of it being a true name generating true figures. The list of tropes in Nietzsche's sentence and the list of figures in Aristotle would be, so the context of Derrida's and De Man's essays suggests, a list of proper names gone opaque, without a referent other than themselves.

The effect is to make the listed figures into the reiteration of one, like names of a God. Repeated enough times, the figure of a generative sun, in the words in which Derrida finds it in white mythology, becomes I am saying a stammered name such as SowerSun. An idea we think we know about—the indistinguishability of an object and its inscription in a system of interpretation—would freeze or have frozen, in fact, thought. That available illusion is being repulsed in some later sentences in De Man's argument. Some words of Baudelaire's "Correspondances" serve in these lines, which have an unheimlich atmosphere not dispelled by one's fitting them into a reading, nor referring them to Baudelaire's text.

De Man writes:. Proper names, like the verbal units which are proper names for things, recede. Explaining what is at stake in Derrida's readings in Glas , in "Hypogram and Inscription" De Man discusses Saussure's parenthetical and left-off work published by Starobinski under the title Les mots sous les mots. Saussure had been studying Latin inscriptions seeking to determine whether certain patterns of letters were or were not anagrams.

De Man describes Saussure as finally letting this line of thought trail away once it became sufficiently clear that there was going to be no way to determine the question one way or the other. The letters, across and among which Saussure could trace the names of certain Latin authors, were indubitably there.

That alternative does not suffice to describe what Saussure was looking at, De Man writes. In the not-quite-for-sure anagrams, Saussure was seeing the indeterminably significative status of what had been supposed to be units of meaning or of legibility; the dismemberment of words Resistance The mobility of metaphor brings up, not at a central, nor at a proper, name, but at an opaque figure such as that of the "cup without wine" which is the final trope in Derrida's list—a figure placed in the decontextualizing or overcontextualizing locale of a parenthesis Derrida A possibility being implied and analysed by De Man and Derrida is that words might turn to names and names to unreadable inscriptions.

Such would be the implication of drawing the two readings close: of that spooky slide from Aristotle to Nietzsche. Yet the signature "Nietzsche," far from freezing up the sentences in Derrida's and De Man's essays, allowed for readings that undo the yoking of tropes to what would freeze them into "an identification on the level of substance," that of a god's substance or a Nature's substance or man's.

My own reading was prompted by my sense of a rhetorical effect.